Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Think and Blink…

Father John J. Lombardi

You've heard of women's intuition, haven't you? How about "gut instinct", and "Go with your heart"?

Oppositely, have you heard someone say "He's heady" or someone described as a "pinhead"?, or: "She's a brain". "Big Bill" is one of our Grotto workers and I often think of him as a "rocket scientist" which he is. But: he combines seeming opposites; headiness and devotion, love and learning.

The Grotto attracts both types of people: pilgrims who are feeling-intuitive-emotion-oriented, and others who are intellectually -mind-and knowledge-centered Some people here on Mary's Mountain know about the flowers, and others simply admire them (cf. Mt. 6:28). Obviously we need both!

I recently met a lady at the Grotto who asked: "Is there a map of the Grotto?" That's a "question of the head". A statement of the heart is, like many I hear of describing Mary's Garden: ""You feel peace as soon as you walk in the Grotto." A map implies deliberate, rational thinking about the Grotto-maps guide minds; while feel implies nothing-it just is-immediate awareness and experience. Both powers work here at Mary's Mountain!

Now that I think about it, it may be like this: I am chaplain of the Grotto which is located at Mt. St Mary's University. A place of the heart (Grotto) is upon the grounds of an "ivory tower (intellectual) college. Devotion and intellection-at one!

Head and heart-they are both needed for us disciples. And, hopefully, they go together, the intellect and the will, integrated and balanced within, as when the God-Man says: "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind…." (Mk. 12:30)..Sometimes we humans spontaneously act without thinking-this is the heart or will; and other times we need our heads to think things thru-that's the mind working. Need both! So, make or break the seeming duality: the mind and heart should make but not break the other's role. In this world, though, it takes a while to get to there!

I've been thinking about all this (and, actually intuiting it), because I just read the New York Times bestseller book "Blink," by Malcolm Gladwell, subtitled "Thinking Without Thinking". It's a great read, instructive and illuminating about how we human beings operate.

Gladwell emphasizes-obviously-the power of intuition and "gut instincts". He calls this "thin slicing" whereby we "read" a situation, quickly/intuitively, recalling a past experience (thin slicing-as in recollecting "a slice of life") and then make a decision or judgment-almost without thinking it thru rationally. We may call this, "snap decisions" or "rapid cognition". As in: getting a child away from a burner; helping a lady across the street (hopefully chivalry isn't dead!); that ice cream is good (although rationally we may think-not good for you!).

Gladwell gives some illustrative examples: people in dating are immediately attracted to each other--"love at first sight"; a tennis expert, Vic Braden, studied thousands of hours of tennis stars' serves, and could eventually tell in the first split second of a serve whether it would be good; some alleged famous marble statues being purchased by the Getty Museum were proved fake by an art expert immediately upon seeing them; some gamblers intuit the next card before it is dealt. Ever had these experiences? Then your "blinking"!

As disciples we can use the "Blink"- rapid-cognition experience in following Christ (i.e., you don't have to be a brain surgeon to follow Him!), as when He counsels, 'Let your 'yes" be 'yes'" ( Mt. 5:37); "Do not worry what you are to say, the Holy Spirit will give you the words you are to speak" (Jn. 14:26); "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8);on the Road to Emmaus, when Risen Jesus broke the bread and said the blessing, here's the Lightening-Light bulb-experience of the disciples: "With that, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him" (Lk. 24:31)-do you have this experience and Faith at Mass?! St Paul counsels: "For godly sorrow produces repentance, without regret" (II Cor. 7:10); and, "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened" (Eph. 1:18) Theologians speculate this gift of "immediate knowledge" and "intuitional acting" was lost in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Good and Evil-now we often have to think things out and take philosophy and logic courses-ahh! (whereas angels have the ability somewhat like God of "instant intellection" intact).

Gladwell is not naVve, though- implying we don't need to think, or that we should only rely on intuition alone. Some caveats he adds to "thinking without thinking," are: Quick decisions are good as long as we evaluate them. We must sometimes doubt instincts, and control, educate them. Prejudices are errant instincts gone awry. This is true for disciples of the Divine. Head and heart go together.

Intuition comes from the word, intueri, meaning, look, contemplation, from the Latin roots, in-on, tueri-to look at. I.e., you don't have to reason, just see.

So, now, consider these thoughts (or intuit them!):

1.TheAdvocate/Holy Spirit will teach you all truth-Jn 15-we guys and girls with small intellects need supernatural assistance from the Divine: the basic need of logic and reason is balanced and complemented by infused gnosis--Wisdom--which means God spiritually pours into our minds information we cannot normally, humanly gain. The stigmatist and Italian priest-Saint Padre Pio famously "read hearts"; St Catherine of Siena received locutions from the Trinity. God helps but does not hinder our human ways of "knowing". How can you rely on Him more like a patient relies on infusion-drip medicine while doing your part?

2. A little more banally (!): cows near Mary's Mountain don't need information on how to produce milk, and the cardinal-birds near our Bell tower don't require instruction about how to make nests; neither do both need sky-pagers to communicate-they moo and sing naturally! So: How can you be and act more naturally the way God has originally preternaturally programmed us? St Irenaeus said: "The glory of God is man fully alive." Upshot: sometimes we humans get in the way with over-informationalism. Recently a pilgrim said after seeking some wisdom: "Does the Bell tower have to fall on my head to get the point?" Got the Point? Just after she said that, the Grotto Bell tower began loudly ringing, and she said: "Jesus agrees." I didn't need to think, but "blink," and I smiled! Remember it another way: "Whoever is joined to the Lord is one sprit with Him" (I Cor. 6:17)

3. We sometimes emphasize too much thinking, paralysis of analysis. One priest-friend said that purgatory would be one long meeting. : By exaggerating disproportionate thinking (versus legitimate, needed reasoning) we disciples may sometimes allow or make doubt grow within, strangle spontaneity, cobweb rapid cognition.

4. Somewhat oppositely we need The Holy Scriptures, Sacred Tradition (Our Catholic Religion guided by the unfailing Holy Spirit)to balance intuition and false ideas which we are all prone to. We may accumulate pseudo-philosophies and thus need correctives-Truth which is objective (outside us), lasting (absolutes) and reasonable (moldable to, and graspable by, our rational mind). Catholic realism means that we are fallen sinners; we have darkened intellects and sometimes wild wills all which may lead us astray-if we rely on them alone. The heart and intuition must be guided-trained-by the intellect and sound truths which will seem, at times, cumbersome, but, in the end, will be like sturdy-but-freeing guardrails on a bridge across a raging sea.

5. This relativistic age (which sometimes neglects or rejects moral absolutes)needs ethical guidance, which is learnable by reasoning, and not always immediately, rapidly intuited-and which may shape and enable the heart and instincts to function properly. Therefore we Catholic realists need study and master the Ten Commandments into our lives; we must learn the lessons of the Bible to form our character; integrate the teachings of The Catechism of the Catholic Church into heart and soul, and inculcate the examples of the saints into our guts and gravitas. Rather than choke the heart and spontaneity these modes of knowledge may rather provoke them into deeper truth--at least over time-to true actions and the "Blink"-type-of- experience-thinking without thinking.

6.UnLearning: We've learned a lot in life and sometimes it is either wrong or not useful in the spiritual realm (cf. I Cor. 2:14-15 ). Meister Eckhart, German mystical Dominican, counsels: "The spiritual life is one not of addition but subtraction." What do you need to "unlearn," subtract, let-go-of, re-lease, so as to grasp-with head and heart-new truths which elude normal cognition?

St Augustine-a learned and experienced man, said famously and beautifully: "Love and do what you will." Could be dangerous (living from will-power alone, like rampant rascals) or divinizing -like St. John's testimony of Christ's emanations to us: "From His fullness, we all have received, grace flowing upon grace" (Jn. 1:16). Augustine's aphorism is a kind of "learned spontaneity". As when a recently-widow-lady in mourning went to Mass and Church when she heard the bells ring and thereby got over a depression….As when a young lady, debating and delaying her calling to religious life seemingly interminably within, heard a priest talk about sacrifice and then "spiritually heard" Jesus say, in the Blessed Sacrament to her at Mass: "Come now." And so she went!... One priest was asked: Why did you become a priest? Blink response: "Because I love God." Light bulb go off yet?! As when Jesus called St Matthew with the intuitive words "Come after Me," and: "He got up and followed Him" (Mt. 9:9).

Look, try to see as God looks: with a single "glance" (versus perusing with "rational binoculars" like us ). He is Omniscient Being, omni=all, scientia= knowing), and so He knows, Wills and Loves all things at once-He doesn't need to learn progressively, to go to school-His glance takes in, directs and loves all creatures in an At-One-ment.

How to Increase your Intuitive- intellectual Soul-powers:

Mental prayer (meditation): will help your intellect focus, to grasp hidden truths after "cracking the rind" of, say a Bible scene or mystery (teach your children while they're young), and then the "fruit" previously buried within will be revealed and appreciated. Then progress to deeper and higher mental-mystical states of Contemplation, which is the sacred art of surrender wherein the soul is grasped, and freed from the senses' "drag" and inertia, into a new realm of a "Cloud of Unknowing"-transrational, mystical, transformational.

Response: 1.Are you more head or heart centered? Know your inclination and then, thereby balance it. Ergo: Don't be a pinhead or a Pollyanna. Be balanced! 2. Feelings, emotions, intuitions, and instincts need be purified-evaluated and elevated by intellect and sound reason. Ditto for intellectual judgments; and, 3.Imitatio Christi--Be like Jesus-Imitate Christ: He, as the God-Man ,is theandric-God-Man-- totally unified in godliness and humanity, mind and heart, and shows us how we can be -divine-like if we coordinate head and heart, Heaven's and Ways and Earth's, mind soul into a fascinating and divinizing Union! In the Grotto's Glass Chapel we have Jesus' sculpture as the Sacred Heart: this marvelously and majestically symbolizes His union of mind and heart-loving all-spontaneously, interminably, divinely.

Now, ponder this one--St Paul says: "If we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you. The love of Christ impels us…" (2 Cor.5:13).Love and reason: they go together!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi