A slight breeze picked up this morning, blowing the puffy clouds across the sky. Chipmunks return to the saplings, foraging and playing around, little striped tails waving when they pause. They each dig around in the dirt, beneath the needles, and hop from branch to branch, content with their little territory, valuing the wonders of a nearby woodpile.
A squirrel jumps from the roof to the balcony, a three foot leap out and down. The sunflower seeds are the first to disappear I notice.
It was a warm night, and one which held a heaviness, a heaviness which woke me around 2:30 AM and prompted me to sit up and pray for a long while, the same kinds of prayers which consumed my time during the October fires. I woke up with the remnants of a nightmare, with the emotions stronger than what the dreams should have prompted. It took me a moment to awaken fully, for a few moments I felt frozen. So I prayed for a long while, and went back to sleep, waking up with the dull echo of those emotions. I stumbled through the morning, getting to work, though without the flair of days past.
I didn’t pray first thing when I got up. I need to do that.
Continuing my thoughts of last night is the flip side to the virtue of the spiritual life. The vices are real and strong and destructive. The character of real virtue is found in making others better. The character of real vice is making others worse or less. This creates a distinction from the usual lists of the barroom vices, and one which I think is more in keeping with what we see in Jesus’ various reactions. His harshest words were against the religious leaders, whose pride and vainglory served to demean many. We tend to value pride and adore vainglory in most of its churchly forms, as long as it’s not too audacious.
There is a special manner of culpability when we sin so that others are reduced or destroyed. The scary thing for me is to realize that my own sin may not be necessarily purposefully destructive, but instead can blind me into sins of omission, not following the nuances of the Spirit to help when I should, not catching the intimations of discernment because my mind is clouded and removed from the Divine connection.
This all is, of course, an expansion of the ‘do unto others…’ commands. More than a guideline this is the foundation of the virtues and vices. We, as spiritual people, are called to, in everything, help those around us rise to a higher place, become more, enlarge in soul and being. That is the heart of all the virtues. We are also repeatedly warned to never, ever facilitate in someone’s depression, weakening, shame, or hardship. Doing those, even if we are not doing an identifiable ‘sin’, is the heart of all the vices.
Intentionally or unintentionally these two paths lead us to darkness or light. It’s better to be conscious, always, of pursuing the direction of light, and even more perfect to walk that way instinctually in all things, through all time. That’s the spiritual person to esteem and try to become.