The night of the sensesBy Simeon Dumdum Jr.
Cebu Daily News
The wife and I took seats near the window. This gave us a view of the outside, which I found exhilarating especially when the plane taxied and took off. Buildings, trees and people sped by, and as we took to the air, and the plane banked, the world became unstable. It seemed as though I was seeing it at an awkward, private moment.
When the flight had reached its level, and there was nothing to see outside but clouds, I eased into the seat and closed my eyes to regain my bearings. I said a little prayer to St. Raphael, the companion and guide of travelers.
Just then I heard women talking at the back. This aroused my curiosity, but I checked myself from turning to see who they were. That would have been improper, and would have stopped the conversation, which, judging from the tone of the women’s voices – soft and murmurous like the cooing of doves – was clearly personal, making it all the more tempting for me to listen.
But I decided to close my ears – and open my eyes. And then what should I see but the small TV monitor of the passenger in front of us. The gap between the seats made it impossible for me not to have more than a glimpse of it. The passenger, a woman, was watching a game show, which had subtitles in a foreign language, possibly Korean. Although not familiar with the hanja, I found the show fun enough and was beginning to enjoy it as much as the woman in front, who did not know that I was taking a peek.
After a while, realizing that in effect I was intruding into her privacy, I decided to just read the newspaper.
I felt self-conscious, having done what I had done. I remembered this passage from St. Francis de Sales:
“How many sins have entered into the soul through the eye as Holy Scripture indicates? [1 Jn. 2:16]. That is why they must fast by keeping them lowered and not permitting them to look upon frivolous and unlawful objects; the ears, by depriving them of listening to vain talk which serves only to fill the mind with worldly images; the tongue, in not speaking idle words and those which savor of the world or the things of the world. We ought also to cut off useless thoughts, as well as vain memories and superfluous appetites and desires of our will. In short, we ought to hold in check all those things which keep us from loving or tending to the Sovereign Good.”
This, in a way, echoes what Jesus had said, in a tone dramatic and severe, about restraint.
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
No doubt God has reserved all of Creation for the senses – all of Creation, which God has found good. And the good or beautiful encompasses not just the glittering sunrise and exotic food and fine scents and soft velvet and happy stories, but also that part of Creation that the Fall has impaired. Because all of Creation has been saved by the blood of Christ. Now we may look at, listen to, taste, smell or touch not just the light but also its obverse, the dark. After all, as Jorge Luis Borges wrote, time has charged the night with eternity, and “to think that she wouldn’t exist / except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.”
And yet there is a night that we should not ever touch, see, hear, taste or smell. It is the night that has not chosen to be charged with an eternity of joy – the night of sin.
Tags: bible teachings