Had two distinctly books not fallen into my lap I would never have made the correlation or even wondered about sanity: stillness, addiction and love. The two books?
The Love That Keeps Us Sane: Living the Little Way of St. Therese of Lesieux written by sixty-something- year- old Discalced Carmelite Priest, Father Marc Foley,and Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday, a thirty- something media strategist.
I read Ryan Holiday’s blog posts because he writes about the stoics. Marc Aurelius, Seneca, and some of the lesser known ancient Greek men who searched for wisdom, meaning and happiness. And found that self-control was paramount: happiness cannot exist in a man ruled by emotion.
When I began writing the novels of the ancient world series, the male protagonists: Pilate and Saul are students of Stoicism. Reasonably so, for both are warriors.
One of my favorite passages in I, Claudia is Pilate’s musing about the religious fervor of the Jews which he finds unsettling, even alien:
Theirs was a religious fervor I could not grasp. I had made the requisite sacrifices to Mars, just as all legionnaires did, since my childhood days. But, did I honestly believe in this deity and his power to protect me? Did I believe in the others, with their specific powers and causes? The truth was, if I embraced any religion at all, it was Stoicism. My Greek tutors had schooled me in the writings of Xeno and Epictetus. Foundational to me was the belief that, through the forces of will and discipline, I could control my own affections, opinions, bodily appetites, and the like. And, when it came to the things outside of my control— the things controlled by the opinions of others such as position and prestige, or matters of illness and death— I resigned myself to accept what came my way with equanimity. With every cell of my being, I knew that it was my own mastery of myself that had effected the truce with Caiaphas— not the will of a remote god.I, Claudia
It is just our battlefields that differ from theirs. Not the reality of combat in every human life. And no, I am not writing about politics, equality, gender wars or any of the other nonsense that many American minds and hearts are filled with.
It’s the universal questions that man and woman have asked since we ingested the knowledge of good and evil and walked away from God…partially or totally.
Who am I?
What is the meaning of my life?
What happens after I die?
How can I find happiness and peace?
Whether atheists or believers, these are the questions- or their variants- that haunt us. Our battlefields are many.
It was not until I read this passage in Holiday’s book, that I decided to buy it.
The step that many addicts—particularly the ones who fancy themselves thinkers—struggle with intensely is the acknowledgment of the existence of a higher power. They just don’t want to admit that they “have come to believe a Power greater than themselves could restore them to sanity.”https://www.amazon.com/Stillness-Key-Ryan-Holiday/dp/0525538585
Man does that simple paragraph describe me… And the decades I dabbled in most of the ‘isms.’ That simple declarative statement, “they just don’t want to admit they have come to believe a power greater than themselves could restore them to sanity,” boggles my mind. Forgive the repeat, but Holiday’s words take me back to the years when I too was an addict. Just not to the agents we hear about like drugs, alcohol or gambling.
has never been a saint I feel drawn to. However, early in this disarmingly brief, deceptively simply worded book on the anonymous young Carmelite nun who died at the age of 24, the reader sees that author Foley is not your average bear.
“Many books have been written on the “little way” as a means to holiness. This is not one of them. This is about Therese’s spirituality as a means of preserving sanity in an often insane world.(Italics mine.)
Perspective was at the core of Therese’s sanity. She saw all things in the light of eternity. This vision gave her a sense of proportionality that kept her sane.”
I’ll wager I am not the only one who sits up straighter when reading those words. Perhaps like you, the books I had previously read were those she apparently detested: saccharine, sentimental; for me, altogether foreign. Boring. But the woman presented in this book is my kind of girl: a warrior.
I will leave you with one last quote:
One of the places where we experience the Holy Spirit in our daily lives is in that region of the mind where language hovers, waiting upon choice. There, the Spirit prompts us at two basic moments. First, in the moment between impulse and choice, the Spirit offers us the strength of restraint so that the hateful word, the envious word, the self-seeking word, and so on, will not be born into this world but sink back into the silence. Second, in the moment between inspiration and choice, the Spirit prompts us to convert vert inner language into sound, the life-giving sounds of kindness, forgiveness, encouragement, or admonition…
Speech and silence were the two basic means that Therese used in responding to God. We will be focusing on Therese’s use of silence because it was silence, above all else, that kept her sane. However, before we do so, it must be made clear that her silence was never a substitute for the courage to speak.
Marc Foley. The Love That Keeps Us Sane: Living the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux (Illuminationbooks) (Kindle Locations 293-294). Kindle Edition.