Editor’s note: This post is one in a series inspired by Joe Paprocki’s book 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness. In the book, Joe introduces each key with a fun or thought-provoking question. Each Friday we’ll share an excerpt from 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness that poses a question, followed by a response by a catechist or catechetical leader.
What’s your security blanket?
For young children security blankets and other such comfort objects are healthy things. They are “transitional objects” to ease the trauma of separating from their mothers. For me, it was my teddy bear, Ya-Ya . . .
Unfortunately, we tend to replace these plush toys with more sophisticated security blankets, not to ease the anxiety of our separation from our mothers, but to ease our separation from God. Spiritually, we tend to live our lives like little E.T., the extraterrestrial being in the famous Stephen Spielberg film. E.T. experienced separation anxiety when his mother ship left him behind on earth. Separated from God, we fill the void with other possessions—our adult security blankets—not realizing that God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. The human condition has created the illusion that we are separated from God and that we must work to bridge the gap. In truth, the key to spiritual wellness is the removal of influences that perpetuate this illusion and the recognition of the nearness of God.
And so to overcome our anxiety we acquire things. We amass possessions. Not so much because we like the possessions themselves, but because we like the feeling of possessing. It provides us with a sense of control—something that will give us the illusion of security and, at least for a while, mask the fear and want that haunt us deep within. Our adult security blankets are like an ever-widening moat that we dig around ourselves to keep the future at bay. We are a society of hoarders, clinging to our possessions because we fear a future in which our happiness, security, and comfort are uncertain.
—7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness by Joe Paprocki
Books as Security Blankets
There are two kinds of security blankets. There are the blankets we hide under when we’re afraid of monsters or thunderstorms. These blankets—by which I mean the possessions that give us a sense of security and control—serve to allay our fears of an uncertain future, even if temporarily (and perhaps a bit artificially). One of the most difficult things we can do is look closely at these security blankets and assess them in an honest and thoughtful way. If we think for any length of time about our future, we become all too aware of how tentative our hold is on happiness, security, and comfort. And, with a rising sense of anxiety, we cling to whatever we think will help us hold it back.
Then there are the blankets we wrap ourselves in to keep us warm on a cold night—these are the material things that help us enjoy God’s creation and call us to the greater joy we encounter in God himself. God did, after all, create a world to be lived in. When we can hold on to things loosely, when we can live a simple and generous life, then we know how to use the material things of this world for their intended purpose: to connect with God and others.
Whenever I hear the words “security blanket,” I am immediately transported back to my childhood bedroom. I see my young self sitting on the plush comforter atop my bed, the Peanuts® book Happiness is a Warm Puppy in one of my hands and my stuffed Eeyore—balding in spots, stained in others, and missing his tail—nestled securely and lovingly under my arm. I begin to read the book. Page 1: “Happiness is a thumb and a blanket.” On the facing page opposite, I study a classic picture of Linus van Pelt cuddling his infamous blanket, right thumb tucked comfortingly into his mouth, eyes closed in a dreamy inner gaze. At that moment, all is right in his world. And at that moment—me reading and hugging—all was right in mine.
This was the space to which I, my childhood self, always returned when life seemed overwhelming. Mind and heart united to comfort me, body and soul. While I no longer have that Eeyore, I do still have that book, its tattered shape evidence of its frequent use. Why, I wonder, have I carried this book along with me all these many years? And why do I continue to surround myself with other books as well? What kind of security blanket are they?
The books with which I surround myself and the stories they contain remind me that I am not alone in the world. They transport me to another world, allowing me to glimpse another reality, to imagine a different life. For a few moments, I rest from my worries by immersing myself in those words. A really good book touches my heart deeply. The stories these books contain fill me with joy, and in that joy, I know God is present. Indeed, as St. Ignatius of Loyola believed, God is in all thoughts and things, even in the words adorning the pages of so many books.
There have been many times and ways in which I have sought comfort over the years, books being one of the objects of my soothing. They offer for me a means of connection to the wider world, and ultimately to God, who dwells deep within my soul.
Can you identify the security blankets in your life?
Get the book that inspired this series! Purchase 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness by Joe Paprocki at LoyolaPress.com.