The world of optometry helps to identify defects in our sight and offers corrective measures that allow us to see more clearly. In the world of religion and spirituality, we also have specialists who can help us gain better insight. The year that awaits us provides a good metaphor for such vision. For those that give attention to our spiritual side, it is almost as if we are examining a third eye; like the mind’s eye, it takes us from image to imagination, from concept to contemplation, and from eyesight to insight.
Ranking at the top of books I enjoyed this year is David Brooks’ The Second Mountain; it is subtitled “The Quest for a Moral Life.” Though known as a newspaper columnist, media commentator, and bestselling author, Brooks also seems to be a spiritual guide who can help us discover a more meaningful life and purpose. If you are looking for something profound and can give time in the month ahead to reflective reading, I highly recommend it. I will even go so far to suggest that it might give your 20-20 a base for the perfect vision you desire.
Those familiar with the writings of Fathers Richard Rohr or Ron Rolheiser will find similarities with Brooks’ view of a second mountain or second level of life. Most of us cannot understand it until we have climbed the first mountain or accomplished what we initially thought we are here on earth to do. The first level of life focuses upon achieving and acquiring things. These things include identity, approval, talent, success, grades, diplomas, trophies, social skills, work skills, money, securities, the right friends, the right look, the right job, the right home, a spouse, children, upward mobility, a good reputation, etc. Then, usually as we approach mid-life, we realize that there is a more important, second level. Though it is tougher to name, it involves a shift from accumulating things to dispersing things. We downsize; we dispense items to children and grandchildren; we are generous not only with materials but we also pass along wisdom and other non-physical things we accumulated from our experiences. When we climb this second mountain, we realize that more important than success is faithfulness, more significant than our place in this world is our place within an existence that contains this world, more valuable than promoting ourselves is our connection to others, to all humanity, all creation, and The Creator. We move from the shallow end to the depths of our existence.
Brooks takes a view from the top of this second mountain. He invites us to see our life circumstances from a third eye. He offers numerous examples of people who have been to that mountaintop and who can show us how to live better lives, even embrace the ugliness. These people radiate joy and exude happiness, holiness, wholesomeness. One example is Mother Teresa who embraced darkness and suffering as an incredible grace, trusting something she could not understand. Her anchor, like that of most people who reach the summit, was commitment.
From my own experience, I can offer this much. When I became a priest, I realized that I would have to commit myself to something in life and that it might as well be something meaningful. My belief (faith, trust) has wavered in these thirty-two years, as I suspect it does for all people who make commitments. At points along the way, I have yoked myself to a spirit that I cannot comprehend. Though I have not embraced it as Mother Teresa, I am connected to it in a way that permits me to move about with greater spiritual vision.
I hope you might take some time to climb the mountain in 2020. With hindsight, give thanks for all that was. With foresight, be eager for what will be. With insight, receive what God invites you to see.