Existentialist Dreaming

I was dying, my rationale for life, crumbling
Like a sad relic

I had no purpose, no choices to make, vacuous
There was nothing left

The deprivation came, there would be no changing
To affect my world

Just being, aware of my person, self
Simplicity, self

Without volition, I was hopelessly fettered
Helpless in bondage

Without sensation, Omnes nihil est, the void
The plane of limbo

With no memories, no connection to my past
The dynamic act

The exchange of movement, positive impression
Shaping forms and hues

Indistinct and empty, adrift in thought, in hell
Without pain, only time

Enduring it, like falling sand slipping through the
Hourglass, frictionless

I woke-up in shock, cold light washing over me
I was terrified

Overjoyed, I was when the doctor said to me
The cryonics worked

Tragedy – Editorial, The Week in Review; Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

Tragedy

 

The tragic death of Anthony Bourdain, of Kate Spade; wealthy and famous, influential-glitterati should give everyone pause to consider just how fragile we all are, how easily any one of us may succumb to despair.

The things you have, or have done, the stuff you have accumulated, the accolades; by themselves they are not enough, and they will not sustain us, or keep us whole.

There are billions of us in the world, human beings, most of whom have no choice in what they do with the hours in their day, they are busy surviving, with no spare minutes to set aside for reflection, or to wonder why, to contemplate justice, the meaning of existence, or the purpose of life.

Woe to those who do, because the world is a troublesome place, both beautiful and grotesque, like the flight of an eagle, as Saint Augustine said; nature is red, in beak and claw.

I have no insight into the lives of Kate and Tony, the particularities of the despair they endured, but I have dozens of friends that took their life into their hands, to end it, to set aside their burdens and move on.

I grieved for them, I grieve for them still, crying at the memory of them and over my own helplessness sin the face of what they endured.

I could not help them.

They could not help themselves.

Many of them suffered in silence, with few people, or even no-one knowing what was happening inside of them, behind the veil of their persona, in that infinite-space behind their eyes.

There are moments, especially when I am driving on the freeway at night, when all I see are taillights in front of me and headlights passing me by, when I get caught up in the sense that every-single light, lights as far as the eye can see signifies the presence of an individual human being, a person just like me. Each one carrying with them their own private world of experience, their own collection of hopes and dreams, of pride and shame, of successes and failures. Each has their own story of trauma; traumas they have endured, traumas the have witnessed, traumas they have inflicted on others.

I call that moment the existential fugue, because in that moment time becomes meaningless.

The demands of compassion are such that we are called on to remember this, to at all times keep in our heart that we do not know what is taking place in the lives of the people we encounter in the world, even in the lives of our friends and family, of those closest to us, let alone the stranger. There are places within each of us that we cannot share, that we never disclose, that we can hardly look at ourselves, for the pain that it brings.

Compassion call us to simply accept this and them, as they are, as we in turn desire to be accepted and understood.

The Nature of Reality and the Purpose of Existence

Jesus and the Tao

 

I am the way; I am the truth and the life, and no one comes to God save through me.
~ Jesus of Nazareth

 

This statement is attributed to Joshua bin Joseph, also known as Jesus of Nazareth, and it is one of the most often cited phrases in the Christian cannon.

But what is the meaning of this formula, of these words?

Could it be as simple as the Church suggests, that this is a concrete articulation from the founder of the Christian Church that a person must be a Christian to go to heaven?

That there is a single catalyst for the salvation of the individual, the reception of the sacrament of baptism, a ritual of water purification administered by a duly appointed officiant of the church, along with the conscious and cognizant assent to the words spoken in the right, indicating faith and belief in the Trinitarian God; the father and the son and the holy spirit?

Is that what Jesus meant when he uttered these words, if he uttered these words, in the era before the instantiation of the church, when Jesus himself was just a Jew, an itinerant Rabbi, a Pharisee and critic of the prevailing social order. Do these words mean that?

Do these words tell us anything about what it means to be a Christian, about the way, of Jesus; its connection to truth, to the lived experience of the faith, the life of the believer, and their relationship to the ultimate arbiter of all that is, to God, the creator of the universe?

These words do not tell us anything about those things, and for many they never will.

I am the way; I am the truth and the life, and no one comes to God save through me.

For most people this will always be a simple message relating a simple belief; that there is one path to God and salvation, and it runs through the Church founded in the first century of the common-era.

That is the end of it, but there is more, much more
For those who want to understand more, you must be willing to immerse yourself in the mystery of Christ Consciousness, the truth concerning who Jesus is, and what it means for a man to self-identify as the way toward an understanding of, or even a personal-existential convergence with the ultimate reality that is God.

Let us examine this expression in its parts, and let us not be afraid to draw from the entire scope of human wisdom to discern their meaning.

I am the way; I am the truth and the life, and no one comes to God save through me.

The Way
The Truth
The Life

The Way:

Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism wrote of the way in 500 B.C.E., in his tractate, the I Ching, this is called the path of least resistance.

To live in the way means living in harmony with the tune of the Universe, which is the will of God, the creator and sustainer of all that is; God the infinite, God the eternal, God the fount of all being.

God who loves everyone, blesses everything, and harms nothing.
God who calls everything into existence, and in whom all things exist.
God whose being is co-terminus with our own.
God the omnipresent, the omniscient, the omnipotent.
God who is not, not present in any space.
God who understands our experience, even as we experience it ourselves.
God who has the perfect ability to accomplish the divine will.
God who called forth the light, and called it good.

To live in the way is to begin like a block of stone, whose edges and corners are rounded and smoothed through its encounter in the world with the presence of the divine, in the spirit of the infinite that dwells in each and every one of us, through our relationships with our neighbors; our friends and family, the stranger, our enemies.

The divine current is like water, it seeks us out, even in the lowest places, going lower than any other thing will go, it shapes us there until we become a like a rounded smooth and rolling ball, freed from the edges that drag us.

 

The Truth:

The truth is recognizable by these basic characteristics.

The truth will never lead you astray.

When you are in possession of the truth you are in possession of what is, independent of any other thing concerning it.

When you have arrived at the truth you have discovered the foundation of all understanding.

The truth is like a seed within you, as you nurture it your understanding will grow, it will fill you.

We are dynamic creatures, called on to do things in the world, to do and to be in relation to every other doer, creator-creature, co-actor; who is, ever was, and ever will be. Even if we lead the simplest of lives, we are invested with great power, and therefore must take great care of our desires and the choices that we make.

When we plant the seeds of our ambition in the soil of what is real and true, they will germinate, sprout and shoot, stretching their roots into the well that nurtures them, reaching for the light that calls them, bringing them to the end they were intended for.

This is not to say that truth guarantees success, nothing is guaranteed, but the good soil, the pure water, and the clear light provide the conditions by which we may thrive along the way to the infinite.

The truth reveals who we are.

The truth is the firmament on which we come to know ourselves, not merely as individuals, but as beings in relationship, in relationship to each and every other, and in relationship to the whole.

Knowing that there is truth is not the same as knowing the truth.

In order to fathom the difference between what is truth and what is false we require a discriminating perspective, and a sensitivity to the laws of consequence, like the rules of Karma that govern us.

We are each of us an Arjuna, born into a field of conflict and sickness, of debilitating illusions, called upon to wield wisdom like a surgeon wields a scalpel, to excise doubt and ignorance like a surgeon would a cancer, and with a habit of discipline rise above the clinging ground that would trap us.

As Marcus Aurelius said, what we do echoes in eternity. Our lives have significance, each and every one of us matters, the things we say and do to one another matter.

As Jesus put forward in his recapitulation of the Shema:

Hear O’ People, God is one, the infinite is one.

Love God with all your strength and all your heart and all your mind

Love your neighbor as your self

Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, be proactive, share with the starving a morsel of your own food, share with the naked a piece of your own clothing, share with the burdened a part of their suffering.

Where two people are gathered, there is God, not as a third person in their company but present in the relationship that exists between them.

To serve God means serving the other, to receive from god means that we accept the aid of another. God is in the other, as God is in us, the living-breathing, seeing-feeling God.

This is the truth of the human condition and our relationship to the divine.

If any system of beliefs claims to be true and does not engender certainty regarding these existential questions, does not promote growth toward these ideals, this understanding of who we are, then we may assume one of two things, that the system of belief as a whole, or some set of claims within it is false (and must be rejected), or the problem lies within us, that we are unwilling or have not properly understood the teaching in question and so have not properly enacted those beliefs in our lives.

Truth is the light that directs us along the way of life. Bask in it.
The Life:

This is the sum of our existential experience. The things we have done and said are fixed, even while the consequences of those things flow out from us on trajectories of their own, and beyond our control.

The content of our lives is always changing, updating with each and every moment, intersecting both actively and passively with the lives and choices of others, with the consequences of their actions and our own at disparate points in time and space.

This life is a journey, we are on a forward trajectory and there is no return, there is no going backward.

Only the living approach to the divine, not just any life, but the life of a sentient being, self-cognizant, aware and free.

Every person who has ever lived is blazing a trail into the unknown.

No one comes to God save through these ~ Jesus

Let us parse this statement.

Only the living come to God, this is not to say that God is not present at all times in all places, we re-affirm the basic proposition that God the infinite is one, the creator and sustainer of all being.

This is a qualified statement, only the living come to the knowledge and understanding of God, come into a relationship with God as free, sentient, and self-purposive agents.

Only the living are able to discern the truth, only the living are able to choose the way, the way of God, the way to God, the ultimate foundation of reality.

Reality itself constant change, it is the continuous progression of infinite potentiality. We are each of us an expression of that.

The universe is, always has been, and forever shall be in a state of flux.

This is chaos, it is the permanent state of what is, this is order.

Chaos and order, though they are syntactically opposed to one other, they are at-one-and-the-same-time able to be predicated of the same subject, reality.

This is harmony.

The universe is always moving outward-moving forward, it is forever expanding, transforming potentialities into actualities.

Knowing the truth does not bring peace, finding the way does not bring happiness, the experience of life is not bliss.

As human beings we are faced with inherent limitations, the conditions of our existence in time and space mean that we only ever know partially, we walk along the way intermittently, and life itself is beset with pain and suffering.

We are imperfect and prone to fear and doubt, to anger and resentment, we are impatient, short sighted and self-serving.

We are stubborn and oftentimes intractable. We exist in a continuum that is in a state of constant flux and change, and yet we all to often attempt to demand from it permanence and stability.

We want to hang on to what we have even as the world changes all around us.

To stand still in the continuum requires a great effort of will.

To deny the natural progression of the continuum requires an incredible degree of deliberate belligerence. This is difficult, but it is not impossible, and once fixed because we are relational beings, that which has become unyielding is able to draw others into its sphere of influence, like a stone in the river, the unyielding and belligerent draw others to them themselves in a current of opposition.

They separate themselves from one another, through dogmas and creeds, by ritual and doctrine into categories of us and them.

This generates friction between the unyielding individual(s) and the way, it blinds them to the truth, and distorts their lives.

Friction, like desire, manifests itself as fear and anxiety, it causes pain and suffering in both the self and others.

When we see these manifested in our own lives we should question the way that we have taken.

Are pain and suffering, fear and anxiety the way of Christ? Do they represent the truth of the human condition, is that the life Jesus would lead us to?

While we may at times experience them, they are not the ultimate reality we are directed toward. And the good news is faith in the hope that there is life beyond them.

The life awaits us beyond the vicissitudes of time and space, this is the firm content of Christian hope. We may also have it now, fully realized in the normal course of our own lives.

All that we are, all that we may aspire to already exist within us as potential.

We are the uncarved block.

Our dreams of doing, our ambitions, in the first part they are dependent on our personal efforts for their actualization, in the second part they depend on the co-operation of our fellows, our sisters and brothers, whose competing and complimentary ambitions should always concern us.

Every action, once committed alters the range of what is possible, of what is probable, and of the scope of our potential. We must be mindful of the consequences of our actions if we are to reach the limits of our capabilities; and ride crest of that potential.

The only things that happen are the things we make happen, or allow to happen through our intention and will, whether we are passive or active.

All actualities are realized potentialities.

To do anything well and enduring, we must be aware of and appreciate the context within which our ambitions dwell, we must grounded it a well-founded understanding of everything that connects to it. We must see things in the light of truth, for what they are.

The locus of our attention must be singular, and at-one-and-the-same-time relational. You must see the thing itself, the thing that you have done, and its effect on the world around you, together.

This is the direction of consciousness, it must be guided by truth and integrity if it is to keep you on the way to life.

This will fulfill the purpose of existence:

To grow
To understand
To progress

To exist, always in a state of becoming…more, seeking harmony in the will of God, finding the infinite in our potential, germinating the seed God has planted within us.

A Part of the Whole

“Know thyself! The unexamined life is not worth living.”
~Socrates

What is real comes to our awareness through its engagement with our limited senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

The senses we possess are not objective, they are incongruous, conditioned by relative values, including the relative nature of our individual points of view, our individuated position in time and space, and the range of our sensory powers, each on their spectrum of relative strength and subjectivity.

The real comes to my attention in these modes and I am forced to admit that the fullness of my understanding, my understanding of who I am; as a person and a subject, and that my understanding of the world around me is wholly determined by these subjective modes of being and perceiving.

Even knowing this, knowing how limited, conditioned and differentiated our perspectives and perceptions are, nevertheless I believe that what is true is discernable by us, and inter-communicable between us.

We can talk about them, we can share them, we can measure our perceptions and test them against reality.

There are some who argue that it is impossible to know the truth, or even that there is no truth to know.

This school of thought is called relativism.

The relativist will suggest that each of us creates and maintains our private, distinct, and disconnected version of “reality.”

The relativist will promote the notion that we ourselves are responsible for the reality of our existence, as well as the construction of every experiential referent in it.

This school of thought is the product of intellectual laziness, and hubris.

To hold this position, I would either have to deny the reality of your existence, believing that you are merely an object in a reality that I construct for myself, or I would have to believe that I am an object in the construction of another person’s private world, possessing no independent existence of my own.

Those are false constructions.

Those forms of relativism is dangerous and degenerate.

They should be rejected.

I appeal to my own experience, as finite and circumscribed as it is, to demonstrate that I and we, cannot be responsible for the “reality” of our own existence, or that of any other being, and that I share with every other being fundamental relationships that are constitutive building blocks in the ontological make-up of who I am.

Without you, I am not.

Because of you, we are.

I am not the source of my own existence, and I am not complete in myself.

This is true of me, and this is true of you.

We came into being with the universe, first as a potential, only later, much later to become an actual.

I am in the universe, and of the universe, but I am not the infinite source of the all that is.

Although we are not the cause of the infinite, we are free creatures formed with the ability to observe it, to think and to speak about it, to share our understanding of it, no matter how flawed it may or may not be.

We walk through the time and space, we are agents of causality, connected to every part, but not as progenitor.

I participate in the infinite, I lend my distinctiveness to it in ways that only I can determine.

While some might like to argue that we do not have the power to “know” the infinite, few would argue that we do not have the power to know ourselves.

To know myself is to know something of the infinite, it is to see the whole in the part, the part in the whole.

Vision

I had a vision

Approaching the infinite

Together with you

 

Trembling and in love

Humbled by your grace, constant

The vision we shared

 

Possibilities

Visions of eternal life

Reflected in you

 

I had a vision

Poised on the head of a pin

Angels gathering

 

Slip the grip of fear

The heart’s devotion

The vision we shared

 

You carried the flag

A vision, bright as the sun

Reflected in you

 

I had a vision

Of brave and humble service

Replenishing work

 

Light the darkened way

Chase the shadows out, fear, hate

The vision we shared

 

Illumination

The bright and wonderous vision

Reflected in you

The Gift

We are the en-souled

Creatures rising in the dark

Reaching out, alone

 

We did not choose, life

To come to be, we awoke

A poor creation

 

Birth is concrescence

A continuum of fear

In the heat of love

 

The wheel of life turns

Not one of us asked for it

The imposition

 

Witness the divine

The sacred obligation

We tiny creatures

 

The week and condemned

A crown of fire on our heads

Burning hail and coal

 

My aching spirit

Lift me to another world

Weaving threads, and dreams

 

The wheel turns again

I could lift it like Atlas

As Hercules did

 

Hand me the lever

Archimedes will move it

The stars shift again

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 10:25 – 37 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.07.10

 

Neighbor

 

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

 

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

 

(NJB)

 

A Teaching for All Time

 

Today’s gospel calls on us to examine the depths of our conscience.

 

Jesus’ interlocutor asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. That man; a lawyer, was looking to gain possession of something beyond himself, looking to earn it through some deed, some set of action, perhaps through a “way” of life, or perhaps even simply by thinking about things in the “right” way, having the “right” beliefs, the “right” doctrine.

 

Jesus does not answer his question directly. He does not tell him what he must do to have “eternal” life. He directs the lawyer to summarize his understanding of the law. The lawyer knows what Jesus is looking for, and he recites the Shema, which Jesus has been teaching from throughout his ministry; to love God above all things, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tell the man that if he does this he will have life, true life in the here and now. The fullness of life is the Shema.

 

The lawyer acts confused, and so Jesus illustrates his point in the narrative that follows. The parable that has come to be known as that of the “Good Samaritan.”

 

He tell the story about a man who is suffering and near death. Two people pass him on the road. They ignore him and offer no help. One of the men is a priest, and the other is a man of a notable tribe, a Levite.

 

The both ignore the man’s suffering, the reason is not given, but it has been commonly understood that the reason is that both the priest and the Levite feared something. Perhaps they feared violence, or they might have feared coming in contact with his wounds, the blood from which would have defiled them and placed them in a state of ritual impurity. Whatever the case may be; they feared something and did not help. They were unable to see his suffering reflected in themselves.

 

Along comes a man of Samaria, who tends to his wounds and provides for his recovery. The man from Samaria has no connection to the unfortunate one, but he acts on his behalf anyway. It is likely that he was also afraid, but that he set aside his fear in order to serve the good.

 

This is the essence of life, while fear is the road to death.

 

This is a teaching for all time.

 

It is the human struggle that will never leave us. It is a struggle that each of us must find a way to overcome in our way.

 

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Suffer the Flower

I touched her thigh and Death smiled

Said Morrison; in his American Prayer[1]

Left handed Death is Lord of the harvest

Fecundity, fertility – the fallen

Seeds, blown from the stamen of the flower

Caught by the wind like the spray of

Water from a fountain

 

Oh Death, take my hand and spin with me

Turning on the wheel of Life

Bright fingered Life is Mother of us all

Heliposis, heuchera – the human

Conceived in the heat of ecstasy’s thunder

Birthed in agony; reaching for the light cold air

Of morning

[1] Jim Morrison, An American Prayer, The Doors, Elektra/Asylum Records, 1978

A Homily – The Gospel of John 1:1-18 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.01.03 (Sunday)

 

The Beginning of Doctrine

 

In the beginning was the Word:

and the Word was with God

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things came to be,

not one thing had its being but through him.

All that came to be had life in him

and that life was the light of men,

a light that shines in the dark,

a light that darkness could not overpower.

 

A man came, sent by God.

His name was John.

He came as a witness,

as a witness to speak for the light,

so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light,

only a witness to speak for the light.

 

The Word was the true light

that enlightens all men;

and he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had its being through him,

and the world did not know him.

He came to his own domain

and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who did accept him

he gave power to become children of God,

to all who believe in the name of him

who was born not out of human stock

or urge of the flesh

or will of man

but of God himself.

 

The Word was made flesh,

he lived among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,

full of grace and truth.

 

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:

‘This is the one of whom I said:

He who comes after me ranks before me

because he existed before me.’

 

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –

yes, grace in return for grace,

since, though the Law was given through Moses,

grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God;

it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,

who has made him known.

(NJB)

 

Faith and Dogma

 

John’s Gospel is unlike the others. Its authors were the farthest removed from the life of Jesus; writing the narrative between 120 and 150 years after his death. It is also the furthest removed from the actual ministry of Jesus, concerning itself with the cosmic identity of Christ as the Word of God, more than the lives of actual people, and the ministry of healing, mercy, and justice that was Jesus’ actual occupation.

The gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew are commonly referred to as the synoptic gospels. The events that they narrate are closely linked to each other and follow the same basic pattern; even though there are differences. Luke and Matthew rely largely on Mark for their structure; Mark being written first.

Luke came second, and took a step a little further back in time than Mark. Whereas Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by John. Luke begins with the story of his birth.

Matthew, coming third in the sequence goes a little farther back in time, and tell us of Jesus’ descent from Abraham. While John, coming last, takes the reader all the way back to the beginning of time.

John narrates some of the same events as the other gospels do, but with a markedly different character, all designed to tell us who Jesus is; God’s own self.

The historian in me objects to this treatment of the life of Christ, but it is what it is, and this fiction having taken hold of the Christian Consciousness represents a historical reality all of its own.

The prolog tells us very little about the persons of Jesus, and John the Baptist, but a great deal about what Christians believed about God, the creator of the Universe, and creation itself.

Even though it was a common view in the ancient world that our material condition was essentially corrupt; as evidenced by our experience of pain, sickness, and death. The Christian community of John was articulating a faith in its essential goodness.

It affirms the unity and oneness of all creation; having been brought into being through the Word of Logos; meaning the rational will of God. This tell us that life itself has purpose, it is not random, it not the product of chaotic forces. Creation comes from the goodness, and light of the eternal God. And not one thing or being exists apart from that.

The Gospel encourages us in the hope, that no matter how bad things are in the drama of creation, the darkness will not overcome the light. Also, that the world and humanity itself are worthy of the love of God, so much so that God becomes a human being, lives and suffers with us in the spirit of compassion, and solidarity with the universe that God created.

This teaching is at the same time both remarkably esoteric, and deeply personal. While encouraging the believer to have hope, it also reminds the reader that they must also persevere in the face of rejection and violence. Many people to not want to hear the truth. They prefer their own cozy view of the world, their tribal and national gods, and totems, their neat philosophies, and their magical realities to the sober understanding of what it means to be a child of God. God’s own self was taken and killed for suggesting that there was a different way to live than the ways of the world.

It was the Romans and the Judeans who rejecting the teaching then. Human being have not changed so much in the intervening 2,000 years. It would likely be American Christians who would be quickest to reject God now.

The Second Sunday of Christmas