For Lent I”ve been reading How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community. I’d like to share some quotations from it.
“The spiritual life is this,” a monastic elder from the Egyptian desert once said, “I rise and I fall. I rise and I fall.”
“[The desert monks] discovered ways to leaven our natural tendencies toward anger, self-absorption, greed, depression, unhealthy appetites, and obsessions. They did this not by repressing those tendencies, but by recognizing we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings. We can redirect our thoughts and feelings into constructive actions. Doing this allows us to confront life’s inevitable turbulence with equanimity.”
“I find it helps to see life as being like a book,” Cave said. “A book is bound by its covers … so our lives are bounded by birth and death.” He continued by saying that the characters in a book know no horizons. They are not afraid of reaching the last chapter, because they only know the moments that make up their story. We humans who are characters in life “need not worry how long our story is, if it’s a comic strip or an epic,” Cave said. “The only thing that matters is that it’s a good story.”
When I find myself slipping into ego-driven anger once again, it’s time to remind myself that the source of my anger isn’t outside of me. It’s within. It’s my own bruised self-image, acting like a child who’s been denied a second helping of ice cream. Except anger isn’t the ice cream. It’s the arsenic. Humility becomes a lens that helps me recognize the damage my rages do to me and those around me. It compels me to feed my better angels, not the angry wolves inside me.