Letters to Jesus (Ego, False self, and Groundhog Day) - 15
St. John Climacus talks about the “fight to escape one’s own cleverness.” It’s true that while we may be hypocritical toward others and beguile them with various songs and dances it is, nonetheless, ourselves whom we most fool.
The spiritual life is far removed from each day trying to manipulate, gain control of, or influence others by calculated guile. Rather, each tiny step in the way of self-denial is one in the right direction. Our spirituality is a very personal and very unique thing. It is the way we find best for ourselves to slake our thirst for Your love. But there is danger in our becoming complacent about our “cleverness” in the approach to this way. Each day that we, at least once, do something that negates our “cleverness,” so much the closer do we approach You. Each day we hold back a word that might stir up another; each day we hide anger; each day we swallow words proclaiming the “good” we do; each day we embrace the struggles of others as our own; each day we love unconditionally we erase a bit of our cleverness. And so as we peel away the veneer of cleverness a tiny bit at a time our true self – the You in us – is more revealed. Just getting to the point where we can do this, even in tiny ways, is a major breakthrough in our lives.
We become, over time, so encrusted with our own cleverness and guile that we begin to accept it as our true self. We fail to see below its surface and that makes escape from it not even a consideration. We must first of all recognize it, identify its many facets, and observe it in action. Then we will see what our dedication to cleverness has made of us.
There are many words for this cleverness which all amount to the same exterior guile: worldliness, being hip, being cool, urbane, “practical,” pragmatic, sophisticated, “with it.” and so on. They all have to do with the veneering of self – a self that we identify with the cleverness we employ in a variety of daily situations.
How do we escape this cleverness? Despite our efforts, it keeps popping up. Blame it on the influence of life in this world, but I think the best escape route is through prayer. In silent, solitary stillness before You we shed our cleverness like the scales from Zachary’s eyes. You have no use whatever for our cleverness, our guile; and we know this. So, it is before You in prayer that we escape and we begin to see our true center more clearly. To live within the presence of such guileless moments is to escape our own cleverness.