"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A House Without Walls

As stated in my previous post, I will attempt to give an alternate understanding of John 14. Why John 14? This was another section of scripture that was quoted at the funeral I attended which is quoted at a lot funerals for people within the Christian tradition, particularly of the evangelical persuasion. If you are part of a community that values the prospect of everlasting life in paradise above all else, this section is what you are basing that belief on.

First off a disclaimer; I don't know shit. Maybe, everyone else is right and I'm wrong. Could be. And what I'm offering is only one possible explanation of many. But, it seems to me, given the context, it has some merit.

To understand where I am coming from I need to explain one of the fundamental goals of mysticism. All traditions, Christian and otherwise have their mystics; for Christians it's people like Augustine, Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, and even C.S. Lewis. Muslims have the Sufis like Rumi. Buddhist have ... well Buddha ... but others as well. etc. The thing to understand about all these mystics is that their ultimate goal - the reason they are called mystics - is that they are so in tune with God that there is no distinction between them and God. Here are a couple of Sufi quotes to give you the idea;

The Beloved gives us the water of life,
which cures every illness.
In the Beloved's rose garden of Oneness
no thorns survive.
I have heard it said that there is a window
between one heart to another.
But what supports the window
if walls have ceased to exist?

Remove me from myself ,
so that all that remains is you, Beloved.
Take my life so that I can stand in your Presence.
Let all that remains be you.

Nothing exists but you, Beloved.
You are my speech. You are the silence of my mind.
You sleep with me. You walk the path with me.
There is nowhere I can go where you are not.
I have disappeared. Only you remain.
Bulleh Shah

Back to John 14. The key section here is the one where Jesus says that in his father's house are many room, and he goes to prepare a place for [his disciples].
If you start reading this section at John 13 and keep reading to the end of John 17 you get a better idea of what this section is all about. There are two things that Jesus keeps harping about throughout these 4 chapters; One is that his disciples need to follow his example, and the other is that he and the Father are one; if you've seen Him you've seen the Father and vice versa. There are also some mentions of the Holy Spirit coming after he is gone so they know what to do when he's not there.

But it isn't about going to heaven.

To try and get a little clarity on John 14:2, I think you need to jump all the way to John 17:24-26

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

In John 14:2, and throughout these 4 chapters, I think Jesus is speaking as a mystic. He is saying, in parabolic language, that as he and the Father are one, so the disciples are to be as well. That he wants them in the same place (relationally speaking) as he is where there is no distinction between God, or Jesus, or them. When he says to them; "In my father's house are many rooms ... I go to prepare a place for you" he is saying come live with me in complete union with the Beloved where you disappear and only the Father remains; where not only the windows between you and him disappear, but also the walls.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Solomon and Buddha

We went to a fundamentalist church yesterday for the first time in a long time. But, it was for a funeral. I was dreading the salvation message that typifies most funerals in fundy churches; fortunately I was spared the embarrassment of having to walk out (I don't think I actually would have, but in my mind I'm sure I would have walked).

Overall the sermon wasn't too bad. When I do go to church these days - any church - I have the habit of picking apart the sermon and reinterpreting any scripture readings (which I will get to in my next post). Part of his sermon was the famous section in Ecclesiastes were Solomon - the wisest man in the world - says there's a time for everything; a time to be born, a time to die; a time to sow, a time to reap etc. Think Bob Dylan. The point the Pastor was trying to make was that nothing is random: there's a purpose to everything. A very comforting thought at a funeral.

The trouble is he's missed the point, even if well intentioned.

Conveniently he's forgotten the statement at the end of Ecclesiastes where Solomon says that everything is meaningless. It's really too bad that this selective memory is all too common when people quote scripture. Although more prevalent in fundamentalist churches, it's not unique. In fact it's not unique to Christianity; Muslims do it too (think of the popular definition of Jihad - Holy war - as misread by a select few), as well as others.

The proper reading of Ecclesiastes - all of it - is actually more in line with the concept of Impermanence, which is a cornerstone of Buddhism. To a Buddhist everything is impermanent, both good and bad. All relationships, possessions, and life situations will eventually go away. Nothing lasts forever. The point is to enjoy the good you have today and don't worry too much about the bad. It also ties in with another of their cornerstones which is Mindfulness; to be present in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future.

Who knew Solomon and Buddha were twins.

This is yet more proof that there is value in all religions. That we have more in common with our Muslim or Buddhist brother than we think. That any differences we might perceive to have may actually be due to our misinterpretation of scripture.

Scripture may well be inerrant - as the fundamentalists believe - but our interpretation of it, is far from it.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Robe of Words

Those who don't feel this love
pulling them like a river,
those who don't drink dawn
like a cup of spring water
or take in sunset like supper,
those who don't want to change,

let them sleep.

This love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocrisy,
If you want to improve your mind that way,

sleep on.

I've given up on my brain.
I've torn the cloth to shreds
and thrown it away.

If you're not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you,

and sleep.