Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
The current essay is called "The Ends of Science" by Eric Cohen (originally appearing in First Things), and points out the empty darkness of the sciences which currently fight so hard to deny the existence of something More.
A few quotes for your consideration:
"On the isle of progress, the priest is replaced by the scientist, who conducts secret expriments to help his fellow citizens. This is the new charity."
"...the original sin of the scientific Enlightenment--still haunts modern science: Perpetual progress is not the same thing as perfection. Infinite progress also means infinite discontent, as man is left in a state of eternal becoming with no end. 'Indefinite perfectibility,' Condorcet's dream, is an irreconcilable contradiction."
"Like everyone else, the scientist must decide which ends to pursue, which gods to serve, which demon will 'hold the very fibers of his life.' And these are exactly the questions that the scientific method cannot answer. Divine salvation may be an illusion but so is believing that science can tell us how to live in the world it dissects and describes, and how to live well in a world where scientific power is so readily, so seductively, so dangerously at our disposal."
"Science is power without wisdom about the uses of power."
"...science can conduct the most ghastly experiments on animals (with godlike power) while also worrying as a guild about the effect of modern civiliation on the animals of the earth, seeing man as more beastly than the beasts he destroys, or at least worth no more than the animals he uses. It is why science can devote so much energy to curing disease while believing that death is nature's way of improving itself."
"Our faith in science eventually gives way to our need for faith. We choose the hope of perfection over endless progress and unfettered freedom but only after trying for as long as possible to have everything without contradiction."
Still reading... perhaps more to come on this topic.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
"Acedia... sloth [the sixth deadly sin]. In the world it calls itself tolerance, but in hell it is called despair. ... It is the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive only because there is nothing it would die for."
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
"The old myth would have seen all these phenomena as images--images of some paradox that lay at the heart of things: that freedom for a thing is that state in which it appears at its highest performance (its perfection, in other words), and that this is a state that lies on the farther side of rigor and austerity. And it would have seen all these images as suggesting not a moral servility for that unique creation man, but rather the brilliant display, under a thousand forms, of the Dance, which goes on aeon after aeon, and which waits all breathless with hope for the Man to recogize the pattern, see his place, assent to it, and join. He may or he may not; that is his option. But his freedom is the ecstatic experience of the joyous measure whose music rings from galaxy to galaxy."
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I debated about whether to write about it here, given that it is one of those polemical topics which can scare readers or get me labeled as a charismaniac. But given the impact the topic is having on my thoughts and on my relationship with God, I guess I'll just take the leap and pray that you hop on for the ride.
I'll spare you the details of how it unfolded, other than to say that my darling DiDi's prayer brought it about. She released it. It came pouring out immediately after she prayed that I be used powerfully for healing. As I prayed for 5-6 people and situations who came up to my group with requests, I focused entirely on this newly unleashed voice. My team partner prayed with them conventionally, addressing the needs they raised. But as for me, sound poured out from my heart without stopping for processing into thoughts and words.
(By the way; it isn't a particularly pretty sound. It's full of weird non-American-English-sounds and mouth formations, along with some clicky Aftrican sounds and sibilants. Not a thing of beauty as one might hope. Nothing flowing and melodic.)
It was an astonishing prayer session. The Holy Spirit fell heavily as I received His body on my tongue, and by the time we were finished praying for everyone I felt spent as after a night of love. Not tired out, not weary or exhausted, but both filled and poured out.
It was lovely.
A few days later, I prayed for my dear friend while driving. Since I was by myself, there was no self consciousness and I didn't have to worry about volume.
And so I prayed this way, on and on, my heart soaring and aching the way it does when listening to a passionate violin concerto.
The prayer poured out as if it were music, unfettered and unformed by the word processing of my mind. My mouth became an instrument transmitting the vibrations of my heart.
My soul sang to God.
--A. W. Tozer
Perhaps this is one way in which God "grows"; our capacity for Him expands.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Please be patient with me; I am very busy at present, and have had difficulty carving time for responding to comments. I hope to give them proper attention within the next day or two, because your comments are so rich.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
In the post linked above, I thought about the love growing between my dearest of friends and I, and how the Spirit seems to be making Himself known more and more obviously to us through that friendship.
If the Spirit is (as Augustine claims) the love between the Father and the Son, can it also proceed from the love of us for God and for each other? Could He expand and increase through that love?
When conveying this question to my BP, he reminded me that the Spirit is also a person, and so I brought this into my pondering.
And it occured to me that persons grow.
Bodies grow, and Jesus has a body which grew (and is growing?). We are the body of Christ, and the body and it's members grow.
And love grows.
This all leads me to think that the Spirit Himself can and does grow, and one of the ways He does so is through our love of eachother and for the Father.
But then I wondered, if the Son and the Spirit both grow, does the Father as well?
This one was harder.
He must grow, because the Trinity is one nature. If one grows, all must grow.
And yet He is unchangeing. Immutable.
It is relatively easy to contemplate the Son's growth. And we understand the way that love grows, and can apply that to the Spirit. But how is the Father's growth manifested?
How is One who is unchangeable changing?
It stumped me for a minute, until He stepped in.
And then it occurred to me; perhaps the Father's growth is not in His essence but in His production.
Perhaps it is in the very expansion of the cosmos.
Perhaps the increase of our love feeds the very force of the Father's creative power, and out shoots matter and energy and liturgy and ritual and order and beauty and passion and endurance and hot, molten, burning, unconquerable love.
And so the stars and the planets dance, and the bees and the ants dance, and the church and its liturgy dance, and we dance.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.
O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
-- John Keats
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
If this is the case, what does it say about us, given that we are part of the body of Christ, and children of the Father?
What happens as we expand and broaden our love for Him and for eachother? Is there some corresponding procession of Spirit?
Does the Spirit increase?
"It is the language whose first halting utterances are our efforts to describe our experience by getting images of it from other realms of experience. ... It is the language, skipping or solemn, that elevates our experience by imposing a form upon it, not arbitrarily, but because it suspects that the truest way of speaking of that experience is formally. It is the language that... disposes and arrays the common stuff of experience so that it is ritually transfigured from mere function into an instance of glory.
For it is the language that takes a serious view of experience. It is not satisfied with the idea of mere random tumble. It is not mere random tumble, it insists. There is something here. There is something to be said. There is something, oddly, to be elicited from this tumble. Take it. Grasp it. Handle it. Try one thing and another. Try to shape it. Impose some form on it. Lo... lo... when you are finally satisfied that you have imposed the right form on it, you will wonder whether that form was imposed by you, or whether it emerged from the thing itself.
This is the business of the poets. They are burdened and happy spirits who can do this--this that we all try to do. Burdened because they know that the most important thing is the most daunting thing--to seek and find and utter that significance that emerges from the union of form and content; happy because from time to time they succeed."
(from pages later...)
"There is the paradox of poetry. What seems to have been imposed rather arbitrarily by the poet... ends up seeming to rise from the stuff itself"
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
"There is, it would almost seem left over from our childhood, the invincible desire to locate experience and grasp it and savor it in the same way that we used to need to get hold of some new toy and handle it and get our teeth into it. This is pointless, we suspect--this carousel that spins us past things and never lets us get the ring. And the faculty in us that shouts at us above the wheezing of the calliope that something is there, and that it is as full of texture and flavor and knobbiness as we wish it were--this faculty is imagination."
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
- He calls poetry "the noblest utterance", and says that "Image making is what delights us about certain people's conversation." He says that poetry carves shapes using words. "...it is in poetry that we try to speak the language that is suggested to us by our imagination as the real language of things." He says that poetry comes through the midwifery of the poet. Poetry halts us and tells us to to look at the prosaic more closely. Through it, the clutter of daily experience becomes epiphany.
- On application of the imagination as part of reason: "And when we do exercise it, it is in order to bring about a heightened awareness of the experience in question. To do so is to reach across a gulf that cannot be spanned ... by the analytic faculty in us."
- He talks about the new myth, in which imagination is cast off as foolishness, and points out that in this myth, connections are stripped away, reducing things down to what they think is "truth". But this is a confusion of truth with mere facts.
- Related to this idea was one I found profound. That when you strip things of their context, of their interconnectedness and meaning, paring away to nothing but a set of facts, the thing is lessened. It is no longer itself when it is -only- and merely itself.
- "...if we scrutinize the way we do things, we shall find that we have festooned everything with formality and that nearly every act is loaded down with gestures that bespeak much more than can be discerned in the functional demands of the situation itself."
- The new myth says "Politics and commerce and urban planning and medicine and housekeeping--here is where the real stuff is."
It occurred to me that poetry signifies order and harmony and serenity and joy; in other words, the supreme reality. These aspects of things are the real and true. The physical details are merely the accidents of deeper truth.
Monday, October 12, 2009
"...it did not mean nothing that the sun went down and night came and the moon and stars appeared and then dawn and the sun and morning again and another day, which would itself wax and then wane into twilight and dusk and night. It did not mean nothing to them that the time of work was under the aegis of the bright sun and that it was the sun that poured life into the seeds that they were planting and that brought out the sweat on their forehaeds, and that the time of rest was under the scepter of the silver moon. This was the diurnal exhibition of what was True--that there are a panoply and a rythm and a cycle, a waxing and a waning, a rising and a setting and then a rising again. And to them it was not for nothing that the king wore a crown of gold and that the lord mayor wore medallions. This was the political exhibition of what was, in fact, True--that there are royalty and authority and heirarchy at the heart of things and that it is possible to see this in lions and eagles and queen bees as well as in the court of the king. To them it was not for nothing that a man went in to a woman in private and uncovered her and knew ecstasy in the experieince of her being. This was simply a case in point of what was True anyway--that there is a mystery of being not to be thrown open to all, and that the right knowledge of another being is ecstatic, and that what appears under these carnal forms is, in fact, the image of what is actually True.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
As I was contemplating this during my devotional hour the other day, I pondered what the key might be to releasing people into the freedom of wonder. The story of the Emperor's New Clothes has been coming to mind for weeks, because it represents the enlightenment in reverse.
As I thought more about this, and what sort of myth this might be, a story unfolded, and I captured it in the few remaining pages of my tattered journal.
I am not a writer of fiction, let alone fable or fairy tale. But this thing tumbled out like a pent up stream, and I merely had to catch and direct it.
It was dazzling.
The magic of the experience is fading, but at the time I felt nearly fragile with concern that the beauty of it would not be conveyed, that my BP would not think that it fits with what he is doing, or worse, that he simply wouldn't like it.
But I know that it came from God.
I've been asking for the intercession of Lewis and Tolkien and Chesterton, and believe that this story was a response to their prayer. I think that if I am obedient in finishing, it may even be good. I'm not sure how it is to be used, but I think it may be good.
Please pray for me about this.
Friday, October 9, 2009
I'd been burdened by a particular set of sins for some time, and was mortified at having to say them out loud. But the compassion in the voice of my BP was enormous, and the weight of his hand on my head as he absolved me conferred nothing but blessing.
I am so grateful that our God reaches out to touch and heal us through the sacraments. And for our beautiful priests who serve so faithfully.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
You see, I pictured her dancing on a hilltop, in hippie garb (Let the Sunshine In!) and there were rainbows flowing out from her head.
I continued to pray, despite wondering why I was picturing something so My Little Pony.
But the image wouldn't go away so I gave in and told her about it, feeling ridiculous the whole time.
As the prayer continued, she mentioned that as a teenager she had prayed to be a light to her friends. She loved God and wanted Him to shine through her.
When I heard this, I nearly wept with wonder, because the rainbow image clicked.
He has made her to be a prism. To take in His light and refract it into a brilliant spectrum of visible color.
She was made to be like Mary, magnifying the Lord.
I'll never dismiss one of His images again, no matter how silly.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
In his biography of Jonathan Edwards, page 497, George Marsden writes, "In the Edwardses' world, the meaning of life was found in intense loves, including earthly loves." It was the tone of their life together. They understood that God is of such a nature, creation is for such a purpose, redemption is of such a power, that intensity of love is the meaning of it all. Intensity. Passion. Wholeheartedness.
Deuteronomy 6:5 makes intense love the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." Moderate love is a sin. Maybe the worst sin.
As Augustine said, "Give me a man in love. He knows what I mean."
During the retreat I prayed with a tender soul who our Lord has been wooing. She was tormented because she thought she couldn't hear His voice.
She loves to dance, and the image that He sent me for her was that she was dressed like a harem girl in a room hung with layer after layer of veils.
Curtains of filmy white.
She danced her way in joy, weaving in and through them, back and forth, going deeper and deeper in.
He is behind all the veils, waiting for her, smiling as He waits.
He does not hide.
He merely waits behind the veil and watches us dance.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
While driving home with the friend of my heart, we talked about sex.
Over the past months she's been getting brief hints of my Catholic understanding of sexuality, like wisps of the incense she has come to love. Yesterday we waded in a bit more deeply, though there are still more talks to come, more depths to be plumbed.
I explained the basic premise of God's design for sex as having two constitutive elements; it is both unitive and procreative. When either of these elements is missing, sexuality loses it's sacredness. It becomes disordered.
For example, when contracepting, we lose the procreative element and the ramifications are complex and wide reaching. Too broad to cover in this post.
Similarly in homosexuality, the unitive element may be there (and often isn't), but the procreative is also lost.
In the hook up culture, both elements are ditched, and all sacredness and meaning are stripped away, leaving nothing but a biological itch-scratching. Sex becomes very little different than urination or defecation.
(Appalling. But true.)
In thinking back on this conversation with my DiDi this morning, I realized that this is why masturbation is sin. It is neither unitive nor procreative, and so strips our sexuality of sacredness.
It is interesting that we view denial of our sexual urges as a loss, as if in not giving in to temptation, we are losing out. But it occurs to me that it is -in- giving in to these temptations that we suffer loss, because what we give up in those choices is so much bigger. We lose beauty and meaning and power.
How can any reasoning creature look at this and continue to believe that sex education and early access to condoms and birth control is the answer?
How can anyone look at this and believe that teaching our children to say -NO- was not effective? Isn't effectiveness measured by numbers? Shouldn't rising rates of occurrence tell us something?
When are we going to wake up?
Monday, October 5, 2009
(Yes I know; I am tragically uncool. If I were even an ounce more hip I would link to the Cranberries version of this song, but the Carpenters give it a whole lot more soul.)
Close to You
Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me
they long to be
Close to you.
Why do stars fall off from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me
they long to be
Close to you.
On the day that you were born
The angels got together
and decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
of gold and starlight in your eyes of blue.
That is why
all the girls in town
Just like me
they long to be
Close to you.
Just like me
they long to be
Close to you.
Just like me
they long to be
Close to you.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
It reminds me of an exhibit I saw a few years ago at the Corning Museum of Glass; a collection of unbelievably lifelike plants, flowers, and fruit all made of glass.
They were in cases and could not be touched but were so incredibly real that in many cases you could not tell that they were not.
So there they were, these creations of man, mimicking the wonder of God's creative power, but lacking the softness, the scent, and the fruition of His work.
Beautiful imitations. Brittle and fragile and forced, like facts without love.
The poem below says it well (and even mentions peaches).
The Ware Collection of Glass Flowers and Fruit, Harvard Museum
by Mark Doty
Strange paradise, complete with worms,
monument of an obsessive will to fix forms;
every apricot or yellow spot's seen so closely,
in these blown blooms and fruit, that exactitude
is not quite imitation. Leaf and root,
the sweet flag's flaring bud already,
at the tip, blackened; it's hard to remember
these were ballooned and shaped by breath
they're lovely because they seem
to decay; blue spots on bluer plums,
mold tarring a striped rose. I don't want to admire
the glassblower's academic replica,
his copies correct only to a single sense.
And why did a god so invested in permanence
choose so fragile a medium, the last material
he might expect to last? Better prose
to tell the forms of things, or illustration.
Though there's something seductive in this impossibility:
transparent color telling the live mottle of peach,
the blush or tint of crab, englobed,
gorgeous, edible. How else match that flush?
He's built a perfection out of hunger,
fused layer upon layer, swirled until
what can't be swallowed, won't yield
almost satisfies, an art
mouthed to the shape of how soft things are,
how good, before they disappear
Friday, October 2, 2009
It will be a bitter-sweet parting. This period of my life has been a time of tremendous love and joy and discovery coupled with seasons of darkness and hard realities. Finishing the book is like closing a chapter with which I'm not quite sure I want to be done.
But my choices are few. I must either close the book, stop writing, or stop living. Those are the only options.
Thank you Lord for such a time of sweetness with you.
Thank you book, for your faithful companionship.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I was thinking about how the evil one loves to steal words and distort them for his own purposes ("choice" being a fine example), and how inaccurate a phrase "The Enlightenment" truly is.
We are riding the edge of the wave of reclamation, a restoration of wonder which will bring us to greater understanding of creation, and there will be a word to capture the essence of this era. I'm not sure how early in a cultural shift the name for it becomes apparent, but I want a word for it, as I write about it. I've been playing with a few, but my current favorite is "Delightenment".
I like that it begins with "delight" because a restoration of wonder and love to reason is key to deeper truth. I also like that it conveys an undoing of the distorted aspects of the enlightenment without doing away with it completely.
More as it unfolds...