Sometime in highschool, I started to think I might like to play the bagpipes. I became interested in my “Scottish Heritage” and got pretty into the highland games and festival. Seeing the pipers in their regalia, filling the air with what was surely the heartsong of my people, how could I not be drawn to this instrument? I imagined myself, clad in my clan’s tartan, cheeks puffed out, wooing the lasses with an ancient dirge! Like you do.
For a few weeks, I browsed every bagpipe selling website and looked into lessons. And that’s about as far as I got. The vision was fleeting. Sure, it’d be kind of cool if I could play the bagpipes. I still think that. But it isn’t something I want to turn into a passion. It isn’t worth the hours and hours I’d need to practice, the cost of the instrument, or anything else required of me in order to actually play.
This happens to me often. I’ll see someone doing something cool and think, “Yeah, I should totally get into that.” Then I’ll do some online “research” and imagine myself doing this awesome thing. And then I’ll think about the costs of time and money and change my mind. Or my interest will simply fade.
Occasionally I’ll make it a little further. I once thought it would be awesome to learn how to do wood carving. So I bought a set of chisels. And never used them. I’ve got a wetsuit I used for exactly one triathlon. A set of watercolors I use about once every two years. And a harmonica I’m sure my family is thrilled I never practice.
Very occasionally I’ll make it even further. My interest in violin went as far as owning the instrument and actually taking lessons for two months. But then I moved. And got busy. And, well, you know.
Rarely do my ideas take root past the excitement phase. There are just so many things that it’d be “kind of cool” to do. But I have difficulty actually pursuing these passing interests.
Unfortunately, I’m not just this way about hobbies but more important things as well. Like, THE important thing. Whenever I read about the lives of the saints, I think, “Yeah. That’s what I want. I want to be holy. That’s the stuff.” And I’ll read and plan and think about what I need to do. And going to Mass every day or praying the liturgy of the hours or giving away everything I own doesn’t seem so hard. But my interest wanes. And I remember a show I wanted to catch up on. And I get sleepy. And I hear the bagpipes moaning a sad dirge.
Then I remember one of my favorite parables where Jesus describes a man who finds a treasure buried in a field. So he sells everything he owns so he can buy the field and own the treasure. The treasure, of course, is the Kingdom of God which is a treasure whose worth can’t be measured. The treasure is sainthood, holiness, eternal life before the beatific vision. If Jesus were telling the parable about me, it would run a little differently: “A man found a treasure buried in a field. So he went off to sell everything he owned to buy the field. But then he started thinking about how cool it would be to play the bagpipes or learn to spearfish or what about JUGGLING and he forgot the field. And never learned to juggle either.”
I’m not sure what it would take for me to truly pursue Jesus singlemindedly. What could make my passing interest in sainthood become a passion? I don’t know. Lots more prayer, surely. All of this reminds me of a line from Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory where a whiskey priest struggles with his own sins and doubts and fears; “He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted – to be a saint.”
At the end, of course. We’ll all know at the end. But how do I know NOW?