To Thine Own Self
For the past two weeks I have taken a course online. I did not do it for any real credit but for a better understanding of the Via Dolorosa or the Way of Sorrows. Sounds a bit gruesome, doesn’t it? The truth is, I was curious and more than that, a bit perturbed. For the Christian faith, particularly those with a historic Episcopate, the Via Dolorosa is an important part of this time of year – the Lenten season.
During this time, although often at other times during the year, the faithful meet to figuratively walk through the scenes of the last days of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. More commonly known as the Stations of the Cross, this journey of considered a walk of faith and yet,I know of very few people who like it. If this symbolic journey is one that reflects the very meaning of their beliefs, shouldn’t there be some happiness or joy in it?
The very first question of the course threw me. You know it is now a good start when you cannot even answer, actually fully understand the very first question. Now I had no real impetus to finish…except for me. I wanted to take the course to see if I could understand why this symbolic representation of faith seemed to cause such grief. I wanted to understand my own impulse to say no whenever offered the chance to walk the Via Dolorosa. And the few times I actually had walked the Stations of the Cross I really did not understand what or why I was doing it except…everyone else was so ——.
Taking this class was not the easy decision you might have thought it would have been. The cost was free; I could work at my own pace whenever I wanted. The hardest thing in deciding to take the class was admitting I needed to take it. In other words, the most difficult part was in being honest with myself.
We’ve discussed authenticity and accountability but it really all boils down to how honest we are with ourselves. How truthful are we about ourselves when we are alone and no one is listening or watching? One of the best things about our pets is their authenticity. I really doubt my dog wants to be a cat and my cats – well, they are convinced they are at the top of the animal chain of command. Why would they want to be something else?
Because they are authentic, our pets give us unconditional love. It really is just that simple. To be authentic has been called a “primal urge”. Did Neanderthal man want something better than himself? Well, yeah. That’s why we have made great strides in living; why we no longer live in caves and eat raw food. I honestly am not so sure that being authentic is a primal urge. I just think animals are comfortable in their own skin and realize that they need to get living as what they are right before taking on something else. In that way, they are smarter than we are.
There is nothing wrong with trying to improve; hence, my taking the class on the Via Dolorosa. What is imperative, though, is that in our attempt to improve, we must find a way to actually improve and not just garner “stuff”. I needed to not only be able to say I took this class. I needed to learn from it. I needed to live with intention while studying.
I completed the course and did indeed gain new insight. I also wrote my own service for the Stations of the Cross. I practiced what I had been taught. That was the best education of all – the application of knowledge. In doing so, I also found happiness and peace along the road of the Via Dolorosa.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Practice what you preach” ad infinitum and ad nausea. What we sometimes fail to grasp is that we need to do it for ourselves in order to gain self-knowledge. We need to live with intention in order to gain a better self, grow a better version of ourselves. We need to continually and constantly update ourselves to stay current and effective in our own lives.
You don’t have to take a class. You can just be true to yourself and then live with intention. Oscar Wilde once said “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinion; their lives a mimicry; their passions a quotation.” Live YOUR life today. Be yourself. Walk your own path to personal fulfillment. Let the voice you hear be YOUR voice. I bet it’s gonna be beautiful!