Sunday, September 16, 2012

Human Limitations Commend the Inter-dependence of Community

The Youtube video above offers only a fraction of what I wanted to say about my experience of human limitations, so let me just add a few comments about theological anthropology, that is, what I believe about the nature of human beings in God's plan for Creation.

I am a very active and self-reliant person, but breaking my finger this week and temporarily losing the use of my right hand has been really sobering.  Having to slowly hunt and peck this blog entry instead of dancing effortlessly over the keys underscores how much I take for granted.  The good thing is that this impairment is heightening my awareness of and appreciation for the things I love to do:  censing during Solemn High Mass, lifting weights, cooking my favorite meals.  In a certain sense, I am entering a period of fasting from these activities, allowing me to abstain for a season from cherished components of my life and identity, so that I can freshly appreciate how fortunate I really am.

How fulfilling it will be for me, once my finger is healed, to tie my amice or my shoelaces all by myself, or benchpress on chest day at the gym, or cut a porkchop without it flying off my plate.  But I don't want you to think I'm feeling dismal about my injury.  I get a bit frustrated, it's true, struggling to shower without getting my cast wet, or to put on my collar, but I'm getting a lot of help from friends, and I'm focusing on all the things I can do.  I may not be able to pump my guns, but I can still run on the elliptical to stay in shape.  I may not be able to churn out the prose at the rate I'm used to, but I can still say something meaningful if I'm patient with myself at the keyboard.  I may not be able to preside at Solemn High Mass, but I can still do low masses with ease and dignity.  I can still do a lot of things, and I'm grateful to God for that.  It's a good lesson, after all, for a high-performer and perfectionist to have to rely on other people for a change, and acknowledge that his greatest strength is his dependence on community, rather than himself.  It has also been instructive to count my blessings when I see friends struggle with a cancer diagnosis, when I witness homeless people seek help in a world that pretends they're invisible, when I see differently abled people overcome much greater obstacles and achieve greater feats of human determination than I have. 

So, theologically, this recent injury has (1) reminded me to give thanks to God for the simple blessings I take for granted; (2) encouraged me to focus on abilities not disabilities; (3) pushed me to rely on the bonds of the Christian and human communities to which I belong; and (4) made me more sensitive to the suffering and challenges of others.  The limitations of my current situation serve as a good reality check for the human condition.  I am not self-sufficient, because it is part of God's plan for humanity that we should be a community, that we should be inter-dependent.