I was able to get myself over to Mass today. I mean, I really have zero excuse for not doing so, especially during the easy, lulling pace of vacation. Now I don’t normally blog about things specific to my religious beliefs – my faith is something intensely personal to me, so I am not one to chit-chat all that much on it. Also, religion is just one of those obvious topics that invite a lot of divisive debate and that’s just not my bag, baby.
However, I had a moment during Mass at St. George Catholic Church in beeyooootiful St. George, Utah that I wanted to share because I find it incredibly instructive on the effects of change upon how the human mind works (or at least my mind).
The Catholic Church has made some recent changes to certain portions of the Mass, specifically the language of both responses from the congregation during the service and some of the words of the Nicene Creed. I’m not 100% sure on all of the rhyme and reason behind the changes, but they’ve certainly been noticeable to me as I stumble through parts of Mass that have been akin to muscle-memory to me over the years.
But here’s where I came to a couple of notable of insights on myself that have more to do with how I am wired and less to do with the particulars of the Catholic Mass:
1) I might be a lot more resistant to change than I sometimes realize… even in those areas where change can actually be somewhat refreshing.
Seriously. When I first came upon these changes to the very familiar portions of the service, the only feeling that came to mind was pure annoyance. “Wait… what the… they’re changing the words?!?!? Why the heck are they doing that? I mean… seriously… what was wrong with the ones they had before??? This is just ridiculous…” I was a little dumbfounded by the whole thing – Were the old words wrong somehow? What’s the benefit of the new words?
Then out of no where… it’s like I was able to step back from myself and see my reaction with a little bit of distance. At that moment, I realized I sounded like the crotchety old coot who yells at teenagers for their rock-n-roll and fast cars and crazy parties. It was fairly ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not say that observation completely changed me in an instant, but hoo boy… talk about an ugly slice of self-realization. I love to say how I’m close to 40, but think of myself as younger than that. Maybe there are parts of me that are aging faster and more curmudgeonly than I like.
But this also allowed me to see a positive, which brings us to observation #2 my friends…
2) Forced change can be good if it breaks you from mindless rote.
As someone who has been going to Mass for his entire life, a lot of the prayers and responses are things I can pop out without much effort. It’s as if a part of my brain responsible for these nuggets of knowledge engage at the proper times and just… well… go. The words flow without much effort and I can actually thing about something completely different as each word is uttered and not miss a single beat.
And that’s a problem.
The new text forced me to stop, read what was being said and actually pay some damn attention to it (shock of shocks!). Who knows how long I would have likely been in that auto-pilot mode for? I do have a lot of moments of quiet reflection during the course of my church attendance, but it’s a little disappointing to think I would say words without at least giving some thought to them occasionally.
You win again, change. Well-played my most-worthy adversary. Until we meet again, as we inevitably will. May I humbly accept the lesson and embrace you a little more in the future. You are like my mental broccoli – good for me, but takes a little while to fully accept as both healthy and delicious.
Yeah… mental broccoli. I like it.
A few weeks back I was pondering what would be needed to get this humble blog of mine in front of a few more eyeballs. As someone who checks the data on his blog fairly regularly, I can get a decent sense as to whether folks (like you, good reader) are roaming over to my cozy section of the Internet to feast their eyes on my written offerings. I get some spikes here and there, but not the consistent increase over time I am really hoping for… at least not yet.
As I pondered what I needed to do differently and feeling just the slightest bit sorry for myself (cut me some slack… it happens), an e-mail rolled in that clearly changed around my day. The e-mail was from a woman in New Zealand who happened to find my blog while Googling “acerbus et ingens”. And get this… she likes the blog. No… seriously, she does. I am 99% sure she wasn’t just screwing with me. The Kiwis are a fabulous people, so I think this is straight-up legit.
New Zealand… as shown on my snazzy floaty globe. Well, sorta shown. Right there beneath “OCEANIA”.
Her e-mail was pretty incredible in terms of the chaos in her own life and that of her neighbors over the span of the last year with the earthquakes in New Zealand. If anything can put life into quick, sharp perspective, it’s massive natural events that are beyond human control. It’s hard to feel all-powerful when Nature decides to get rambunctious, to say the least.
But two things jumped out at me most about her e-mail that I knew I would need to share:
1) That everyone can connect with others in the world… and sometimes at great distances. I don’t mean this as some kind of pat-on-the-back statement at all – my new Kiwi friend found my blog enjoyable and rather amusing, so I am not saying that she found each carefully crafted sentence of my blog to be a life-affirming event for her… umm, but if she wants to write me another e-mail to that effect, I really wouldn’t mind all that much. But somehow, some way, I wrote something that at least connected with a person I’ve never met in a country I’ve never been to. Think about the impact you can make even more easily with the people you come in contact with every day.
2) Kia kaha! Umm… come again, Kuzia? Kia what-a? The close out to her e-mail to me was “Kia kaha!” which she explained is Maori for “stay strong”. Now, besides the fact that it is a double-K phrase (which matches beautifully with having a double-K name, hence my fandom is fully established), it’s also such a short, punchy and beautiful way to say something so incredible powerful. Stay strong. A bit amazing to get a message from a complete stranger with a message in Maori to stay strong, no? Especially during a moment of sneaking self-doubt?
And speaking of strength and Maori culture… this is still the coolest thing any sports team can do pre-game. The Ray Lewis pre-game chant has utterly zero on this badassery:
Boom. Get some.
So to my friend down in New Zealand… you probably never realized how well-timed your note was, but for that note, I thank you for getting me turned around in the proper direction on a day when I felt the sticky resistance of frustration snagging at my feet and preventing forward momentum. Truly and deeply appreciate it.
And to everyone else? Connection… something we all need in our lives as the inherently social creatures we are… is sometimes just an extra bit of effort away. Make the effort and reap the rewards,