…………………………………

I could start this off with some vague metaphor (did you catch it?), but let me just be clear: there is a tapestry on a table (which to men is nothing more than a map of some geography) that is really time and they are fighting over which parts of it belong to who–like Monopoly (all rights deserved)!

History is bloodless, it has no heart–we spill our blood into it and leave its colors dark and while I sit there in my chair smirking, I wonder what is worth smirking at, nothing is funny here and there is so much I have fallen for that I have heard from my teachers I do not believe, but where can I reignite the fires in the eyes of dead men? They have left books, Chrysostom, and when I read their sermons and read their letters, Paul, I know that when Charlemagne became king, it was not the start of some Christendom held against the simplicity of discipleship, but a bursting forth of common grace, although it is the most unusual grace to me:

how can the intensity of bearing the suffering of sacrifice and the world be held in common with people who do not hold it? That grace called common must be a different kind of grace I am used to in my own life and in the life of other saints. We are left with the shards, I think, or maybe the ghost of a Christendom over our houses and lives like an early morning fog sticking to the ground after a warm snow. How can you blame a fog for being shiftless? This Christendom we point our bony fingers at has not grown from the ground of individual simple blades of grass into an institution and magisteria. This Christendom we point our bony fingers at is the general awareness of truth spread by faithful saints and is a heavy guilt that weighs down on guilty souls. And I do not hate it, because I do not hate guilt that leads to repentance. This fog is not so easy to shake off, but still there are dogs out there chasing some magisteria they will never find. It is the guilt on their backs that rides them.

And as for taking which parts of history I deserve, I will take all of history with the blemishes of all its saints. I don’t want the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, because every person standing in that early morning field as a blade of grass is a renaissance and an enlightenment. If truth is about comparing armies and who has more people in agreement with their wills, then I lose. Not a single blade of grass is in unison, but they make a field together. I see a community of individuals, because we do not die together. It is quite unnatural: about as unnatural as common grace. We each have our renaissances or enlightenments or not and then by it we are healed and ready to wither, so we come up together. But these individuals of history are ones of freedom and the undying spirit of a divine image all bound together at the beginning and end of this age.  I choose to see the field as single blades of grass, because that is what it is and we see history as a place to extend grace to people we can know, not periods and beliefs and ideas. You can take the tapestry–take it all–I will pick out the threads–the men we can know–and I will lay them out line-by-line–how long will that tapestry be?–and I will see all their colors we soaked with our own–who has done the bloodletting?–and tell them that their work was not in vain, because it birthed guilt–who has repented?–for history is what we make of it, but these men speak for themselves–who has listened?

March 12th, 2015

When I was a teenager, I think the greatest lie I tricked myself into believing was that not being a child meant never getting excited about vacations or moved by music. I experienced both today and–if anything–I am far more easily affected by vacations and music now than ever before.

I am “officially” going to be done with Latin tomorrow, as in I am done being officially educated about it. Looking back at my Latin career, I could have…well. I could have actually gotten pretty good at it. It has been fourteen years, though, and somehow I still forget what gerundives are. And all of the possible verb forms are an absurd and tangled forest. At the same time, I feel like I could translate anything if given a dictionary. So, if anything, the greatest skill I have learned from Latin is probably common sense. As for a sense of details, I get the sense they should be forgotten. In the future, I would like to keep up with Latin by reading from the Vulgate (inspired by my mom) and read through some classic works in Latin like I would read through anything else (the difference being the language).

I have said it to a number of people in the past five months, but it is worth repeating: everything has changed. “A chapter has flipped,” as they say, but its feel more like I have taken off a pair of sunglasses I’ve been wearing for two decades. That is not to say that, up until this point, I have been “in the dark” and that it is only now “I see the light.” It is more that everything feels different.

That is something I have tried to pin down for a long time. The feeling of reality. What does it feel like? Sometimes, in wilder moments, I will knock on hard surfaces or slowly brush my fingers across a wet window and wonder to myself, “This experience is so deeply thick, so far from the abstract, so unspeakable, which is to say, a very sensual truth.” But I can never get beyond a few attempts at explaining it, before I start laughing at myself.

And here I am wondering to myself, “Why am I telling you this? Who put me up to having a journal on a blog?” Honestly, I don’t know. It is deeply embedded in me to question everything and that, sometimes (always), gets in the way of taking something for what it is. I feel constantly incapable of taking things for what they are; most pertinently, reality.

That’s another thing. I never say “pertinently” in person and if I did, I would laugh at myself and the person sitting next to me would say, “What are you laughing at?” and I would say, “I just said pertinently.” And then I would lose my train of thought, but then I would wonder to myself, “Was this train really going anywhere, anyway?”

The difficulty in this format is that everything is fair game and I am the train conductor to an orchestra that likes to jump from line to line (see what I did there?). This is all so quite informal and you wonder, “Then why, on earth, are you publishing it? You’ll make a fool of yourself–you’ll look back in four years and say to yourself, why did I ever do that?” But here I am wondering to myself, “Is there a better phrase than ‘wondering to myself’ or ‘say to myself’ to express a thought I am having or had?”

Looking back on everything I have written in those paragraphs up there, the most interesting beginning was, certainly the feeling of reality. But the subject bothers me. I can’t help talking about without going in circles.

It does remind me, all the topics before me, of the very visual experience that is writing down ideas. When I write down an idea, I don’t see the words, I see all of the ideas that are suddenly somehow connected to that idea. I see corridors, lots of corridors. And sometimes I can come to a dead-end if, well, I go down one. An example of a dead-end up there is when I began talking about talking about things. A dead-end of idea is one that feels, well, dead. It feels dead, because it is ultimately a circular path, which gives the reader the impression, not that there is progress here, but rather retrograde motion. And what is the point of reading, if the writing continues to step back, step back?

For the writer, there is the visual experience of corridors. For the reader, instead of possibilities of what to write, he experiences a sort-of popping in front of his eyes. He experiences ideas popping like weighty fireworks, lots of ideas, different colors and shapes like the 4th. And the thing that pulls the reader forward is this experience, this “popping” that keeps his eyes on the hunt for any new kind of firework or shape.

But firework shows are very boring if you keep shooting the same fireworks up into the sky. You want your audience to be looking for some crescendo and you want to deliver that crescendo.

To not deliver to the audience would be like me wondering to myself again, “But what am I doing, anyway? Who really cares?” Goodbye, corridors.

………………………………..

There is being grateful and there is also being unafraid. There is learning how to live and learning how to die.

Gratitude feeds into fearlessness. To be fearless is to neither fear punishment nor a lack of life after this one.

This world is bizarre enough for it to function in the way it does–the wonder we get from this experience is the first cause for belief in God and, therefore, the gratitude we give to him–the oddity of this world also includes unseen realities that affect the visible world.

We are not characters, we are the stuff characters are made out of. Characters seem real, because they are, but are real only in their dependence to their creators.

Dr. Jacobs, Joseph’s church history professor, once told him, “Is church history the study of movements and ideas or of saints’ lives? I would argue that to give into the study of ideas is to give into the wheezing threats of a dying objectivism. There is, in the pure lives of holy saints, a kind of clarifying fire that cleanses our notions of history, time, and our own progress through history, not as slaves to movements, but as slaves still to Christ.”

Loreena Mckennit wrote a song called Skellig, about the monks there:

O light the candle, John
The daylight has almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

Sit here by my side
For the night is very long
There’s something I must tell

Before I pass along

I joined the brotherhood

My books were all to me
I scribed the words of God

And much of history

Many a year was I

Perched out upon the sea
The waves would wash my tears,
The wind, my memory

I’d hear the ocean breathe
Exhale upon the shore
I knew the tempest’s blood

Its wrath I would endure

And so the years went by
Within my rocky cell
With only a mouse or bird
My friend; I loved them well

And so it came to pass
I’d come here to Romani
And many a year it took
Till I arrived here with thee

On dusty roads I walked
And over mountains high
Through rivers running deep
Beneath the endless sky

Beneath these jasmine flowers
Amidst these cypress trees
I give you now my books
And all their mysteries

Now take the hourglass
And turn it on its head
For when the sands are still
‘Tis then you’ll find me dead

O light the candle, John
The daylight is almost gone
The birds have sung their last
The bells call all to mass

Humans are a people of mysteries, transcribing them for one another over generations. The nature of these mysteries, however, has changed. I don’t pretend to know all the ways they have changed, but I would guess that the “mysteries” are no longer demonstrations of our ineptitude, but rather our perceived understanding.

David Bowie once said, “Nietzsche’s Gay Science, where he said that God is dead, was a culmination of all the previous thought of the previous century. In the late 19th century, people were so aggrandized with their own sense of science and the aftermath of the Enlightenment and how man himself could improve the world. And then, of course, it led to things like Nietzsche saying God is dead and it led to Einstein’s discovery of time and space not being what we thought they were, and Freud in understanding another kind of human inside the human–all these ideas culminated in the idea that everything we’ve known before was wrong, everything. So, we start out in the 20th century with this clean slate–we are now the gods. And the greatest thing we could do as God during that century was create the bomb. That was what we were good at doing. And I think that, in itself, in the ’50s and ’60s the repercussions of what we had done by standing in for this idea of morality created by ourselves our fix on what we should be doing in life, that we’re still living through that chaos right now; we have no spiritual lives to speak of, there’s quasi-new religions, but there is no direct sense of what our purpose is anymore…are we mature enough to accept the fact there we are not going somewhere, that there is no gift of immortality at the end of this (if we evolve)–if we evolve enough, you know, we might not have to die–I mean, that seems to be a reach from the past…Maybe we have to live one day at a time–because if we could do that, maybe we would be serving some great thing.”

So after all this, our purpose is to live one day at a time, without a progression connecting our days to some prolonged and sustained goal. If this idea is the popular one, it overthrows the ancient idea of mankind’s teleology. Will we, as rationalism dies, come into a post-purpose world? Where the mysteries we share are no longer about purpose, but instead about causes for things? Will mankind be seen as one big result of causes?

In that case, will we be able to find out what caused us, if mankind keeps naturalism without purpose? Inevitably, won’t we still then come back to God, the first cause?

Our purpose is to be grateful to our cause, since we are the result of love. The function of movements is to move us back to this, as they do so well.

Ecclesiastical Universalism and What Makes a Theoretical Structure Faulty

Are streams of thought which emphasize biblical masculinity looking to turn the tide of a previous heavy-handed intellectualism?

If it is, I find one thing between the two that might not change: the under-emphasis of gentleness and curiosity. Which is to say, so many ditches. Is there a solution to paralytic analysis of all the possible ditches? If there is, I think it must keep relationship (both with God and his other creatures milling about) acutely in focus. The basis of all knowledge is relationship.

I would love to propose a theory on what I might call ecclesiastical universalism. I have actually thought about it quite a bit, have taken it far with my reason, but I feel like I don’t have the credibility to “propose a theory” on the church and culture. If my opinion, formed by experience and reason, changes, that structure will become useless. Any theory I make would be founded on my limited experience and my reason.

Experience highlights certain problems or blessings embedded in the landscape. Reason builds the structures by which I respond to what I’ve gotten a sense of.

I don’t think my reason is rickety–I trust it. It is my experience that lacks. I might even have a right sense of the landscape, but am only gradually lifting my head from my own feet to look around at the real issues. I can cogitate all day long on possible issues out there–where the ground under my feet might lead–but in order to actually propose a theory that is helpful, structured by reason, I must entirely forget about my feet for a second and have the experience of being so overwhelmed with the issues, contours, and the subtle tones of the different pockets in the landscape, that I am then able to look back down at where I stand and ask myself, dizzy, “How am I still standing?”

Between the two, experience and reason (i.e. my response to experience), it is experience that is most in motion. The more we reason about different experiences, we form certain ways of thinking about things that follow the rough and dark paths of our character. Reason is not objective, but it is in some way unchanging and reliable according to our growing natures. If we know ourselves, we can also know where we are most likely to go astray or succeed in our ability to make structures using reason. Reason, from a higher perspective, is in some sense subjective then. It is dependent on our character.

Experience is less dependent on our character. Experience, although our assumptions set boundaries on what we might perceive, is something that happens to us, not something we do. It is something we have to deal with. It is also something that is illuminated if we ourselves are illuminated, but only insofar as we could then see where we have trouble seeing; where our blind spots are, vision obscured by assumptions.

Experience, because it is something that is unchanging in is perpetuity, doesn’t change in its bizarre character, but it does grow. We cannot un-experience something, but we can experience something that might fall into contradiction with previous experiences according to our assumptions (again, illumination is helpful here). We experience more and more, until we are forced to either refine the structures we made with reason as our old selves or create new structures using reason that can house our ever-growing treasury of experience.

So, before I go ahead and waste my time making some structure about ecclesiastical universalism through my reason, which is what it is because of my current character, I need to look up and look up and look up and look up and still look up and see this landscape and try my best to keep my mouth shut, but it is so tempting to settle down somewhere (in a glade, if our metaphor is in focus) and start building a structure that we think might help, that might protect us from the elements; but I don’t know what I’m facing yet, I don’t know if it rains here, if there are bears, if there are others–or what sorts of structures those who have been here longer, who have had the confidence to keep their heads up in their hikes on the rocky paths here, have made. What dangers do they know about that I don’t? Are they wrong about certain dangers? I would prefer to find out from them, not from falling into intellectual danger myself.

So here, the safest way of proceeding seems to be adventuring out to find these other structures that people, who I have no other option but to trust, have made. Whether they build roofs or walls or use guns or run around naked will give me a sense about what kind of structure might be appropriate to build.

I learn what theoretical structures are beneficial by studying what other people think is true and comparing their attempts to what they experience and what I experience and seeing which structures provide the most protection from anxiety and a lack of unity in relationships. If a theoretical structure mars our ability to be in relationship with God and other people, then it is faulty. The danger all along has not been to us (we can delude ourselves and, thereby, pretend that certain pains are mere illusions), but rather to the people already sitting in their structures here in this landscape and to the God that made this landscape with his own hands, an act inspiring every person to make their own structures, including me. I am tempted to make some theoretical structure using my reason to explain and contain my experience; why? Was God the first to have experienced something, something too great to contain, some experience so overwhelming, that his only option was to make a structure that might house it? Was that structure this world and these creatures, who similarly experience the magnitude and inevitability of creation and existence like God once did? Was God’s house one that had built in it the continuation of the very pattern of his joy? God’s house is the creation of houses by people like God. God experienced, like we do, looking out at this landscape, the joy of relationship with himself. What we see in this landscape that puts that urge in us to create a house are the relationships that have strung it together. This landscape is not one of ideas, it’s one of people. What we see, what we have to learn how to deal with, are other people who experience one another like we experience them. Here we have the difficulty of relationship–and here we have the source of anxiety and disunity being the key faults to avoid. Here we have proof that a theoretical structure is faulty if it makes one overly anxious, and unable to be united in a relationship.

Ultimately, therefore, we find the key fault of any theoretical structure to be isolation and individual dependence, one that keeps someone from recognizing his dependence on the God and the people outside himself, one that fails to recognize that even God is dependent on himself. A home that fails to protect one against the elements of anxiety, fear, and humorlessness is a shack in the middle of a dark forest, with a solitary chimney and a solitary bed, home to a man or woman lost inside their head, unable to explain themselves to the wanderers who knock on their door, asking if they know of the dangers around. Of course, the solitary man or woman does not know, because they in their attempt at protecting themselves, have given into the very dangers that this landscape contains. There are some wanderers who knock on the door of some solitary thinker’s theoretical structure and find his isolation so attractive in its self-reflection and self-dependence, that they try to do the same, to be that thinker’s follower. And most isolated thinkers find that to be very flattering, because even in their isolation they are still dependent on others and we, as creators, are dependent on others.

Ultimately, therefore, I find the dangers of the many ditches to ultimately be the same ditch: self-dependence. And if there is any self-dependence that incarnates itself in someone’s theoretical structure, that structure is again faulty.

Meanwhile, as I continue to make my way, I get the sense that some structure including an ecclesiastical universalism could be of great benefit, if at the core of ecclesiastical universalism is the relationship of people with theoretical structures (everyone). This universalism extends to everyone who has their relationship with God and with his creators shape them, their experience and, ultimately, their reason.

Now, you might ask, what if your experience that relationship is at the center of all this proves to come into contradiction with a future experience? What if your experience gets in the way of this theory you so sneakily inserted into this discussion? To that I would say that the mystery and complexity of united relationships are the contradictions that flows so naturally from them. Since, like I said, we experience relationships, we surely will experience contradictions. And so, part of my theory actually expects there would be contradictions in our experience. But, with this perspective, the nature of contradictions change; instead of the contradiction being one aligned by our assumptions, it is one aligned by our expectations of others and their expectations of us. Contradictions in experience, in an economy of relationship, is less about what happens to us (which we said is experience) and is more about what other people do to us. They bring contradictions forward. The beauty of relationship is that contradictions are no longer unbreakable, but rather must now be broken, so that we do not have to abandon our previous theoretical structures, but instead realign them to God and others. We no longer have to jump from structure to structure, ultimately a binary view.

We are now free to have relationships change how we think, not what we think. So, I think I can safely say that it is no more experience that shapes reason, but rather relationship that shapes reason. We are no more in control of our relationships as we once were over our experience; the difference is that we are now dependent on others in both our relationships and our reason, reason now being the tool we use to houses and take care of and benefit harmonious relationships. Reason, therefore, is now no longer the tool of sculpting structures that grow obsolete, but is rather a tool that shapes relationships which will grow and become more illuminated throughout eternity.

And this, going back to our old model of experience-reason, is more in line with what we have observed about experience: it is unchanging in its perpetuity. And this, going back to our old model of of experience-reason, is more in line with what we have observed about reason: it is dependent on our character.

As to what I mean by ecclesiastical universalism, I’ll save that for thoughts before bed or maybe conversations with you in the future.

Quote 6: H.D.

“Helen”
All Greece hates
the still eyes in the white face,
the lustre as of olives
where she stands,
and the white hands.
All Greece reviles
the wan face when she smiles,
hating it deeper still
when it grows wan and white,
remembering past enchantments
and past ills.
Greece sees unmoved,
God’s daughter, born of love,
the beauty of cool feet
and slenderest knees,
could love indeed the maid,
only if she were laid,
white ash amid funereal cypresses.
Note: Laid in intercourse or on a funeral pyre? Just wondering; I don’t know much about the poet, but looking briefly over her biography, she strikes me as one of those “strong women” of the early 20th century. Kind of like Gertrude Stein. I’d like to get to know her better, though–through wikipedia. By the way, I had the line breaks in the edited post, but they don’t show up here for some reason. There is a line break after “and the white hands.” and “and past ills.” Just so you know.