I have been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. To be honest, it is not the first time. Or, I suspect, the last. The whole “beam me up Scotty” gives me metaphysical anxiety – is it the same person? Other aspects make me cringe – the utopian ideas. And “The Crazyhorse” makes me giggle.
Yesterday I was thinking about the Borg and the Captain as I watched Descent. There is a way that the whole Borg thing is very Kierkegaardian – the anti-single-individual. Yet at the end of the episode, Picard talks about the common good and it made me think of Fear and Trembling.
Picard is the Tragic Hero who sacrifices the self for the universal. But I was thinking about Christians and the common good. It is like love: “God is love” (1 John 4:16) but love is not God. The common good is not God. Working for the common good is not always working for God. And sometimes the common good can be anti-God.
I think I often mistake an idea for a person. I can only relate to a person, I can only love a person, but I can know an idea. I like The Imitation of Christ on this: to know is to take in but to love is to give. An important idea to hold before me – I am called to love people! And that loving is not always the same as the common good because it calls me to sacrifice.
Anyhow, that was much more involved than I had intended.
“Despite the common desire to rise to the top, moments of essential change can depend upon a willingness to descend. A deep connection may be drawn between those who face the truth in themselves and the discovery of valuable pearls in depths of the ocean. Those who desire pearls must dive into deep waters; once there they risk darkness and isolation and the confusions of the murky depths. Similarly, those who would find the inner pearl must enter the treacherous waters of the soul and face the darkness found within. They must crack the hard shell of their little-self and come to know themselves from the inside out.“
Michael Meade, “Fate and Destiny”
I read the above on Facebook this morning. I have no idea who the author is or what the rest of the books is about. But I found the quote moving.
In next week’s gospel, Luke 5:1-11, Jesus asks the disciples to “go deeper”. The risk of self-knowledge and the challenge of the darkness! To be honest with yourself.
So perhaps truth could be found by withdrawing from the world. Kierkegaard thought about seeking the silence of the monastery; Copenhagen’s Franciscan friary was dissolved by reformers in 1530, but he could at least try to renounce the idle chatter of the university, which seemed to him just another strain of gossip from the marketplace, only more deluded in its lofty aspirations.
Carlisle, Clare. Philosopher of the Heart
I read the above as I was waiting for my tattoo. I have never heard any suggestion that Kierkegaard wanted to enter religious life. I have often wondered, however, how a 19th century Lutheran had so much information on monasticism and felt the need to write about it.
I like the way Kierkegaard writes! I like what he writes about! I like his conclusions! And, I think, I really like him as a person. His struggles are human. In some ways, I feel the same about Merton’s “love affair”. Rather than making him look like an apostate monk, it affirms him as a human being.
So being human is about living in the paradox of choice. The choice for Kierkegaard – the paradox of choice – was either a life with Regina or withdrawing into the silence of religion. He choose the middle ground – the single life in the world dedicated wholly to Jesus. But he remains in love with Regina. Maybe what Kierkegaard did was “create” a new form of monasticism? One in which Jesus is the only reason and only motivation? A secret monasticism, without show or display, an undercover monk, by simply being completely human.
I have done the second tattoo thing. I managed to nearly pass out in the middle – it has been really hot and I needed a drink. It feels like a new start. But I had this nightmare and I woke up thinking, “What on earth have you done?”.
I do have a lot of negative feelings about what I have done. I am not sure if they simply need to be worked through or just accepted. I do feel like I have come to a threshold: no more wearing masks for other people. No more escaping into the crowd for identity – I am me. I am not really sure what that “me” is or what it looks like. I am super glad for the people in my life who help me try to see that “me”.
I do feel more optimistic about things. Like I can see a future now. Maybe I can really see a present? A moment when I stand alone with Jesus. I am still thinking about writing. Even just writing for me. Or doing something else?
In retrospect, Søren and others would come to see the book as the beginning of his overt published attack on Christendom. Yet originally Søren had intended Practice in Christianity to be an aid to Mynster and a last-ditch defence for the establishment. The book offers extended reflections on various biblical passages where Jesus bids people directly to follow him without taking offence. The language is mild, exhorting, and Christ-centred. It is not fiery or angry. What it is, however, is a clear presentation of the need for the Single Individual to come out of the crowd and stand before Jesus without recourse to hiding behind the distractions of so-called Christian civilisation, either populist or cultured. The book includes a stirring “Moral,” offering the pastors and leaders of the church to confess their inability to preserve authentic Christianity and to throw themselves upon the grace of God. The primary person who needed to do the admission was the primate of the Danish Church, Bishop Mynster.
Backhouse, Stephen. Kierkegaard (p. 163). Zondervan.
Stephen Backhouse’s book on Kierkegaard is by far the best book for anyone to start their Kierkegaardian journey. I find that the narrative within the book – the narrative of Kierkegaard’s life – really resonates with me. The struggles to be a “me” in a mixed-up world. The above quote is about Practice in Christianity. It addresses one of the main points that Kierkegaard puts forward: Jesus saying “follow me” to each person alone.
I have something to decide and I really do not know what to do. I am letting it sit in the hope that an answer will appear. It is not yet urgent but it is part of a pattern within me that I find concerning. And it is exactly in this context that Jesus says, “Follow me”.
So here is an insight to me – I feel things very deeply but I rarely tell people how I feel. I think I have been conditioned to act that way but also I am not comfortable or confident enough to express myself. Interestingly, with word confident comes from two Latin words, “with” and “faith”. In the end, I do not have enough faith in myself – in the mystery and paradox that is “me” – to freely express my feelings to others.
I think that is also true about religion. I have tried to explain it rather than feeling it. Or rather, I have believed in something rather than someone. Maybe I am conditioned by a culture that elevates the intellectual over the emotional? Maybe I am too self-involved to see past my own nose? All the rational arguments for the spiritual does not make it a religion.
I was thinking today that the religion I have tried to enact and live is a pseudoscience of the metaphysical. Maybe a Hegelian version of the spiritual? Nothing is real but the rational and since God is real He must be rational. But that takes away the paradox and with it faith.
This morning, as I was looking through the Imitation of Christ, I was struck by this:
I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it.
Imitation of Christ, Chapter 1
Oh wow!!! Yes! There is an experimental side to religion – to Jesus – that I have dismissed as charismatic or pentecostal. But, in the history of the church, it is present in mysticism and contemplation. As a person who lives in their head, I want to get out of that space and feel Jesus in my experience. The paradox of Christianity is that it is a human relationship with the God-man, Jesus. So it involves all the elements of being human – mind, heart, spirit, physical, emotional, psychological. There is a part to every relationship between two people that is paradoxical – it is real but not rational. I still that very hard. My head tells me that no person would want a relationship with me but my feelings reach out to people.
There are still parts of me that have not even started to heal. The way I relate to others is one. Escaping that part into some form of solitude would not be healing but simply running away from the problem. I need to find that part first.
So today starts life 2.0. And I want to start it with a quote from a book I hope to be reading much more – The Imitation of Christ. I’ll make that my prayer for the coming months.
The teaching of [Jesus] is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and [the person] who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of [Jesus] must try to pattern [their] whole life on that of [Jesus].