Thursday, May 17, 2012

The God of Confusion, Frustration, Incomprehension

This post was inspired as a response to this post on another blog that I frequent.  Originally I started to respond via comment to the post itself but realized it would all be much too long a comment and so I write a post on my own blog.

Here is what I think:

I believe quite strongly that God exists.  Beyond that I do not know what He is.

I do not believe that He is at all what we are lead to believe as we grow and go to church.  I think there is evidence of that statement everywhere.  God does not protect us from danger, He does not make our decisions for us, He does not stop us from doing anything we choose to do.  He does not throw us pennies from heaven or get us that really great job with the million dollar paycheck.  I don't think He cares whether or not we go to church or sing in the choir.  I do not think, regardless of how often and desperately we as parents prostrate ourselves before Him and beg Him to save our child from drug abuse, alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, a life of crime, major illness, car accident, etc. that he actually will.  But maybe sometimes He does.  The fact is I have no idea.

But He is something that we have never known or realized before.  And He exists within us in a way we have never known or realized before.  We cannot pinpoint Him, we cannot discern His thoughts from our own.  And I don't believe we can 'see' Him until He's actually gone by us... assuming you want to call that "seeing".

I believe that people who are on a spiritual journey (aren't we all?) and by that I mean people who are actively, consciously seeking to know more, seeking to understand, seeking what is "supposed" to be for them, I believe that these people will come to know something more about God.  What that something more is I cannot say and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to qualify it.

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs quite slowly and the best word I can come up with to describe it is "unknowing".  I believe that in order to truly "know" God we have to unlearn all of our previous concepts, concrete, man-made ideas about what God is.  Because none of them are true.  What is true is that we cannot grasp God with our own concrete ideas about what God is and how He operates.  I believe that God actively produces this phenomenon that one might call darkness, unknowing, confusion, loss of faith.  We become confused because if we choose to be absolutely truthful with ourselves it is quite obvious that our old, well-worn ideas about God simply are not true.

And then what?

Where do I go from here?

What do I do now?

Well I'd have to say that I have no choice but to wait.  I have no choice but to live my life with this confusion and ambivalence and darkness and unknowing.  And see what happens.

What other option do I have?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Living the Dream

Yesterday during my evening meditation I had a wonderful thought; about how it’s all different than we think. I cannot say that I even remember the details of what I was thinking, just that it all came with an intensity and an amazing clarity and a feeling of great satisfaction and calm.

This past weekend was really enjoyable for me. It was the realization of everything that I sense life can be. First and foremost the weather was phenomenal. Bright, bright sunshine and vivid spring colors. And I spend the weekend painting, walking my dog and simply sitting in the yard enjoying the beautiful weather.

I read an article in the New York Times this past weekend about Google and the intense and very demanding environment in which it requires its employees to work. Google offers its employee various classes and one of them is a class on mindfulness. Apparently while Google is requiring its employees to work at a pace that will kill them before their time it also recognizes the need to make them mindful of that fact.

I drip with sarcasm.

Seven sessions of mindfulness meditation training and then back to the exhausting - physically and mentally – grind. Back into that environment where everything is needed now, where eighty hours a week is the norm, where everyone is competing with everyone else. Seven sessions of mindfulness training is what Google is offering its overworked, over-taxed, exhausted employees so they can squeeze a few more productive years out of each of them. Chronic, stress-induced back pain is accepted by these same employees as the price to be paid to work for Google. Because working for Google is the opus, the dream. It is about prestige; Google only accepts the best and the brightest, actively seeks out the best and the brightest and if you work for Google that is proof positive that you are a member of that elite group: The Best and The Brightest.

Toward what end?

And for what? So I can drop dead even sooner? Having been there, fooled by the lure of big bucks, fooled by the lure of the admiration and respect of my professional peers, fooled by the lure of controlling my own professional destiny. I fed on the pressure and the stress, I met every expectation, every ridiculous deadline. Executive status, running my own business, making money, these (in my mind) were the constructs, the proof of a successful life.

But something interesting happens. One becomes saturated by stress, like an alcoholic becomes saturated with alcohol after forty years of heavy drinking. And once one becomes saturated with something unhealthy then over the years less and less of that something effects one more and more. A small amount of alcohol at year forty induces the same reaction as it did with a large amount at year ten. Much the same with a stress-aholic a little stress goes a long way the farther in one gets.

I had, after years and years of stressful living broken down until finally I just stopped being able to do any of it.

Why don’t we realize? We will work ourselves into a frenzy because somebody, society expects us to do so. For a pay-check, for prestige, so I can say I work for Google? I am among the best and brightest.

And I could drop dead tomorrow much the same as the guy who picks up my garbage every week.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Is not defined in singular terms.  There is no one definition of courage that applies to the whole of
(wo)mankind.  If I am not afraid to die, if I actively and aggressively want to die then picking up my weapon and heading into the battle is less an act of courage than the exercise of  the means to the desired end.

Courage does not operate on predetermined degrees.  There are those among us for whom the tiniest step outside their comfort zone e.g. leaving the house and going to the grocery store,  requires levels of courage that some soldiers will never experience in their lifetime.

But the choice to exercise our own version of courage, the act of taking that tiniest step is the very first stone put in place that eventually leads over the rest of a lifetime to the kingdom of Rome.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

True Art

I wonder what it is that people define as “art”? Beyond that what is the specific quality that defines a particular work as “great” and what makes the individual who painted it a “great” artist? I suspect that “it” is much the same “it” that defines a “great” philosopher.

Which is to say nothing that anyone can put their finger on. Nothing that can actually be defined. Nothing that two random people with differing points of view, differing life experiences, differing tastes would agree upon. And most importantly nothing that you and I do not possess.

Yet I sit here wanting what they have that I don’t. Some deep, dark, mysterious, unexplained, unexplored depth of soul that apparently they possess that I never will. That quality that permits them to put down on canvas what I never can. To see in nebulous shapes and colors what I cannot.

This last statement I make in all seriousness and completely in jest.

Seriously because I do oftentimes wish that I had what they had and in jest because when reality intrudes upon those same thoughts I realize that in the end “art”, in whatever form it presents itself comes wholly as an expression of the individual, even if that expression is capable only of barely scratching the surface of the heart and mind. Even if that expression is capable of nothing more than a few brushstrokes of varying color because those few brushstrokes indicate where a person is in their heart and mind at that moment.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Suicide Revisited

Being in the throes of suicidal thoughts and feelings is a devastatingly lonely place to be. I know this from experience… twice over. A number of years ago I was there, for an extended period of time, several years in fact. I was solidly stuck in that place, that excruciatingly painful place where I was (or so I thought) completely alone and literally struggling to hang on.

I still look back on those days with incredulousness (is that a word?) for a number of reasons first and foremost being how on earth did I ever get to that point? I think no matter how much therapy I have, no matter how much I learn about myself, no matter how much I come to understand that adult depression has its roots in childhood experience I will still and always be incredulous that I ever got to such a point. That I could reach such a painful place that it seemed the only way out was death. I think many would agree with me when I say that after struggling in such a place for so long, after exerting so much energy to a) keep myself going and b) trying to hide my awful state of mind from everyone around me the peace, the sweet release that I envisioned could only be offered in death became almost an obsession. I can honestly say that if I did not have a young son at the time I am not entirely sure I would be here now.

I said ‘twice over’. These days my son suffers from depression and I have seen him struggle through some pretty low times. I know he thinks of suicide, he told me so because I asked him. Trust me when I say there is nothing, NO THING on God’s green earth that can strike the kind of fear in the heart of a parent as the knowledge that their child thinks of suicide. I have not yet decided if it is good or bad that I have first-hand knowledge of how it feels to get to this point. I suppose it’s a double-edged sword. On the good: if I hadn’t been through this myself I wouldn’t have the first idea what he goes through sometimes and beyond that I would have that same unwillingness to talk about it with him. Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of people talking about suicide in everyday conversation. It’s one of those topics that grown people shy away from, too unpleasant, too awkward to talk about. Let’s change the subject. I am here to tell you that to have to sit calmly while your child tells you this requires a fortitude like no other.

It is the utter loneliness of that place that is so much a part of the devastation one feels. This is part II of my incredulousness. How on earth could I have let myself suffer for so long in isolation? I cannot believe I did that. How tragic that this is such a taboo subject that somebody who is seriously considering driving into the nearest tree at top speed feels like they have no other option, nowhere to go, nobody to talk to.

Little by little I am going to engage him in conversation about it. I have cracked the door open a bit and now he knows (hopefully) that the doesn’t have to suffer in this alone, that I can handle talking about this and that I can even empathize in a very personal way with him (that’s the bad side of the sword).

It is undoubtedly to those of us who have been there that falls the responsibility to bring this taboo subject out of the darkness. I can honestly say that the opportunity to talk about it openly and honestly with my therapist without her freaking out or reaching for the phone to call the nearest psych hospital has been shockingly helpful. Such a simple thing and yet the benefits that I have reaped are immeasurable.

And so I ask how it can be that something so devastating, so tragic and yet so controllable in so many cases can be buried in obscurity? Unsayable.

Because it makes us uncomfortable.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'm Just Sayin...

Soul enters only via symptoms, via outcast phenomena like the imagination of artists or alchemy or “primitives,” or of course, disguised as psychopathology. That’s what Jung meant when he said the Gods have become diseases: the only way back for them in a Christian world is via the outcast.

   (James Hillman)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rendering Unto Caesar


There is a place between material and abstract, between physical and spiritual, between visible and invisible. I think an apt metaphor would be to say that I am right now stuck on the beach for the beach, the sand is that place between the land that we live on, the everyday place of dirt, stone, asphalt, concrete and the ocean, vast, boundless, unfathomable and mysterious. For anybody who has ever been here undoubtedly I do not have to explain. For those that have not it is likely that no explanation will be good enough to convey the reality and when I say ‘reality’ I use that term in its vaguest meaning because this place can only be described as un-formed.

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to stand on the precipice of a mountain in Colorado. The view was not down, as on the edge of high cliff but rather spread out before me as far as the eye could see, and beyond more mountains. It was awe-inspiring and I now know why the mountains hold that same attraction for many people as being at the ocean holds for me. It is as if you are standing at the edge of eternity, gaining a glimpse of forever. Moses on the brink of the promised land.

But then you have to leave. Go back down the mountain or shake the sand off your feet get in your car and go home. Back to work, back to the kids, back to the bills and grocery store, cutting the lawn, washing the car, reading the newspaper, cooking dinner for your family.

Rendering unto Caesar.

With this glimpse that I have gotten it would be so easy to simply let go of Caesar and allow myself to float into God. But that of course would be problematic when Caesar comes knocking on my door looking for the rent check… and he will come knocking.

Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and rendering unto God the things that are God’s means living in two worlds. In this life I cannot chose to stay only in God’s world – much as I’d like to. Unfortunately if I want those opportunities to visit God’s world I have to render unto Caesar daily.

The pull of God is so strong, a force that draws me to something that I cannot see, that I cannot define, a place in which I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. But even in all that ambiguity it actually hurts to have to turn back to Caesar. It is as if I have to say to God “I’d rather do anything than leave here but I have to go now. If I want to come back here again there are things that need doing and I have to take care of my business.”

Like being in the arms of your beloved and having to tear yourself away to go back to the ‘real’ world.

Rendering unto Caesar.