Today is September 18 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you distracting yourself from yourself?” In second episode of the third season of the Showtime series City on A Hill entitled "A Program of Complete Disorder" released in August 2022, Franklin Ward (played by Ernie Hudson) is dying of cancer and steps in to stop a yelling match between his two sons DeCourcy (played by Aldis Hodge) and Louie (played by Charlie Brice). After Franklin talks to Louie, he then turns his attention towards DeCourcy and says “you need to wake up. You're not gonna absolve Boston of its sin and vice. And the only reason you aspire to, in the first place, is because it distracts you from yourself. Maybe...the time has come for you to figure out what exactly you're afraid to learn.” Today’s post challenges you to figure out what it is you are afraid of learning about yourself.
One person who overcame a difficult childhood, avoided distracting himself from himself, and learned what it was he was supposed to learn about himself was American writer, preachers, and theologian Carl Frederick Buechner. In his August 18, 2022, New York Times opinion piece entitled "The Man Who Found His Inner Depths" David Brooks page homage to Buechner who passed away a few days earlier on August 15, 2022. Brooks wrote that Buechner “modeled how a person can experience life more fully, which is a process of scraping off some of the ways adulthood teaches us to see. As Philip Yancey wrote, Buechner ‘tries to reawaken the child in people: the one who naïvely trusts, who will at least go and look for the magic place, who is not ashamed of not knowing the answers because he is not expected to know the answers.’”
Buechner’s insight into the human experience was shaped by his formative years which were clouded by the tragic suicide of his father Carl Frederick Buechner Sr. who felt as though he was a failure for being unable to hold down a job for any extended period of time. After his father’s suicide his mother moved him and his siblings to Bermuda where, according to Buechner he experienced "the blessed relief of coming out of the dark and unmentionable sadness of my father's life and death into fragrance and greenness and light.” He would eventually move back to the United States after the Second World War ended, graduate college, and begin a teaching career. He launched his writing career and would eventually publish over 30 books, many of which explored the intersections of faith and culture and their impact on experiencing the fullness of life.
Brooks observed that Buechner’s vocation was to show a way to experience the fullness of life. Of death, he wrote, “What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” On finding your vocation in life and understanding what it is you are supposed to learn, Brooks noted that Buechner observed one finds their vocation at the spot where their deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. In a moment of personal reflection, Brooks wrote “Perhaps like many others, I struggle to experience my inner life in the quiet, patient, deep and old-fashioned way that Buechner experienced his. So much of the world covers over all that — constant media consumption, shallow communication, speed, and productivity. Sometimes I think the national obsession with politics has become a way to evade ourselves.”
But evading yourself, consuming that which should not be consumed, and distracting yourself from yourself runs counter to leveraging your mind, body, and spirit to navigate the chaos and translate one dream after another into reality. Buechner wrote: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and the gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Are you pursuing a greater cause at the expense of not spending time with yourself?
Are your aspirations getting in the way of you learning what it is you need to learn about yourself?
How often do you even think about whether or not your aspirations are actually beneficial to yourself?
How often are you distracting yourself from yourself?
How often do you ‘reawaken the child in you?’
How often do you go and look for the magic place?
How often are you not ashamed of not knowing the answers?
How often do you remind yourself the harsh realization that ‘what is found in life would scarcely fill a cup?’
How often is your life quiet enough for you to ‘listen to yourself?’
How often do you tell yourself that life is a fathomless mystery?’
How often do you allow yourself to understand that ‘all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace?’