My blog is constantly accessed from Liturgiae Causa, and I have read the two most recent postings. I met Patricius last spring in London, a young man of good urban appearance and intelligence. Not being a medical professional, I wouldn’t venture an opinion on the causes of such a conflicted soul. At a human level, it may be lack of maturity or an inner conflict that reveals serious spiritual difficulties.
The episode on the bus in the suburban London sprawl was quite amusing, and Patrick has a gift with writing and a sense of satire. He then wrote Are you happy? as a result of an interview with his boss at the bank where he works. Frankly, I cannot imagine anyone less suited to working in such a corporate structure as a major bank than Patrick – other than myself! Me, I prefer my long hair, hoodie and bermuda shorts with lots of pockets, my cassock when I’m on duty as a priest… All the same, the comments of his superiors are germane. If you’re happy working with us, stay. If not, go and find another job. That seems to make sense. When you go to a ball, the thing to do is dance – Quand on est au bal, il faut danser.
Then he wrote In answer… It might seem disturbing, but he writes about it and expresses himself in this cri de coeur. I am amazed about his objectivity and lucidity, but yet his lack of resolve to make his way in life in some unconventional way. Wrong line of work for someone who so violently opposes corporate conformity, the only world-view possible for working in a large retail company or an international bank (my own current and business accounts are with them). I feel just the same about corporations, but I keep away from them. We don’t have to like “power” suits and short cropped hair! We don’t have to live or work in a city. There are other ways to live. All that we do has its consequences.
It isn’t my responsibility to analyse anyone. I don’t have the qualifications and it isn’t my business. At his age, I too went through conflicts as I went to the wrong seminaries and pursued the wrong illusory vocation. My own present is the consequence of my errors of youth. It is simply the law of karma – the state of man awaiting the freedom that the grace of the Redemption confers.
It is tempting to blame everyone other than oneself. Patrick reminds me very much of Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, someone torturing himself from the inside out, Sebastian contra mundum. His greatest friend, Charles Ryder, could not continue with the way things went, and had to leave this piece of suffering humanity in his elected domicile in northern Africa. Charles himself had to face the consequences of his own broken vocation as an artist and husband, to find himself in the Army at the beginning of a grotty war at a grotty time of history. We all carry our own crosses, but different ones – with more or less dignity and stoicism. Sebastian’s future was so beautifully described by his younger sister Cordelia. You can see the videos in Libenter suffertis insipientens : cum sitis ipsi sapientes. Sebastian is a man totally devoid of will power, stripped of all dignity and who paradoxically finds holiness as a fool for Christ.
Hatred is my chief problem; absolute hatred. Ever have I had the uttermost scorn for authority, especially that wielded by the young, and scarce can I conceal it.
Perhaps it is by reading the cantankerous Evelyn Waugh that we begin to understand the Augustinian pessimism about human nature (which is not entirely mistaken). Hatred was an emotion keenly felt by Oscar Wilde as his purged his term in prison –
You may realise it when I say that had I been released last May, as I tried to be, I would have left this place loathing it and every official in it with a bitterness of hatred that would have poisoned my life. I have had a year longer of imprisonment, but humanity has been in the prison along with us all, and now when I go out I shall always remember great kindnesses that I have received here from almost everybody, and on the day of my release I shall give many thanks to many people, and ask to be remembered by them in turn.
I never tire of reading De Profundis, as I understand it anew each time. Unlike Dorian Gray, I grow older and my understanding matures at the same time. At the same time, I cannot bring myself to take the role of a raging Hitler is some re-enactment of Götterdämmerung wowing to kill everyone he deemed to be unworthy of life. At least he had the grace to take a cyanide pill and blow his brains out, and thus made the rest of the world a more pleasant place for the rest of us. Patrick has never been “in power” and has never been responsible for anyone’s death. But, the feeling can be equivalent to the act as Christ teaches when he condemns anger as being just as bad as actually killing someone. We all have to master our tempers.
I recognise the Wilde and Waugh in his writings, and these two authors will be remembered long after the rest of us are forgotten.
Suicide? I don’t think he would ever do it. It is perhaps a question that many of us would ask, but the act of killing ourselves is anathema. It opposes our most fundamental instinct of self-preservation. It would lead to a most uncertain afterlife to put it mildly. We will be gone quickly enough, but Patrick is still at an age when time seems to go slowly. Perhaps he could go to Africa, look after the sick and catch Ebola – at least that would be a death for a purpose! Not that I would wish that on anyone, and certainly not on myself. We are called to live and accept the challenge which is harder than copping out…
Like all of us, he has the solution to his predicament in his own hands. He needs to discover a sense of vocation (not necessarily religious) and put his will and heart into it. Many of us “miss the bus” when we are young and it is harder later in life. I read his gifts as a writer, yet he has written no books. I have encouraged him to consider journalism, but I fear that most modern news agencies would be too corporate. Theatrical and drama training would be another possibility. Those places are hard to get into, but he is still young enough.
Some of you may wonder why I give publicity to this person, who writes to the world on his blog. We all need to develop our empathy and care for those who suffer in body and mind. Prayer is everything, and compassion – not the nihilist pressing the button to nuke the world – makes us human.