I thought I might just say a couple of things that have helped me—in reading; in thinking; in life:
I don’t know anything.
And the place of “I don’t know anything,” is the place where all things are new. Because if I know it, then it’s not new any more—not “news” anymore. Jesus stands at the doorway between what you know and what you don’t know, ushering you into a new world— a new creation. This eternal newness becomes increasingly clear when reading John's gospel, because Jesus never answers anyone’s question directly. He can not abide assumptions, presumptions, and “what you think you know.”
The other thing is:
Everything is WAY MORE connected. Less separate. Way deeper. Infinitely deep. Which is another way of saying: resist the urge to disconnect. To cut and isolate. To flatten things to one dimension—one perspective. (Take it from a cyclops like myself—you turn into a monster when you see the world from one perspective). It’s why there are four gospels, after all. To see from different points of view. For example, Mark’s gospel is short, lean, and fast. It’s almost as if you can hear the Romans banging down his door as he scribbles down the story of Jesus. Whereas John’s gospel is like reading Steinbeck or Dostoevsky. It’s insanely, miraculously, creative and beautiful and personal.
Try to understand that each word connects—just like your life—to its neighbors, which are in context to other sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, and eventually the whole overarching story. Each part is just as important to the whole as the whole is to each part.
So, the word.
It is not like the written word. Like grammar. The greek word is Logos—which I say in my heart all the time now. It is something like “truthful speech. “ But more than that. It’s like a Way of Being. A way of being in the world. A way of being human—a real human. John seems to be saying that Jesus—the logos—was what God spoke into the void. To create everything. It’s like the origin of consciousness—the light of all man. It has some connection to consciousness itself—behavior itself—“how to act in the world.” We all stand at the cusp of the unknown at every moment. Potential lies before us—the void. And depending on how we act; as we hover before it; we can create heaven or hell, light or dark, blessings or curses. It’s like, you can either live—exist—act—speak—BE—in this singular, truthful, giving, loving, bright, spontaneous, courageous, vital way…or…not. And John is saying that God—who we are the image of—spoke the Logos into everything. But it is hidden—shrouded from us. The light of all man. But man can not see it. And John is not saying it in a finger-wagging kind of way, like, “You should choose the light.” He is saying that’s just how it is. And that’s just what man does.
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 feelings, mine or anyone else's (hypocritically, feeling the utmost contempt for 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 my paradisal Earth into an alien landscape of Mars--making it uninhabitable. And to make it more tragic, specifically, at the time my internal reasoning would be I was showing forth behavior based on justice, rightness, truth, respect, and 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 (as I continually claimed). 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 could see a familiar pattern on their scales. I got what I had been asking for. It was long before I could see it is what I needed--what I "wanted," in the exact sense of what I lacked.
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, finally I see it. I feel it. Now, finally, I am truly 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 at the most terrifying place; a place called: ‘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."
Crime is not a disease although it is treated as such. Like a patient with a disease, the criminal afflicted with crime is held in a sterilized environment waiting for remission or relapse; passively accepting life as a prisoner, asking the arbitrary and unanswerable question, "How much longer?" But crime is not passive and is not cured with passive measures. Behind it all is an active choice whose only cure is an active choice.
So what about a weak, lukewarm, anxious, unheroic life that never hits a bullseye (in short: a life of sin)?
This also is an active choice. It is not passive.
This is also a crime.
To be a mediocre Christian is impossible. It simply means to be a mediocre person. To live (or die) like a patient resigned to his distant fate--a mere innocent victim with a diagnosis of original sin waiting for its cure--is the sin. It is the choice to passively sit by as the disease takes its toll; choosing to live one's entire life in hospice because there is nothing else to do except wait. "Look, maybe I am in remission for awhile! Oh no, of course not, I have relapsed! The cure is not here and first, but out there and last! Well, at least I have a disease to blame it on!"
No! to be a sinner "neither hot nor cold" is not nearly as tepid and passive as it sounds. It is an active and thriving participation in the most heinous crime of all: the murder of LIFE. To live out a grayish mediocrity before the red blood and flowing water of Christ on the cross is a hatred of life. It is an act of violence against goodness, truth, and beauty--a choice to live opposite: to live in bland, dull, fearful clinginess.
A million tiny willful violations slowly accumulate into a life of empty insanity. And it takes a counterbalanced choice--a violent choice-- worth a million insanities to jump out of it:
It is Jonah's violent leap into the stormy sea that cures its rage and saves the foundering ship. It is Christ's headlong flight into the torrential furnace of Old Jerusalem and down the gullets of beasts that snuffs out fires in three days. It is always a singular act of volition, in bright opposition to all “common sense,” that everything terrible with a mouth regrets devouring. It quells and sickens the heart-fires of Old Jerusalems, Old Covenants, and Old Kings. It is then the irrevocable happens--from the depths comes a distant song:
“I lift my eyes to the hills.”
The earth lurches.
The Old Men, The Beasts, and The She-dragons have no choice but to hurl the new born back to shore.
New Jerusalem is here.
"Christianity" is not a Life 360 app (in the same way a parent is not an "all-seeing eye"). It is not an “application”—an external thing that applies only when you open it up. If so, then it is just one more technically complex hieroglyph to interpret incorrectly, view sporadically, and then use tyrannically. If so, it only increases anxiety and mistrust.
Christianity IS life; in the same way "to parent" is to bring forth life--rather than inspect, or suspect it. It courses through every fiber. To fully utilize this marvel; you can not simply turn it on and check on other’s locations compared to your own—and then call that true, and right, and safe, and good—THAT’S WRONG! Believing that WHERE someone is, has ANYTHING to do with WHO someone is: that is a lie; and one everybody begins to believe. That my position relative to you, tells me who I am and where I am relative to God? That’s the exact trap Moses laid for himself: a stranger herding sheep that weren’t his own. You must go. You must journey to Egypt and do battle. You must uncover the Rosetta Stone engraved upon the heart! The secret stone which interprets all hieroglyphs, all complexities. That stone—that key— is what you give your children. It goes inside and turns locks. It works inside out—not outside in. It fills every crevasse of their world; reaching into places you can never go; telling them who they are no matter where they are.
Buddha says life is suffering. And as statements go, that one has a lot going for it.
But life is also alive. It is also joy. And this aspect of life seems to win somehow. Little by little. Like the tip of a wave cresting toward the shore instead of away. The thing tilts in our favor, bringing things to us. New surprises at our feet. New shells to wonder at.
Otherwise, by some mathematical law somewhere, we should be long gone. Little by little, even great blocks of marble should be chipped and chiseled to dust. Yet, here we stand like King David, created in the image of God.
One way is to sacrifice everything for what you want.
The other is to sacrifice what you want for everything. And then, surprisingly, what you want appears as if it returned from the dead. And you come back down, for the first time realizing that what you want, you've always had.