Thursday, March 15, 2007

Walking on Water Wasn't Built in a Day (12.14.10)

As I was making my coffee, it popped into my head how innocent my son -- and all children -- are. Undoubtedly, this is one of the attractions, for if they are innocent, we must be guilty. Being around them eases the burden of guilt.

Of what are children innocent? Let's see. For starters, death. Loss. Toil. Sex. The degeneration of time and illness. The New York Times editorial page. Fulsome diapers. (Yes, I suppose those last two are a distinction without a difference.)

For the past week, Future Leader has been completely entranced by a DVD about firemen. It was actually made in 1995, and all of the firefighters in the film are NYFD. Therefore, there's a good chance that some of these guys died on 9-11. Just one of the things you think about when you're guilty as hell.

I suppose it's not so much the guilt but the failure to admit our guilt. As always, it's not the crime but the coverup. Our society is very much like a neurotic patient who expresses his denial through obsession, thus, for example, the culture is obsessed with youth, sex, and youthful sexuality. It's as if -- no, not as if -- it is that youth no longer has a telos, a natural end point toward which all living things tend. Rather, it simply is what it is, a static thing frozen in developmental time. As such, it's not really youth at all, for youth is on a continuum that always points to its fulfillment. Therefore, to arrest it is actually death and death worship, for what doesn't grow is dead. It reminds me of why Cher's film career ended -- she is so stretched that her face has lost its natural expressiveness and can no longer convey emotion aside from permanent surprise.

As part of my recent continuing education, I had to attend a seminar on aging. This turned out to be one of the better ones, as it was given by a Jungian analyst who had studied with Joseph Campbell. One of the things he mentioned was that, in preparing for the seminar, he checked out all of the popular books on aging that are carried in the typical Borders or Barnes & Noble, but none of them were actually about aging. Rather, they were all about denying the aging process and trying to hold onto youth.

Which brings us to the third day of creation and the fifth miracle of John. What happened "on the third day?" First, God gathers the lower waters together so that dry land may appear. Then he calls the dry land "earth," and says that it shall bring forth vegetation, seed, and trees that yield fruit according to their own kind, that is, "whose seed is in itself," an early reference to DNA.

The emphasis is very much on the seed-principle, which, in the words of Tomberg, is "the principle of formative force becoming actualized and bringing to visible realization its own inner, invisible shape." This would obviously apply not just to the visible plant world, but to the "virtual" trees that grow in paradise, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It would also, according to Tomberg, include the "seed of Abraham" which implicitly "contained" the nation of Israel, and the words of Jesus, which are in various places compared to a seed that can either fall on hard soil or bloom into a new virtual Kingdom, depending upon one's degree of receptivity.

Furthermore, as Tomberg points out, Jesus explicitly refers to himself as a seed "who must die in order to bear much fruit -- comparing the essence of Christianity and its history with seed and its development: its germination, sprouting, and growth." The implicit message is that life and growth cannot simply involve static life, which isn't life at all. Rather, inherent to life is its own "sacrifice" in order for life to increase. The seed "dies" but is resurrected as the oak. Thus, even in the plant world we see a relationship between reproduction and death -- a "loss of innocence."

In the human world, it is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that bears the seed of psychological death -- and therefore, the possibility of growth and transcendence.

Life is "fluid," whereas death is dry and static. Thus, in the separation and concentration of the principles of water and earth, there had to be some way for them to mingle in order for the seed to grow. In other words, there first must be separation in order for anything at all to happen. In fact, this is the basis of chaos theory and the science of dissipative structures, the latter of which are open systems at disequilibrium.

Any organism is a dissipative structure, in that it is an open system that exchanges matter, energy, or information with the environment. If it ever reaches equilibrium, it is officially dead. Life itself can only manifest in a state of dynamic disequilibrium. The same applies to the mind and soul, which must remain open systems in order to grow. The lower mind requires information and human relationships, while the soul requires love, truth and beauty, and ultimately a relationship with their source. The underlying point is that life itself is a dialectic of "fluidity" and "solidity," or of process and structure.

Now, the fifth miracle, or sign, involves the act of walking on water. While Jesus is off by himself meditating on his mountaintop, brooding over the latest attempt by the masses to force him into being King of the World, or James Cameron (John 6:15), the disciples set sail aboard a tiny ship. What begins as a three hour tour turns into a fateful trip, as the weather starts getting rough and the tiny ship is tossed. Frankly, if not for the receptivity of the faithful crew, the Minnow would be lost -- the Minnow would be lost.

A voice is heard: It is I, Gilligan: be not afraid. Who is I? No, it's not the Skipper. We already know from the first, second, third, and fourth miracles that I AM is a number of things: it is "the vine," "the way, the truth and the life," "the door," and the "bread of life." Here, according to Tomberg, we also learn that I AM is implicitly the "seed of heaven." The act of walking on water speaks to the fact that I AM is "not the one borne, but the bearer, not the one led, but the leader, not the one supported but the support." And this act is paralleled in "the wonder of pure faith, unsupported by anything but inner certainty, which stands above the threatening sea of relativeness and doubt, and goes its own way."

It was a dark and stormy night.

Well, it is, especially after we eat from the Tree Knowledge of Good and Evil, cash in our innocence, and are fully plunged into the stream of time. True, we have to be here in order to grow and evolve, but it's tempting to be a land lubber and just hold onto terra firma. It is to remain a seed, a temptation that has a certain appeal, since to live as a seed is in a sense to remain in a state of infinite potential: so long as you are nothing, you are potentially anything and everything. This is the appeal of the latest nothing, a Barely Nobama, if that. Ah, the Mendacity of Hype. The moment he becomes something, he will be as guilty as the rest of us.

So let's wrap this up. How to faithfully die to life in order to be reborn? How to be fluid and yet grounded and structured? How to be in the world, but not of the world? How to make a transistor radio out of seaweed and a belt buckle, like the Professor?

Walking on water is one thing. More challenging still is swimming on dry land.

32 Comments:

Blogger Lisa said...

Not to pull Bob's beautiful post into the horizontal, but...I just wanted to let everyone know that swimming on dry land is very good for the lower back and will strengthen it and relieve pain. Lie on your stomach with your arms straight up by your ears with the palms on the floor. Feel your shoulder blades drawing down your back and into your belly. You can have the palms face each other if it is hard to draw shoulders down. Breathe and continue to do so in through the nose and out through the mouth. Lift the opposite arm and leg drawing your navel into your spine and alternate. Easy! No pool required...

If you do not have bulging discs, you can sit back on your heels in child pose to stretch out back. Enjoy the rest of the day!

3/15/2007 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Thinking about the seed reflecting Jesus - who says, "He who gives up his life for me shall save it.." This dynamic seems to appear in parenthood, wherein a person afraid of death, obsessed with youth, and unwilling to die to oneself can not really die as the seed does that their life may be saved through the next generation.

Chesterton:
In one way all this ancient sin was infinitely superior, immeasurably superior, to the modern sin. All those who write of it at least agree on one fact; that it was the cult of Fruitfulness. It was unfortunately too often interwoven, very closely, with the cult of the fruitfulness of the land. It was at least on the side of Nature. It was at least on the side of Life. It has been left to the last Christians, or rather to the first Christians fully committed to blaspheming and denying Christianity, to invent a new kind of worship of Sex, which is not even a worship of Life. It has been left to the very latest Modernists to proclaim an erotic religion which at once exalts lust and forbids fertility.
...
Sex also is to come to the slave merely as a pleasure; that it may never be a power. He is to know as little as possible, or at least to think as little as possible, of the pleasure as anything else except a pleasure; to think or know nothing of where it comes from or where it will go to, when once the soiled object has passed through his own hands. He is not to trouble about its origin in the purposes of God or its sequel in the posterity of man. In every department he is not a possessor, but only a consumer; even if it be of the first elements of life and fire in so far as they are consumable; he is to have no notion of the sort of Burning Bush that burns and is not consumed. For that bush only grows on the soil, on the real land where human beings can behold it; and the spot on which they stand is holy ground.


(Chesteron, Sex and Property -channeling Schoun...?)

Also today:

Barak Obama... Babaar Amok?

3/15/2007 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Chloe Cumming said...

Thank you, Bob, I've never commented here before but I'm a long time reader and I get a great deal out of this blog. Lately it seems to synchronise with a lot of the stuff I'm working through in my drawing and painting. Exploding caterpillars and all that. Sorry not to say more today.

3/15/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Dr Bob,
“life and growth cannot simply involve static life, which isn't life at all”

Speaking on seeds, growth and such today, I couldn’t help noticing this word you used above today in a new light. ‘in-volve’

It made me wonder if you implied the ‘evolution’ that must happen within.
A new ‘coon term, I think.

3/15/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Lise (is that a valid nickname?) Thanks for the tip. Felt very good on my lower back, which is often a complainer in the body of a 6'4" fella.

3/15/2007 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I really enjoyed the Gilligan’s Island references, Dr. The professor is probably my favorite from the show. A study of this character would show he was a thinker, a good man, energetic, the opposite of the all-too-common wacademaniac who looks down on the lower life forms he has to ‘live with’. The Professor was never like that.
The original Star Trek another great show. Spock my favorite for similar reasons. A thinker but could not squish his ‘human’ half. The Capt would always try to get Spock to ‘realize’ this. I think you will recall many episodes ended with a close up of Spock perplexed expression, considering this ‘heart’ that he had but didn’t seem to know he had. The ‘hmmmmm…’ expression. Spock was the original pointy-headed (eared) intellectual - but the one that could be ‘reached’ occasionally. I meet folks like this. Wish it were more often…

3/15/2007 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

The ladies dug Spock as much as they dug Kirk.

3/15/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Imagine...

Schoun... versus... Hitchens?

It would have been like a matter-antimatter reaction.

3/15/2007 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous ghost of sonny said...

Bob has spoken about the folly of trying to stop aging:

"It reminds me of why Cher's film career ended -- she is so stretched that her face has lost its fluidity and can no longer convey emotion."

Since I'm Cher's personal friend, I think I'll share this little gem with her. I show her boyfriend and kids, too. They'll all get a big hoot out of it.

Cher will say "Why, that Bob is such a nice, clever man. I should thank him for thinking of me!"

To which Bob replies: "You misunderstand me. I think that you are a contemptous fool who has disfigured herself out of vanity, and are a worthy target of our scorn. It was the best way to make my point while writing my blog."

Cher's boyfriend: "Honey, what are you feeling? I can't tell because your face is so stretched and stiff. I think I'll leave you."

Cher's daughter: "Mom, honestly, I can't tell whether you care about me or not because of your stretched face. Without the ability to convey emotions facially, you are totally worthless to me. Goodbye."

Gagdad Bob: "See? I'm right. The only thing left for you is to go off and feel hateful about yourself."

Cher: "I'm going to think about this some more. Maybe I can get a surgery to loosen up my face a little bit."

3/15/2007 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger dicentra63 said...

So that was the choice put before Adam and Eve: stay in the garden, in stasis, no learning, no growth, no posterity, or bring death and children into the world.

People like to say that Adam and Eve blew it, but if they hadn't partaken of the fruit, the two of them would still be there, naked as jaybirds and twice as ignorant.

Without the introduction of spiritual and physical deaths, there could be no posterity, no growth, no learning, no individual progress.

It's the choice we all made: will you stay in stasis, ignorant of good and evil, or will you pass through sorrow and death to become wise and mature and holy?

That's what's so insidious about all these attempts to recreate paradise/utopia: they represent a cessation of knowledge, a stopping of learning, and a damning of progress.

3/15/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

I think this passion for eternal youth is a grotesquely materialistic twist - a perversion, actually - of the ideal behind the American experiment, which is of course, the ideal of eternal spiritual renewal.

It amounts to a regression into paganism: as soon as the physical passions die, human viability is finito. (I recall with frisson of terror an 80 year old Bush Sr. jumping out of an airplane in order to prove something or other)

In the same way, hermaphroditism and other gender-bendings are materialistic perversions of the ideal of the divine androgyne.

Like they say, the closer you get to the sacred, the closer you get to the profane.

3/15/2007 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Dicentra63 - Sounds you've been well-schooled in mormonism. So, I guess you just throw out Genesis 1:27-28? "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth..." The Fall wasn't the prerequisite for learning, growth, posterity, or children. Really.

3/15/2007 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

ghost of sonny -
Three questions:
1. How old is Cher?
2. How many times has she had plastic surgery?
3. Do you have a recent picture of her?

Those three should settle any dispute.

3/15/2007 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Bob - It's great to see Nick Drake's lyrics used - particularly juxtaposing the reality of his own short life and circumstances against the context of today's post.

Once again, thanks.

3/15/2007 01:17:00 PM  
Anonymous ghost of sonny said...

I'll have to be more direct. Bob's insult against my wife's pisses me off. Not because it isn't true, but because some true things shouldn't be said, out of common decency.

Bob breaches a certain kind of behavior I'll call "spirtual etiquette" which states that spiritual leaders must match or exceed the native cruelty of a 14 year old boy.

Bob is close, but no cigar yet. Keep working on it.

3/15/2007 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous cousin dupree said...

I don't know why Cher hates Republicans so much. Imagine if the Democrats had imposed socialized medicine -- she'd still be on a waiting list for her 71st plastic surgery.

3/15/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

ghost of sonny:

I don't know where you got the idea that we were against your wife's pisses. We just want her to start doing it inside.

3/15/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Does ghost of sonny still have a bowl-cut hairdo? I truly hope so...ghosts are funny....

Riv- you can call me Lise but I usually write Lis and then think that's so lame I should just put the last letter there, so in writing I just end up using L. You can call me whatever as long as it's not late to dinner. Keep swimming morning and night for a few breaths and you'll feel great. Age also has to do with mobility of the spine...

3/15/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous cosanostradamus said...

"Yellow freakin' fear. I've been too chicken shit afraid to live my life so I sold it to you for three hundred freakin' dollars a week...etc.", says Joe Banks as he finally begins to wake up after being told he has a 'brain cloud'.

Yep, it's JVTV time again, brought to mind by the prospect of 'walking on water'.

The discussion today has me looking at fear as a gift from the Maker, and not merely an after effect of the Fall - sort of a magnetic stargate portal we are attracted to and called to pass through. The sting always pales in comparison to the reward.

I'm talking of spiritual fear...I'm still not going to flop my hand down on a hot burner or anything.

JVTV is the ultimate raccoon movie, by the way. :-)

And oh yeah, I'm kinda fonda Wanda.

3/15/2007 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ghost of sonny said:
"Bob breaches a certain kind of behavior I'll call "spirtual etiquette" which states that spiritual leaders must match or exceed the native cruelty of a 14 year old boy."

Quit projectin' boy.
Not every 14 year old boy is a cruel native.

3/15/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Lisa said:
"I just wanted to let everyone know that swimming on dry land is very good for the lower back and will strengthen it and relieve pain. Lie on your stomach with your arms straight up by your ears with the palms on the floor. Feel your shoulder blades drawing down your back and into your belly. You can have the palms face each other if it is hard to draw shoulders down. Breathe and continue to do so in through the nose and out through the mouth. Lift the opposite arm and leg drawing your navel into your spine and alternate."

Oh great! Thanks Lisa.
Now my navel is stuck in my spine!
I think I just got a back stroke...

3/15/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Chloe said:
"Lately it seems to synchronise with a lot of the stuff I'm working through in my drawing and painting. Exploding caterpillars and all that."

You paint explodin' caterpillars?
Cool!

3/15/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Ben!!! HAHAHAHAHAH, pause for breath, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Chloe - That's "hookah-smoking caterpillar". ;o) By the way, that's some impressive art for "someone your age". Seriously, very nice. I recommend everyone check out her site.

3/15/2007 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Bob said:
"And this act is paralleled in "the wonder of pure faith, unsupported by anything but inner certainty, which stands above the threatening sea of relativeness and doubt, and goes its own way."

It was a dark and stormy night."

I like how you put that, Bob.
I wonder what effect it would have if Bob translated the Bible into Coonspeak.

3/15/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Chloe's site does have some very interesting stuff. She reminds me a bit of Delirium, closer to the Delight stage...

3/15/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous ms. e said...

Speaking of water and swimming - My film animator son says the scene in "300" of the oracle awakening was filmed underwater. It's a beautiful, cinematic visualization of fluidity and solidity.

3/15/2007 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ahh... where else can Giligans Island merge with the most serious of spiritual and cultural matters, without the least bit of lessening of the message, to the contrary, in fact actually deepening it... my oh my.

I must confess I was stuck on the use of the word 'guilty' for a while... is that really the best word? It wasn't until I was able to sit down tonight and reread the full post that it truly began to sink in.

It still unsettles... a deep rolling and productive unsettling sensation. Many questions there. As well as,

"Rather, inherent to life is its own "sacrifice" in order for life to increase. The seed "dies" but is resurrected as the oak. Thus, even in the plant world we see a relationship between reproduction and death -- a "loss of innocence."

and,

"In the human world, it is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that bears the seed of psychological death -- and therefore, the possibility of growth and transcendence. "

Hmmm.

And my vote for the biggest sleeper line of the month, just see if this one doesn't crop up in some half remembered dreams and twilight musings:

"This is the appeal of the latest nothing, a Barely Nobama, if that. Ah, the Mendacity of Hype. The moment he becomes something, he will be as guilty as the rest of us."

It has a good hook to it of course, but once it's good and set, see where it reels you in to, how it in-volves you ("...the Mendacity of Hype. The moment X becomes something, X will be as guilty as the rest of us...").

And this is sickeningly true:
"It's as if -- no, not as if -- it is that youth no longer has a telos, a natural end point toward which all living things tend. Rather, it simply is what it is, a static thing frozen in developmental time. As such, it's not really youth at all, for youth is on a continuum that always points to its fulfillment. Therefore, to arrest it is actually death and death worship, for what doesn't grow is dead. "

I'm flabbergasted at all the Parents trying to out teen their teens, and the kids never given an urge for growth. They know they win the childish battle with their parents, and with that tussle decided, what's to strive fore? Oh,the lessons lost and never considered... there's a jeweled setting for a deep green emerald of growing guilt.

(Well chosen Chesterton quote River, somehow I don't remember seeing that before - my rereading list and my reading list should keep me growing older for several lifetimes to come)

As a related asnide, Sonny, you really shouldn't judge the quote by its cover... read it and think it over.

3/15/2007 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Going back to the plant analogy, it occurred to me today that the only flowers that stay perennially in bloom are fakes. Plastic, or wax, or silk, from a distance they may look perfectly lovely; up close, you can see that while they may (if they are good quality imitations) look appealing they have none of what actually makes a flower a flower - no fragrance, no opening or closing with the sun, in the case of fruit no possibility of providing nutrients, or becoming something more.
They are not part of the ebb and flow of life. It's sad how many people are desperate to become fake people, in a desperate attempt to hang onto the beauty of their youth.

3/15/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo,
Regarding your comment to dicentra63... can you really mix the chapters like that? 1 covers the creation, the physical existence, it's not until 2 that we get into the vertical regarding not just 'Man' but Mankind, Adam and Eve. Obviously in the Garden they aren't doing a lot of fruitful multiplying - that doesn't begin until after (I could get going on 'after', but I've got to get going to work first ;-) ) the fall.
In that context, I don't think she's far off the mark.

3/16/2007 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Van - I'm just deeply troubled by all that "lies" below the surface of mormonism (it doesn't get much stranger). Seriously.

3/16/2007 08:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things he mentioned was that, in preparing for the seminar, he checked out all of the popular books on aging that are carried in the typical Borders or Barnes & Noble, but none of them were actually about aging. Rather, they were all about denying the aging process and trying to hold onto youth.

Image of a Sixty-something Michael Jackson, all his plastic surgery gone south from age, screaming into his playroom mirror: "I'M YOUNG! I'M YOUNG! I'M YOUNG! I'M YOUNG! I'M YOUNG!"

3/16/2007 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous joan of argghh! said...

Dear Ghost of Sonny,

Bob's got a looonnnggg way to go to really insult some old person:

Do you set down your name in the scroll of youth, that are written down old with all the characters of age? Have you not a moist eye, a dry hand, a yellow cheek, a white beard, a decreasing leg, an increasing belly? Is not your voice broken, your wind short, your chin double, your wit single, and every part about you blasted with antiquity? And will you yet call yourself young?

Taken from: Henry IV, part 2

3/17/2007 08:56:00 AM  

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