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I’ve been terribly busy lately – it’s tapping season, the busiest time of year on a maple farm – and I haven’t had time to write down the long thoughts I’ve been having, but one of the themes in my mind has been an examination of the idea of self-sufficiency or self-reliance.  I’ve long thought that this is where the Transcendentalists went wrong, and I still find it’s a common theme when people ask me about my life.  They like the idea of self-sufficiency.  In my mind I think, “there would be nothing worse than true self-reliance, nothing more inhuman than self-sufficiency.”  I feel I have the opposite – a constant burning for something outside of myself, which nature does in part satisfy, but only because it is so beautiful and so alive.  I want to be able to contribute as well as desire – that’s my version of this form of pride – but I know I’m not out for self-sufficiency.  Not long ago I put a new sparkplug in my generator, and as I took it out of its box I looked at it.  I could have labored on it for months and never been able to make such a marvellous thing.  It cost three dollars.  I was an infinite distance from self-sufficiency, and I didn’t mind.  I then came across the following thing of beauty from the pope emeritus:

“The depths we call hell man can only give to himself. Indeed, we must put it more pointedly: Hell consists in man’s being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self-sufficient. It is the expression of enclosure in one’s own being alone. . . . Hell is wanting only to be oneself; what happens when man barricades himself up in himself. . . . As fulfilled love, heaven can always only be granted to man; but hell is the loneliness of the man who will not accept it, who declines the status of beggar and withdraws into himself.” –Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity”

One Comment

  1. Jen

    John, thank you for this meditation and beautiful quotation, startling in its truth.

    Posted on 17-Jan-14 at 2:09 pm | Permalink