|I once had the embarrassing experience of riding a mechanical bull. It was not my finest moment, to be sure.
Awkward…nauseating…disorienting…just a few of the words that come to mind as I consider how best to describe the encounter I had with that mad machine. In hindsight, the interesting thing I now realize is that all the suffering (both perceived and real) I experienced while on the plastic bull’s back could have instantly ended had I simply done one thing…let go! Of course, that isn’t quite in accord with the social contract of what one does while attempting to prove something atop a fake, spinning suggestion of a bull. Many of our cultural norms in the tech-obsessed, capitalist culture of 21st century America are not that different from the ones I have been describing thus far. We hold on for dear life to the addictions and attractions that rampant consumerism breeds only to be taken for a ride, spun around, and thrown to the ground after which we find ourselves jumping back on for another “ride”…awkward…nauseating…disorienting…
Jesus saw how our clinging, white-knuckled approach to life was not serving us and he offered an alternative…the cross. If you want to hold to something, he says, hold on to that. What an invitation to be in solidarity with him! I am sure it was counter-cultural (or at least counter-intuitive) to the first disciples on whose ears that first invitation fell and it is certainly so for us today! Can I surrender all I have and possess in order to choose the cross for and with Jesus?
St. Ignatius of Loyola described the means to this end through the concepts of indifference and detachment. This is not the type of indifference I express when my wife asks what I think we should have for dinner (“I don’t care.” — *cue my stomach growling) or I fein when my dentist says I have a cavity (“No big deal.” — *cue my anxiety rising). This is a much deeper indifference that requires regular prayer imploring God’s guidance beyond my clinging to desired objects or outcomes. As he writes in the First Principle and Foundation of his Spiritual Exercises:
St. Paul reminds the community in Rome that they are to keep first things first by focusing primarily on love–the ultimate end for which we were created. Before getting too attached to any of the other laws, it is the law of love that must remain primary and central. All else cascades from this originating point.
A great guide for me on this journey more deeply into letting go of the life I think I desire while clinging to the cross, the greatest symbol of love, is St. Ignatius’ “prayer for generosity:”