Worlds Clash, Collide and We Hope

Worlds clash, but we live in but one,
One upon which the sun rises and surprises
Us with the dawning of new day, to make
Our way, yet we are not here to stay…

In the other world there is but bright light,
No sun to rule the day; here there is no sight
Of angels, heavenly spirits that command
Adoration in sensation of awe and wonder…

But we do blunder through this world into
Which we’ve been hurled without rhyme
Or reason, ever out of season, though we
Be about our business, and shouts ascend.

Here we wait to begin again, because past
does not last, and the future is here
But not near, always out of reach to teach
Us patience; the present is all we have.

In the other we’ll not be bothered with
So many purses full of curses, and none
Of which we may rid ourselves in some bid
For better life; that will have to wait,
Yet we still take the bait of desperation
In impatient expectation that all will be
As it should be, for me, you, and you, too.

Façade: Unmasking Will Come

Mask upon mask, no face to show, so no one will know;Goddess_of_Creation_by_SanguineVamp
No one will see our true identity; no one come to me
Simply to be who they are, not from afar, no show;
Only reality in truth, naked in the sea of humanity.

And Gaia turns as her world burns, while the day-soul churns…
No one learns.

Ghostly terror haunts, pride vaunts, arrogance taunts
From empty shell with hallow bell and stench of hell;
So many debutantes with grotesque flaunts of fonts
Of poisoned well what casts upon the foulest spell.

And Gaia turns as her world burns, while the day-soul churns…
No one learns.

One came in softened fleece in peace to make war cease,
Speaking words of wisdom in love-dictum; he became victim
Of fearsome schism while holding forth his healing chrism;
Yet his princedom remains ere Selene from death did release.

Yet Gaia turns as her world burns, while the day-soul churns…
No one learns.

Masks upon masks, we hide ourselves from ourselves,
Imprison one another in ever-illusory shells,
As if truth will be silenced by the wicked cartels
Of men without souls, spiritual holes, while death bell tolls.

But Gaia will not always turn, her world burn, and day-soul churn…
For her children, her children will learn.

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More to Life … Revisited

running in the mustard field 2There is more to life than waking up in the morning to work, to earn money, to live an easier life, to go through the motions of mere existence that only shadows genuine life authentically lived… There is the distant horizon and what lies beyond; that which stirs deep in the soul and beckons one to reach for the stars, to bravely and creatively venture into the unknown. Indeed, “no person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden for them – as a reward for their good deeds.”[1]

Who can tell what might be found? Those who have been courageous enough to explore the daunting wilderness of life have left only scraps of evidence, tell-tale signs of what might be … so in the end, it is a discovery we each must make for ourselves, but this is what makes humanity unique, more than our own mere physiological constitution. As Sir Charles Sherrington recounts the great 16th century French physician and physiologist, Jean François Fernel’s observation of humanity:

Man, linked to the rest of animate nature in so many ways, in one respect breaks wholly from it. His alone are reason and free-will … man has a soul which nothing else earthly has. By that right he is in truth not of the earth.[2]

Sir Sherrington seems to take some exception to this; however, science has its proper limitations, and scientism is plainly unacceptable.[3] That we are today so imprisoned in routines and rituals, demands and expectations, and pragmatic, corporationalist habits really speaks more of the naturalistic scientism of the world in which we are imprisoned than it does of the nature of humanity as created in the divine image.[4] We no longer bow to the numinous, to the unseen pantheon, but to technology and profit.

Would that we cast off all fetters, that we break the chains that bind, and run free and wild, soar into the heavenlies in complete liberty…  It is our right and privilege, even our duty.

And may the sovereign Good be ours!
According as one desires bliss may one receive bliss,
Through Thy most far-seeing Spirit, O Lord,
The wonders of the Good Mind which Thou wilt give as righteousness,
With the joy of long life all the days![5]

What, then, retains us from being so blessed, from blessing ourselves in simply being what we are to be? Is it fear of the unknown – that is, then, that we no longer know ourselves?

In the words of one great poet, then, perhaps “the world is too much with us.”[6] Ah, but we were made for this world, as well as for another. Indeed, we have to see beyond what is seen by the naked eye.  We have to see the unseen in order to realize all of the grand possibilities of our life, and that is the real adventure made possible by the humanity of humans!

To fly into our wildest dreams and never look back, nor to the left or right, because those dreams were woven in the heavenlies! To run in the open fields of divine potential and promise, “and not grow weary,” to “mount up with wings as eagles”[7] and know with certainty that our life in the end will have been much enriched by this bold escapade! To begin with the cry of life and end with a kiss and sigh, as we fade into the eternal, the grandest adventure of all… This is the humanness of humanity. This is our best destiny.

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[1] Qur’an 32.17

[2] Sir Charles Sherrington, Man on His Nature, 166

[3] Arthur Peacocke, Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming – Natural, Divine, and Human, 101-102; Also note: “Scientism” refers to “the excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques.” Cf. also, Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of the Mental Force, 35: “Within the scientific if not the philosophical community, the rise of scientific materialism in the mid-nineteenth century seemed to leave Cartesian dualism in the dust. Materialism not only became the reigning intellectual fashion; it emerged as virtually synonymous with science. In fields of biology to cosmology, science is portrayed as having vanquished the nonmaterial explanations that prescientific cultures advanced for natural phenomenon.”

[4] Cf. Genesis 1.26-27; Mishnah, Abot 3.18 (Judaism); Wisdom 2.23

[5] From World Scripture, “The Purpose of Life for the Individual: Joy and Happiness,” Avesta, Yasna 43.2 (Zoroastrianism)

[6] William Wordsworth, “The World is Too Much With Us,” which can be accessed online at Poetry Foundation

[7] Isaiah 40.31 KJ21

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Wages of Lunacy on Battlefield Earth

Indeed have ten thousand fallen down all around,
While I myself lie prostrate on blood-soaked ground;
One misstep following another, I fell without sound;
Darkness draws near — pain and suffering abound.

Does Sleep she now, fair Nature’s friend,
At last upon this mortal man descend,
With sweet diluted death to still the mind
So troubled, while angels downward bend
To shield him from horrors now left behind?

Lo! Does the deadly pestilence stalk at night,
And terror in the darkness that no man can fight!
Behold, the pale horseman with his quiver of plight,
Arrows striking the very sun to blacken all light!

Haunting screams on the battlefield —
Shattered shield and broken sword —
Smoke is dense and blood runs deep;
Wave upon wave comes the enemy horde.
Crashing I fell and cannot now keep
My eyes from closing in eternal sleep.

Listen! Here is a mournful sound without harmony,
Rising from unknown tombs in earth and sea!
Dead souls lift up voices in the council of eternity,
To clamour for justice denied by heartless cruelty!

Lo! Comes the demon of darkest night,
Fair Nature’s fiend and Sleep to fright
From the man of dust and poisoned blood,
And all the celestial host put to flight,
Lest he the eyes of Peace in rest behold.

And now has my heavenly refuge become my low grave?
And hope no longer lives there is Someone to save?
Must I, too, await relief but in death’s cold wave,
When finally does Mercy silence the lunatic’s rave?

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‘Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God Mother…’ Oh Really?

Yesterday I was referred to the article, Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God ‘Mother’, by one gracious reader in response to my blog, “Imagined Conversation With God,” in which I refer to the Deity as “Mother.” I have provided the link above to the actual article, so anyone interested can read the protest points made by the author, Fr. Dwight Longenecker. If anyone cares for me to respond, please ask and I shall do my best to accommodate, extensive footnotes included. Until such interest is expressed, though, blessings to one and all, especially the reader who provided an “alternative perspective” to my own.

Within the River of Life to Love

One River of Life, twisting and turning and ever flowing,
And never changing, despite the winds of change blowing;
Quickly here, slowly there, brackish some and also clear,
Translucent and wholesome yet sinister and most austere.

Yet in warming sun,Top-HD-Winding-River-Wallpaper
Ever-growing life has begun,
And Summer his own course doth run.

Some fight upstream in hopeless effort to reach the source,
Only to tire and weary, to be swept along the River’s course;
While others swim and play and leap, hopping and popping
In the ever flowing current with ne’er an idea of stopping.

Now leaves on trees
They fall in the breeze,
As Autumn reaches rich life to seize.

Not all swim; they are just carried along, ever quite content,
But all reach the same end no matter how the trip was spent;
For there each is engulfed in the Ocean deeper than deeps,
Vast and endless and peaceful, where the sun never sleeps.

And comes now, too, the fair Maiden of Spring,
With never more lingering,
As all her flowers sing.

And I sing and swim; swim as my heart sings
To know the Love who calls and the Life she brings.
There am I engulfed in her Ocean deeper than deeps,
Vast, endless and peaceful, where her sun ne’er sleeps.

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Make Something of Your Life

Man is the intermediary between creatures … he is the familiar of the gods above him as he is lord of the beings beneath him; that by the acuteness of his senses, the inquiry of his reason and the light of his intelligence, he is the interpreter of nature, set midway between the timeless unchanging and the flux of time; the living union … the very marriage hymn of the world, and, by David’s testimony but a little lower than the angels.[1]
— Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (15th century aristocrat, philosopher and Renaissance humanist)

Birth of the New Man - Salvador DaliIt was the day of my father’s funeral. We had finished the service and had just placed his remains in the columbarium when a man I’d known for over twenty years approached me, placed his hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Jonathan, make something of your life.” He then turned and silently walked away. Needless to say, I was stunned beyond words, confused, and deeply troubled.

I can still distinctly remember looking out the hospital room window of the Behavioral Health Unit at the pot-holed streets, empty and dilapidated buildings, and old rusty cars of what I could see of that section of downtown Dothan. I can remember thinking it seemed a fitting reflection of my life: broken, hallow, decrepit, forlorn. My father was sick with cancer at the time; five months after being released from the hospital, he died. Part of me – a very good part – died with him.

There on the day of the funeral, then, someone whom I had genuinely loved and respected came face to face with me, not to proffer consolation, but to tell me to “make something” of my life. A bit more than six months later I would be back in the BHU of the local hospital … which is not to say his blow-to-the-gut comment alone sent me back, but that whole surreal scene within the episode of my father’s burial certainly factored into my readmission.

To this day I’ve not been able to free myself from the image: the words, the hand on my shoulder, the straight look, the silence in which he walked away … the deep and painful shame. “Yes, here I am, more worm than human, the scorn of humanity, an object of ridicule.”[2] But what does it mean, after all, to “make something” of one’s life? Ontologically, life is being, and so I am willing to suppose the possibility of becoming. What am I to become, though?

Does my life have meaning, value, purpose? Is life in general more than pot-holed streets, empty and dilapidated buildings, and old rusty cars; other than broken, hallow, decrepit, forlorn? I quite agree with the early-to-mid 20th century Russian philosopher, Semyon Liudvigovich Frank:

In order to understand this, we do not by any means have to go as far as the dominant natural-scientific understanding of the world demands: We do not have to view the world as a dead chaos, as a mechanism of lifeless physical and chemical forces… The ancient Greeks knew better than we that the world is not a dead machine but a living being, that it is full of living and animate forces. Happily … it is becoming clear again to the human gaze that the world is not a dead chaos of inert material particles, but something much more complex and vital… the world is a great living being and, at the same time, the unity of a multitude of living forces.[3]

No, scientific-materialistic evolutionism is utterly inadequate to explain the tremendous wonder of life in general and the nature of humanity specifically. Darwinian (or neo-Darwinian) evolution properly focuses upon natural, biological evolution, but is “defective” in offering satisfactory explanations for “mental” and spiritual “experiences of a nonmaterial kind that are in another world from the world of” strict physicality.[4] Yes, the whole cosmos is shot through with the Mystery of Life unsubjectable to the microscope or physiological dissection, which brings me to my problem.

Looking back upon a failed marriage, failed writing “career,” failed ministry (into which I should never have entered), and being diagnosed bi-polar with depression, as well as anxiety disorder; with precious little money in the bank and no transportation, I just wonder how it is I might go about “making something” of my life. I’m certainly not so many particles haphazardly thrown into “a dead chaos,” but the complexity of it all overwhelms me while the vitality seems to escape me altogether. Success certainly seems to elude me, despite my most valiant efforts.

Gazing through that hospital window three-and-a-half years ago I quite frankly asked, “My God, what’s become of me? Who and what am I … really? What’s going to happen to me, and what am I supposed to do?” Well, I suppose the gentleman at the funeral gave me some sort of answer: “Make something of your life.” Ultimately, it is an equivocal, ambiguous and really rather chafing answer, “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”[5]

Can we believe that each of us has been made in the image of God, according to the divine likeness;[6] that we each possess “royal dignity,” in the language of Nona Verna Harrison;[7] that “life is more than food, and the body more than clothing;”[8] that God “is our Father” and “truly is our Mother, who is all wise and all good,” who “wishes to be known,” and “comforts readily and sweetly,”[9] and is even now “making all things new?”[10] And personally, do I truly and fully fit within all this … assuming it is true?

Perhaps it is not, after all, the truth of the matter; to doubt is very tempting to me. It is very tempting to believe that, perhaps, Sir Charles Sherrington was right in surmising:

It would sometimes seem to (humanity that) he is merely a tragic detail in a manifold which goes its way without being even fully conscious of him. A lonely motive in a more than million-motivated construction whose whole motive, if it have one, is unknown to him except as alien to his own and his to it. Master of his fate? Around him torrential oceans of energy; and his own energy by comparison a drop which trickles down the window-pane.[11]

What am I to do? How am I to “make something” of my life? Really, I should rid myself of this vexing question, but it haunts me … it possesses me like some dæmon. Can I simply be and be content with my being without becoming? Would the Buddhist likely answer this query in the affirmative? The Eastern Orthodox Christian certainly would not; theosis,[12] she would say, is the goal of one’s life – that is, the participation in the divine nature in an ever-deepening, intimate Communion with God. Alas, this has eluded me, too, as well as the Wesleyan experience of instant sanctification and subsequent life of holiness. (I am by no means a candidate for sainthood!)

As I look up into the vaulted canopy of the beautiful night sky, splashed with radiant stars tonight, surrounded by the sights and sounds and smells of nature, heaven itself is dark and eerily silent. I cannot be a natural-materialist — the philosophy is bankrupt — and yet I cannot deny that so many of my prayers have gone unanswered, supplications I cannot myself fulfill. “You have not because you ask not,” so “ask and you shall receive” are two scriptures that have tortured me for years. Little wonder I am moved to inquire, “Is anyone listening?”

Yet I still find myself turning, rather weakly and despondently, back to the remaining shreds of my faith, hoping that the Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor is right:

God knows that being problematic is just part of being human. Every one of us suffers from some thorn or another. Every one of us has a shipwreck or two in our past, and every one of us has days – maybe even whole years – when we are short, weak, insecure, and tactless. The good news is that none of that disqualifies us from serving God. On the contrary, those things belong on our list of credentials, because the fact that the church survives with people like us in charge is the surest proof in the world that Christ is alive and well and dwelling in us. How else could we have endured, either as individuals or as a people? God’s grace is sufficient for us.[13]

However, is God’s grace sufficient enough for me to “make something” of my life? I wonder … but, then, I still haven’t really answered the question of what it means exactly for one to “make something” of one’s life. Until I answer that question, then, I suppose I’ll simply have to go on living life, and it seems to me that’s something already, whatever the meaning or value.

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[1] Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, A. Robert Caponigri, trans., 3-4

[2] Psalms 22.6, The Inclusive Bible: First Egalitarian Translation (IB/ET)

[3] S. L. Frank, The Meaning of Life, Boris Jakim, trans., 47-48

[4] Sir John Eccles (Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology) and Daniel N. Robertson, The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind, 16-17

[5] William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5, Lines xxvii-xxviii

[6] Cf. Genesis 1.27

[7] Nona Verna Harrison, God’s Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation, 89-106

[8] Luke 12.23 IB/ET

[9] The Wisdom of Julian of Norwich, Monica Furlong, comp., 30, 2, 17

[10] Revelation of St. John 21.5; Note: the Weymouth New Testament renders, “I am re-creating…” which is probably more precise to the meaning.

[11] Sir Charles Sherrington, Man on His Nature, 272; cf. also C. S. Lewis, “De Futilitate,” Christian Reflections, 65-66 in which Lewis observes, “We might therefore conclude that though the ultimate reality is logical it has no regard for values, or at any rate for the values we recognize. And so we could still accuse it of futility. But there is a real difficulty about accusing it of anything. An accusation always implies a standard… And while you are making the accusation you have to accept the standard as a valid one. If you begin to doubt the standard you automatically doubt the cogency of your accusation… If nothing is certainly right, then of course it follows that nothing is certainly wrong. And that is the snag about what I would call Heroic Pessimism – I mean the kind of Pessimism you get in Swinburne, Hardy, and Shelley’s Prometheus and which is magnificently summed up in Houseman’s line, ‘Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.’”

[12] Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature.

[13] Barbara Brown Taylor, “Perfect in Weakness,” Home By Another Way, 172-173

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Christi Amoris of the Birth-Giver

Do you know that ever before I worked any of the great wonders I worked, before by wisdom I fashioned the heavens and formed the great lights – the sun to rule the day, the moon and stars to rule the night – you were already in my heart?

andrew-gonzalez-5_18f58ca2[1]
Drawing by: A. Andrew Gonzalez
Before the beginning, end and middle of times, when there were yet no alternations of solstices and changes of seasons, cycles of the year or constellations of stars; when the heavens were yet to be created and the canopy of the sky to encircle the earth, you were in my womb.

Before the beginning of the earth, when there were no depths; when there were no springs abounding with water, and the mountains had not yet been shaped nor hills formed; when there were no fields nor even bits of soil, you, Ionatan, were in my soul.

When I spread out the earth on the waters, and structured the world and the activity of the elements, generated the nature of animals and the temperament of wild animals, and grew the varieties of plants with the health-giving virtues of their roots, you were beating in my breast.

When I dug the fountains of the deep, and assigned the sea its limits by my command, while the very foundations of the earth still trembled, and the beauty and creativity of humanity was still but my delightfully divine dream, you were in my mind, Ionatan.

So, too, when I molded human beings out of earth, to which they would return, giving them a fixed number of days, but granting them also responsibility over the earth, filling them with knowledge and understanding of good and evil, you were already in my creative hands.

When the sun first rose upon the earth and the moon spread her nightly light upon the magnificent waters and landscape of the world; when the first man stood and looked in wonder and amazement with my radiant daughter and crown of light, Kelila Leora, by his side, you were in my eye and eternal vision already, Ionatan.

And when the stars sang, they sang in praise for the whole of creation, it is true … but they also sang for you, my love. For I have loved you with an unfathomable and everlasting love, and so have I ransomed and redeemed you to be mine, your greatest Love, for though you have now been manifested in the world, you yet remain in me … and ever shall, dear one.

I am Mother, your everlasting Mother, and this, my beloved, is an invaluable truth I would have all my children know and celebrate.

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Lead Me Sweet Shepherdess Divine

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_The_Shepherdess_(1889)Creatrix, Creatrix, gracious Creatrix, reveal yourself so clear;
For I am a lost and wandering, weary and filled with fear.

Love untold, so very bold, and never cold;
Dream desire of my soul.
Arms strong, where I belong, nothing wrong;
Passionately I crave the whole.

My Lord, my Lord, my Shepherdess Lord, guide me in your way,
For I have no home, so alone, no place to lay my head and stay.

Your eyes aflame, no blame, no shame;
Deep longing of my heart.
Your nectars flow, not slow, from below;
To be fully fed, not in part.

Spirit, O Spirit, Sweet Spirit of Light, illumine the path of Life
Through this dark and dying and decaying world of strife.

Your veil open – divine parting, inviting –
My desperate hunger to be filled.
Oh! Sweet scent, holy mint, lover’s tent;
My crying spirit would be thrilled!

My Governess, Redeemer, my only Hope, pity this poor soul
As I vanish to nether shade, to the darkest depths of Sheol.

Dearest Shepherdess, I have made my choice,
To follow where you lead, where ‘ere that may be.
Only open your gate that I may come to your voice,
And walk behind you into pastures I cannot now see.

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Forsaken and Destitute: Searching for Salvation

My only friend is darkness.a_moment_of_despair_by_fantaasiatoidab-d6jmhk3[1]

My God, my mothering God, why have you forsaken?
Why are you so far when despair my life has taken?

All through the day I call on you, the Everlasting;
I stretch my hands to heaven, weeping and fasting.
Imprisoned in the darkness in the deepest abyss,
No friendly soul, no sound relieves my loneliness.

Shattered pieces of my life lay ugly on the ground;
Dust settles slowly, covering me without a sound.

What have I done, my God, to incite your anger?
Whom have I hurt to place my soul in such danger?
Yet you have cast me down into the lowest grave;
Will you not now hear me, my very life to save?

Dying shards are scattered unforgiving in the wind;
Snaking sinews crawling round each and every bend.

Why do you cast me off and reject me, my Lord?
In terror you unsheathe your double-edged sword.
Your wrath sweeps over me like the terrible flood
As I plead the mercy of your beloved Son’s blood.

This dark prison is mine, and my very own alone,
And my shepherdess calls not in passion’s tone.

Like corpse in the grave, long buried, forgotten;
Left no stone or mark, nor tears for the ground;
Thrown down by your hand, crushed and broken,
And my maiden of grace shall hear not a sound.

My God, my mothering God, why have you forsaken?
Why are you so far when despair my life has taken?

But my only friend is darkness.
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