THERE IS WITHIN me today a gentle, yet persistent, sense of urgency once again to complete this work, to progress towards the other manuscripts to be written during this sabbatical.
As I walked about this workers’ neighbourhood this afternoon, praying the rosary, my heart was filled with awareness of, love for, the working man, the working woman.
This is a city of factories which run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, twelve months of the year.
In those factories the average worker makes as much per hour as half of what my weekly pay packet was when I first worked as a postman — yet they are burdened with debt and a sense of irretrievable, daily, slipping away of their dignity, the purpose of their lives.
How urgent my heart feels the need to, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, find the words, the means, the example, which will encourage them to turn to Christ and live; to turn to Christ and have their dignity restored; to turn to Christ and know the holy, purifying, purpose of human labour:
….man’s life is built up every day from work, from work it derives its specific dignity, but at the same time work contains the unceasing measure of human toil and suffering, and also of the harm and injustice which penetrate deeply into social life….man eats the bread produced by the work of his hands….he eats this bread by “the sweat of his face“….[bv]
So I came back here and began writing from my notes once more:
HELL IS THE darkness of ignorance, which envelops sentient creatures, when they have lost the contemplation of God. — Abba Evargrius.
Back in this country after several weeks past the encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe, I resumed my frantic existence and entered in that darkness of which the holy Abba speaks.
An ignorant darkness, in which I would remain entangled, shackled, deeply in bondage, for eight terrible years.
An idealized and eroticized image of the same sex plays a large part in homosexual relationships. When in love, the homosexual is really enamoured with his heart’s idealized image of his own sex…..The homosexual’s relationship with his same-sex partner is based more on a projection of an illusory image from his heart than on real love for another person. [bw]
The pursuit of that phantom ideal man would occupy the near totality of my psychic, affective, physical being during those terrible years.
Given its reality, and thus its inherent disorder, it is a sterile pursuit and hence it is a will-o’-the-wisp mode of existence, leading inevitably to promiscuity, for virtually always the familiarity of a relationship leads to a denouement, which leads to a renewed search for the ideal.
Thus, not long after our return, my companion and I ‘freed’ each other, (being disillusioned towards one another, having both failed to sustain the illusion of the ideal), to seek out the ideal.
We would remain friends, continue to share the apartment, but we would no longer be lovers.
Neither of us, of course, surrounded as we were by an increasingly philosophically, apologetically, politically, astute sub-culture, were in a position for sober second thought about any of our ideas, actions or choices.
Thus muted into almost total silence, the conscience itself became smothered by the weight of the darkness of ignorance.
The frenetic state of being which was mine as I pursued the ideal was paralleled by the frantic way in which I spent my working nights as an investigator for the child protection services.
At night I would enter more and more dangerous situations on my own without armed officer back-up. I took on more and more extra, and double, shifts, while on my nights and days off I sought out the ideal with the same frenzy of a heroin addict seeking their next fix.
Within a few months I encountered someone who became the concretized ideal and moved out of the situation I was in, remaining friends nonetheless with my former companion, and into this new one.
Shortly thereafter one evening I was at home and felt a strange sensation, a tingling in my arms, a tightening in my chest, sweats, yet cold.
I phoned a friend who was an analyst but not a medical doctor, figuring I was cracking up.
He said it sounded like a heart attack.
Within minutes I was in the hospital, in ICU, hooked up to monitors, oxygen, IV’s.
In my young life death, in all its natural and inflicted ways, was familiar.
In my young life already I had been in four situations where someone had tried, by violent means, to end my life.
Somehow on none of those occasions, in the core of my being, had death seemed imminent.
This time was different.
It was not so much that I believed I was about to die as that there, alone in that unit with those monitors and the oxygen and the IV’s — well I needed little time to tell myself this could well be it.
Thus began within me a survivalist debate — ask for a Catholic priest, repent, confess, be anointed, accept Holy Viaticum and die peaceful ( or not die and confront reality ) — tough it out, die during some personal plea-bargain session with God, assuming there is such a Person ( or not die and not have to confront reality ) — or die without the repentance and sacramental forgiveness, die without having had a chance to formulate a definitive plea-bargain and burn forever in hell ( but since I do not believe in God or heaven or hell or an afterlife I won’t even know that I’m dead so what’s the debate about ) — or……..
Exhaustion and morphine took hold and I drifted off, the debate unresolved.
Within ten days I was released from the hospital having promised the cardiologist, with no intention of actually doing so, that I would quit smoking, loose some of the stress, eat better, get regular sleep.
He had said the ‘event’ had been a warning.
Looking back across the decades I see now it was not just a warning but another attempt by the Holy Spirit to get my attention.
So thick and dark was the ignorance I was in I both failed to hear and failed to heed.
I belonged to the generation which was in the process of achieving and defining absolute freedom. To admit there was any cost to our pursuit would be tantamount to admitting our freedom was illusory.
Certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values. This is the direction taken by doctrines which have lost the sense of the transcendent or which are explicitly atheistic. The individual conscience is accorded the status of a supreme tribunal or moral judgement which hands down categorical and infallible decisions about good and evil. To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one’s conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgement is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in conscience. But in this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and ‘ being at peace with oneself, ‘ so much so that some have come to adopt a radically subjectivistic conception of moral judgement.
As is immediately evident, the crisis of truth is not unconnected with this development. Once the idea of a universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost, inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no longer considered in its primordial reality as an act of a person’s intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgement about the right conduct to be chosen here and now. Instead, there is a tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly. Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualistic ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others. Taken to its extreme consequences, this individualism leads to a denial of the very idea of human nature.
These different notions are at the origin of currents of thought which posit a radical opposition between moral law and conscience, and between nature and freedom. [bx]
What the Holy Father is teaching here is classic from the treasury of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, and, if reflected upon objectively, is basic common sense wisdom.
What we were asserting, by’ we’ I mean those involved in the articulation of argument to justify our lifestyle, and indeed what is articulated still by those opposed to truth, that is, frankly, opposed to Christ, were the following notions which flow as the extreme consequences of chaotic individualism: a] sexual orientation is a genetically pre-determined pre-disposition and therefore is irreversible, yet it is also a matter of free-choice; b] to deny us anything is to discriminate against us and therefore everyone must be forced by law to deny us nothing; c] truth is what I determine it to be for me, therefore I cannot determine it for you, presuming of course you never challenge nor impede my notion of the truth; d] if you are guilty of opposing my ideas in b and c then you are an irrational, bigoted, conservative Christian of cruel temperament who couldn’t possibly understand me anyway, unless you willingly subscribe to, nay participate in, my notions and experience of my reality; e] nothing is against nature nor is anything immoral if it fulfills my wants unless, of course, it is something I don’t want and therefore am free to declare it as being against nature and thus immoral; for all social institutions exist to fulfill me.
It is a basic notion in the economics and physics of energy that if it takes more of the matter to produce the energy, thus the cost to produce will always exceed the profit derived from the use made of the energy, you either abandon that process or go broke.
It is the basic necessity of the product of lie, the denial of truth and the consequences of that denial, the cost if you will, that you must willingly expend uncalculated, yet paradoxically in a very calculated fashion, energy, inventiveness, scheming, protesting, asserting the rightness of your cause, lest there be a breach in the constructed dikes in the intellect and soul against the breaking in of the light of truth which might become a stream of living water washing away the morass of the darkness of ignorance.
So for almost the entire seventies I lived in un-availed ignorance.
Increasingly I slept less, ate worse, and drank more.
Increasingly I worked more, cared less.
Increasingly disillusion tore at the relationship I was in, disenchantment infected my relentless promiscuity.
Increasingly I became dark in my personality, aggressive in my profession, callous in my relationships, bitter in my writing, hopeless in my poetry.
I was burning-out, long before such became a flavour of the month neurosis.
Eventually I had to quit my job, the stress was too much.
I sought out a therapist as the exhaustion had brought on severe agoraphobia.
To make money I worked as a free-lance essayist, did pre-publication book reviews so there would be something to put on the dust jacket of first editions, and, once the agoraphobia was somewhat under control, did club and theatre reviews for an arts magazine.
I agonized a lot too.