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Dear Friends,


Last week I ended these words for the wind with, try not to succumb to the fantasies, real life is terrific!


Real life is all around us and it comes with many tastes, colors, and seasons of the heart and the mind and the soul.


Fantasies are all around us, too.


Fantasies can be important if we learn from them or allow them to teach us to judge critically, in the first place, the difference between what isn’t really real or reality based and what is based in reality.


I know that we all go through periods of growth and maturing that rely on the necessary development of mental and emotional markers that help us keep our equilibrium and balance in fast and ever-changing environments that we can find ourselves inhabiting.


These markers give us the ability to function as reasonably happy citizens of diverse states of being as parents, children, teachers, students, spouses, employers, plumbers, brokers, lawyers, bakers, etc. because we recognize the difference between real life and fantasies.


Granted there are valid reasons to want to avoid reality given the intentionally caused chaos and mayhem we increasingly encounter in “real” life but avoidance rarely contributes to the common good and easily leads to codependence on the fantasy or fantasies of choice building worlds of meaning that lack wisdom and context.


What is it about movies with anthropomorphized toys that gets us? Or movies about airplanes or cars that talk and, apparently, think and feel, that entertain us?


For that matter how do movies about men in spandex that can fly work their ways into our lives and become heroic figures?


Fantasies lived or embraced beyond childhood inhibit maturity and eventually create havoc in personal lives and relationships, even in our times when many of us can develop lives steeped in fantasy and are enabled by a wider culture that enables us to live in our fantasy worlds well into our senior years, sooner or later, reality strikes and we either grow up or we do not.


Adult to adult encounters and transactions are very often channeled or mediated through the activities, typically competitive, of their children and adults devote enormous amounts of time in the pursuit of their children’s or grandchildren’s activities instead of pursuing their own recreation and entertainment.


I am not questioning the love of parents and grandparents for their children, I just ask a few questions about the nature of an adult ‘s need to recreate or be entertained in a manner that refreshes and renews an adult.


I think when adults almost exclusively find entertainment and recreation in a child’s world, they ultimately isolate themselves and contribute to their own loneliness.


Is there any balance, are children brought into the adult world of reasoned and thoughtful conversation, of recreation that relies not on competition but skill or deliberation, patience and ambiguity?


Can adults and children together encounter the beauty and mystery and healing benefits of a lake or river, a forest or woods, do we have any parks that can be shared simply as places to be with others in serene and calm mutual presence?


Can adults and children encounter beauty in music or paintings, for instance, or reading and discussing books or sharing movies or/and music?


Depending on our role in a family, society, or institution our immaturity and embrace of fantasies can have serious consequences for others, usually innocent and less powerful others.


Talking toys and cute kittens and puppies that seem to actually feel emotions and care about one another, can be marvelous teaching tools at appropriate times in our lives but talking toys and cute kittens and puppies are not really reliable contributors to wisdom, critical thinking, and reasoned discourse that the actual world we live in requires desperately and urgently at this time.


I am reading Robert Macfarlane’s new book, Underland: A Deep Time Journey, and learning so, so much that I did not ever think of much less “know” and it is opening pathways in my mind to ways of connecting my intuitions about our common life with the Catholic Tradition as I have learned it from wise and thoughtful men and women.


Robert Macfarlane introduced me to the term “species loneliness” a term which I find useful and important in attempting to make the Gospel stories and their unique teachings more available to you in my preaching and writing.


Species loneliness, is the term that many serious people who care about and study the ways we are trying to be human in our times describe as “the intense solitude that we are fashioning for ourselves as we strip the Earth of the other life with which we share it.”


I think serious people of faith need to think long and hard about that term and how it looks in real life.


Our need to turn things, not even real but virtual things, into creatures that we want to be like us and consider “just like us” is, in my mind, an example of species loneliness, as is our humanization of animal pets as appropriate life companions and real friends, as is turning the production of animal based food into entertainment and recreation ala Fair Oaks Farms.


The moral universe that permits treating other human beings as if they have no dignity or purpose or value or use, if they are not functioning as components in a system based entirely in numerical categories is what allows us to hide in fantasies and fantasy worlds where there is no real care, no real compassion, no priority on healing or mending what is broken and hurting.


The Gospel story this weekend is quite clear and direct in identifying the crucial element in the teachings of Christ and that is that care and healing are the essential acts of those who would follow Christ.


Care and healing begins with the our own care and healing and is extended to the care and healing of the “worlds” that we encounter in each day.


Shrinking our world to fantasies that we can control and manage, as we are prone to do these days, is rooted in self-hatred and an ignorance of our own essential nature and our necessary need to be acknowledged as a person and our need to recognize the dignity in everything and everyone who shares the earth with us right now.



Father Niblick