The Journey, Second Overlook: Paradox

We are sacrificing the nobility of suffering to the immediate gods of pleasure. We are leaning towards the arrogance of our present comforts, and reeling away from the slightest hinderance to our genteel lives. -POTP, Chapter 1, page 3

I'm not sure if this is a picture of Nobility or of Suffering...

The nobility of suffering.

Nobility – Dignity of mind; greatness; grandeur; that elevation of soul which comprehends bravery, generosity, magnanimity, intrepidity, and contempt of every thing that dishonors character. (source)

Suffering – The bearing of pain, inconvenience or loss; pain endured; distress, loss or injury incurred; as sufferings by pain or sorrow; sufferings by want or by wrongs. (source)

Dignity & pain, grandeur & inconvenience, elevation of the soul & injury incurred… Is it me, or do these two ideas seem incongruent? It feels like saying the Boston Yankees, Pittsburgh Cowboys, or Florida State… I just can’t go that far.

Spoiler alert! The authors of both books learned a great deal through suffering. It’s a paradox that’s beyond my vocabulary to describe; it must be experienced.

I’m saddened when I reflect on how many times I’ve been guilty of “reeling away from the slightest hinderance to my genteel life,” when it comes to Caedmon. Maybe he wants to tell me something, but I want to watch the game. Sometimes he wants to play outside, but I don’t want to run around carrying him. For all the good I might do as a father; I’m haunted by those moments of failure. Those times when I sacrificed him to the “immediate gods of pleasure.” I’ve done it with all my kids, but it’s different with Caedmon. He needs my involvement much more than the other three. Often, without my help, he just watches a movie while his brothers run around playing Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He needs me to grab my sword and start swashbuckling, but I’m too busy being genteel (I’m not sure I know what that means).

There are two fighters in the ring of time: urgency and patience, and urgency is beating patience like Ralphie beat Scut Farkas. We don’t have time for people anymore and those most affected are the ones behind the curtain. The extraordinary. Oliver, or Adam, or Mike, or Sam. I’ve come to believe that giving them time and dethroning the immediate gods of pleasure is what many of us need. What if we traded Survivor for Sam or American Idol for Mike? What if we decided to push a wheelchair instead of mouse? What if we made time? What if we embraced the hinderance?

I am fortunate to work with a remarkable team of volunteers, every Thursday night, at Miracle Sports. Most of them Florida State students; they’ve traded 2.5 hours a week to come out and love on our extraordinary athletes. (read here or here to see what some of the parents think) I wish you could see their joy, both the athletes and my Green Team (the volunteers). If you could have seen Nate’s face when he asked if Gavin would be his buddy every week, or if you could have seen Gavin’s face while he glowed telling the story. The paradox unfolds every time we play. I watch people set aside their genteel lives and trade it for nobility. I’m confident that they made a good choice.

I don’t like to use the word “suffering” when I think about my extraordinary friends. It feels ugly. But the reality is that many of them do suffer. They have eloquent thoughts that they can’t speak, or ambitious feats their bodies won’t let them reach; their suffering is on the inside. Maybe they get teased on the city bus or worse, ignored; their suffering is on the outside. This is why we need each other. Maybe, with your help, they can express their thoughts. Perhaps you could help them achieve their feat. It’s possible you could sit next to them on the bus and talk about the game last night. You can be a hunter. You can be noble.

 I think it would be good for us to take a time inventory. Look back on your week and see where you gave time to the immediate gods of pleasure. What if you added those times up and decided to do something else with the total? Would you enter the paradox? Would you joyfully suffer? Would you love when it’s hard? Would you listen when it takes time?

What if the one who required time, effort, or patience was you? What would you want me to do?

Can I encourge you to give time to an extraordinary person in the next 48 hours. As you anticipate the moment you might feel fear, anxiety, or doubt… suffer them no more! Dive in, say Hello, and expierence the nobility. You’ll be glad you did. 

(My wife pointed out that it takes time to read blogs, and it’s easy to fall behind. So, after this one, I’m going to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday pattern for the rest of “The Journey.” I’ll still respond to comments in between posts. They are the best part!)

One comment

  1. I think it’s my hardest thing about being a mother….guilt. I lay in bed wishing I had set aside that phone call or conversation when all the kids were calling my name…..or closed the computer….or sacrificed my exhaustion and ran around outside or engaged in the world of make believe. We are such a selfish people….I am such a selfish person! I always here, “you deserve a break” or “you’ve earned it” and even though I buy it, do I really? ” Deserve” it? I don’t think I deserve anything. I think Caedmon and the other kids deserve more of me…more of that time….more of that patience. Is my time and my “pleasure” more significant than helping or training someone to feed themselves…. or be able to sit up…or take a step….to wash their hands by themselves….or say “I’m thirsty” and have people understand you. Oh….if only I could see this everyday and see less of me.

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