The love of material things can be merely greed and possessiveness, the lust for pleasure, profit, or power; but the love of human beings can be these things also, and then it is not real love at all, although, we may deceive ourselves into thinking it to be. Because of our selfishness, to love in this real and deep sense is not an easy thing, not something given, but a hard thing, a thing that we have to learn, to create. First, to love God, then to love others as coming from Him; as given to us by Him, as His other children, this is what we must learn if we are really to love. Here more than anywhere, greed and possessiveness turn beauty into ugliness and light into darkness.
For a human being is more valuable than all the things that the world contains put together…We are like children stumbling in the dark, and if God in His tenderness gives us another of His children to accompany and comfort and help us, we must cherish the gift more than all riches, but we must know the heaviness of our responsibility; we must be always at pains to keep it in God’s sight and God’s care. –Father Gerald Vann ‘’Mary’s Answer for Our Troubled Times’
The Sicilian movie ‘Kaos’, by the Taviani brothers, I watched last night swept me away with the most breath taking scenery, capturing the grandeur of Sicily gorgeously. The aerial scenes, shot from a helicopter, must be witnessed to be believed. The five simple, often bewildering stories, involving the turn of the century Sicilians occur within the most majestic of natural settings: mountains, ancient ruins, sumptuous valleys and rocky peaks, gardens, animals: flying birds, cattle, horses, sheep, cats and dogs, the sea, the reflecting moon hovering, and the scene I posted yesterday: a pumice beach of white wonder all encapsulate the characters, who for the most part are so caught up in their personal dilemmas they seem oblivious to the splendors of God’s creation and existence. Although the children on the beach, amidst fleeing from revolutionaries with their mother, escape into the finery of the world—losing themselves to the mystery of the beach and sea, and also a baby lovingly captivated by the moon. For the most part, the adults never seem aware of their surrounding beauty. In fact, one of the stories involves the moon continuously driving a man crazy when it is full in appearance. The Sicilian adults trend toward insanity. In the quote above, Father Gerald Vann teaches that beyond creation brother and sister are to be cherished above all things, and that proper love is a difficult matter to accomplish. It coalesces with my disillusionment with Cleveland. Last night the experiencing of the wonderful Italian movie allows a clear demonstration of my feelings and the depth of Father Vann’s words, many things recently point in such a direction, making serious demands.
The Taviani brother’s movie was over three hours long. During the second and third story, the Cinematheque gave the audience an intermission, a chance to stretch your legs and use the restroom. There was a man sitting in front of me, to my left, about four or five rows toward the screen. I paid him no special attention. While relaxing in the lobby, observing information for upcoming films–in November they will be conducting a retrospective of a favorite German filmmaker Wim Wenders–the man captured my attention. Instantly, I knew there was something wrong with him. I wanted to go to him immediately, without registering facts. His walk was severely crippled. He seemed in pain, mentally deranged. Physically and mentally, the man suffered. I wondered what he was doing going out alone. As he awkwardly made his way past me, his white outfit made it obvious that he soiled himself. His pants were a mess. Troubled, I was heartbroken, not knowing what to do. The others standing around paid no attention. No one noticed. Panic struck a bit. I felt I must say something to someone, yet looking around I saw no one I felt could really be of service. The man in charge of the Cinematheque, I admire, distantly knowing he is Catholic, his wife a devout proponent of the Rosary. I wanted to speak to him, however he was not to be found. The crippled stained man emerged from the bathroom, making his way, back into the theater as if everything was fine. I observed him, trying to catch his eye, giving him all my attention, however he simply walked past me. I made my way to my seat, moving past the man, seating myself, a little startled to observe the man now move directly in front of me, approximately six seats to my left. The stunning epic film of natural beauty and human displaying continued, my viewing now deepened with the reality of the awful condition of the man closest to me. The theater is brand new, incredible in comfort and cost, and I could only feel disheartened, knowing I must make proper authorities aware of the need to give the seat attention. There was no one to speak to after the movie, and since I felt the need to follow the man to his car, unable to speak to him, his oblivious nature, his determination to make his way to his car kept me distant. I am not sure why, a fear, a lack of confidence, I could not find the wherewithal to inquire whether he was okay. Watching the cripple’s car drive away, I felt weak, wondering about the man: his life, his hopes, his dreams.
Concluding the weekend of concentrated personal time, something significant presented itself watching the movie with the cripple in his filthy condition. Just as the previous weekend, my time with the oldest priest in the Cleveland diocese, Father Reymann, established significance. God was showing me something on both occasions. The cripple represented a brokenness I am deeply sensing within Cleveland. I am convinced we cannot live in a major American city right now and not be overwhelmed by brokenness and violence. Forget urban renewal, these are truly troubled times. Recently, my bicycle was stolen. The violence and confrontational nature of the city cannot be denied. I live in an urban area diverse in culture and economic status. Walking in the park yesterday, three young black men stared me down while walking past me in an absolutely intentional effort to intimidate. Fearless, I could only feel pity faced with such uncalled for aggressiveness, the obvious imposition of violence, such a juvenile intentionally offensive mindset disheartened rather than angered.
Mixing in with all of this, during the fundraiser for St Paul Shrine, actually before the auction, music, and brunch, I learned that a man whose company I enjoy, a fellow electrician, is now apparently stricken with terminal cancer. I have missed him, asking others where he has been, only to be hit with the most solemn of news. I spoke to his wife, insisting she communicate to him that I want to visit with him, to speak with him. We talk sports, and share a bond as electrician. I feel troubled. The Hospice plays in within all this trouble I sense surrounding me within Cleveland, yet they are not communicating. Am I to interpret, God that you ask me to flee from the sickness and trouble existing within the city? If I hear nothing from the Hospice, should I flee to the innocence and wide open spaces of North Dakota? You, Most Holy of Fathers, are all-knowing, please be of service. I am not that strong, feeling the need to flee, feeling more than bit overwhelmed and harassed by the city lately. There are times–and if one does not perceive such agitation from a modern large American city, one is not properly perceiving or being honest with one’s self—anymore, the city seems to be closing in and collapsing upon me. God, should I flee to the sanctity, soundness, and security of Assumption Abbey?
Also yesterday, a gentleman I invited, hosting his appearance, at the St Paul Shrine fundraiser startled me, making me suffer intense compassion. He is a remarkable man in certain ways, yet also oddly different in a unique way. Wandering through the silent auction, excited with the social buzz of the event, I made my way to the restroom. Walking into the men’s restroom, there was the man standing with his pants to the floor, utilizing the urinal. I never witnessed anyone use the urinal in such a manner, internally question what in the world was he doing. I stopped myself from thinking, as he turned to me saying in the kindest manner, ‘Hello James’. I dismissed the awkwardness of the moment, trusting the righteousness of the man, not allowing my thoughts to speculate what he was doing, allowing him the privacy to depart unquestioned. There was another man attending. I am familiar with him through the monthly Rosary at the Berea bookstore Tilma. The man breaks my heart with his awkwardness. His overt shyness and feminine nature, a persona that others recoil from while he devoutly dedicates himself to the church, instantly makes me befriend him. The man is utterly lost amongst his brothers and sisters. My Filipino friend also attended, and her appearance always touches me deeply with compassion as her sanity borders. Another Filipino woman sitting at our table, I admire immensely for her prayer life also bewilders with talk of the supernatural and her strange relationship with a distinguished African American gentleman. None of these people know of this blog. I fear not intrusion upon their privacy, and everything I express is done with the love Father Vann writes of. This other Filipino woman confuses me with her relationship with this man. It is my speculation, none of my business, yet I sense–I know the man is in love with her. He wants to take care of her, to share in a loving Godly relationship with her. I am certain in my insight. Maintaining constant company with him, she seems oblivious to his authentic Godly intent. Yesterday, he was absent from the brunch and auction, while attending mass. I noticed him sitting alone after mass, appearing a bit lost. The woman sat in the brunch exchanging phone numbers with another man. I found everything troubling, especially while observing my Hungarian friend interact with a lady friend from Thailand, knowing he wants to marry her, and she is such a sweet woman, kind to the most giving degree, an absolute charm to be around, yet unresponsive to his intent of marital permanency, once threatening to call the police on him for trying to kiss her. All of this while, the other Filipino woman observes everything with a degree of jealousy and the fact when I first met her she was traveling around with the Hungarian gentlemen. There is something a bit unhealthy about the male/female relationships I am encountering in my personal life. I miss Ann immensely, desiring her companionship, her strength and support, knowing I can give the same in return. Good men and women, devout solid prayerful men and women, who truly seem unable to love on a deep Godly level, to come together in the ways God wills. Everything coalesces, culminating in the crippled man watching the stirring epic foreign film in the newly built expansive and elaborate Cleveland Cinematheque—the cripple captivatingly watching the movie while wearing his soaked and shit-stained pants. There seems to be a lunatic element to my existence in Cleveland. Craziness surrounds, individuals truly bordering upon insanity. I said good-bye to Carter this morning, watching him walk dazedly about before parting for South Carolina, seeking the solace and distance of a loving sister. God should I flee, seeking the comfort, sanity, and holiness of North Dakota? I am going to base my decision this week upon news from the Hospice of the Western Reserve. I humbly ask for strength and wisdom.
God enlighten the darkness of my heart. Grant me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord grace me with wisdom and understanding so that I may carry out Thy holy and true commandments. Be with me Lord so that I may love others as You see proper.
Comprehend in this clip from the film, sung over by Sicilian singer Etta Scollo, the mother dictates a letter to her two sons now living far away in America. The young scribe scribbles upon the paper, the girl only acting as if she writes the woman’s well chosen heart pouring words. The story details the life of her other son, an unwanted bastard who obsessively stays by her side.