Snuggling the Cactus

In his book,Hesychia and Theology, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, makes the following statement:“According to the patristic meaning of the word, everyone is a psychopath, that is to say, his soul is sick….the definition of ‘psychopathy’ (which comes from the Greek words for ‘soul’ and ‘suffering’) is that this disorder of the soul occurs in anyone whose noetic faculty is not functioning correctly; that is to say, when his nous is full of thoughts, not just bad thoughts but also good ones.”

I just knew it. My nous is filled with good thoughts, but it is also filled sharp, pointed and hurtful thoughts that usually result in hurtful actions.  Its like I’m snuggling a cactus.

I have memories, hurtful ones that play over and over again in my brain and stick me like the spine of a cactus. They say “if you haven’t forgotten then you haven’t forgiven.” Lord knows I’ve mustered all my energy to “forgive and forget”, but the memories come uninvited and I let them have play time in my brain even though they always hurt and never heal. For heaven’s sake, what good does it do? Why don’t I just turn away from these memories? Why am I snuggling the cactus?

I have hurtful and destructive attitudes that prove again and again to produce nothing good. These attitudes are like cactus spines that not only pierce my heart, but pierce the hearts of the people I love and want to serve. Lord knows, I’ve tried to change my attitude to one of gratitude, but the ugly attitudes come uninvited. Even though I know better, I give my bad attitudes play time until they have not only brought grief to me, but to those around me. For heaven’s sake, what good does it do? At least I could keep my bad attitude to myself. Why am I snuggling the cactus?

I practice a poor life of piety that feed little to my soul, but only leaves it gasping for something substantial. A meager prayer life, little study, little reading, little service, little charity, poor church attendance, poverty in fasting, and constant distraction are but a few examples of the poverty of my piety. It’s like a cactus spine to my spirit. For heaven’s sake, what good does it do? Why don’t I get up off of my lazy behind and feed my poor soul? Why am I snuggling the cactus?

I know why I snuggle the cactus. It may sound strange but these things give me a sense of identity. These things, though painful, have given me a context and a point of reference. After all, who would I be without my history of pain and abuse? Who would I be if I had a different attitude or a stronger life of piety? You see, I am a psychopath. My nous is filled with the prickly spines of thoughts both good and bad. I snuggle the cactus because it’s what I’ve always known.

St. Paul said that I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind (nous). I would find that my past will no longer tell me who I am. My abusers will not tell me who I am. My wife, my children, my boss, my work, even the members of my church will not tell me who I am. Only Christ will tell me who I am and his analysis is a sure one.

“Have the mind of Christ,” St. Paul said. Yes, it’s time to let go of the cactus, pull out the spines, and hug the Lord instead.

Thanks to my dear sister and friend, Veronica, for the original gem of this idea.

Hesychia and Theology, The context for Man’s healing in the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos. Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, publisher, first edition, 2007

2 Responses to “Snuggling the Cactus”

  1. marybeth Says:

    I am just a visitor to your site. I wanted to tell you that I think “Snuggling the Cactus” is brilliant (full of Truth)–maybe it just happens to resonate with where i’m at right now. I wanted to let you know that it touched me and I’ve added it to my bookmarks.

    I am a renegade Roman Catholic looking for a place to be. Don’t know if Orthodox would be right for me but maybe someday I’ll take the drive over from C’ville and say hi, will probably depend on whether or not I ever stop snuggling my cactus 🙂

  2. frjohn Says:

    Hi, Marybeth.

    It would be great to see you. Come on over for a visit! We be real friendly folk and not pushy at all. And we always have lunch together after service. N E way, stay in touch.

    from a fellow cactus hugger!


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