existentialist cafe

life is sacred

Tag: christianity

Ignatian indifference

I was really delighted to learn about Ignatius’ concept of indifference, as this was the first time I had come across a Christian spirituality that explicitly expresses a manner of being that is similar to the Taoist notion of wu wei.

They are similar, but different. Both aim at detachment from things that are not sturdy and will, in the end, disappoint us. From my limited understanding, Taoism seems to point toward abandonment of striving, whereas Christianity points toward fullness of striving. Ignatius, however, warns (as do other theologians) that we become easily enamoured with created things. Rather, he said, we ought to have indifference towards those things. That does not mean apathy, but it does mean detachment.The best way I can think of it is that rather than seeking to hold on to things, we accept them as gift. Rather than closing our fist around things–relationships, vocations, beliefs, statuses–we receive them with an open palm, and keep our palm open.. When we realize how we are attached to God, or how God has attached us to Her, then we have no need for so much clutching.

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And the painted ponies go up and down

The notion of samsara is a compelling one. When cosmologies speak of cycles, I think they are drawing our attention to something which is at once both fundamental and profound. As much as we chart a straightforward course through life, it is difficult to ignore the cycles that gird us – day-to-night, season-to-season, the waxing and waning of the moon. But┬ásamsara is also a course. One travels through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth in the path of enlightenment.

Spiritually speaking, there are cycles of death and rebirth that we go through in our lives as well. In fact it seems to be a requisite part of the spiritual life. If we desire to walk that path, then we must be willing to let go of what is most precious to us. At times we get stuck at some place in the cycle, stubbornly clutching the doorjamb even as we are being carried to something new and better. In the contemplative Christian tradition, the guiding image is the ladder of divine ascent. In the foreground is the idea of slow-and-steady progression, though in the background is the idea that one must die to one’s self in order to find new life and that one must do this continually.

Although I think it would be a mistake to ignore the profound differences between Buddhism and Christianity (for instance, Christianity has a theology of the self while classical Buddhist teaching rejects the self), I think it is worthwhile to think about how the idea of cycle and the idea of ascent are both true pictures of the spiritual life.

Joni just had a birthday this week, so this is doubly appropriate: