Friday, June 03, 2011

Lord, Teach Us to Play

Is this subject not reasonating? In the absence of comments we never know, for the intersubjective circle remains broken. We are not complaining. Rather -- in the colorful argot of your urban youth -- we are "just sayin'."

Is it the word "play" that rankles? Need I remind you that we are not talking about frivolous play but of the dead ernest kind? Playing as if our lives depended on it (very much unlike the Miami Heat)? Let us recall the words of our esteemed UnKnown Friend:

"The little child does not 'work' -- he plays. But how serious he is, i.e. concentrated, when he plays! His attention is still complete and undivided, whereas with he who approaches the kingdom of God it becomes again entire and undivided."

UnKnown Friend -- who is one of our fundational raccoondati and a coronary teachstone -- regards this principle as a key to the whole innerprize, so perhaps we should spend a moment dilating on it to see if we pupils can't open our third eye, arrest our cardiomyopia, and make some progress toward 20/∞ geistzeit.

Do you really think the SlackMeister is here just to amuse you? Do you?

Then you are correct. That is indeed why we are here. To paraphrase Hippocrates or some other old quack, the primary job of the physician is to amuse the patient while the body heals itself.

Ah, but physician heal thysoph!

Yes, precisely. We are first and foremost amusing ourself.

Well then, Maestro, what distinguishes this from the vulgar Ønanism of any other infertile egghead?

This is like asking how the metacosmic love of the Trinity -- you will pardon the analogy -- differs from some perv politician exposing himself to a constituent. The latter is hardly "sharing." Rather, it is mere exhibitionism, which is always just the other side of shame, i.e., a compulsion aimed at undoing unconscious inadequacy.

The problem with this little Weiner dog is not that he is shameless, for anyone who follows politics at all knew this before last week's national erection.

Rather, it is that he cannot tolerate shame, and continues to deny shame in ways that only deepen it and then require more frantic and transparently absurd denial. Dysregulated shame provokes both the uncover- and the coverup.

The point is that just because we are sitting here playing with ourself, this hardly means that we are doing so in the immature manner of an adolescent Weiner.

We are reminded of a passage in Ratzinger's excellent (and misleadingly titled) Introduction to Christianity (and in citing him, we do not mean to imply that he would ever endorse our methods):

Actually, while searching for that passage, we were guided to another relevant one from a different book: "A Christianity that has really been accepted interiorly comes with the dynamic requirement to communicate."

By this he does not mean the exterior directive to evangelize, but a spontaneous impulse to share: "It's exactly like when you are filled with joy about something, you have to express it and communicate it in some way, otherwise it's not authentic joy at all. The fact is, then, that the dynamism of passing on the gift is an essential component of the mission that Christ gave his followers..."

Thus, if something of the interior joy isn't conveyed along with the message, there are two problems, one interior, the other exterior.

As Ratzinger suggests, the joy that isn't shared is not the true joy. Secondly, if we communicate only the message denuded of the joy, then it loses much of its appeal -- you know, like the grim news of Islam.

Put it this way: the principle message of Christianity is not an idea but a person -- the fruit, not the tree. And this principle shall apply forever. Hence the necessity of the saints, who are the very embodiment of the joy ("ananda" might actually be a less misleading term) of which Ratzinger speaks.

Can't find the passage we were looking for, but this one will do:

"God's dialogue with men operates only through men's dialogue with each other.... Man's conversation with God and men's conversation with one another are mutually necessary and interdependent."

He adds the critical point that what can be communicated of God is never just an unambiguous "something" that can be sharply designated, like an object. Rather,

"No real dialogue yet takes place where men are still only talking about something. The conversation between men comes into its own only when they are trying, no longer to express something, but to express themselves, when dialogue becomes communication."

What this means is that the con-versation -- "flowing together" -- becomes trinitarian, in the sense that it involves both intersubjectivity (the ground) and soul-to-soul contact (as opposed to the mere depositing of exterior facts from brain to brain).

Some are better speakers, others better listeners. The SlackMeister cannot play a musical instrument -- okay, he can noodle around with one -- but this by no means diminishes or interferes with his love of, and need for, music.

Ratzinger cites this as analogous to theology, which is centered around the "word," which, in order to be itself, requires both creativity and receptivity, or "passively active" and "actively passive" modes (the latter is our formulation, not his).

"Passively active" is none other than play, while "actively passive" is openness to (vertical) experience.

In terms of the "experiential theology" of which we speak, there are more who are adept at receptivity than expression; but again, this should by no means interfere with our in-joyment, since genuine communication provokes joy at both ends:

"Over against these few, for whom the divine thus becomes undisguised certainty, stand the many whose religious gift is limited to receptivity, who are denied the direct experience of the holy yet are not so deaf to it as to be unable to appreciate an encounter with it through the medium of the man granted such an experience."

So "hearing" is no less a gift than "speaking," or at least they are two sides of the same game: a "duet for one" or "solo for two."

33 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

They are resonating.
In Me Central, anyway.
Haven't missed a one.
Juss sayin I'm busy, 'zall.

Back tada post..!

6/03/2011 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Not speaking for anyone else, but it is resonating.

Many of us seem to be suffering from post-traumatic Memorial Day syndrome. The heat has finally arrived in the Midwest, and I am having a little trouble getting my thermostat adjusted. It's 92 outside, and I'm set for about 80.

6/03/2011 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

8:52:00 -- can't beat that.

6/03/2011 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

What Rick said™

Also,

"It's exactly like when you are filled with joy about something, you have to express it and communicate it in some way, otherwise it's not authentic joy at all."

I like this Ratzinger fellow; he gets me.

...if we communicate only the message denuded of the joy, then it loses much of its appeal.

Therein is one of the hazards of online communication. Lacking the element of physical presence, it's all too easy to run into the error of communicasting mere words into the ether, and catching nothing but flak as a result.

6/03/2011 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"By this he does not mean the exterior directive to evangelize, but a spontaneous impulse to share: "It's exactly like when you are filled with joy about something, you have to express it and communicate it in some way, otherwise it's not authentic joy at all. The fact is, then, that the dynamism of passing on the gift is an essential component of the mission that Christ gave his followers...""

Sharing... which cannot be done without relating and integrating and deepening.

Ever and ever so much more inwardly outwards we go... "all ye all ye outs in free!"


wv wishes to get in on the game:
punallsa

When all you say is a pun... it's "all ye all ye outs in free!" on a grand scale!

6/03/2011 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

""God's dialogue with men operates only through men's dialogue with each other.... Man's conversation with God and men's conversation with one another are mutually necessary and interdependent." "

As I was saying... that you were saying... that he was saying... that I Am was playing....

6/03/2011 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

(What those other three said)

6/03/2011 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Little Lady Koo, Very Polite said...

What is "onanism?"

6/03/2011 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

Um, yeah it's resonating.

Yesterday I wanted say how I can't remember how long it has been since I've played. Instead, my slack time has been replaced by non-work work where "fun" is the satisfaction of accomplishment.

Your post reminded me that ain't the same as play. Then I got all sad and I didn't want this to become some maudlin therapy session.

So I didn't post it.

But now I've just posted it.

6/03/2011 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The distinction between expressing something and expressing ourselves is an enlightening one.

I say to the Pope, as Agrippa said to Paul,"Almost thou persuadest me to be a [Catholic] Christian."

6/03/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous flunky said...

I built a concrete pondless cistern water feature in my backyard last year. It involved moving over 60,000 pounds of material from the driveway 150’ away, mostly by hand and wheeled hand tools, within a couple months, myself:

http://thumbsnap.com/i/RVuSn9eJ.jpg

There’s even a concealed pumphouse for a self-priming centrifugal pump under the birdbath.

Many thought me crazy. But now I’ll tell them I take my play very seriously.

6/03/2011 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Speaking of play, music and pointless joy, a little Something Wonderful at Vanderleun's.

6/03/2011 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Mushroom,
the same verse appeared to me when reading today's selected quotes. I won't insult the Catholics by saying that a man can be overqualified for being Pope, but I will say that it must have been with some hesitation they pulled him away from his writing. I can't help but think being a Pope must be pretty distracting...

Of course, I would have to actually read his books to be sure. The voices in Bob's head are adept at picking agreeable quotes. Well, agreeable to spiritual furries I guess, not necessarily mankind entire.

6/03/2011 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous flunky said...

the primary job of the physician is to amuse the patient while the body heals itself

Ain’t that the truth. It cost me over $500 to reduce my cholesterol. The doctor kept having me come in for tests and consultation, much to his amusement. I then simply switched from animal to vegetable proteins and ate oatmeal instead of eggs, on my own, and my body did the rest. Lesson learned.

Speaking of dicks, it’s interesting how Wiener’s wiener is a big deal even though it could be just a smear prank, yet when Harrell of Shape of Days fame actually did show his wiener on his blog nobody cared.

Is it the way the free flag of wiener is displayed, or played, that matters?

6/03/2011 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

overqualified for being Pope

OK, That is funny.

6/03/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

As is "spiritual furries" - oh, what an odd mental picture :)

6/03/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous scory said...

There are popes and there are popes. Some of them - quite a few actually, were more politician/monarch than spiritual exemplar and leader. And some were really quite saintly men. It appears that right now we are witnessing a string of the saintly sort.

"Unknown friend" has become a true mentor for me. I find that when I read his work I am inundated with insights and knowledge. His writing is heavy with these and it almost becomes too much. So sometimes I have to take some days or weeks between readings to allow things to settle a bit. I finishd MOTT and am now reading "Lazarus, Come Forth". This one has more of a Catholic bent than MOTT, I think. I see where a new volume of his writings was published recently and will be ordering it when I finish "Lazarus".

BTW I had never heard of "Unknown Friend" until I found this blog. One more thing to thank you for.

6/03/2011 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I wouldn't recommend any of Tomberg's pre-Catholic works from when he was affiliated with Anthroposophy. IMO his spiritual genius was not well-served in that idiom. His embrace of Catholicism made him much more universal.

6/03/2011 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

"God's dialogue with men operates only through men's dialogue with each other.... Man's conversation with God and men's conversation with one another are mutually necessary and interdependent."

I cannot vouch for the "only" part, but it is certainly the rule. I have already noticed, here and elsewhere, that the Light of Heaven is different from the material light in this, that when it is refracted through the crystal of a human heart, it can actually grow rather than be diminished.

6/04/2011 02:10:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

They've been great- just nothing to add. Plus, not too many trolls.

What flunky said about play.

Or, knitting up a Herbert Neibling-based lace purse, which you unwisely showed the bride-to-be.

"Expression", though, can mean other things than verbal communication. That is the forte of Benedict and everyone here.
The less articulate of us have to man the food banks, etc.

6/04/2011 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

"I feel happy of myself!!"

6/04/2011 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Some relevant Don Colachoisms:

--We do not know anything perfectly except what we do not feel capable of teaching.

--What I say here will seem trivial to whoever does not know everything to which I allude.

--Of anything important there are no proofs, only testimonies.

--The philosopher does not demonstrate; he shows. He says nothing to someone who does not see.

--There are arguments of increasing validity, but, in short, no argument in any field spares us the final leap.

--The fool calls conclusions he does not understand “prejudices.”

6/04/2011 06:51:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

All these comments remind me of something I was thinking recently. While it shouldn't need to be said often (given that it's better shown anyway), still there are some things that don't go without saying.

By which I mean, as much as I am grateful to Bob for this place and especially the comments section, I am just as grateful for you who speak, and in so doing provide that illumination Magnus mentioned. We may never meet face to face, but you all are some of my favorite people.

Which, written, probably comes across as incredibly cheesy. But it's true anyway.

Thanks.

6/04/2011 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

And absolutely no offense is intended when I say that Bob's own luminations have an element of comment upon earlier luminaries. This is, I believe, not a bug but a feature. One will recall that even Jesus Christ would occasionally draw on the Law and the Prophets, certainly not for lack of direct download.

6/04/2011 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I always find that profoundly reassuring - it shows both that truth is timeless and inexhaustible, and that the one who observes it and passes it along is probably heading the right direction.

6/04/2011 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As far as I'm concerned, what's new isn't true, and what's true isn't new -- I just pour it into a new bottle. For example, I am astonished at how closely Ratzinger's thought parallels mine in his Introduction to Christianity.

6/04/2011 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger David R. Graham said...

'"A Christianity that has really been accepted interiorly comes with the dynamic requirement to communicate."'

=

"The end of God is corporeality" Quoting from memory and it is, I think, by Otto. By end I believe he meant telos, purpose.

6/04/2011 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

The language morphs
and runs ahead.

Religious words
have too much lead.

6/04/2011 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Not feeling so hot...help. said...

Well I am a phony balogny and I can't help it. I feel like I should be ashamed. First thing in the morning, that's how I feel. Even before I've done anything.

I don't ask for what I need, I do things I don't like to do. Because I feel like I have to put on a good front.

I just want to be authentic but it's so hard. I guess my authentic self is too rotten to let out of the bag.

I have nasty thoughts that I'm pretty sure most normal people don't have.

Bottom line is, I could use some advice. How do I shake this mess I'm in?

6/04/2011 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Here.

Also, here.

***

Anyway, as I was just about to say: thanks, Bob for talking about Introduction to Christianity. I'm not far in, but it's brilliant.

6/04/2011 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The collision with an intelligent book makes us see a thousand stars. --Don Colacho

6/05/2011 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

A complimentary visual.

6/05/2011 06:52:00 AM  
Anonymous flunky said...

I could use some advice. How do I shake this mess I'm in?

Assuming you’re serious... First, one must never forget flunky’s Lesson Of The In-Law.

Flunky’s Lesson Of The In-Law:
I invited my unemployed in-law to work on my latest home, after he’d marketed his skills to me quite handily. But sadly, I realized that inviting him to work unsupervised inside my home was a bit like keeping a grizzly bear as an indoor pet. He screwed up everything he touched. I fired him. Interestingly, he was completely resistant to any criticism I had. He walked away fully confident in himself, and angry at me.

I pondered this. Why did I need to do twice the quality and quantity of the normal man just to feel normal, while he could do half the quantity and quality of the normal man and feel superior?

Sadly again, this pondering did no good. So I read. Personally, I’d recommend David Keirsey, Jill Taylor and Abraham Low.

6/05/2011 04:03:00 PM  

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