Monday, June 24, 2013

It Seems Like It's All Gone Mad, Jim

As I was driving today I noticed the long stretches of grass that run down the middle of highways, acre after acre, and I saw the fields of wheat and corn that could be, but are not. I thought about how simple, at base level, life is, and how damned complicated we make it. I thought about the starving and the homeless in America, a nation with plenty of land and timber for houses, and more than enough food for everyone. I thought about the artificial famine we have created. I thought about the fantasy that money has become, an intangible placeholder for..what exactly? Effort? Value? Hell if I know. If I work an hour at a burrito shop I would earn, say, eight dollars an hour. If I hold that eight dollars in my hand, that's an hour of my time. If a CEO holds that same amount of money, that represents a few minutes to him. So it's not a placeholder for time, evidently. Some of us aren't trying to survive, just buy more shit, some of us are trying to just get food in our bellies, and no one, not no one is happy. Isolated, alone, mistrustful, power hungry, vindictive, fearful. I don't think I can keep swimming in this sea of shit for too much longer. I need to find some calm and sensible oasis. Lord have mercy. Save me from a world gone mad.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Christianity, Paradox, and the Reversal of Death

The cross is a mystery, the mystery of a suffering God. In the cross the impossible arises, where the eternal God takes upon Himself all the suffering of the world. Every evil, small or big, every tear and heartbreak and stubbed toe, Christ took into Himself. From within this mire Christ did not just defeat darkness, not just slay it, but fundamentally altered it. It is sometimes said that Orthodox Christians focus more on the Resurrection than on the Crucifixion, but this not quite the case. One cannot be preferred to the other. The Crucifixion and Resurrection are two inseparable parts of the same spiritual reality. On the one hand we have the descent into darkness, the bearing of all evil, and on the other hand we have the glorious rising, the triumph. In the icons of the Crucifixion and Resurrection we see the hope of every Christian, the consolation for every sadness and evil, the ultimate manifestation of God's love. By His descent, Christ has taken hell captive, and has transformed its very nature. Christ changed the rules, turned the pyramid on its head. Or perhaps He revealed what the rules had always been, the secret behind the universe.

And now Christians operate against the rules and standards of this world. We must be small to be big, weak to be strong, lowly to rise on high. And we must die in order to live. The finest physical specimen, the warlord with the largest army, the most highly trained soldier, all are weaker by far than the little old man walking along the paths of Mt. Athos. Because that old man can love, which is the hardest thing there is. Following our own dark desires is easy, effortless, and will produce, from a worldly perspective, impressive results. But those who follow such desires will render themselves incapable of love, which is the true strength. God's power is revealed ultimately through His self-humiliation, initially by His incarnation and ultimately by His Crucifixion, which leads inexorably to the Resurrection. God's meekness is His strength. God's humility is His greatness. We too must walk this road, into death -through asceticism and martyrdom of the various kinds - and -with Christ - emerge into life.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

There is No Such Thing as a Good Ending

Or, at least, I'm not convinced such a thing exists. Every time a book or film or video game has what might be termed a good ending, I'm not convinced that the story has ended. The book, or what have you, has ended, but the story, the lives of the characters concerned and what is so significant about them, is continual. The couple gets married in the romcom, the credits roll, and then....they have their whole lives ahead of them, full of, hopefully, bliss and marital joy. The kingdom is saved, the final page is turned, and...the farmers and artificers and nobles keep going on, doing fantasy kingdom stuff. But take a bad ending, and notice that it is often truly an ending. Perhaps the couple breaks up. The relationship is over. There is a finality there. The kingdom is destroyed: finality. Everyone dies: finality. Even if eventually  you know that one of the married folk will die - an ending - that bit is not, itself, happy. It's bad that he or she dies. Eventually the kingdom will, in the fullness of time, fall, but that is a bad thing. A truly good "ending" is never an ending to the story. The book ends, but the story goes on. Of course we could have the film end on a sad note: the whole kingdom is enslaved, but I'm not arguing that bad endings can't be a continuing story, only that good "endings" are never the opposite. Somehow I feel like there's something deep and important about all this, but I can't quite see how.