Sunday, October 16, 2016


What was your life like as a child?

How did that help you form your impressions of the world? 

What are your impressions now?

I have a question today about living in the moment – which is what we claim our aim is. 

It's not enough to just live in the moment once one reaches a certain age. One has to consider one's life over the long arc of time, and see how what has already taken place, especially at the beginning, influences the trajectory. The overall trajectory from within, after all, was formed very early — outer circumstances push us in many different directions, but inward ones have more of a consistency to them, because they always begin from this point of withinwardness called Being. 

Our being may be weak or it may be strong, but it's indubitably there, because it is what God gives us at the beginning and it is what determines how everything else is formed from inside; what is received, how it is processed and related to other things, what grows in us.

This brings me to temptation. Temptation is the inner impulse towards selfishness and the gratification of the self. Throughout most of my life, when I heard this word in prayer, I always presumed that "lead us not into temptation" was intoned in regard to outward things, but that isn't the case at all, I think. Temptation is an inner thing. It may be stimulated by objects, events, circumstances, and conditions, but it always acts inwardly, and it always comes from a selfishness. 

One could argue that this selfishness is the selfishness of a child; and this sheds some light for me on Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians 13:

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Given that the rest of the passage is about love, which is an essentially unselfish impulse, it seems clear that temptation is an important part of the question. 

I'm tempted to be selfish. That comes first. After that unmindful and childish impulse, all the outer manifestations kick in: the objects of temptation, which are not objects in themselves (things to be tempted by) but only manifestations of my selfishness... my childishness. This is a root behavior worth, I think, careful examination. 

During the course of my day, I definitely see that I have two contradictory impulses that act in me constantly: one, to gratify my own wishes –which are probably carnal, or relate to acquiring wealth or having power and exercising it —and another which is generous and actually cares about other people. 

If I take the time to see it, I can be present to the way they struggle with one another. 

My unselfishness is pretty weak, isn't it?

We spend a lot of time sensing this or that part of the body, doing an exercise where we "come back" to ourselves. That's all very nice. But shouldn't we occasionally do exercises where we try to see these specific inner parts and how they influence us? 

If I don't have a question about my manifestations which is active and within me during the day, what can I really see? 

Even my failure to work is a result of this temptation to act childishly, to act through selfish impulse, rather than love and caring. After all, if I truly love myself and care about myself, I'll make an effort to attend to my inner life. If I don't, there are fundamental questions at stake. 

This is where my attention and mindfulness begin: as a child, from within temptation. I begin from within myself as a child, but I try to reach both inward and outward by discovering the adult.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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