Living Beyond the “I”

As a retired person I have the opportunity to listen to a lot of talk radio.  I have abandoned the public display of human misery that appears with regularity on daytime TV; it gives me a headache! 

There is one radio station with an afternoon guy who does a bit that he calls “First World Problems.”  It’s his commentary on the way that we Americans have lost all sense of what’s really important in life.  For instance: In Africa children are dying for lack of regular meals.  First world version:  For my fourth meal of the day do I eat the Cheetos, Doritos, or plain chips with dip?

Somewhere, in each of us, there is a definition of how the world should be.  We form that by the example we see and what the adults around us have modeled for us.

In this country we have surged forward by leaps and bounds in technology. We have every desire at our fingertips: dwelling, environment, temperature, transportation, food, entertainment, medical care.  We can access any of these in the wink of an eye.  We have elevated convenience to a place that never could have been imagined during the time that Jesus lived and ministered. Our children must have cell-phones and computers at ever younger and younger ages, no one walks anywhere, and we close schools when it’s too hot if they are without air-conditioning.

Our march toward convenience has changed the very core of our character:  road rage increases, obesity magnifies, attention span diminishes, and even artists who can’t actually sing are famous because they have conveniently been “auto-tuned.”

We are so blessed in our nation.  This is the land of plenty like nowhere else in the world.  Our society teaches us over and over again that it is a “sin” to be inconvenienced.  We rage if cars cut us off or if someone intrudes on our all-important schedule by delaying us for a question or comment or when the satellite goes out at the moment of a touchdown.

We have mistakenly taught ourselves how to look at the world from the perspective of “I.”  Society teaches us that there is nothing as important as “I” and how the world impacts that, a dubious trap.  When the “I” rules there is nothing more divisive and isolating.  Pope Benedict XVI taught, ”(F)aith is a liberation of my I from the preoccupation with self…a breaking out of the isolation that is the malady of I.”

Check for the signs of “I” in your life.  Are you always in an “important” hurry?  Do you blow off people who ask for some of your time spontaneously?  Do you find yourself annoyed in slow traffic or when the priest gives a homily that is more than four or five minutes?  Does one more call from an elderly parent or relative annoy you rather than delight you?

Don’t get trapped in your own “I.”  This is a pure distraction meant to turn your eyes away from what God wants for your life and toward what your ego thinks is more important.   As part of your spiritual life learn to adopt the attitude of “spontaneity as opportunity.”  The truth is that God will not check with your calendar to see if you are available for His spiritual work today!

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Copyright © 2013, Kathryn Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at:">

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