Note: This blog is not an attempt to assign spiritual meaning amid a global pandemic but rather an attempt to uncover existing spiritual truths while experiencing meaninglessness.
It’s no secret our society is built upon doing: performance, accomplishment, attaining wealth, gaining power or influence, cultivating growth, and, overall, forward motion. These are not necessarily bad things. Our relentless drive for success has sparked innovation and competition, inspiring autonomy and work ethic, moving us forward into new frontiers.
This idea of success, however, has been idolized by our culture. We often judge others (and perhaps unconsciously) based on what they have or do not have. One of the first questions we often ask one another is, “What do you do?” We often judge ourselves through the lens of our performance or forward motion.
A recent pandemic-related story titled “We’re all monks now” in America Magazine notes how power and wealth often give people meaning to existence, but in all actuality, as Trappist monk Father Michael Casagram is quoted as saying, “power and wealth create an illusion of meaning and purpose while undermining our spiritual destiny.”
Idolization births illusions. And this pandemic has exposed our illusions.
All the doing came to a halt. The world seemingly ceased from spinning. Even a raging economy stood no chance against nature’s chaos. We were all, in some way, forced into liminality. America was thrust into a state of discomfort…stillness.
Pre-pandemic, the animating force in the lives of most Americans, it seems, was more of a masculine kind of energy. In his book Eager to Love, Richard Rohr references psychiatrist Karl Stern’s comparison between French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre and St. Francis. “The Way of the Dynamo, (productivity, rationality, critical thinking, and effectiveness)” Rohr quotes, is a masculine way epitomized by Sartre, whereas “the Way of the Virgin (relationality, subtlety, and interiority)” is the feminine way demonstrated by Francis, and Clare, of course.