Adventures in Christianity
I have always been easily bored. Boring people, boring places, boring routines. I'll never forget the feeling of being in school, which I absolutely detested. Waiting for that last hour to pass was literally painful. But I am never bored when my mind is free to ramble and roam.
It seems that the problem has to do with the mind being confined in someone else's little prison -- of being forced to adapt oneself to some little world, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with the living mystery of truth, and of encountering that mystery on a first hand basis.
Rather, real truth, which emanates from O, is a "perennially inexhaustible wonder" (HvB). It is permanently unmasterable, and anyone who says otherwise is a crashing bore, a jaded pinhead. This is because "As soon as we cut off the living world of signification from the ontological root that sustains it, it withers and dies" (HvB).
Pardon the self-indulgent musing. I'm just getting warmed up. But the other day, I was having a conversation with a friend who is a dyed-in-the-wool-over-his-own-eyes atheist -- one of those people who is just completely tone deaf when it comes to religion. I mentioned how I had long since abandoned philosophy for theology, and he asked why -- what do you get out of it?
Of course, I had no way to explain it in his earthly terms, i.e., to somehow fit it into his little world, which obviously excludes the realm of spirit. I mean, there is surely spirituality there, as there is in any normal person's life, but he doesn't see it as an autonomous realm, just a derivative one.
Oddly, this is obviously the real world in which humans live -- it is the quintessentially human world -- and yet, this type of person rejects the human world for a lower one, while still trying to maintain their humanness. I suppose this can work for a generation or two, but at some point, the thread that links us to our civilizational source will be snapped, and that will be the end. Then it will just be a matter of waiting for the Islamists to finish the job, as in Europe.
Anyway, this friend asked me what I "get out of theology," and I tried to answer. I pointed out that, first of all, the whole thing is an ongoing surprise to me, and that it is not even as if I chose it; rather, it has chosen me. I said that it was like entering this huge, magnificent intellectual cathedral that was perfectly adapted to the human psyche. I said that I am never happier than when I am wandering the halls of this cathedral, which is both "confined" and yet "infinite." Truly, it is like a kind of infinite and yet ordered space that fills us up without ever filling us up. It contains no truth that isn't beautiful, no beauty that isn't good, no good that isn't true... Who wouldn't want to spend as much time there as possible? It's certainly never boring.
That was pretty much the conversation killer. Which is kind of a general problem, and why I need the blog. I just don't meet many people upon whom I can inflict my true self. If you think of all the spiritual energy -- and it is energy -- that gets funneled into this blog, it wasn't too long ago that I didn't have this outlet. As a result, when I would find a remotely sympathetic listener, it would pour out of me like a torrent. I could talk and talk for hours. I didn't know where it was coming from, because it would seemingly "invent itself" as I went along. It was definitely an "altered state," in that it wasn't my normal state of mind. Mrs. G witnessed it countless times.
There is no question that something happened as a result of being in the presence of a sympathetic ear, almost like a sexual energy, if you will. Imagine someone who had never seen a female, so he is only aware of some kind of diffuse energy inside. Then he finally sees a woman, and the energy not only has an object, but is strengthened.
This is what the blogging has been like for me. All of a sudden, the energy has a focus and has been strengthened. It all happens in the space between you and me. And O.
I also want to mention something else that has been on my mind for quite awhile. I don't quite know how to formulate it without being misunderstood, but I was thinking about it yesterday while mountain biking. It's sort of provocative, so stay with me.
As you know, Mrs G has converted to Catholicism. Not only that, but quite a few of my readers have either returned to Christianity or undergone formal conversion, and for that I am humbled and eternally grateful. But what about you, Bob? What are you? And what are you waiting for?
I am not a Christian, in the commonly understood sense of the term. I have to acknowledge that up front. Now, some of you are no doubt thinking to yourself, "Ha ha. Yes you are. Stop kidding yourself. You just haven't realized it yet." I won't argue with that, but please indulge me. The point I would like to make is that, while not Christian per se, I am surely on a Christian adventure. An extraordinarily deep one, I might add. It has been ongoing for the past, I don't know, eight or nine years, and just keeps getting more compelling.
In a way, I feel like the earliest Christians, who, after all, were not "Christians." Rather, they were simply people having a Christian experience that later came to be known as "Christianity." In fact, I'm thinking of calling it that myself. But the point is, this is what makes these early writings all the more compelling. No one was telling them the "correct" way to think. They did not "believe" in religion, but were undergoing religion.
And yet, I hold back. Why? First of all, it's a process, an organic one. It reminds me of psychoanalysis, in which the candidate must undergo years of psychoanalysis in order to become an analyst. It's not like merely getting a Ph.D. or M.D., which anyone with adequate intelligence can do. Nor is it a matter of knowledge. Rather, it is a genuine transformation that must take place on the level of being, from which genuine psychoanalytic knowledge must flow. As is true of religion, psychoanalytic knowledge divorced from being is more or less worthless. It must always be backed by the full faith and credit of real experience. It is not abstract, but concrete. Or, to the extent that it is abstract, the abstractions must always be rooted in personal experience.
It is surely the same way with religion. I don't want to say that this should be a general rule for everyone, because not everyone has the same vocation. Some if not most people need to convert first, experience later. But my blogging, for example, is only possible because it is being done by someone encountering these ideas and realities for the first time, and spontaneously disclosing their effect on me. I must re-emphasize -- just in case it isn't obvious -- that I am hardly a scholar, much less a Christian theologian.
Rather, what you are seeing is a purely spontaneous production chronicling the encounter between me and Christian truth, which I believe, in a certain way, gives it more weight than it might have if I were simply reciting dogma as an "insider." While some of what I say might sound dogmatic or authoritarian, I must again emphasize that I am not in my right mind when I'm saying it. Rather, I not only try to write about what I know, but what I don't know. That is, I try to "write beyond myself," so to spook, so that I am as genuinely surprised as anyone else at what comes out. Boo!
It is very important to me that I reach people who aren't religious, but still have an impulse to be -- especially people with the "Jesus willies." I think that I would be less convincing if I were simply coming from a Christian perspective. In other words, perhaps I can be analogous to the disinterested scientist who explains how global warming or reductionistic Darwinism are bogus. People get enough of the normal evangelizing, and, as often as not, it backfires. But when a disinterested person with no vested interest is doing the selling, it may be more effective. You know, Coonsumer Reports.
As I have mentioned, although I am still blogging about the Theo-Logic, I am already well into volume three of the Theo-Drama, which is said to be Balthasar's greatest work. I am quite sure I've never read anything so rich, and I'll probably have to spend a year blogging about it.
But one thing that struck me with great force yesterday while contemplating a passage, is how the West has virtually taken a wrecking ball to its own priceless cathedrals. This is our home, the source of our civilization. It is where we were meant to live. It's just so achingly true and exquisitely beautiful, that it makes you want to weep at man's arrogance and folly.
What reveals itself is so rich that it satisfies his entire need for truth; what remains hidden is so mysterious that he knows he is sheltered within its veiled womb. Everything that exists is allusive, is a pointer and a reminder, and any conceptual clarification of univocal definition of these infinite significations would appear to him an impoverishment, perhaps even as a profanation.... To say explicitly what their wordless song tells us would be presumptuous, if it were not altogether futile. --Balthasar
As Saint Augustine might have said, "what I was out there tryin' to find, I done had it right here all the time." (See p. 261, line 7)