Crisis is usually spoken of in terms of the crisis of the crises; the crisis of the Earth and the crisis of life, which is threatened with disappearance, as Pope Francis pointed out in his encyclical letter about “caring for the Common Home”. But everything in life is marked by crisis: the crisis of birth, of youth, the crisis of chosing one’s life companion, of selecting a profession, the crisis of the “demon of midday”, as Freud called it, that is the midlife crisis of the forties, when we realize that we are already reaching the top of the mountain and starting the descent. And finally, the great crisis of death, when we pass from time to eternity.
The challenge before us is not how to avoid these crises. They are inherent in our human condition. The question is how to face them: what lessons do we draw from them and how can we grow from them. The path of our self realization and of our maturity as human beings passes through them.
Every situation is good, every place is excellent for measuring us against our own selves, and diving into our deep dimension and bringing out the fundamental archetype that we carry within (the basic tendency that always worries us) and that through us seeks to reveal itself and to make its history, that is also our true history. Here no one can be substituted for another. Each of us is alone. It is the fundamental task of existence. But if one is faithful in this journey, that person is no longer alone. S/he has built a personal Center from where to find all the other journeyers. Solitary then turns into solidarity.
The geography of the spiritual world is different from that of the physical world. In the geography of the physical world, countries touch each other at their borders. In the other geography, people touch each other through their personal Centers. Indifference, mediocrity, the lack of passion in the search for our profound I, is what distances us from our Center and that of others, and therefore we lose affinities, even when we are close to them, amongst them, and are trying to be at their service.
What is the best service I could offer other people? To be myself, as a being-of-relationships, and therefore always linked to the others, a being who opts for the good for himself and for others, who is guided by truth, who loves and has compassion and mercy.
Personal realization is not found in the quantity of personal abilities we can realize, but in their quality, in the way we do well that which our station of life demands of us. The quantification, the search for titles, of endless degrees, could in many personal cases mean flight from an encounter with the task of life: to measure ourselves against ourselves, with our desires, our limitations, our problems, with our positive and negative, and to creatively integrate them. Avoiding the accumulation of meaningless knowledge, that only makes us more arrogant and distant from others, is what matures us, and enables us to better understand ourselves and the world. Their own words betray the people who say: It is I who knows, I who does it, I who decides. It is always the I and never the us or the cause, agreed upon with others.
Personal realization is not so much the work of reason, that deals with all things, but of the spirit, that is, our capacity to create visions of togetherness and of putting things in their proper place and valuation. The spirit is for discovering the meaning of each situation. Therefore, the wisdom of life, the experience of the mystery of God, deciphered in each moment, belong to the spirit. It is the capacity to put one’s self completely in everything that one does. Spirituality is neither a science, nor a technique, but the mode of being complete in every situation.
The first task of personal realization is to accept our situation, with its limits and possibilities. Each situation is complete, not quantitatively scattered, but qualitatively gathered, as in a Center. To enter into that Center of ourselves is to find the others, all things, and to find God. This is why the ancient wisdom of India held that: «If someone thinks correctly, secluded in his room, that thought is heard thousands of kilometers away». If you want to change others, start by changing yourself.
Another indispensable task for personal realization is to know how to coexist with the final end, namely, death. Whoever gives meaning to death, also gives meaning to life. Whoever does not see the meaning of death also fails to discover the meaning to life. However, death is more than the last moment, or the end of life. Life itself is mortal. In other words, we slowly are dying, bit by bit, because as soon as we are born, we start to die, to wear away and to bid farewell to life. We first bid farewell to the maternal womb and emerge from it. Then we say farewell to infancy, to childhood, to youth, to grade school, the paternal home, to the adult age, to some of our tasks, to each moment that passes and finally, we bid farewell to life itself.
This farewell leaves behind not only things and situations, but always something of ourselves. We have to detach ourselves, to become impoverished and to empty ourselves. What is the meaning of all this? Pure incorrigible fatalism? Or does it not have a secret meaning? We divest ourselves of everything, even of ourselves in the last moment of life (death), because we have been made neither for this world nor for ourselves, but for the Great Other who must fill our life: God. God takes everything from us in life, in order to reserve us ever more intensely for Himself; He can even take away the certainty that it was all worth the pain. Even so, we persist, believing in the sacred words: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart” (cf. 1 Jn 3,20). Whoever can accept the integration of the negative, including the unjust, into his own Center, would have reached the highest degree of humanization, and of inner liberty.
The negative and the crises we are going through offer us a lesson: the lesson of divesting and of preparing for the total plenitude in God. Then, we will be God, through participation, as the mystic Saint John of the Cross, says.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.