I must return to that theme of isolation. Surely it should be obvious to me that, if my intention is focused on a deepening relationship with God, then my yearning for companionship is the yearning for God. My most satisfying moments are those when I am either in contemplative union with God or engaged in personal prayer. In moments of isolation, the solution is very simple: Pray!
There is this deep impatience that seizes me from time to time. It must be rooted out!
Read the Beatitudes, and perhaps Gregory of Nyssa’s commentary.
It is foolish to imagine an end of suffering. Better to seek the wisdom therein.
Lectio: John 3: 1-12: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
“Whenever you find fault with Providence, only consider and you will recognize that what happens is in accordance with reason.” — Epictetus, Discourses III.17.
This is my understanding: reason demands that I confine my judgements to things that are within the compass of my moral choice. There are two categories of things outside my moral choice — those due to Providence and those due to men. The latter may be consistent with the best interests of the actors or not. Rationally, the true best interest of each person is in harmony with the interest of the whole society. Those who act otherwise are simply deluded. They merit sympathy and correction.
Those events due to Providence are clearly outside my ability to control. To complain about them is fundamentally irrational. Perhaps they will cause suffering to me or others — e.g. weather, diseases, natural disasters…. Adding an additional layer of suffering due to judgement that these are wrong or evil is irrational, perhaps akin to the creation of suffering due to delusion. Yet, it is still highly appropriate to feel compassion for the victims of disease and disasters, and to offer them sympathy and succor, whatever we can do to help alleviate their pain. But this focus on the sometimes unpleasant effects of Providence is a distortion (akin to the fact that the “News” usually focuses only on things that are deemed “bad”). The reality is that the working of Providence is overwhelmingly benevolent and a bounteous flow of endless gifts. God is unstintingly generous at the material level — apparent exceptions are due to judgements that we impose, or our insufficient understanding of the greater Order, or indirect consequences of the actions of Man. This last includes our accidental or deliberate efforts to “improve” upon Nature, including simple negligence — habitat destruction, species extinction, global warming, pollution, aesthetic pollution, war, politics etc.
It is appropriate to do our best to alleviate suffering and avoid injuring God’s natural world, motivated by respect. But the far more pervasive need is to experience gratitude for God’s gifts. It is popular nowadays to advocate gratitude as a sort of mental health exercise, with an implicit message that it is unnecessary to answer the question “Gratitude towards what or whom?” Perhaps that works to some extent for the instrumental purpose of mental health. But this is fundamentally a spiritual matter — the material and psychological issues are secondary and derivative. Instrumental gratitude is at best a reflection of spiritual gratitude. Spiritually, gratitude is meaningless unless it refers to God, the source of all gifts of “providence.” The conscious choice to focus gratitude on God is a fundamental component of aligning my soul with God. This is the meaning of life.