Tigers and Idols

God is a fire. To live properly we need to live at the heart of the fire. This can sound painful and melodramatic. But fire doesn’t always consume. The burning bush just burned.

Phil Ochs: “Moments of magic will glow in the night, as fires will sometimes burn cold.”

The best way not to be eaten by the tiger is to be the tiger. There are libraries full of rules and subsets of rules to protect us from the tiger. How can we need protection if Jesus Christ is Lord?

I know this to be true. Through all the convulsions of my own life, post-traumatic stress issues, the long term deformation of sexual abuse, encroaching blindness and cardiac nonsense, I know now, absolutely and for certain that there is nothing to fear. Certainly not the tiger.

In a world where rules count they become an addiction. There can never be enough of them. They become an idol, and as we worship at their bloody feet we become them. Jesus broke them all and left us two. “Love God and each other.” “Come to me,” he said.

In Clive Barker’s book “The Great and Secret Show” people made little effigies out of excrement, and, saying certain words over them and engaged with them in certain way turned them into obscene and deadly creatures.

That’s what we do when we sit in the dark playing with rules and being afraid. Love is the only rule. Jump! Will your ouches still ouch? Probably. Will your heart still ache? Likely. Will you have bad nights when your pillow becomes an instrument of torture? Maybe. But not for long. The fire will bring you home.

note: I’ve been struggling a bit with this blog. I set a goal of keeping it for a year, and next week the year’s up. I think I’ve also completed a certain cycle of thought in it, and I’m wondering what happens nest. I’ll let you know next week.

. . . . not a tame lion.

The end fo the road is the beginning of everything else.

I opened this blog to use my intelligence and clear a path. Now I find myself swinging the machete of reason and not finding much to do with it. In some way I can’t define, my mind has moved since Easter. Something has happened, and I’m not wanting to use language to contain it.

Something is afoot.

Closest I can come in a Narnia reference. “Aslan is afoot,” and “He’s not a tame lion.”

I don’t think I can say more right now.

Love comes again, that with the dead has been.

I’m kind of blogged out from doing a blog last Thursday and another one on Easter Sunday.   Did the stone move? Does it work that way, that we can invest so deeply in a holy day that something actually happens? I think so. I think it did. I’m tired and sprung, and I’ve walked through a pretty narrow valley over the past few days, but I feel troughed, riding the trough between the waves like a sea otter on his back. There’s a spring wind and a bit of spray, and the ocean moving under me, big and easy. Something has let go, and I think it’s let go forever. There’s an open space where there wasn’t one.

The angel rolled away the stone and Jesus was back among the people who loved him. His wounds were still on his body, and they were open, but not bleeding. He was there, maybe, and not there at the same time. He had gone through death and found freedom and there was an exhale, a release as big as the universe. He stayed a while longer, and then was gone. Or at least his corporeal presence was gone.

If I take this to my own personal experience, my world shook on Easter. I was too ill to go and worship with my friends. I was so ill that night that I wasn’t sure I’d be breathing the next morning. But the whole time I was holding this sense of a small green flame, something between a green shoot and a fire. asking the stone to roll away and set it free.

There’s something here I don’t understand yet, and I’m reluctant to put it into language, which can as easily trap ideas as it can set them free. I’ll just leave it with an Easter carol I love.

“In the grave they laid Him

Love whom we had slain,

Thinking that He’d never

Wake to life again.

Love comes again

That with the dead has been

Love is come again

Like grass that springeth green.”

Easter Sunday

t is risen. He is risen indeed.

That being said, what else is there to say?

Lord, show me the place in me where the stone is rolled away. It’s easy for me to participate in commemorations of suffering and loss; they come so naturally. Joy and resurrection are more difficult.

In me is a garden. I know this. Visualisation, yes, but not only.. There’s a hill at the back of it where water comes falling down. When I was younger I could climb it and find the pool at the top, and see the black swans that frequented it. There are, or were, last time I was there, little dwarf pines there, and rock, and something like heather..

The water comes down in a little cascade, so gentle that it’s almost possible to think that it’s falling up, not down. And I think maybe there are multiple cascades, that the one with the swans is only one stair in the staircase, just the highest I ever went.

There’s another pool at the bottom. A weeping willow leans over it, and part of the pool dreams inside the tent the willow branches make. I spent more time there as a child than I do now. Once a darning needle, fiery blue sliver of life, came in through the curtain of willow leaves and sat on a stone. To go in there now feels like risking everything.

Off to the left and right of the waterfall the rock wall is more like a rock garden. Little pink flowers with furry leaves nestle confidently among the stones. In a different climate there would be lizards among them. Sometimes long ago I would pretend I was John Ridd, and that my sweetheart Lorna Doone made her home at the top of those crags, that the flowers and little Bonsai shrubs that grew among the rocks had been planted and cultivated by her in the years when she waited for me to come.

I’m looking now for the place where the sweetness and sorrow of the past are ruptured by the sword of Now. I’m looking for the Tomb. And I hardly dare to find it. I’m looking for the Tomb.

It’s tricky, because I can beguile and intoxicate myself with language. At the same time I have to use language to do this. I’ve never been a big fan of lucid dreaming. It seems to me that our dreams are messages, and that we’d do well not to manipulate them. but writing is pretty much the same as lucid dreaming. The images are captive in the language, and the language, bless its heart, is never free of its own agenda.

I’m afraid because if I come upon the Tomb, and find it empty, I will never know if it was so, or if it was just my own web-spinning. So I dawdle as I wander along the rock-wall, beguiled by tiny golden spiders,]

Something in me is saying “Hurry now. Hurry.” I go slower. I want this too much. And as I do I know the Tomb isn’t in the garden. Not like that. I feel something moving in me and I know that. My body’s a somewhat more reliable medium than language.

Last year at an Easter worship service I found myself rising to my feet, and stepping to the front of the room. This is not characteristic of me, and I had no idea what I would do when I got there. Nor did anyone else.

I stood for a minute, and then found myself kneeling, stretching out my arms, crying out quite loudly “The stone is rolled away! The stone is rolled away!”

This time I’m alone in my house, and it’s full of spring sunshine.

The garden is shaken once, twice, several times. A few years ago I experienced an earthquake, woke to find my bed being roughly shaken. I was delighted by the experience. The garden is shaking now.

Again, I pull back from language, check back with my body. Language can only exist in the past.

I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling now. It’s like hearing a call, almost on a cellular level. It’s not exactly ‘hearing’. It’s like feeling corpuscles of light bubbling in me or something. I start smiling.

Of course the stone is rolled away. Out of respect one relives the sorrow and fear, but always knowing that it’s done once and for all, that Easter is the enactment, not the real thing.

That being so, the garden shakes again. There’s a little landslide, upsetting spiders and uprooting a few plants. Like quantum particles the stone is everywhere but you can’t pin it down. The stone is in my heart. It’s my refusal of joy, my refusal of the Resurrection. The Risen Lord is behind it. The joy isn’t the easy cheerful bonhomie of a happy congregation. It’s more intolerable than that. It could smash everything.

Can I let it?

I think of John Donne crying out “Batter my heart three-person’d God.” For sure, but it puts the whole process in the future. Always we want to put things in the past or in the future, never in the present. The fact of Donne’s heart not yet being besieged and won gives him some excuse. God is in the Now. Now is everywhere, but you can’t hold it. Nor can you ever get out of it, so you’d best release into the Now anything that you care about.

The heart that beats also loves. They’re the same heart. The heart that pumps blood pumps love. My broken heart is the Stone.

It’s time now. Christ is risen.

I think of John Donne crying out “Batter my heart three-person’d God.” For sure, but it puts the whole process in the future. Always we want to put things in the past or in the future, never in the present. The fact of Donne’s heart not yet being besieged and won gives him some excuse. God is in the Now. Now is everywhere, but you can’t hold it. Nor can you ever get out of it, so you’d best release into the Now anything that you care about.

The heart that beats also loves. They’re the same heart. The heart that pumps blood pumps love. My broken heart is the Stone.

It’s time now. Christ is risen.

Holy Thursday: Looking at the cat.

I heard a clip of Northrop Frye discussing Easter today on CBC radio. Frye wrote, among other wonderful books. “The Great Code”, in which he showed the vast structural underpinnings of English literature to be those of the Bible. His position: that while the branches have grown away from the trunk in complex and intricate ways that are not apparently biblical, we are always telling and re-telling that core story.

On the clip I heard today he was discussing the mythological parallels with the Christian story. Gods who were incarnate, died, and were reborn. Very old vegetative mythologies where the grain must die to sprout again. Old matriarchal religions in which, as he tactfully put it, the divine mother stands in a very different relationship to the dying and reborn young deity than was the case in Christianity. The even older cannibalistic sacraments of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the same young god.

None of this is new to me, but it’s all a cat I’ve put away in a bag. I hear it scritching in there from time to time, but it’s easy to ignore. Mr. Frye opened the bag today and I am, with some trepidation, looking at the cat, How does one hold that information – and it’s true; those mythologies have existed – and still stand in relation to the living Lord, Jesus, dead, resurrected, as real and touchable as the man whose grocery cart I bumped into this morning?

I can see where there might be some intellectual ways to frame it. Humanity is programmed for this one. We’ve been wating for it forever. Ripples from the impact of Jesus roll backwards as well as forwards in time. As we have grown and evolved always we have been orbiting this one central story, that God was born into human flesh, died, and was born again.

I have children. I love them probably more than I have ever loved any human being. If it was required, I’m reasonably certain I would die for them. Pure biology. I’m DNA’d for the preservation of the species. I’m a male. I’m expendable. They aren’t. Male animals are programmed to die protecting their young. Or at least some are; just a few clicks of the DNA trigger and I might equally see them as breakfast.

There’s a context in which that’s all true, but when I stand in relation to one of them all that stuff is swept away by love. It’s bigger than any narrative, and DNA is just another mythology, really.

Subjectively I know that Jesus is real. I can’t prove it any more than I can prove that I am real, but I know it in the same way. I know that he came to bring me home. He had to negotiate with death to do it. when I stand in that place the narratives are of secondary importance. Maybe the naming of the correspondences is a two-way street. We just bring them to the altar of God living and reborn, and the intellectual play of it, which can’t take anything away from him, since he owns the whole playground, just becomes part of worship.