As Seriously as Our Shredded Dignity Demands, Part One

This morning after checking my email and my ebay I sat down in front of the television with coffee and got pulled in by a British movie about a socially backward government functionary and a quiet younger lady with whom he was attempting to socialize. After a couple of quiet dates with her he invites her to go to Reykyavik with him to a conference he had to attend. After all he had a second ticket he wasn't using. It turned out to be a lot more than he bargained for. By being herself, a plain young woman with a particular story, the lady ended up changing her shy friend and history to boot. They have the movie rotating on HBO right now. The Girl in the Cafe with Richard Nighy and Kelly MacDonald. It was a quiet and sometimes awkward movie, no big moments, no chase scenes, but I liked it. It meant something beyond itself to me—that's what we need from a film, isn't it after all?

So after the credits started to roll I checked mail again and there was my good friend Rob F. answering my sad, sad message of 36 hours ago. He was wanting to find practical ways he can help me grasp the hope I need for the future. I am thankful for such a friend as he. I'll call him and let him know I am coming to myself. And I am—after about six weeks of unemployment and depression. Six weeks of waking up every morning to thoughts of "where am I going to get money for the bills". Six weeks of coffee, oatmeal, peanut butter and bologna (not together). Six weeks of fooling with web stuff (for donations). I sold a few books on ebay (more trouble than it's worth), I called in all my IOU's, which weren't many. I fiddled with a couple old laptops that were donated to me, cleansing them of the too-sluggish Windows 98 and experimenting at installing linux distros. I learned a lot, and when I went to sell them I learned that people don't really want to buy a laptop with a linux OS. Oh well ... which brings me what I really want to say.
A couple nights ago, while I was watching and waiting the three and a half hours it would take to install the afore-mentioned linux operating system on an old off-brand (but aesthetically beautiful) laptop, I looked for a book to read in the gaps between the steps in the install process. The book I found was The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I had read it (from the library) before, and afterwards found a used copy at a second-hand store. I let it set a while but finally picked it up again. When I began to read I had to think, 'this is great stuff, did I really read this before? I don't remember it being this good.' Then I came to a passage that touched me so deeply I had to get a pencil and mark it. Then I read the next and had to bracket that, then the next. I ended up with three paragraphs, each bracketed separately. Here's the first:

Egotism is pathological self-obsession, a reaction to anxiety about whether one really does count. It is a form of acute self-consciousness and can be prevented and healed only by the experience of being adequately loved. It is, indeed, a desperate response to frustration of the need we all have to count for something and be held to be irreplaceable, without price.

Now I must say I would not have marked this paragraph about "pathological self-obsession" except for the fact that it ended so well, even beautifully. For me the beauty hit me with the word "healed"—because healing is exactly what I (and many people I love) need.

Now, turning back to the first sentence, I didn't think of myself as egotistical or self-obsessed, but when it comes to being healed by being adequately loved ... well, I might come pretty close to pleading on that. Like Charles Colson, who pleaded guilty to the Watergate conspiracy—not because he did that particular crime, but because he had done other crimes of equal value and wanted to submit to justice, I feel a pull to submit to justice. Not out of a desire to be punished but out of a desire to be healed. What am I guilty of?

I am addicted to loving the inside of the walls of my own soul more than the living creatures who surround me every single day. I hug those walls and the images that I have projected on them—fantastic and phantasmal images with no real substance—fancy words for my persistent semi-belief that "nobody loves me, everybody hates me." And if that's not self-obsession I don't know what is.

Then to close the paragraph, Dr. Willard goes on about our need, the unfulfillment of which sorrows us all, to be meaningfully, even infinitely, valued. Go back and read the blockquote above. It is almost poetic. I can't explain it or expound upon it satisfactorily; I am writing about it just to show that it has touched me for the good.

By the way, about that cute little laptop, FedoraCore was too ponderous for the thing. I ended up formatting and installing another free linux distro, this time achieving operational equilibrium with the fast and light VectorLinux.

My next post will be about Dallas Willard's next paragraph which I bracketed in pencil.

To the Next Part

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