Extreme Individualism is Not Healthy – 10 quotes from my books – The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life and The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

by Mark Votava

41+jgDX732L1. The gift of our lives together

“This self-awareness of being the body of Christ in our local community creates the potential for us to see relational revelations through our seeds of contemplation. The mystical imagination cultivates a oneness with the mystery of our locality. Our awareness is a gift from God. We live in the mystery of God, the mystery of place. God shapes us through our awareness. It is through this listening awareness that we come to understand the gift of our lives together. We cannot possess this ourselves with our own agendas. It is only possessed by God in mystery. We need to participate in this mystery as the body of Christ. Just when we think we possess it, we’ve lost everything that is a gift to us.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life

2. A listening spirit in everyday life

“Silence and solitude are oftentimes considered ‘weird’ today, but they have a rich history behind them. Christ practiced silence and solitude as a means to listen deeply. Through this, he learned to embrace the mystery and beauty in life contextually. This was crucial for the life Jesus lived. Most of the followers of Christ throughout history have found a way to practice silence and solitude. This is so important to understand! Silence and solitude help us to cultivate a listening spirit in everyday life.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life

3. Not run from one another

“We need to recover our humanity and embrace one another face to face. We are more connected to one another than we sometimes realize. We need to live into that connection through grace and not run from one another. The relationships that we share together will shape us as we take a posture of grace toward one another. ‘We have no real being “until we have faces” to receive the other, to offer ourselves, and then to pass on our very selves in the same way,’ says Richard Rohr. ‘It will be experienced as depth, acceptance and forgiveness for being who we are, a quality of being that is shared, compassionate and totally gift.’” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

4. When the sacred/secular division disappears

“To experience an abundant life as the body of Christ is to discover our way out of this sacred/secular divide. It is to see all of life as a miracle or gift of God. These categories of sacred/secular cannot exist when the incarnation and a theology of place live within us as the body of Christ. We enter into a holistic spirituality when the sacred/secular division disappears and is forgotten. It seems that all great people of faith experienced a conversion to seeing all of life as sacred. They refused to believe in the notion of the secular. It had no relevance for them. Likewise, we cannot let our lives be lived within the confines of the sacred/secular divide. We want out. We will protest against the idea of the secular. We live in Christ in the sacred, in the material, in our locality, in the abundance of our spirituality. There is no turning back. We forget the illusion of the secular and embrace all of life as sacred.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life

51DJfJVBpBL (1)5. Our pursuit of ambition and success

“Our pursuit of ambition and success is defining the imagination of who we are becoming and it is leaving us pursuing our individualistic lifestyles disconnected from one another in everyday life. We end up not caring that much about neither place nor our relationships in the place that we live. Who has time for anyone else when we are chasing the pursuit of wealth?” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

6. Listening is intertwined with learning

“We cannot embrace a humility in which we are continually learning from others without a listening spirit. There can be no learning from others without listening to one another. Listening is intertwined with learning. We have to really believe that we have much to learn from others with all our commonality and diversity. We need to approach others with this learning process of discovery. God will always surprise us through our friends when we learn to see them as our teachers and listen to them attentively. ‘Humility is an essential part of listening,’ writes Hugh Feiss who has been a Benedictine for over thirty-five years. ‘Only someone who believes he has something to learn is an attentive listener.’ Listening to the women, men and children in our local context will manifest some relational revelations that can be found in no other way. The communal imagination listens and learns from others.” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

7. A distortion of our identity

“There is so much mystery to the mystical nature of gospel. Mystery is what lives within the imagination. This mystery is lived out by the body of Christ in the parish. ‘…God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27). The mystical imagination is alive among us in the mystery that lives within our relationships in the place we inhabit together in everyday life. To become blinded to the reality of the mysteries so close to us, that are trying to speak to us, trying to pull us out of the status quo is a distortion of our identity. We have become less than human without a sense of mystery. The mystical nature of Christianity puts the mystery back into our lives together as the body of Christ in the place we live.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life

8. Extreme individualism is not healthy

“We have been raised in a culture that prizes independence, and most of us are unconsciously trained as children to think of it as the good, Christian, American way. But this individualistic way of life has been taken to the far extreme, and it is killing our imaginations. We are biologically constituted for interdependence and shared life. We do not make our own lives, but we allow others to influence and be influenced by us. Extreme individualism is not healthy for a person, let alone an entire culture…” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

9. Love has to be learned through much practice

“Dorothy Day, the legendary Catholic social activist, says, ‘It is an easy thing to talk about love, but it is something to be proven, to be suffered, to be learned.’ To be intentional about love is all good in theory to many of us, but in practice it is not so desirable. Love has to be learned through much practice. We are not so good at it as the body of Christ. We have to be intentional, willing to go through the suffering that love will bring our way. We have to prove our love through building trust and sacrificing for others. That is why listening is so important to an intentional love in and for the parish. Intentionality will call us to a harsh and dreadful love for others. There is no running from this kind of intentionality if we want to live in the real world.” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

10. Living by faith is uncertain

“Living by faith is uncertain. We do not always know exactly how God is leading us. The mystical imagination is very intuitive. Living by faith is a way of life that needs to be practiced with diligence and perseverance. This is our freedom and our liberation. Sometimes we will not understand God’s leading and guidance, but trusting in the process is what living by faith is about. We have to do the best we can even when we do not understand. The mystical imagination within will help us.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life

Which quote stands out to you and resonates deeply?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist