Today I got to spend the day with my wife at her university. The roads were frightening, so I drove her in rather than sentencing her to the highways alone. While she sat in class, I did some marking and reading in the picturesque student area of Campion College. As I worked, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations going on nearby. One in particular caught my attention, and despite my attempts to shake it, I couldn’t. Two young women sat just down from my table, and talked for a couple of hours about a great many things. But as the minutes stretched on, and one hour turned into two, it became apparent that the content of their chatter wasn’t substance; it was nothing. To be more specific, it was an egocentric, preferential, stating of opinion that didn’t have any (helpful) shape or direction (or purpose).
Now, I’m being rather harsh here. I’m certainly no stranger to this sort of interaction. When speaking to another person, what is more natural or familiar than to speak about myself? It’s a basic mode of communication for individuals in relation to one another. As Gabriela, the nice lady with whom my sister and I stayed in Mexico, used to say, that sort of chatter is “siempre sobre mi” (“always about me”).
I suppose the conversation I overheard at Campion caught my attention because lately I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ call to discipleship. In the days of the first century, the basis of one’s life seemed to be in the family structure, and breaking ties with that structure seemed unwise and unthinkable. Today, I wonder if the basis of one’s life is no longer the family structure, but the self, the ego. “I” is the foundation on which everything that is achieved is mounted. I’m sure this was quite prevalent in Jesus’ day too, for Luke includes the emphatic “even your own life” to the list of relations we are to hate or renounce.
It’s undeniable that individualism drives our North American world these days. I guess I thought I’d come across different sorts of conversations while sitting in a Catholic college student area, in a school that boasts of classical learning. But what have I to boast? I’m just as egotistically driven as those two young women at Campion when it gets down to it. I realize that afresh each day as I live alongside my wife. There seems to be no greater task than that of divorcing myself from myself. It truly is a death, a daily death, that I must go through in order to rid myself of my own desperate grasp. As personal freedoms go, I don’t think there is anything quite so full of bondage as considering myself to hold the key to my own free will.
The obvious direction here is to turn to Jesus and ask for help. “Take hold of me and rip my self away as Aslan did for poor old dragoned Eustice, and grant me the freedom that exists only in total submission.”