The Egg

My thoughts right now are moving around suffering. The trouble is not that suffering is; given that we have bodies and emotions, that seems inevitable. It’s that it’s so damnably distracting. In its teeth inner intellectual discourse vanishes. The quiet tenets of spiritual living don’t last much longer. And when, as in my case, the suffering includes hunger, illness, nausea, and some physical pain, the centre of the universe seems to melt into sickness. When your belly is sick and you can’t eat and you can’t sleep, there gets to be not much place to stand.


This isn’t about complaining. The phenomena are real and there’s not much to be done about them. They generally pass. If they get worse they will, and if I finally die, I will. It’s not about minding it, it’s about finding a way to walk mindfully through it. I absolutely believe that Jesus came, and died, and rose, to bring me home, but when the journey gets so arduous, how does one keep the destination in mind?


At times like this one really knows that the mind is part of the body, and that a sick body thinks differently than a well one, and given that I’ve devoted this blog to using the power of thought to approach God, where does this leave me? I suppose in a way it’s an extension of the topic I’ve been exploring in the last few entries, how does one think outside of one’s cultural/linguistic framework, taking it to how does one think outside of one’s physical matrix.


Maybe just reach outside of organized sequential thought for a metaphor:


Once there was a boy. His grandmother gave him a beautiful egg. “Take good care of it,” she said. “it’s alive.”


He took very good care of it. He kept it warm, and through all the travels and travails and joys and crashes of his life it was never damaged.   Sometimes in the night he thought he heard a voice coming from inside it. “Break the shell so I can fly.” He looked at it then, at the appalling beauty of it, and thought that no one could, or should, inflict such damage on something so impossibly lovely. At other times he thought he felt a moving pressure inside it, something trying to spread its wings. “Break me,” it asked him, Or seemed to. He was an introspective and accountable man, very ready to understand and believe that everything he heard was conditioned by his own experience, both of himself and of life. Finally, as we all do, he became very old and ill. He kept the egg beside his bed, and at night, sick and in pain and unable to rest, he would light the lamp and hold the beautiful thing in his hands. “Now,” it seemed to call. “Now, before it’s too late.” “No,” he said, as he died. “The prison is too beautiful for me to free the prisoner.”


Kind of an extended metaphor, but there you go.




Graven images.

Thinking about graven images, and wondering, what isn’t a graven image? If we can’t know anything except through our representation of it, then finally there isn’t anything except representation. This opens all kinds of philosophical paths which I haven’t travelled properly, and I’m sure that a philosophically trained intellect could beat me bloody, but there you go. If one of them is reading this, come get me!


If all we have to work with is cultural-linguistic constructs that try and build narratives to explain our experience, then presumably letting go of them would bring us closer to unprocessed experience. Or psychosis. Maybe we can only take this to the point where, not being able, by definition, to apprehend what really is, we can at least understand that we can’t, by organized thought, get outside of the cultural construct we inhabit.


My point here, then, is that reality itself becomes a graven image.


“A foolish figure, but farewell it”. (Hamlet)


Getting down to brass tacks about graven image, I’m thinking about the concept of Heaven. Jesus left some clues. The Kingdom of Heaven is among us, within us. It is like a grain of mustard seed. And then “If the seed does not die”. And finally, “I am with you always”. The Kingdom of Heaven is with us now. It’s just not inside the cultural-linguistic construct that constitutes reality for us. He was the Seed. He came and died, and the Kingdom is everywhere, and everywhere now. In it we don’t die. Death is only apparent in the little world, not in the big one. He came that we might not die, that this day we could join Him in the Kingdom. I think to build some narrative of another reality where we are perfectly reconstituted is maybe a Pauline misapprehension. It’s way bigger than that, way more immediate, way more radical.


My preferred form of graven image is metaphor. If what is is limited by our cultural, five-sensory reality, then the Kingdom is in the what isn’t, anti-matter to our matter. When matter and anti-matter collide . . . . . . a new Big Bang? A new Universe?



Colonizing the Text

Recently I have been very taken up with the idea that reality (subjective, I mean, because I’m not sure there’s any reality other than that) is a story God is telling me. As I stay with it it’s opening up some wonderful doorways. If God is telling me the story, then it has to be a story of love and courage (and victory, in some kind or other). That being so, it’s just a matter of letting Him breathe into the narrative, and have trust. Horrible things happened to me when I was a child, deformative, traumatizing, heart-breaking. God is telling me the story. What does that mean about those parts of it? Wait for it, keep breathing, you can see the colour returning to the dead zones. And remember that time is a human invention. In the heart of God all times are one time, every moment it a petal on the rose, but it’s all one rose.


It also works in the present. I assume aan assume and celebrate that each moment is a moment in the story God is telling me. If that’s so, then how can any moment be amiss?


To translate this into more traditional Christian terms, with Jesus comes the Holy Spirit. I am inviting/allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe into every moment, every molecule of my experience, past and present, and take them over. I am asking the Holy Spirit to colonize my world.


If there’s such a thing as ‘objective’ reality, we have no idea what it is. We’ve colonized/defined/contained it with stories of chairs and tables and cats and movies and terrorists when we know, at some level, that it’s an infinitely complex interplay of electrical energy, of vibrating strings. We ‘know’ that there are no ‘things’ at all. We have created a vastly complex structure of language, linked ourselves to it neurologically, and that’s ‘reality’ for each of us. Reality as text, I guess.


Okay, this being so, we can colonize the text. The Holy Spirit is maybe the second Big Bang,. It’s the one that we can cooperate with, spreading the news outward from molecule to molecule, stone to stone, minute to minute, person to person, that Christ is come and that the new Text is being born each second among us.

Exploding the text.

Following a fierce pitched battle with my son (see, if you’re interested, my previous blog entry, “Eldils”) I’ve been reading up on postmodernism. This is a bit tricky, since I can only ‘read’ what my computer will read aloud to me, so that a fair amount of what I can access is hypertext, which makes the activity quite postmodern already.


It’s possible, and very interesting, to think of experienced ‘reality’ as text in itself, a complex multi-layered cultural construct. We really can’t know what anything is other than by what our language says it is, and I think no one can really argue that language is not the lackey of culture. Since we can only think with language, then thought might be seen as hypertext, as a gloss on the larger text, which is what some of us are pleased to call ‘reality’.


Most of us have been raised on a reality snuggled up nicely between Descartes and John Stuart Mill. Tidy, well-lit, five-sensory and impervious as Teflon to any form of thought except its own. If this is our only access to, and definition of, everything that is, how do we get outside, into what isn’t?


Algebra hit quite late in my life. We spent, in those days, two full years working out the huge sefl-generating architecture of Euclidean geometry. At the same time we were studying Latin grammar, another huge self-consistent architecture. And then suddenly there were negative numbers, a whole world on the other side of zero. I saw, decades before there were computers, or virtual anything, the possibility of constructing a virtual and opposite universe on the other side of the line. In a way I was ready for it. When I was seven I read “Alice Through the Looking-Glass, and beneath the crazy surrealism of what one might easily call an early postmodern narrative I saw Lewis Carroll the mathematician at work.


It seems to me that atheism, or something perhaps less athletic, is the end-point of the Cartesian universe. God can’t be held in that logical argumentative five-sensory box. So to get at Him we have to reach outside of the “what-is” into the “what-isn’t”. I’m trying to remember and futilely digging in Google for a poem by Ben Johson on the death of some young woman of consequence. In the poem he proposes that since everything good and beautiful has left our current reality, we should now reach out for (and here’s the part I’m trying to remember) something like “silence, darkness, things that are not”.


I’m leading myself on a merry chase here. What I think I’m trying to say is that we can use language to sabotage the text we inhabit, essentially by breaking the rules of Cartesian discourse, and that Lewis Carroll, negative numbers, and Ben Johnson give us clues as to how this might be done.


We only have to posit one thing outside the box, one negative number, and it will behave like a fractal, like its own Big Bang, and generate . . . . what? God, for example.


I’m late with my blog. The last few days have been a hurly-burly of people, and at the end of it I’m wondering how/if I can bear the drop back into the deep pool of solitude that my life has largely become. Along the way I’ve had all kinds of ideas about the blog entry I wanted to write, but now that Im’ here I’m thinking just to feel my way into this sudden summer solitude and see what I find there.


I’m needing to learn to listen. It’s not about more, it’s about less. I am learning that I need just to open the door and let the Holy Spirit in to do its work. I’m coming deeper into the understanding that it’s not about what I do or say. It’s about releasing to the action of the Holy Spirit.


Because I have some communication skills and gifts, because I’m a good manager, because I never let go, because I have for so long not trusted the outcomes, I have been slow in learning this. When I let my mind go there I find it frightening and sad, I think because I have so often got it so wrong.


Last night I participated in a workshop supporting prophetic speech. I have met, and in a very limited context worked with, the woman who was offering it. I have felt intimidated by her and have not really understood why. Last night I got it. In her presence I feel like a big, essentially good, absolutely untrained dog. She carries a refinement of grace that I don’t even begin to aspire to. I have a huge noisy ego that barks and wags its tail and knocks things over.


In the third book of C.S. Lewis’ science fiction triology, “That Hideous Strength” e meet eldils. They are, approximately angels. They live on the “Field of Arbol”, which is the plane of the solar system. Their size and power and multi-dimensionality mean that when they dock into a terrestrial human situation the people experiencing it catch only the edge, feel themselves to be in the presence of something inconceivably vast and massive, feel the fabric of their reality bend under the weight of the eldil. I think I’m learning this a little. I think in some ways I have moved into the world of that book, or that, perhaps more accurately, the world that C.S. Lewis described there is an approximation of the one I’m living in now.


A wonderful and occasionally very challenging part of my past few days has been time spent with my son. He is intelligent, literate, fiercely argumentative, lethally Socratic, trapping me all over the place with innocent questions that turn into horrible logical snares. It’s a high-impact contact sport and over the years of our conversation I’ve had to become better at it.


This time around I think I came to the understanding that you can’t contain anything in language. It’s not a receptacle; it’s a conduit. What comes through it is in motion and won’t be held by logical analysis. You can use a net to catch fish in the river, but you can’t catch the river.


So, speaking of eldils, and of the Holy Spirit, I feel very unsure about using language. However, I sense something vast and utter leaning down. I can only deal with it for a very little, but when I just open the door, things seem to be happening.