Sunday, June 6, 2010

Attentive Humble Service Prevents Spiritual Blindness

If we spend our lives, for whatever reasons, only rarely doing the sort of humble yet significant everyday tasks in which we serve those with whom we live (e.g. washing dishes; laundry; grocery shopping; cooking, etc.), we risk becoming excessively self-enclosed creatures. Or, at least, we risk never going through the sort of spiritual enlargement of soul that such things work in us over time--that is, if we do such things with love, without bitterness, and while united to Christ.

I mention this in light of thinking about a particular spiritual danger faced by the wealthy. If you have enough financial wealth to afford hiring other people to clean and cook around your house, your day-to-day life can easily collapse in on itself in an encasement of solipsism. You are never (or rarely) forced to interrupt yourself from following your own whims for the sake of serving another person. You can go through the day serving mainly yourself.

Now, anyone can fall into this, and many of us do. But, I think it is a particular danger for those who are wealthy. The patterns we live for most of our lives fix themselves into grooves that are very hard to jump out of the older we get. If our life situation is such that we do not often, by the necessity of our daily activities, need to serve other people in humble ways, we should seek out regular opportunities to do this, such as volunteer and charitable work that involves simple personal service to others.

If we do not do this, and thus do not have regular times in our lives wherein we interrupt our interior fancies and reveries to reach beyond ourselves in humble, personal service to other human beings, we are likely to become blind to the real needs of others. We might become an elderly person who does not recognize the basic needs of a debilitated spouse.

Rendering ordinary, mundane, humble service to others--with love--increases our spiritual capacity to see other human persons before us as they truly are in the moment--to recognize their genuine needs as they are in the present, today. It is truly a terrible blindness to see a person in front of us and yet not be able to recognize their externally visible sufferings, not to see the basic needs which they lack. It is a great poverty not to be able to wash a floor for someone because we have blinded our ability to see such needs.

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