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