A Perspective on “Enlightenment”

 

WordPress and Facebook introduce me to so many interesting people from different walks of life who I would have never met otherwise. I would like to introduce you today to a young Korean woman, Wanyoung Kim, who can be found on Facebook and is stunningly intelligent and erudite.

Recently she declared on Facebook, “You can be mentally Enlightened, but it is really the power of Christ that heals a person.” I was puzzled as this declaration reflected a dimension of Christian faith that I had not noted before with her postings. So I responded, “I agree. But, I’m curious how you would define ‘Christ’? This is not a cynical question. I just know that you are a very thoughtful person.”

Ms. Kim responded with:

A friend of mine (name omitted here)once described Him as the Internet of all hearts and minds- I cannot say it more succinctly than this. To believe is to know that his suffering accounted for all grievances of every heart and mind that walked upon this Earth in world history. ‪Christ is a man of sorrows himself like me, one can say. The heart of Christ is to see Him in every human being including myself- to empathize with the pain I see of a stranger in the street and this empathy is a healing act where a collective feeling of sharedness which in itself is a unity to the Other reassuring them we all are part of this suffering of Christ. I become Christ my self.

Ms. Kim does not see Christ through the narrow prism that I was taught as a child in conservative Arkansas as a Baptist in the fifties and sixties. And as I read her insightful observations some ancient part of my soul…which I often refer to as “literallew”…wants to denigrate her thoughts immediately. But “literallew” is increasingly buried under the Light of what I now see as Spirit of God which wants us to interpret the scripture and not merely regurgitate it as we have been taught. And this is not merely an intellectual enterprise but a gut-level enterprise that cannot be taught with “book learnin’”. It requires a willingness to have a heart that is “petal open” as Toni Morrison once put it; or, in the words of Shakespeare, a heart that is full of “penetrable stuff.” And this is scary for it subjects one to the flow of life and deprives him/her from the cold, sterile “certainty” that I was told was available and strived for so desperately and never was able to obtain.

Christ is not a “thing” that can be reduced to our “ideas” and thus captured by our ideology, as noble as that ideology might appear to be. He was, and is, an expression of the “Wholly Other” and can be known only when we are willing to experience our own finitude which can only occur when we come face to face with the Otherness that faces us daily with each one we meet and even with this beautiful world itself.  Eckhart Tolle reports He is the “Presence” which is the only thing that “is” if we can separate ourselves from our compulsive thinking.

But seeing Christ in non-linear terms requires an ability to see ourselves in non-linear terms which for most of us requires a radical transformation in self-definition and view of the world. It requires a transformative shift of perspective which brings to my mind the notion from the Apostle Paul, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” It is much easier to just tenaciously hang onto the  way that we have always seen and experienced our world. As W. H. Auden put it, “And Truth met him, and held out her hand. And he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”

But I’m aware that what I’m writing now is “nuts” to nearly anyone from my youth that might happen to read this. This does not make any “sense” to a linear mind that is confined to the time-space continuum. But I have learned that it is very possible to escape confinement in that prison and still respect it and those that live in therein. And I, too, can still live within its confines which is known as “reality” even as I revel in the freedom which Christ represented and offers today.

 

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