t“The Wall” is a very good image or term or metaphor. It matches a question I have been thinking about the past couple of days: Why are the waters are always at flood-stage when it is time to cross?
And I think it something about real change. Real change. Real growth. Not small incremental change, but massive transformation. We “small increment” ourselves to death—right up to the Wall. Then we divide the distance to the Wall in half, like Achilles, literally forever. Which is a great way of never hitting the wall, but also of never going anywhere.
The Wall is like the flood-stage: It is only when the waters are at flood-stage we finally realize there is no way that “I” could ever do it; “I” can never cross it. It is impossible.
And at that lonely, terrifying place, the ONLY choice is to allow the transcendent in. “I” must no longer continue the journey of half-lengths—it isn’t working; “I” must turn a new direction—inward. “I” go deep. On the surface, near the Wall, I leave the husk of Adam Hankins, a cocoon; I must leave and go down—I am shrinking. Dissolving. Making contact with something new, yet at the same time ancient—the self-organizing principle. My DNA is restructured in the primordial soup. Out comes something different—changed. No incremental thing. A thing with wings.
Do not miss the transition points:
"This is what the Lord said to me:
Go and stand at the all the gates of Jerusalem.
Say to the people, 'Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath Day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath. Keep it holy..."
This is a continuation of a previous thought regarding Christ--he whose life is indescribably described where two lines cross— as the invisible fulcrum on which all things pivot. He IS the Sabbath. He IS the doorway.
Jeremiah is making the connection that the Sabbath is an invisible door.
The Lord warns in Jeremiah: Do not miss the invisible transition points--these Sabbath Doorways. See them. Separate them clearly and with devotion: keep them holy.
This inability to maintain an attentive eye towards the relationship between things—to keep it holy—is a constant mistake committed by those who struggle with God. The unseen relationship between two worlds IS ALSO the doorway between two worlds, two realities, two stages of thought, two paradigms, two levels of consciousness, two lives. These transition points are thresholds. They are not simply a tether between one work week and the next or between outside the city and inside the city; they are an invisible door--a quantum wormhole hidden behind the wardrobe. A rift transporting between what is above and what is below, between heart and mind, intellect and faith, faith and works, emotions and reason, material and spiritual, a part and its whole, and a whole and its parts, and so on… They are a doorway to new and more accurate visions of the many worlds you inhabit. In them and through them you discover which world is greater and which is lesser, which world is outside and which is inside, and which world sits within which. And so God does not take lightly the mistake of ignoring the background in lieu of the foreground, or vice versa, ignoring the foreground for the background. You need to see both. Regularly, rhythmically, cyclically—at the frequency of life, you need to see both. But if you never find the doorway between two worlds, then you are forever trapped in one. So what now? How can you find a door you can’t see? For it is only by seeing the doorway as separate from your current reality—by keeping it holy— that you may truly walk through it.
Jeremiah hints the answer to seeing invisible doors is related to not carrying a load--unburdening, letting go-- as you pass through. You can't bring anything with you. He describes these holy transition points as the Sabbath and the city gates, and commands the people not carry a load on or through them respectively.
He warns! He raises his voice and his fists at the city gates! He warns that your constant resistance—your consistent pushing or pulling in one world—allows these vital thresholds to other worlds to slip past unnoticed. If you push-on through, then you miss the keyhole. If, for example, you never put down your load to crossover from the outer world to the inner, then you will miss the threshold; never even realizing your sandaled foot passed for the briefest of moments through something called an inner world at all. In your constant striding from peak to peak, stepping right over the valleys, you will notice neither the heights at which you walk nor the depths beneath your feet. If everything’s resistance against a load, then the Sabbaths fade away and everyday is Monday. And, then, there really is no change. Jeremiah warns: when you carry a load from outside the city to inside, then no matter which gate you cross, you never really enter it. It is only in unburdening the weight of…of whatever, of “being you,” that you may see between, see how things relate, that you may see clearly the invisible door and walk into the city of God.
I destroyed my own city walls in darkness. In blindness, I self-destructed. The anger of the Lord had smitten me. Eventually the walls were repaired--but not by me.
Who repaired them?
But only as I began to wake up to my brokenness and see the world with new eyes--see it as God does—with love. I saw the healing that is possible if I ministered to others in their sickness as Christ did. And it was ONLY then that my broken city walls began to be repaired.
In the healing of others I am healed.
Now I understand that my Temple of Beauty is not desecrated by the world, but beautified by it. As brokenness is redeemed, glory shines round consecrating all within its glow.
The idea in Isaiah 60 is that the protection and security we really want in life (the city walls) are best achieved and maintained, not by arrogantly hiding behind false walls, but by shining forth the Glory of God like the noonday sun in a dark world. It is His love pouring outward from our temple towards the world that protects the temple on all sides. God’s love and light is both vanguard and rearguard. The gates can now stand open in every moment of life, in every reality, on the other side of every choice, marching into every future and promised land. And the enemy we once walled off with exhaustive effort—piling and plugging stone after ugly stone into every defect—become friends and fellow workers repairing our crumbling walls without any effort of our own.
Say to every moment as it envelops us: “let there be light.”
And there is light.
Suddenly, a light and a dark side to things. A chiaroscuro to thinking itself transmutes our lived experience as it emerges from the unknown and lands at our feet—a dimensionality not seen before.
To those of us simply flailing around in a gray fog; for so long not really caring that we knocked something over, just angry that it hurt; this is a vision so startling, that we simply can't imagine how it is we have never been able to see it before. Heretofore, hovering before each experience, we couldn't tell a mountain from a mole hill; much less a miracle. We couldn't tell blue sky from earth, plants from animals, sun from moon, friend from foe, Jesus from the devil. Standing at the brink of endless upon endless unknowns; we realize in a flash of bleary-eyed awakening: "My failure to understand what God does as His first act, at the 'Genesis of Moment,' coincides precisely with my failure to understand what I, myself, do not do at the genesis of each moment."
When God speaks, “Let there be light...” it is not so much His words illuminate the void like a radiant spotlight (which His words, indeed, and in part, do); it is more amazingly so just what it says it is—He speaks. It is something like a conscious thought or a humble command put forth to the void; as if God asks or calls upon the void to illuminate itself—and it does! Triggering a divine process as inexorable as the dawn. And then a light comes on somewhere as if somebody flipped a switch. And God's says: “Ahh, now that’s better!”
Speak into the void, mouthpiece of God. Reflect His voice, mirror of God.
And everybody looks at each other to see themselves, to figure out who they are—what they must look like—on the inside. But they don't realize it; even as they unconsciously glance at their own reflections throughout the day. Everybody wants to see and be seen; to know and be known. Which means everybody is at once both blind AND invisible; both unknowing and unknown. Deep down everybody just wants to be here. Be alive.
But nobody sees these mirrors. Only vague shapes covered with cloth. With two tiny slits cut in the cloth for eyeholes. Everybody hides beneath their cloth; peeking out. Hide and seek. Can you find me? Oh, no! Don’t find me! I can’t find myself! Who are you? Who am I?
Cloth and two slits. And what’s important is to never let anyone discover who’s really looking out.
A couple of weeks ago I walked into the lounge where I work to get breakfast and I realized this about people and mirrors. There were two people on the other side of the breakfast table. They were studying. I had met them a couple of times already. Briefly. They were medical students. They were both girls. They were quiet, but tense in a “Boy, I just want to make it through another day,” kind of way. They looked at me. And I at them. Their eyes, peeking out of those slits in the cloth.
I see you. Who are you? Who am I?
I looked at them out of my own slits, sat down to start eating, and started talking about nothing really. One of the girls was Vietnamese. I told her I knew ten words in Vietnamese that were not curse words. “I know how to count one through ten.” I stumbled through them like a bad circus act. She said how her language barrier sometimes made it hard to translate the most complicated words, so she had to learn how to communicate difficult things using simpler words and come at the subject from different directions. And I was like, “I love that! That’s perfect!” We talked about how people really like to understand what you’re saying, and you can tell because their anxiety vanishes in the wind, and a smile pops out.
Our talking continued. I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to talk. We talked about life and what I learned about patients and people and myself. And how, not very long ago, I didn’t really like people, and I had gotten myself into a real hard place in life. And I was miserable. And I began to discover some things.
One of things was: I wasn’t very good at telling the truth.
The slits on my cloth ripped open a little wider. Letting in more light. Letting out more light. They’re looking at me now, you see. Staring. No one is moving. I talked about what not being truthful meant in my life and how it came to be that I began to see how destructive it was to my soul and to the the people I cared about. I talked about how you can have all these wants, and desires and goals and then wake up one day and somehow you’ve turned out to be a bad husband. A bad father. A bad human. A kind of “un-human.”
The opening in the cloth is gaping. I am emotional. They are emotional. One of the girls keeps dabbing at her eyes.
There you are. What do you see? Who are you? Who am I?
Pretty soon, the mirrors are uncovered. And now there are three mirrors all facing each other across a breakfast table—a holy space— reflecting endless patterns back and forth. Me you. You me. Light shining. Mind-boggling.
We talk about many things. I tell about how one of the things I think Jesus really offers is how to be a real human being. How to wake up and live. Right now. How to change from a wooden boy in to a real boy.
One of the girls says in a kind of awe, “What is going on here?”
And the other girl, the Vietnamese girl, says quietly as she keeps dabbing at the place her slits used to be, “I know, this is so…healing.”
Are you awake, or are you asleep?
Are you standing next to Jesus, in the light of day, with the shroud of death in tatters behind you?
Or, is the person you could be, buried somewhere inside—unconscious? Can you smell it? Can you sense the rottenness within: the fear that it is too late for the mummified specter of “all you could have been” hiding in garments of death, in the cold tomb of your soul?
“Wake up!” Jesus calls. “Come out here!”
He is calling.
Christ had no concern for the physical death of Lazarus. In this as in all things; Jesus only spoke truth—for He IS truth. Christ had no concern over the dead body of Lazarus—but He had every concern for waking Lazarus up—for calling him into life; now; in this moment; in this place and time. He did not call him to physical life; just to die a physical death later. He called him to wake up and live!
He is calling you. Can you hear it? Does his voice sound distant and muffled? If so, it is because He calls not to you; but to who you could be—the one you know lies dormant within, “Wake up and live!”
Come out of the tomb! Break free of the death that surrounds you! See your household rejoice. See your community celebrate. Watch the events of your new life unfold with the wakeful eyes of someone who has risen from the dead.
How do you make sure you wake up for that thing that is so important?
You set an alarm.
It is the same for waking up into Being. Somewhere, way in the back of yourself, you know you need to wake up. That it is critical to do so, and that if you don’t, you are going to miss everything. So, without being awake to it, you start setting off alarms. Your resentment, complaining, bitterness, and contempt are the initial sounds. Then the swirling, stinging, choking problems come, strangling the life out of you. Wake up! No! Stop it! Somebody turn the klaxon off! Take it away! No. It is for you. It is set off by you. YOU have to do it. It is the only way. You have to look at it. Face it. The serpent. The dead Christ on the cross. No! That is too alarming! Wake up! This is YOU! You are flat-lined! You must see who you are! It is to show you, to shake you, to shock you back to life—real life. See it. Accept it. Don’t roll over. Don’t pretend it’s not happening. Don’t ignore. Open your eyes! Accept it. It is the only way to silence the alarm. Sit up and look at the sunrise. Surprise! The long night is over. The day you're waiting for is finally here.
To the degree that our lives are mundane, useless, slavish and spiteful; we are neither the hero of any story, nor the villain. We are mostly inconsequential. The NPC of a video game who says the same dumb sentence over and over, no matter how many times or under what circumstances he speaks. We are a flying monkey—entranced; following. A background zombie waiting for someone to wake us up.
It parallels the narrative function the Israelite nation serves in the Bible. Always getting trapped, lost, enslaved, becoming useless, turning into a parody of themselves, plugging back in to the matrix, sinking back into unconsciousness watching someone else’s life play out on a movie screen.
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.
Dorothy wakes up and says, “you were there, and you were there! And you! You were scared. You were stuck. And you were broken! And I was lost. But we found each other and went in search for answers—looking for a way back home. And we found that what we were looking for was right within us the whole time!”
And the joyful faces all around the bed of the just-waking child say, “Yes, Dorothy, we were so worried about you. We saw you running away from home. We saw the terrible storm coming. We knew you were at great risk of dying, but there was nothing we could do! And then you were badly hurt and fell asleep—It was as if you were dead.
But you woke up! You came back! And now, even though we were here all along, it’s as if we are seeing each other for the first time!”
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”