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Monday, June 16, 2014

Why I have been silent

For those daily readers, I apologize if my silence has been a disappointment.  However, there are times when I simply don't have anything constructive to say.  There are other times when I run across something that stuns me into silence.
One of my goals here is to show a balance between Spirituality and the medical understanding of the human person.  We are spiritual-rational-emotional-physical beings.  Our language poorly expresses the reality of our consciousness, even in merely scientific terms.  It is multi-layered and yet entirely integrated.  This is hard for us to grasp as 'linear' thinkers... 2 + 2 = 4.  Sometimes, when dealing with humanity, it seems more like 2 + 𝑥 = 4, 𝑥 ≠ 2.
While I know that a purely medical explanation of addiction, as well as its treatment, is insufficient, I do think that it is necessary to get the whole picture of what God is doing in us.  So, I read what I can, to the extent that I can understand it, about the scientific advancements of the brain.  Some of it I publish here.  Other things I am still kicking around and have not yet written because I don't want to start a controversy.
We are awash these days in fundamentalists of various kinds, and they are a vicious lot.  If I have to go to war with them, I want to make sure my facts are in order. 
So, someone recommended I read a book, On Killing.  You may ask, "What are you doing reading that?!"  Well, when it comes to addiction, we are often talking about not just PTSD, but the entire topic of fear.  So, LTC Grossman's book explores the topic of fear from the angle of war and the taking of human life.
The descriptions he has of how men have processed these profound fears of death, injury, and failure have been extremely enlightening.  How?
Well, let's think of it this way: the same human that fights in war is the same human that becomes addicted.  So, the test of this humanity in one area should be able to shed light on other areas as well.  In this case, Grossman shows how the human person reacts to powerlessness and the stress of combat.  Combat and killing reveal the inner conflict of man between the preservation of life and the rage that leads to killing.
If you go back to Genesis, you see that the problem of humanity in the Bible circles around killing, from Cain to Lamech to the Pre-Flood era, and even after that.  Moses himself is a murderer, and King David kills in war.  Yet, we would also say that human life is sacred.  Then, Joshua commands all the Canaanites be slaughtered at the Battle of Jericho (Joshua 6:16-17). 
God commands that human life be preserved from the commandments to Noah on through the Deutero-Levitical law.  Then, we see so many exceptions... like the frequent use of stoning.
There is something about humans that at once wants to kill, and yet finds the experience of it oftentimes harmful and psychically maiming.  Many veterans struggle with their memories of taking human life, even when they know that what they did was necessary or even unavoidable.  Under these conditions, the human person is pushed and stressed to the point that we can see things going on within them that we would not otherwise see.
Addiction operates not on a psychological level, but on the deepest parts of our existence which are partly inaccessible to our rational processes.  This is why God is necessary when the disease goes so deep, too deep for mere words.  Recovery is a process that cannot be utterly explained or even described, no matter what we have to say.
I keep re-encountering this reality as I plunge deeper into this 'sink hole.'  I do not know where it goes.  I suppose it is what St. Nikodemos says about the human person:
Making the body out of matter and placing inside it a soul which He created, He set man as a sort of a cosmos, great by virtue of the soul's many and superior powers, in a small cosmos. He placed man as a contemplator of Visible Creation and as an initiate of Intelligible Creation, according to the Gregory (bishop of Nazianzus [c. 329-390]) who is great in Theology.  (St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, Introduction to the Philokalia, trans. C. Cavarnos, The Philokalia, vol. 1 (Belmont, 2008), 27.
The exploration of this Human Cosmos has given me more than my share of surprises.

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