Why Surrealism is What We Need, Esp. in Novel Forms

Allegory and surreality are linked by symbols

I think what is called allegorical painting in one era is surrealism in the next.

Compare Jacopo Ligozzi’s “Fortune” to Giorgio de Chirico’s “The Song of Love” or maybe René Magritte’s “Homesickness” or “Personal Values.”

Jacopo Ligozzi, Fortune

What we see are a lot of objects placed together.

Rene Magritte, Personal Values

These objects are re-discovered after being put in a context we’re not used to seeing them in (“Someone, get this man a copy-editor!”). Thanks to Andre Breton for helping me define surrealism. As soon as we see one of these paintings, we know what we’re looking at: the world behind the painting and the world inside ourselves.

For Christians who just-can’t-handle-that, it’s basically the same evocation as fairy stories, according to the claims of J.R.R. Tolkien. The progression of Fantasy-Escape-Recovery-Consolation is a similar progression as the surrealist progression. The difference is that the fantasy is generated, not by new forms, but by old forms put together to form new ones. I guess he kind of claims that about adjectives and the power of language to reinvent (in his essay, On Fairy-Stories). We know grass is green, but we can do fantasy simply by calling the grass red. And we can imagine it, because the language has imagined it for us.

Similarly, there is a sort of fantasy when we see a huge apple wearing a bowler hat falling from the sky, or whatever. The difference, I think, is that surrealism or maybe the surreal is the re-use of the familiar instead of the familiar-turned-strange. The outcome is the same, nevertheless. When we see something we have seen before, transmogrified before our eyes, we know that we are really seeing something true about our world that we have not seen before, or have so far failed to see. That is where the consolation comes in.
As for the mid-portions of Tolkien’s claims—escape and recovery—all I can say is that there is a sort of terror or disturbing quality about surrealist art. Or symbolism.

Bad example/don’t have time: “That skeleton looks alive! Oh no! Oh, wait, it’s okay. He’s just a symbol. Whew. But crap, it’s me. Omgsh, I’m going to die.”

The avant-garde is pretty typical

The connecting bridge for both allegory and surreality is the use of symbols to refer to the unseen. If you don’t know what the signifiers refer to, it just appears absurd to you. Powerful SECRET KNOWLEDGE.

We met a guy named I Forget, but he claimed to be really famous. He had a big white beard and smelled of cheese and he said he is the “Van Gogh of the modern age.” He said “only Siena would accept my art, because America never could.”

Fool! America accepts this giant tissue box! You can make money anywhere, doing anything! I’m sure you’re a nice man, but you have lived in America longer than I have and you’re so willing to judge it wholesale like that? Maybe it’s because you’re not good at the whole-knowing-what-unseen-realities-to-show-people biz.
But alas, America is too big and too free and too strange and too metamorphosing for your trash not to find some market.

untitled—and I don’t want to know who made it.

And we looked you up afterwards. On google! You’re not famous. The Avant-garde movement you claim to have been a part of in the 60s is dead, my friend. Because it mostly sucked, so get over it.

The inheritors of this symbolic tradition are people like him, unfortunately. I for one prefer performance art (in general) over conceptual/installation artwork. Installation artwork almost always fails. Maybe I need more exposure to better examples of it, but anyway.

DIVERSION ALERT: Performance art, on the other hand, can at least be extremely stimulating (Trisha Brown’s “Walking on the Wall” which reminds me of the kind of theatrics done at Peter Gabriel concerts. Give me theatrics any day and I’ll be happy!). Like Laurie Anderson telling a story with big lit-up goggles. I could honestly listen to her tell a story any day. Not sure how that fits into the symbolic tradition, but to most people’s far-off view, it’s at least part of what layman call “the avant-garde.”

But if the “avant-garde” are the movers and inventors of new, previously unaccepted forms, then any good novel writer is “avant-garde.” I like to think of novels as being long, protracted essays. If an essay is the attempt at attaining something, which it is, through reason and contemplation, the novel SHOULD be (should be) the attempt to attain some previously unattained thing. Whether it be some new world, atmosphere, or form. But in either case, what is being sought after is previously unseen and the only way to see it is to bring into existence this new form.

Many of the structural novels that came out around the same time that garbage like that old guy likes are also garbage. And very sad.

Literature needs love

Why are they sad?

Because they have not love. That’s my takeaway. There has to be a deep, abiding love and earnest desire to reach out more, to push farther, to know better.

In literature, this happens by exploring the power and force of language and the acknowledgment that characters are merely the composite symbols and vessels for what we have seen or wish to see. Maybe this all sounds like trash talk to you. But I don’t think it is.

What I am trying to get at is that most of these novels-worth-hating (let’s name some names: William Gaddis, Guy Davenport. Okay, we named some. Or freaking J. M. Coetzee, ugh) are built off the belief that we cannot know, we cannot know more, we cannot love more, we cannot reach out, because language is a barrier. Language to them is preventative (I know very little about this, but in the back of my mind are discussions of Symbolic Logic and Ludwig Wittgenstein: thanks guys (Isn’t like ANY literature person worth their salt going to also hate symbolic logic? Answer: yes)). So instead of loving language and words, they abuse their powers, they chastise their tools, and they call what is natural (the ability to understand the basic sense of words) unnatural and blase.

And instead of revealing to us more about the unseen world and the material world that sustains it and presents it to us before our eyes (the world we must get to know once more by means of the prophets of surrealism or the prophets of fairy stories or whatever the garbage you want to call those who actually believe in the depths), those who fundamentally believe we cannot know also fundamentally believe we cannot show. They believe we cannot love characters, that it isn’t real, that we cannot spread the same ideas from mind to mind through the sublime encounter of words fitly spoken, that we cannot invent new forms for the unpossessed territory within our hearts, the hearts that are hardly big enough to hold the entire world that presses on us, like a hand pressed to a bleeding nose, the world that presses on us like the moon swollen with dust, like the warm side of a lover under the sheets, like other crap and more ridiculous similes that I won’t share. Make your own.

There is an unseen world. And this is no direct evidence, but why do we feel so desperately to reach out and touch it? What is the sublime encounter? Why do we constantly invent symbols to remind us of them, in painting and in literature?
And why does this damn tissue box not make us feel sublimely?
Because it’s not based off constructing something worth loving, it’s deconstructing what we have a lot of difficulty loving, but should. We don’t love enough, or care enough. So why is this art telling us to care less?
[Insert Pink Floyd quotation here]
Maybe the sublime does not present us with anything unseen. But it is the most damnedest satisfying boon for any soul. And I, along with anyone else that cares, is going to try to bring into the world new forms to possess the worlds we feel pressing on us desperately for attention, like a pack of screaming children. We are meant to love what this world shows us.
We are meant to be heartbroken when the world is broken, because our hearts are meant to hold the world, not hate it. And we, with our frail tools of language and love and symbols, are trying to hold the world.

Hieronymous Bosch, The Vision of Tondal


Excerpt: Come Whip the Earth!

The Heretic stood at the shore as he had before, only now with his arms raised. His arms gathered to themselves fresh food of all kinds from the endless storehouse of the lake. First the water hid the movement of what came towards him, but then faint currents dragged themselves on the surface with the pull of something just barely underneath. Red apples jumped out of the water from the end of these lines. They ascended to his arms and bunched together in bundles around his hands. So did two wrapped rotisserie chickens, three bags of potato chips, cans of corn and peas, a bottle of hot sauce, a fresh watermelon, packets of instant coffee, water bottles, a box of orange juice, a bottle of champagne, a sealed loaf of white bread, butter, precooked bacon, and many other things you would come to expect from the submerged old world. These were the rations of the new world. With his arms still raised, covered with the breakfast provisions that floated around them, the Heretic went back to the house.

Back at the house, the woman was wishing they had a better chair for the Heretic besides a pile of leaves. She could see the uncovered dead grass where she had previously dug up the carpet. The dormant rocks all around the house heard this groan of her spirit and picked themselves up by their bootstraps. The rocks moved like potato bugs, as if they had grown many little scuttling protuberances underneath them for even movement across the ground. When the first living stone came to the door, the rest behind him formed a line. They marched like a menagerie on display. The Heretic had to wait for them all to enter. The house he entered was not the one he had left: strange and unessential stone cupboards had their backs against the wall, stone undetailed tapestries hung precariously from the ceiling, and stone chairs encircled the stone table with its stoneware cups and plates. Even a stone hearth, empty without wood or fire, fitted itself opposite the table. Stone pots and pans hung above it.

The couple had already found their seats at the table. There was an uncomfortable look on the woman’s face. She looked coy about getting furniture—stone furniture. Her belly pressed against the rounded side of the cold table.

“It’s starting to look lived in,” the Heretic said, taking his place. The whole room stirred with inhuman motions seeking to please human emotions. The provisions left the Heretic’s arms and flung themselves to the right places on the table. The packs of instant coffee peeled open and poured themselves into the cups. The cork from the champagne whizzed straight through the leafy ceiling and fizzed foam towards the Extra. The packet of precooked bacon pulled open—and apparently a bag of cereal had found its way to the table, tearing open excitedly (without asking) to pour its contents into their bowls. A jug of milk flew into the house uninvited. Meanwhile, the Heretic had summoned a box of matches he now struck across the table. He threw the wad of flame into the starter log that sat in the hearth. A warm fire, some light.

“While they’re getting settled,” he said, “I would love to answer any questions you might have.”

“You’re making it sound like we signed up for this.”

Firenze, One

Oh how it looks just like the pictures!

Now I think when I walk past Brunelleschi’s Dome every day
and night—the Asian tourists with pink polka-dotted umbrellas, the wads of phlegm under my feet, the Libyan selling things, the human rabbits of all ethnicities jumping around asking for lighters, the 2013 yellow crane with an arm taller than the tall cathedral, the dog poop in the street, the Americans with their bulging money pouches under their flashy shirts, the Germans with their black dresses (black scarves (black boots)), the lingerie stores (translation of one chain: ‘Very Intimate’), the man who grabbed his crotch and laughed, the takeaway coffees and wine and beer and everything—of the failure of man’s greatest achievements and his most pious pieties. The golden cross of Jesus on the top of the Dome could be mistaken for this failure.

But held in place of this failure is the presence of the eternal victory of Jesus. God happily witnesses the ubiquity of religious symbols that now form the composite of what is the church’s largely disinherited value.

Let that value be forgotten, I say. God does not dwell in temples made by human hands—tourists do. The unspoken spirit of this cathedral is the Lord’s testimony to man’s rejection of salvation in favor of cream horns and cheap Chinese leatherwork [purchased en masse for crowded markets]. The knowledge of God is ubiquitous—so is the knowledge that man always fails at reverting Jesus into temples, money, intellectual aspirants. Jesus cannot be reduced or reused, Jesus cannot be made one portion or subsumed under a reasoned and imagined vision for humanity’s highest heights. Jesus tears down the highest heights and what heights we offer up to him he has no need of; he lets our motivations be forgotten with time, our buildings and our greatest ambitions {IN HISS HOLY NAME} drown under the cacophony of Mister Pizza, Intimissimi, and people looking at the deceased’s lasting impressions on this world muttering to themselves, not, “What a God!” but instead, “I didn’t know they had windows back then!”

The cathedral is man’s glory, not god’s. And like man’s glory, it is surrounded by people making money from it—inside, outside, around, throughout, by means of. And it is quite a glory. It is way taller and way bigger than it is in the pictures.

There is the pagan impulse to be careful around a God, to not make a God angry, to hedge your bets. There is the religious impulse to multiply indivisible grace. And in the city Dante Alighieri fled and the Medici mafia stamped their lasting fingerprints on, Caleb Warner as the sole representative of the evangelical impulse listened to Sara Groves. I don’t think this city knows about that impulse and it still doesn’t. I had my earphones in, I felt moved, and no one who saw me even knew what was going on inside me. Am I somehow failing, the evangelical thinks? By the way,

I think God loves wine, allows men their lingerie, and doesn’t mind the smell of cigarettes.

Trending Now: Be1ng LAME

My Unprolactated Response

King’s COlelge’s school newspaper wrote this thing recently on my almond mater and here’s what i have to say about it!

you accuse us of an almost monastic social-model but you’d be surprised that we actually work on a hareem model, recently moved form courtship model to just go for it model which is why so many alums are married and now married and married now to produce later big bunch of teachers both male and female, main motivation and self-sustaining!

On NSA Alums 

also our alums go on to be used extensively in the wool industry[4] from Classical antiquity, during the Middle Ages, and well into 19th century as a mordant or dye fixative in the process of turning wool into dyed bolts of cloth.[citation needed]

Some alums occur as minerals. The most important members – potassium, sodium, and ammonium – are produced industrially. Typical recipes involve combining alumina, sulfuric acid, and the sulfate second cation, potassium, sodium, or ammonium.

Our alums are used as the acidic component of some commercial baking powders and are used to clarify water by neutralizing the electrical double layer surrounding very fine suspended particles, allowing them to flocculate (stick together). you can see this in the interlrelations of faculty, we have a flocculating faculty which is your point After flocculation, the alums will be large enough to settle and can be removed BUT MOST OF THEM STAY.

NSA: where LARPing is done best

We might not have a knighthood class, but we do LARPing of middle-aged bankers best (sorry 4 libel), as seen by dear leader, DG WLSN (whose name must not be writ with vowels) we follow how he wears because he is so good at clothing choices and fashionista extroganiary and strive 2 floppy, shiny ties and have eelective even called Normhood how 2 dress best.

New Lectureship Series PROVes ur wrong

Guess this author didn’t KNOW about NEW SAINT ANDREW’S COLLEGE’s lectureship series for nExT yEaR: Dr. Eggs Benedict, Professor of Crunch at Breakfast College of Christ, speaking on the importance of local communities eating from the same bowl of cold cereal as a means by which to overcome insularity and isolation felt by lonely individuals while partaking in breakfast.
That dude is SOLID protestant: overcoming boundaries of wine and bread by making it something everyone eats: cold cereal, esp. forested flakes. Take THAT Anglicans (too fancy-pants) & NEW monastics (recently defended fig newtons as use of in lord’s supper TL;DR: Michael Horton DESTROYs Shane Claiborne on this perticlar point!)
Both sides shot down, take middle appoach. speaking of poaching, his thots on poached eggs and degenaracy of complex breakfasts is 2 true.

He really engages with culture outside of church too! that dude has spoken on the importance of brunch at Harvard! COme on! He co-authored a book with Capn’ Crunch on crunchatized Christians and the place for them in the church
(celibate sterilization; crunchatization is hereditary)

The Breakfast Crisis in this country has only gotten worse in the past few decades, what with packaged cold cereals since fifties. the state of breakfast. He points almost sixty years ago that commercials continue influencing tempting our children.
Consider grapefruit market if you look at stocks in grapefruit, how they’ve declined. Old women aren’t eating grapefruits with sugar on them anymore for breakfast. they’ve moved now 2 drink only meal replacement drinks like Ensure (which is soooper tasty by the way especially strawberry).
Statistics show small minority in church of eople eat graepfruits with salt on them say it’s umami.

What is umami?


Fix a lot of problems in country if took eucharist and made it breucharist so it happens every day because we need that and to do it together. But by doing it to be made breakfast and every day, won’t be confused with catholics which are wurst and SO MANY catholics at king’s college sumting fudgeamentally wrong with way they encourage breakfast there–

like hillsdale–

O! speaking of wurst, liver is eaten during tea time here because to engage with liberal vegetarians we make sue to get that tasty sustenance from fresh organs so yum

we engage by stay cage stage which TBH so does king’s college do they are like in a cage in middle of new york so people can point and say, ‘what’s there?’ and no one really knows because there is no sign and hard to find and many business in empire state building where is bathroom but we have soccer team and school newspaper called empire state tribune which so cool but TBH rent is expensive and honeslty we just want to be the RITE kind of small conservative chsitian college, h-h-HELP!!

Come Whip the Earth!

Now as the world outside was flooding, there inside that house once called the Old Manor slept The Extra with his wife. She slept with her mouth open. Into her mouth and past her teeth, down her trachea, entering her left lung, as she took a breath, through the membrane of her alveoli, her bloodstream, a small arteriole, a sliver-of-a-river, down through the chambers of her heart until coming to the arteries that lead down to the placenta, that bright red leaf with its bulging latticework, past a layer of stratum spongiosum and into the hollow of the intervillous spaces that are filled continually like the basins of the deep with blood, diffusing through the sprigged fingers of the chorionic villi containing the umbilical vein entwined together with the umbilical arteries which carry off what has been received, flowing to the branch of the vein embedded inside the white gummy rubber, the Wharton’s jelly, of the umbilical cord near instantly traversing inch after inch until reaching the navel of his abdomen, bypassing other routes by poking up through the transverse fissure of his liver, entering the branch of the Arantius’ Duct, flowing into the vena cava, the right atrium of his heart, through the shunt that is called the foramen ovale into the left atrium, pumping into the aorta, up the carotid arteries until forking into the ophthalmic artery forking still to the central retinal artery that pierces near the optic nerve and spreads offshoots all across the surface of his retina, there is the organ through which the child, unable to sleep like his parents, senses his dark world for any light. There is no light inside that swollen cave he can tell in the fog of the fluid that wraps around his kicking limbs. He must content himself with his world as it is, the world swelled just so he could be inside it, just so he might have some place to grow. There is no picking and choosing for him now, there is no way for him to shape what has been already shaped out of the walls of his mother’s uterus. He is the one who has been shaped, he is the one who has only to rest. If he cannot rest, he is the one who must find some way to bide the time. Let them him jump on the pliant walls of the amniotic sac until he gets his mother’s attention. Then she could say, “See! He’s in there, he’s energetic and happy to be alive.” That would be a comfort.

But at that very moment, his mother’s dreams were dark. She dreamed of the life that she could have lived with her husband had the world not been destroyed. The extra and his girlfriend, Rachel, were in the same position that the child of the cave found himself in. The Old Manor is dark inside, wet. The only difference between her womb and the womb of that house is warmth. There is no comfort for them there in the cold, but sleep. They will throw off the questions they have about their new world until they wake up. They hear unconsciously the echo of the outer world’s sounds drift like dead shadows on the watery floors of the living room. These sounds influence what it is they dream of. It’s good they sleep. When they wake up they will call dreams dreams and life, life. For now, they dream about waves crunching light poles as they roll down city streets, shattering windows and lifting neat lawns. They dream about men out on oceans or lakes or ponds meeting towers that fall to devour their boats, bending bows to splinters and sides to hulks. The couple has no happy dreams that night, but they wake to the lie that their unhappy dreams were untrue.

If only they knew what price they buy the comfort of unhappy dreams at! It was not just in their dreams that the world met its end by water. Their sleeping hearts pieced together the truth long before their waking thirsts and worries could. Their sleeping hearts presented the truth inside their minds without any help from the two organs that assemble the fragments of the fractured world by the hands of a thousand saccades. The organ of our dreams is buried deep inside our guts. Like the eyes, it works only with fragments: scraps from our lives and rumors of our worst worries. Like the eyes, the organ of our dreams passes over these pieces, again and again, until it has come upon a settled picture. This is the picture it shows us. Many people, according to this narrator, give too much credence to the ability of the eyes to perform this task of grasping—and too little credence to our dreams. Why do we do this, when both give us the same service? It is because one organ works while we are awake to pass our own judgment upon its judgment, while the other works best when our hands are tied, our mouths shut, eyes bound. So we never see horrors with our eyes and take them as comforts, because we judge them as horrors. When we see horrors in our dreams, however, we wake and judge that it was only a dream. It was designed this way, so that we do not get a double portion of the horrors contained in this world. Instead, we get a half portion of mourning and a half portion of comfort, even though we saw more horrors than our eyes themselves revealed. Wise men take all the mourning and no comfort, because they know how it is.

Although the child could not see anything in his world, he could hear the muffled groans of his parents as they woke up to discover their own wombed world. They spoke to each other. It was the voice of his mother that he heard best. He felt it in his bird bones; it reverberated inside the amphitheater of his soft skull. His parents woke up and the child shifted his weight as she rose from the chair. His mother cried—but his father hugged her, pressing his stomach against hers, compressing the walls of his home. The child kicked back against him. They said something to each other and he felt his father’s hand on the wall. He kicked his father’s hand away and held fast with his fingers loosely around the cord that had him bound to his mother. He could not see a thing, but neither could his parents. All they could see was what they felt with their hands, like the blind. And like a blind old woman, his mother walked with her hands outstretched in the darkness of that night while her husband put his arm around her waist. Water slushed against their pants. They wished they could be as safe as their child, as care free. They heard sounds on the walls of the house, distant howls, screeching. None of these noises came to their waking attention.

“I’m hungry,” the extra said, “are you hungry?”

“I’m always hungry,” she said.

“You let me go into the kitchen, then. Stay here. I’ll see if I can find a flashlight and some food.”

She leaned against the railing of the stairs and said nothing, because she was going to be sick. She heaved and heaved until she vomited on the water. The image of three corpses floating on the water in the other room, bumping against her legs, came into her mind. As the extra was making noise inside the kitchen, opening and closing kitchen cabinets, another sound came from inside the house. The stairs creaked behind her, but not like someone was coming down them. They creaked as if they were being twisted. A light flashed on the water in the doorway of the kitchen. Two lines of shadow from the doorway scanned across the dancing diamonds of grey and dark blue, fitted like an ornament on the surface of the floorboards. He came to her and shed light on her. She turned to see what was happening, and behold, the stairs looked as if they were melting in heat. They were like metal that had just recently been plunged into the burning embers of a furnace, only to be pulled out and struck into shape on the anvil. The stairs of wood hammered together once sawn long ago gained the youthful looks of the trees that bore them. They had the look of white flesh once the bark has been peeled off a fresh, living stick. The stairs could bear no further delay and, as the soft flesh rose around them, plunged their finished edges into it and were swallowed. And those were now twigs that used to be called spindles in the railing. Neither of them could believe the miracle they witnessed and reached out their hands in disbelief to feel the surface. Where stairs used to be was now at the touch the soft inside of a tree. The extra stood at the bottom of the long-gone stairs. He directed the light up them. The stairwell grew rapidly upwards—as the hollow of a giant root. Those spindles, once twigs, had all too soon grown together and formed the sides of this root, on one side limpid, a hard bark on the other. This giant root pushed against the roof of the house, in order to puncture it, and the extra saw in a sudden moment what he thought would be the immediate death of his whole family. But instead of piercing the outer membrane of their safety, the root only carried on, high, higher up. The root was now racing off into the heights so far that the light could not find its end. The extra and his wife did not know why this happened, but they knew what it was: an offer. So they came to the bottom of that strange ascending well, and began scrambling up it. They found that the scrambling came easy, for the tissued walls of the root was kind on the feet and hands, nor was the incline too steep.

As they climbed, they came to a spot that they knew was well beyond the Old Manor down below, still sunken. They took a break here and heard the creaking of the root still expanding upwards, going before them to the world they had not yet met or seen. The hope overshadowed their hunger and thirst, but their exercise in hope only grew their desperation. There was no immediate answer to their appetites, which made it worse. They discussed whether or not to return to the Old Manor for the night, or to continue on until they came to the end. Neither seemed like a good idea. The extra shut off his flashlight.

He prayed in the darkness, his hands with her hands, “Please, if you can flood the world and give us a way out, bring us some food and water or show us what we are supposed to do to eat.”


Excerpt: Prince of the Couriers of the Air

When Malvin slept on the couch in the empty living room of the Bliss Homestead, he dreamt that he was really hanging in the dark room of the basement, the room where the cobwebs had piled up to the height of small children, where bones of deer lay scattered, where the leaves of the overgrown bushes pushed through the cracked window, where Malvin avoided. He was chained to the wall like a prisoner in a dungeon.

In his dream, someone paced down the board stairs, someone whose face remained unseen. Malvin felt the approaching presence of death. This being came into the room, but the face remained hidden by necessity of dream logic. He knew that if he was able to see the face of this being, the features would be too much for him to bare, features grotesquely detailed. The entire face was really a textured map, with rivers colored blue streaking across the cheeks, with mountain ridges where eyes should be, popped up high, snow-capped, with cities of America labelled, but in all the wrong places, because the inhuman face was a map of some unknown geography, captured in an order that existed nowhere. Malvin knew that if he could see the face, if for one second he could catch a glimpse of the face, he would see small, mite-sized cars zooming down the highways on its temples. Malvin knew that if for one moment he could see that face which contained the entire known world in the dense detail of a spider’s abdomen, he would recognize in it all the memories that ever filled him with longing. In that terrible dream he had every night, Malvin made every attempt to picture the face before the being had come into that dark room.

If he could picture everything the face contained, the being would not do what it did every night to him. The being walked into the room slowly and Malvin was compelled to just keep his eyes on its feet. It was as if his head was forced down by some invisible hand from the sky to remain looking at the worlds of darkness the floor contained: dirt as hard as clay, uneven, that rats scampered around under Malvin’s hanging feet. When the being approached the room, he saw its feet stop in the doorway. The feet peeled off gently and water came forth from the roots of its legs. The currents of water carried away the hollow, shining feet. This water splashed and spilled from the towered legs like volcanoes bursting at the bottom of the ocean. All so soon, the rats that found their home in that basement would be swimming on the surface of the water, their small backs like rowboats navigating in senseless circles, tails like rows. The water climbed its way up Malvin’s body. First, his feet. Legs. Chest. The water was blacker than the walls of the dark room, for it picked everything up in the basement that had lain dormant or self-satisfied, whether it was the bones on the floor: cobwebs, spiders, rats, old toys, or rusted nails. All of these things kicked against Malvin as the dark water climbed up his body. Desperately, Malvin would seek to use his mental demand to picture that basin of the labyrinth, the face of the being, before the dark waters filled up the dark room…the dark water whose only means of escape was down Malvin’s throat and the shattered basement window. All that had been kicked up from the past, that had failed to be swept, would try to go down Malvin’s throat. The rats bit at his shirt, lips, eyes, toes, him, as if for the rats, Malvin was their means of escape. Malvin felt all the legs of the spiders on his skin, the cobwebs clinging to his fingers, the nails poking into his arm, then bounding back, coming back again, old fishing hooks nicking his legs, the binding of flayed books bobbing against him like loaves of bread on the water.

As Malvin’s eyes closed in that fervid water burying him, Malvin would still be seeking to picture the map on the face of the being. He was able to catch glimpses of what it contained. He could read the legend down its long neck of the strange symbols across the endless plains, ridges, valleys, fjords, glaciers, cliffs, hills, plateaus, desserts, deep woods. All of these were rendered in illuminated colors of pinks, the dark greens that splash out as leaves from buckling roots, tans of the ocean’s lining, azures you can only see when your eyes are shut against a dream sun, dazzling red that nature achieves in the pin-pricked polka dotted worlds contained within petals, and the warm gold that shimmers in the fins of coral fish. Malvin would sometimes see the densely intense snapshots of cities. These cities proved to be micro biomes. Though they were perhaps no larger than plant cells, they buzzed with activity. Particle people ascended particle elevators up skyscrapers that rose minutely from the surface of the face’s crust. What plenteous miniatures! Malvin felt protective of these infinite and insignificant lives. He witnessed these cities with desperation in his heart, knowing that just one scratch, one indecent scratch of the itch that these cities must have been on the eyeless, mouth-less face, would destroy them and all they had worked so hard to achieve. This being seemed unknowing to the crusted surface of its mapped face, or seemed to have no knowledge of that small world that filled Malvin with paternal love for even the sharp-pointed trees of its forests. This being seemed only interested, whenever it entered the room, to flood the room and drown Malvin. But so too the whole world! If those waters came up the neck of the being, if they covered its face, forever its world would be lost.

Intimations of Immortality in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’

Keats poem, Ode to a Nightingale, is about the longing for a mystic past. The portal to this past time is the song of a nightingale at night in the forest. Keats hears the bird and hears a whole world through its song. How do the poetic elements reveal this mystic longing?

There is no special significance in the fact that there are eighty lines and eight stanzas. The rhyme scheme, also, is not symbolic. What we can say, generally, about the poem is that it has a song-like quality to it and that each stanza, like a healthy prose paragraph, has its own purpose. Many stanzas have some rhyme interwoven through them. Take stanza IV, where ‘moon’ and ‘glooms’ together rhyme, although they are internal and four lines apart. Or, in stanza VII, there is ‘born’, ‘corn’, and ‘forlorn’. This internal rhyming sews up each stanza nicely. The progression of the poem is not just pulled along with rhyme. Keats uses a lot of assonance, the repetition of syllables within a line. It is quite clear in lines 25 (‘sad’ and ‘last’) and 41 (‘I cannot see what flowers are at my feet’), but also appears more subtly in lines 35 (‘Already with thee! Tender is the night’) and 72 (‘To toll me back from thee to my sole self’). We get some kind of more protracted assonance in stanza I with ‘numbness’, ‘numberless’, and ‘summer’. Keats also uses a bit of alliteration, but never quite goes beyond a two-word usage of it: ‘fade far’ (21), ‘mid-May’s’ (48), and ’sole self’ (72). From stanza to stanza, ideas seem to echo and return like the reverberations, perhaps, of the nightingale’s song—fade far comes back in 47 as fast fading and in 75 as plaintive anthem fades, but we first got the idea of fading in line 20.

Keats wants to fade away with the bird. Then he tells the bird to fade away. Next, we find that the violets are fast fading. Finally, the song of the bird fades back into the forest. This is the entire storyline of the poem. Keats wants to go away with the bird, because his world is one where violets—beauty—fades away. He is like the violets and he, too, will fade. The bird then leaves, but Keats is left high and dry. We find that Keats cannot go with the bird, because if he did, he would not have heard its song fade into the distance. The next thing we can expect, after the poem, is that Keats himself will fade. But the bird? The bird itself never fades. The bird was not born for death (61). Keats was (26). He wants to go where beauty might keep her lustrous eyes (29), but he cannot. This inability to go where the bird hails from fills him with a peculiarly mystic longing.

Keats longs for ‘a draught of vintage’, a metaphor comparing the memory of summer to a rich wine. We see this later in the stanza with the image of a ‘purple-stained mouth.’ The bird sings of summer ‘in full-throated ease’ (10) and it is this song that fills Keats with the craving of summer. This is not just a memory of summer, though, which is a mundane desire everyone has in the heart of winter. It is much, much more. This memory has been ‘cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth’ (12) and so it is an old, perhaps ancient, memory. In lines 2-8, he expands the idea of summer as an entire country (13), not only where people dwell and dance (14), but where Hippocrene is (16). Hippocrene is a pool that the Muses drank from and it filled them with the inspiration to imagine. At this point, Keats is saying that the bird’s song has filled him with a longing for poetic imagination. We at first thought it was just a longing for summer, because of a pretty song. And here, at the end of line 8, we find that the entire second stanza is set up in premise-conclusion form. The poem’s form lends itself well to this.

There are ten lines in each of the eight stanzas, broken into three clumps. The first two clumps are of four lines and then there is a final, two line ending. In stanza II, the first two sections begin with parallel summaries of the next three lines, respectively: ‘O, for a draught of vintage…O for a beaker full of warm South.’ The second summary is an expansion of the meaning in the first line. It is not a drink of old memory, but a pitcher of warmth. If the second section is building on the first, what is the necessary poetic conclusion? It is that Keats ‘might drink, and leave the world unseen’ (19). This only makes sense. Everything in stanza II is unseen and only the song of the bird has inspired Keats to produce it. But Keats has not seen ‘the country green’ or ‘beaded bubbles winking at the brim.’ The unseen world can be no other world than the world he has made with his poetry. And this world goes far beyond Keats. It is a world that comes upon him with the song of the bird. What else should Keats conclude, but that his poetry has accessed something beyond himself? He did not make his own heart ache. The bird did. Like Daedalus giving the idea of flight to Icarus, Keats only attempts poetic imagination because of the nightingale’s song. Like Daedalus and Icarus, Keats tries flying with the bird, but cannot sustain his flight of poetry. The bird flies on towards a new world—and Keats, having flown too high for a mortal, falls.

Throughout history, there have been mystics obsessed with birds for this very reason. Mystics consider the bird as the perfect symbol of longing for an unseen world. Why? Because birds are from the world above and they come singing a beautiful and unintelligible language. It is that language that grants us intimations of immortality–provides us with glimpses of the divine. We cannot, however, maintain the moment of beauty. It flies and fades past us and we try to capture it, like Keats, ‘on the viewless wings of Poesy’ (33). We are filled with dissatisfaction, because it leaves us. The mystics are the ones who find themselves beset with a longing to hold beauty eternally. Mystics long for death—for mystics believe that this reality is a dream, a shade of the immortal beauty beyond.

We find all these elements in Keat’s poem Ode to a Nightingale. There is a bird, a ‘light-winged Dryad of the trees’ (7) and its beauty causes his heart to ache. His heart aches, because the bird teaches him of a world beyond his own, for ‘thou wast not made for death, immortal bird!’ He wants then to die, ‘I have been half in love with easeful Death.’ This encounter is fleeting and his mind cannot grasp the full meaning of the encounter. Keats is experiencing a moment of mystic longing…with one key difference. Instead of the bird being a messenger of the divine heavens, it is a symbol of the undying beauty in nature. This is the longing to reach beyond death and become immortal. ‘O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth’ (11-12). In the end, like a good mystic, Keats questions whether his entire life is the dream and whether by dying he might wake up into immortality.

The answer is yes.

The Young Man who Flees

The main question at hand was, “Did John Mark write the Gospel of Mark?” Most people who argue for the authorship of John Mark point to various testimonies in the Early Church after many decades had passed. Papias, Irenaeus, and Jerome all claim that Mark was using the eyewitness testimony of Peter. For evidence, some scholars will do in-depth analyses of the text itself, looking at places where the author comments on Peter’s internal thoughts. Other scholars have suggested that Mark put himself in the narrative, unidentified, as the young man who flees naked in the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in 15:51-52. I grew up assuming this particular character was the evangelist himself and that he was just too embarrassed to mention his name. Surprisingly, it turns out that the character of Peter and the presence of this young man in the Garden of Gethsemane are connected—but it has nothing to do with the identity of the author. Whoever the author of Mark was (and I believe a compelling case could be made for John Mark), it seems clear that the Evangelist inserted real historical events—and omitted others—with purpose. The author was not inserting the event of the fleeing young man to reveal his personal character, but rather to reveal the character of the disciples.

From a brief scan over all the passages before the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples are a core group of followers that surrounded Jesus who are made distinct from other groups. This contrast is made early on in 3:7-21. There is πολὺ πλῆθος (τὸν ὂχλον) who follow Jesus as one great mass throughout many scenes and then there is the twelve disciples listed right afterwards in 3:16-19. These are ὰποστουλος, who Jesus called to send out in v. 14 (αποστελει). Right here at the very beginning of the Gospel, we are met with an expectation for who these people ought to be (ἱνα ἀποστελλῃ αὐτους κηρυσσειν καυ ἐχειν ἐξουσιαν εκβαλλειν τα δαιμονια). Sometimes, they do what they’re supposed to (6:13), sometimes they don’t (9:18, 9:28). This happens often in the text; as soon as Mark introduces an expectation for the disciples, that expectation is either met or failed. Another example of this is in 9:37 (Ὁς ἀν ἑν τῶν τοιουτων παιδιων δεξηται ἐπι τῷ ὀνοματι μου, ἐμε δεχεται), which the disciples firmly disobey in 10:13 (οἱ δὲ μαθηται ἐπετιμησαν αὐτοῖς). Again, in 9:35, Jesus says that his disciples must be the last of all. But in 10:35-40, James and John ask to be first of all in heaven! What are we supposed to make of this? Only that the disciples do not understand what it means to be a disciple, much less understand what Jesus is really doing (6:51-52, 8:4, 7:18, 8:14-21, 9:32). Instead of looking at those passages where the incomprehension of the disciples is clearly stated, I want to look at Jesus’ reply to James and John at 10:38. In reply to their obvious bad discipleship, Jesus asks them if they can join him in his Passion and he asks “δυνασθε πιεῖν το ποτηριον ὁ ἐγω πινω?” We get this same word, ποτηριον, in 14:36, when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to God, asking that God will take away the very thing from him that James and John said they were able to drink in v. 39. And just a few verses later from 14:36, we get the young man, νεανισκος, fleeing and leaving behind his σινδων behind.

To understand how 14:51-52 is connected to the ensuing passion of Jesus, I want to take us back to the nature of the character ὀχλος. Remember I said that this group is quite distinct from the interior group of disciples. The ὀχλος are frequently the ones receiving the ministry of Christ and following him around, ἠκολουθησεν (3:7). The young man has this same relationship to Jesus in 14:51 (συνηκολουθει αυτῷ). Of course, his disciples have the same relationship to Jesus (6:1, ἀκολουθοῦσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηται αὐτοῦ). I want to suggest that the crowd, because they relate to Jesus in the same way as followers, are supposed to be compared and contrasted with the disciples. The disciples are the interior group of followers and are, therefore, supposed to understand (4:34), but the crowd seems to understand at times who Jesus is. We see this in the proclamation of 7:37, “Καλῶς παντα πεποιηκεν, και τους κωφους ποιεῖ ἀκουειν και ἀλαλους λαλεῖν.” However, this proclamation by the crowd might not demonstrate comprehension, either. Maybe we are to have these kinds of proclamations in mind when we read of Jesus quoting Isaiah in 4:12 as a warning. The quote from Isaiah in 7:6-7 might also be applied. Maybe, too, is the crowd’s amazement and pleasure with Jesus (12:37) to be compared with Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ (8:29). It might be noted that in the Gospel of Mark, Peter acts as the first of the disciples. His character seems diagnostic of the whole interior group. And Peter might perceive who Jesus is, but does he understand? We are left asking if just recognizing Jesus, as the crowd and Peter do, is all it means to be a disciple.

Right before Peter’s confession, we essentially see Jesus asking his disciples if they are just like the crowd. Jesus does this by referencing the same quote from Isaiah about perceiving and not understanding (8:17-21). That first Isaiah quote (4:12) was in reference to the crowd, because Jesus said, “ἐκεινοις δε τοῖς ἐξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τα παντα γινεται” and in 3:33-34 it says that Jesus only spoke to the crowd in parables. We are to conclude that the crowd is even more contrasted with the disciples in this way, as the ones who are outside and do not receive the special information. My main point here is this: even if Jesus explains things to the disciples, they remain just as confused as the crowd—and, therefore, perhaps just as unfaithful. This whole comparison between the crowd and the disciples goes to show that discipleship is about something else besides just receiving the right knowledge, the right name, the right word.

Jesus’ parable of the sower goes to show this point—and we even get Jesus to explain it for us. Up until the point of the Garden of Gethsemane, it is still uncertain whether the disciples have only heard the word, but will lose it as soon as tribulation comes (4:17). That is the question: when tribulation comes, will the disciples do what they are supposed to?

Remember that Jesus initially called them to himself, so that they might be sent out. What does it mean for them to be sent out? We are supposed to conclude that to be one of the disciples means to be sent out (3:14). But what does that mean? As you will see, it ultimately means following Jesus to his death. The real test of whether or not the word heard has taken root in your heart is if, when tribulation comes, you do not flee. Discipleship is the difference between ακολουθειν and εφυγειν. I find it interesting that when Jesus preaches on this in 8:34, he addresses both the disciples and the crowd, “And calling the crowd to himself with his disciples he said to them, ‘If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself and take his cross and follow me.’” Earlier, we saw that Jesus said that James and John will fulfill their discipleship by taking the ποτηριον he himself does not want (10:39). But so too will others, as Jesus predicts in 9:1.

At this point, you might be wondering why I have even brought in a discussion of the crowd at all in this essay. Wouldn’t it have been enough to simply discuss how the disciples seem unprepared for the higher calling of following Jesus to the Passion? Yes, if I was writing an essay on the disciples. But, I am writing an essay on the young man who flees in 14:51-52. You are now prepared, I hope, to see how the young man who flees is related to the disciples.

We have seen how the crowd is what is called in literature a foil. A foil is a character whose purpose is to emphasize and contrast with another character, so that the foil itself is only relevant in the way it reveals key truths about the main character. In the case of the Gospel of Mark, the disciples are the main character and the main question is whether or not they will see their discipleship through to death. The crowd is the main foil, but occasionally out of the crowd emerges an individual figure. I will briefly mention two individual foils, foils who prepare us to understand the flight of the young man:

In 10:17-22, we get an unidentified wealthy man: “And getting himself ready for the way, someone ran up and knelt down at him…”  This wealthy man asks what he is supposed to do to be saved, and Jesus says he is to “ἀκολουθει μοι.” We know what the cost is, because Jesus just told us what it is in 8:35-36. This unidentified man knows that being a disciple means (basically) losing your life and he decides against it. We immediately see why Mark added in this scene of the wealthy man, because Mark told us what the expectations are for a disciple prior to the scene.

In Mark 10:46-52, we get the healing of Bartimaeus. This particular foil is especially lucid for us, because like the νεανισκος, he also casts off his cloak! ἀποβαλλων τὸ ἱματιον (10:50). The difference is that he is throwing off his cloak in joy, but the νεανισκος does it for some other reason. From the context, the casting off of his ἱματιον is nothing more than a gesture of strong emotion. He is clearly excited to see Jesus, because he cries out ‘κραζειν’ twice. In v. 52, we get this: “‘Go, your faith has saved you.’ And immediately he saw again and followed him (ἠκολουθει αὐτῷ) on the way.” Bartimaeus, unlike the foil before, has the right posture of a disciple.

Now, we get the last foil: νεανισκος. As we have seen, the foils in the Gospel work to show how either the disciples have succeeded or failed in meeting the expectations set for them by Jesus. What are the expectations for the disciples before 14:51-52? In 14:27, Jesus says, “Παντες σκανδαλισθησεσθε.” That is the same word (σκανδαλιζονται) used in the parable of the sower to describe those who will fall away in time of tribulation (4:17). Surely, here in 14:27, we get Jesus elucidating the point he made in that parable about what it means to fall away when διωγμος arises—he was talking about the disciples! Like every time before, we see the disciples encountering the expectation made for them. Their failure is in 14:50: και ἀφεντες αὐτον ἐφυγον παντες. Like every time before, we get a foil to the disciples. The flight of the young man goes to show that all the disciples had fallen away and failed to follow Christ into death. We know the young man is associated with the disciples (and all previous foils), because ‘συνηκολουθει αὐτῷ’. Perhaps there is no merit to this, but if the young man is associated with the crowd, then his flight shows that all have abandoned Jesus. It is as if the crowd all once worshipped Jesus, but in this moment of tribulation, that following crowd has now been whittled down to one, last unidentified character. And he, too, abandons Jesus.

One scholar I read suggested that this flight of the youth is a checkpoint on the way to Peter’s denial of Jesus in 14:66-72. At this point, we can see that this is not only possible, but likely. Peter, who once proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, now in a moment of διωγμος, does not let the word take root in him. Some scholars I read mocked a symbolic analysis of the text. Here, we cannot help ourselves. Embracing discipleship means embracing death, as Jesus taught, but the young man leaves behind a σινδων (14:52). This is the same kind of garment that is used as a burial cloth for Jesus (15:46). The only perfect disciple was Jesus, who did not shrink back from διωγμος, who was wrapped in a σινδων, and οὐκ εφυγεν τοῦ ποτηριοῦ.



Burkitt, F. Crawford. Historical Character of the Gospel of Mark. The American Journal of Theology, Vol. 15, No. 2 (April, 1911), 169-193. The University of Chicago Press.

De Witt Burton, Ernest. The Purpose and Plan of the Gospel of Mark. The Biblical World, Vol. 15, No. 4 (April, 1900), 250-255. The University of Chicago Press.

Harmon, G.M. Peter: The Man and the Epistles. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 17, No. 1 (1898), 31-39. The Society of Biblical Literature.

Hasan, Michael J. The Naked Young Man: A Historian’s Hypothesis on Mark 14:51-52. Biblical, Vol. 79, No. 4 (1998), 525-531. Peeters Publishers.

Jackson, Howard. Why the Youth Shed His Cloak and Fled Naked: The Meaning and Purpose of Mark 14:51-52. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 116, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), 273-289. The Society of Biblical Literature.

Matera, Frank J. The Incomprehension of the Disciples and Peter’s Confession (Mark 6:15-8:30). Biblical, Vol. 70, No. 2 (1989), 153-172. Peeters Publishers.

Muddiman, John. Narrative Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. Newsletter (National Conference on Literature and Religion), No. 9 (October, 1986), 2-3. Oxford University Press.

Sanderson, Barbara. Gethsemane: The Missing Witness. Biblica, Vol. 70, No. 2 (1989), 224-233. Peeters Publishers.

Highly-Paraphrased-Collage-Prayer-Exegesis from Luke, Song of Solomon, Matthew, Proverbs, Genesis, Ephesians, 1 Peter, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 John, Hebrews, Isaiah, 2 Peter, and Revelation

My days are passing away like a fog over town.
Day and night I go about hungry and anxious. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh (P102).
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Day and night your breath was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (P32).
I groan and sigh all day long. All my years pass me like a sigh. Who am I that you are mindful of me, O Most High?
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places.
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
I wither away like the the lilies of the lawn. (P102)
All flesh is a grass lawn, and all its beauty is like the lilies of the lawn. The lawn withers, the lily fades when you blow on it with your breath, Lord; surely I am like this lawn. The lawn withers, the lily fades, but your word will stand forever. (Isaiah)
For in the beginning was this word, and the word was with you, and the word was you.
But you have broken my strength in midcourse, you have shortened my days. “O my God!” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days—you whose years endure throughout all generations.”
I said in my heart that you are testing me that I may see that I nothing more than an animal. For what happens to me and what happens to an animal is the same; as I die, so dies an owl or a sparrow. I have the same breath, and I have no advantage over a bird, for all is a fog. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether my spirit goes upward and the sparrow’s soul goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that I should rejoice in my work.
Of old you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain—they will all wear out like a garment, for they are bodies that are perishable.
Whatever you do endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. (ecclesiastes)
So if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (revelation)
You have done it, so that I fear before you. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and you seek whoever has been driven away. (ecclesiastes)
Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. (revelation)
After all, what man, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” (luke)
I have seen the business that you have given me to be busy with. You have made everything beautiful in its time. Also, you have put eternity into my heart, yet so that I cannot find out what you have done from the beginning to the end. I see that there is nothing better for me than to be joyful and to do good as long as I live; also that I should eat and drink and rejoice in my toil—this is you gift to me. (ecclesiastes)
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (luke)
For the path of the righteous is like the light of the day’s dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. (proverbs)
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter)
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (proverbs)
So, having purified my soul by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, I should love others earnestly from a pure heart, since I have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through your living and abiding word. (peter)
And you have meant for the heavens and the earth to have bodies that are imperishable, too, so you will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. What was once perishable, and sown, will be raised imperishable. (corinthians)
One thing I have asked of you, that will I seek after: I want to dwell in your house all the days of my life, to gaze upon your beauty and inquire in your temple.
For you will hide me in your shelter in the day of trouble; you will conceal me under the cover of your tent; you will lift me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up! Oh, what glory father. You will lift up my head above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in your tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to you, O Lord, for I am the one sinner come home.
Hear, O lord, when I cry aloud—give me direction! Put me back on the path and be gracious to me and answer me when I pray this.
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart said to you, “I seek it.” (psalms)
For you, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” have shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 corinthians)
Hide not, therefore, this face from me, for I long for satisfaction and in my inward bones I crave to be filled with glory.
Day and night I go about hungry. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I groan and sigh all day long. All my years pass me like a sigh. Who can bring me to see what will be after me, as I pass my years rejoicing in the toil of seeking your face in the lost? (psalms)
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, you spoke to my fathers by the prophets, but in these last days you have spoken to me by your Son, whom you appointed the heir of all things, through whom also you laid the foundations of the world. Jesus Christ is the radiance of your glory and the exact imprint of your nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
This universe is your temple, your dwelling place, your house, your shelter.
Who am I that you are mindful of me, O Most High, and would let me dwell as a lily in your temple of the lawn?
Surely you have blessed me in Christ even as you chose me in him before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and blameless before you. In love you predestined me for adoption to you as a son through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of your will, to the praise of your glorious grace, with which you have blessed me in the Beloved.
The Beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am the Beloved’s and the beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies of the lawn.
Consider those lilies of the lawn, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet you have told me that even the prophets long ago in all their glory were not arrayed like one of these. But if you so clothe the lilies of the lawn, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will you not much more clothe me, an animal of little faith?
I see the sparrows and the owls in the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet you, Father, feed them. Surely I am of more value then the sparrows and the owls. And when I am so anxious that my bones cling to my flesh and I lie awake on my bed, can I add a single hour to my span of life, a thing that passes like the fog over town?
For why should I be anxious, when I have redemption through Christ’s blood, the forgiveness of my trespasses, according to the riches of your grace, which you lavished upon me, in all your word making known to me the mystery of your will, according to your purpose, set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth?
Lord, by this word you founded the earth and by this word you established the heavens; by your word the deeps broke open and the clouds drop down the dew, making a fog over town.
By this word you said, “Let there be light.” (proverbs)
That which was from the beginning, which I have heard, which I have seen with my eyes, which I looked upon and have touched with my hands, concerning the word of life…I proclaim also to everyone (as a record for generations to come), so that they too may have fellowship with me; and indeed my fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And I am writing these things so that my joy may be complete. 
If I say that I have fellowship with him while I walk in darkness, I lie and do not practice the truth. But if I walk in the light, as he is in the light, I have fellowship with the brothers, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses me from all sin. If I say I have no sin, I deceive myself, and the truth is not in me. If I confess my sin, he is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. (1 John)
For Peter did not follow cleverly devised myths when he made known to me the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but he was an eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when Christ received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” Peter himself heard this very voice borne from heaven, for he was with Jesus on the holy mountain. (2 Peter)
Lord God Almighty, you are the temple and so is the Lamb. And this universe has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for your glory gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter here, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false (for they all walk in darkness and how can what is dark remain in the light?), but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the universe by the gates.