Monday, August 25, 2014

Les miserables

I've worked with them. I've met them in church. When I was a student at university I ran into them in their early stages and didn't quite know what I was looking at. At that stage, there is still a chance, however remote, that they might still be swerved out of their path.

Now, after living among them for many years, without really trying I've become sensitive to their presence and their plight. Just a look in their faces, confirmed by the sound of their voices, tells me all. At first, I thought there was something I could do to help.

I know better, after many tries. Their happiness consists in taking themselves, and anyone whom they can catch, hostage to their misery. They barricade themselves behind a barrage of words. They erect thought towers as lookouts. They are les miserables.

Like any addict, but their passion is thought. They think too much, and life slips through their fingers. Bolstered by excuses for their intransigence, and blaming everyone and everything around them for their conscious unhappiness, yet they are content with it.

They are house builders whose constructions have no windows, and doors that remain locked and open only from the inside. No natural light enters, only the glare of the spotlights they aim at displays of their opinions, accomplishments, and peeves.

The deeper their gloom, the stiffer their insolence and blind hypocrisy, cleaving to dead things as a drowning man to a plank that in the end will not save him. At the approach of anything or anyone real, coming to them from the open road, they cringe and cough.

But if the Lord does not build the house, in vain the masons toil. If the Lord does not guard the city, in vain the sentries watch. In vain they get up earlier, and put off going to bed, sweating to make a living, since He provides for His beloved as they sleep.

They make themselves unlovable, so none will approach, flinging invectives at their supposed oppressors and inferiors, subjecting everyone and everything except themselves to lifeless scrutiny. They complain of broken heartedness, but have no heart to break.

For life is for the living. But les miserables, they want to be still lives, perfect paintings of fruit in bowls and flowers in vases, graced by the occasional pile of books, open or closed. The tablecloth of their imagined life, yellowed with age, not a fly can alight on it.

Sorrow, deepest sorrow, they cannot know, because they've protected themselves from every possible grief. Suffering, real suffering they have removed from themselves as far as east is from the west. Nothing pierces the hedge that they've planted to keep out pain.

Yet pain is theirs. Unhappiness is theirs. Loneliness is theirs. They sink beneath true wisdom like a stone dropped in a stream's perpetual flow. Unwilling to die to self, their ego promotes itself with ironic claims of selflessness. What is left to them?

The houses they built themselves, windowless, electrified within but admitting no sunlight, with doors whose hinges soon rust from disuse admitting no guests, hospitality driven away, grass grows on their hearths which never know live fire, but become their tombs.

Lord Jesus Christ, who descended to free us from our passions, You alone possess the keys of death and Hades, having conquered death by death. Give life to those in the tombs. Make us who flee before you melt like wax, and then remake us, let us be lights.

‘What is that carpenter god of yours doing now?’ may the pagans taunt. He has gone ahead of us to build mansions for those who are willing to unhouse themselves, to be homeless in this world, for His sake. Les miserables let us not be. Deliver us, O Lord, we cry. Provide for Your beloved as we sleep.

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