Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Losing My Religion

Having been "taken" by the R.E.M. song. "Losing My Religion," at the Sandy Relief Concert, I felt compelled to cobble together a thought or two.

The Performance:

Some young people refer to going off to college as, "losing my religion."  They are eagerly looking forward to a life of sex, alcohol, partying, and no religion too.  Naturally, I had assumed that Michael Stipe's song must be about a young person shedding the religion that was imposed on them by their parents. But I could never get that from the lyrics. In fact, the lyrics never made any sense to me.

In Communion and Liberation, for the past few weeks, we been studying a teaching called, "Life as Vocation." Carron's general thesis is that, "The circumstances through which God has us pass are an essential and not a secondary factor of our vocation, of the mission to which he calls us." To be engaged with life demands self-awareness. And this self-awareness can only be gained by observing the self in action, in dealing with the circumstances of life.

One of the teachings of, "Life as Vocation," as well as the prior document that we studied, " was to look beyond the appearances of things, to look inside circumstances. The song, "Losing My Religion," has nothing to do with religion. Michael Stipe says that in Georgia, where he is from, the expression,  "losing my religion," is an expression that is synonymous with being at wit's end. In fact, I discovered, the song is about a crush on someone. And suddenly, the lyrics made perfect sense.  Having been "taken" by a crush, the singer's heart is in his throat, and all his insecurities are laid bare. We've all been there!

This crush was the circumstance in which the singer found himself. In wresting with his insecurities, he is on the very knife-edge of either dealing with this circumstance or not. His insecurities led me to think of Carron's teaching about the story in the gospel, of the blind man on the road near Jericho (Luke 18:35-43). Surely, as a blind man with no other choice but to spend his life as a beggar on the side of a road, his life must be full of insecurities. Surely, he must have lived on the knife-edge of survival. Surely, he knew what it means be at wit's end.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps he had been at or beyond wit's end so many times that he had lost all insecurities and had nothing left to lose. Who knows? But Carron says:

Christ does not heal the man born blind and then take him out of reality for fear that he might lose what was given to him. No. Jesus launches that man into the fray, with that Presence that healed him in his eyes; He doesn't take him out of it. I mean: Christ generates an "I" that is capable of living reality, like the blind man who had the simplicity to recognize that before he couldn't see and now he can. His awareness was determined by what happened to him. With this self-awareness, he can face everyone, not because he is more powerful, but because of this simplicity in adhering to what happened to him. This is the power of self-awareness--and in someone random, not one of Jesus' disciples!--and all of the scholars among the Pharisees could do nothing with respect to an "I" that had this self-awareness.

The point is to be consistently engaged with life. It is only the circumstances of life that can teach us about ourselves. As per Giussani, "Maturity consists in the maturation of our self awareness."

 And so it is, that to find one's true religion, one must first lose it.

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