Tuesday, May 20, 2008

deja vu and something about the naked God


well, in classic form, the comment left by hineini prompted a whole new post...

These seem to me to be more demanding questions that take both out experiences and our desires for who we are and who God is seriously, without trapping us in the "things we'll never know" wasteland where we end up taking "the leader's" word for how things are.
(hineini)

we all seem to play the same scripts again and again don't we?
the more we try to grow, the more we stay the same.

except that, for my part, it demonstrates a fair bit of growth to become a question-asker rather than an answer-giver... something like "i also think that the most important aspect of one's faith is the question-asking part... even if the answers we are able to arrive at are, at best, inconclusive" may very well be a familiar type of statement on this blog over the last year. however, in this case, it is a fair distance from the land of this writer's origins.

(for laughs we can always go looking for evidence of this by reading really early posts on this particular blog, replete with declarative statements and high-sounding direction.)

but to assert that the asking of this or that particular type of question is a bit old hat feels rather one dimensional in and of itself somehow. i mean, the challenge has been there for awhile now to consider possibilities that, for me, can only be articulated in the form of the scandalous question... to explore with trembling hands the face of the maybe God that has been obscured into a formless blur for us due to our years of staring directly into its own light of revelation to the point of relative blindness.

so the challenge is ever to try to take each new experience, each new conversation, each new relationship, and consider that aspects of this God person which are inconsistent between two or more scenarios have to go- to have my own personal picture of God shaped by comparison so that, like the approach to sculpture adopted by michelangelo, large pieces of the slab of theological and doctrinal marble that keep God the person encased in human construction would drop away, revealing the naked God within.

i was talking with a friend the other day about this- in particular about the robes that we place upon God... robes which celebrate (and even exaggerate) certain aspects of God's character while almost completely obscuring others. we like this God to be loving and just, but where love and justice seem to conflict, we default to grace in order to escape wrath or damnation. we like this God to be merciful and miraculous, but where neither mercy nor miracle seems present, we default to existentialist free will doctrines which allow God to escape the bang and blame game.

my friend and i agreed that it seems to be very comfortable for us to clothe God with our own presumptions and prejudices about and against God- to array God in some things rather than ascribe to God all things. it feels somehow safer to selectively highlight the things that we either like or dislike about God, depending upon our orientation towards the divine, rather than to openly admit that the things we feel either unsure or uncomfortable suspecting to be true about God are also divine possibilities...

and in so doing, we dress God up like something God is not.

like a little child who dresses the family dog up in a frilly dress and a silly hat in order to serve the dog some make believe tea, we dress the God up in order to somehow relate to rather than revere the creator of all.

but have you ever looked at the face of that dog? there's this look of weary tolerance, as if the dog knows it looks foolish (almost as if it even feel as foolish as it looks) bound up in something like that. all far-fetched anthropomorphisms aside, in my view, we bind God up in the garments of praise/ robes of expectation rather than subject ourselves to the prospect of the naked God- and God puts up with it.

eventually, i hope that my understanding of God will be free of all of these cultural coats and expectations that i in my myopia have loved to dress God up in.

but back to hineini's post above.
i couldn't help but notice something interesting in there considering familiarity and restlessness.

the questions asked in the bit prior to the above statement that opens this post also have a familiarity to them. we've been down that road before as well- unsatisfactorily or otherwise- in earlier dialogues, and have come back to the same queries.

one might call this consistency.
another might conclude that an impass has been reached... you know, that place in a conversation where everything is on the table and the arguments become circular and rhythmic. that's usually where one or the other loses interest! ha ha.

what i find most intriguing, though, is the idea of the things we'll never know wasteland and how open endedness is a trap that causes people's free minds to run crazily and pointlessly on the wheel in the cage until such time as some leader releases them with an easy answer, telling them emphatically how things are. it seems as though the dissatisfaction with the inconclusive answer to the tiresome question is based on exactly this: wanting some leader to state emphatically how things are.

okay, here's my take on it all:

inconclusive and unexplained,
but being progressively revealed...
God's strip tease.

nope, nothing new there...

but, after all, the last post was called 'ferris' and did bear the illustration of the space station from the film 2001 a space odyssey with human beings doing laps on a large revolving wheel set in the stars. metaphors come and metaphors go, but this is more of a visual rhyme.
***
Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage Im still just a rat in a cage
And I still believe that I cannot be saved
(billy corgan, 1994)

13 Comments:

OpenID societyvs said...

"it seems as though the dissatisfaction with the inconclusive answer to the tiresome question is based on exactly this: wanting some leader to state emphatically how things are." (JB)

I have come to a different conclusion - finding the answer myself and also being content with the 'mystery of God'.

I don't need all the answers to the tough questions - since they might not satisfy me anyways - and if I knew - would I really be all that better a person? (referring to questions like 'did God kill all those people?).

It's not wanting to know about God - but about knowing the mystery about God does exist and He still is rather 'unknowable' (in the sense of a name or a figure). That's good enough for me - maybe I can be blamed for not seeking hard enough - but I found all I needed (the teachings).

What actually does help me are the teahcings and the direction provided within them - they guide, they rebuke, and they comfort. I see in them the teahcings of God - the path to living life - to finding more life - to path to wholeness. From one with holes all over his soul.

I enjoy the mystery and I figure this is something God has to be - name one place in biblical lit where God is actually seen? If Moses didn't see him - I am guessing this is not possible then. Even Jesus does not see God - nor show God - since this was not a possibility...maybe God is so much bigger than we realize?

God is not meant to be seen (imaged) - that's the whole point...if we make an image we define God - and once we do that - God starts looking like us, defending us, and speaking like us. This is the problem with faith in the monotheistic religions - they think they have figured out the mysterious and now there is no room for openness on the issue. Decades and deacdes of writings make many feel the door is closed - and we know all we can...that's like a blip on the radar screen saying it's seen the whole universe.

The default position is 'to be sure' - similar to the garden experience - being 'too sure' makes one stop seeking life and start seeking only the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge is handy - it's helps us build beautiful decorations for what we study - but if it becomes a 'head game' and not 'living reality' - then we truly are cursed.

5/21/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"This is the problem with faith in the monotheistic religions - they think they have figured out the mysterious and now there is no room for openness on the issue." (sVs)

a friend that i enjoyed a coffee with a couple weeks ago also used words like 'open' and 'closed' when attempting to articulate his picture of the maybe God. he spoke of an understanding of God that was ever-opening, ever revealing, ever inviting, as opposed to one that says 'the case is closed, the transcript is available for a small tax deductible donation.'

i love the notion of the inclusivity rather than exclusivity of God.

i also embrace (lest i be seen as some wild-eyed heretic or something) the comment made above concerning biblical scriptural teachings:

"What actually does help me are the teahcings and the direction provided within them - they guide, they rebuke, and they comfort. I see in them the teahcings of God - the path to living life - to finding more life - to path to wholeness." (sVs)

the path to wholeness...

our wholeness has to do in great measure with our involvement in all that needs to be done by God on fallen planet earth, and, in my view, we are most useful when we are in constant dialogue with God and others, asking questions together.

5/21/2008  
OpenID societyvs said...

I just thought of a weird thought:

'some people use the bible as an answer key for God'.

Similar to your idea 'the case is closed, the transcript is available for a small tax deductible donation.'

Although we learn about God - via the teachings - we are still in the midst of the present - where we need to live them to see their fullest meanings. They are just words on a page as far as I am concerned until they break into our existence via our 'following'.

I think we grow closer to God that way - by our enacting the ideas of love, mercy, justice, equality, peace, etc. We also grow closer to our neighbors - which seems like God's intention from the beginning - harmony of humanity. It's my conclusion (and here we are discussing not making solid conclusions) - but it will likely change over time.

5/21/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

nice

5/21/2008  
Blogger hineini said...

Most of the time I read the posts with a grin, seeing the same themes re-emerge as you've mentioned. But I also want to say that your not the only one jollybegger that is aware of the distance you've traveled in the past while. Which got me thinking, where have I gotten to(come from?)?

The problem then becomes trying to figure out where I am, and it seems that I am nowhere, at least in a way. It's not that I am no where but that where I am is always undermined and unsettled. In order to put one's foot down, to take a stand, we need something under us but if that foundation is imaginary, or, optomistically, ever shifting, then it's impossible to stand one's ground, or further, to travel without always ending up where we began.
Maybe I've always been afraid of arrivals, like that of the Israelites to the promised land or the colonizers to the shore. It must be because I try and read the sacred texts from the perspective of those who lose everything when God shows up.

So I love this bit, "to explore with trembling hands the face of the maybe God"(jollybegger). That's one of the nicest gems I've heard in a long time. Re-reading St. Paul's imploring prayer pleading we work out our (no one else's) salvation (arguably the most valuable thing we could ever have) with fear and trembling (whatever that means)

5/21/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"Most of the time I read the posts with a grin, seeing the same themes re-emerge as you've mentioned." (hineini)

oh great- i've been made: i am an unpardonably simple man with about three different ideas that i restate again and again in different words. oh well.

but speaking of words and gems:

"I try and read the sacred texts from the perspective of those who lose everything when God shows up."
(hineini)

i think i need to go have a good cry.

5/22/2008  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Speaking of gems - I was reading Hirshfields book and he mentions the term 'hineini':

“When God calls out to Abraham, Abraham responds with the Hebrew word hineini - ‘Here I am”. This is mitzvah…We need to feel able to be there for the people we love and the things in which we deeply believe, which we hold sacred.” (Hirschfield, pg 58 )

“We always need to be in both positions, demanding the hineini response from ourselves and demanding for ourselves that other say it to us. When it’s either one or the other, we get into ruts. If you’re always giving it, you get burned out and resentful. When you’re always demanding it without giving it, you’re selfish and immature.” (Hirschfield, pg 58 )

Just thought I'd throw that out there - cause when I read that term I thought about Hineini on here.

5/22/2008  
Blogger hineini said...

It's probably no surprise that I have some fundamental disagreements with Ms. Hirschfield but I appreciate the thoughts societyvs.

I'm really quite baffled how she can read "Here I am" as "You must be there for me". Maybe she is seeing it as a dialogue, like Martin Buber's "I-Thou" relationship where there is some reciprocity, but it is still a ways further to start making demands on the other, not to mention the impossibility of translating my needs or desires into their language.

Oh well, back onto the ferris wheel I guess. I think we all get it by now and before someone points out to me that my horse isn't getting up I'll leave it there. But thanks again man.

5/23/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

ha ha- the bit about the horse.

hey, here's an idea: let's talk about something none of us ever talk about. so no 'questions are faith and freedom' from jollybeggar, no 'faith without works is dead' from sVs, and no 'God should be held responsible' from hineini...

hmmm...
what will we talk about now?

er...
anybody see the new indiana jones movie?

5/23/2008  
OpenID societyvs said...

Haven't seen the flick - not a huge fan of Indiana Jones - so this one can wait until dvd for me (I think).

That's the great thing about blogging - we do return to central theme of our lives (our theological focus) but in new situations - where it tested afresh to see if it stands the test...and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't.

5/26/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

thanks for that, sVs...
i was feeling like perhaps i was just in a rut!

5/27/2008  
Blogger curious servant said...

I haven't been here in a while and I like the brain stretching I get.

By the way... my boys and I watched 2001 yesterday. They, of course, had never seen it.

6/12/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

the last time i viewed that film in its entirety was probably new years 2001. y2k was an already distant memory and it was fun to monitor not only how unlike our world was from the arthur c clarke/ stanley kubrick vision of the future (circa 1968?) but also how much slower moving films used to be. by the 2/3 point, everyone in the room was asleep but me.

happy new year

6/12/2008  

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