Friday, January 18, 2008

The Suffering of Mental Slowness

The young woman bundled in winter clothing struggled with jamming cart after shopping cart to make a long train. We were in the parking lot, she with her task and me pulling into a spot. She waved me in, her standing there in the cold, readying to bull-doze push those heavy carts into the grocery.

It was well below freezing. Inside the store, I could hear her say something. She pulled off her hood: there was a rosey faced, girl-into-woman of perhaps 22 years of age.

Practicing the Nine S' of the Catholic hermit's rule of life, I stopped from selecting a cart and spoke with this young woman--first about the cold weather, and then a bit more. She is not mentally acute; she is mentally slow. She is beautiful in the flush from the freezing weather and exertion in pushing the train of heavy carts back into the store.

I said she will be well deserving of a hot chocolate and a warm bed by nighttime. She told me about her stocking up on 5-for-a-dollar cappuchinos at the dollar store. She was very pleased and smiled. I told her that I will be praying for her the rest of the afternoon, that she endure the cold and the hard work she does. She lit up and said, "Thank you--thank you so much!" I then asked for her first name, as I said I like to pray with using a person's name if possible. Unzipping her heavy parka, she proudly pulled out the employee name badge: Kristen L, it read.

People who are mentally slow have many gifts, such as simplicity and often solitude, in addition to slowness. But their mental slowness brings a kind of suffering that I'd not recently pondered. Their lives are very difficult with the types of jobs they work, such as this young woman out in the freezing cold, dragging frozen-handled carts around a parking lot, stacking them one into the other, and pushing them in beast-like manner, beast of burden--quite a distance and into the store. There, with rag in hand, they are wiped down for the customers. It is very humbling, menial labor. I realized what a suffering it would be to have that job.

But she did not seem to mind. I know another young woman, age 30, who is mentally slow. She walks miles in the cold to get to her job of washing pots and pans and slopped plates at the poorest nursing home in an economically depressed town. She is a bitty little thing, no more than 90 pounds, but she is strong. She also works part-time at a fast food restaurant, sweeping the floors, wiping counters, cleaning up consumer waste. She doesn't seem to mind, either. In fact, she is so happy to have work, to earn money, and the more hours, the happier.
But she has an older sister who is married and has children, and this young woman has suffered that she will not; for she knows this loss in her life.

This morning the confessor spoke with me about personalizing things and trying to not let my writing be affected. He was not speaking about suffering with others, but to not react to what others are doing (or saying) that might not be as God wills me to be doing. He asked me how my prayer life has been. I told him--using a phrase my late father interjected at times--that I offer the "whole ball of wax" to God since my prayers are pock-marked by the devil. The underlying peace remains as clear and smooth skin, but the devil is trying to mar the surface with acne. All that has to do with the on-going sense of evil in the world and evil in the world of the internet. It is rather creepy, or can be. Acne can be medicated and healed.

But then there is this suffering of the world, of mental slowness--not that this is a suffering, but the outer manifestations are so hard, so rough in the jobs and realities of the actual lives. One must pay attention to the sufferings about, and praise God for the goodness of what lies beneath the externals. Kristen L. is a lovely soul. I think of her at night, warmed with the dollar store cappuchino--and by God's touch of her especiality, her life.

The Staretz (St. Silouan) expresses more wisdom:

Because a man cannot simultaneously dwell wholly in God and wholly in the world, it is possible to judge whether a given state of contemplation is a reality or an illusion only after the soul has returned to consciousness of the world; for then, as the Staretz pointed out, if there were no love for enemies and so for all creatures, it would be a true indication that the supposed contemplation had not been a real communion with God.


God is love, in superabundance embracing all creatures. By allowing man actually to know this love, the Holy Spirit reveals to him the path to fullness of being. To say 'enemy' implies rejetion. by such rejection a man falls from the plenitude of God. Those who have attained the Kingdom of Heaven and abide in God in the Holy Spirit behold every abyss of hell, for there is no domain in all existence where God could not be. 'The whole paradise of Saints lives by the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Spirit nothing in creation is hid. God is love, and in the Saints the Holy Spirit is love. Dwelling in the Holy Spirit, the Saints behold hell and embrace it, too, in their love.'

A new phase has begun. The confessor says to write only for God, without any thought of others' reactions. One must pray to write from the state of contemplation, then, wholly in God, by dwelling in the Holy Spirit, having yet nothing in all creation hid, and to remain in this love. One can behold and embrace even hell, with and in this love.


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