An Old Guy Yelling at Snot-Nosed Punks… Or How I Realized I Need to Adapt

CameraZOOM-20120311120422464I 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.

On the Underrated Nature of Solitude

Quiet church at night
The quiet embrace of solitude in a chapel at night

I decided to head to church last night at the chapel of a local college as a way to cap off my evening.  I used to do this in college quite a bit – 10 PM Mass on a Sunday evening was my favorite time to go.  Everything was just a little bit more quiet and peaceful.  There was just enough soft lighting to add to the effect of seeking to be at peace and clear my head before starting a new week.  I got a little of that effect last night.

But it was also a bit different because… well… apparently they weren’t having 7 PM Mass last night.  I was there with a few other confused souls who waited patiently for some sign of services beginning, but it was not to be.  So I decided to wait out everyone else and have the place to myself.  I kneeled quietly praying, collecting my thoughts, reflecting on the week that was and the week that would be.  After 15 minutes… just me.

Now, anyone who knows me would know that I tend to view my own religious/spiritual beliefs in an intensely personal fashion.  I don’t push my views on anyone else, ever.  To each their own as to how they choose to follow (or not follow) a faith.  So it’s not something I chat with people about… at least not terribly often.  And I don’t plan on getting into it too much here.  Instead, I would rather focus on how incredibly refreshing it is to be completely alone in the utter quiet of a peaceful place.  It was amazing.  No other word does what I felt justice.

The world is a place with a flood of stimuli vying for our attention.  It can be utterly overwhelming, except I think most of us have instead become numb to it all as a means of coping.  But think about how often you check to see if someone responded to you on Twitter or Facebook.  Or the need to continuously look at your phone for every new e-mail and text message.  Or how we always need to be doing SOMETHING.  It’s as if we are afraid to be alone with our own thoughts.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone.  I did take a few steps to adjust notifications on my smartphone so that I wasn’t constantly checking it to see who was reaching out to me and validating my existence… I mean, isn’t that what all of the endless checking ends up being in the end anyway?  But I can be bad on this front.

So last night was such a welcome respite.  I knew I needed it because I didn’t even get restless as I sat there for 45 minutes in silence.  Instead, I actually had a chance to reflect for a while… let my mind work through any knotty issues that had been weighing on it… get my bearings a little bit… and then walk out feeling as good and as relaxed as I have been in a long, long time.  Because for 45 minutes… the constant buzz of life melted away and my mind and spirit felt completely unburdened.

And all of this leads to a challenge for myself and my snazzy tagline of “Relentlessly push yourself forward”.  It’s a simple challenge to describe, but more daunting to put into practice:

Stop. Unplug. Reflect. Think. Ponder.  Daily.

It’s a challenge I accept.

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