01 September 2010

choosing life

Culture of life. Choose life. That terminology is usually narrowly defined as opposition to abortion. Rarely are matters like capital punishment, war, the environment, or other questions that involve life (or the deprivation thereof) brought into the discussion. And rarely does that discussion extend beyond the political realm.

In yesterday’s daily meditation from the Henri Nouwen Society, entitled “A Choice Calling for Discipline,” we see a vastly broader and deeper framework. “When we look critically at the many thoughts and feelings that fill our minds and hearts, we may come to the horrifying discovery that we often choose death instead of life, curse instead of blessing. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, greed, lust, vindictiveness, revenge, hatred…they all float in that large reservoir of our inner life. Often we take them for granted and allow them to be there and do their destructive work.”

We choose death in many different ways. It’s one of the irrational constants of human existence. Clearly, that choice doesn’t always manifest itself in dramatic ways, easily visible ways. The petty squabbling that substitutes for honest and good faith dialogue about our problems seems to be one of our favorite ways of choosing death!

Referencing Deuteronomy 30:15-20, the meditation continues, “But God asks us to choose life and to choose blessing. This choice requires an immense inner discipline. It requires a great attentiveness to the death-forces within us and a great commitment to let the forces of life come to dominate our thoughts and feelings. We cannot always do this alone; often we need a caring guide or a loving community to support us. But it is important that we both make the inner effort and seek the support we need from others to help us choose life.”

Sometimes (maybe usually?) when we possess a dogged certainty that we know we are right (expletive deleted), the “death-forces” are at work. I’m trying not to sound sappily sanguine, but “a culture of life” and “choosing life” involves stuff like love and humility.

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