Monday, November 19, 2012

Honors Forum, 11/19/12

Unfortunately, we did not get out for Turkey Day. The freshmen, of course, did. The French phrase c'est la vie may or may not be appropriate here; I think it means, "Such is life," but as I am particularly un-gifted with French I may very well be wrong. Marcela...?

And, no, I don't know any other phrases in any of my other languages that would fit, other than an Italian one that is eluding me at the moment... Aha! Che sara, sara. Is that it? UNA doesn't even offer Italian, does it...?


Our speaker tonight was Dr. Tom Osbourne, a UNA history professor emeritus (which, we were assured, means that he retired in good standing with the university- sort of like an honorable discharge, as he put it). He is also a deacon with the Episcopal Church, for added distinction. He told us a bit about his duties as a deacon before diving into explaining about his work with Kairos and The Help Place.

Before I get into all that, though, I think I should definitely mention one thing he stressed to us: there is an understandable human reluctance to get involved in service work. This reluctance can never fully be erased, just as actors never fully get over stage fright, but it can be overcome by long practice.

My opinion is: So what if you didn't want to do the work? The important thing is that you did it. Maybe my opinion on that is a bit skewed since I am often like that myself. I try to take a little comfort from a story in the Bible, one of Jesus's parables, where the father goes to his sons and tells them to go out and work in the fields. The elder says, "I will go," but doesn't, while the younger son says, "No, I will not," but later goes and does as he was told anyway. I feel a lot like the younger son for some odd reason... I grumble interiorly (and occasionally exteriorly) but I go and do it anyway...

Actually, though, I don't mean my service work. I love playing for the residents at Merrill Gardens. I don't mind at all when I hear them tapping on their walkers in time to the music. It just makes me happy that I've brightened someone's morning.

Anyway. Back on track again.

I wonder how many people knew what kairos was before Dr. Osbourne explained it. Not everyone showed up, to begin with. I have a habit of 'collecting' Greek words that I like and their meanings when I stumble across them in my various philosophy books, so, yes, I can tell you what kairos is and what thlipsis is and what logizomai means. So... khronos and kairos... (By the way, I'm not sure if it's kronos or khronos; I've seen it both ways. Percy Jackson and the Olypiams- great reference, I know, but Rick Riordan does his homework- goes with Kronos. I suppose it depends on whether or not it's spelled with a kappa or a chi. ??? Any Greeks want to enlighten me?)

Khronos refers to purely temporal time, such as that measured by a clock and a calendar, while kairos is a particular time, "the fullness of time", whereat something appointed happens, regardless of khronos. Kairos is a very fitting name for a sort of three-day retreat with inmates in prisons. No matter their circumstances, no matter the time, it is always the perfect time, the kairos, to "get right with God", to borrow the phrase.

So, I think I've explained the Kairos program. Dr. Osbourne also brought up the Help Place, which is also an inter-denominational effort. They distribute food and clothing to people and also help them pay their bills. I think St. Vincent de Paul's does that as well- there is always a note in our church bulletin about how many cases they've had that week.

One sobering statistic came when Dr. Osbourne said about 80% of the people in prison or coming to the Help Place for assistance were in those circumstances due to drugs. That is very sad. Drugs seem to be the bane of America. I can't countenance using drugs under any circumstances, but I haven't been in their shoes. I guess I just can't understand it...

Joy. Surprised By Joy. (Anyone get the reference?) Yes, joy is definitely a fruit of self-giving in service. However, I think people get joy confused with pleasure and happiness too much.

To borrow the example from Peter Kreeft, pleasure- that is, satisfaction derived from physical things and comforts, or things that please the body- is a superficial satisfaction, like the level ground. Happiness, or satisfaction derived from things that please the mind, like solving a difficult problem, is a deeper satisfaction, like halfway down a canyon. Joy, which is contentment deep within the soul, is all the way at the bottom of the canyon, in the Colorado River (geography class is getting to me).

Joy starts in the heart and rises outwards to flood the whole person, mind, body, and soul, with its warmth. Joy is a powerful force. Joy can live amidst many sorrows and turmoils, since it is rooted deeper and thus is not affected by them, as mere physical satisfaction and pleasure will be. Joy is a free gift from Heaven; it can't be duplicated. You may receive it from God on account of your actions, but you will not always get it. You cannot count on being happy just because you did something for someone else. Ingratitude will kill any natural feelings of happiness. But joy won't be touched. Joy isn't the reflected happiness of someone's positive response.

And now that I've composed an ode to joy (does anyone get that reference to my favorite tune?), I'll have to mention that in life there will be trials and tribulations where we will not have joy to sustain us. And that's when you begin to function on willpower and grace alone, the true "chance to show your quality, the very highest". (Does anyone get these references or should I give up and crawl away under a table somewhere?)

Dr. Osbourne ended his talk by asking us: "What is your joy? Do you know what your joy is?"

He was greeted with profound silence, of course. He mentioned that he has asked that question several times, and always gets "paralysis" in response. I did have a response for him, but something so deep is hard to put into words. It's hard to talk about something so deep to your heart. It's easier for me to write about it than talk; here I have the opportunity to think about what I'm saying and there's a certain level of emotional detachment.

Moreover, I didn't think I'd be understood if I tried to explain where my joy is. It's hard to explain the Blessed Sacrament to someone who doesn't believe in it...

In Pace Christi,


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