Walking has become a national obsession. Year round the malls, streets and tracks are dotted with sweating men, women and children in a colorful array of sports togs, feverishly trying to beat the time clock of life’s grim reader. Charities make millions every year sponsoring walkathons for causes of all kinds.
I walk primarily to get where I am going and for the walker’s high that I sometimes get when I walk fast and for a long distance. My wife and I made the “walk” down Constitution Ave in 2008 in recognition of the 50,000,000 lives wasted because of the Roe v Wade decision promulgated in 1973.
Like wit Mark Twain I believe that the game of golf is a pefectly good way to spoil a good walk.
These are just a few of the many different motivations that compel people to lace up their Nikes, don their Under Armours and hit the streets. Did you ever wonder why people walk and how important and varied it is to human life?
Leave it to Adam Gopnik of New Yorker magazine to explain all the variegated reasons from exercise and self-defense to recreation and thinking for human bipedalism. I especially found his idea of solitude while walking intriguing!
Walking can also be a sermon. On the opening night of my parish’s Lenten Mission years ago, the visiting priest asked us, what was Jesus’ ‘best’ homily? His Sermon on the Mount or quite possibly the Last Supper immediately came to mind.
While he said both were excellent answers, there was something much better. A priest for 40 years, he had only recognized Jesus’ best sermon 10 years ago.
Before answering his question, he talked on the beauties and importance of the many walks in life, from the graduation walk, the walk down the aisle on a wedding day to the leisure stroll with friends and family.
Father said Jesus’ best homily depicted the most important walk in the history of the world and it was on the walls of every church he had ever walked into–the Stations of the Cross.
In meditating on the stations, Father found that they were a microcosm of the Catholic faith. And every time he looked at that walk on the wall it if was as if Jesus was saying to him, Come Follow Me.” (Mark 1:17)
The first lesson is that we must stop judging people for what they have and who they are because we are all God’s children. On His second stop Jesus is telling us to stop our complaining. Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing and yet He was tortured and sentenced to death but never complained.
At stops three, seven and nine Jesus falls to the ground but despite His pain and suffering He got up again–He never quit… In the battles of the flesh and the spirit, we must never give up.
In the middle of His walk, Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to help Jesus carry His burden. Similarly, many of us have been called as caregivers and helpers to ease the burdens of those close to us who may have a difficult time carrying their crosses of disease, old age or personal affliction.
At stations four, sixth and eight, Jesus had sound advice for a world that preaches that happiness can only be found only where there is no pain or suffering.
Jesus’ touching encounter with Mary, who found immense joy within the pangs of the suffering of childbirth, echoing the profound words of St. James’ Epistle, Count it all joy my brethren, when you meet various trials for you know that the testing of your faith, produces steadfastness. (Jas.1: 2-3)
To the compassionate Veronica He leaves His image in blood and sweat that she would joyously treasure forever. To the women of Jerusalem, His message was for them to stop their weeping over His suffering but focus on their children because children who bring joy, laughter and renew the spirit of life.
At the 10th stations Jesus tells us to love the material things of the world but don’t make them the center of your being.
At the next stop Jesus talks about pain. Father said everyone is handicapped in some way. Jesus never complained during His long ordeal. He offered it up to His Father for us.
Jesus also invites us to join Him in the cross of suffering, not because suffering is wonderful but by offering up our pains and suffering for others they will serve as a vehicle of His healing grace.
Before we can finish our walk we must let go of our bitterness, grudges and forgive those who have wronged us.
While Jesus’ walk was to His death on the Cross our walk is a way to life eternal. Next time you go into a Church, take a few moment to “listen” to His best homily.
How many listen more to the anchors on commercial TV or NPR radio for their truth. I was in a parking lot at the Jewish Community Center a few weeks ago and I saw a confusing bumper sticker. This one said: I am against the death penalty. That’s all well and good but it was the following proof that nearly knocked me over.
Look what it did to Jesus! Wow what a revelation! The death penalty killed Christ and not His own people, who rejected everything He stood for fear of their loss of power. I would love to have asked the auto owner, where would we all be had Jesus not lost His life on the Cross? Would man’s salvation had been achieved had Jesus died by a “drive-by-shooting” or died of cardiac arrest at the age of 65?
Not only The New Yorker missed the importance of Jesus’ walk for salvation but even my own Catholic Newspaper, the St. Louis Review published an atrocious cartoon of Jesus hanging on the Cross with the caption that read: This is what the death penalty did!” So even the Catholic press entirely missed the message of Jesus’ long walk to Calvary.
The bottom line then is that in order to find our eternal home, we not only had to hear the talk but put pick up our crosses daily and do the walk.
I was recently reminded of the old Broadway play Funny Girl, starring Barbra Streisand. I remember taking a friend during Christmas week in 1965 to see what proved to be her last performance.
I most remember the song People. It was a wonderful ballad that expressed the deep human need that we have for other people.
In retrospect, I guess the lyrics expressed comedian and heroine, Fanny Bryce’s sad lament on how she envied those who really needed people. To her they were the luckiest people in the world. Even today I tend to well up every time I hear that song.
This brings me to a fascinating article in the New York Times a few weeks ago.
Boston College Professor, Richard Kearney, wrote the article, based on a discussion he had with his students in a class on Eros, entitled From Plato to Today.
Some of his students were bemoaning the fact that most of the romance they were having had been impersonalized by the Internet and the social media. They missed that real human connection that virtual or casual hook-up sex can never provide.
Many of Kearney’s students realized the tragic irony of this kind of physical connecting: that what is often thought of, as a ‘materialist’ culture was arguably the most ‘immaterialist’ culture imaginable — vicarious, by proxy, and often voyeuristic.
These are prophetic words for a culture on a downslope.
The professor then took this mundane and earthy discussion to a much higher plane, as he outlined the philosophical and moral dichotomy between Plato and Aristotle that has plagued Western relationships for 2000 years.
Today’s cyber world of virtual dating reminded him of an updated version of Plato’s Gyges, who could see everything at a distance but was touched by nothing! Kearney questioned whether we were entering an age of excarnation, where we obsess about the body in increasingly disembodied ways.
As Kearney states if incarnation is the image become flesh, excarnation is flesh become image
It is not surprising that Aristotle would see things in a completely different light. In perhaps the first great work of human psychology, his De Anima, (The Soul) Aristotle declared the human touch to be the most universal of the senses.
Touch, thought Aristotle, is the most intelligent sense because it is the most sensitive. When we touch someone or something we are exposed to what we touch. We are responsive to others because we are constantly in touch with another person.
Aristotle was challenging the dominant prejudice of his time–against the human body–one he himself had embraced in earlier works.
The Platonic doctrine of the Academy held that sight was the highest sense because it is the most distant and mediated; hence most theoretical, holding things at bay, mastering meaning from above.
Aristotle lost this battle of ideas!
The Platonists prevailed and the Western universe became a system governed by the soul’s eye. Sight came to dominate the hierarchy of the senses, and was quickly deemed the appropriate ally of theoretical ideas.
According to Professor Kearney Western philosophy thus sprang from a dualism between the intellectual senses, crowned by sight, and the lower ‘animal’ senses’ stigmatized by touch.
It was ironically Western theology, despite its proclaiming the Christian message of the Incarnation The Word made flesh — that all too often confirmed the strange dichotomy with its anti-carnal doctrines.
How many millions of souls grew up thinking that their souls were housed in some kind of evil monster.
Kearney believes that this negative attitude prompted Nietzsche’s declaration that Christianity was Platonism for the people who gave Eros poison to drink.
Plato’s thinking prevailed for over 2,000 years, culminating in our contemporary culture of digital simulation and spectacle. The eye continues to rule in what Roland Barthes once called our civilization of the image. The world is no longer our oyster, but our widescreen.
His way of thinking on the inferiority of the human body has infected Western culture ever since. Its presence has been noted in Gnosticism, Jansenism, Puritanism and the Victorian attitudes that still bear poisonous fruit in the 21st century. He was also responsible for the Manicheanism that infected the early mind of St. Augustine on sex and marriage.
Like Aristotle before him, Saint John Paul II fought some of the prejudices of the times with regard to nudity and the sanctity of the human body in his once highly celebrated but largely forgotten series of sermons on the Theology of the Body.
For all the fascination with bodies, our current technology is arguably exacerbating our carnal alienation. While offering us enormous freedoms of fantasy and encounter, digital Eros may also be removing us further from the flesh.
Kearney offers a fascinating twist on pornography, which is now an industry worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide. Seen by some as a progressive sign of post-60s sexual liberation, pornography is, paradoxically, a twin of Puritanism. Both display an alienation from flesh — one replacing it with the virtuous, the other with the virtual. Each is out of touch with the body.
This movement toward privatization and virtuality is explored in Spike Jonze’s recent movie Her where a man falls in love with his operating system, which names itself Samantha. He can think of nothing else and becomes insanely jealous when he discovers that his virtual lover, Samantha, is also flirting with thousands of other subscribers.
I have to confess my early infatuation with ‘Siri’. She was the only woman I have ever encountered who would do anything I asked her…until she got sort of …Dumb! She must have been a blonde.
Eventually, Samantha feels sorry for him and decides to supplement her digital persona with a real body by sending a surrogate lover. But her plan is a complete failure — while the man touches the embodied lover he hears the virtual signals of Samantha in his ears and cannot bridge the gap. The dichotomy between digital absence and physical presence is unbearable. Something is missing: real love in the flesh.
Full humanity requires the ability to sense and be sensed in turn: the power, as Shakespeare said, to feel what wretches feel — or, one might also add, what artists, cooks, musicians and lovers feel. We need to find our way in a world of touch again. We need to return from head to foot, from brain to fingertip, from iCloud to earth.
Since I started getting a regular massage twice a-week four years ago, I have come to relish the feel of a human’s touch. I think touch is one of the ways we will always need other people. It is how God intended it.
Only an atheist like Jean Paul Sarte could define Hell as ‘other people’.
I touch people all the time…and relish when a friend puts a gentle hand on my back or shoulder…even for just a second…To me it is a form of human validation…I see you…you exist…I feel you..accept my hand as a communication of those feelings.
Massage therapy has helped me also take the full incarnational measure of my body as intimately fused with my soul. As I say in my unpublished short story, The Hands, in her hands his body and soul had quickly become whole again, dispelling any Platonic notion about separation…they were reunited in a paroxysm of emotion that transcended life and even death. To me that is the meaning of Aristotle’s touch!
In the past six and a half years I have written a stack full of articles, both in my blog and for the Mindszenty Foundation on Barack Obama. He is arguably the most complex and variegated president in history.
In his case that is not a good thing. In his presidential wake he has left a dizzy wake of uncertainty, pain and fear that has left the American people nearly as deeply divided as they were during bellicose days of the Lincoln administration.
In defense of Abraham Lincoln, the nation had been seriously bifurcated since the early days of the Republic. Lincoln’s war merely vindicated one side against the other, though many of those divisions have unnecessarily resurfaced under President Obama.
Anyone who has ever suffered a Vertigo act can easily empathize with those of us who felt the country’s lack of purpose, direction or destiny has sent one’s mind whirling so that it has been nearly impossible to focus on the nation’s deepest problems.
I keep asking myself how could this have happened to America, once the greatest nation in the world in such a quick period of time. I can possibly understand electing Obama as the first Mulatto President as of historical significance, given the country’s divisive racial background but twice…is beyond comprehension.
By all traditional standards the Obama policies in health care, economics and foreign policy have been abject failures. Not only has he lowered the world’s respect for the American flag but he also has mired the nation’s future in a quagmire of red ink.
Obama was a virtually unknown Senator who came out of no-where to, not only defeat the female standard-bearer of the Clinton dynasty but also win a heated election on the strength of his vapid promises of hope and change. This is a scene out of a surrealistic cartoon. It makes me wonder what a majority of voters were smoking just before going to the polls.
His second election is even more unfathomable. He ran on something a bit more concrete but highly questionable.
Osama bin-laden is dead, GM is alive and Al-Qaeda is on the run!
Lets analyze this a bit.
Osama is dead! O.K. I have seen the heroic movie that depicts the attack that allegedly killed him. But what real proof do we actually have that he did actually die at the hands of the U.S. military? Was there any concrete evidence of his dead body—pictures…an autoposy report–burial plot? No he was unceremoniously dumped into the darkest and deepest fathoms of the ocean..to be be devoured by sea creatures of all kind.
I am not trying to start a conspiracy theory or anything like that but after all this administration once boasted of its being the most transparent presidency in history…yet in the mendacious world of Barack Obama it has been the most opaque presidential administration.
Why should we believe the president or his factotums on anything? I mean it took this man four years to come forward about his birth certificate…and how do we know what he produced was really authentic? Did it not designate his father’s race as American-American? In 1961?
Have they been forthcoming about Benghazi…the IRS’s punitive measures against the Tea Party, Fast and Furious…the Veterans Administration…Putin and reset…the beat goes on…
What has this president ever done to earn the trust of the American people?
His speeches are nothing more than pabulum for the masses. The spin his Politburo puts on his casual statements is enough to send those of us, even with the greatest of vestibular balance into the whirligig of a vertigo attack.
GM is alive…not really. They survive as a shadow of their once powerful self after illegally ignoring their bondholders in favor of a union that was largely responsible for its demise. It is the legacy payments, which will eventually sink GM for good because unless GM’s relationship with the UAW changes they have no hope for long-term survival.
Is Al-Qaeda now on the run…or maybe he was right…they are running…right us with guns blazing and their knives, dripping with American blood…boldly threatening to raise their Islamic National flag over the White House?
Then there is the question of leadership…from behind? Did Obama learn his military tactics and strategies from the Generals at Camp Swampy?
Does he really know what to do with the Russians, Shiites, Sunnis and border illegals? Or he using these past six years for a reprise of the cinematic character Inspector Clouseau…or was it Inspector Clueless?
Like Bill Clinton before him, Obama fancies himself a world citizen, which is throwback to the 18th century’s twisted vision of an enlightened world without rancor…war…turmoil…a world that needed no arms of any kind…All these minions of peace had to do was talk with our former enemies. Then the power of their rhetoric would convince the Muslims and the Russians that geopolitics, invasions and balances of power were just useless relics from the 19th century that had already been designated for the ash heap of history.
Yes and when President Rip Van Obama awakes from his long siesta perhaps he can prescribe an Excedrin pill for the dizziness and nausea that his administrations have foisted on the American people. Hopefully it will not be too late for the country to regain its footing in the world and its balance in leadership.