“I’ll Have What She’s Having.”

You remember the infamous scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Meg Ryan shows Billy Crystal how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm in a crowded restaurant? Well, moments later a nearby patron tells her waitress that she’ll have whatever led to Meg Ryan’s verbal eruption.

It may sound odd, but that’s the way I feel about Catholicism. I have watched it do so much good in so many lives to me it is a no-brainer as to why everyone else should become a part of this beautiful tradition. I’ve watched it motivate people to humbly serve the poor. I’ve watched it transform the lives of the homeless, addicts, alcoholics, and prison inmates. I’ve watched it create large, loving families. I’ve watched it transform so many lives and pass on the values that sustain families and the future.

I’ll have what they’re having.

Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. And one worth sharing with others.

The Christian Habit: Morning

Photo by Daria Obymaha on Pexels.com

Mornings, for a Christian, are a new opportunity to contribute to the world. For example, this morning (5/13/19) I may have saved a woman’s life. It was raining when I was about one block from my office and noticed a car coming into the intersection after the light had changed. Simultaneously, a woman standing next to me wearing a hooded raincoat that blocked her vision stepped out and started walking into the intersection, not seeing the car. As I saw this unfold, I yelled out, “Watch out! Watch out!” The woman stopped, looked over at me, and the car whizzed by within a couple of feet of her.

I didn’t intend to save a person’s life today. It just happened because I am continually aware of the world around me and generally walk around exhibiting my Christian instincts. A Christian starts his day with a positive attitude, an optimism for the day and the world in general. He sees every day as a new opportunity to show the world what it means to be a good Christian. Even when everyone around is kind of a bummer, his optimism and enthusiasm are infectious. I say this as someone who is not very positive by nature, believe me. Sometimes you have to fake until you make it. Or else, honestly, people won’t want to be around you very much.

So he wakes up early, makes time for prayer and meditation, makes time for the important things in life- God, family, relationships- and goes on his way.

In your own life, see if you can change any depressing culture you encounter whether it’s your sad, boring office or a gathering with your relatives. Maybe create a new family tradition? Don’t wait for others to fix things or make things better, take action yourself. You may save a life or more likely, many lives.

We Are All Spiritual Beings

You can distract yourself and pretend otherwise, but the need for spiritual connection is so entrenched in the human that it is dangerous to suppress it. It will come out in you raging about your bullshit job or barking at your wife. Unless we nourish that need constantly, we succumb to the dull, earthly pains and occasional pleasures that deny us true happiness.

Last Night (4/20/19) I Became a Catholic

After 40 years of searching for meaning everywhere and anywhere else, I finally found it. It was right there alongside me the whole time in the form of my many family and friends who have modeled Catholicism so beautifully. Thank you and God bless you all. Happy Easter!

#7BadIdeas #1- Atheism

“Religion is a bunch of bullsh#t.”
-all of my liberal friends

ATHEISM. Yes, it’s difficult to believe in someone or something that you cannot readily observe or touch or communicate with. I, for one, have a personality rooted in what I can see, feel, or read about from reputable sources. I don’t automatically trust what people say. I assume a lot of it is nonsense and am correct 75 percent of the time. I only like to read nonfiction books, I don’t believe in ghosts, am most influenced by cold, hard facts, and don’t even trust my mirrors when I’m driving. I’m not too lazy to turn my head. Data and information that I (or more accurately, someone whom I trust) can measure is what I usually invest my faith in. That’s why the idea of God has always been so hard for me to imagine.

Further, religion seems so quaint and old-fashioned in our hyper-informed modern world. It made sense for folks living on the prairie in the 19th century or in small towns or ethnic urban neighborhoods until the 1960s. But nowadays, we live across the country and all over the world. We have never been more disconnected from our family members geographically. “Community” is a dying phenomenon.

“Religion seems so anachronistic. It reminds me of a t-shirt I saw a college kid wearing in the 2000s that said ‘VOTING is for old people.'”

So why not just stick with atheism? Why not proudly proclaim to be ruled by reason and logic? Well, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to look at life from a more pragmatic perspective. And I’ve found atheism to be deeply lacking. Specifically, I’ve struggled enormously my whole life with existential angst- frequently stewing in anger and depression- and during those times, atheism had nothing to offer.

And so, the pain of struggling to understand why the world is the way it is led me on a search for meaning. The hellish battle in my head for why we’re all here has long tormented me. Specifically, for decades I’ve been trying to figure out how an atheist makes meaning out of the world. And through that search, I came right back to religion and the Catholicism of my grandparents. I concluded that, generally speaking, when a person does not center his life around a concept like God, he inevitably fills that solipsistic worldview with self-interest or what he perceives as self-interest. His moral compass inevitably gets hijacked by the ego. From a practical standpoint, I came to the conclusion that atheism, agnosticism, and generally just checking out from religion are pretty terrible ways to live. I know. I did it for 40 years.

In the absence of a religion to frame how you look at the world, a person will inevitably succumb to the influence of the ego. It’s natural. It’s normal. And it may well ruin your life. Atheism or godlessness- in other words, not recognizing something greater than oneself- is a direct path to self-worship, narcissism, nihilism, depression, and ultimately, suffering. 

I’m not saying I don’t struggle with faith. My idea of God has evolved though. It’s something akin to the spirit or impulse of love for and kindness to others. The universal connection of every human being (love your neighbor) and the sense of fellowship with other humans that says we’re all children of God and we’re all in this together (love your enemies). What an amazingly brilliant idea. How could it have come from man?

I’ve also been doing something of a 40-year study comparing the lives of a large group of Catholic men and a large group of “secular” men. The Catholic men are all doing dramatically better than most of my lifelong friends who reject religion. They are generally married with good careers and stable families. After decades of observing these men, it’s clear to me that believing in God and ordering your life around God is a beautiful way to live. Religion offers structure, motivation, focus, an identity- important things you need to live a good life.

After all, what has gotten us to where we are as a society? What traditions, values, and institutions have enabled men and women to flourish like never before? Religion, Christian values, the nuclear family, marriage before children, basic common-sense concepts like these are scorned and undermined by the left at every opportunity. So much so that many of us have internalized that scorn and have an almost knee-jerk reaction to religion, viewing it as “a bunch of bullsh#t.” Not helpful.

And if the positive case for religion, and by this I generally mean Christianity, doesn’t convince you, how about the negative one? Where has atheism and more broadly, secularism, taken us so far? Low birth rates, high divorce rates, relentless competition between men and women, contempt and scorn for Christian values, a general erosion in confidence in all of our institutions, and loneliness, suicide, misery, at shockingly high levels in the West. Enough said.

To get by in life, I say whatever works. But it’s pretty clear to me, #AtheismHasFailed.

NOTE: This is the first in a series of ‘7 Bad Ideas That Will Ruin Your Life.’

7 Tips to Beat Depression

tan and white short coat dog laying down in a brown wooden floor
Photo by Bruno Cervera on Pexels.com

Most people suffer from depression at some point in their lives or know someone who has. Here are seven things a depressed person can do to make life better almost immediately:

  1. Establish a morning routine. Do you wake up at your girlfriend’s one morning, on your couch the next, and occasionally in your own bed? Well that needs to stop. A morning routine is critical to healthy functioning and when you start the day in disarray it usually only gets worse from there. So, wake up at roughly the same time every day, drink a glass of water, and do what you need to do to have a productive day.

  2. Exercise. If you hate it, find a way to make it fun. It doesn’t have to be running marathons. Try rowing or swimming or bicycling. Again, just do something. And if you have a REALLY hard time doing it, then do it FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!

     

  3. Build a spiritual practice. Buddhism, Catholicism, Quakerism, whatever. You might even be able to persuade me of the benefits of being a Wiccan. Most important of all, though, JUST DO SOMETHING. Create a practice that helps you stay centered every day AND serves as beginning or end point for every week. I know, I know, we all hate going to church. So add some fun to it like brunch or a giant latte or a poke or two on a vape pen. But it’s important for many reasons. Foremost, it connects you with other humans. As a society we are facing an epidemic of loneliness. We need connection to other people. Try church, synagogue, meeting house, AA, whatever. Just something.

  4. Make time for gratitude. You know when you’re sitting in Chick-fil-a on a road trip and you look over and the family next to you is praying before eating their meal? Yes, it’s awkward and a little embarrassing, but if you were to take 30 seconds 3 times a day to REMIND YOURSELF HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE it might improve your outlook.

     

  5. Figure out the patterns. We all have patterns of behavior that we repeat in our lives. Take some time to figure out which ones are holding you back. Are you overly focused on the superficial? Are you living up to your values? Do you keep dating the same types of people? It never hurts to work with a therapist, a coach, or even an app to help you figure things out.

     

  6. Make a change. Maybe it’s time to get a new job or end a relationship or get a pet or move to a new city. Sometimes a dramatic change can shake you out of a rut. Now, don’t do anything that will hurt you in the long run- run it by a few people first- but explore the possibility of changing your situation, even if only for a period of time. Another simple idea- plan a vacation. Having something fun to plan and look forward to is half the fun!

     

  7. Forgive yourself and others. Forgiving yourself is never easy and forgiving others isn’t always smart, but generally speaking, going down the path of forgiveness will only yield benefits for you. Explore readings and writing on forgiveness that might help you work through some of your thoughts and if nothing else works, try medicine.