Fireground, Adelaide Hills

Tentative Lines in the Dirt

Worship in the Absence of God (4)

In this page I am talking about a few tentative lines in the dust of a new mud map. You will find that the poetic language increases.

One of the troubles with the exact language of science when it has been wrongly applied in the area of theology is that it has "said more and more about less and less." Precision has increased at the cost of content. If language becomes too precise there is no room for the intrusion of the divine. Poetry is the language of one not knowing in the way of science, but knowing in any case.

The old Church knew that life here is our portion
to be lived in fulfilment.
The stern rule of Benedict,
the wild flights of Francis of Assisi,
these were coruscations in the steady heaven of the Church.
The rhythm of life itself was preserved by the Church,
hour by hour, day by day, season by season, year by bear, epoch by epoch,
down among the people,
and the wild coruscations were accommodated to this permanent rhythm.
We feel it in the south, in the country,
when we fear the jangle of the bells at dawn, at noon, at sunset,
marking the hours with the sound of Mass or prayers.
It is the rhythm of the daily sun.
We feel it in the festivals, the processions, Christmas, the Three Kings,
Easter, Pentecost, St John's Day, All Saints, All Souls'.
This the wheeling of the year, the movement of the sun,
through solstice and equinox,
the coming of the seasons, the going of the seasons.
And it is the inward rhythm of man and women, too,
the sadness of Lent,
the delight of Easter,
the wonder of Pentecost,
the fires of St. John,
the candles on the graves of All Souls',
the lit-up tree of Christmas,
all representing kindled rhythmic emotions in the souls of men and women...
Oh, what a catastrophe for man
when he cut himself off from the rhythm of the year,
from his union with the sun and the earth.
Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was a
personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising
and setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection
of the solstice and the equinox!
This is what is the matter with us.
We are bleeding at the roots,
because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars,
and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom,
we plucked it from its stem on the tree of life,
and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table.
(D.H.Lawrence. 1885 - 1930)

The first thing I am trying to do is slow the pace of my life. Life tends to become so busy and distracted that any sense of rhythm is lost, and purpose is replaced by reactivity. I end up wondering what has happened in the last few weeks. And what on earth I was doing whatever it was I did for! Perhaps slowing the pace will allow space and time for the Divine to intrude. And allow me time to notice!

I am also reassessing the realities I do trust. I remember being lost once when I was bushwalking, and thinking through very carefully what I did know. Only a few things...
it is towards evening, so towards the sun is west.
Down hill will mean creeks and perhaps water.
Thinking carefully will help me figure out roughly where I should be.
This careful calming and reassessing removes some of the sense of panic.

In a similar way, there are some realities we still have if we are reading this. We are still able to read. We have enough of a grip on things to work a computer.... At the worst of my time I still had a sense of justice that I did not doubt. Those remaining realities give us some anchor points. They also help us hold onto and rediscover the truthful experience the old language described and interpreted.

I am trying to live the core values that remain of the body of theo-logy that I have learned. That is, although I may struggle to relate to the Divine using the old God language of the church, I still live by the remaining realities I have been able to find. These especially include the underlying ethics of justice and compassion, which, God or no god, still seem to me to maintain their validity.

I think I am becoming aware of the reality of the Divine again. It is the slow learning of a new reality, with new ideas, new interpretations. It is the building and letting build of the spiral of a new paradigm.

Something I react against is the notion that in spirituality or growing identity (call it what you will... maturity or integration)... or in the getting of wisdom of any kind we can have a quick fix. There is no "Getting God for Dummies" Even in something like computing, where the Dummies books excel, there is no real mastery without putting in the long hours. Excellence is almost as much an art in networking as it is a science! We can only build and let build. As much as we make choices in personal growth we are built by the results of those choices and the plain serendipity and disaster of life. Real wisdom is not bought or leaned in a book. It is earned in experience and reflection and imagination. God may reveal Godself, but only in constant living, reflecting and imagining can we grow in wisdom about that revelation and be nurtured by it

This is relatively simple in my religious practice. I have tried to find again and engage with the core realities we face as biological beings... Nature... the earth... the sky... stars... the sea These are the basic reality out of which we have evolved and been created. I lie sometimes on the cement of our driveway and look up at the stars, just letting thought flow, feeling the enormity of what is there.

In some places the city lights remove stars and we have to work to make room for nature. I take a slight detour from the direct route to work and walk through the Botanic Gardens each morning. I often stop and contemplate the Wollemi pine, a living fossil, and let its age speak to me. In our age we need not to seek protection from nature like the medieval man in a Gothic church. Although a quiet and hallowed building may have some helpful aura, we need a re-relating with nature which is our mother-stratum... the thing out of which we have come, and through which God has grown us.

I also seek this re-relating through gardening. Gardening is about nature in one sense, but it is also about making things of worth. It is working with nature and the planet as opposed to lording over it with machines. A wood-worker might choose to use the slow old method of chisel and sand paper instead of a routing machine. A friend who is a funeral consultant chooses to write his services with a fountain pen instead of using the computer. There is value in doing things in away which is contemplative and opens us to revelation, as opposed to the ephemeral surface diversion of a movie a night.

We can also choose what to do. It does make a difference if we watch shallow entertainment every night instead of doing something else. One busy man who could work every morning on the train on his laptop, and often does, makes a point of choosing sometimes just to sit. A cabinet maker sometimes puts away the power tools and simply makes beautiful things he will never sell at a profit.

After the planet itself, another basic stratum out of which we come is people. We are a social animal, born of animals. We males are not like the lonely male cheetah, although even he is "born of a woman." If there is a divine reality to be rediscovered it must surely be seen somewhere in the context of this basic stratum too. We need to find friends beyond the level of mere acquaintances. Growing with people will also help us discover the depths of reality and the presence of something beyond just the surface us.

Then there is the feeling of the body. Gaining an awareness of this is not easy. Our body is the basic stratum of our selves. We are a dimly understood complex of body and feelings. There is always something indiscernible and undefinable about us, even to ourselves. But the body and our consciousness are basic real thing in which the divinity must work and the only place, really, where we can meet the Divine.

These simply practices are helping me to find a sense of place in the infinite. Wonder has come again. I feel at home in what seemed might become the alien and absurd. I think I have found a sharper sense of justice, and a little more compassion. And at last, I am discovering a few words for this new reality where there is still "God".

October 21 2001


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