Becki and I recently watched an episode of Hoarders, and the psychologists who worked with the show’s subjects said something about how compulsive hoarders attempt to fill inner voids with “stuff.” They attempt to alleviate their suffering with material things, and their hearts and houses become like miniature Bermuda Triangles, harboring lost wreckage from the outside world.
I was fascinated by this, especially as someone who grew up in the evangelical (Ooh, how the word has negative connotations!) church, and who has heard innumerable ministers talk about how all of us attempt to fill the holes in our hearts with “stuff” – cars, sex, money, power, and all the other clichés that tend to crop up in all such talks at church. In Radiohead’s “No Surprises,” singer Thom Yorke sings about “a heart that’s full up like a landfill.” The heart is a landfill, especially for hoarders. The hoarder’s house is a landfill too, and this landfill brings shame even as it promises to alleviate suffering.
Catholics believe in the transubstantiation of the Eucharist – that the communion wafer and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ when eaten. I do not share this belief, but it is interesting to me how we are able to take things from the physical world and take them within us in an attempt to medicate or complete ourselves. Those physical things act as balms or salves for our immaterial minds and hearts, and this fascinates me. We shop to comfort ourselves, and a new DVD or dress becomes something that soothes us in a strange way.
It makes it seem less absurd to me that God might enter the physical world in the form of His Son and die a physical death so we might have new spiritual life. We cannot host the physical Christ in our hearts, so it sounds absurd to ask Him to “dwell” within our hearts. But at the same time, it makes sense in some strange way. We put material things into our immaterial hearts all the time and, for me, this affirms that we are spiritual creatures whose needs are not purely rooted in the physical world we inhabit. As C. S. Lewis says, we belong to our “True Country.”