Not Around, but Forward

Say you have bought a ticket on an airplane and you intend to fly from New York to San Francisco. What do you ask of the pilot when you climb aboard and take your seat next to the little window, which you cannot open but through which you see the dizzying heights to which you are lifted from the secure and friendly earth? Continue Reading

What is a Genius?

“Could it be that a genius is a man haunted by the speaking Voice, laboring and striving like one possessed to achieve ends which he only vaguely understands?”

–A.W. Tozer

When we think of a genius, we normally think of someone who is smart, knowledgeable, and extremely intelligent. Someone who has a handle on his area of expertise.

But what if “genius” is the mark of one who realizes there is so much more beyond what he knows? Even if he doesn’t have any certainty that life beyond his mental universe exists, what if he launches out, grasping manically at what appears to be thin air? What if he dares to believe in that which he cannot see? What if he dares to let go of all that he knows in order to lay hold on the unknown?

In that way we all can be geniuses, striving to master things we barely understand, seeking to achieve goals which we cannot name.

Loathsome Little Replicas of the Enemy of Hell

But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

–C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters

Absence of Glory

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

–William Wordsworth

Something has gone missing from the Earth.

It has sprung wings and flown away, and we did not notice it until it was gone. Like the Shekinah Glory vanishing unnoticed from Israel’s Temple.

“Ichabod!” a mother named her son when the Glory of God had departed from her people. And it has not returned.

What do we do in the absence of glory? We mourn with Wordsworth:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

Mourn we do. But can we hope for the return of glory? Can we look for the day when we say with the Psalmist, “Lift up your heads! The King of Glory is coming in!” (Psalm 24:7-8)?

Yes, yes we can!

This is what Jesus said: “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So, do you believe?

This Quintessence of Dust

What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!
In form and moving how express and admirable!
In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!
The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

Humans. We constantly reach for more, better, higher.

What gives us that right? What makes us think that we are made for more?

In the end, we all end the same way. The brightest scientists, the most innovative disruptors, the most powerful politicians, the richest of the rich — they all end in dust. The bravest and the most cowardly. The most hopeful and the most despondent. The well-educated and the ignorant. They all go into the ground in the end.

Earth to earth. Ashes to ashes.

The world spins round and remembrance ebbs. Stars in the sky of memory wink out of existence.

And when the lights go out, everyone’s gone.

Dust is the sum nature of our parts. From the earth we were formed and to the earth we return.

Yet, even in the most humbling of moments, the human is triumphant — the soul, that is. Soaring and separating from the dust-frame, the soul survives even death. When the flesh is trapped in earth, the spirit transcends and lives on.

It is from this ephemeral part of man that the longing for better, higher, brighter things springs forth. It is from the soul that a man begins to think he is made for more.

The Third Self

“Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.”

–Mary Oliver

Have you ever found yourself reaching out for something that is beyond your grasp — not physically, but mentally and spiritually?

Have you entertained dreams of being more than you are today — not just in terms of accomplishment and success, but in wholeness and in fullness?

I know I have. I would venture to say that most people have.

The problem comes when so many of us tamp down on the yearnings of this third self. We settle for mediocre, mundane living. We settle for getting by. We settle for a life that is physically fulfilling, but not mentally or spiritually so.

That is not the way we are meant to live. We are mental and spiritual beings — perhaps even more so than we are physical beings. We are meant to have life and to have it “more abundantly.”

Never stop yearning. never stop striving.

Let the third self rage, and let it rage freely.

Capital Letters

Writers of yesteryear had an interesting way of highlighting big, important concepts that we no longer subscribe to.

They used initial caps.

Love. Death. Life. Happiness. Laws.

(Read the Declaration of Independence; see how many words are capitalized.)

These were important, meaningful, weighty words. Words not to be taken lightly. Words that embraced concepts, ideologies, the intangibles. Yet, words that floated just beyond the grasp of human definition.

The words themselves were demigods. Always near, always far away. Things we believe in, desire, long for, yet somehow never fully obtain.

Today, it’s easy to reduce these big concepts to a pop song or a trite slogan.

“You only live once.” But what is Life? What is Living?

“Crazy in Love.” But what is Love?

“omg.” But what and who is God?

Certain concepts (and beings) deserve the mystery that has historically been applied to them. It is foolish to think that we — in the age of Google and Siri — can figure out what wiser minds have only scratched.

Some things deserve their Capital Letters.

The most regretful people on earth…

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

–Mary Oliver