Background NoiseMarch 13, 2012 No Comments
March 13, 2012 | MariaNews.com
(By Pure Catholic, a CatholicDaily.com Blog) - Everybody has a set of thoughts that sort of “run in the background” of their mind all the time. Thoughts that are never far from the surface, thoughts that can pop up repeatedly and unexpectedly. Thoughts that last for years.
I call this background noise. Recently, I mentioned this to several friends and they all agree it happens. Is it a threat? Can it be made to serve God? How does a person’s background noise change?
Obviously, different people have different background noise. Even when it’s not consciously in your mind, it’s still there. A person with a cancer diagnosis – or somebody aching to be married – or a family in Afghanistan vulnerable to war. These will all have different sets of background noise in their minds that could last for years and could very well color everything else in their life.
Here is the background noise that’s been in my mind for years
Here is my own background noise. I tell you this to explain what I’m talking about when I say “background noise”. I have three sets of thoughts in my mind seemingly without interruption. One seems dangerous. Another is perhaps neutral. The third is good and I’m glad it’s there.
This is the one that seems neutral. Eight years ago I lost a business I founded. For nine years, I poured all my energy and a lot of money into that business. Eventually it cost me almost every dollar I had. I was able to shut down without owing anybody any money, so in that sense the loss was not dishonorable. Yet eight years later, I can’t go more than a few hours without thinking of that business, its failure, and my one-time hopes.
Here’s the one that seems dangerous. I have an inordinate appetite for attention and recognition. It seems like I can’t stop thinking about ways to get noticed. Everything at church, everything in my private devotions and good works, generates background noise hoping somebody notices and says something to me. This is dangerous because Jesus issues a strict warning at the first of Matthew 6 against practicing religion “to be seen of men”.
Here’s the background noise that is the good one. It is a grace I’ve been given and I’m so thankful for it. I cannot get the Mass out of my mind. I get to be at Mass three times a week. I have almost constant thoughts that either anticipate the liturgy or recall it. The beauty and power and transcendence of Catholic liturgy haunt me. I suppose it’s impossible to know how this “noise”, this habit of thought, protects me as well.
Here’s a little Bible… then a very important conclusion
The closing words of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
This is the middle of the letter to the Colossians, again St. Paul. This seems to me the central point in the letter.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Here’s a third one. This is Jesus in Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
An important conclusion
It is tempting (but wrong) to consider myself as “a given”. It’s tempting to act as if nothing can be done about the background noise in my mind, to conclude (along with the great philosopher Popeye the Sailor Man) that “I am what I am”. One reason this is tempting is that it’s less effort if I can just treat “me” as something “I” have been saddled with. After all, if nothing can be done, then there’s no reason for me to spend effort and discipline and frustration.
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