This Year Of Grace

Two years ago, in January 2019, I wrote an essay for the San Francisco society magazine The Nob Hill Gazette. It’s entitled “This Year Of Grace,” a reference to the city’s iconic Grace Cathedral, as well as a play by Noel Coward.

So much has changed since then that it’s worth sharing again on this first day of a new year.

Drawing on the work of a Jungian author I’m fond of, I use the idea of the cathedral as a symbol of the developed self. There’s also a section about using the website Pinterest to perfect the style of your wardrobe or home, as well as using it to help visualize what your ideal life might look like.

Here’s a snippet:

A wise doctor once noted that if there’s something wrong with society, then there’s something wrong with the individual. And if there’s something wrong with the individual, then there’s something wrong with me. Nearly everyone seems to be suffering from some mysterious malaise, riled up by the news served via the hemlock-cup of social media, perpetually anxious and unable to ascertain why, downing booze and pills to sleep, then running all day on caffeine and sugar. That this madness is occurring in the most advanced and comfortable civilization the world has ever known is quite perplexing. Then again, the ancients had gods and rituals; we have celebrities and shopping.

The image-gathering website Pinterest features prominently in the piece, and, since writing it, I’ve continued to use the site daily to create different “inspiration boards.” These are invaluable in helping tap the depths and bring up to consciousness the man you wish to become. Consider giving it a try; if you can get in the zone, you may be surprised by what you find.

Follow this link below for the full piece, and here’s to a great year of looking and feeling your best — or at least better than you did last year. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

15 Comments on "This Year Of Grace"

  1. Caustic Man | January 15, 2019 at 6:07 pm |

    This piece comes at a very interesting time for me. I recently saw a lecture on Epictetus, continued to experiment with Zen ideas about transcendence, and saw an interesting video by one Jordan Peterson. The video by Peterson is the one that sticks out at the moment because he advocated organizing oneself in little ways as a means to progressively tackle things that seem insurmountable. And so I busied myself with cleaning and organizing my room. I had to do a lot of what you are doing, like shrinking the size of my wardrobe, focusing in missing essentials, and generally streamlining my life. Seeing other people going through the same things and being willing to share their experiences makes me optimistic and, strangely, makes me feel strong. Much stronger than I used to think I was. I am a guy who was in the Army for eight years and spent more than a few years overseas in dangerous places. I already felt like I was tough. But that’s not the same thing as feeling strong. Feeling strong is, to me, feeling like all I really need to accomplish what I know is within my grasp is “a desk at which ti work.”

  2. Lovely to hear from you, my friend. I just turned in a piece to another pub yesterday that I think you will find interesting. Sure enough it includes a passing reference to Marcus Aurelius (since you mentioned Epictetus, who’s been in a couple of my previous Level Up pieces). Also, I was reading “The Practicing Stoic” yesterday, a new book that is my zombie apocalypse survival manual.

    But you’re not saying you just discovered JBP now? You missed my NR piece on him from June ’17? It’s blurbed on the back of his book!

  3. Caustic Man | January 15, 2019 at 6:37 pm |

    I didnt know you had a connection to Peterson. Very interesting! I have known about him for a year or so but didn’t really delve into what he had to say until recently. I’ll have to search for your piece on him.

  4. Maybe it’s the Neo Gothic architecture, but I’d like to see CC go full British Aristocrat in ’19. Complete with younger Duke of Edinburgh hair. Let it grow.

  5. Thanks, White Pinpoint.

  6. “…then again, the ancients had gods and rituals; we have celebrities and shopping.”

    Polytheism is a kind of madness. The ancients, for all their supposed (occasional) wisdom, made too many mistakes to count. Including this one: “create as many gods as the people will want, and give them stories. And then add rights and rituals. The array of options will please every taste, inclination, and perspective.”

    Not so much.

    It was Hebraic monotheism that brought civilization to its knees, and, by way of Saul-to-Paul, put us on the Damascus Road. Toward redemption. Without the Genesis narrative, Moses and the Exodus, and the prophetic (and wisdom) literature of the Old Testament, we would be (even) more aimless and confused than we are.

    And yet, polytheism remains. The human mind can’t resist it. Vanity Fair. We crave variety — we long for choices upon choices upon choices. This has been and will be our ultimate downfall: interpreting a multitude of choices as real freedom. Especially here in America, where the pursuit of happiness is usually correlated with ‘trying out as many things as possible… until, at long last, you feel happy.’

    Good luck with that. Because we are usually drawn to beauty, and beauty is both terror and terrifying because it’s so capricious and fleeting, happiness dissipates as fast as it’s claimed.

    Polytheism, nowadays offered on the altars of Pinterest and Instagram, always leads to anxiety (a hand-wringing “which is the best for me?!?”), and, if pursued with too much zeal, the loss of one’s mind. Madness.

    Salvation lies in total surrender to one God— the God of everyone and everything that is, has been, and shall ever be. This is the leap of-and-into faith about which Kierkegaard wrote.

    The funny thing is that the higher minds among the Greeks understood thus higher wisdom full well. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle spoke of the ‘prime mover’— the one, singular ‘unmoved mover’ that’s the creative source-and-energy of all creation.

    Either submit and surrender… or (And this is the choice most modern people I know have made) remain as you are: subject and captive to the many guards who will gladly claim your time, energy, imagination, and passion. The many altars, flimsy and broken and impermanent, await us. Beware.

    The truly happy man is the truly free man. And freedom lies not in flirtation and experimentation with this-that-and-the-other… but in the dropping of an anchor. Settledness. A focused, attentive faith. Zealous commitment to one God.

    Commitment.

    In this way, the martyrs of old were the wisest of all.

  7. Edit
    * the many ‘gods’ who will gladly claim your time, energy, imagination, and passion.

    Happy new year.

  8. “There’s only one Truth.” — Frithjof Schuon

    Or, there are many paths up the mountain, but the view at the summit is the same.

  9. Oobobshabam | January 1, 2021 at 10:14 am |

    @ S.E.

    ‘Polytheism is a kind of madness.’

    Perhaps not as ‘mad’ as your pretentious rambling.

  10. another edit. damned failure-to-edit
    * ‘rites’ and rituals…

  11. CC, I’ll offer only this in response to your insight about “many paths up the mountain”– a favorite of the ecumenically-minded postmoderns.
    Not all the paths are equal, and, when the many paths are presented as a marketplace of choices-and-options (try this…and then this…and then this…and then this…), some will feel so paralyzed by the vast array that they veer far off course.

    This is one of the oldest stories, of course. From Homer’s Iliad to the Hebraic Exodus, the basics of plot are the same: The journey is long and riddled with “dangers, toils, and snares.”

    The first of the ten commandments make the other nine possible–indeed, without the first, none of the remaining nine are possible. The first commandment is a subtle acknowledgment that polytheism is a potential way of being-and-living (“other gods”)–and a warning that, if one looks to other gods for fulfillment, pleasure, or happiness…well. It doesn’t end well. Some paths don’t extend to the top; others zig-zag back-and-forth; some lead a person up and then back down the mountain. .

    And don’t get too caught up in the ‘factualness’ or historicity of truth (This is the plague of fundamentalism). There was no Moses; there was no Homer. Chances are good there was no Abraham or King David. There were many who gathered oral traditions and ‘put pen to paper’–written words that can be revisited. Ultimately and finally, it’s about the higher truth (wisdom) the myths affirm: surrender to the one God who made you…or, tragically, suffer the consequences, often Dionysian.

    Deuteronomy 4:35

  12. “Many paths up the mountain” is also a favorite of Integral Traditionalists before there was such a thing as postmodernism.

    And a “marketplace” of spiritual paths? How corrupted indeed are we all by materialism!

    Peace brother,

    C.

  13. Trevor Jones | January 1, 2021 at 6:39 pm |

    I’d hardly call any quote about “the view from the top” postmodern. True postmodernists would question if there’s even view (or a top) to begin with. Indeed, they’d take issue with every supposed path that claims to lead to it, as well. Personally, I love the “many paths” quote (despite a rigid Catholic background), but I’m also no Jacques Derrida!

  14. Johnny Gilcrist | January 2, 2021 at 1:27 am |

    Sorry to go off topic, but I’ve just been having a look at Exquiste Trimmings offerings. Truly superb!

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