The Earthly Struggle

the earthly struggleMany think of humanity as an inescapable state. They believe it is a condition that all humans are born into. Contrary to this belief, Robert Capon asserts that humanity is something different. It is indeed inherent, but it is also something that can slip away from man’s grasp. In the culinary reflection, The Supper of the Lamb, Capon discusses what being human means and the importance of embracing humanity. Throughout the book, he defines the human experience with elements of enjoyment, light-heartedness, and a love for living. Capon has passion for living and he calls his readers to share in this passion. Overall, humanity is the creation of an infinite God, and its “real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are.” Capon further asserts that there is a way to lose this humanity. He points out ways that people deny their humanity. Many times, people practice things inhuman. Capon admonishes people who take part in the inhuman act of self-preservation and idolatry. Throughout The Supper of the Lamb, Capon weaves together a definition for humanity, the purpose of the human experience, and discusses the ways that people make themselves less than human and the dangers of living in these practices.

Man is ultimately God’s creation, forever subordinate to Him. Capon writes that being human is being made in the image of God and because of this, man should look on the world with a similar love. To him, love is key to the existence of man, ultimately, “we are not simply the users of creation; we are, all of us, called to be its offerers.” Capon continues by saying, “The world will be lifted, as it was always meant to be, by our priestly love.” This priestly love illuminated in The Supper of the Lamb is a great part of humanity’s purpose. Fundamentally, we are priests, the lovers, and builders of this world. Through love, man will lift this world up as an offering to God. Being human is to be, like God, a lover of the things of this world and a priest, carrying the things of this world with us. It is a popular within the Christian realm to believe that humanity is bad and something that you should work against; however, Capon explains that being human is essentially good. It is in the image of God and man is to take part in this world and to love this world as God loves this world. This is because humanity is ultimately made in the image of God.

According to Capon, it is important to experience humanity without trying to save oneself from the less attractive aspects of life. The human experience is costly, but it is a calling and it is worth it. The ultimate inhuman action is for humans to try to save themselves from the pain of the greater heartburn. Capon recognizes a greater heartburn that people experience as opposed to the lighter physical heartburn of eating something too acidic. The lighter heartburn is an echo of the greater. No man enjoys pain, but Capon suggests that it is less human to save oneself from pain and heartburn. The heartburn is the “disquietude of having been made in the image of God.” Being made in the image of God means there is some greater passion and desire for something that is other worldly. This is thematically similar to what C.S. Lewis asserts in Mere Christianity; “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Both Capon and Lewis discuss being otherworldly in similar ways. Because humanity is made for another world, there is a deeper ache that resonates within each person. Capon says that some things should, in fact, break our hearts. To “make our beds” with tender things is not only inhuman, but it is not divine. Because God man man in His image, man is called to things both human and divine. When humanity falls into things such as idolatry and self-preservation, they are running far away from their purpose and their humanity. Living the way we are supposed to in this world will result in pain. This is what being human means. Even Christ, the God-man, saved the world by becoming vulnerable. Capon says that “He died, not because he despised the earth, but because He loved it as man loves it- out of all proportion and sense. And when he rose again, He stood up like a man indeed: with glorious scars- and with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature.” This is a beautiful picture of how humanity should stand. Their flesh and bones are made of dust and their scars are utterly glorious because this is what it is to be human. Their love is disproportional and nonsensical because this is how God has loved them. This is how humanity was created: it means pain, scars, and struggle, but it is glorious to be made in an imperfect image of a perfect God. When man tries to save himself from scars, in reality he denies himself the glory of living life the way Christ did. He denies himself ways to love this world as a reflection of God’s love for him.

When man tries to break away from his humanity, he is breaking away from his Creator. According to Capon, “the heaviest weight on the shoulders of the earth is still the age-old idolatry by which man has cheated himself of both Creator and creation.” Idolatry is the danger of stifling one’s humanity. By trying to save himself from pain, man falls into trouble and will lead a life that lacks the love he is called to. Idolatry is also seen in loving the things of this world in the wrong order. These two idolatrous practices focus on man and skew the calling of love. Capon spends much time discussing the love of this world and he balances this with discussing the sin of idolatry. Capon asserts that it is important for humanity to love the things of this world, but in order is crucial. Man’s love for this world should never exceed his love for his Creator. Capon states that “we lose sight of the lavish hand that made us” when we give into idolatries. This is the danger of loving this world, but it is a danger that can be avoided by loving God foremost and remembering that this earth is merely a foretaste of eternity. Man should love the world as God loves this world, embrace this love, and keep it ordered so to stay far away from any hint of idolatry.

Capon’s beautiful thoughts on humanity and how humanity should behave in regards to God and this world is unique and different. Capon’s passion and love for this world are reflected through his writing, he conveys this passion and love with vigor through his food preparation and methods of cooking. Capon conveys a reminder of man’s priestly state of love that ultimately makes him human, and the practices that make man less than human. Man was made of earth’s dust and he should not forget this reality, nor is he to forget the glory that he is a part of. As Capon believes, “the road to Heaven does not run from the earth, but through it.” This earth is important to what it means to be human, we are made from its dust and we are scarred by its hardships. The road man travels to heaven leads through the earth to eternity. Capon continues, saying that the earth “is a place for men, not ghosts- for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthliness of the True Jerusalem.” Man’s earthliness is part of his humanity and it is a part of his future. God makes us new just as he will make the earth new. In the end, all things will be redeemed and “our Last Home will be home indeed.”


Bibliography 

Capon, Robert. 1969. The Supper of the Lamb. New York: Modern Library.

Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. Mere Christianity: An Anniversary Edition. New York: Macmillan, 1981.

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Travel

travel

Traveling is a luxury that many people allow themselves to indulge in; however, it is not vital to life. Man cannot live on travel alone. It is not necessary to the wellbeing of a human. While it is unnecessary to the survival of a human being, it is not true that travel is unimportant. Humanity has the elements needed to survive on earth, but is mere existence everything? If a person has simply what he needs, has this person reached his fullest potential of living? Life should go further than basic needs. It should touch the person on a different level. God gave humanity far more than the essentials. On earth are many possibilities for a deeper and better existence. Among those possibilities is travel. Humanity should take part in travel for the leisure of travel, the experience of travel, and the education received from travel.

Travel is a luxury that is best enjoyed in leisure. When a person takes time to enjoy and experience travel in leisure, that travel can lead to deep joy. In On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs, James Schall advocates a contemplative life, a life with time set aside for leisure and enjoyment. He asserts that “Aristotle suggests that oftentimes the closest we come to contemplation in our lives is when we play. And neither play nor contemplation can be, strictly speaking, necessary.” Play leads a person to contemplation and contemplation leads a person to deeper existence. Schall suggests that it is typical to think of work as “obviously serious, but play and the deeds of leisure frivolous, or at least unnecessary.” This is a backward way of thinking and those who hold to this belief have it all wrong. Work is less serious than many believe, no more necessary than leisure and play. God worked for six days, creating the world and everything in it; on the seventh, he set apart that day to rest from His work. He didn’t need the Sabbath. To say that would suggest that He is less powerful and mighty than the Bible teaches. But God still set apart this day of leisure to abstain from working. It was a noble thing that he has called humanity to observe to this day. Like the Sabbath, play can be noble. The fact that play is so unnecessary and yet humanity still takes part in it is the sort of freedom that makes it noble. Travel is unnecessary to human existence, yet it is still enjoyed and done by many people. In this fact -the unnecessariness of it – it is necessary. Setting apart time for travel is a noble act. It can lead to a more contemplative life, which often results in the discovery of God Himself.

There is a certain beauty about people losing themselves in things other than themselves. Children are experts in the art of absorbing themselves in their play. Boys will sit and build small, blockish kingdoms for hours, while young girls lose themselves in dressing their favorite dolls and acting out their futures. Traveling can surface the inner child in people. When they travel, they experience different places and people. They become absorbed in something that is more that themselves. “The world is too much with us, and we are too much with ourselves,” the philosopher George Santayana wrote. “We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running.” Escape is not something a person should live for, but it is good for a person to escape occasionally. There is value and rest in solitude and aimlessness. These things are only frivolous in excess. It is important to remember the value to being absorbed in something other than oneself. Travel can open the door to solitude and aimlessness. It can also lead to absorption in a different culture, in other people, and in new experiences. When a person experiences new things and travels to a place beyond their own home, they remember that the world is larger than their own lives. While travel can lead to solitude and self-inspection, it can also remind a person that more exists beyond their small world.

Besides all these things, travel has educational value. By travelling, people learn about different cultures and the world around them. In ancient Greece, a man was not considered fully educated until he had spent time traveling. Traveling in ancient times was vastly different. It came with difficulties and more preparations than traveling today comes with. Traveling was not easy, but it was necessary. Today, it is less necessary, but much easier. A person can live a “successful” life without ever traveling far from their hometown. With the internet, a person does not have to travel far to understand different cultures, thus making it an option to settle with never going far from home. While the internet can be helpful in many situations, it should never replace real experiences. The real experience of traveling is far more valuable than a digital one. If a person has the means to travel, travel can further their education. Experiencing different surroundings and cultures is important to understanding the world. When traveling, people face so many opportunities that are impossible to find at home. Schall asserts that the best education is the one where “our souls are involved.” He explains that sometimes, even in the most expensive colleges, students don’t receive great educations because their souls are not engaged. While traveling cannot be the sole method of education, it is a method that engages a person’s soul. This leads to increased understanding and knowledge. All that is needed is the courage to pursue the highest things.

Schall concludes his final chapter by saying “joylessness is not our destiny. Joy is the receiving of what we love, even in the highest things. The highest things absorb us, and this is our pleasure; this is why we are at all.” The unnecessary things in life give joy. They make the necessary things worth doing. Just as people should not absorb themselves in the unnecessary things completely, they should not become completely absorbed in the necessary things. Travel, among the unnecessary things, should not become the sole purpose for a person’s life.  However, travel can add so much richness and depth to life that it is an important thing to be involved in. It can bring joy, abandon, and education. Experiencing new surroundings and people can result in a sort of joyful abandoning of oneself that can be educational and beneficial to a deeper, contemplative life. When a person works hard in the community he or she calls home, the luxury of escaping occasionally to another place becomes a sweeter and a more joyful experience. In a way, travel makes living at home worth it.

 

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Schall, James. 2001. On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books.
Santayana, George, and William G. Holzberger. The Letters of George Santayana. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001.