Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC




Dohle-Bridge-webWe are interior creatures. We interrupt what goes on around us. These interpretations are influenced by events that perhaps have taken place so far in the past that they are unconsciously forgotten, yet they still aid or hinder us in our everyday lives. For some people this can be a major hindrance if some sort of insight is not achieved. Anger, fear and anxiety, can grow to such an extent that an inner prison is formed in which for some, there is no escape. People become a problem, frictions can result, and for more than a few, mental illness can be the final outcome. Yet in the midst of this, the one sinking, leaving loved ones behind, has little doubt in how he, or she, perceives things. There is the illusion that everyone else is wrong, that they are misunderstood, and often times, they just want to be left alone. I have been there; it just never got that far. I have too much self doubt to allow for that to happen.

I suppose we all fit into this scenario to a greater or lesser degree. Most just don’t go over the edge into extreme isolation. For some doorway of communication or insight can be achieved. Communication at the best of times can be difficult, and a certain kind of fortitude is needed not to just give up and close that inner door, for it is truly lonely when the mental darkness comes. I would think most people feel misunderstood at different times in their lives. Frustrated that others don’t seem to understand what they are doing, or simply trying to say. Yet the striving stays in tact to be heard and understood. It is when that striving stops, that bitterness, depression and yes a permanent state of mental illness can result. For I believe that some mental health problems develop, grow and mature, by the choices made to keep moving forward or not. I know that I have to make choices to not isolate, to keep trying. A struggle that will most likely be with me for the rest of my life. Though its' intensity lessens as I mature.

I also know that I am often incapable at times in understanding others. Not quite getting what they mean, or comprehending what they are saying. So over the years I have come slowly to accept that, and to express that sentiment to the one I can’t align myself with. It helps both parties, when an impasse has been reached and perhaps no bridge can be built, to simply understand that is the reality of the situation, and best to let it rest at least for a time. I think once it is understood that it is ok to be in that space, a certain tension can be allayed.

We can surround ourselves with like minded people, not bothering with those who believe or think differently, create a ghetto of sorts, but in the end it makes matters worse. For in today’s world that can’t be upheld for long. There is just too much out there. The world is getting smaller, so in the end, no amount of seeking to isolate into a self sufficient group is possible. Of course it is tried. The internet is filled with groups like that. Its’ members filled with certitude, backed up by their fellow cultist, and woe to those who dare to enter and disagree. This is not just religious groups, though it is true there are many. It also applies to secular and atheist associations, who can be just a vehement in their disdain for others as those of a more religious bent. No surprise here, for we are all human, so our nature will be manifested, no matter what ones personal beliefs are.

Even people who are like minded, or think they are, will also find themselves at loggerheads over one point or another. From my experience each group, no matter how liberal, conservative, or middle of the road they are, will still fall into three groups. Left, right, and center, it seems to be inevitable. We are all just too different. You hang out with someone long enough, there will come a time when impasses will be experienced, and no amount of taking will allow any kind of consensus to be reached. This is simply a painful reality of our human condition.

Black and white thinking does not help, for it makes those outside into straw men and women, which from the outset disallows any kind of real dialogue to happen. People are complex, deep, with a plethora of experiences that form a unique entity, with a point of view that is the soul print of each, and must be accepted, if some point of meeting can be reached. Of course there is freedom to reject this, many do, but the price paid is high.

People, who are mentally ill, are for me only the extreme point on a continuum. Mental health, or least one aspect of it, is the continuing expansion of one's own inner world, so that other people’s views could be understood without feeling threatened. The incorporation of other peoples thoughts, may lead to a brief period of anxiety, but once that is passed a certain integration can be achieved, that can in reality only deepen ones understanding of life and the wonder, and beauty of others.

It’s heaven

Formed in fire
shaped by a merciless creator,
pounded into it’s gleaming beauty,
a work of art,
made for pain and death.

Ever thirsty seeking fulfillment,
its inner dryness,
driving its owner mad,
only slaked
by the blood of its victim.

So the sword waits
for it virginity to be broken,
as it is plunged into its first victim,
a screaming death,
filled with pain;
for the weapon man made;
it’s heaven.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery


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