Recently, I read a copy of The Way to Love: Meditations on Life by Anthony de Mello. He was a Jesuit priest from India. His writing was beautiful and clear. This book was full of wonderful insight and at times I felt as though he was speaking directly to me.
Recall the kind of feeling you have when someone praises you, when you are approved, accepted, applauded. And contrast that with the kind of feeling that arises within you when you look at the sunset or the sunrise or Nature in general, or when you read a book or watch a movie that you thoroughly enjoy. Get the taste of this feeling and contrast it with the first, namely, the one that was generated within you when you were praised. Understand that the first type of feeling comes from self-glorification, self-promotion. It is a worldly feeling. The second comes from self-fulfilment, a soul feeling.
Each meditation – they are about 3-6 minutes reading time, mostly – takes a verse from the Bible, that you’ll probably have already heard even if you’ve no interest in the Bible. Then he unpacks it in a way that seems so applicable to the life that we lead now.
I would say that some of his ideas are clearly based in Eastern philosophy but why should that matter? If you are looking at the Bible from a purely Western perspective, you miss so much of the nuance of what Jesus speaks about in particular. I think that Christians in the West would benefit from understanding Middle Eastern and Asian thought a little more.
For example, his focus on the concept of attachment is very similar to a lot of Buddhist thought in particular.
Don’t stop till you have grasped this truth: The only reason why you too are not reacting calmly and happily is your computer [In this context, de Mello refers to his brain as a computer] that is stubbornly insisting that reality be reshaped to conform to its programming. Observe all of this from the outside so to speak and see the marvellous change that comes about in you.
I can certainly recognise my own attitude to my own output in this section:
You must cultivate activities that you love. You must discover work that you do, not for its utility, but for itself. Think of something that you love to do for itself, whether it succeeds or not, whether you are praised for it or not, whether you are loved and rewarded for it or not, whether people know about it and are grateful to you for it or not. How many activities can you count in your life that you engage in simply because they delight you and grip your soul? Find them out, cultivate them, for they are your passport to freedom and to love.
Anyway, it’s a great book. I highly recommend it. Enjoy it.