Tag Archives: Jesus

The Elusiveness of Truth

Trump is again demonstrating his alienation from what most of us know as “truth.”  He foolishly claimed a few days ago that he and Vladimir Putin discussed a joint cyber security unit but was immediately confronted with how the rest of us saw this as complete nonsense.  So he changed his tune yesterday, suggesting…and I paraphrase…”You must not take me literally.”  His handlers found the temerity to challenge him privately and let him know just how completely inane and foolish a “cyber security unit” with the Russians sounds.

Trump definitely believes in “truth” but he reserves the prerogative of getting to define the notion without reference to what others think.  He sees “truth” as a static quality and to him it amounts to whatever whim and fancy courses through his brain.  He reserves the prerogative of defining the term…and all other terms…without regard to how the notion is seen in the context that he lives in, that context which most of us call “reality.”  This arrogance resonates with many of his followers who also see truth as a static quality, some “thing” which they have certainty about without any consideration to the rest of us.

I increasingly believe in “truth” and I even have the temerity to spell it out as “Truth.”  But this Truth is an elusive quality which can best be described as a process, a “process” which the Christian tradition sees as a person, illustrated with the words of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  But this “Truth” lies deep in our hearts and, while always seeking expression, it denies the objectification that would permit any mortal to say that he owns it, objectively.  Those who claim to know “the Truth” objectively always do so with a certainty, a certainty which always betrays itself in real time as specious.

Here I wish to let poet Carl Sandburg present this notion beautifully in a poem entitled, “Who am I?”

My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of
universal life.
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I
reach my hands and play with pebbles of
destiny.
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs
reading “Keep Off.”
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive
in the universe.

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“What is truth?” asked Pilate.

“What is truth?” asked Pilate.  This question posed by the Roman officiate who held in his hands the fate of Jesus still haunts us today.  A Showtime series put this question on the table again in the context of marital infidelity, as reported in this WaPo story:   https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/step-1-to-start-loving-the-affair-admit-theres-no-such-thing-as-truth/2015/10/01/71b98422-65fa-11e5-9223-70cb36460919_story.html

Truth, in my youth, was pretty cut and dried.  And what made it so certain was living in a very narrow, conservative world of Arkansas fundamentalist Christianity. But I remember it with a certain degree of fondness, that qualification “certain degree” explaining why I don’t live there anymore.  If I’d have been a “True Believer” (See Eric Hoffer) I would still be there today but thanks to the infinite grace of God…and I mean that sincerely…I am not there and thus am left with the insecurity and doubt which I see as an essential dimension of faith.

But, nevertheless, Pilate’s historical and archetypal query, resonates with me profoundly.  I do so firmly believe in Truth even as I have so little doubt in my ability to quantify, define, and own it.  But I do firmly believe that Truth is present, even in my obscure little life, and in the absurdity of our collective endeavor.  Or, as my brother in Spirit, Billy Shakespeare, noted with his observations, “There is a method to our madness” and, “A Divinity doeth shape our ends, rough hew them how we may.”

But Pilate’s question is still on the table, in this instance with reference to marital faithfulness, but also to very relevant questions of my culture—abortion, gun control, evolution, and more fundamentally the notion of the old Superman tv series bromide, “Truth, justice, and the American Way.”  Is there anything “firm” and therefore “real”…or “Real”…out there? My vote is a firm “yes.” Truth is there, and “here,” but “woe is me” if I ever venture into the arrogance of thinking that I own it.

Why I “Bother” to Blog

I’m sharing a blog that I greatly admire today.  This gentleman blogs, like myself, basically for self-expression.  He notes that he really does not care if anyone reads it; he writes merely to get it out.  I really can’t say I’m unconcerned with my “stats” report but I’ve not been deterred by poor response to something I toss “out there.”  In fact, the “poor response” that comes too often is really good for me as it provides me an opportunity to deal with disappointment that was once so great that I would not have attempted anything as “foolishly” blathering on like this.  T.S. Eliot encouraged us to “offer our deeds to oblivion” and cyber space is as much “oblivion” as I can deal with currently.  The “mother lode” of that stuff will come soon enough and I take comfort in the teachings of Jesus who told us…to paraphrase…”Chill out.  I gotcha covered.”

One of the primary motivations with this enterprise…and with Face Book…is simple human connection.  Yes, I am “connected” with community and friends and family but there is a richness that can be found when kindred spirits are met through this means also.  I have told several of my social media friends, “Winds of thought blow magniloquent meanings betwixt me and thee,” quoting Archibald MacLeish.

This gentleman I’m sharing with you today is definitely one of these kindred spirits.  He has wisdom at very early age when I was only beginning to discover the depth of language…and resisting it fiercely.  Here he so eloquently conveys the mystery of life, part of which is its incomprehensible ephemerality.

Enjoy:

https://knowthesphere.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/eppur-si-muove/

Ideas, Logs, and “Ideologues”

A new friend of mine who reads this blog shared a thought about my recent musings re ideologues. She used her lovely artistic imagination to juxtapose the word ideologue with the admonishment of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to the hypocrites to first remove, “the log in your eye” rather than focusing on the speck in the eye of others. Her observation points out the projection of ideologues who see in others their own faults. And, of course, they have no awareness of this and if “awareness” should venture too near to them they will “gird up their loins” and flee the threat.

But my focus here is not ideologues and their “sensible” non-sense but the beauty of the human imagination seen here with the observation of this artist/musician. (See Marthawebb.com) Artists are gifts to human kind as they can use this imagination to “play with reality” and suggest associations that others might not see. Martha’s observation has brought together a verse from the Bible and the word “ideologue” and given emphasis to the hypocrisy of “ideologue-ites.” Though the word “log” has nothing to do etymologically with the word “ideologue”, her observation will always stick in my mind when I hear the word “ideologue” or when I see one in action.

Playing with reality” is critical if we are to be human…or at least one who is “alive.”   If we don’t mature to the point where we can step back from our view of the world a bit, we will live our lives under the tyranny of a worldview that fell our way by happenstance. In some sense, “reality” will have “lived us” rather than us having “lived” in reality and by “living” participated meaningfully in it. This is what Thoreau had in mind when he declared that he feared coming to the end of his life and realizing what he had lived was not life. And Jesus had the same thing in mind when he posed the question, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”

Jesus is “Speaking” to Me!

Now, He does not “literally” speak to me.  I don’t hear voices or anything like that.  If it should happen I would refill my prescription of industrial-strength Haldol quickly! But my imagination, so long dormant or even imprisoned within tyrannical linear thought is finally coming out to play and from time to time I like to interpret a few things I’m learning in the realm of spirituality with the following refrain, “Jesus said unto me….”

For example, in the mid eighties when I was knee deep in my “great depression” and was walking past a large Baptist church to get my favorite comfort food, ice cream, and I just noticed that for the first time in my life I had no tinge of guilt for not being there in that moribund house of worship, for disobeying the biblical injunction to “forsake not the assembling together as  the manner of some is,”  And this tid-bit of freedom has been burgeoning through my life since then, slowly working away on that deep-seated core of guilt and shame that had kept me in Christian bondage. And there on that street that summer night, Jesus told me, “Hey Louie, its ok!  You don’t have to do that anymore!  You are free, my son!  You’ve done your time, done your penance…a penance you never did have to do in the first place; for, after all, that’s what I was about.  Remember?  Remember?  Remember?”

And Jesus continued to speak to me and to tell me, “Hey, that whole Christian thingy.  You don’t have to do that any longer.  I paid the price for your freedom from all bondage, even the bondage to “me”….which by the way I never had in mind!”  I began to explore this vein of thought and realized that in the way I had been taught in my youth, I was no longer a Christian and Jesus was telling me it was ok.

So I wondered in that wilderness for years, knowing that I was not an atheist or even agnostic even with this radical vein of thought coming to me from Jesus, of all people.  For, yes I had lost my religion, I had lost my family, I had lost my childhood friends, I had given up professional employment and was living on a meager income, barricaded in the basement of an office building.  I had “lost” everything.  But, I then realized that Jesus and the Christian tradition was still there even though “it” had lost its grip on me.  I no longer “had” to be Christian but realized that I still believed fully that Jesus walked the face of this earth and trotted out a lot of marvelous ideas….and lived them, embodied them!  Now it is true, dealing with “loss” of this type…and speaking now as a clinician…can lead to radical loss which is known in my trade as psychosis.  But I knew that history was still present for my scrutiny and that Jesus had been here in history in some shape, form, or fashion and though we know little about Him, we can surmise that he was a powerful spiritual teacher and I found that his teachings had great value for me, greater value for me than ever before.  And I realized that this meant that I was a Christian and always had been and this “loss” I had experienced was the “loss” of the letter of the law which in the subsequent decades has allowed the “spirit of the law” to begin to flow in my heart and life.

 And since then, Jesus has said occasionally, “Hey Louie!  You are beginning to get it!  You find me only when you lose me, you find me only when you lose the “idea” of me and discover me deeply in the inner depths of your own heart, discovering that the Kingdom is within.  And, Louie, this “loss” you experienced is an ongoing experience but this is only the loss of your ego self which is what I had in mind when I taught that you can find yourself only when you are willing to lose yourself.

 Since then I’ve come to realize why most Christians hyper-ventilate with the Mel Gibson “Passion of Christ” stuff for with that imagery they can allow the story of Jesus, his death, burial, and resurrection to remain…in their mind…an historical “fact” and miss the point that he was “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”  This allows them to keep Him and the whole story a mere conceptual narrative which has nothing in the least to do with the depths of their heart where the real “death, burial, and resurrection” must take place.  They cling tenaciously to the “idea” of Jesus just as they cling to the “idea” of their own identity for to let go of the “idea” and embrace the experience would mean letting the ego die, it would mean following the advice of W. H. Auden who encouraged us to, “climb the rugged cross of the moment and let our illusions die.”

 

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But with this vein of thought, I always am brought to the realization that I have just condemned them all to hell!  By that I mean, in the old-brain mind-set of “literallew” they do not believe the “right way” and therefore are “lost as a goose in a hail storm.”  But the marvel of the Jesus story is that…as the old evangelical hymn puts it, “Jesus paid it all.”  Sure, they don’t get it “right” but guess who else does not get it “right”?  C’est moi?  None of us get it “right” but the message of Jesus is that we are forgiven nevertheless!  And as far as getting it “right”, please define right for me?  “Right” will always be a rational construction, a formulation arising from the depths of the heart which always has a deep-seated need to legitimate its preconceptions.  And that is why Christianity has often been a laughing-stock, easy fodder for late-night comedians such as Bill Maher who see readily through the non-sense and confront them with reality.  But, being confronted with reality, most Christians have a built-in escape, captured by W. H. Auden with this note, “When Truth met him, and held out his hand, he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”

Jesus Taking on the Religious Establishment

Yesterday, I paraphrased the teachings of Jesus as simply, “Get rid of your stuff!” Today, I’d like to elaborate on that theme a bit, hypothesizing about his view on the human race.

You see, what happened was that Jesus came down here and pretty soon found this a bewildering place. Often in his youth he would exclaim to his parents, “What the hell! This can’t really be happening! Why don’t these people get their heads out?” Mary and Joseph would often roll their eyes as they watched him grow up and periodically express his frustration with the human race. Much later when Jesus’ frustration became more intense they began to worry and once Mary even anticipated the mother of Hamlet and said, “Oh what a noble mind is here o’er thrown.”

It took a few more years of maturity but it dawned on Jesus that the problem was that people invested in the material world to the exclusion of the spiritual world. Even worse he realized that this was also true for the religious establishment of his culture, that the Jewish religious tradition was nothing but pomp and circumstance, summarizing one visit to Sunday School when he was 13 with the words, “Yada, yada, yada.” (You see, Jerry Seinfield was not the originator of this expression.”)

So decades later Jesus saw the potentates of the religious establishment together in the village plaza and overheard their conversation enough that he understood them to be sincerely discussing ways in which they could improve attendance each Sunday at the synagogue and also trying to be subtle in their comparison of the size of each others phylacteries. (Yes, Jesus did note that this probably had Freudian overtones.)

So Jesus was in a pissy mood that morning and decided just to saunter up to this august group in which he had no standing in the first place. “Hey guys,” he said, “Just a thought here. I see you guys are having a good time with this religious thing you got going on here. You really get a charge out of this ‘holy’ thing and you succeed in teaching your congregations to drink the same kool-aid. But may I suggest that you simply get over your self which will require getting rid of your stuff, certainly including this religious falderal which amounts only to the dissonant racket of ‘sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.’ If you don’t catch my drift, I’m saying your worship services and spiritual practice have become simply a lot of noise which provides you and yours a whole lot of satisfaction but does nothing for the world outside of yourself. Now forgive me, but I can’t help but liken this particular little tete-a-tete you are having this morning as reflective of the circle-jerk that I see at most of your Sunday morning dogma-fests.” He paused a moment and listened to the deafening silence and noted the apoplectic visages. “Anyway, just a thought here. Excuse me. Carry on. Talk amongst yourselves as you were doing. Oh, and have a nice day,” and he walked away.

So Jesus resumed sipping privately on his cup of latte as he watched these religious elders out of the corner of his eye. He saw them intensely discussing something and he knew it was him, he knew that he had put a bee in their bonnet; but he didn’t care. Occasionally he would catch a furtive glare from one of them as they continued to angrily discuss what he had said and they were gesticulating wildly. He occasionally heard words like “bastard” and “son of a bitch” and something about “probably was born in Kenya”, a reference which Jesus, even with his omniscience, did not understand.

After a few minutes, he saw them coming his way and he thought with amusement, “Uh oh!”

They approached him and the leader of the group announced, “Jesus, we don’t appreciate what you had to say and no one had asked you say anything in the first place. We are left with only two choices—a)ignore you and let you continue in your lunacy or b)to vote you off the island.”

Jesus interjected, with a wry smile, “And let me guess which one you have opted for!”

 

 

 

I “Discovered” America!

Yes, in 1952 I “discovered America” although I also soon realized there were a lot of other “Americans” here already! Edgar Simmons once wrote, “We rattle the world for our babies” and early in 1952 the annual “rattle” took place and I fell to the earth in the sticks of central Arkansas.

It was a “discovery” and adventure; and continues to be. This is an amazing world that we live in. For example, at this very moment I am sitting in what I call my “bird theater” and watch junkies, sparrows, titmice, cardinals, and two or three varieties of woodpeckers raucously queue up for their moment at the bird feeders, cavorting about in the blowing snow as they wait their turn. Suddenly I am a child again and can “feel” on some level again the marvelous beauty that the world has for children before they get fully ensconced in the mundane. That was the time when my heart was still made of “penetrable stuff” and had not been “bronzed o’er” with the “damned custom…(that is) proof and bulwark against sense (or feeling).”

Now, of course, I employ my “literary license” here to recall these moments as there was no cognitive apparatus there to “remember” them with. That contrivance would come later and with it would come a more routine, mundane appreciation of the “beauty” I saw…and felt…at that time. And I use the word “felt” deliberately for early in our life we are a “feeling state” and are constantly soaking up the impressions which will stick with us for life and which will formulate the core of our identity, the roots of that unconscious domain that shapes our life. And, now, I do sense that I have some awareness of that phase of my childhood, some intuitive grasp of how the world appeared back then.

And on that subject, I don’t think I really liked much of the world…or at least the “human” part. I found all “those rules” baffling and overwhelming and preferred to stay safely tucked away in my little uroborus. I mean, there were so many of “those rules” and how could I ever get them “all” right; and, of course, being a budding narcissist, I had to get them “all” right, didn’t I? And, I might add that I’ve spent my life trying furiously to accomplish this goal but have found enough Grace in recent years to give up the quest, to humbly realize just how silly, vain and “narcissistic” it was in the first place. I really think that I felt so “judged” by the world I was discovering, and judged so disapprovingly, that I had to be “right” to compensate and the only way I saw that I could do this was to master all of the rules. Meanwhile, I was also immersed in a Jesus culture in which I was nearly almost daily about God and His mercy and forgiveness; and though I came to say I believed it all, I actually didn’t believe a word of it, did I?! The only way I felt I could be forgiven was to “be right” and that meant to follow the “rules.” When that facade began to fade decades later, I referred to it as the loss of my, “ruined, rural righteousness.” And, I might add, that in spite of what I was being “taught” by my “Jesus culture”, the subtext of that teaching was a dictate to do just as I was doing—Be Right!

Come to think of it, there is another character flaw—I’ve always had a hard time focusing on what was going on, preferring to focus on what was going on beneath the surface, in the “subtext.” I almost wonder if I had some version of ADD?