Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Ocean of Light

Mathieu sat looking dumbfounded as the red liquid seeped out on the wood of the cafe table.

In Jean-Paul Sartre's classic novel Age of Reason, the main character Mathieu suddenly comes to a shocking nadir of awareness--his own "age of reason"-- realizing how much of what he has thought, perceived, and done that is all so delusionary (as will most humans shortly because it is 1938 and only months before the Nazis launch humankind's own nadir, one of absurd unreason).

So suddenly, Mathieu, shocked with this personal awareness of the existential, stabs a knife through the palm of his hand daggering it to the scarred wood of the cafe table in Paris. And looks confounded as his blood seeps out while his friends look on bewildered.

I've encountered my own nadirs, and that's how I've felt, metaphorically, like a knife jabbed through me.

Would you like me to get melodramatic;-)?

Despite his pierced hand, Mathieu is no christ (he's getting his mistress to have an abortion).

And neither am I like Christ...though I seek to be, though I yearn to be.

I've been reflecting back through my recent posts of the last few months--times of deep spiritual crisis where I've lost my spiritual home, discovered I've been living in religious illusion. And now realize anew, I spend way too much time ruminating on and grieving over the "no" and "the ocean of darkness," and not nearly enough time on the "Yes" and "the Infinite Ocean of Light."

So here's a few of my Lightful lines:

Perception in Late Night

I work the graveyard shift in ‘67
Stock shelves of Marlboro ‘Country’
For California slickers, tubes of
Ultra Brite ‘sex appeal’
Brushed by grim oldsters,
And Olympia, ‘it’s the water’
For partying young adults;

I close the flashy cooler,
Pick up the empty card boxes,
Crumple and dump them in the trash bin;
Across the street a Texaco filling station
Slogans forth still, “Trust you car to the man
Who wears the star,’ but its ‘vacant for lease’ sign
Came from the only auto to ford
Those shallow words.

I lean on a metal stool behind
The counter, no customers; its past
The midnight hour; so I
Close my tired eyes,
Rub my warm forehead,
The feel of bone so arched like a vault,
My skull under skin
Almost Neanderthal,
And my sense of self in that inner cave
Of stored ads, memories and procedures;
What will be left in the finite end?

Suddenly like a lighted tidal wave
Overwhelming self and night,
Wide a w a r e n e s s
Oceans deep--
Awash in God.


The Mythic Mask

The vast kaleidoscoped cosmos
On black velvet background
Galactic star swirls,
One great masked Chagall
Above us in infinite light years,
Visioning vivid rose and royal blue,
We cover the earth,
Weeping colors of bowed rain
In this troubled world’s lastness,
From the very beforeness,
Out from
The great cosmic Blast,
A hooded violet trope
That hurtled
Us into the question
Before the asking;

Our distraught masks
Yes, we turn our
Stained-glassed faces
Away from the harshness
Of wintered survival rage
To stare at the flaming sun,
Ruby, emerald, and sapphire
Gleaming through,
Not mindfully blind
Behind metaphor’s
Translucent veil,
Seeing the True Face,
Ever-becoming visually real.
One finally white endless strobe
Of the brightness of becoming,
Unlimited strophe of the Masque
Of all Dancing.

In the Ocean of Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, August 10, 2009

What is Love?

Christians for many centuries, over and over, have stated, "God is love." Most famously, St. Augustine said, "Love God and do as you like."

All this sounds so good, so pious, so wonderful, but tragically like so many philosophical and ethical assertions, the devil is in the details:-(--
not the God of Jesus.

The same St. Augustine of the famous "love" quote supported the persecution of other Christians, torture, killing, etc.

Augustine abandoned his common-law wife of 10 years, with plans to marry an aristocratic Roman lady instead.

From his era down through hundreds of years of cruelty, injustice, and slaughter to the present, Christian Churches in the name of "love" have commited all the horrific acts.

Millions of humans have been slaughtered, burned, hanged, shot, bombed, and drowned--
all in the name of Jesus and this religious ideal of Christian "love."

A more recent case is that of Christian soldier Stonewall Jackson and tehologian R. L. Dabney who ordered the death of many thousands during the American Civil War.

They gave all thanks to Jesus Christ and God for their killing success, and yet at the same time, emphasized the importance of love to God and others. Read the excellent and powerful biography, Stonewall Jackson: Portrait of a Soldier by John Bowers.

What a great general Jackson was! And what a devout believer and how personable and kind to those of his own kin and group.

But what a ruthless killer of others, and in his killing, he gave all the praise for his successful slaughters to the Christian God! He often prayed, worshiped, and read his Bible in the midst of battles!

Not that Christianity has a corner on these strange demonstrations of "love." When I lived in the Middle East, I visited a restaurant. On the wall was a sign which listed all the characteristics of love in Islam.

Yet, then (and in the past and now) Muslims quote the Qur'an to justify slaughtering civilians.

So it goes.

And check out secular history. Humanists who reject religion for all its horrors, also, often define "love" as a worthy human goal, yet their actions are contrary, too.

On a minor note back during my university days (late 60's), Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlavsky came to the University of Nebraska to do a poetry reading. Allen emphasized that "love" is the answer to the world's problems.

I, a naive, small town kid was impressed,
but an older former beatnik told me, "Don't to be deceived."

Later we learned how deceptive talk of "love" can be. One of the young girls in our group was allegedly left pregnant and alone by Orlavsky who moved on to their next poetry reading.

Young men of other worldviews tried to persuade us that a man could have multiple relationships with women and it was "love." Forget all the tragic results of these "love" affairs.

And since then all manner of distortions continue to be put forth as "loving."

Thinkers have even claimed the intentional bombing of thousands of unarmed civilians, even hundreds of thousands including children is an action of love and justice!

And more and more, acts of euthanasia, abortion, etc. are said to be expressions of love!

Indeed, the devil is in the details. Evil hogs them.

Why is it God always gets left holding the bag of evil?

Enough of the very bad news!

What is the nature of true love--the kind that doesn't result in hell on earth?

The great Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh gives some very good clear examples if you wish a definition which isn't centered in the New Testament. However, since I am a Friend of Jesus, that is where I find my understanding of what love is.


Well, the problem is in the details again though, because most of the killers, slave-owners, etc. of the last 2,000 years have claimed to believe Jesus' words, indeed have done their evil with this verse on their lips, praying to Jesus and reading the Bible as they did their horrific deeds.

So we need to go deeper.

A lawyer questions Jesus--sounds legalistic doesn't it--asking exactly, WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

Jesus isn't going to be caught in parceling out humankind, the ones who we must love versus the ones we can ignore or even hate such as, say, the Romans or the national traitors or bad sinners. (Remember, in Jewish culture, the men wouldn't even eat with Gentiles!)

Jesus reverses the thinking of the lawyer with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, pointing out we should be loving like a heretic and national enemy and show active compassion and practical deeds of help including personal involvement, the giving of our money and our time.

This is a continuation of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 38-48) where he even contradicts such Jewish heroes as David and says that we should love our enemies.

And so his followers wouldn't get the wrong idea (like so many later would despite his very words), Jesus emphasizes that "loving one enemies" means practical actions on our part.

For instance if an enemy nation conquers you and its soldiers abuse and execute your people and these killers demand you behave as a servant by carrying their military bags for a mile, then you are to offer to carry these enemy killers' things for another extra mile.


Of course, for most of us (like Jesus' disciples who wanted to kill the Romans and call fire down to destroy the Samaritans, etc.)
we need even more directions of what the word "love" actually means and so the N.T. provides many more definitions and examples. The best is 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient,
love is kind
and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
love does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. (NASB)

No doubt these love commands from Spirit of Christ are overwhelming. Probably that is part of the reason why the disciples and Paul felt then that it was impossible to be a true follower of Jesus.

How can we possibly love individuals of the Taliban or the Islamic State!?

The murderers of Boko Haram in Nigeria?

The Saudi Muslim planners of 9-11?

The criminal who stabbed us?

A parent or leader who abused us?

A co-worker who lied about us so that we lost our job?

One way is to remember as Martin Luther King cautioned, we aren't called to "like" such evil doers, but are rather called to show them benevolence in order that they might turn from their evil ways.

This is Jesus' walk, what it means to be Friends. If Jesus loves and died for all of us, how can we do less?

Jesus' call: To love everyone into the realm of God:-)

In the love of Jesus,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Am I Weird or Deluded or What? And being a pinball...

Am I weird or deluded or what? Or just still a very naive Nebraska village kid? For some reason I yet think most humans I meet are--underneath their vocalized differences and doctrinal tags--basically of similar spiritual faith and inner devotion and ethical concern.

But again this weekend, I discover for the umpteenth time--It AIN'T So.

Years ago, I became of the Friend's persuasion, leaving Evangelical Christianity partially because so much of the latter represents that which is most abhorrent in religion.

And I am a Friend because I love the centrality and experience of open worship where God is present right now in deep biblical "knowing."

Yet more and more I am finding there are many Friends who don't think God is. I keep trying to understand their view (such as the dialogues I've had with the bloggers on Nontheist and elsewhere).

But I admit Untheism baffles me. If the God whose essence is love (of the NT and Friends for 360 years)
then why are we meeting for worship? Are we not truly deluded as Richard Dawkins claims?

And in my dialogue with Evangelical Christians again this week, I realize to an abyssed degree that not only do I disagree with their central beliefs, but I don't really have faith in the same God as them. We use many of the same biblical terms but mean very opposite values.

I do live in a totally different cosmos from such humans.

Where is there a window where I can go and scream...

And last night, I was invited over to a couple of my friends and we had a great talk fest for four hours! At least we are in the same cosmos:-) but their views also seem so contrary to everything I trust and think true.

So I am like the small pinball in one of those classic game machines that bounces from other worldview to other worldview, all so incredibly different from my own faith and wondering where all of this is leading.

I am too much of an intellectual doubter to think everyone else must be bonkers;-) and only my group--Theistic Friends--understands Reality. So I struggle.

On my more despairing days--for instance yesterday, the day for worship--I wonder if maybe Friends, and indeed all religion, is delusion.

Maybe only Existentialism is true.
Maybe this is an absurd world like Albert Camus said and where The Plague wrecks havoc and we are brief consciousnesses for no reason and then the abyss...

Thank God, today I have renewed hope. I may be hanging in emptiness or am pre-damned, etc.,
but today I experience God's love
and am
in God's