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Excerpts from 3D Freedom, Chapter 10: Detective Fiction
Just follow along here, and let’s see where we end up:
Character A murders someone, and, though he doesn’t realize it, we see he is doomed to fall further. Evil compounds in the darkness, and his hidden deed imprisons him in that darkness as surely as if he has murdered himself, which of course, in a way, he has. Bummer – and it’s not even tragic, because we have no sense of his having fallen from a great height. We come upon him in media res, and he seems a worm doomed to digging deeper – not a tragic hero at all.
But imagine yourself actually in the story, as someone who has been acutely affected by Character B’s demise. Your next move would probably be to demand, from the author, some sort of justice. In this two-dimensional, story universe, that probably will look something like the eye-for-eye, tit-for-tat sort of justice that preceded the coming of Christ. Balance needed to be restored, so some sort of payment – actual money, or punishment – was exacted from the criminal, and all was, if not well, at least restored to equilibrium. For a while. Now and then, reciprocal eye-for-eyeing threatened the social order of a tribe, or community, to the extent that the people rounded up a victim to sacrifice as sort of a backfire to stop the flames of bloodlust.
To play the game well, the author must play by some rules, or we’ll take our marbles and go home. This is a sort of game played between us for our mutual delight. The author’s delight is different from ours – more slogging and anticipatory. We have all the fun of opening the surprise package to find a much smaller, less arduous dose of uphill climbing than he had in making it, plus, a swift and thrilling ride to the bottom, which he can only experience vicariously through our enjoyment. The limit to foreknowledge which makes the game fun for us is precisely what he gave up in preparing the story. He is, sadly, too omniscient to enjoy the fun of being in the game with us. Still, he has looked forward to our fun, so we should get back to it.
Restoring the life of the Victim was, after the Resurrection, the new normal. Because the Victim has access to eternal life, I can stop short of taking his killer’s life and then waiting for the killer’s relatives to come kill mine in an endless do-loop of titting and tatting. Because Christ can make even the killer into a new man, society could realize, if not a net gain, at least a neutral position in lives by the trade. It’s a hope, anyway, that made more people stop and think before killing again. Suddenly, for Christians, both Victim and Killer were more fully-realized as human beings…even, brothers.
How shall Hope enter the story? In the form of the detective! All is dark, but he is a character who brings light into that darkness, because he envisions a future in which the killer has been unmasked. Over and over it has happened, in his experience, so he fully expects it to happen again. (One does wonder why people keep inviting detectives back to dinner parties…) He walks in confidence, even while still clueless. He will look at every Fact he can round up, believing that Facts are wonderful things that, like seeds, contain the light of Reality from beyond the sphere of Here-and-Now. From, in fact, that future he is imagining. That future, far from being ghostly and unreal, is laying all around him in the form of Facts – just waiting to be assembled rightly into a signpost that points to the murderer.
Find out how hope really enters the story! Read the full chapter in 3D Freedom. (Add “Ostermann” to the title search on Amazon, as my books are rather buried there!)
I’ve just met Jason Nunez, of the John 3:30 podcast. Thanks to a listener who recommended me as a guest on his show, we had a lovely chat this morning. It’s now available here, and on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and anywhere podcasts can be found. Look for Episode #94 for my interview, and stay tuned for Jason’s big surprise in Episode #100, soon to come!
Here’s a bit more about Jason, from the John 3:30 site:
The John 3:30 Podcast is hosted by Jason Nunez. He is a Catholic Husband and Father who is doing everything he can to help get his Family to Heaven. Jason loves to watch movies with his family and he is a huge Dave Matthews Band Fan. He and his Family are Parishioners at The Church of The Holy Spirit in San Antonio TX. Jason was raised Catholic, but as most, he went through the motions for most of his Teenage, 20s and early 30s. After attending an ACTS Retreat in October of 2012 has been “on fire” for his Catholic Faith. Jason began to feel that God was calling him to spread the word on how “everyday” people keep their fire burning for our Catholic Faith. So The John 3:30 Podcast was created!! Join him as he shares the many ways our Faith can keep your fire burning. Thanks for listening and God Bless you all!!
“He must increase; I must decrease.” – John 3:30
Jason was interested in the resource I have available for free here: How to Plan a Great Catholic Event
We discussed the books Souls at Rest (endorsed by Dan Burke) Souls at Work (endorsed by Stratford Caldecott), Upschooling (endorsed by Joseph Pearce), and the Freedom Trilogy (You, Free , Full Spectrum Freedom, and 3D Freedom…endorsed by those I counsel personally). (These link to Amazon sales pages.)
He asked what one thought I wanted to leave with listeners, and that is: “If you need anything, please contact me. I actually respond!!!” Here’s a contact form for anyone reading or listening, who might have questions, need a phone chat or a correspondence or a speaker or help realizing their creative ideas, or who just wants to connect for conversation or some other adventure:
Once upon a time, during what felt like a huge crisis, I received some great advice.
Since then, I’ve remembered it by way of the phrase, “Not a ‘crisis’, but a ‘life task’”. I try never to respond while feeling panic, but rather to wait until the ‘crisis’ has passed. The outward circumstances may still be quite pressing and yet my own interior sense of tension has calmed. Then, I’m ready to decide what to do.
C – caution, fear
R – reaction
I – imagining the worst
S – speed
I – identifying an enemy
S – survival, self, strength, sight
In the CRISIS mode, I react out of fear – not boldly, with confidence, but with cautious hesitation – instead of being proactive after making a conscious decision about what to do. I immediately imagine the worst possibilities, and must remember the scriptural admonition to “cast down vain imaginings”. These are ‘vain’ because they can’t actually accomplish anything, and merely work up more fearfulness and confusion.
Speed is almost always a factor in any ‘crisis’. I feel the demand for hasty reaction, and I fail to let myself stop to quietly assess, evaluate, and make a free judgment about what to do. In the fearfulness and narrow vision of a ‘crisis’ moment, I am liable to identify someone as ‘the enemy’, and (usually to my regret) treat that person accordingly. The CRISIS mode is characterized by my focus on myself, my survival, using my own strength, and depending on what I can see. Scripture comes to the rescue again, reminding me to walk by faith, and not by sight; in God’s strength, and not my own.
L – let it be a lesson
I – inhibit reactivity
F – fear not, stay free
E – encourage equanimity
T – trust God
A – ask for the help you need
S – slow down, stop
K – keep your eyes open
If the ‘crisis’ can be seen not as provocation, but as an opportunity, I’ve already changed my mode of action. If nothing else, each such experience can teach me something more about myself, the dynamics of relationships, and ways to apply faith in concrete experience. As a lesson, even the worst experience builds my spiritual riches, so I can face it with courage.
I’ve got to inhibit that first reaction, the snap decision, the reflexive self-defense, if I’m to be fully present to reality in this moment. Naturally, if there is a physical danger, that reflex can be life-saving, but too many ‘crises’ are induced by panic, and not by true danger. St. Pope John Paul II seemed to have his finger on the modern pulse when he cautioned, over and over, “Fear not!” He realized that the person motivated by fear is a person who is not free, and so is contributing to his own degradation.
In a ‘crisis’, if I can ‘encourage equanimity’ in myself and in those around me, the heat of the moment can dissipate. I also try to remember to ‘edify everyone’ involved in a situation, so that no one becomes ‘the enemy’. Trust in God is practiced in situations that feel like crises. Without them, we’d never need to consciously cultivate deeper and deeper trust, and the relaxation into His trustworthiness made possible by these challenges.
How many times have I forgotten, in a moment of ‘crisis’, to ask for help! It seems ridiculous, but when you realize that the CRISIS mode is characterized by a narrowing of vision, it makes sense that we immediately believe the lie that we are alone, and must trust to our own resources to survive. I can’t say it too many times: the enemy of equanimity, of peace, of courage, is speed! If I’ve learned nothing else in life, it is that a moment of ‘crisis’ demands I STOP, not speed up, which was always my natural reaction.
Keeping my ‘eyes’ opened means more than just looking around. If fear is the narrowing of my field of vision to the pinpoint of whatever threatens me, then opening my eyes means growing aware of the many other factors in the situation that are also true, also real. Fr. Luigi Giussani’s definition of freedom – “Freedom is the correspondence to reality, in the totality of its factors.” – reminds me to open the eyes of my understanding to see supportive family and friends, the beauty that surrounds me in nature, the many reasons I have for gratitude, the constant faithfulness of God in my life, etc….
I hope this helps you convert your next ‘crisis’ into a ‘life task’!
Here’s a reminder you can clip and take….and two for friends.
Let me know your thoughts!
Just a quick note from David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work. The author counsels us to choose ‘toward’ goals rather than ‘away’ goals, noting that we walk toward, but run away. I thought this was insightful enough to mention.
For me, it’s the difference between moving toward a new book, or away from a pile of notes: my desire for the book is engaged to make progress, whereas my aversion to the pile is not enough to motivate me forward.
My desire to move toward that next size down rather than to move away from the current weight is a better motivator for actual engagement of my free will in the accomplishment of that goal.
I can’t get away from the current ‘lack of community’ in the Church, but I can move in small steps toward the pleasant prospect of building community little by little. Semantics make a difference, I know.
I’ve written about engaging the motivating power of desire in Dare Your Something!
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I consider it a mark of intellectual humility to be docile to great teachers. On that score, here are a few who have influenced me, and for each a little hint of what gift I received under his influence.
G.K. Chesterton – The Spherical Man
Fr. Luigi Giussani – The Freedom Coach
Peter Kreeft – The Bubble Net
Fr. James Schall – The Teacher’s Teacher
Stratford Caldecott – The Full Courteous Man
Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Sayers, Gerard Manley Hopkins – The Poets
St. Elizabeth Seton – Motherheart
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity – The Praise of Glory
St. Pope John Paul – My Marching Orders: The Recapitulation of the Person
Pope Benedict XVI – Go in Beauty
A. G. Sertillanges – The Intellectual Life
Josef Pieper – Sabbath Muse
St. Francis – The Eccentric
St. Thomas Aquinas – The Playground’s Fence
C.S. Lewis – The Myth Fulfilled
J. R. R. Tolkien – The World Weaver