Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eschatological Again


I've posted below an entry I made years ago, when I was thinking about the topic of death and Derrida; it holds up pretty well but of course my life has changed. Because the planets have turned many times, and because I have become more aware of my body's pathway, my experience with the end of life has become, as Paul Wallace over at Positive Science/Negative Theology says, "most literal and most frightening." And I, like Paul, don't have a strong faith in the heaven thing to tide me over the final approach.

But I have to admit, I'm still not that scared--yet. One of the reasons may be my spiritual condition, which is far from enlightened but is the result of a few little-deaths, experiences such as the ones described in Drinking the Dragon, a Jungian self-help guide by San Diegan Patricia Ariadne that I am finding remarkably interesting right now:
Life is full of seemingly random, senseless events that shake our faith in those things which formerly made us feel secure, leaving us feeling vulnerable and uncertain. In some cases, a crisis is a spiritual call to live our lives less superficially, to recognize our own complexity, to explore what sustains us when we can no longer carry on (pg. 18).
Ariadne is not talking only about major turning points, although she uses many such events to illustrate her guidebook. The "crises common to modern life" she is talking about are seemingly mundane things such as divorce, the loss of a job, the medical issues we all face (and I am facing) as we grow older, and in addition, the stuff that really turns us around: the death of a loved one or a child, one's own impending death, the depths of depression so deep that life seems, in the words of Mother Theresa, "an arid desert," the emptiness and lack of god-presence that brings people, well, to their knees, not in prayer but in despair. What Ariadne calls "The Dark Night of Soul" and I have my own list, stuff in my own life and in the life of the love of my life, that has turned me around and will turn us around eventually. Or not.

But stuff has happened to me, and to people close to me, that causes me to assess the reality of things unseen. Like Wallace notes in his latest post, I am not usually looking for the unseen wonders when I run across them; usually, it's like this:
When do I see God? Not often, I can tell you that. . . . The precipice I mentioned earlier, the one above which we have each walked our entire lives, the one that scares us because it’s about the reality of our creatureliness and frailty and mortality, has a lot to do with God for me. It is only after a good long look down into that abyss that I have found God. And I never look down in search of God. It’s kind of an involuntary thing, and I don’t know what I look for when I look down there. But if I hold the emptiness in my view for longer than is comfortable, something shows up that I can’t deny. Something that makes me at first scared as hell, and then peaceful beyond words. Strange, that that’s how it is for me. Am I alone in this?
This might be an occasion members of Alcoholics Anonymous call the "ninth inning," as in the phrase "using God as a bush-league ninth inning pinch hitter" but there it is. I have been at that abyss, but I have also been places I didn't know were at the edge, but it turned out that God, or whatever, was right there signaling to me. They are the signs of the holy that have come my way, the symbols I have come to realize are meaningful in a psychic sense, a sense that is not scientific but literary, a personal narrative of events and presences, stories I made up and ones told to me: a butterfly, a coyote's howl, a cat crossing the sidewalk at night, a crowd of people at a traffic light, listening to a siren as the light turns from red to green, making the sign of the cross and reminding me my mother, and the wonder of the sign at the time, in just this place, right here.


And for a split second, I know what it means and then I'm back, wondering what will happen next but sure that a sign will come, like it has before.

Because I've already pushed the button, and surely the light will change, and surely I will cross to the other side, eventually.

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15 Comments:

Anonymous Paul said...

Nice post, Jim. I like the way you brought in the AA ninth-inning thing.

Keep blogging if you can, and whether or not this helps or makes sense to you, I will remember you and your health, whatever the issue is, when I pray.

P.

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