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open house

Downtown Montreal this past weekend
Dean and I are always considering our options when it comes to housing, so while we are doing a few minor fix-ups on our condo this summer, we thought we would also check out what living downtown might look like and what it would cost. One of the display condos we wanted to visit this past Sunday was closed by the time we got there, so when we saw a sign advertising several open houses in a building right next to our car, we decided to take a look. The first place the real estate agent showed us was two lofts that had been converted into one.  It was exceptional, he told us. And so was the price, he added. We walked into a large foyer and I could see floor to ceiling windows, gleaming wood floors, and exposed brick.  The kitchen was imported Italian marble, the office had custom cabinets along one entire wall, and the master suite included a large walk-in closet, an elevated sleeping area, and a spacious bathroom. The furnishings were carefully chosen, comfortable yet stylish and unique, a mixture of old world and modern. It was a beautiful loft with a fabulous view of the city and the price was fabulous as well at over one million dollars.

The real estate agent, no doubt having assessed that we were not going to put down a cash deposit then and there, whisked us off to three other lofts, each a quarter of the size of the million dollar splurge, but still modern, tastefully decorated (one had a wall mural featuring a large face), and interesting in their own way.  One had a bathroom custom-designed by the owner so that they could watch television from the bathtub. It was a bit weird to have the bathroom separated from the main living area by sliding frosted glass doors, but if it worked for her...

The last place we went to was across the courtyard in an ultra-modern building.  In contrast to the studio lofts we had been seeing, this one was listed as a 2 bedroom. The real estate agent knocked on the door and when no one answered, used his key to get in.  I heard him talking to someone as he stepped inside the door and a male voice responded saying he didn't know about the visit/open house and that he was busy working.  Nevertheless, he said we could look around, so we entered.  It was indeed an ultra modern condo on two levels, but there were a few odd things about it. First, there was a large bed in the living room. Second, there was a guy sitting at a desk in the dining room who never turned to look at the five of us who were invading his home. His eyes were glued to his computer screen. We took a quick look around the first floor (they hadn't really tidied) and then headed up the open staircase with the bright red railing. The guy in the dining room gave a quick yell that people were coming, so it became apparent that there was another person upstairs. The real estate agent had the same exchange with the second guy (did you tell me about this visit? you did? well, I guess it's okay but I'm busy working).  The upstairs guy was also at a computer at a large desk in an open office and hardly glanced our way.  I wondered what kind of work they were doing on a Sunday afternoon that required such undivided attention.  We quickly toured the bedroom which featured clothes scattered all over the floor, saw a glorious deck that was apparently used for smoke breaks, peeked at a disheveled bathroom, and wondered how the open office/den could be classified as a second bedroom.  It was quite an uncomfortable visit and I began to feel increasingly agitated as we walked around.  We didn't stay long.

As we drove off, I realized that this last visit had quite an effect on me. I felt stressed and jittery, ill at ease.  Dean had observed that the "work" that these guys were doing was playing online poker. He assumed that this was how they made their living.  He guessed that they each had about six screens/games going.  Well no wonder I was feeling a bit agitated; I had no doubt picked up on the stress, pressure, and high stakes of the unpredictable world these guys lived in.

I gave a talk on Ignatius of Loyola on Tuesday and in it I mentioned how he discovered that emotions and feelings can help us to discern the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He divided emotions into two categories, consolation and desolation, and used these as guidelines to help him pay attention to what God was doing. If emotions were from a good spirit, they would give courage and strength, bring inspiration and peace, would remove obstacles, and help the soul make progress in good works. Even tears would be cleansing and healing. The good spirit of consolation should be accepted because it would inflame one with love for the Creator and increase faith, hope, charity, joy, peace and quiet. In contrast, an evil spirit would bring anxiety, sadness, obstacles, false reasoning, and no progress would be made in good works. The bad spirit should be rejected because it would lead to darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, an inclination to low and earthly things, restlessness from disturbances and temptations, a loss of faith, loss of hope, loss of love, and a tendency toward being apathetic, sad, tepid, and ultimately separated from the Creator.

When I thought back on my experience on Sunday afternoon, I recognized my emotions as coming from a bad place; they would lead nowhere good.  So I rejected them (asked the Spirit to wash them from me and then set my mind on more beautiful things) and prayed for those two guys who lived in this restless, anxious world. Emotions which are "bad" can point out places in our lives where change might be necessary. They can highlight situations that we need to commit to prayer.  They can show where we might need to take decisive action or when to help a friend in need.  Or they might reveal obstacles that we need help to overcome. Emotions which are "good" enrich us and those around us by spreading peace, joy, love, and forgiveness.

As someone who can be quite emotionally sensitive, I have at times struggled to keep my emotions from overwhelming me and taking me somewhere I don't necessarily want to go. But I have found Ignatius' insights about the role of emotions in discernment to be true. Emotions are gifts. They are meant to draw us closer to our Creator and to each other. But they are not all helpful. Let us live in consolation and walk away from desolation.


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