I hate these bars.
I hate these chains.
I hate history.
Ok, but why hate? Why hate the thing you stand in the middle of?
Why not love? Or at least accept, which is the same thing since by any standard a good definition of love must include acceptance of a thing despite its limitations?
Bars, chains, and history just are. Limitations simply exist as a reality.
When Paul said—“I am exactly where I am supposed to be. How could I be anywhere else?”--
prison doors opened and chains fell off. This is the way to freedom.
When you hate your history you become the most hateful history.
Just ask the Bolsheviks.
Watch your feelings.
Why? Why does watching help?
It helps you to see your own backside. Your underside. Your blindside. It is so helpful to have an early warning system revealing what is going on beneath what you can see about yourself. It is like having a second mirror to see the very back of you—those parts you never see otherwise. “Huh. I never knew that was showing.”
But, first, even to be asking this question—even to be considering a second mirror— means that you realize you might have a problem.
I can see this now about myself, but the progression for me was that BECAUSE I wasn’t paying attention to my feelings (ironically, I even had contempt for my feelings); the underworld was brewing with snakes. I was calling forth my own destruction. Actualizing my underworld into Being. What I am trying to say is that because I spoke into my world contempt, blame, frustration, and resentment I was actually reverse terraforming earth into mars--making it uninhabitable. And to make it more tragic, specifically, at the time my internal reasoning would be I was behaving based on justice, rightness, truth, respect, superior knowledge. (Hear any God in there? Any spirit fruit?) I was actualizing wickedness and destruction behind my own back, in my blindness and ignorance, AND suffering because of it. It wasn’t happening to me. I was happening to it!
Those snakes came out of nowhere (the underworld), to bite, to sting, to choke me to death. And they were my snakes. I got just what I asked for. It was long before I could see it is what I needed--what I "wanted.”
Or another way to say it is I fell though, smacked my face, bloodied my nose, and knocked out my teeth, way at the bottom. Bang! Scraping myself with potsherds.
Thank God! Look up!
“Who am I? Who are you? What is truth? No, no no! After all these years, I don’t seem to know anything. Now, I am afraid.”
And God says, “Now we are getting somewhere. Now your fear is properly oriented. This is the beginning of wisdom. Obviously. The beginning of wisdom must start with the belief—the first principle: ‘I don’t know anything.’ Where else would it start?
Now, watch. Listen. Be quiet. Do you hear that? It is your heart beating. Isn’t that awesome? You are breathing. The lights are on. Can you hear the hum? The sun rises and it sets. Fog rolls in from the bay. These things happen by forces you don’t understand and relate to you in ways you don’t understand, but are vital to life. Watch your feelings. Here comes your wife. What will she see when she looks at you. What will you be 'full of' that you give off. Let’s try again."
In the hush of night; in the wilderness of Zin I ask:
What is life age-to-age? What is life age-during?
Is it knowing what to do? Is it having a valid plan for the future? Is it a clear grasp of good or bad, right or wrong, power, will, choice, transaction, and relationship? Is it understanding the Plan of Redemption? Understanding how to make it through? Understanding change and rigidity? Understanding that life flows just beneath the surface? Is it knowing the map says the promised land is just over there.
It is obedience. Obedience to an infallible guide precisely outside my fallible understanding. It is the simple obedience to speak. To speak life. Is it really that hard to speak with tongues of flame? To yield my will to another’s, to His, is a life-giving force that opens not only the door barring my way; but every door beyond it; in the same moment winning the battle within and creating peace without. To speak from obedience to what my Father says in my heart is far greater than speaking from myself: rashly wielding my shepherd’s staff; my powerful, but limited understanding—my trusty gift from God.
The water flowed in Zin. I was right. But it wasn’t the joyous replenishment I wanted. The spring somehow throbbed bitterly from its crag. My friends, my strangers, and my children drank quietly from their cups. “Your welcome!” shouted I, leaving them to their empty skins and jars.
That night I watched the unnamed waters as I pulled up stakes to leave. The waters ebbed with my contempt as they drained into the desert, carrying with them the promised land.
What is life age-during?
I travelled far that night through Zin. Yet no matter how far, the thinning line of those distant waters shown red in the fire of my God.
“...because I spake not from myself, but the Father who sent me, He did give me a command, what I may say, and what I may speak, and I have known that His command is life age-during; what therefore, I speak, according to the Father hath said to me, so I speak.”
The mysterious plant at the end of the book of Jonah touches him literally—literarily. It connects to the fragile, fleeting nature of his own existence. The plant is Jonah’s fragile ego growing above his head—this plant he cares so much about. A distinction is being drawn between caring for this fragile I and true caring. My furious mental labor over the lava lamp, ameboid outgrowth of Me requires that I encapsulate and float away from my world and think about what I observe. It is a separate, alone, thinking kind of effort—a brooding, straining, selfish kind of caring. True caring—true effort and labor in God’s cosmos— is a connection; an intertwining of two broken things: my life and my world.
But all I want to do is sit and look at the world—at that great city of Nineveh—as an outside “objective” observer, and not burn while I do it. Yet there I sit in frustration and anger. My head burning. My flimsy, little structure can’t keep up with the heat and the sun. My own mental effort, my own thoughts even burn at the loss of the little relief I have for a moment—that little shade--at the “wrongness” of its leaving—at the exigency of the plant which was there when I woke up and disappeared while I slept.
What is the difference between zero and 153?
Zero is darkness. Zero is blindness and nothing. Zero is neither hot nor cold. Zero holds the keys to hell. If we see life as giving us nothing, zero, then we are giving Satan back the keys to the gates of hell; and he gladly opens his dominion in our lives, behind our back, beneath our blindness. We are Polyphemus crying, “Nothing is killing me!”
Jesus says, “You’ve got it all wrong.”
What happens beyond the horizon? We don’t know. Only the sun knows.
What is the purpose of life?
Jesus says, “Loving me is giving. Loving me gives purpose that eternally calls and eternally satisfies.”
The young get what they want—go where they want. Those are brief satisfactions. They end when the goal is attained. So, therefore, that goal, that frame, must constantly be replaced by another goal another frame. It is eternally unsatisfying. “I’m going to get fish.” Wrong goal. Wrong “why.” Wrong frame. Satan just can’t wait to see those empty nets.
I’m sure Peter would ever reflect; maybe even while hanging inverted on his cross; remembering his nets, full to the bursting with 153 fish, as he helped drag them to shore:
Others will always—eternally—be unsatisfied, eternally dirty, hungry, thirsty, sick, hurting, dying. I will help. I will cast my nets the right way and for the right goal. I will stop being young and become old. I will make myself sicker, hungrier, dirtier, and die, because I know better—Christ taught me better—because I know how to satisfy. I know, now, the goal set before me by Christ: ‘Feed my sheep.’
The lamb that willingly sacrifices himself—sacrifices his wants, his goals, exposes his vulnerability— feeds all sheep, and becomes a new, perfect lamb willing to walk to the alter again. It is living. It is sacrifice.
It is the Way, the journey, that satisfies.
There is one in you. Sent to you. He has always been there. Near you. Speaking to you. He is good. He is right. He has been with you since the beginning. He has been trying to show you how to live, how to speak, where to walk, how to see. Through all your endless changes; from the “one cell” of you, to the mass of cells of which make up you now; his face, his voice has been constant—the rock around which you flow. But there is another: an adversary of the one sent by God. He says, “Enough! You are old enough. You are grown enough. You have sufficient strength and knowledge to create yourself in your own image. Worship what you want. ‘Want’ what you want. Follow rules. Even better, have a morality that you can manipulate to your constant advantage over others. Just know that it doesn’t matter anyway. But, if you suffer—when you suffer—when you feel the injustice and unfairness of this world, when you feel betrayed; it is not by me (I’m on YOUR side)...and certainly, it is not you (YOU are not supposed to suffer). It is God and His creation that are to blame.”
What are the works that God requires?
“The work of God is this:
To believe in the one He has sent.”
John 6:28 and 29
“Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.”
A common complaint of my relationship with my wife was that I was never in sync with her. That is how I would say it to myself. If I was up, she was down. If I was down, she was up. Eventually, I realized that our “out of sync”-ness was not only a sign of a very broken relationship—it was a sign of a very broken person. Sadly, darkly, I saw myself for what I was: a man who claimed to follow Christ, but who actively participated in taking his wife’s joy away. If she was feeling positive and enthusiastic about anything, then to the inverse proportion, I became negative and resentful. And, conversely, as her sorrow increased I could not help becoming more positive and contemptuous towards her weaknesses. Then, afterwards, in an ultimate evil move, I would rationalize and justify my behavior to her and to myself. Lies, lies, lies.
I should have been doing the hard work at the right time. I should have been tending God’s creation in a way that makes life flourish (It is after all my world for which he called me to take responsibility). I should have been sharing sorrows, lifting my wife’s burdens, helping in the low times. And then, just as harvest time arrived, sharing in the joys, being enthusiastic for and with her. This is the sign of a redeemed relationship.
No matter how far I travel, no matter all my striving, looking and searching; I find myself no further along and without answers. A sudden burst of speed only means my circle is smaller. I am stuck in a hamster wheel eating my own flesh. Drinking my own decay. Stuck only with myself, I drag entire solar systems along wherever I go. How far must I travel to discover new life—to find what I truly seek? To Mars I go. On a rocket ship--on my quest for...what? Knowledge? Gain? Peace? Yet, even there, I am alone in a flimsy tent; distastefully ingesting the products of my own feces and urine—trapped in a death cycle. Where am I going?
In the most desolate place in the universe, I discover what all who travel to that distant planet and scour its surface discover: Life is not on Mars. But it is precisely within that emptiness, that I stumble upon what I need most. A most precious treasure. I discover I must be willing to die--to live. I discover I must lose myself to find myself—to make it back home—to find the new life I so desperately want.
To escape gravity I must necessarily forego my attachment to this world—sever myself from the heaviest burden: the idea that reality is rational, objective, external; that it consists of me and “not” me. I must overcome the idea that I as a subject am separate from object—the two separated by action. And that when a subject acts upon an object—when I cross that great gulf—I do so by my will alone. I must wake up and realize that to have my entire worldview constrained by an insubstantial sentence makes me Marley's ghost tangled in my own causal chain—when I could be a living, breathing story. To think of my life as a sentence, or even a sequence of sentences, is to think of a cathedral as a series of bricks, or the Mona Lisa as strokes of oil paint. Those strokes, those bricks, those sentences have purpose. I must understand their place. They sit within--they serve--a story. That at any moment my action upon the world exists is one thing—that it leaves behind a story is another. Story is paramount. It is what remains. A sentence disappears. Life is a story served by sentences, not chained by them. Inverted, I will see existence as an endless sequence of drab somethings to strive against, through, and over—something “other”—always beyond.
Come with me. All you who have travelled far, searching the cosmos. Come here to the water's edge. Look. Lean over and gaze into the red Martian water far from home:
That Martian—that alien—that new life you seek… is staring you right in the face.
Home is what is always there. It is the truest; the only; destination. To get back to what always was. What was lost. To what is. It is your truest self. The thing you are searching for the most is the closest thing to you. It is home.
It is connected to the idea of identity: “Who am I?”
The most fascinating question. It is in the wilderness of rationality that the burning bush of “Who am I? Who are you?” calls in the distance. The adversary’s desert is the middle years. The 40 years—that empty landscape of “I finally arrived and…this is it? This is a rip-off.” It is the place of realization that I am the butt of my own terrible joke. I am the king of a wasteland. The answer to “have I been wandering in the dessert for 40 years?” is: yes.
“Who I am” is looking back at you in the mirror. Because to look at yourself you need to look in a mirror. To look at your spiritual self is as dangerous as it is fascinating, because the thing—the mirror— that is going to show you who you are is the God of the entire universe—“That which is.” And since you are a mirror for him, then it is the same as turning a transmitter towards a receiver, or turning two mirrors towards each other. A positive feedback loop--an endless, infinite pattern upon pattern upon pattern—manifests. When the microphone is held to the speaker—when that which is spoken to, is close to that which speaks—violence occurs! Everyone shrieks, shrinks, closes their eyes, grabs their heads, closes up, folds over. It is difficult to withstand, to understand.
Is who I am what I think I am, or what you think I am, or what I think you think I am? One day you will have to figure this out. The answer is none of those things. The answer is in the abyss— below the surface of deep waters—in the void. Are you ready to jump? Are you ready to create new heavens and new earths. The answer is only after the jump.