Referring back to my post about Henri Nouwen's keen insight into the human dilemma ...

Ronald Rolheiser, the author of the book The Shattered Lantern, outlines three factors that keep many of us "busy and bored," frantic to get through our days, but left wondering if, in the end, there is any purpose to all the noise and busyness.

One of the factors, according to Rolheiser, that keep us from experiencing a sense of the presence of God, a sense of purpose behind and in and through it all, is our narcissism.

And by narcissism, he means "excessive self-preoccupation." (Hello to my life!)

Listen to how he makes this idea more accessible. See if you find yourself in this story:

"Imagine taking a walk in a beautiful forest on a splendid summer's day. The earth is ablaze with the fire of God and the sights, sounds, and smells are enough to make you want to take your shoes off before the burning bush.

But you are painfully infatuated with someone who has just rejected you.

You will virtually see nothing on this walk, not just of beauty and creation, but nothing at all. You are inside yourself, obsessed with this infatuation, torn by this pain, endlessly trying on past and future conversations, possibilities and fantasies.

For all you are actually seeing, hearing, or smelling of beauty and nature, you could just as profitably be walking in a car park or a rubbish dump. You are locked inside an inner world whose obsessive reality absorbs virtually all of your awareness. The outside world has little power to penetrate that or even to distract you.

Reality, for you, has been reduced to the size, shape, and color of your own inner world."

(Ronald Rolheiser - The Shattered Lantern)

Isn't this us?

Driven by the internal voice that centers us on ourselves, our headaches, our problems, our egos, my to-do list, my gripes, my suffering, my irritation ... we tend to miss the world around us. We walk through our days missing the people, the glorious creation, the feel of sun on our face, the brush of a loved one's hand on our back, this bird, that flower, the very presence of God, the sense of living in a Story large enough to subsume our egocentric thoughts and self-obsession.

Again, Rolheiser nails it:

"When we are excessively self-preoccupied, we tend to see nothing beyond our own heartaches and problems.

Our sense of reality shrinks accordingly and it is not surprising then that we have trouble believing in the reality of God since we have trouble perceiving any reality at all beyond ourselves."

God, would you free me today from self-preoccupation?

Open my eyes to the world outside the prison of my own internal voice and ego.

Help me to rest my worries in you, so that I can walk through this world in amazement at the most ordinary things, the most ordinary people, the most ordinary tasks. This one ordinary day.

Help me to live free from the tyranny of narcissism.