Fleas on the Back of Gaia: The Mystery of Meaning

It seems such an imperceptible existence of mere decades within the stream of billions of years that to inquire into our own value and meaning and possible purpose as humans seems utterly ridiculous. The psalmist was justified in crying out to the Most High, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” Though his answer that God has made humanity “a little lower than the angels” seems dubious at best. Yet so far as we homo sapiens know, we are the only creatures to peer into the past to read it as an intriguing, even compelling story, to give us, too, some clue to purpose in the present, and hope for the future.

“Oh, unsurpassed generosity of God the Father,” cried Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. “Oh, wondrous and unsurpassable felicity of man, to whom it is granted to have what he chooses, to be what he wills to be! … upon man, at the moment of his creation, God bestowed seeds pregnant with all possibilities, the germs of every form of life. Whichever of these man shall cultivate, the same will mature and bear fruit in him.”[1] And while this eloquent, young Renaissance orator may have vastly overstated the case, it is true, nevertheless, that humanity looks to its primordial past, to the origins of its unique life, in order to hopefully better comprehend its current worth and as-of-yet unrealized possibilities.

“Born for a brief instant, powerlessly carried along by the rapid flow of time and condemned by the latter to inevitable death, man possesses eternity in his consciousness and knowledge, for his gaze can hover over both the infinite past and the infinite future; it can know the eternal truths and the eternal foundation of life,” as 20th century Russian philosopher S. L. Frank opined.[2] And so when we are taught that the Supreme Being, the Most High God, created humanity in his own image, according to his likeness, we are inclined to believe we are incarnated semi-divinities, as it were, or demigods. Even the Lord Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, reminded the religious leaders of his day, “It is written in your own Law that God said, ‘You are gods.’”[3]

We share many affinities with other living creatures, especially those of the mammalian strain, such as hunting, gathering, eating, drinking, sleeping, procreating and such. The psalmist simply, but eloquently, declares of the animals, “They all wait for You to give them their food in due season. You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good. You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire and return to their dust.”[4] Touché! We are the same … yet we deeply sense, even know, we are more. As scientist and theologian Alister McGrath points out:

Metabolism is essential to life. Yet that doesn’t mean we are only metabolic machines, as if that provided a total description of a human being. It simply and rightly recognizes that one aspect of our identity is our capacity to process food… Metabolism is not an end in itself. It is the means by which some of the most significant characteristic features of human beings can be resourced. It is the means to these ends, not an end in itself… Being able to metabolize allows human beings to do more interesting things, and it is those that arguably define what is distinct about us.”[5]

Perhaps, then, we are more than fleas on the back of Gaia, hungrily feeding off of her to sustain our very short, temporal existence, with fear of death, the termination of life, dogging our every step. Perhaps we were, after all, lovingly fashioned “in the beginning” by the God who is Love, with an exciting history that truly is story, with infinite value and specific purpose in the present, and realistic hope in the future … maybe even beyond our temporal future and on into eternity. And as aesthetic philosopher and ethicist Roger Scruton so adroitly points out:

You can situate human beings in the world of objects. In doing so you will in all probability reduce them to animals whose behavior is to be explained by some combination of evolutionary psychology and neuroscience. But then you will find yourself describing a world from which human action, intention, responsibility, freedom and emotion have been wiped away: it will be a world without a face.”[6]

Ah, but the world does have a face, perhaps many, and most significantly the face of God reflected in the face of humanity, which is more than merely an object, or highly evolved but soulless animal. No, the face of the human was first the image of an invaluable child forged, not in the dust of the earth nor at the end of long epochs of evolution, but in the heart of the God, who said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” And so it was, and so it is, contra Henry Vaughn, that we do have root and home, as well as history, heritage, value, meaning and purpose within this universe that is not, after all, Chaos but Cosmos. And upon this realization, upon this truth, rests all else distinctly and importantly human.


[1] Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, 8

[2] S. L. Frank, The Meaning of Life, 53

[3] Gospel of John 10. 34, GNT

[4] Psalm 104. 27 – 29, NASB

[5] Alister McGrath, The Great Mystery: Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning, 21 (Emphasis Original)

[6] Roger Scruton, The Face of God, 49

References

Frank, Semen L. The Meaning of Life. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

McGrath, Alister. The Great Mystery: Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 2018.

Mirandola, Giovanni Pico della. Oration on the Dignity of Man. Translated by A. Robert Caponigri. Washington D. C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1956.

Scruton, Roger. The Face of God: The Gifford Lectures 2010. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.

God Talking: Message of Love

Message from God to Me:

I know you. I’ve always known you. Better than you know yourself. And I love you. I love you with an unconditional, undying love. This will never change.

Really, I knew you before you were even born. Not that your whole life was carved in stone. You were born into endless possibilities. The possibilities and potentials are still endless. But no matter what, I have loved you. I love you now. I will always love you.

But you know what? Even more than this, I truly believe in you. That’s right. Despite any and all faults, failings and shortcomings, I really believe in you. And this is because I really do know you.

I see you. I hear you. Even when you don’t speak out loud, I hear your heart cries. I am fully aware of what you need, want and desire. And I get it. I understand. And you know, I am even aware of deeper needs and desires of which you know nothing … yet.

And I’ve got you covered, child… I’ve got you covered. So don’t listen to the naysayers, critics and backbiters. Don’t pay any attention to people who only pretend to care and only say they have your best interest in mind. They’ll just tear you down.

And you’ve been especially hurt recently, haven’t you? Yes, I know, and you know what? It hurt me, too … and it pissed me off. Hey, don’t worry. I’ll take care of all that. I just need for you to be okay and, well … that’s the reason for this note.

I’m with you. I’m in you. I’m all around you. And I’m not going to leave you. I’m going to walk with you, breathe with you, love you, and comfort you … always and forever. And I swear to you, it’s all going to work out. It’s going to be fine. Just trust me.

I have never given up on you, and I never will. Just you don’t give up on yourself. No matter what others may say. No matter how cold and callous they may be. Even if they give up on you, stop believing in you. Don’t you do it! Don’t you dare give up! Don’t you dare stop believing in yourself. I never will. Remember this!

If I can wrap my arms around you, hold you, accept and completely understand you because I want you so much, then guess what? It doesn’t really matter what “they” say, what “they” think, how “they” feel about you. You just need to love and accept yourself, and be good to yourself. Be peaceful, understanding, and compassionate with yourself.

Finally, having said all this, I hereby give you permission to remove yourself from out of harm’s way. I give you permission to just cut out those parts of your life that are hurtful, damaging … that tear you down. Even if that means certain people. And, yes, hard as it can be, sometimes it’s necessary to bid farewell to certain individuals. 

Now, look up and laugh and live. We’ve got this! Together. You and me … and lots of other people, of course, who genuinely love, understand, and accept you. Yes, they’re still there. They’re still around and part of your life. You’re just having a hard time seeing this at the moment because you’re hurting. But you’re not alone! Really never have been and never will be. So smile, my child, and be at peace.

Providence, or The Eye of Horus

Eye that watches this world I watch watching me,

What do you see across a sea of ethereal eternity?

And what can you be to me who cannot see you

In view of my infirmity so common to humanity?

Do you blink or ever think to write in the story

Of life and the cosmos so rife with pain and strife,

Or perhaps this story is of your own telling told

To multitudes of celestial beings being amused

By violence and war, anger and hunger hanging

Over yet another world that never asked to exist

Or persist in perpetual motion to its destruction?

O Eye of Horus that never sleeps, keeping watch

In this universe torn by the curse of humankind,

Are you averse to penning some lines of peace

In this ongoing narrative so imperative to our life,

Eye that watches this world I watch watching me?

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To Drink Deeply: A Diabolo

You inflame my heart above all,
As you save me from one more fall,
And recreate
For me what is right, good and bright,
Shining in my heart your life light
To drive out hate

I come to you naked in love
For your sweet nectar from above,
To drink deeply
From you like a hungering child,
Now at your bosom free and wild,
Not discreetly


Note: The Diabolo is a poetry form invented by Dennis William Turner, writing on All Poetry as Dennisturner19, and it is a poem of two six-line, iambic stanzas. Lines 1, 2, 4, and 5 consist of eight syllables, while lines 3 and 6 consist of four each. The rhyme scheme is (a, b) (a, b) (c, d) (e, f) (e, f) (c, d) and (g, h) (g, h) (i, j) (k, l) (k, l) (i, j)

Release of ‘On Being Human’

Not to sound too self-deprecating, the whole subject of what it means to be human may have been overly cumbersome for me (or for anyone, for that matter!), and in the end I think I simply bit off more than I could chew. But the work is finished and on the whole I am satisfied that at the very least, this may provide a good resource for those interested in answering the question. In particular, I am pleased with the two-part “Blood on the Rose,” as well as the section entitled, “Indicators Along the Way: In Search of Who We Are,” in which I deviate from a strictly academic path into something more literary, perhaps even poetic prose. Finally, my conclusion, though falling short of a complete answer, is satisfactory and, thus, I’m not at all prepared to revise it … not yet, anyway.

For those who have expressed some interest, On Being Human: A Multidiscipline Journey, is now available on Lulu.com. I anticipate it being available on Amazon within the next couple of weeks, yet I think you’ll get the better deal through Lulu. The price is set at $9.99, but I also included a 10% discount, knocking it down to $8.99, which is as low as Lulu would allow me to go. (Hey, they’ve gotta make some profit! LOL For myself, at least, I’m truly not interested in profit … besides, I’m scarred to death that it just might not be worth it to buyers!) The link to the right Lulu page is provided below. When my book becomes available on Amazon, I’ll let you know! And thank you to all of you who’ve been so encouraging and have expressed a desire to read this work. Blessings to you!

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http://www.lulu.com/shop/jonathan-noble/on-being-human/paperback/product-23927214.html

Crazy Life: Meeting the Mystery of God

“It is easier to gaze into the sun, than into the face of the mystery of God. Such is its beauty and its radiance.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

“The brilliance of contemplated beauty opens the spirit to the mystery of God.” ~ Angelo Sodano

I cannot recall exactly when it happened, but I remember I was going to sleep one night and it just suddenly hit me, that is, the awesome mystery of God. An image of an endless, dark and inscrutable ocean welled up in my mind. I instinctively knew it was a representation of the Divine, and it frightened me. The great swells of water seemed to threaten me, and I actually found it hard to breath.

HEY7221This image, with all the attendant feelings, came back many more times, (and has recurred since I left the Samson Group Home.) Along with this I realized something rather simple, something that should have been obvious all along, and that is: I really do not even begin to comprehend God in his essence. I also realized that God truly is completely overwhelming.

It struck me ~ this simple yet profound truth ~ that I could quite literally drown in the Divine. The more I thought about all of this, the more I felt like I was suffocating. I reached the point of terror, the a terrore Dei. And I could not escape…

You cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas,
    and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
    passed over me.
Jonah 2.3 (NRSVCE)

Yet at about the same time the beauty of the world around me struck me with nearly overpowering force, even, or especially, the simplest things: fish jumping up out of the pond behind the house, birds pecking around the yard, and squirrels scampering about; the fox and racoon at night, along with the opossum family, and the dogs barking in the distance. All of creation seemed to radiate intense beauty that in turn pointed to ultimate Beauty, which I identified with God.

During this time is when I began throwing out the leftover bread from lunch. For some reason, I’d suddenly began to feel it my duty to share our food with our kindred creatures. In fact, tossing out the bits and pieces of bread brought with it a deep feeling of peace. I felt as if I were somehow embracing life in the raw, if only a little. It was deeply satisfying and ultimately healthy… It was like a prayer in action.

This is when I began passing over from the more traditional religiosity of Christianity to a certain degree of mystical spirituality, and one without many words. More and more often I would bow my head in prayer, focusing upon God, speaking nothing, just centering on the Divine. And this was enough… It still is enough. In fact, for some reason, prayer with words began to feel strangely inadequate. I felt like I was falling terribly short when praying verbally … so I prayed while praying nothing and everything.

All in all, this was an exceptionally calming experience, even with the overwhelmingness of God. Really, I eventually began to crave the “ocean of the Divine.” I began to fall into an eerie kind of love ~ but true love, nonetheless ~ with this God of Mystery. No, I never really sacrificed the core of what I’d believed most of my life. I still counted myself Christian, (and still do today), but this was a new and powerful, ongoing experience for me, taking me to another, deeper level of life.

But in a strange sense, I also felt like this was, perhaps, the first time in my life that I’d begun to genuinely believe, having now had an authentic confrontation with God… And my whole life became for a time like a cocoon, within which I would be transformed into someone (or something) totally other than I had ever been before.


For previous instalments, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum

Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

Crazy Life: Hanging in the Balance

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Here’s to the moments when you realize the simple things are wonderful and enough.
~ Jill Badonsky, The Awe-Manic: A Daily Dose of Wonder

It seemed as if I’d been stripped of all the complexities of life … eventually, I mean. After I calmed down and settled into the routine of group home life, all of what felt like monumental burdens — all of the “important” things of life — seemed to roll off my back. This is not to say that I suddenly found myself in perfect condition, but just that my focus was turned to smaller, more ordinary, daily matters.

There was a time to get up in the morning, and I had to get up at that time if I wanted to eat breakfast. We had to take our medicines at around 7 a.m., and then day treatment began at 9 a.m. and last till 1 p.m. We had two home group sessions in the afternoon, around 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Each of us had an assigned daily chore. We had outings two or three times each week. Those who wanted to went to church Sunday morning.

Life was regulated and, all-in-all, simplified. As I shared before, I had no contact with family and friends during my first few weeks in the Samson group home. I also stopped watching the news … or caring at all about what was happening in the world. As odd as it may seem, and even pathetic, nevertheless I simply could not shoulder the burden of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Trump and the Wall, the economy, etc.

My prayers became very short, meditative, and inaudible. I never cracked open the holy Scriptures, nor did I even peruse devotional literature, not even the spiritual classics. Again, all of this was simply too much for me to bear mentally and emotionally. Point in fact, I had been trying to read an inspirational book my eldest sister gave me, but, despite being well-written, I had to put it down. For some reason, it caused anxiety.

My overall situation, though, was not bleak. During these first few months I began to see the simple beauties and graces of life and the world around me: the birds, different varieties of trees, the squirrels and foxes, the pond out back of the home, the opossums and racoons… Even the blue sky looked bluer and more wondrous, and in a turnaround from my past dislikes, I even began to enjoy the rain.

“Simple things relieve the eyes,” says Mehmet Murat Ildan. “Simple things ease the mind; simple things simple things create meditation; simple things are simply miraculous!” And to this I add my hearty “amen!” Never before did I realize just how precious life really is as it is seen and experienced in what we all too often call the ordinary and mundane, and even consider boring.

What an absolute fool I’d been, chasing vain and empty dreams when the priceless, multifaceted, awe-filled dream of life was unfolding all around me, day after day, in all of its regal splendor! But I had been like Don Quixote, charging windmills all of my life … all of my existence, I should say, because I don’t know that I’d really ever actually lived before this point in time.

Laura Ingalls Wilder so wisely said, “It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Touché! So very right and true, and I finally began living this way, living out this pristine, pure truth … thankfully. And living this way eventually led to a “sea change” for me. But first, I did finally receive a visit from my dear and eldest sister, Angela, and her husband… 


For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Continuing my reflections begun in Temporary Insanity,” I would like to share my memories from my first few days in a SpectraCare  group home, one of many located in the Wiregrass area of Southeast Alabama.

The day I first moved in I felt both relieved and anxious … actually, manic. I was relieved to be in a well-structured, safe and secure environment, which was located in the rural outskirts of the small town of Samson. Yet I also felt very high-strung, like I couldn’t settle down to save my life, and, indeed, I had serious problems even going to sleep at night, which fueled an unreasonable fear that I would never sleep again.

Point in fact, though I was thankful to be where I was, I didn’t know if I would be able to stay. I thought I might actually have to be moved into more intensive care … somewhere, though I didn’t know where that would be. To make matters worse, I was nearly frightened to death that if I were moved into more intensive care, I would never get out. Why this particular conclusion? I can’t really say, but that was my state of mind.Hypomania

Oftentimes I just felt like screaming, not because of where I was — I was grateful for my new locale — but because I deeply felt totally overwhelmed. My Ordeal followed me into the group home, but what else should I have expected? Naturally, it was not going to end simply because I’d moved somewhere new.

I can distinctly recall lying in bed as early as 7 to 8 p.m. wondering if I’d be able to rest … to fall asleep. Of course, the attention I gave to this question only aggravated the problem. Thinking about it made it worse.

As an answer to my difficulties in sleep, the staff psychiatrist upped my dosage of Seroquel to a whopping 600 mg just before bedtime. For my constant agitation and anxiety, he prescribed both Buspirone and Vistaril. The good doctor also increased my dosage of Depakote to 2000 mg per day … so I ended up quite drugged, to say the least. This bothered me, but not as much as feeling severely agitated all the time and not being able to sleep at night; consequently, I took all of my medication without hesitation.

Strangely enough, during these first days in the group home I really didn’t allow myself to wonder all that much about God and where God might be in my Ordeal. In fact, I really didn’t pray much. It was almost like I was spiritually stymied. Spiritually I felt numb … not able to engage my soul in … whatever. I did still believe in God; that was never a question. I was, or felt like I was, spiritually impotent. Did this bother me? At the time, no it did not, and this is what I mean by feeling numb.

The first rekindling of the flame of faith came in our Sunday morning attendance at a semi-Charismatic, racially-mixed church, and it came more through the praise-and-worship music than anything that was actually said… Well, at the time I really did not need, nor probably could have handled, any intellectual/theological engagement of my mind. It was my heart that needed nourishment and encouragement, and this is what that church provided, much to my gratitude.

After about four to six weeks I had calmed down and settled in to what felt more like an actual home. And it is probably well-worth noting that I received no visits, nor even phone calls from family and friends during this initial stage, which was ultimately good. To tell the truth, I really did not want to shoulder the burden of visiting or even talking on the phone. During my first days in the Samson Group Home, it would have been too much. I just couldn’t do it, but what I could do, was rest and recuperate … thankfully.

When finally I was able to receive my first visit from family — specifically my eldest sister and her husband — I was ready. But that’s another recollection for another time.

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

My oldest sister says she thought she’d lost me forever. To tell the truth, I’m kind of surprised she hadn’t, what with the audible and visual hallucinations coupled with what my dear Angela described as “talking backwards.” No, my sister, Ann, couldn’t even begin to understand me while I was going through what I now a bit lamely call “The Ordeal.”

The Ordeal began a little over one year ago … well, about one year and four months ago, to my best recollection. To this day I cannot say exactly what caused this agonizing nightmare, but I believe that at least part of it had to do with the medications I was taking at the time for bi-polar, depression and anxiety. Perhaps this was the total cause of my slip into an awful unreality, but I do think there was more to it than the pills.

Looking back on the Ordeal, and considering where I was at the time — mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually — I have come to seriously believe the “hand of God” was involved in my demise. Oh, I know this is an unpopular, unpalatable, and certainly controversial statement to make, yet I believe that, somewhat like Nebuchadnezzar of ancient lore, I was “struck down,” ultimately for my own good.

During that time I was in and out of the South Alabama Medical Center emergency room (ER) and Behavioral Medical Unit (BMU), finally landing in the New Day BMU in Ozark, Alabama. After a two-week stay at New Day, it was decided by my sister, my psychiatrist, and a local therapist that I would do well to move into one of the SpectraCare (the regional mental health agency) group homes. I agreed.

I can still recall the fear that I felt, and just how absolutely overwhelming the world around me felt. I needed some kind of safe haven, some place stable and secure, some home “fenced off” from everything else. So the group home was an obvious necessity, but it was still a difficult transition, and my fears did not immediately go away. There were times during the first couple of months that I felt like I was coming unravelled.

Really and truly, I wondered if I was going to make it, or if I would end up being confined to some psychiatric hospital for the remainder of my life. I was terrorized by this possibility, and literally fought (emotionally and psychologically) to stay in the group home rather than being transferred to another, more restrictive, more “serious” facility. I was already at the low point of my life… I did not want to devolve any further.

But what did God have to do with this? Despite the pretense of humility — and I truly believed I was humble — nevertheless I was proud … arrogant, at least in my own estimation of myself. No, it perhaps did not show outwardly, not glaringly so, anyway; however, I was haughty. I was also quite contentious … opinionated … religious without really being spiritual. And so through degradation, God remoulded me, making me new.

“When my sanity returned, my honor, my majesty, and the glory of my kingdom were given back to me… And now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, honor, and glorify the King of Heaven. Everything he does is right and just, and he can humble anyone who acts proudly.”

~ Daniel 4. 36a, 37 (GNT)

Of course, I did not come out perfect, but I did come out changed for the better … truly thankful for stability in life, mental and emotional health, grateful for the seemingly small and ordinary things of the world, more staid and gentle, seriously and simply spiritual rather than religious, and far more empathetic with those who suffer, especially the mentally ill — that is, those like me.

This is, admittedly, a very brief overview of my life experience over the last couple of years, but this is enough for the time being. (It has been quite difficult to write this much.) But I would like to return to this from time to time, as I believe that it’s good (and healthy) to openly, honestly share… This, then, will be like an open journal. One more note, though: My recent Ordeal has led me in the direction of counseling. Very simply, I want to give back some of the good I’ve received from so many caring people, and to this I genuinely believe God is calling me.

Mysterium Dei

Deep, dark … Ocean mysterious abiding,
Keeping untold secrets forever in hiding;
In the soul of humanity ever confiding,
Yet inscrutable and past comprehending

Is there fear here where you are so near,
And part of us who are part of your heart?
Or overcome by your waves, drowning
Beneath your frowning vault of heaven

Living, deadly … Ocean forever existing,
Roiling and churning, forever insisting,
Enveloping the Cosmos, ever persisting,
While humanity floats, ever subsisting