a prayer when considering that converstion

As a little addendum to my last post, perhaps John Donne's Holy Sonnet #14 should be our prayer when attemting to discern what our particular conversation would look like, and also in the process of ridding ourselves of ourselves.

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


that conversation.

Finally I'm sitting down to write a blog that has been a long time coming. Perhaps it is the nature of this post that makes it a difficult one to write, or perhaps i just haven't had the itch to write at all for a while. Either way, the topic is Heaven, or Hell, or, rather, the state of our soul now as it sheds light on eternity.

I just read "The Great Divorce" again. I plan to make it a yearly ritual. Why not, right? Its 146 of the easiest, story-like reading I've ever done. (OK, perhaps the Hardy boys were a bit easier to read). Not only its simplicity, but its poignancy makes it a little book i will not soon forget, but will relentlessly recommend.

I am not in the summarizing mood, so i will let you read what that back of the book says to entice you to read what lies within:

In The Great Divorce C.S. Lewis again employs his formidable talent for fable and allegory. The writer, in a dream, boards a bus on a drizzly afternoon and embarks on an incredible voyage thought Heaven and Hell. He meets a host of supernatural beings far removed from his expectations and comes to significant realizations about the ultimate consequences of everyday behavior...

The focus of the book is on the one-on-one conversations that are had between his bus mates and the supernatural beings. Each of the voyagers has some particular attitude, question, or opinion that the supernatural being is trying help rid them of.

In the case of one man, an artist, he wishes to know if he can paint in heaven, and if so, how soon he can start. He cannot let go of the talent, the way he found worth, even happiness, on earth. After a couple pages of fleshing out the man's real problem, the supernatural being answers, "It was all a snare. Paint was necessary down there, but it is also a dangerous stimulant. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn't stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower--become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations."

In the case of another man, a theologian, he is convinced of his relevant" ideas which are in line with the "spirit of the age," fashionable theology. He meets a supernatural being who used to be a colleague of his. Upon the being's request that he come with him deeper into Heaven, the man asks for a guarantee that he will be able to find a "wider sphere of usefulness" wherever the being takes him. He is given the answer, "No, I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God...hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst shall be quenched."

Unfortunately, in both situations, the eyes of the men were not opened. Their ideas about art and truth meant more to them than the reason they became interested in them in the first place, the God from whom all beauty and truth emanates. In so deciding, the men were caught in what Lewis called the "subtlest of snares" (examples include: a lover of books who, with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor)

There is, however, another kind of conversation that occurs later in the book. This one includes a man with a lizard on his shoulder. The lizard whispers things into his ear, consumes his attention. When a supernatural being asks if he can kill the pest (for it is the only way to be rid of him), there are a few pages of banter as the being convinces the man that the only way the man will be free is if he is given permission to kill the lizard, which may, in fact, end up killing the man. However, the man ends up convinced that "it would be better to be dead than to live with this creature." So, the being kills the lizard. Immediately not only the man, but the lizard also, are transformed. The lizard became a stallion and the man rode off into the high country with it.

I probably just wrote out about half the book for you, really its short. I've been intrigued by these stories in the past, by each persons journey, faith, stupidity, etc, but as much as I've enjoyed reading it or been challenged by each or certain conversations, none of the stories fit me exactly, duh.

So, I was thinking that if I could, if you could, get to a place where we can identify the kind of conversation we would have, then it would no longer be our conversation. I don't really know how clear that is, but I just mean that if i can figure out the questions i would ask, the earthly things (even good things like love, happiness, beauty) i would hold onto, or the personal aims that i wish to see fulfilled above the goals that God has for my life, then, and only then, can i begin to look for those answers, let go of those earthly ideas, and reorient my goals.

It is all about taking our focus off of ourselves so that we can become ourselves. It starts with pinpointing a conversation that we are already having, but just may not know it, for "this moment contains all moments". For each of us, what is that conversation?

This is part of the song that breaks forth after the lizard is transformed into a horse:
Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light.


Alexandra Comes to Visit.

Well, my darling, fountain hopping, SIP partnering, parking lot sleeping, adventure companioning, California visiting, conversation having, future flatmate, friend Alexandra Jane just left me. She was here for 10 days. These were ten of the most active days I have had in a very, very long time. It was magnificent. Besides daily walks and challenging ourselves to not drive whenever we were able (gas is freaking $4.65), we biked 15 hilly miles to the beach on bikes that were too big for us one day, which now seems like nothing in comparison to our greatest feat--climbing half dome in Yosemite. Check out the photos from the trip, and then stay tuned for my thoughts on it, unless the pictures are enough, in which case, don't stay tuned.

Its hard not to have a lot of thoughts when you are in the beauty of God's creation. So I am going to limit myself to three major points. Perhaps I'll allow myself more later.
1. Part of the reason thought life is abundant in the mountains, on the beach, or in any part of nature in general, is that nature provides us (i've anthropomorphized nature, but I really mean that it is provided by the Provider, in the Form of nature) with an infinite amount of metaphors. Its interesting for me to think about the sheer number of comparisons that I drew as I looked at the river flowing through our campsite, the trail that wound endlessly on, the journey back down the mountain, the vast landscape from the top as compared to the enclosed sections of the trail. The list goes on. I think metaphors are important, in fact, Jesus himself used the parable of the Sower, to lay out how it is that the Gospel has been, and will be received. Comparing an element of the natural process with a personal process. I don't think it is a coincidence that there are are numerous parts of nature that, when abstracted, resonate quite poignantly with the lives of those who will take time to reflect.
2. A little anecdote: Alex and I were trying to find the bathrooms at our campsite one night, and then we looked up. We no longer cared whether or not our teeth were brushed for bed, but rather that we took time to capture beauty of the stars and night sky in that moment (see night picture above). As we sat down on the ground to figure out the appropriate shutter speed and how to simulate a tripod in a moment's notice, i just got excited. We sat there for a while, as the camera began to collect all of the light possible so that it could make a picture in which stars and trees were discernable. In the middle of one of the pictures, a car drove past, making a lot of noise, and as it did that I got really frustrated, as if the unnatural sound were somehow going to mess with the natural beauty of the picture. This, of course, was not the case.
Immediately after this little incident, my mind wandered to a recent passage in the book I am reading by Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death." In the section that came to mind, Neil is discussing photography and telegraphy and the ways in which they give us a "psuedo-context." Of course, by the mere use of the prefix "psuedo," we might assume that Postman isn't neccesarily pleased by the presence of these mediums--or rather, that he is critical of them (i suppose its a critics job to be critical). "But there is no such thing as a photograph taken out of context, for photograph does nto require one. In fact, the point of photography is to isolate images from conext so as to make them visible in a different way." This little sliver of this enormous chapter leavese me with mixed feelings. Feeling 1: Joy. I'm extatic that in my photograph, the context is taken away. You can't tell by looking at the photo that there are tons of tents all around, you can't hear the sound of the truck as its many cylinders create noise and sound pollution...all that the onlooker can see is the beauty of the night sky. Feeling 2: Dissatisfaction. The photograph doesn't do the night justice. Though the onlooker can see the beauty of the night sky, that is the only sensory experience that will connect them with it. There are no cicadas chirping, no sound of river rushing nearby, no smell of campfire, no cool night air, the entire experience, save the particular visual one, is lost.
This has given me plenty to think about concerning the role of certain artisitic mediums, their strengths and their weaknesses, and their truth value (assuming, as I do, that there is, in fact, a truth value).
3. Well, I planned on typing a third, but it IS father's day, so I will retire upstairs to where the family has congregated to watch a classic--Remember the Titans.
Until next time.


On Repeat.

So, its weird. Lately, I haven't had any songs or melodies running round and round in my brain, but, i have had the quote from Mere Christianity playing over and over in my mind, countless times a day. At this point I have no apparent connection to make between it and the current goings on in my life, except the continual affirmation of its truth in daily living. So here it is, perhaps after I write it out, it will cease permanent residence in my day to day thoughts, sort of like the myth that if you listen to a song when it is stuck in your head, it will magically become uncatchy and thus depart. That's crap, but I'm gonna try it anyway.

"...It is dangerous to describe a man who tries very hard to keep the moral law as 'a man of high ideals,' because this might lead you to think that moral perfection was a private taste of his own and that the rest of us were not called to share it."


The Pants (revisited)

I was alerted tonight at my first (and only) wedding i will be attending this summer, by one of my faithful (perhaps of 3) blog readers that i failed to revisit a anecdote I had shared and fulfill a promise I had delineated when I composed it. See March 2nd to read the story behind these pics. Aunt Steph, I apologize for the major blogger faux pas I committed by failing to follow through on this. But, better late than never, right? (probably what that boy thought about getting his pants back...better late than never.)

If you wish to see these pictures with captions, there is a facebook album devoted entirely to this story.
Hope you enjoy, Aunt Steph!