Monday, February 7, 2011

When is an experience an Experience?

Those of you who stopped by to watch The Human Experience on Friday evening may recall the discussion question I left you to ponder:  What does it mean to experience something?

As you could imagine from the movie title, the word "experience" comes up over-and-over again.  The temptation, especially in watching the stars of the film experience a bunch of new stuff, would be to look at experience quantitatively. 

The more stuff I do and places I go, the more experience(s) I have. 

And even though the guys in the movie do experience many new things, the movie is calling us to something more than a bucket list. 

Here is the most recent example from my life:

Two weeks ago I attended my third March for Life event.  This was my third experience of hundreds of thousands of people pouring into our nation's capitol to make a statement about life.  I literally slept through the first two trips (partially because I was exhausted due to overnight bus rides and partially because I didn't have my head in the game). 

This year was a completely different experience.  I was probably just about as tired as in years past, but this time I was aware, open and making judgments about what I was ingesting (no, not all of the sick fast food and candy that were in abundance). 

March for Life 2011 was an experience for my life that changed me. 

You see, I was aware and seeking meaning in what I was doing in DC.  Each tourist or religious stop allowed me to ask new questions and to probe into the Mystery of human life, struggle, happiness, etc.  So, the first step for an experience (from my experience) was to actually be awake, and aware - open to an Event. 

The second step is even harder...judging what you are taking in based upon the needs of your heart and its impact for your life.  Going to DC for the March is overwhelming.  You are called to confront, face-to-face, the reality that secularism and the culture of death appear to be winning on so many fronts in the US.  It is easy to feel your spirit slowly burdened. 

Yet, when I saw the gazillion seminarians pour into the Basilica, and the hoards of young people filling up every empty space (this was grassroots, when Jesus walked the earth - literally there were people sitting in the aisles and stairways), I took in the experience (everything around me) and was filled with hope.  I judged the situation based upon the needs of my heart (a need for a great Hope and for Justice) and recognized that Hope itself was right in front of my eyes. 

I have been to the March for Life three times, but only penetrated it as an Experience for my life - one that changes me - once. 

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