Saturday, March 22, 2008

Into Great Silence

I wasn't able to make it to a Good Friday service yesterday due to my schedule. Instead, I decided to watch a movie I've had for a few weeks now called Into Great Silence. The movie's inception began in 1984 when German filmmaker Philip Groening approached the Carthusian monks at Le Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps with the request to film their monastic way of life. They said the time was not right, and that they would get back with him in ten to fifteen years. In 2000, they called him and said that they were ready. What resulted is one of the most remarkable films I've ever seen.

The Carthusian monks lead some of the most ascetic lives on the planet, lives dedicated to silent contemplation of God. They live in cells, cut off from their brothers except for their collective calls to prayer throughout the day. They are so isolated that they are even fed through doors in their cells. There is interaction, but it is minimal, intentionally.

I find it bizarre and strange, but compelling and beautiful at the same time. By the end of the movie, I was in awe of these men who've dedicated their lives so completely to God, and when one of the eldest among them began to speak about his conception of God, I took note.

He is old, frail and blind. Based on what he said, I presume he was asked if he was afraid of dying, and this was his response:

No! Why be afraid of death? It is the fate of all humans. The closer one brings oneself to God, the happier one is. It is the end of our lives. The closer one brings oneself to God, the happier one is, the faster one hurries to meet him. One should have no fear of death. On the contrary! For us, it is a great joy to find a Father once again. The past, the present, these are human. In God there is no past. Solely the present prevails. And when God sees us, He always sees our entire life. And because He is an infinitely good being, He eternally seeks our well-being. Therefore, there is no cause for worry in any of the things which happen to us. I often thank God that he let me be blinded. I am sure he let this happen for the good of my soul. It is a pity that the world has lost all sense of God. It is a pity...They have no reason to live anymore. When you abolish the thought of God, why should you go on living on this earth? One must always part from the principle that God is infinitely good, and that all of his actions are in our best interest. Because of this a Christian should always be happy, never unhappy. Because everything that happens is God's will, and it only happens for the well-being of our soul. Well, this is the most important. God is infinitely good, almighty, and he helps us. This is all one must do, and then one is happy.

I come once again to the fundamental belief that the greatest argument for Christianity is rooted in the greatest paradox that we can confront in our lives: how can a good and benevolent God allow so much suffering in the world? I believe that the only compelling answer to the problem of pain is rooted in Christ's death on the cross: ultimate evil transformed into ultimate good. This wise man, living a life of constant contemplation and devotion to God has reached the point where he views his blindness as the greatest of gifts, an expression of God's ineffable love for him. Because everything that happens is God's will, and it only happens for the well-being of our soul. These are hard words, but they ring true.

I struggle constantly with being single, wondering why and when God will bring a companion to my life. I will not lie--I suffer greatly from loneliness. As I've said many times, it is without question the daily cross that I bear, and there is no question of my picking it up. It is my existence and it pains me perpetually. I have not reached the point where I can echo what this wise man has said, that I thank God for the pain of loneliness, because it is my lot and God's will, for the betterment of my soul. But perhaps that is the lesson I'm supposed to learn though this period of a solitary life: to say with gratefulness in my heart, "thy will be done."

It has been a little over six months since I've seen or talked with Meg, and a year and a half since we ended our relationship. We were together for exactly that amount of time, and I realize that I still love her as much as I ever have. I think about her constantly, despite wishing that I was free of thoughts of her. I've tried desperately to move on from her, but I can't seem to do it. I love her, deeply, and it seems still that every day I am pained by her rejection of me.

The question I am confronted with after watching this film, and hearing this wise man's words is this: can I thank God for Meg's rejection of me, and all of the pain that I have lived with as a result of that rejection, and say that it was God's will, and more than that: that it was a gift from God for the betterment of my soul? What is more tragic, blindness or the spurning of a woman? Can I view all of the times I've been rejected by women as God's will for me, for the betterment of my well-being?

That is hard, but it seems to me the only course of action one can take, unless one desires simply to be filled with hatred and bitterness. It would be easy to become a misogynist, I suppose, when you feel so often that women take no notice of you. That's the easy path. The hard path is to thank God for the pain of rejection, simply because it must be God's will, since God is "infinitely good, and almighty, and he helps us." If that is the case, then every women who's ever rejected me has done so because it was his will, allowed for the betterment of my soul.

May I have just a fraction of the faith, trust and wisdom of that blind man.


paul said...

Now c'mon Dan, that's just too cliche - the blind guy who sees the world more clearly while locked up in his little cell than I do with my 20/20 walking around free as a bird on the outside, geez man. You're killin' me over here!

Dan said...'re making me chuckle over here.

Notes from a Room said...

Beautiful post. Thanks.

paul said...

First MSU, now this...Danny boy, consider me the gift that keeps on givin'.

Anonymous said...

offer it up!
it is a special gift that God gives us the opportunity to unite our suffering to Christ's suffering on the cross...for the sake of his body, the Church.
God takes our suffering, when offered up, and turns it into grace. don't waste your suffering! it is SO valuable. offer it up for Meg, God's grace will flood her.

Dan said...


Thanks for the encouragement...that is what I do, on a daily basis, offer it up on Meg's behalf. My hope and prayer is indeed that every time I feel that pain, that she will be flooded with the grace of God. In that case, I gladly bear it.

Anonymous said...

Which is more tragic...It is infinitely more tragic to be a blind man than a young man who has been rejected by his girlfriend of 6 months...
Also, one is not justified in becoming a misogynist merely because some women have rejected you. Have you considered asking the Holy Spirit to reveal your soul mate to you..? God is so generous, he never withholds when he can give and where his blessings are merited...