Lord, Teach Us to Play
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."