Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I was asked to complete one of those online surveys today. One of those with lengthy questions about whether you think the country is going in the "right direction," whether you shop at Wal Mart, whether you have a favorable opinion of Lindsay Lohan. You get the idea.

Anyway, one of the questions was about whether I felt religion played a "major role" in my life. Which stumped me a little. I mean, I've always thought of myself as Catholic. I was raised in the church, had my own version of a "religious experience" during a retreat my senior year of high school, went to a Catholic university, and even received a theology minor.

But now I very rarely go to church.

I guess mostly what I find so disturbing is that the things I learned to love about religion from my theological studies and earlier experiences are so foriegn to what I see from the institutional church now. In school, I learned about the church's teachings on issues of social justice, learned that the church actually REQUIRES you to disagree with formal doctrine if you've met the requirements of an "informed conscience," learned about how gratitude is one of the deepest forms of prayer, learned about a kind of ecumenism that was broad enough to grant validity to other religious traditions.

I loved learning that stuff.

What I see largely now is a church that is politically and institutionally "in bed" with the Republican party. One that is more interested in preventing condom use than stopping thousands of deaths in Africa from AIDS, one that viciously discriminates against homosexuals, one that continually degrades the value of women (while spouting doctinal nonsense about how it isn't), one that seeks to have moral certainty at the expense of compassion or understanding. Ah, but don't even get me started on issues like married priests, women priests, altar girls, or the desperate, rabid clinging to tradition that so pervades the more conservative elements of Catholicism.

In short, going to church has become nothing that I find nourishing, spiritually or emotionally. I do so wish it were different.

Faced with these issues, my wife chose not long ago to simply join another church tradition. I simply stopped going to church. Lacking any desire to go to church, yet unwilling to give up my sense of myself as somehow still being "Catholic." Who was right? Does it even matter?

Suffice it to say that, at this point, I find that I no longer believe in hell, no longer believe that God had such a vendetta against humanity that he prevented access into heaven until Jesus hung on a cross (I don't define "salvation" in those terms anymore), don't believe that some doctrinal litmus test is what is necessary to gain communion with God after death. I explained some of this to my wife not too long ago. I think she's not sure if I'm even "Christian" by her definition of the term. I found that comment funny.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


My wife had one of her favorite aunts (Susan) die just a couple of days ago from breast cancer. Vicious disease, really. My thoughts are prayers are with Susan's husband, children, family, and friends.

Sadly, I cannot claim to have known Susan that well. But I can see the pain in my wife's face, hear the sadness in her voice as she tells some of her favorite stories from family reunions, and know that the world is lessened without Susan's presence.

There's that helpless feeling that comes across when someone you love is in great pain. There's not much that can be said other than "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "just tell me if there's anything I can do." And in the case of my wife, I could simply hold her until the tears stopped.

I remember when my father died about a year and a half ago now that I was thinking how little there is to say in the face of death. And yet how much it meant to be able to reach out to all those I love, to just hear their voices, to know that they were with me amidst the loss. To know that I was not alone.

Reflecting on things now, we all seem so fragile. Some small thing can happen that ends our lives, and it all just seems so soon, so random and arbitrary. And yet in our fragile hold on life, we can be strengthened by our connections to each other. We were created to be social creatures, and in accepting that need we are strengthened. Which, paradoxically, requires the willingness to be vulnerable, to be genuine. Banding together with our shattered hearts, we find strength, compassion, and even hope.

How much better life would be, I think, if we could huddle together in our brokenness more often.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Alright. So the initial, welcoming post is out of the way. Now for that first attempt at a substantive post.

I was thinking it would be funny to do something off the wall. Some sort of Stephen Colbert homage, perhaps. But that will have to wait for another time. Because when you're someone who thinks too much (like me), the first instinct is to become philosophical.

Which, in a sense, is what this post is about. Thinking too much, that is. To some extent, our thoughts can interfere with simply living, being fully aware of life. Thinking (oddly enought) prohibits mindfulness, in its deepest sense. What's more, thinking tends to engage all of our mental filters -- ways that we process experience. Call 'em what you want -- cognitive distortions, negative/maladaptive schemas, etc. Basically they boil down to a way that we filter sensory input. And in my experience, these filters tend to be rather egocentric. I don't mean that in an entirely negative or critical sense.

Let me see if I can explain that better. Our filters tend to reflect our pains, whether from a sense of defectiveness, a painful mistrust of others, etc. And out of our pain, we become focused on ourselves -- whether we are being accepted or rejected, whether others are out to harm us, whether we are OK, etc. All of which leads me to wonder: to what extent is it possible to truly love when we are stuck in such patterns? At the very least, it seems to me that our ability to love is suppressed by such filters, such unresolved pains -- because inevitably we are focused on ourselves rather than those around us.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Greetings! This is my first attempt at creating my own blog, so I apologize if there are any errors early on. I hope to iron things out as I learn the format.

My thoughts for the direction of this blog are somewhat amorphous right now. I hope to discuss my thoughts on a number of topics -- politics, spirituality, psychology, buddhism, movies, music, parenthood, etc. But the "common thread" I hope to shoot for is to delve deeper into these topics, to go "beyond assumptions" as it were. If that intrigues you, I invite you to participate in the discussions.