When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless—a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. That kind of giving is not only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love to the other except through me. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need.
Seasons is a wise metaphor for the movement of life, I think. It suggests that life is neither a battlefield nor a game of chance but something infinitely richer, more promising, more real. The notion that our lives are like the eternal cycle of the seasons does not deny the struggle or the joy, the loss or the gain, the darkness or the light, but encourages us to embrace it all-and to find in all of it opportunities for growth.If we lived close to nature in an agricultural society, the seasons as metaphor and fact would continually frame our lives. But the master metaphor of our era does not come fromagriculture-it comes from manufacturing. We do not believe that we "grow" our lives-we believe that we "make" them. Just listen to how we use the word in everyday speech: we make time, make friends, snake meaning, make money, make a living, make love.I once heard Alan Watts observe that a Chinese child will ask, "How does a baby grow?" But an American child will ask, "How do you make a baby?" From an early age, we absorb our culture's arrogant conviction that we manufacture everything, reducing the world to mere "raw material" that lacks all value until we impose our designs and labor on it.
Eventually, I developed my own image of teh "befriending" impulse behind my depression. Imagine that from early in my life, a friendly figure, standing a block away, was trying to get my attention by shouting my name, wanting to teach me some hard but healing truths about myself. But I-- fearful of what I might hear or arrogantly trying to live wihtout help or simply too busy with my ideas and ego and ethics to bother-- ignored teh shouts and walked away.So this figure, still with friendly intent, came closer and shouted more loudly, but AI kept walking. Ever closer it came, close enough to tap me on the shoulder, but I walked on. Frustrated by my unresponsiveness, the figure threw stones at my back, then struck me with a stick, still wanting simply to get my attention. But despite teh pain, I kept walking away.Over teh years, teh befriending intent of this figure never disapppeared but became obscured by the frustration cuased by my refusal to turn around. Since shouts and taps, stones and sticks had failed to do the trick, there was only one thing left: drop the nuclear bomb called depression on me, not with the intent to kill but as a last-ditch effort to get me to turn and ask the simple question, "What do you want?" When I was finally able to make the turn-- and start to absorb and act on the self-knowledge that then became available to me-- I began to get well. The figure calling to me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls "true self." This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another from of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self-planted in us by the God who made us in God's own image-- the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be. True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one's peril.