success, emptiness, and a practical thought for the New Year

Posted by PeteEnns on December 31, 2016 in Christian faith and life 16 Comments
photo by Max Weber,
photo by Max Weber,

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? ~ Matthew 16:26

. . . attempt to understand the true nature of worldly feelings, namely, the feelings of self-promotion, self-glorification. They are not natural, they were invented by your society and your culture to make your productive and to make you comfortable. These feelings do not produce the nourishment and happiness that is produced when one contemplates Nature or enjoys the company of one’s friends or one’s work. They were meant to produce thrills, excitement—and emptiness.

Then observe yourself in the course of a day or week and think how many actions of yours are performed, how many activities engaged in that are uncontaminated by the desire for these thrills, these excitements that only produce emptiness, the desire for attention, approval, fame, popularity, success or power.

And take a look at the people around you. Is there a single one of them who has not become addicted to these worldly feelings? A single one who is not controlled by them, hungers for them, spends every minute of his/her waking life consciously or unconsciously seeking them? When you see this you will understand how people attempt to gain the world and, in the process, lose their soul. For they live empty, soulless lives.

And here is a parable of life for you to ponder on: A group of tourists sits in a bus that is passing through gorgeouslyde-mello beautiful country; lakes and mountains and green fields and rivers. But the shades of the bus are pulled down. They do not have the slightest idea of what lies beyond the windows of their bus. And all the time of their journey is spent in squabbling over who will have the seat of honor in the bus, who will be applauded, who will be well considered. And so they remain till the journey’s end.

~Anthony de Mello, S.J., The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello pp. 2-4



  • Father deMello should try a life without approval or attention before he calls such things mere “addictions”.

    … and on the church bus, the ones who insist on the microphone and the front seat (cathedra) are the episcopate. Shoes of the Fisherman. Whereas “the least shall go first”.

    • Self-promotion and self-glorification are the twisted extremes of approval and attention, are they not?
      Approval and attention are at their level of virtue, signs of love. It is when we seek these things without them being freely given in response to our acts of unconditional love, that they become the vices he mentions.

      Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these others will be given to you…. This is the proper order of things and will not lead to a life lacking approval nor attention. (At least that’s Jesus’ promise)

      • I love this!!
        “Approval and attention are at their level of virtue, signs of love.”

        To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
        Ephesians 1:6

  • today, I do an inward inventory of where I am at In This Moment. I’m living with several chronic illnesses. One of them is chronic depression. I have bipolar 2. It’s much worse this season of the year and very difficult to bear with the added sense of the Sword of Damocles is hanging over me. I’m trying to heal from the trauma of the election, the anticipation of incoming ensemble cast of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse soon to take up residence in the White House 20 or so days away. I am one of a vulnerable group that may find funding cut off after the regime takes over. I am in a world of hurt like I haven’t experienced since getting clean and sober. I will have had 15 years clean and sober in June. Much of what you speak of in your blog today is elusive to me and always has been. Thrills, Fame, wealth, self-promotion, self glorification, attention of friends and family. I see these as motivation for most people to get up in the morning and do something with their lives. But in the end they wind up like me depressed, disillusioned, Waiting for Godot. Viktor Frankl put it: “a provisional existence of unknown limit” So it goes for all who gets strung out on one addiction or another. I am so thankful to have reached my bottom early in life and hopeful that I won’t drink or use today. I have many years maintaining and disciplining myself to stay in constant contact with a higher power and have been experiencing the miracle of sobriety as well as the miracle of the joy of the Lord and artistic expression breaking through concrete depression. I have the privilege of creating something that has never been created before!! Depression is very difficult to survive. I have my bad days and then I have my worst days!! But I always have a lifeline. Today I was thankful to read this and it reminded me of some poetry and this song. I will share it here today.

    Because I know that time is always time
    And place is always and only place
    And what is actual is actual only for one time
    And only for one place
    I rejoice that things are as they are and
    I renounce the blessed face
    And renounce the voice
    Because I cannot hope to turn again
    Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
    Upon which to rejoice
    Ash Wednesday
    TS Eliot

    “Living Without You”

    The milk truck hauls the sun up
    And the paper hits the door
    The subway shakes my floor
    And I think about you
    Time to face the dawning gray
    Of another lonely day
    Baby, it’s so hard
    Living without you

    It’s so hard
    Baby, it’s so hard
    Baby, it’s so hard
    Living without you

    Ev’ryone’s got something
    And they’re out tryin’ to get some more
    They got something to get up for
    Well, I ain’t about to
    Nothing’s gonna happen
    Nothing’s gonna change
    Baby, it’s so hard
    Living without you

    It’s so hard
    Baby, it’s so hard
    Baby, it’s so hard
    Living without you

    Randy Newman

    • CB, I’ve been pretty much inactive online for a lot of this year, but I do look in from time to time,. Besides reading the blog posts from Richard, Pete, Scot, and a few others, I also make it a point to keep up with your running commentary from Discus I enjoy your comments. That’s not only because we seem to think a lot alike, but because you add perspectives and ask questions that make me think about the topics under discussion differently. Because of that I wind up getting more out of the reading than I would have if I had only read the blog. I am sure that I am not the only one in this virtual, ragtag community to be praying for you on a regular basis. You’re part of what helps me try to make that “one day at a time” real. Thank you.

      And now beyond enjoying Gottschalk in common, we can add Randy Newman, who also has strong Louisiana connections!

      I hope you and all our sisters and brothers here have a good one day at a time in 2017.

      • I love this quote from Veritas I read just now!!
        “Approval and attention are at their level of virtue, signs of love.”
        Then I thought of scripture that espouses we are accepted in the Beloved so I looked it up and I got this from Ephesians
        To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
        Ephesians 1:6
        Your post to me was extremely welcome and needed as I have been suffering a lot just lately feeling worthless and somewhat ashamed!! That I can’t do more with my time is excruciating painful and constantly I fight giving in to despair!! So when I read your kind words that come from your heart I am encouraged. I’ve noticed encouragement makes all the difference in my day and so I tried to give as much of it as I possibly can to whoever crosses my path. I’m so glad you love Randy Newman. Have you ever heard his song “The Dixie flyer?”

        • I have learned this from other people, and it was hard to see, when faced with despair myself, but was visible afterwards; we are never worthless if we are alive because we can always pray. What greater thing is there than prayer?

          It is communion with God, it is an act of love, whether towards God or towards those we pray for. It fills creation with love and fills in empty space so that evil has less room to fester and grow.

          I have had the great honor of having friends, who limited by age and infirmity, could no longer physically serve those who were hungry or thirsty, or naked, the least of theses, learned to use their remaining time to pray for us. Never was their time worthless. I hope I remember this when I need it most.

  • I find this particularly condescending with no thought to the real people who exhibit these characteristics; the real people who are worried by illness ; worried that their children are not the people they would like them to be; worried by their lack of money that they lay awake at night worrying about . . .alright I’m painting a picture here but I’ve rarely met the people that are described in this article. Yes I have seen traits exhibited in people but we are much more miulti faceted than that and some people are so beset by fears that they are unable to be in a place of peacefulness because they are frightened of what will rear it’s head without being distracted by the hustle and bustle of life. The truth as I see it is that God doesn’t expect anything of us, he meets us where we are as we are . . . and then the transformation begins.

      • Hi charlesburchfield . .it’s ok to be confused :-) It’s probably my literary inadequacies but I don’t feel at all confused. My point really was that we are all multi faceted and there are things going on below the surface in all of our lives and sometimes it’s easier to get caught up in the trivial than face what lies beneath.

  • No self-love where you are? I am a part of God’s creation, an ikon of God himself. If you deny my or any person’s claim to be treated with the respect and care God’s creation deserves, you would be in the wrong.

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