(Below is part of a conversation between two friends, sent via email. Although the previous communications do have value, just the following paragraphs are placed here in the interest of keeping your attention focused on the point we would like to emphasis.)
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 9:47 AM
So sorry to have taken this long to get back. The weekend was a blur and yesterday was no better. But writing back to you has priority this day.
I completely understand all your disclaimers in this and your other post that you’re not pushing any particular worldview/philosophy and just expressing what is. I guess I’m trying to get you to reconsider something you embraced once and through the hurts and disappointments of the intervening years have put aside. I did a sermon a while back where I quoted Chuang Tzu (got a few more raised eyebrows on my sheet for that).
“You cannot speak of ocean to a well frog, the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect, the creature of a single season.” To which I added: “How can you speak of perfect love to a human being, the creature of a broken heart?”
The wounding that we all receive at the hands of life, the experience we have of imperfect love being practiced all around us and to us is a lethal combination in terms of making it extremely difficult for us to believe in something so completely other than our senses tell us is real. If it’s too good to be true, it generally is. I had a mentor years ago, very influential in my life, a Catholic priest with very liberal views. When I started to object to a particular view of his based on my understanding of Scripture, he just held up his hand and stopped me saying, “All I can tell you is what I’ve become convinced of. You go become convinced of what you are convinced of.” At the time, I thought it was a cop out. Now I realize it’s the only answer we can give each other.
There is no rational way to God. God is not rational by definition because he occupies a dimension outside of the one in which our laws of rationality exist. Getting to God takes a radical break with rationality at the point where rationality runs out, trails off. The church has always tried to drive people to God’s love through the fear of punishment. Do this or else. That’s an impossibility. You can’t get to love through fear. As Yoda might say, fear only leads to more fear and to separation and to suffering. Never to love. To get to love, you have to make that same sort of radical break with fear that you do with rationality to get to God/love/unity. Fear is rational. We have a lot to be afraid of. At some point you make a break and go become convinced of something you can’t prove, but know is true. And then the kicker is, you can’t transfer that knowing, that convincedness to anyone else. It’s yours alone. No one can abdicate that responsibility of going and becoming convinced to anyone else. No one can do it for us. We all have ruby slippers on, but the witch can’t tell us about them–we have to find out for ourselves. Enough illustrations there?
A few months ago, when I was still Associate Pastor at CMC, I was driving to church by myself one Sunday morning. It was one of those beautiful beyond words mornings with the sun just cresting the open hills, and I was lost in the moment, driving along. Then this thought hit me. What if this really is all there is? This beautiful little planet we scurry around on in the black of space for a while and then die. Nothing after that. What if? And here I’ve spent so much of my life dedicated to a different proposition. You don’t think we all have doubts from time to time? I think anyone who doesn’t, isn’t thinking very deeply about life. But then my very next thought was, but Jesus believed, and assurance returned. Because I don’t believe that Jesus came from nothing, or the love that he expressed is random. It’s not a rational belief. We can rationally say that it’s a biological imperative that drives us to mutually beneficial relationship that looks like love, but when, based on the hunch of my belief, I was willing to take that radical break with rationality, I got a glimpse of something that convinced me, as it has billions of others. And now, convinced, I realize that there is no better way to live, regardless of what may come next. And there’s no going back.
I’m not too interested anymore in any particular world views, theologies, or philosophies, except in how they direct the conversation toward deeper things. Theology is simply our attempt to explain the unexplainable, and so is, again by definition, rife with error. No one has it right, no one can get it all right. The really important things can be apprehended by a child. That’s the beauty of it. I now am convinced that until we’re willing to lay down everything we think we know and begin to entertain things we can’t explain or prove, we will always live in the wells of our own construction, like the well frog. Our seeing limited by the walls of what we can already explain and understand. Lifting ourselves up over the edge to get that glimpse of ocean takes the radical break.
I’d ask you to remember your time with Karen. She made you believe something, not by trying, but because of who she was and how you loved her for it. It wasn’t rational, but you simply accepted it. In fact, it was the rational part, the fear part, that chipped away at the relationship until it was gone. The hurt of that loss has never left you, but that should give some hope, too. Because the hurt, the loneliness is the reminder that there’s something else that is possible, no? I’m convinced of a personal God of unity, not because anyone tried to convince me (though they did), but because the unity/love I have experienced with others led me to take a leap, a risk that allowed me to glimpse that ocean. You might think that it’s all over for you in terms of love or relationship, but you’re wrong, unless that’s the reality you accept. Yes, you’re weird, as you say, but we all are to some degree. And we all have idiosyncrasies that inhibit our interactions with others. If yours are more severe than some, they are less so than others.
I’ve a friend in England who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Have you ever heard of that? It makes many of the simple social norms and interplay we take for granted very difficult or impossible to maintain. I don’t know if you have some of that in you, you might look into it. My friend is a deep believer in God from a Jewish tradition, but he spends much of his time alone. No wife, roommates. He says it’s lonely, but he does force himself to go to synagogue, to work, to the internet cafe. Some of the interaction is exhausting, but he tries. He’s one of the wisest men I know, and though he’s a few years younger than me, I’ve learned a great deal from him.
I don’t know how your life will go, of course. I just don’t want you to give up. If you’re happy in your lifestyle, then there’s nothing to fix, even if there is some loneliness or other flies in the ointment. It’s not for me to say your life needs changing just because it’s not mainstream or like mine. It only needs changing if you know it does, because you long for something else or something more. If so, then I’m trying to show you there’s a way through whatever fear or pain is keeping you down or holding you back. Don’t hide behind your intelligence or rational concepts. Be willing to risk all that stuff you won’t miss anyway for something you might think has passed you by. Let Karen still guide you the way she once did. I remember you back then, buddy. There was a light in you that you probably thought (and probably still do) that she lit in you. But it really wasn’t her. It was your love for her that lit you up. Find a reason to love again, and it will light you up again. It’s the love and the unity we feel with our beloveds that light us up. It comes from within, just as Jesus said the Kingdom comes. It’s possible any and every moment, Chris.
Thanks for all the kind words you said about me in the last post. I love you too. But my stone is not yet smooth, either. You asked what I needed from you. In terms of music, if we can work together and create some great vibrations in the air, that would be wonderful at some point, but not for their own sake. Maybe through the work, we can help each other smooth out some of the remaining edges. That’s all. Let’s keep talking.