Do you have daily routines that ground you in something you consider important? A ritual of sorts that makes you recall your motivating factor or your original desire for something or someone? I, for instance, try each morning as soon as I wake up to make a sign of the cross and then nod in the direction of the only picture I have in my bedroom: that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It reminds me of why I am a priest: because I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world.
Little Li grew up in communist China in the 1950s. Taught by nuns in her local parochial school, the ten-year-old once asked the nuns why Jesus didn't instead say, "Give us this day our daily rice?" One day communist soldiers came into the village and, after ransacking the school, ordered everyone into the church. The commandant blasphemed Christ and had his soldiers fire at the tabernacle. He then proceeded to take the ciborium out of the broken door and fling all the consecrated hosts over the church. After locking Father Luke, the pastor, inside a coal bin in the church, he threatened that anyone who went into the church would be shot.
Some people crave privacy, others the company of others. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who spent three years in Nazi concentration camps, yearned for solitude. Crowded in barracks and observed constantly by guards, prisoners were never alone. Frankl wrote: "It is well known that an enforced community life, in which attention is paid to everything one does at all times, may result in an irresistible urge to get away, at least for a short while. The prisoner craved to be alone with himself and his thoughts." (Man's Search for Meaning, 61).
The Best and the Brightest is the title of David Halberstam's 1972 book chronicling the Kennedy administration. I keep it on my shelf and look at it whenever my ego inflates and I feel smart. The title is satirical. Characters like McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, and Robert McNamara, who composed JFK's cabinet and staff, were part of the intellectual elite. They were Ivy-League graduates, PhDs, Rhodes Scholars, and successful CEOs.