Humans care, sometimes too much about superficial things like our favourite sports teams. Photo from Facebook

Surrendering to the eternal Pentecost

By 
  • June 1, 2022

We care. Human beings care about an enormous range of things. We are swept up with love for our families, both the families that nurtured us through our younger years and the families to whom we have given life and in whom we have invested our hopes for the future. We care about our nation, a much larger clan from which we have drawn our thought patterns, our culture with its hints of the eternal.

Sometimes, our patriotism or nationalism can grow so strong that we exclude people of other races, nations or even other neighbourhoods from the realm of care. Caring is perverted when it draws boundaries separating those deemed worthy of our concern and those who are not.

We care passionatly about our favourite sports teams. Here is something almost irrational. Why should the success of overpaid millionaires who play a game which further enriches the billionaire owner of their team concern us in any way? This is inexplicable. Yet, here I am, more than 40 years after I moved away from Saskatchewan, still cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Caring is about more than other people. Beauty lifts us up and gives us an awareness of being that goes beyond words, a realm of the inexpressible. The beauty of nature, the beauty of artistic creation, the beauty of a smile can leave us awestruck and trembling within. So too does the exhilaration of intellectual discovery. The Ah hah! moment when we finally see things in a different light and learn something we had never known expands our sense of self and our connection with what is real.

For many people, hobbies, work or volunteer activities give life deeper meaning. One person makes small airplanes, another has a passion for playing bridge and yet another is a coin collector. To the outsider, such activities may seem odd, unworthy of the great expenditure of time or money. To the devotee, the time spent on the hobby is an experience of timelessness where the mundane cares of the world fade away.

In all these diverse activities and allegiances, we find one thing in common. At the core of our humanity is the desire to enter into something beyond the self, to establish a relationship transcending self-interest. Some economists and psychologists try to understand human activity solely in terms of self-interest. That is too narrow. Although we surely do often act out of self-interest, our prime motivator is to be in relation with that beyond the self.

Our ultimate desire — the one which underlies all the others — is communion with the totally transcendent, the being we call God.

Yearning for oneness with God is the basis of hope. Hope is sometimes reduced to a desire for everlasting life in a world without troubles or tears. Surely, it is that. More radically, hope is incarnate in this world. In the experiences listed above we are lifted out of ourselves and taste something of the divine. We live in hope when we give birth to a child, perform an act of mercy or write a book.

When a person fails or refuses to enter the world beyond the self, we sense something is wrong. That person’s life is truncated, marred by some illness. Such a truncation is not restricted to the despondent ones who never leave their homes. It can also be seen in a hyperactivity where the other person is treated as a thing, an object for my own self-advancement. This too is sickness.

Hope shines forth most when life becomes difficult. The mark of a society where hope is waning is that life has become comfortable and without challenge. But when hardship and failure loom, hope must grow. The person must grow strong in hope to endure. Success oddly is not a validation of one’s hope. The reality of hope is confirmed by the will to remain faithful to the task despite the likelihood of failure.

When we care, we hope. Every new beginning is rooted in hope. The courage to begin gets its impetus from the Creator Spirit, the “wind from God (who) swept over the face of the waters” at the beginning of creation. The Spirit sparks our care and concern. The Spirit accompanies us as we persevere in hope. The Spirit leads us home as our life of care reaches its culmination in a communion with the divine when we surrender to the eternal Pentecost of life and love.

(Glen Argan writes his online column Epiphany at https://glenargan.substack.com.)

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