“It’s one of the symptoms of our time to find danger in men like you who don’t worry and rush about. Particularly dangerous are men who don’t think the world’s coming to an end. ‘It’s coming to an end, all right,’ the seer said. ‘That started the moment it was born.’”
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
It has struck me repeatedly and profoundly these last couple of weeks that we have a flair for the dramatic. Now, I should be honest from the start that I’m not sure who I mean by “we.” But at least within the circles I run in these days—the people I talk to, the people whose thoughts I read print and online—there’s a real penchant for superlatives.
This is the worst day ever.
This is the best latte ever.
Donald Trump/Barack Obama is the devil and is ruining America and only real, true patriots can stop him from his unsurpassed and unsurpassable villainy.
Rand Paul/Bernie Sanders is the new baby Jesus, come to save us all!
K-Cups will turn into monsters and destroy the planet (lest ye doubt me, this is a real thing).
Tesla cars and Space-X will usher in a new, peaceful world order of super cars and alien-human peaceful coexistence!
I am no different from anyone else in this regard. I tend to think, mired in my small viewpoint, that my problems are paramount. My heroes are superheroes, and my villains are archfiends, and my struggles are heroic in scope and legendary to tell! But, most days at least, they are not. I have no real problems. I am a human—I have vexations and frustrations, but they are normal. I have successes and joys, but they are ordinary. I am not a saint, though I am working at it.
Now sometimes, in trying to resist this over-dramatization, I can go too far the other way. It can lead me to disregard my joys as less than joyful. In the last couple of days I have watched my baby daughter start to crawl. It is miraculous. But there was a moment, as I was tearing up, that I thought “Well, this isn’t that special … I mean, all babies crawl. Every parent has witnessed this before. She’s not a super baby or anything.” That may be, but what a depressing mindset filled with tragic despair. Yes, perhaps every baby ever has learned to crawl—but mine never has! I am right to rejoice. Every spring is new—God does not tire of making them. Every breath I take is a miracle, no less so because billions of others breathe. Life may be ordinary—but that shouldn’t make it less awe-inspiring.
Recently, I’ve come across a Marian devotion called “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.” And, I must say, I like it quite a great deal. I feel compelled to confess that I’ve never been much of a Marian devotee. I’m a fan of Our Lady, don’t get me wrong … but so many of her devotions are so dramatic that I find them off-putting. Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of the Imminent Apocalypse, Our Lady of the Despairing and Totally Hosed. It’s not her fault that her friends so often speak of her in these terms, but it’s made me wary. When my problem is that I’m vaguely annoyed with a co-worker, I find it wrong to address a request for aid to her with phrases like “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.” This is a powerful plea for those in real despair and I don’t criticize those who turn to her in their darkest moments and then utilize such language, but normally I need more of a “complaining and grumbling in this vale of minor inconveniences” level of assistance.
And this seems exactly where “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots” comes in. She is beseeched with a simple plea to aid us in undoing the knots—the fears, worries, and anxieties—of our daily lives. Some knots are huge, some are nigh Gordian! But most are small. An unsmoothness in a moment of marriage, an unruly disposition toward the neighbor—little knots. A spilled coffee, a flat tire, the dog taking a dump on the rug, and the baby taking a dump on the dog … successively bigger knots, but still nothing calling for heroic virtue. But we should not wait to call for divine assistance only when heroic virtue is called for. We should call for it all the time, for every moment of our day is a choice to grow in holiness or grow away from it. But we will be greatly aided in that pursuit if we can remember to keep things in perspective: remembering which knots are big, and which are really not.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for Us!