Protagoras and the Kind Gentleman, a Socratic Gadfly

“Why philosophy?” was what a kind gentleman asked me with a sharp smirk when I told him about my choice of study at a luncheon. (This gentleman, also a philosophy student).

I was quite unprepared, as with most “why questions” in my life, and rewarded the kind man with the most unimpressive answer ever: I “like” it.

I like water. I like having socks on when I sleep. I like philosophy? I felt quite stupid from that day on whenever I saw him, pondering while struggling to put to words why I chose an apprenticeship with the Queen of the Sciences.

It took me until the end of the degree to begin to realize how such an olden subject could affect my whole being, leaving me in some form of angst.

The need to be responsible for my beliefs was a recurring theme throughout my studies but this question of why was the finale. I read Plato’s Protagoras in a graduate level setting. I left each lecture knowing I failed miserably at being a homo sapien. I realized I have many beliefs and opinions, but I was not able to decipher/spell out the precise foundation upon which they were built. Worst of all, I never took the time to evaluate them and pass a judgement on them. Until then.

All my beliefs and all the components of my knowledge are influenced by my Catholic faith but I have always struggled with being held accountable for orally defending a belief or spoken thought. I know, on the one hand, it is not really necessary when it comes to faith just as being in love with a person does not require a rational explanation of the “why” involved. But at the same time, it is not good to allow yourself to be carried away without a mode of transportation. I can’t merely float my way across the Atlantic.

So why philosophy? So that I can get across the giant ocean of life, of its lies and its truths. To get to the island of Wisdom and Truth and Goodness and Beauty. So that all I encounter can be seen through these lenses. As the kind gentleman told me, to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, to build that vehicle (whether it is a bridge, a boat or something else) and fully engage in life. Philosophy like I mentioned in my last post (“An Ode to Her, Wisdom”), is and will always be a tempest. At least for me.

So thank you kind gentleman, thank you for being that Socratic gnat or gadfly (whatever) for me.

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An Ode to Her, Wisdom

An Ode to Her, Wisdom

Philosophy.

I started my friendship with Philosophy without knowing her, which I suppose, is just like any other friendship. But the thing is, each time I learn something new, it’s like encountering a beast, a Leviathan, being overcome by a huge ocean wave, swallowed, chewed up and spat back out.

This dreary relationship, this curious friendship overtime has become a peculiar apprenticeship. I started off, like any young person, proud and thinking that I was the one in charge and in lead of the friendship. After all, I am the one who initiated this friendship, right? Right?!

I was wrong.

Ignorance is one thing, and the knowledge of it is completely another. The latter is the key to that tiny door leading to a tolerable apprenticeship with Philosophy.

In her company, I realize how small I am. I realize her Grandeur, like a strong homo sapien, a tempest. She doesn’t intimidate, but as a siren, beckons me to draw near without an unfortunate end.

Knowledge extended past my field of vision, surpassing all my understanding, au-delà of all I thought possible. I, a knowledgeable woman.

She is Wisdom.

Wisdom.

The Fool I am.

  

I recently finished a beautiful novel by Michael O’Brien, The Eclipse of the Sun. Among the many spiritual insights and spiritual direction I received from the book, one point in particular stood out for me. It’s found in the following passage on page 431 of the novel:
“…that he would not rely upon his own little satchel of strengths, that he would not be so foolish as to regard himself as impervious to temptation.”

That he, Father Andrei, would not be so foolish as to regard himself as impervious to temptation.

How often have I gotten out of confession, forgiven and absolved of a particular sin I have been struggling with, and thought, even for a second, “Great! Now I know better. I can resist the temptation to commit that sin again. ” Fool!

Or even better: “Great! I have overcome this one instance of temptation, therefore, I can stand immune to temptation in the next situation.” Bigger Fool!

As you probably already know from experience, and which I have learned over time, is that no one could possibly be impervious to temptation. But that is our first instinct is it not?

Too comfortable and too quick are we to turn to the little satchel of “strengths” (whatever that even means) to deal with a situation by ourselves, on our own, as opposed to what we ought to do… always. Turning to the Lord. But the cost! It requires a great deal of effort on our part, a great act of our will in order to do what is contrary to our fallen human nature.

Let us neither ignore nor undermine Divine Providence! Let us rest assured that with time and hope and great confidence, the Lord will come to our assistance in the way and at the time He wills. In the meantime, let us listen to what He is whispering to our hearts about the condition of our souls. Let us not be so foolish as to regard ourselves as impervious to temptation.

That I, Christine, may not be so foolish as to regard myself as impervious to temptation. Amen.

The Bianchi Is OUT

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This is probably my new favourite picture of Steffy and I (in our backyard).

Although I’m a bit late this year, I finally decided to take my bike out. I got to take a ride around the neighbourhood for the first time since November with my youngest sister Steffy.

It was an unusual ride simply because I have the tendency to a) bike alone, and b) to race against myself to see how fast I can bike, c) ride no shorter than 45 minutes, and none of those tendencies worked out to be realized this afternoon.

Today, I biked in regular clothes, with a purse, with my Sperry’s and no running shoes, and (eek, without a helmet…thank God there weren’t any by-law officers cruising the streets with nothing to do).

I think after today’s short ride, I might enjoy more of these relaxed rides and enjoy riding for leisure and notice the world around me. I don’t see anything wrong with racing down the roads or paths on my vintage road bike, but I need to learn to adjust my preferences for others so that I can share my time with another (in this case, with my sister). I’m sure it meant a lot to her (I mean, I would love it if I had an older sister who allowed me to bike with her), because it definitely meant a lot to me.

Perhaps I shall challenge myself in that area of my life, to share a bit more of my time with others, and not be too glued to my introverted cocoon.

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Steffy and I.

pray. fast. give alms.

Three pillars, one season.

Prayer, fast and almsgiving.

Prayer, the stem from which fasting and almsgiving shoot out.

Grace, the soil and water in which that  sensitive, fragile entity is grown,

Without which existence is rather an obscure non-existence; a no-thing.

Grown to yield fruit; not to be consumed.

Not of the sort of that first fruit bitten 

Is grown. Grown. 

Not grow, but grow-ed.

A gardener or the like tends to it.

Tending to each minuscule need, the plant never asking.

Never demanding. Never demanded. 

Of the fruit, the fruit of the plant,

Comes to be that which goes forth,

Not returning empty. 

That plant would also not be,

Yes, without grace it could not be written of.

The plant could not also be without the stem and the branches itself. 

A plant divorced from its plant-ness cannot be a plant

Though fools say it is. 

Of the fruit, the fruit of the plant,

Comes to be that which goes forth, 

not returning to it’s Source, empty, nullified. 

Fruit to become that soil for another.

Fruit to become that water for another. 

Fruit to become another plant. 

And so it is that when we fast and give alms. For it cannot be done when done alone; it bears no fruit. Prayer cannot be possible without the Lord’s generous grace, not because we deserve it or have a right to it, but out of His Mercy and Goodness. 

The fruit ought to be born for the non-self. Fasting and almsgiving makes us small, “useless” and only as such can we give of ourselves freely to others, and consequently, to the Lord. In this way, as we become more and more simple, we are better able to carry our Cross behind the Lord in His Passion, so that we might be resurrected, all to Behold the Face of Love Himself for all eternity. 



The Gaze

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” –Proverbs 4:25

To gaze is to look steadily and intently, as with great curiosity, interest, pleasure and wonder. (Thank you dictionary).

The idea of gazing at the Lord and being present in the Lord’s gaze has always been so important to me. Because of my love of adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, I’ve often considered it the perfect background on which this gazing upon can be described.

First, the Lord is my lover and I am His beloved, despite my terrible unworthiness. When you love someone, you look at them without any reservation. Not just at them, but into their eyes, and through it, embrace the beloved’s heart and soul. It’s not intimidating. To look into the eye, to be with the beloved. It’s not awkward and makes both persons whole.

In the same way, I fix my gaze upon the Lord present in the Eucharist (well try to at least). One of the first things I do when I settle down for my prayer time is ask for the grace to quiet my mind and emotions so that I would be able to fix my gaze upon the Lord and be able to hear His quiet whisper. There is something so profound in that simple act of gazing on the One who always has His gaze upon us because He is so in love with us. He looks intently at us, with great curiosity, interest, pleasure and wonder. This is how he loves us. He’s the man so in love with his beloved, constantly embracing her and gazing upon her beauty.

Moreover, that perfect gaze is mostly in potency. It, like Aristotle’s concept of virtue and telos, is striving after one ultimate good, the highest good, the Beatific Vision, the eternal gaze upon Beauty so inconceivable.

The least I can do is return that gaze. I am fully aware that my gaze is so imperfect, but I want to learn to fix my gaze upon Him because I was first loved by Him, whom my soul longs and thirsts for, Him whom I so terribly offend through my sins.

Mais, il me regarde. Il me regard avec la tendresse.

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Christmas Wreathing

Every year from the first Sunday of Advent on, we start to prepare for Christmas. We put up lights, the tree, the crèche and decorate the house. And every year, I do very little in comparison to the rest of my family, i.e. my dad and Steffy. Although I can be excused due to the busyness of school, I know it’s not really a reason to not help out more than I do. (Christmas is also not my favourite season. I like it, just not my favourite). Every year we hang up the same old dinky Christmas wreath. This year, I wanted to contribute a bit more than usual. My sister Joan and I made a quick trip to Micheal’s and bought some craft material to make our very own Christmas wreath. It’s been a while since I’d made anything so this opportunity was a blessing! There really is something life-giving and freeing in creativity! Here are a few pictures!

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This is the wreath before we decorated. Sorry for the blurriness!
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The felt we will be making flowers out of.
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The ribbons. I don’t usually like glitter and sparkles, but aren’t these just so lovely?
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Joan made this bow with a random glitter-y poinsettia flower from some other Christmas decoration.

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Christmas Wreath in the making
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The finished product! It’s definitely simple, but that’s what we were aiming to do.
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Thought I’d include a picture of us as well. Joan, me and Steffy. Or in other words: extrovert, introvert, super-extrovert.

I’m searching for a King Among the Beggars and the Weak

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Catherine Doherty, The Cross of Rejection

I still remember August 9th, 2011 as though it was yesterday. It was the start of a year of several graces and surprises.

It was the day I met a beautiful middle-aged woman named Gisèle Boucher.

It was the day I learned to love a human being completely and wholly.

It was the start of a journey of about a year of experiencing and seeing what it is like to befriend a beggar, a panhandler, a poor, a homeless, ad infinitum…(insert any related synonym) all in order to see that Christ truly lives in the soul of each creation.

Each one of us, myself included, living in a city/urban setting especially, have the tendency to overlook things in life. We quickly skim over a text at work without reading every word. We try to get from point A to point B and never notice there are other human beings on the street walking, living and breathing the same air that was breathed in by us from God , irrespective of their awareness or belief of it. We don’t “see” things which are not “essential” in a utilitarian way.

I can’t say (gratefully) that I’ve been totally absorbed in that tendency, but I can admit that I do carry the stain of it. I say this because I do like to look at people’s faces when I walk downtown and smile at them. I like to wonder where someone is going and wonder why someone doesn’t look well. I like to wonder what kind of home they’ll be returning to after work. But that is the working class, public servants mostly. I failed to look into the eyes of a panhandler and wonder the same things I wondered about the others. This changed when I met Gisèle.

Gisèle often begged for money outside St. Patrick’s Basilica, where I attend daily (and now Sunday) Mass. August 9, 2011, I was early for Mass and thought I would spend some time browsing books at the bookstore (where I now work). I walked passed Gisèle, without acknowledging her. But the Lord prompted me to return to her right away and offer her the tub of blueberries I happened to have on me that day. That very simple act turned into a conversation which lingered on for a year and most importantly, a beautiful friendship I never knew or thought possible.

I called her every three or four days to see how she was doing until her phone became out of service and stopped seeing her. Over the course of that year, I prayed with her inside a church, I cried with her, I hugged her, I sat on the dirty streets of downtown Ottawa while she begged, I got nasty glances from passerbys and I met Christ. Growing in my friendship with her enabled me to truly die to myself in so many ways. When I prayed with her, I was in a way praying with Christ. When I cried with her, I was crying with Christ. When I hugged her, I was hugging Christ. When I sat on the streets, I was sitting with Christ. When I got nasty glances, Christ was the one who actually received those glances.

“Whatsoever you do to the least one of my brothers, you’ve done unto me.

I haven’t seen Gisèle in a very long time. In 2012, I wrote her a four page letter which explained how much of a blessing her friendship was in my life. I never gave it to her because I was not able to see her. As difficult as it was, and regardless of whether she remembers me, her life was a gift to me. I was able to see the King among the beggars and the weak.

Pax et caritas.

Be Child-like: A Quick Thought

We never seem to tire of children speaking.

I mean, I babysit every single weekday morning and am usually babysitting at least one weekend per month and YET, my heart still melts when a child utters a sound or word or makes the weirdest possible sound. It never gets old. It’s such a banal topic but deeply profound at the same time.

I get tired of songs, of colours, of the way my room looks, of clothes….the list can go on and on (and on). But no matter how many times a child says “nimnastics” for “gymnastics” or “woo woo” for soother, it simply doesn’t get old, (perhaps annoying for some, but at least for me, it’s not the case).

I’m babysitting as I’m writing this, and it occurred to me that this baby/child talk is the same way we probably appear to God. He delights in “listening” to us (when we pray). It’s probably cute for him to hear us pray because of our ignorance of how to pray (Romans 8:26). The problem with grown ups or big people is that they are too aware of themselves to the point that they become prideful. Sorry, I should correct that. We, not they.

We need to be unashamed to make ourselves look silly or foolish. We need to be child-like.

Scripture often tells us to be child-like (not childish, as one priest made clear), and this means just being like that child you babysat years ago, who is so utterly dependent on you and not so concerned about projecting him/herself to the world. That child just is.

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