Lauds

Sunday, 26 April 2015

This morning, my dog and I caught God
trying to sneak through the city like
a man skipping Mass in search of a drink.

He still filled the sky and his steps were
like the echoes of an empty hallway.
My dog just wagged her tail but I

shouted at him:
I SEE YOU, OLD AFRAID MAN!
He didn’t turn, just created a dirty rabbit

which he threw over-shoulder at my dog. 
I don’t know if my dog or the rabbit was
more surprised. The rabbit dissipated 

using natural rabbit-magic, and when I
looked, so had God. The city whispered
an antiphon: Kýrie, eléison.

Love and Fear

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Sometimes when my son hugs me, I feel com­plete­ly hum­bled and un­de­serv­ing of the love he shares with me. My love for him pours out in an un­stop­pable and un­end­ing tor­rent; it is easy to love him be­cause it is in­vol­un­tary. My love for him is so con­sum­ing that I don’t have the spare neu­rons to ex­pect any­thing back. So, when it comes back in the shape of his smile, its like get­ting the wind knocked out of you — it is be­wil­der­ing, ter­ri­fy­ing. So, when Christians talk about liv­ing in fear of the Lord, I imag­ine it’s a fear en­gen­dered by be­ing over­whelmed by a love you don’t un­der­stand.

Love can make you hum­ble when you re­ceive it, but it can al­so make you hum­ble when you give it. Sometimes you give, and some­times it gets pulled from you. You can­not con­trol it, you are over­awed by it, you fear look­ing at your face, fear your lips, fear your hands be­cause you’re not sure what they’ll do. Fear that the love will cause it­self harm, or harm to those it is in­tend­ed for, or that it might not be re­ceived at all.

But this ter­ror noth­ing com­pared to when your love is re­ceived and then given back to you. Love is hon­or­ing some­one more than your­self, it liv­ing for some­one or some­thing else, some­thing be­yond you. It’s not re­al­ly sur­pris­ing then, that, when the per­son you love al­so loves you, that the ac­knowl­edge­ment and re­cep­tion of that af­fec­tion is con­found­ing. How could I, who am con­vinced that this per­son is more im­por­tant to me than my own be­ing, com­pre­hend that they might feel a sim­i­lar way about me. How could I be wor­thy?

That must be like stand­ing in­side a bell as it is rung. For what could sus­tain love bet­ter than re­ceiv­ing it back, am­pli­fied, from the one you give it to?

Quote from Helioscope

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The ag­nos­tics con­tend that pain has evolved blind­ly as a means of caus­ing us to avoid in­jury. There are two things that might be said about the the­o­ry: the first is that a few mo­ments’ thought will pro­duce half a dozen bet­ter ways of achiev­ing the same ob­jec­tive (one of them is in­tel­li­gence — but the more in­tel­li­gent the or­gan­ism, the more pain it is ca­pa­ble of feel­ing). The sec­ond is that by and large it does not work — hu­man be­ings jump their mo­tor­cy­cles over the foun­tain at Caesar’s Palace; dogs chase cars.

What pain does do is act as a mo­ti­va­tor in all sorts of less than ob­vi­ous ways. It is re­spon­si­ble for com­pas­sion and the hot foot; it makes peo­ple who do not be­lieve God would per­mit it think about God. It has been re­marked thou­sands of times that Christ died un­der tor­ture. Many of us have read so of­ten that he was a “hum­ble car­pen­ter” that we feel a lit­tle surge on nau­sea on see­ing the words yet again. But no one ever seems to no­tice that the in­stru­ments of tor­ture were wood, nails, and a ham­mer; that the man who ham­mered in the nails was as much a car­pen­ter as a sol­dier, as much a car­pen­ter as a tor­tur­er. Very few seem even to have no­ticed that al­though Christ was a “hum­ble car­pen­ter,” the on­ly ob­ject we are specif­i­cal­ly told he made was not a ta­ble, or a chair, but a whip.

Castle of Days; Helioscope by Gene Wolfe pp 218 – 219

Ignorance & Agnosticism

Sunday, 3 April 2011

There isn’t a lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween the root mean­ings of ig­no­rant and ag­nos­tic; but there is a vast dif­fer­ence in their mod­ern con­no­ta­tions. Ignorance is es­sen­tial­ly the re­sult of hold­ing a point of view due to lack of facts or a rea­son­able thought process. For the most part, it is a pas­sive sit­u­a­tion. We are, by na­ture, ig­no­rant. At some point in our de­vel­op­ment as peo­ple, we reach a place where we have a choice to re­main ig­no­rant or to ed­u­cate our­selves on a given top­ic. Since ed­u­ca­tion is al­ways a dif­fi­cult task, it’s of­ten eas­ier to re­main ig­no­rant, and mask that ig­no­rance by ac­cept­ing what­ev­er po­si­tion ap­peals most unique­ly to our­selves and then sound­ing au­thor­i­ta­tive about it.

Agnosticism is a bit of a dif­fer­ent beast. I can see two ways of defin­ing ag­nos­ti­cism, but they both have the same re­sult. The first an­gle is the re­sult of hav­ing plen­ty of facts about a cer­tain top­ic, but when ap­ply­ing rea­son to those facts, there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to meet the stan­dards of rea­son set by the mind try­ing to make that judg­ment call. The re­sult is ab­sten­tion from mak­ing a de­ci­sion. The sec­ond an­gle is a bit broad­er in its ap­pli­ca­tion and ef­fects. It prob­a­bly shouldn’t even be called ag­nos­ti­cism, but I can’t think of an­oth­er word that fits. It is a gen­er­al prin­ci­ple of which any fact-gath­er­ing and sub­se­quent de­ci­sion is a speci­fic case.

What I’m try­ing to say is that on­ce some­one has cho­sen to ed­u­cate them­selves, and if they do so ag­nos­ti­cal­ly (gath­er­ing facts but mak­ing no judg­ment), at some point it is pos­si­ble to be ag­nos­tic about any top­ic on which you are ig­no­rant. Once you’ve come to the con­clu­sion that you’re ag­nos­tic about a few things, you can start to as­sume ag­nos­ti­cism about any top­ic in­stead of ig­no­rance.

Here’s a speci­fic case:

I went to the shoot­ing range with some cowork­ers to­day. I hadn’t used a firearm in over 20 years, and through­out my life those clos­est to me have had ig­no­rant views re­gard­ing firearms. Guns are bad, full stop. I could have cho­sen to ac­cept that for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but my knowl­edge didn’t meet the stan­dard for me to make that de­ci­sion. So, I re­mained ag­nos­tic about guns. I need­ed more in­for­ma­tion, so I went to the shoot­ing range with my cowork­ers and learned more. I’m still ag­nos­tic right now, or rather, I still haven’t ful­ly thought through my feel­ings on the mat­ter.

By rec­og­niz­ing my ig­no­rance, I was able to turn it in­to ag­nos­ti­cism. I will make no judg­ment un­til I feel that I know enough to do so.

Agnosticism is ba­si­cal­ly the stance of open-mind­ed­ness. It is ca­pa­ble of see­ing both sides and none, is sym­pa­thet­ic, em­pa­thet­ic and the in­her­ent­ly most re­spect­ful po­si­tion to take on a top­ic where one is not an ex­pert. It is hard to be an ag­nos­tic though; es­pe­cial­ly in re­gards to re­li­gion. You get caught be­tween the mys­tics (like my­self and oth­er be­liev­ers) and the skep­tics. So it goes for re­li­gion, and so it goes for any oth­er top­ic.

Fidelity to your own stan­dard of truth is hard to hold on to when you’re a big hair­less mon­key that like to con­vince and be con­vinced with all the oth­er hair­less mon­keys in your world.

For All Is Vanity

Thursday, 16 September 2010

“I said in mine heart con­cern­ing the es­tate of the sons of men, that God might man­i­fest them, and that they might see that they them­selves are beasts. For that which be­fal­l­eth the sons of men be­fal­l­eth beasts; even one thing be­fal­l­eth them: as the one di­eth, so di­eth the oth­er; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre­em­i­nence above a beast: for all is van­i­ty. All go un­to one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spir­it of man that goeth up­ward, and the spir­it of the beast that goeth down­ward to the earth? Wherefore I per­ceive that there is noth­ing bet­ter, than that a man should re­joice in his own works; for that is his por­tion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be af­ter him?”

Ecclesiastes 3:18 – 22, Holy Bible, King James Version

Hui Neng — The Mind That Moves

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Hui Neng was an il­lit­er­ate peas­ant who had ex­pe­ri­enced a sud­den awak­en­ing up­on hear­ing the Lotus Sutra re­cit­ed aloud, and went to join the monastery of the Fifth Patriarch of Zen. The Patriarch rec­og­nized that Hui Neng was in the process of awak­en­ing, but rather than open­ly ac­knowl­edge this he as­signed him to care for the pigs on the out­skirts of the monastery to pro­tect him from the aca­d­e­mic and spir­i­tu­al cor­rup­tions of the oth­er monks.

However, one day as Hui Neng was go­ing about his work he heard two monks near­by en­gag­ing in a clas­sic ar­gu­ment about spir­i­tu­al re­al­i­ty. They were watch­ing the large monastery flag wav­ing in the wind, and one monk was ar­gu­ing that it was the flag that was mov­ing, while the oth­er ar­gued that it was the wind that was mov­ing. These two ar­gu­ments cor­re­spond to clas­sic spir­i­tu­al view­points about the na­ture of re­al­i­ty, and while lis­ten­ing to the learned monks ar­gue, Hui Neng could not hold back. He in­ter­rupt­ed them and told them, “It is nei­ther the flag that moves, nor the wind that moves. It is your mind that moves”.

The two monks were si­lenced, and Hui Neng went about his work tend­ing to the pigs. 

Egg

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Lately I have this feel­ing that I liken to be­ing in­side an egg. I am in­side this egg and what I do with my life paints the in­side of the shell and every­where I look things aren’t so bad, since I’ve col­ored every bit of space in the shell. Yet there is a feel­ing deep in my lizard hind­brain that this shell is so much less than I think it is; a sus­pi­cion that it is noth­ing more than a shell and that if I broke it my world would open wide. But I’m not strong enough or fo­cused enough to break it at the right spot.