Richard Rohr: Laying Down One’s ‘Stage Mask’

“In the second half of life, we have been in regular unwelcome contact with the shadow self, which gradually detaches us from our not-so-bright personas that we so diligently constructed in the first half of life. Our “stage mask” (persona in Greek) is not bad, evil, or necessarily egocentric; it is just not “true.” It is manufactured and sustained unconsciously by our mind; but it can and will die, as all fictions must die.

Person and shadow are correlative terms. Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see. The more you have cultivated and protected a chosen persona, the more shadow work you will need to do. Be especially careful therefore of any idealized role or self-image, like that of minister, mother, doctor, nice person, professor, moral believer, or president of this or that. These are huge personas to live up to, and they trap many people in lifelong delusion. The more we are attached to and unaware of such a protected self-image, the more shadow self we will likely have. Conversely, the more we live out of our shadow self, the less capable we are of recognizing the persona we are trying to protect and project. It is like a double blindness keeping you from seeing—and being—your best and deepest self. As Jesus put it: “If the lamp within you is, in fact, darkness, what darkness there will be” (Matthew 6:23).” —Richard Rohr, ofm

From Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, pp. 127-128, pp. 127-128

Lent and Life in the ‘Affluent Fifth’

Lent is an opportunity to right-size our relationships with our neighbors. Today, less than one-fifth of the world’s people have more than four-fifths of the global wealth, but the poorest billion have less than one-fiftieth, according to the U.S. Catholic bishops. The most affluent fifth control 80 percent of world trade, savings, and investment.

Sometimes we who live in the “affluent fifth” feel immediately uncomfortable or guilty at reading this information. But our faith gives us the opportunity at Lent to think creatively about our balance in the world–and to act in new ways with our time, money, possessions. We are invited to refresh our hearts through prayer and scripture. We can lay down the burdens accumulated in an over-sated society. We can fast and rest; sing ancient songs; draw closer to God. Lent is an invitation.

“Over a few short generations,” observes Alan Durning, “we in the affluent fifth of humanity have become car drivers, television watchers, mall shoppers, and throwaway buyers.” But many in our culture are concerned about the prevalence of greed, selfishness and conspicuous consumption, which seem to be crowding out meaningful family, community and spiritual values. We fail to think about the damaging consequences of our lifestyle for the future of our children – and our planet.

The 10th commandment is straightforward: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” And Jesus was often blunt about over-consuming and attachment to material goods: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19)

Christian simplicity is not frugality for the sake of penny-pinching or deprivation. Rather, we want to become aware of how our personal choices and spending habits are connected to the issues of global poverty and care for creation. Our faith motivates us to develop life-styles that respect the limitations of our planetary resources and protect the creation for the future of our children. The hallmark of such a life-style is not greedy accumulation, but compassionate sharing, and heartfelt contentment. That is the abundant life which Jesus promised.–From Lent 4.5 on Christian Simplicity

Minnie Bruce Pratt: When I Say ‘Steal,’ Who Do You Think Of?

Photo by Leslie Feinberg

I became familiar with the poet Minnie Bruce Pratt when I was in high school and read “Motionless On The Dark Side Of The Light,” in the No More Masks: An Anthology of 20th Century American Women Poets.

Pratt was born in Selma, Alabama, in 1946. She graduated from Bibb County High School when it was under segregation, and entered the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a year after George Wallace “stood in the schoolhouse door” in an attempt to stop desegregation.

She says that she received her real education “into the great liberation struggles of the 20th century through grass-roots organizing with women in the army-base town of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and through teaching at historically Black universities.” Since coming into women’s liberation, and coming out as a lesbian in 1975 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Pratt has been active in organizing that intersects women’s and gender issues, LGBT issues, anti-racism work, and critiques of empire. Currently, she is a professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Writing & Rhetoric at Syracuse University, where she also serves as faculty for a developing Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/ Transgender Studies Program.

I came across a lecture she gave in 2004 and wanted to share an excerpt here. The first time I read it, I was struck by the oddness of it pushing up against the gospel readings from Matthew 6 and Luke 12. It has the whiff of Advent about it.

“Every week Miz Nell Weaver had us memorize a Bible verse, one for each letter of the alphabet. This was in the fourth grade, Centreville, Alabama, 1956. One by one, on Fridays, our name would be called and we would go into the only privacy there was, the cloakroom at the back of the classroom, and there in the narrow space jumbled with coats and book bags, we would stand in front of her and open our mouths and recite. “I” was In the beginning, of course. And “L” was Lay not up treasure on earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal. Lay up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust doth not corrupt and thieves do not break through and steal. (Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.)

Who did I think was stealing? What was the endangered treasure, that which would rot away and be lost? Why was I being taught that any security I might ever have would be after I was dead?

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