Human Existence: The Perpetual Mid-Life Crisis
The only way this can happen is if the post is "guided," so to speak, by its own end, which is to say, its own implicit purpose. Even if I don't understand the point, perhaps the Other with whom I am in dialogue will. It's certainly not something I could ever accomplish on my own.
I always begin in the bewilderness, which, you might say, is a repetition of where everyman and allmen must begin. Every day begins in slavery and ends with the promised land at least in view. And the whole innerprize is founded upon faith, in both its active and passive modes.
In other words -- again, like life -- one must in one sense "give up," but in another sense, actively deliver oneself over to the mysterious Other who shadows us through life, goading and pulling us along by the ear if we still have one.
In God and World, then Cardinal Ratzinger is asked how we can know when this Other is communicating with us:
"God speaks quietly. But he gives us all kinds of signs.... we can see that he has given us a little nudge through a friend, through a book, or through what we see as failure -- even through 'accidents.' Life is actually full of these silent indications. If I remain alert, then slowly they piece together a consistent whole..."
Like the human life of which they are a fractal, the doing and knowing -- the exploration and discovery, the journey and arrival, the alpha and omega -- must occur simultaneously, since they are parts of "one being" or "beingness."
For example, you could show an infant the university degree he will eventually acquire at the age of 22, but he will still have to go through the formality of earning it. Knowing that you will someday know is not the same as knowing. For example, I "knew" I would someday get married. But I never knew it would be like this!
In this regard, we are all beneficiaries of the amosing grace who delivers us from the exterior slavery of Egypt, through the perilous Red Sea, into the bewilderness, and on to the interior freedom of Israel.
For who is Yaweh, aside from Who He Is? For starters, he is the entity responsible for bringing the people of God -- whoever they might be -- out of the house of bondage, or from the matrix to the patrix.
For bondage is the rule in nature, and nature is sufficient in most every way to account for it. We are slaves to our genes, or appetites and desires, or culture, or family, or historical epoch. Man's slacklessness doesn't require much of an explanation, just as man's selfishness and greed would appear to be the factory setting.
Rather, what cries out for explanation is this mysterious irruption of freedom in a closed world where material and efficient causes rule with one fist of iron, the other of steel, if the right one don't gitcha' then the left one will.
Come to thinkin' on it, that song actually provides a vivid account of the slackless man's sorry lot:
Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood, skin and bone
Got a mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong
You load sixteen tons, and what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store
The "company store" is Egypt in any one of its legion of manifestations. The Judeo-Christian arc of salvation -- i.e., its historical ground -- begins in this movement away from necessity and toward freedom.
However, being liberated from slavery is by no means synonymous with freedom. For example, I could turn my child out the door today and say "congratulations. You're free!"
But until one arrives at the destination, there is no way of knowing what lies ahead, hence the bewilderness adventure in between. If you haven't faced the perils of the bewilderness, then it's likely that your freedom -- i.e., self-determination -- is correspondingly narrow, brittle, or even somewhat illusory.
Now, an important point is that this arc of salvation cannot be thought of in purely linear terms. Rather, it must be regarded vertically, so that each stage of the journey is simultaneously present: bondage --> bewilderness --> freedom (or in another sense, Incarnation --> Death --> Resurrection).
Furthermore, the journey must be reenacted each and every day. Otherwise the path is soon covered over by the fauna and flora of various entities that live within us, so that communication is cut off between the various levels of being.
In other words, there is a lack of integration that prevents us from being the "totality" we were meant to be. Think of the Son, who eternally descends from the zenith to the nadir and back up again. Thanks to him, this benign circle was opened up for man, but we still have to step onto the path and take the first step(s). It is a permanent gift, but we must open to its presence.
Ratzinger expresses it well, speaking of how "the organ of sensitivity to God can atrophy to such an extent that the words of faith become quite meaningless. And whoever no longer possesses a faculty of hearing can no longer speak, because being deaf goes together with being mute. It's as if one had deliberately to learn one's mother tongue."
This reminds me of a patient I saw awhile back, who had suffered a stroke to the parietal lobe of the brain, which is the "language center." She was a Mexican-American woman, and prior to the stroke had been fully bilingual. While Spanish was her native tongue, she later mastered English after emigrating to the U.S.
Interestingly, the stroke caused much more damage to her native tongue than to the acquired one. Thus, while she could still communicate in her "secondary" language, she could no longer do so in her primary one.
This caused a great deal of pain, in that her mother and father (she was a relatively young woman) were not bilingual, and only spoke spanish. Thus, in an interesting metaphor, she was cut of from her source and ground -- her Father, as it were -- because of damage to the "organ of communication" alluded to by Ratzinger.
This reminds me of someone with uncontrolled diabetes, who may not be aware of a problem until the sudden appearance of "end organ damage" in the eyes, feet, kidneys, heart, etc. Just so, spending one's life walking like an Egyptian will end in blindness, amputation, infertility, a damaged heart, and a dangerous accumulation of toxins.
So you always have a choice: crisis or catastrophe.
Abraham, our father,
Was simply told to leave.
Go forth from your land and from your kindred...
to the land I will show you.
This is the setting out.
The leaving everything behind.
Leaving the social milieu. The preconceptions.
The definitions. The language. The narrowed field of vision. The expectations....
To be, in a word: Open.
So it is with setting out on the path of liberation, leaving everything.
He would even have to discover
The way he would discover
While he was on the way. --Lawrence Kushner, Honey From the Rock
And he was told:
Go forth from the dugout to the position I will show you.
Where he would even have to catch on to
The way to catch
While playing on the field of dreams.