Saturday, August 27, 2016

Catholic Hermit Has the Heebie-Jeebies

Heebie-jeebies:  This is what I call a certain kind of nerve pain that sets me off in a desire to escape my circumstances.  I hope and hop from one thing to another, always ending up flopped back down on the mattress here in the rudimentary, tiny cell-room of my in-process-renovated hermitage.  Te Deum Hermitage--although I rather like the sound of Te Deum House best.

Last evening while picking some tomatoes and berries for the roadside table and setting up the soaker hose watering rotations every hour or so, I told myself that in the morning I may have lots of pain.  I was giving myself a pre-pain pep-talk with hope that I'd handle whatever better than ever before.  I saw the weather forecast with a shift coming, and that affects the spine and all the nerves radiating from that point through the body.  

However, even after 32 years of constant pain, I have never quite been able to anticipate properly.  Thus, when the pain increases such as the case when I awoke around 3:30 a.m. with the pain jagging around in the body, I am as if apprehended by surprise.  And, of course, it is no surprise at all.  But my mind registers as if it is a new force, which it is, in a way.  It is new for this present moment.

Anyway, the battling of "my" thoughts begins, for I get tremendous urges to escape even more than the gradually increasing urge to do so, simply from the difficult, temporal circumstances in living quarters.  What the heebie-jeebies usually boil down to is that of wanting to escape the pain.  When it is spinal headache pain and low back or gut-radiated pain to the level that I must take something to konk out for a day and remain prone for several days, that is different.  

When it is this leg nerve pain that causes burning from the low back on down and sets all function of movement and thought "on edge", the heebie-jeebies evoke a desperate type of effect.  Amidst images of fleeing without looking back or of temptations to konk out, I do recognize that there is no point in either, for the heebie-jeebies are here due to this type of pain which enhances what was already a temptation of wanting to have a break from the efforts here, seemingly never-ending until death do me part.

I received an email from the young man of whom I recently referenced.  He is doing so well in his discernment process to become a monk and is shifting toward a more cloistered, contemplative monastery.  Excellent!  This suits him far better than a prayerful but more active religious order such as the Benedictines.

He also wrote a bit of his past, brief experience with a drug that others in this hermit's recent ken have been proselytizing as their cure for all that besets one: marijuana.  So I share what the young man wrote, for I find it always instructive to learn from those who have tried something, thankfully not for long in this case, and have their minds left and motivation enough to share the effects of his experience.

"Yeah, it does seem that marijuana has a way of making people want to theorize about conspiracies about our food and our water and the government and all kinds of impertinent paranoia.  Those things seem really interesting when you're stoned. If you do it a lot, then when you're not stoned, nothings seems that interesting, so maybe chasing down the conspiracy rabbit hole is some people's way of keeping up the novelty.

"It definitely [using marijuana] would make me paranoid!  And then depressed afterward.  It's a wonder even to me that I desired to keep doing it, since it caused me such paranoia and would rob me of all my vitality....I think it slowly makes people unable to tolerate difficulties in life.

"I had to come off some of those misplaced worries and priorities, at least partly because of the drugs.  The Christian understanding of spirituality got me to stop worrying about whether I needed to do something about obscure chemicals getting in our food and water and air, and whether I needed more iodine or magnesium, or whatever.  When I was first thinking about spirituality (but not so much about God), I thought you could better 'access' a spiritual state by purifying your body (and at the time I thought psychedelic drugs could be purifying).  Maybe you've heard of people talk about 'cleansing the third eye.'  Wow, it really is a miracle that I had been guided away from so much superstition, huh?"


I admit to having been affected by the other news of his email--and it fed right into the heebie-jeebies this morning.  It has to do with the monastery he is going to visit for a week in the near future.  Ah, I visited their online site and read about the monastery, the statutes and constitutions (and soaked in those having to do with monks who become hermits later in their vocations).  I also viewed the photos of their monastery and grounds--beautiful, serene, steeped in nature--and read of their daily life.

Glorious!  And I praised God that this young man is on this path, for he is not made for the temporal world.  We had realized that when he shared his dreams with me for interpretive help late last fall and into the winter.  He is called to the spiritual life in a more direct sense than many; and his seeking thus far had him conflicted by what some others of his age were feeding his mind.

The Lord reached in with powerful dreams.  Yes, it is a miracle that the young man was guided away from so much of wrong paths and confusing temptations.  How I have been affected by his great news and the monastery he is next to visit!  It placed me once more into the deeper yearning for more spiritual life with less responsibility in the temporal life circumstances.

But alas, the Lord has me here for now, and it is the great challenge to battle this present moment's heebie-jeebies.  It requires calling upon His grace and strength to discipline more to make of Te Deum House--this totally work-laden, messy, partly-renovated hermitage--a place of of quietude and a tabernacle of His Real Presence.

There is no escaping the physical pain, no escaping the work to be done, no escaping the on-going challenge to discern and delete my thoughts and to recognize and honor God's Thoughts.  I have no brother monks nor sister nuns to help with upkeep, cooking, laundry, maintenance, or to interface for me with store clerks, or pay the bills, or such as being on telephone hold for 45 minutes to cancel credit cards that hackers used online for major purchases....  

There are no benefactors paying the bills, no little hermit's hut already constructed and furnished for me.  There is no other doing tax preparations for the government--and indeed not tax exempt status here.  There is no one to do the driving for supplies or medical visits, no one stepping in to advocate in my stead for this or that of the temporal world's obligations.

Rather, as a consecrated Catholic hermit, privately professed and avowed these nearly 16 years, I am--as can be colloquially said--"the chief cook and bottle washer."  

I am to do it all but am not at all alone.  His Real Presence is with me always, and I am always with Him even if the heebie-jeebies do a masterful job of trying to mask this reality.  God is here, in this place; and I am here, in this place, in Him. 

Even a hermit in a monastery or under canonical rule of a diocese has a sense of someone "other" in charge--responsible for, directing, in place over the hermit.  Not so for the traditional, historical, privately professed, consecrated Catholic hermit.  Consider St. Antony of the Desert or St. Paul of Thebes.  Consider the various known and unknown desert and forest hermit abbas and ammas (fathers and mothers).

When the heebie-jeebies arrived physically or otherwise in the soul of their cell, they had none save God to Whom to turn, to call out, to see them through.  Alone.  Solus Deus.  No one was checking in on them if they did not show up for Mass once a week or once a month or once a year.  

No monastic superior was there to send a brother or sister to their hermit's cell.  No bishop nor designated hermit guide or director called or stopped by, nor a parish priest making contact or inquiring of the hermit's spiritual progression, or to expect him to show up to a parish job or function.  These hermits had naught but God alone to consider the hermit's whereabouts or wherewithal.

So it is here in this Te Deum House, this in-progress hermitage, that this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit has God calling.  It is God Who checks in, God Who inquires as to the spiritual life of this hermit's soul--and God Who pokes and prods a bit, as well.  And it is God Who asks this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit these questions during the painful heebie-jeebies:

Are you trying to escape the premises, the work, the spiritual reading, the praying, the praising, the listening in the silence of solitude?  Are you trying to escape the physical pain?  Are you trying to escape the various crosses that I have given you to bear--if not to juggle while doing so?  Get up when you can, do what you are able, and remain in My Real Presence.  Remain in My Love.

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