Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Letter to a Friend

Dear X,

My apologies for the delay in responding to your questions, but I hope you will forgive me. In fact, in the past few days I have had the opportunity to read and think some more on this very issue, and, as there are many people wiser and smarter than I, it's usually beneficial to absorb much from good sources.

You have inquired after naturalism and existentialism (I will assume atheistic, unless you elaborate), and it is a propitious pairing, for the two have much in common. I ask you to always bear in mind that the people who hold other worldviews than our own are first, made in the image of God, having His character, however poorly, impressed upon them; second, we never seek to win arguments for ourselves, only to win souls to Christ, and this we cannot do of our own power; third, by virtue of the 6.7 billion or so distinct worldviews on the planet right now, we are forced to find one out of many, which is done by making generalizations which, if properly thought out and articulated, may be useful, but are almost never normative or exhaustive.

Thus far the prolegomenon, on to the meat.

When a naturalist (hereafter NAT) or existentialist (hereafter EX) looks out the window, the world they see is fundamentally not-God. This is the bedrock of their faith (for faith it is) that there cannot, must not, will not, and could not be a God. This is the idea which drives their endeavors, though their paths diverge fairly quickly. For now, though, they walk hand-in-hand. They agree that the world which is seen must simply have been, or have come to be somehow. They agree that death is all there is, and man is but an atom among atoms, decaying and mutating at last. They do not think there is a soul (how can matter have a soul?), but the EX will perhaps cough a bit and say that, well, the mind of man is unique and superior, but no, nothing supernatural can be, and death is merely a disordering of highly ordered matter, which was bound to happen. At the graveside, the NAT may mourn the passing of a good investigator, a skilled colleague, a "good man", and the EX may shed a tear for the pictures left unpainted, the lives left untouched, and the joy un-had. Never, in their mourning, do they leave this earth, and if they look upon the sky, they can think only of the heavenly bodies, never of heaven.

However, the NAT and the EX are not the same, and they harbor mutual suspicions of one another, and may also have mutual appreciations without understanding what on earth the other is up to. The NAT says "Matter is all there is, and it spit me up as I am, therefore I shall be king over it." Thereafter, he may spend his days studiously taking data, making experiments, and expanding science (if he is so inclined), or he may throw caution to the wind, eat, drink, chase tail, and make himself king of physical pleasures. If "stuff" is all there is, and this stuff makes you feel good, why not? Bear in mind that there are many, many more unsophisticated naturalists than studiously scientific ones. However, the ranks of hedonistic naturalists are dwindling, as many of them take the leap to postmodernism.

For an historical example of hedonistic naturalism, take old Shanghai, drenched in opium, cheap women, cheaper killings, and almost any bauble or pleasure then available. I doubt if a single one of the pleasure-seekers therein would believe 1) God exists and is watching all this or 2) there is no real reality or structure to the world. Same story with a large number of the notoriously hedonistic towns across time and geography. This world is the best there is, so live it up. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. Yes, this is a shallow take on the worldview, but it is a seductive one, and it is definitely one face of the NAT.

The other major face of the NAT is found mostly in the sciences, and is perhaps the one you will have cause to dialogue with the most. From the starting point of "stuff", these people conclude that they should find out about it. If you live on an island, perhaps your best calling is to learn to cook fish. So, if you live in a purely material world, you decide that manipulating matter is the best (and perhaps only sensible) use of your time. If pigs do not exist, there is no point in learning about pork chops. This is why these NAT will often have no use even for a conversation about something they are convinced does not exist. The goal of these folks is to keep digging. The Stephen Crane poem about the man chasing the horizon (in Sire's chapter on Nihilism) is an excellent illustration. Feynman was content with asking the questions, even if they only led to more questions. It is, however, difficult to have any concept of reality if there is never a rock-bottom answer. Look around you in your school, you will meet these people.

The scientist has had many conversations with the theologian over the years, and they have often been poorly conceived and poorly executed on both sides. There have been two major issues with these conversations:
1) The theologian doesn't know squat about science, and wants to bind the scientist's hands from the get-go, so they can't ask "wrong" questions, and
2) The scientist thinks this conversation is a waste of his time, like a debate about unicorns, and doesn't know a bit of theology, and wants to know less than that.

You, sir, as an educated Christian, are not allowed to make these mistakes. A few very helpful acknowledgements may ease the frictions inherent in such a conversation. Recall that everybody, but EVERYBODY, thought the Earth flat and the planets moving on celestial spheres for a very long time. That was wrong. Science fixed that. Were all of the astronomers Christian? No. Are their results valid? Yes. Christians should value and appreciate the gradual release from ignorance that scientists (of all stripes) have afforded over the years. Realize the Christianity depends on facts. Submit to your scientist compadre that we depend on the resurrection of a man from the dead in Palestine in the first century AD. This is open for investigation, because it is a fact, and there is no fact which is off-limits. As you challenge this, though, consider also that science categorically refuses to consider the supernatural. This is a conscious decision. The scientist should realize this, and understand that his investigations are limited because of it. The thoughtful Christian and the thoughtful scientist are separated ONLY by faith in Christ. Nothing else in the created order is allowed to create that division, and no discussion will include the gospel if it does not come back to "You must believe on Jesus Christ raised from the dead to be saved."

The NAT is, however, very interested in creation. He wants to understand it, where it came from, and why and how it works. So does the Christian! Again, there are no facts off-limits, so we must be absolutely sure that we distinguish the facts in the Bible and its inspired character from our interpretations of them, no matter how time-tested or comfortable they are. Recall again, everybody was very comfortable with the celestial spheres. So go take a walk with the NAT and look at creation! You can arrive at the same facts, the same conclusions, and the same applications, but the NAT cannot ever tell you what it means.

This is the Achilles' heel of naturalism. It can collect and catalog and poke and peer, but it can never answer "Why?" without leaving its fundamental commitment to "stuff". This is very apparent in ethics. Sire walks through the example of cultural relativism- some things are wrong because they damage a culture, so the culture outlaws them - but these are not universally accepted, so which culture is right? What about cultures that subjugate other cultures? Why is preserving a culture a good thing? If it's all relative, it's a race to the lowest common denominator, which is Nihilism. The NAT needs the Christ who made all things good, who orders and sustains them, and whose character and law are the true standard of behavior for all men everywhere.


On to our friend the EX. His commitment is utterly unto himself. He alone may define value for himself. He alone may make his revolt against the NAT's world, defying the death and decay (until he, too, capitulates). The EX sees that there is no hope of getting immaterial "value" out of the material world, and he says "OK, then I, an atom of matter, shall say what is valuable, and I will be right for me." Thus, the existentialist denies ultimate, supernatural purpose, and seeks for it in what amounts to solipsism (the retreat into oneself, saying 'I am all there is'). The EX does not deny the material world, he does not escape it, but he rejects it! "It's not enough, and my mind shall make what I shall approve of." Thus, a lot of existentialists tend to be artists, musicians, creative people who want to be the change they want to see in the world. The EX will not begrudge the NAT his search into the world, but he will sadly sigh, for he has decided that meaning will never be found there. Meaning comes from the relationships we build, with ourselves and others. Thus, out of chaos, an attempt at value.

Existentialism was big in the fifties and sixties, but it hangs on in a very major way. Of the serious (Western) students that you meet at a university, probably about 40% will be naturalists and 40% will be existentialists. The party boys might be hedonistic naturalists or po-mo, and there may still be a few Deists and Christian Theists in the serious category (but Deists are not intellectually respectable these days). For the EX, was your choice right for you? Did it help you realize your potential? Did you build yourself up today?

Before you brush off EX as wishy-washy, realize that it is a very serious effort to create meaning in an absurd universe. The EX realizes that there should be more to life than a laboratory for capricious chance to play, and more than a sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll Xanadu. The EX truly wants value, and will settle for feeling valuable. Here is where you can approach them. Every person IS valuable! God has given each one a soul that craves meaning, and craves relationship with Him. That is where value lies, in Jesus Christ, fulfiller of deepest needs, creator of inseverable relationship.

Hopefully this has been helpful. I apologize for the dearth of brevity, but I did not have a target for the length of this missive. Do read and re-read Sire where you didn't get it, it's good analysis, and well worth it.

Remember that a lot of the things we take for granted would have gotten you excommunicated or burned in the Dark Ages. Hooray, science!

There is no-one beyond the gospel, and no-one who cannot be told of Christ and the resurrection, but recall that it is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:14-17)

In Christ,
M

Monday, August 30, 2010

Local Thermonuclear War

To marry is to enter
a state
of mutually-assured-destruction
not unlike the dynamic tension
that balanced the world
in the sixties, between
the late, great USSR
and the latter-day-saint
America.

Somehow the arsenals expanded
every wrong word
each slipped date
adding nuclear-tipped referents
with multiple-reentry-insults
making delivery vehicles out of
your expressions
the way you breathe
and, worst of all
your words.

Until a minor misunderstanding
escalates
and the red phone is dead
and you panic
and turn the keys
and push the button
and there it goes.

Maybe you regret the launch immediately,
but you've fired
and you'll be fired upon
with the furious exchange
wiping out major cities of friendship
and forcing the feelings that remain
to eat Spam underground for a while
and hope the nuclear winter thaws
before they all die.

So speak softly
and abandon your big stick.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Liability

"A Lightning Warning has been declared: Lightning has been detected within ten miles of the facility. All personnel shall cease explosive operations and secure the work areas."

The yellow lights started flashing in the bay. "Aww man," he muttered, "I was just about done, too. Oh well."

He packed the detonator and timer back into its small black plastic sleeve and screwed the cap down over it. The C4 bricks had to be unwired, but that went quickly enough, you just pull the small explosive initiators out and put them back in the monogrammed cigarette case. Sigh. The bricks themselves slid back into their pouches under the false bottom of his laptop bag. He snuck back out of the missile assembly area by the same old ventilation shaft he had come in by, remembering to loosely re-thread the screws back into their holes on the grating. He'd be coming back another day. He dropped out of the ceiling into the same boring old broom closet he’d picked his way into, and had to pick his way back out. Sigh. Walking back down the hall toward the cafeteria, he greeted the engineer he'd duped into letting him come for a plant tour.

"Find the bathroom, sir?"

"Yes, thanks. Much relieved now. What do we do when that lightning warning sounds?" He tried to hide a grimace.

"Oh, not much until the storm clears. Our kind of work can be a little dangerous around high voltage, hehe!" The engineer thought he was being clever.

"Well, I'd really like to learn more about your operations, here, and how GloboTec's processes can streamline your data processing." Back to the same old cover story.

"Alright, Mr. Stock, we'll set up a follow-on meeting with our IT director. He's on vacation right now, but he should be back in a week." The engineer made a note on his pad.

"Thank you. Do you suppose the weather will be better then?" He looked down at his laser wristwatch. He had three minutes before his detonator would make an embarrassing little sizzle and beep. "I must be going, though. Thank you so much for your time!"

The engineer showed him to the lobby, and he had just stepped out into the warm rain and wind when he heard the inevitable beep-beep-BEEP-PHOOT! down in his bag. Stupid non-disableable detonators. He walked to his Aston Martin DB8, and climbed down inside. The seatbelt light blinked at him.

This new "Safety First" policy was ridiculous.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The World and Christ

Hold but lightly to the silver noose;
mourn but slightly for the golden goose;
look to your left, then right, then down,
you'll all alike meet six feet underground.
So if you set your heart on sex and toys,
and run with all your might to girls (and boys),
and quaff ferociously the Lethian wine,
and gorge your gut when you sit down to dine,
do not be shocked, when at the orgy's end
you die alone, unmourned, without a friend.
For this vile world of sin shall reek and roil
and you may lose your shirt in all your toil,
but in the end the earth shall shake and burn
and to what toy or bauble will you turn?
When face to face with God in wrath and might
shall not the judge of all the earth do right?
So kiss the Son, and bow the knee to Christ,
pay homage now, lest by the world enticed
your knee be forced, your tongue be racked at last
and you confess Him Lord who binds your fast.
Take up His yoke while in the day of grace,
He bids you seek, so seek and find his face
and come beneath the gracious yoke of God
before you lie beneath the bitter sod.
The one you serve, it shall your master be
repent in faith, and Christ shall set you free.
Free as a subject of the greatest king
Free to serve and free to praise and sing
True freedom this, and sweeter work is none
than cross and service for God's only Son.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Littlest Thing

The littlest thing
can turn on you
and be the pivot
between here and hereafter
a pebble
on the tire
skip
jump
bump
thump
that's it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On "In Flanders Fields"

I have lived a full life.

This realization struck me today, while reading "In Flanders Fields", the deeply mournful ode by John McCrae.

"We are the dead. Short days ago / we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow / loved, and were loved, and now we lie / in Flanders fields."

And we shall go to them, but they shall never return again to us. The searing loss of McCrae's close friend, the Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old, still burns through the poem.

If I should die, would people reflect that I went too soon, or led a full life? I hope they would conclude the latter. How can I say I have not? If I have Christ, the Christ Jesus recorded by John "so that your joy may be complete", how can I claim any defect or shortfall? And if my God is king above all gods, ruling omnipotently from His throne in heaven, ordaining whatsoever cometh to pass, how can I say what is too soon? If God has decreed it, who am I to answer back?

Yes, the dead loved and were loved, but God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And the dead in Christ are loved with an everlasting love. "If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,' even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you."

This is no resigned fatalism, this contentment in the face of all, it is a positive affirmation that my God rules, and knows what is best for me and those around me. I do not know if John McCrae had this hope, or Lt. Helmer, but the certainty of the resurrection, because of Christ's resurrection, and the remission of sins found in his blood by faith is the only hope that can walk the valley of the shadow of death without fear.


"In Flanders Fields" - John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


"'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.'" John 14:1-7

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rain on the desert

Rain on the desert
washes the kinks from your back
and the aches from your eyes
you are clean
renewed
the plants, too, soak it in
swelling roots
fat and tiny leaves
and the pervasive creosote
spirating tarry perfume
musk of the monsoon
awful pretty smell for a pretty awful scrub
see the channels flow
dry for long months
and the little pools in the rock
itty-bitty ponds for the itty-bitty frogs
that come out to see the world
only when it's wet
poor things!
must be so confused
because it's always raining when they wake up
and the birds are sullen
kings of dusty sky
today they sit grumpily
puffing themselves
and complaining about the rain
like it was London
overactors
but at least they sing their disgust
as I sing my joy
and look up
like a turkey
and feel the air
and the water that indwells it
and praise the God who made it
very good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oh, Nietzsche...

I’d like to Übermenschen a few problems I have with Nietzsche. So, in our age of the mob, only some will become higher men, and of those, maybe none will manage to make it to over-man status (except Zarathustra). It’s critically important for higher men to reject good and embrace evil, and to laugh, and to dance, and generally to swan about without a regard to the petty mob of Üntermenschen (and yes, that term is a Nazi invention, but it works as an antonym).

Except that higher men are failures, to a man. Even the ugliest of them, the most conscientious of them, the most pious of them, all succumb to superstition, even as they seem to be rising above it, and in the end, they are afraid.

Only the Übermensch can be the Übermensch, because the Übermensch is such a singularly poorly defined category that unless you’re there already, you have no clue how to get there.

Zarathustra must go on with his work. What is his work? Couldn’t say.

His face is brass, set away from the higher men, towards his work and the animals who love him. For what purpose? Couldn’t say.

He overcomes always all things, never being bound by ideas, faith, hope, fear, or any emotion. But what is he? Couldn’t say.

He is the ultimate alien, refusing to dwell with man, because he is over-man. He refuses all claims on himself, except the claims of solitude: to reject all that is not as detached and as Über as he himself. But he rejects absurdity! Not all of his claims can be true.

Consider, his last and most dangerous sin is pity, and his companions are beasts. He wrestles with the shadow of God, because for all his hate and denial, he must still wrestle with something. If he were not overcoming, he could not be. That’s why the book has to end when he overcomes his pity. There is nothing left to overcome, so he must disappear from the stage quickly, lest he be found fulfilled. Nothing so repulses the Übermensch as fulfillment. It is a petty virtue, and the seeking of it is a petty vice.

The conclusion of Also Spracht Zarathustra strikes me as an inversion of the end of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Zarathustra the alien strides off into the dawn, alone forever. Gregor Samsa, cancer of his family, is finally gone, and the family can relax. Nietzsche wants the alien to overcome. Kafka knows he can’t. Both of them hate the mob, as evidenced by the disappearance of the higher men, and the bitterly cynical tone of the Samsa family outing. Yet, Nietzsche thought the mob could be banished, if one overcame it, but the grand scheme of history seems to prove Kafka right.

You can cut yourself off from all others, shrivel up, ruin the lives of those you love, but in the end you have poisoned yourself, and you will be neither mourned nor missed. Such is the fate of the nihilist, and who is he to complain?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Philosophy or Theosophy?

The hyper-transcendentalist
will shut his eyes and shake his fist
"No ding-an-sich could e'er exist!"
The friendly hyper-immanent
will poke and prod and not relent
and scramble towards the firmament
Dear friends, desist and give your ear
For God is far, yet very near,
and will be known, as He makes clear.
The God that is will not conform
to imposed theory, imposed norm,
He is not moved by stress-and-storm.
The God that is himself has spoken
Uttered what cannot be broken
and this no mere relation-token.
The Word He speaks, it is his Son,
the promise made is life begun
His Word has our salvation won.
If you would know the face of God,
you curious, created clod,
behold the Son! behold your God!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Sky and the Sea

Smell the salt in the air?
Chill wind whips quick cold caresses
brushes your brow
holds hair back behind salted temples
bringing breaths of the sea to you.
Dig in the sand with bare feet
grit and water washing calluses
plant fingers in the cool brown beach
sitting just slightly out of the surf
lying back under the sky so full of clouds
a fool in the fine rain
in love with whatever weather finds you
but most of all
the cool grey cloud cover
marching in rank
a swath of vapor
but definite
shapes built one on another
until the sky is blocked out
but that's ridiculous.
The sky is there
wearing a coat for you to admire
but mostly for the sea
the sky loves the sea so
see how they meet?
As far away from your eyes as they can get
and there they embrace
each heaving in passion
each full of one another
and you sit on the shore
above the one
below the other
and watch the spectacle
and wish the sea loved you
and the sky came down to meet you
for you could love them both
as you do, even now,
but constrained
by lungs and land and legs
to see them when you can
enjoying their company
but never quite part of them.
So you sit on the shore
in the rain
and love them from afar.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oholah & Oholibah

We deck ourselves
in the leaves we sew
and show off
one to another
a little fashion show
of filthy rags
stained and bloody
but we strut
down life's runway
to vaunt the vileness
and left to ourselves
we would amuse
and abuse
one another
until the end of time
when the lights go out
and the show's over.
Thank God
that's not the only life
Thank God
that He provides another
Thank God
for blood and graveclothes
Thank God
they were left behind
Thank God
that we may walk again
decently and modestly
bathed in blood
yes
but not ours
and clothed
yes
but not with our works
waiting for the end of time
yes
but not mocking it
looking
rather
to our great launderer
to our redeemer
who did not leave our souls depraved
or deprived of life
but is life itself
whose power is perfected in our weakness
and who bids all men
come
and he who is thirsty may
come
take of the water without price, and you hungry
come
and eat the bread of life, Jesus
come
and the Spirit and the Bride say
come.

On the Whole Sort of General Mish-Mash

So, for whatever reason, I have now read all five entries in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, and I have mixed feelings. Douglas Adams has a grasp of the seeming absurdity of life that is unsurpassed in my reading. He seems to have been (to judge by his writings) a thorough postmodernist, and seen things as basically a Whole Sort of General Mish-Mash, out of which you can choose to observe the ones you like, and ignore the ones you don’t, probably by wrapping a towel around your head.

I acknowledge the allure of such a worldview. Why not laugh as the planet you’re on (which isn’t even your own planet) gets (presumably) blown up in all possible spacetimes? What does it really matter to you, except as a bit of a good joke, but with kind of a rough punchline? At least you lived a fun life, and hey, we all die sometime. Maybe you’re nostalgic for the times when you thought life had meaning, and rum, and girls, but you know it doesn’t have that (the meaning, anyway, the rum and girls were definitely there, and definitely fun).

Yeah, life can come across as stupid, boorish, drunk, and insecure, but we all can do that from time to time, and it’s best to not make too much of it.

See what I mean? Postmodern hedonism seems to account for an awful lot of life. And what it can’t account for, it makes a joke out of. It can come across as a rather jolly outlook, and if I weren’t what I am, I think it would be fairly tempting to dive on into the ridiculous pool party that seems to be life from this perspective. Plus, the books are pretty funny.

But there’s a catch. You die. That’s not easy to make a joke about, and certainly not one you can enjoy after the punchline’s been delivered. It’s pretty easy to shrug and say “we’re all f***ed” when you’ve been drinking, but try being on, say, a submarine without power systems. They don’t find jokes scrawled on the interior walls of those when they finally get around to raising them.

The apparent absurdity of life may not be all there is to be observed. Adams’ postulation of the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything which cannot be answered with any sense, and his take on what God’s last message to His creation would be, seem to reveal that he thought absurdity was supreme. This is a problem philosophically, like saying “The only constant is change”. Self-refuting statements, such as categorical assertions about absurdity and unequal mathematical equalities, are a pretty poor basis on which to look at the world.

A system must be able to address both chaos and order on equally sound footings, and ought to have a good explanation for them. Unfortunately, this sort of system can’t exist in Adams’ event-chain, because it would be true. A true system is the one absolute anathema to a postmodernist. But if anything at all can happen, certainly it follows that a true system could emerge. It’s anything. But as soon as it emerges, it must collapse the Dadaist mélange that said it could exist. Consequently, either we really ought to be nihilists (depressing), or accept that there is a true system, and do our best to find it (may I suggest starting with John 1:1 and going on from there?).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Maintenance

If you maintain,
if you keep things up
then you know
that there is building,
and there is demolition.
Trimming and cutting,
then the hammer and nails.
The violence of
just keeping things going
in your soul.
Chisel and mallet
are turned to the past,
now and then,
when it's built up too much
and needs to be whacked,
cut off,
and left behind,
in the dumpster
of all the things
you never want to see again.
But the problem is
they sometimes come back.

Friday, July 2, 2010

View from the northern Pacific coast

Sand is a great metaphor
when worked upon by wind or water
so pliable
and you can form it to your will
until it all collapses
and erodes
and subsides
because of the forces you can't control
and can't even defend against.
Write your thoughts on the shore
and stand by them
the tide will take them away
and you will sink into the surf
but oh, it's beautiful.
To gaze out at the gunmetal clouds
curving down to meet the surf
not blue
not where I come from
but green
green in a way that rivets your heart
green so profoundly desolate
and utterly alive
bent over the horizon
sending you waves to wipe out your work
and remind you
that you, at best, are a drop
in it
but it will play with you
and caress you
and breathe its sweetest salt air upon your neck
and sing to you its lullaby
which
when one thinks about it
is such a thorough cacophony
that there is nothing it is not saying
and it says nothing.
The surges collapse on each other
vying to splash you
clawing over the riptide
adding up to inundate
or breaking early
spent
and all this time
whatever you had wrought
was flattened
and settled into the beach
without your notice
because you were entranced
and the ocean had you
occupied with its majesty
and the tide goes out
smirking
leaving you dry
to write and build again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nostalgia, or Gabo was Right

It creeps in your heart like molasses
so sweet and so sticky and black
and if you succumb to its siren
you will vanish, and never come back
you will live in a world of illusion
and speak to the dead every day
and the longer you talk, your confusion
will wax and grow strong and hold sway.
If you live in the land of nostalgia
you will sit on the earth as a stone
and the vines and the berries will shroud you
and the earthlings will leave you alone
You will burn at that ancient stone altar
sweet incense and days of your youth
as they rise in a cloud, you inhale them
at first harsh, but eventually sooth.
Until time wears away on your body
the creases that made you a man
and Nostalgia, embalmer, mortician,
completes what he subtly began.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Just thought I should note that

It is a remarkable thing, how God in his providence, works all things together for good to those who love him and keep his commands. Being a sinner, of course, I can't claim to love him right, or keep his commands right, certainly not all the time, but even so, because I am joined to Christ, who perfectly loved God and kept his commands, I think I can fairly lay claim to the promise of Romans 8:28.

Anyhow, I'm teaching a Sunday-school class on worldview, and we'd finished our analysis of philosophical Deism, which places man and his reason as the prime reality, and in the evening sermon, the (visiting, no less) pastor preached out of Jehoikam's burning of the scroll in Jeremiah 36. He made the very specific assertion that this sort of thing is what happens when you substitute reason for God as revealed in his word. This was especially applicable since one of the primary sources we'd appealed to in class was The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (Jefferson Bible), which really did take a penknife to Scripture, editing out all that seemed "unreasonable" to the man who adorns our nickel.

The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and walk according to his commandments, as revealed in authoritative, plenary-inspired Scripture.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Love is a Polyphage

Love is a polyphage
always consuming
insatiably thirsting
to swallow some more
Did you think it was gentle?
or mild and alluring?
these tricks it will play
as it slavers for more
Do you think you can dabble?
dip toe in the water?
watch out for your ankle
your legs, and much more
You may hold it at arms length
(beware for your arm)
but at last 'twil accept
your refusals no more
for love is a polyphage
incurably hungry
if it dies of starvation
you'll see it no more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Glimpse

A flit
a fleeting
glimpse
I saw
and heard
a laugh
and spun
to see
the sprite
but she was gone.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On STS-51-L

It is true, I was a baby
when the Challenger occurred
but I grew up in its shadow
and it haunts like Edgar's bird
sitting on the bust of Pallas
(which embodying the wise
seems so fitting, yes, and tragic)
hanging pale upon the skies.
And we learned if we'd been watching
that the wall was written on
if we'd seen it at ignition
we'd have known that they were gone
but instead we traced it skyward
pure white vapor bore them high
but about a minute later
chuff and poom and orange and cry
with the curlicues of vapor
stenciled high up on the blue
with the "Uh-oh" and the impact
they were through and we all knew
and it sank into our spirits
and it sank into our bones
of the foolishness of NASA
and the risks and the unknowns
oh, we shivered when we heard it
how we cringed to hear the tale
of the guess and imprecision
the assumption it can't fail
and I hoped we learned a lesson
as the physics overruled
all the lofty expectations
because nature can't be fooled.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who Are You, O Man?

Who are you, O man?

Funny you should ask!
I am he who digs for gold
I am he who kindles fire
I am he who rides the water and the wind
I am he who demolishes mountains in my way
I am he who probes the stars.

Who are you, O man?

Well, I suppose I could go on.
I am he who loves his own
I am he who hates selectively
I am he who develops culture
I am he who thinks, therefore
I am he who is.

Who are you, O man?

Hmm, what are you getting at?
I am he who can make this defense
I am he who wants a fair fight
I am he who responds to a cry in the night
I am he who causes it, too
I am he who is just and cruel.

Who are you, O man?

Bah! You are prying, now!
I am he who will give you what-for!
I am he who has managed fine by myself so far!
I am he who will continue to do so, thanks!
I am he who sees an empty universe!
I am he who needs no god!


Enough interruptions.
Who are you, O man,
to answer back to God?
Will the thing formed
say to its maker:
Why have you made me thus?
Who are you, O man,
to answer back to God?

Monday, May 24, 2010

What do you do?

It's like looking down the barrel
of a revolver,
and you can see the cylinder rotating
as the hammer winds up,
and you know
that when those lines are just so-
that's it.

It's like sailing
almost-silently through the air,
not looking down,
just listening to the whistle,
and the thump-thump of rotors going backwards,
because the engines are gone
and what do you do?

It's like orbiting the Earth,
seeing her all blue-green below,
and there's your home state
-hey! the Grand Canyon!
and the oxygen will be gone
in another twenty minutes.

How are you feeling today?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My friend

We have walked thus far together
and enjoyed the company
we have shared a meal
shared our homes
shared the silence of study
and the noise of our music.

You have departed
it ends the things before
and you go on
the better for it all
and the woman you have chosen
like a coat from the cold,
may it never wear thin!

And I will remain
with a smile mixed with pain
as you set your face away
because you must
and you ought to
and such is the way it should be.

My friend, farewell.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Haiku for Summertime

Brazen sun
Noontime heat soaks sand
Warming the dead.

Gilded rose petal
Grown beside my door
Wither and fall.

Monday, May 10, 2010

For My Friend, Who's Had a Rough Year

Clear-eyed and sadly staring
down at feet so little and dolled-up
wrapping thin arms around thin legs
bent double
twice crushed
once loved.
~
She shivers and laughs
forcing it out
high-pressure hilarity
don't let anything out
or catastrophe.
~
Thinking about the ocean
so deep, cold, and full of life and death
it is bluest green and troubled
filling the horizon of my mind
"And the sea will give up its dead"
but at least they rest quietly now.
Lucky dead.
~
Polish the spears and saddle the charger
Unfurl the banner and ride forth
conquering and to conquer
seeking love errant.
She will find and slay a heart.
~
Girl of La Mancha,
you sit in the grass
Girl of La Mancha,
unhorsed in your pass
Girl of La Mancha,
enchantment has won,
Girl of La Mancha,
your efforts undone,
Girl of La Mancha,
took one of the chin.
Sweet Girl of La Mancha,
You'll try once again.
~
Nurse your bruises
bind the wounds
staunch your bleeding heart.
You live.
Be grateful:
not everybody gets out of love
as unscathed as you.
~
"The sun also rises,
and the sun goes down
and hastens to the place where it arose.
The waters flow into the sea
and the sea is not full
to the place whence the waters came
there they return again."
~
Do you know
that life is vibrant?
Moving all around you,
it will not wait for you
if you sit it out,
but it will always
welcome you back in,
a little bit downstream.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On the Sufficiency of Christ

It is such a relief to not have to save yourself. I couldn't get anything done if I were everywhere looking to make sure I didn't fail, always watching my merit-o-meter, and making sure that every jot and tittle was correct. And no matter what, it wouldn't work. Ask Saul "Nine-for-ten-ain't-bad" of Tarsus. Whoever fails the law in one point is guilty of breaking it all. Shucks.

Enter Jesus "Ten-for-ten-and-all-the-rest" of Nazareth. He kept the entire law. By so doing, he earned true merit. He met the demands of every covenant ever made between God and mankind. And what did he do with all this merit, all this obedience?

He laid it down. No one took it from him, but he laid it down. If sin is death and obedience is life, and Christ laid down his life as a sacrifice, so he laid down that treasury of merit at the altar of the cross, and offered it up to his Just and Righteous Father. It was a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice.

But thank God it doesn't end there. Just as Christ took up his life again, for death had no power over him, and gives that life to those who believe in him, so he gives the wages he earned to those who believe in him. He was not robbed of them. He is still the perfect law-keeper. And now, to those who call on his name and depend on him alone for salvation, he gives those wages of righteousness, which is to say, he gives life.

You cannot separate the life that Christ gives to his people from the work that he did for them. The life presupposes the work. If you want life in Christ, you must accept his merit, and his merit only. The minute you try to chip in and go Dutch on salvation, it's ruined. Your money's no good here. In fact, it's bad.

Now, shall we sin more that grace may abound? By no means! Work and pray, live like you have life in Christ, but know that you can only do that if you rest on his perfect work, wholly and entirely sufficient for salvation in this life and that which is to come.

Anyway, I couldn't think of a better topic for a first post. This is not exclusively going to be a theology blog, but as it is a topic that makes demands on a person, it is a topic which demands an address. So, there you have it. The gospel, with a few elaborations on certain points. All the best to you.