I think CS Lewis said a man reserves his most violent rage for the trap he most lately escaped. It is why I look upon the trap of rationality with such disgust. For it is not rational at all. It is the opposite. Because if it means nothing else, “rational” means that whatever is happening makes sense. Yet after all the decisions and happenings in my life that came and went, and before all the others still to go, my only sense was this: I was in a cage. With bars of Fate. On a train that progressed, but on predestined tracks to nowhere. It was my trap. And the bars I beat against at 44, were the bars of my own hypocrisy.
Because even though I had the arrogance to question everything, I never had the courage to ask for anything.
I would only think. I would consider that midnight house. Of the God within. Of the darkness. Of the things He may or may not give. And wonder and wonder why. And complain about my home and my friend with no bread. But never was I shameless enough, never was I audacious enough to go across the street and lean my head against the dark door. I never once had the courage to ask. And yet I blamed God for not answering, for not giving me what I needed.
It was a long time before I learned how. And it slowly dawns upon me, day by day, that this was no abstraction. For me, the dangers of rationalism and determinism, of Calvinism and fundamentalism, of modernism are not simply theologies or philosophies to discuss or hash out; they are terrifyingly real. They are cages to be escaped.
Jesus has this beautiful circle he creates at the beginning of Luke 11. He starts by raising our eyes to heaven; directing them to himself; to the divine son asking his divine Father for bread. But gradually He directs our eyes to earth; to the mortal son asking his mortal father for bread. And, again, this is no abstract lesson for me—the precise way Christ showed me how to live again, that things were ok, that IT was real, that it would work out, that all my needs would be fulfilled; was by following his gaze, not up to the Father above me, but back to the family around me.
Asking can only really matter, in the sense it is audacious, the moment it shouldn’t be done.
Seeking can only possibly matter, in the sense it is shameless, the moment it is shameful to do so. Knocking can only really matter, in the sense it is persistent or annoying, when its too late.
The first thing a man, let's say Mr. Smith, finds in the Theory of Evolution are principles. Yet this is exceedingly strange since principles, according to the Theory of Evolution, are the last things Mr. Smith should ever look for in himself. Mr. Smith may look up his nose in a biology textbook and find the "Principle of Superiority." But he should never look down it at a Bible and find it. Mr. Smith may learn about opposable thumbs in science class and find the "Principle of Efficiency." But he should never stop twiddling them in math class and find it. Mr. Smith should compare his forehead to the Neanderthal's and find the "Principle of Selection." But he should never compare anyone else's to a beluga whale and find it. And it is right here that the Theory of Evolution and maybe even Mr. Smith both seem to forget something. And what they forget is the first thing found in man's theory of anything—nay, even man's thought of anything--from God, to religion, to public education, to government, to hopscotch and hadron colliders--is man. And his principles. For the very good reason that principles (like man) are first things, not last.
But what is even more strange, Mr. Smith's and Evolution's principles are not merely first and universal, but universally the same principles. To give another good example out of thousands: The primary principle of the Theory of Evolution (or any endeavor or aim) is If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! (or, its corollary, Never give up!).
Which simply means Nature (Mr. Smith's cosmic Mother), who was born herself (Evolution says) by a blind and random accident from nothing, was also accidentally born with a rigid and clear worldview. As rigid and clear a worldview as the strictest schoolmarm’s. Born, as it were, not with a silver spoon in her mouth, but with the silver-haired schoolmarm's wooden ruler in her mouth. Which means, and this is my main point, despite the most nihilistic Evolutionist's dream of a cosmos without principles, of schools without schoolmarms, of an existence where Mr. Smith is born with nothing in his mouth and dies with nothing in his heart; the reality is the Theory of Evolution was itself born with a rigid morality, or more accurately, is a rigid morality. And like all moral things, is found, not at the end of the process, like an epiphenomenon, but rather fixed, by definition and inescapably, in the heart of man--at the beginning--as the primary principle of life.
A verbose historical figure remains, through his own words, alive even when he is dead. But as one reads through John Calvin's own words, one becomes gradually unsure if John Calvin was ever alive even when he was alive. One gets the strange sensation when reading, for example, his explanation of the decretum horribile, that while damning a large chunk of the world to Hell may have been difficult for John Calvin's God, it was rather easy for John Calvin. To read him very long is to find a man who perpetually seemed not so much a stranger in his homeland or at home in a strange land, which are both perfectly Christian discoveries, but rather that saddest of all men: a stranger in a strange land; which is a man who isn’t at home even in himself.
John Calvin’s view of Christianity is like a rather poetic robot’s view of Christianity, or Mr. Spock's view of Christianity. It is a view of Christianity by someone who never fully grasped it, not because he never knew what it meant to be a Christian, but because he never knew what it meant to be a human.
He took everything away from me—all the obstructions, all the accretions, all the cataracts and clothes and scales-- everything but the truth. And revealing it; raising it high enough even for me to see, I finally see I am hanging naked on a cross. The place I have always been.
The sight explaining so much: explaining the ache in my hands and feet; explaining the stretching rack in my shoulders; explaining the piercing in my chest; explaining the tired collapse of my unbroken bones; explaining the bitter aftertaste of every drink; explaining everything and everything and everything.
And I cry with relief, “It is finished!"
I am ready to go home. I am ready to be free. I am ready to let go of this cursed tree and leap into the air. And if ever again I land, I will land in a new life. I will love this world like Christ. I will walk through the petrified forest of crosses shouldering my own as I go. I will lay my hand on every bloody trunk. I will set up my cross and willingly scale to the top. I will hang there again, yet this time helping thieves see and understand and live. Thank you Father for letting me see the whole world!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Who is on the witness stand testifying against you?
He rebuts your facts and figures, your words, your photo documentation, your lengthy explanations and reasons, your graphs and diagrams and methodologies. He rebuts all these and more; every polished, intellectual testament you present to defend your life.
And guess whose testimony is more persuasive in the long, arduous trial of existence that, in fact, you learned nothing about being human--a soul unfit to walk in the cool of paradise?
Although sad and alienating, it is at least commonly known that many people walking through life with you simply wander too far away to be seen anymore. But what is no less sad and alienating, far less commonly known, and obviously far more dangerous, is that quite a few wander too close--becoming trapped in the sticky, frustrating glob that is you and your world. Easily hiding under your nose so high in the air, always getting under your over-sized feet, never free of your goo, unable to walk far enough away to be seen. It is a great and terrible thing that a savior comes with a sword to cleave, separating brother from brother, wielding the only weapon magical enough to slice the unsliceable so you can finally hate enough to love.
Because for every choice outside of paradise, there are actually two.
There is the choice one sees and the choice one doesn’t.
The choice to obey in spite of what one thinks...or not. And to obey is to take what one thinks at the fork in the road, lay it down, and sacrifice it.
Underlying every fork in the road is a more important fork in a more important road. A spiritual fork in a spiritual road. A road to life or death.
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.
Those who mourn and repent will be saved. Those who don’t will be destroyed.
Those who mourn and repent for all the detestable things going on inside the temple will be saved.
The one out of seven—the writer—the marker—will mark the foreheads of those who mourn. And they will be spared. The other six are warriors who will pursue and destroy everyone else.
Similar to Cain’s mark, in a way. Tied to Seven and Multiples of seven.
It also connects to Paul’s Road to Damascus/ lightening bolt experience. A question lurks within: Is it a curse or a blessing to be spared? To see. To see your blindness. To be blind. To live knowing of your murderous heart. It is to be Cain. “Why did I live?” It is to be Paul and suddenly know, as if struck in the head with one of Stephen’s stones, of the detestable practices inside your own temple.
It is to be marked in the head with a lightening scar. To be the boy who lived. To be this thing that cannot be killed from the outside. The mark brings with it seven-fold mayhem and seven hoarcruxes of death. The blood soaking in the earth moans and screams in your ears.
What is this mark then?
Is it a mark for life or death?
Both, in a way. The ego, my divine mark, as such, can not be killed from the outside. It may be flattened, squeezed, shattered, shrunk, and kicked; but it cannot be killed. Yet my strange invincibility also chains me to Death; brings death to the world; both the Death I cause and the Death I escape. What to do with this marked thing? This monstrosity of consciousness. Touched by hate, and love and choice. Marked in a place visible to myself in a mirror only. What now? This mark! What to do about it? What now?!
There is only one solution: Death.
Death to the undying ego--death to the undead.
But since the almighty God himself has protected the bearer of this mark, like Job, from outside asphyxiation by Satan, the only possible death left to me is death by oxygenation, conflagration, immolation, and explosion; death by life, death by Christ--a death by my own voluntary choice.
Only by laying down, only in letting go, only by a Way hidden in the pattern of flaming blades swirling over Eden, may the marked one become finally and forever accessible to his Savior—Breaking the chains of death. Bringing Life in the Savior. Bringing life to the world.
What is the mark?
It is a mark for redemption.
It is a story about you.
It begins with a boy who lost his shadow.
This is a parallelism to Christ’s warning about one evil spirit and the clean house.
The most unruly ruler believes rules get rid of unruliness. But getting rid of unruliness is impossible because ruliness and unruliness are like states of matter. They just are.
Unruliness is dependent on ruliness, just as ruliness can not exist without unruliness.
In the same way, it is wrong to say cleaning gets rid of dirt. Of course it doesn’t. In fact, it is just as easy to say cleaning makes more room for dirt.
Cleanliness does not get rid of dirtiness.
A set of external rules for right behavior does not get rid of wrong behavior. It does not do anything because it is just a concept. And a concept cannot do anything about something as real as evil. Or said another way, morality that has a motive to accomplish something, accomplishes nothing. It can neither create good nor destroy evil—if anything, it does the opposite. Rather, good and evil simply exist, in the same way high and low do—one only exists in relation to the other. The rules the ego learns to follow are not primary education. They are an epiphenomenon of existence. It is why it was essential that the Ten Commandments were inscribed by the hand of God Himself—not man. Just as it was essential that Jesus walk into the wilderness and stand in front of the mirror to face his brother—his dark self—Satan—not because he was told to do it, but because it was foretold by existence itself. At the very beginning, the moment man awoke to self-consciousness in the garden, exactly then, he beheld a core of poisonous fruit in his palm. From the tree that should not have been touched because it made the knowledge of God become the knowledge of man. The moment man ingested desire--wanting--value—he blinded himself to the only cure: to un-desire, un-knowing, un-holding.
The villain never really dies. He always comes back. By not speaking his name Voldemort only comes back with more horcruxes. So something else must be done with evil besides pretending its not there or it multiplies seven-fold. Somehow simply knowing of its close quarters in our heart, saps evil its power.
It is learning to live with dirt—incorporate it—accept it—in your life that makes a home livable.
An Evil spirit does not exist without the good. And good can not be understood without evil. It is in seeing this and incorporating this, that halts the multiplication of evil within.