I’m one of those people that attaches a great meaning to dates. Not just holy days, feast days, or birthdays, but also to days in the year that hold other special meanings for me. Some of them are connected with major turning points in my life, while others are not. Some years, I remember them and others I don’t. I suppose it just depends on the mood I’m in or the place that I am going.
Tomorrow will be the third anniversary since I suffered my nervous breakdown in Los Angeles. It was an event that was a turning point in my life and that ultimately resulted in my conversion to the Catholic Church. Therefore, I feel that the anniversary is important in spite of the fact that the events themselves were what could be called a psychotic break.
One of the things that I remember about the breakdown was the weather. The day that it happened was a rainy day. For those of you that live in Los Angeles, you know that it rarely rains there. Yet on that day, it poured and poured. On every single roof, I could the tap tap tap of raindrops falling insistently. The ocean brought in an unseasonably cold wind. Everywhere, students were walking in umbrellas or rain coast. As sometimes happens in those parts, the sewers flooded because there is no drainage for rain water.
Rain is an odd thing because it can renew and destroy at the same time. If it rains too long, there are floods. If it doesn’t rain at all, there’s a drought. In southern California, one is almost always in the fry season. It almost never rains and, when it does, it seems like an even to remember for the ages.
Where I live now, rain is a common enough occurence. Earlier this year, I was walking to work in a rainstorm. I looked up at the trees and saw how the drops slid off the leaves. I thought about how beautiful it was and how romantic. In California, the only thing that I could think about was how to get away from the rain. I thought about how it would damage my tweed suit and the papers that I held in my briefcase. Here, you can stop and admire things such as nature. Over there, one is relentlessly pushed and pulled.
The thing about southern California that I couldn’t stand was its relentless pace. Los Angeles is a large city swarming with millions of people. I remember how stressed out I was for months on end while living there. The city was constantly in motion. My classmates and friends were constantly running around. I didn’t have a moment of respite for three straight months when I finally broke down.
The thing is that in California, things move forward with lightning speed. Out here, one can sit around all day and shoot the breeze. There is no real urgency to life. The seasons roll by and the year goes on. Down there, things are different. Life is a relentless race to outstrip other people and to make yourself look good. Here, it’s about these things also, but it’s also about having the ability to relax and let yourself go from time to time. It’s more or less about having fun. I sometimes wonder if our southern brothers know the meaning of the word “fun.”
Big cities like almost everything else around noted for their vibrancy and their cosmopolitanism. Yet I honestly like small towns as well. There’s something intimate about living in a place, where people know who you are and can talk to you about almost anything. Over there, one is an anonymous nobody trying to make it. Here, we also try to make ends meet, but we do it with people we know.
Yet the rat race is not the only thing about southern California that don’t miss. It seems to me that the culture down there is materialistic to a certain extent. Out here, materialism is something that is a happenstance of life, but one doesn’t notice as much. Down there, materialism is something that wanders the streets with two legs, blonde hair, and blue eyes. You can see it on every bill board and in every flashig neon light. Around here, you mostly see it in the commercials that are aired on the television and in the malls. Sometimes at small Catholic liberal arts college.
I have come to a point in my life, where I don’t think so much about events as places. Years ago, I had a friend of mine who talked to me incessantly about the beauties of New Mexico. I did not question him, but I wondered if places really do carry their own aura. I’ve realized now that they do. Each and every place in the world is the image of the people that created. Every house, parish church, and building is a reflection of its builders.
This evening, as I was walking home, I was reading the Little Office of Our Lady. I read the verse, “Unless the Lord builds the house in labor does the laborer build.” I realized how much of the building that we do in our lives is in vain. Without God, there is no meaning to anything that we endeavor to do. Whether it is to attain good grades, to finish a Master’s thesis, or to find a good job, none of these things is possible without God’s help.
We must trust that God will bring us out of whatever necessity we are in and show us His mercy and love. It may seem sometimes that things we are doing are nearly impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. Life in California is what it is because certain parts of the population have forgotten God. Look at the beautiful mission built by Franciscans such as Blessed Junipero Serra and then look at the monstrosities that have been built since in those same areas. Where is the simplicity? Where is the beauty? Where is the love of God?
More than once, I have looked t at pictures of the Bank of America building in Los Angeles. Supposed, it is one of the tallest buildings on the west coast and yet it means nothing to me. There is nothing in that building except glass, concrete, and stone. As David Byrne sang, “It is just a house and not a home.” So it is always when God is not a part of our endeavors. Our soul is merely a shell and our life a routine.
Let us pray that we never fall into that state of mind.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Michael, pray for us!