HOW often do we encounter things that deeply move us?
It seems like those moments only come once in a while.
And for the rest of the time we just sit around idly, fidgeting while we wait for the next big thing to come around and take a hold of us.
I find that, while waiting, I get lost too easily in distractions.
I give my time and my heart to meaningless things, and end up not having the energy to do the things that I really love.
One of those things for me is Facebook.
Yes, what a cliché.
Yet at work, and when I am relaxing at home, it is the first place my mind wanders to when I get bored, restless and unmotivated.
It would start with a peek at updates and incoming messages.
It would then descend into an endless spiral of articles, friend-stalking, looking at past posts, and checking for comments on my new profile picture.
Before I knew, an hour had passed, maybe even two.
I would look back perplexed at how time flew while I was losing myself in such mindless activity.
Every time, it would leave me frustrated at my fickleness and limitations.
It became even more so when I realised that it was also compromising my capacity to pray.
I struggled to be still, and couldn’t enter that quiet place for me to hear and respond to God.
And so, for Lent, I decided to give up Facebook.
At first, it was difficult to not have something instantly at my fingertips to quell the boredom.
But I soon found myself replacing Facebook with other things that I had previously lacked the perseverance for, such as reading without falling asleep or zoning out.
And having now created this space to be more receptive, and immersing myself in these works, it reminded me of what Dietrich von Hildebrand said of values.
Hildebrand, a German Catholic philosopher, spoke of things that are intrinsically valuable.
As the name suggests, they are important, noble and precious for their own sake.
Things like a generous act of forgiveness, or gaze at the beauty of a star-studded night sky, move us to awe and admiration.
We could never have “enough” of their goodness and beauty.
While food loses its appeal when we do not have an appetite, we are moved by values, regardless of our moods and dispositions.
They stand before us, like a message from on high, calling us out of our self-centredness, Hildebrand wrote in Ethics.
I used to believe that these encounters with things bigger than myself could only happen in places outside of my daily life.
That I had to travel distances to see the selfless love of missionaries, immerse myself in nature, or experience a different city.
Yet as I read Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, and The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, I knew that I could never see the world in the same way again.
There were things that resonated with me because of my experience.
Yet I saw those things with renewed awe, as they described with such delicacy the desires of the human heart.
Similar to how Hildebrand described the infinitude of values, they spoke of things whose depths could not be exhausted.
I came away from these works feeling a deep sense of admiration and wonder at how their words captured the splendour of the human condition, despite our frailty.
This wonder and awe has in turn taught me to cultivate the same attitude of response to another in prayer – that my prayer needs to be founded on a love enkindled by His beauty.
For it is this love, Hildebrand in Liturgy and Personality says, that gives “ardour and power to one’s will” to follow Him.
However, despite these realisations, there is still a part of me that wants instant gratification, even if I know that it will not satisfy.
In the words of Lewis in The Weight of Glory, it is as if I would rather go on making mud pies in a slum because I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a holiday by the sea.
I realise all the more that I cannot rely purely on my own powers if I am to transcend myself – that I need to look to an “other” to call me out, as it were, and draw my heart and mind to its goodness.
I trust that in offering this little sacrifice, I can learn to stop grasping at things to fill the emptiness – that I will learn to remain still, in patience, and open my heart, not just to the words of poets and writers, but also the words of Christ.
By Kamila Soh