Less of Me and More of You and the Scourge of False Humility

There’s a little book that I’ve read a number of times throughout my life, Saint Teresa de Avila’s Interior Castle or Castillo Interior, as I originally read it in Spanish. I’m rereading it now because I’m trying to figure out why it appealed to me so much when I was a young adult. I wrote poems in Spanish and English dedicated to this saint and her book. While it’s true that I have a weird relationship to people who have lived long ago, few of them have merited my poetry (Alexander Pope, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Mary Leopor, and Mary Astell are only the others I can think of at the moment.)

I was caught by a section detailing the common misgivings of humans that are falsely attributed to humility. She says:

Oh, God help me, daughters, how many souls the devil must have ruined in this way! They think that all these misgivings, and many more that I could describe, arise from humility, whereas they really come from our lack of self-knowledge.

This portion of text is in the first section of the book, in one of the chapters detailing the “first mansion,” as she puts it. This first mansion must be dealt with in order to move through to the ultimate mansion, the seventh. Self-knowledge, she admits, is never the endpoint. But without it, we have difficulty moving forward in our spiritual walk with God because we have too many hangups.

It got me thinking about false humility, most of which is either promoted by a person blind to his own ego traps and failings (what Teresa de Avila is talking about here) or somebody who is willfully trying to blind others to his failings. In the aforementioned group, false humility often leads to a lack of confidence because these people don’t recognize their true weaknesses or their strengths, and they become recalcitrant and difficult to work with.

But as my mind goes, this line of thinking connected to a peculiar doctrine in modern churches, that of “He must increase, and I must decrease.” I have to admit that in the days when my husband and I were still attending a Protestant congregation (nondenominational), I would become recalcitrant (word of the day) over that doctrine of false humility. I refused to sing songs or speak “affirmations” that were worded similarly.

When I say this is a belief in modern churches, I mean those that sing tiresome songs repeating that line, I must decrease that God may increase. There is a modern praise song out there that does exactly that with an informal take on it: More of you, less of me. Ironically, the first line reads I made my castle tall, I built up every wall (lyrics by Colton Dixon, according to the internet).

Self-denigration isn’t a particularly new doctrine. I mentioned Sor Juana in the first paragraph; she is famous for giving up her worldly pursuits of studying and writing in a declaration, in which she famously stated: Yo la peor de todo. However, there is evidence she did not give up these pursuits, and the declaration was more likely a rhetorical flourish to appease the pesky bishop who threatened her with the tail end of the Spanish Inquisition over a debate she’d been having with him.

Breast-beating, self-flagellation — these are parts of historical Christianity. I don’t want to denigrate my own modern epoch too much. But I can’t deny that it is a doctrine dour Protestants have picked up from, as far as I can tell, an odd misreading of Scripture. The doctrine is derived from John 3, in which John the Baptist is answering his followers, who’ve noted that Jesus is also baptizing people beyond Jordan. John tells his followers the truth: he is only a forerunner to Jesus, and his [John’s] ministry must decrease in order for Jesus’s ministry to increase. In other words, the times are changing. No longer will the Israelite people be under the old covenant, but a new one that John only bore witness to.

It seems to me, though, that Christians misuse this verse to put on a false sense of humility, in which they declare that they must be drained of their personhoods in order for God to reign in their lives. There is no doubt that all humans need to repent of their wickedness and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and they need to continuously be in a state of repentance to keep themselves from impurity. I would never deny that. What I do deny is that God wants us to give up who we are as individuals so that he can better use us.

This hatred of humans, this anti-life denigration of the creatures whom God created in his own image is a doctrine of perverse men. It’s a doctrine we get stuck on because we get stuck in that first mansion Saint Teresa writes about, where we are supposed to be doing self-examination but where many of us never come to understand who we truly are in God. If God despised us to such a degree that he would want us to become empty shells for him to fill up as helium fills a balloon, why would he have sent his son to sacrifice his life for us? If he loves only himself and not the children he made in his image, why does he tell us he loves us?

I cannot reconcile this doctrine of self-immolation with a God who died for me. I just can’t. I utterly reject this foolish false humility. There are times when I need to do a little breast-beating. I sin through my own fault, just as it says in the liturgy. I don’t do what I should, and I do what I shouldn’t. I need to be self-aware enough to recognize this, confess my sins, and turn away from them so that I can be the individual God planned for me to be, not a persona non grata cum deus en machina. That’s enough tortured Latin for the day.

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G.K. Chesterton

I should get to writing my Roswell Journals, as I won’t be living here much longer. But I have nothing to say about Roswell. It has remained the same to me, a place I’m not that fond of. My life instead resides in my home and in my mind. I have few friends and want to keep it that way. In fact, if I were to give in to my natural desires, I would find a better friend in death authors than the people around me. This is entirely my fault, and I own up to my deficient nature.

G.K. Chesterton happens to be one of my dead author friends whose books I’m currently reading. I should say that I’m always reading Chesterton because I read bits and pieces of his writing between other books. Most recently, I’m reading Orthodoxy. Chesterton is the type of writer I would add to my reading inside my biased worldview folder. Years ago, he wrote of the same world I live in today. He had a grasp on the modern world in its dullest heights — or its loftiest heights; I’m not really sure. And he seemed to suffer from the same prejudices as I do these hundred years later.

Take this quote for a start:

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.

This idea has borne itself out time and again in the last century. Modern materialist culture is neurotic. People are miserable. Of course, this is in part owing to the lack of expectations young people have placed on them. They need expectations of the old-fashioned kind, such as celibacy until marriage, eventual and hopefully early marriage, children, and carrying on the family faith. This is a life rife for the imagination because it takes courage to believe these important elements matter, that everything will be all right if we do what we should and put our fate in the hands of an eternal creator. When neuroticism is squelched through normal living, it’s much easier to walk the balance of believing in practical solutions and miraculous ones. In general, neuroticism creates bad art.

Materialism leads to rationalism leads to neuroticism leads to bad art and miserable humans. That is my opinion, and it has been my opinion for some time. It’s better to avoid the arts altogether if you are overly analytical; however, I do add the caveat that analytical people can be imaginative. The problem is analytical imagination takes a high working IQ that can itself lead to problems, albeit not neuroticism. These people are rather going to suffer from an excess of frustration at not being believed or understood. Or they will just have a grand sense of humor. It would be good if they could aim for the latter. They are, however, such a small percentage of the population that it wouldn’t be worth it to write advice columns for them.

Chesterton does concede that miserable poets do exist and, in fact, these miserable poets have been infected with rationality. He particularly highlights Poe and Cowper. This is where I know I’m reading in my worldview rather than experiencing new thought. He says about Cowper:

Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination.

I can’t disagree with that. Calvinist thinking has always struck me as being of the most miserable kind, and I’ve no doubt written about Cowper’s misery here on the blog. This blog started out, years ago, as an 18th C history blog, so it’s highly likely. And while I like Cowper’s hymns, it can’t be denied that he was a miserable and mad man. But being of a mindset more inclined to a Chesterton — or, in Cowper’s day, of a Samuel Johnson, lending a hand or a bit of advice to a Cowper (although in his day, it was Christopher Smart).

It’s almost inevitable for madness to ensue if one’s faith is too far gone toward the route of rationalism. Although God certainly created logic, God’s logic is not entirely understood by us mere mortals. When we believe it can and should be, and that furthermore, this is how we approach God, we will fail. But if anyone wants to be contentious about this, go ahead. I’m sure the easy out would be to claim that no human is actually rational at all and therein lies the problem.

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Social Media For Writers

What is happening to the world? If it wasn’t clear enough before that the tech overlords control our society right along with the media, I hope it’s clear now. I ditched Twitter years ago and have been ditching Facebook on and off when it becomes too much. I end up going back, drawn to that place where I can reach my old high school friends and the family I never see. But I can’t keep it now. I can’t support a corporation that blocks our president. I can’t return to Twitter because they’ve done the same. YouTube? God knows they aren’t any better. And Amazon? What? I have zero interest in joining conservative ghettos like Parler, but I don’t feel like supporting Amazon after they cancelled Parler.

Where does this leave a struggling writer who doesn’t have much of an audience as it is? People have been joking that conservatives should just make their own internet. Okay, well, right along with the continuous process of learning how to write, edit, create print books and ebooks, and then market my books, I now have to learn to be my own silicon valley CEO. That leaves me a little woozy. I might as well go find a vanity press and print up thousands of books and sell them on street corners all over the US. Seriously.

At least I still have WordPress, but I’ve been wondering how to get around the mindset that requires free venues. The reason we’re in this position of having tech overlords controlling our livelihoods, interpreting our reality, and telling us what we can and can’t believe and say is we walked willingly in. All of those instructive fairy tales we heard as a child didn’t leave the impression they should have. We walked right in the witch’s cabin, and now she’s got us trapped and has been fattening us up on her sweets until we’re ready to be consumed. Perhaps you find that an exaggeration. I don’t.

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The World Still Turns

My steps toward a writing career made several big steps forward in the months between March and August. I finished my Roswell alien book and sent it off to a small publishing company that was interested. I wrote 70,000 words toward my breakdancing cyberpunk before I had to take a break to put money in the bank and figure out how I was going to continue doing that while homeschooling again. The pandemic has changed things. I took advantage of losing my income while I had the chance, but it was never going to last. Also, my son is not going to be doing online school or attending a private school, where he would sit in one classroom all day wearing a mask. Not. Going. To. Happen.

To be honest, I lost interest in blogging these past few months. My focus was on this present reality, and how to keep functioning. For me that means interacting with friends and family, even if only on Facebook. Yes, Facebook. Which is awful, just not in the same toxic way that Twitter is. It also means keeping a schedule every day of exercise plus walks, household chores, writing and editing. This blog? I don’t know if I’ll get the interest stirring in my soul again. It’s all right, though. The internet is a wasteland of abandoned blogs — many of which were abandoned because the physical world around held more appeal.

It does. It really does. I was finally confirmed in the Catholic church. That was a long road, which ended in a small gathering wearing masks who were blessed with holy oil smelling of cloves and given the eucharist. Afterward, we went to a Mexican restaurant and ate al pastor tacos outside on their “patio” because we weren’t allowed inside. My sponsor gave me a St Patrick’s rosary as a gift, and it’s a tangible representation of what prayer is. This is life: going to mass, eating tacos, and kneeling and praying.

I have to add that my patron saint in Francis de Sales, saint of writers, who wrote apologetics against Calvinism. I find myself doing that a lot. Hence…he is my patron saint. He was also a gentle saint, even in his denouncing of Calvin. I hope to be a little gentler, a little kinder. That’s all for now.

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Rioting in New Mexico

New Mexico might have one of the smallest black populations in the United States. While there are a number of reasons for this, the biggest one is almost certainly that the state is composed of another cultural minority, the Spanish, who are not actually a minority here. The state is still largely agricultural, despite that the oil industry has increased economic growth. In short, culturally and economically, the state hasn’t offered much to black people.

That has not stopped the protests that turned into violent riots from coming here. And I couldn’t help but consider the irony inherent in busting out windows and spray-painting businesses, many of which are owned by Hispanics and already hurting from the governor’s shut-down orders. Gosh, it almost reminds me of my book The Minäverse, which I wrote originally in 2014 when I could see the world was going mad and didn’t manage to publish until 2018. Little could I have imagined…oh, yeah, I did actually imagine. Oh, well. It’s too bad I’m so slow at finishing and publishing.

I need to get a little more focused. My latest book, which I started in 2017 or 2018 (honestly don’t remember) has a virus pandemic in it as a major plot device. And aliens. And every conspiracy theory worthy of David Icke or Alex Jones (to be fair, Jones has never gone the direction of aliens, but vaccines et al, sure). I have twenty pages left to edit, and then off it will go to a potential small publisher.

Speaking of rioting in New Mexico, there was one in Roswell yesterday. It wasn’t a riot, to be fair. As far as I know from the live video footage, the protestors remained on the sidewalk outside the courthouse and stayed there with their signs and bullhorn. I even caught a glimpse of a few black people in the crowd, which is a big deal given the local demographics. Also, Roswell is one of the most openly racist places I’ve lived. Apart from older Hispanic folks, I had never really heard much in the way of vocally racist sentiments until I moved here.

Roswell is really weird. That’s why it’s the setting for the book I’m finishing up in the next couple of days.

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