Daniel Boland Ph. D.




Daniel Boland Ph. D.

Photo by Robert Phelps





Commentaries and observations about the conflicting moral beliefs and psychological issues facing our culture.



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7 April 2024


An Elder’s View Of Our Journey

Life has, as we know, its bright side and its dark side. On the dark side, much transpires in work and family, politics and governance, education and church which is difficult to comprehend, often unsavory and, at times, reprehensible. Logic and common sense are befuddled by inexplicable decisions our leaders sometimes foist upon us with stumbling illogic. The head and the heart are often assailed by contradictions; good will seems useless.

When I am frustrated, I tell myself that if I were a saint (or at least an angel) I would not have a problem with all this. I would have the celestial vision to see above and beyond forgivable errors, manipulative tactics and rank indifference. But sainthood eludes me, and I am not (as far as I know) temperamentally suited for the life of a cherub.

So, I keep rummaging around in that zone between my hopeful ideals of resurrected spirituality and the mundane habits of daily life. Thus, I gratefully deal with the human side of life while I also attend to the divine elements in Creation – i.e., aspects of life which are mysterious and yet familiar to us all, because they’re revealed to us constantly in those mundane habits of daily living and in the world around us which we so often take for granted.

Happily, life also has an up-side, including the benefits of aging. In fact, elderhood reveals to me the abundant consolations life affords us all. Of course, I still cope with my vulnerabilities and temptations, but my Faith and my Hope reassure me that this - here and now - is the path upon which I belong.

Let me elaborate…

The Bright Side

So, while life is all-too-human, we often forget that, at the same instant, life is also a Divine reality which is cloaked in God’s own sense of mystery and Creation’s obedient ways … from the shimmering leaves on every tree to the colossal events which Creation involves.

Everybody’s life is, at some time, tinged with uncertainty and devoid of solace and clarity. The reasons are rarely evident, because mystery is (if we take an honest look) everywhere around us and within us.

Despite life’s mystery - with its bouts of ambiguity and times of disappointment - we are often blessed by people who brighten the dark corners and bring smiles to our soul merely by their presence; persons whose simplicity or silliness or attentive greeting or sheer goodness is refreshing beyond expectation.

Of course, some people do not see life this way. For example, some people (young and old) seem wedded to a stream of complaints. They gripe on cue about their ailments and aching appendages, as they regularly beweep “their outcast state and trouble deaf heaven with their bootless cries” (as Shakespeare puts it).

But … if we were to peer behind their façade of crotchety self-pity, we might recognize their discontent as a covert way of seeking some sign of human concern, even from strangers who might – however briefly and without distraction – extend to them the gift of attentive listening.

Without doubt, attentive listening is a precious gift which people can bestow upon one another; a gift of immeasurable value, even amid the day’s humdrum chores.

Listening attentively to another person is a gift, freely given, which soothes the pangs of isolation and, in that moment, eases the darker side of life’s mystery. Why? Because the gift of attentive listening says, “I am here; I am with you.” It is a gift from the upside of life which we can offer one another.

The Grace Of Being Human

Why is attentive listening so valuable?

Because one of the abiding truths about our shared human nature is that we are all born with a profound need for inclusion and acceptance, for concern and intimacy, for genuine affection. We all possess the need to be loved and, somehow, told so … that “moment eternal,” as Browning calls it.

Even jaded people who bask indulgently in the elegance of their spiffy possessions still have that yen to demonstrate their achievement and flaunt their stuff, as if to say, “Look at me, World, I’m a winner!! Here I am, worthy of your admiration …”

So, no matter what facades we construct or what distractions we hone, the most valued indication of true concern for one another is that we 1) listen, and 2) are listened to with eyes as well as ears, with a patient heart as well as a calculating head.

Let me be clear: I am NOT referring to the destructive fad of DEI, i.e., Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. For an expose of the dehumanizing effects of the DEI craze, see this essay:

Attentive listening imparts the gifts of acknowledgement, respect and reverence, of concern and recognition from one person to the other. It is a grace - a gift, freely given - which we bestow upon one another simply by choosing to do so … unless we dismiss the fact that we can indeed confer grace upon one another … or we are numb to our shared human condition … or we disregard our inherent dignity which the mystery of Creation bestows.

Problems may arise when some people seek attention inappropriately. Maybe they’re too awkward or too demonstrable, too loud or too demanding, too serious or too flippant. And some people are deliberately cold, uncivil and mean. Clearly, we may dislike the way these people behave. However, despite the disdainful few, we are still wise to keep in mind that the search for understanding and the need for kindness propels most people.

An Experienced Guide

Through my years, the principles of the Catholic Church have been (and are) my guides for making sense of Creation’s demands; for seeing beyond churlish encounters which chafe my ego and intrude on my serenity; for recognizing that Creation’s rewards enlighten its mystery and assuage its wonderment.

The Church makes sense to me, even when it does not make sense, even when a few of its ministers act shamefully. It makes sense when my Hope is tested, when contradictions abound, when ungrateful others nettle my soul and test my patience.

The truth (a difficult truth for many to handle) is that the Church does not miraculously remove our foolish foibles or cure our harmful self-indulgences, nor shield us from calculated effrontery. But Catholicism’s message is clear and insistent: Believe in the love of God, then share God’s love as best you can, in whatever ways you can. Stay on this path; stay the course….

Faith and Hope lead to a revelatory moment - perhaps decades in the making - when ambiguity becomes sufficient and we finally experience a disposition of openness which paves the way for our reconciliation with mystery and affords us a dram of practical wisdom … gifts which exceed what we may ever achieve on purely human terms.

These gifts impart a calming clarity. Little by little, we are granted a clearer sense of Faith’s practical necessity. To quote an old cliché, “Less is more.” Less clarity on human terms becomes far more filling to the soul than unaided human nature can supply. The upside of life reveals the reality of the divine all around us, as the sacred becomes evident.

The Hidden Benefit Of Suffering

Of course, clarity does not eliminate suffering. Suffering is an inevitable and universal human experience which brings not merely loss and anguish but (if we choose to see it) opportunity and promise – even when the innocent are involved.

If we accept personal suffering with a disposition of gratitude rather than angry resentment, suffering then becomes a credible path to growth in mind and spirit, character and virtue.

With the proper disposition, suffering peels away our hubris, reveals to us the folly of denial and casual amorality and, most of all, imposes upon us the unguarded simplicity which befits God’s children. We are wise to accept suffering as a gift, not as a curse.

Suffering is, therefore, of immense value -- if we choose to see it so.

Through suffering, we are made humbly aware that everything we have in this life - including life itself - is a gift we are freely given. This insight can elevate and inspire our human experience … IF (and it is a Big IF) we do not indulge anger and resentment which often accompany pain and loss.

Finally …

When I read the Psalms, I read not merely the words but the context and meaning embedded in the poetics. The Psalmist’s themes of awe and gratitude for God’s fidelity are reassuring themes which recur time after time.

Of course, some psalms speak in images unfamiliar to us. But beneath-and-within the words, the themes of awe and gratitude reassure us that God’s concern is our constant reality throughout human history, not merely a figment of distorted need.

This theme of divine fidelity is lovingly expressed, for example, in Psalm 91 which speaks of God as our refuge and our stronghold. The Psalm emphasizes the care of God, Who protects us from dangers which beset us.

Despite our fears, God is our shield. God bestows His care and concern upon us in these words: “Since you cling to me in love, I will free you and protect you, for you know my name.” And when we call out to God, He says, “I shall answer you and say, “I am with you.”

God’s promise is unforgettable, for we are assured of His love when He says to us all: “I am with you.”

“I am with you.”

I do believe Him.