Despair and transformation...

My weekends are filled with the tasks of serving St. Elias Church but my weekdays take me to an assisted living facility just outside of Minneapolis where I oversee the activities program. It's good work, work that helps people, work that pays the bills. And every so often I pick up on something.

Several days ago I was tending "Valentino", our facility hamster, and a thought returned to me. "This animal" I thought, "is my moral superior". In his life, however long it is, our hamster will do nothing to deliberately offend God or neighbor and anything he may do that we would consider to be "wrong" is nothing about intent and all about an instinct broken, not by his beligerance, but by that of my species. If it were a matter of simply stacking up good things versus bad our hamster would make it to heaven with saintly speed and the best I could do was hope to pick the lock on the gate.

The truth is that we humans are what's wrong with the world. Absent our presence this planet would still be an Eden floating in space with clear skies, peace, and lambs sleeping with lions in the noonday sun. Everything that makes life here insufferable has a single cause, us. In our baser moments we are a virus infecting this world, a virus with the capability to wipe out all existence by virtue of the heights of its technology and the depths of its pathology.

Most of us rarely stop to think of how far we've sunk or how much damage we've caused or how even the best of still often slash and burn our paths through life. Most of the time I just go with the flow myself and madly shop without a care or let any potential deep and transforming thoughts be carried away on the sea of daily noise. I'd like not to think there are parts of me as ugly as that, a little Hitler just beneath my skin.
I'd rather not see the truth because it would be overwhelming.

But sometimes it shows up anyways, the uninvited guest crashing my party, the pain beyond medication, the inevitable morning hangover. Some times I can't trick my eyes into seeing illusions. Some times I can't drown out that still small voice that speaks veritas in my ear. Some times I don't see through a glass darkly and there is no comfort in this clarity. Despair is the inevitability of the honest soul, even if that honesty only lasts a moment.

It would be easier, probably, to be like our hamster whose life is all of eating, sleeping, and making more of the same without the burden of even recognizing the face in the mirror. It would seem a kind of blessing to not even care about life in a cage or what happens when everything finally goes dark one day. But such is not to be. In the scheme of things the benefits and the terrible cost of intellect and conscience and responsibility has fallen to all of us near naked bi-peds with the glory of language and the curse of knowing we are going to die.

Yet hamsters are as hamsters will always be but within us is planted the understanding that we were to be something more. That we were designed to be so gnaws at us with a primal despair. That we could be greater than angels but are often the cruelest of beasts tears at us in any moment when even one second of truth is within us. But we can be transformed as well, the one benefit of the kind of knowledge that separates us from our pets.

And if that is also true just imagine what could be...

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