Guardians of God? Well, yes. Apparently the Almighty One needs guardians to protect his divine character and integrity and, well, really anything and everything having to do with God. So it would seem, at least, most especially in the monotheistic, Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, since I claim no great expertise on two of these faiths, I will focus on my own – that is, Christianity – with only passing reference to Islam and Judaism.
Now, the very idea that God would need guardians is admittedly absurd, and we should not get the idea that there are those faithful believers who claim or even imagine themselves to be guardians. Essentially, though, there are those who have, however unwittingly, set themselves up to be protectors of the Lord, Creator and Governor of the universe, or at least, as mentioned above, his character and integrity and everything touching thereupon.
And just who are these guardians? And how did it come about (much to the surprise of God, I’m sure) that God needs protecting? And how does this guardianship, this protection manifest itself? Well, for all that, we need to go back a bit perhaps and discuss the historic core of the Christian faith, making some comparisons for, hopefully, better understanding. After this, then, we may proceed to answer the above questions.
First of all, there is, what we might call, the fundamental core confession of Christianity. In Islam, this is called the shahada and is, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger (or Prophet) of God.” In Judaism, this is called the shema and is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” For Christianity, this sort of fundamental core confession is found in the New Testament Epistle to the Romans, specifically the tenth chapter, verse nine.
This fundamental core confession is, paraphrastically, “Jesus is Lord, whom God has raised from the dead.” And like the shahada and the shema, this is the “chief cornerstone,” if you will, of traditional Christian faith and practice. Around this cornerstone, a relatively straightforward foundation was laid, upon which the whole of faith and practice would be built and rest. As with the “Five Pillars” of Islam, formulated some five centuries later, the Apostles’ Creed originated.
With only slight variation in wording from region to region, this creed was originally used primarily as a baptismal formula – that is, the confession of faith one would make upon officially embracing the Christian faith and entering into membership within the Church – and it very basically reads:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will return again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
There were, of course, other early and very similar creeds, such as the so-called Rule of Faith recorded by Irenaeus:
[I believe} in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race.
Here, then, was the cornerstone and basic foundation upon which the Christian faith continued to grow … or, perhaps better yet, continued to be built. Time rolled on, questions and controversies arose, councils met, more elaborate creeds and confessions were issued, along with definitions and canonical prescriptions and whatnot. And as the centuries passed, there arose the guardians; not, mind you, guardians of “that faith once for all delivered unto the saints,” but in actuality (whether consciously or not) guardians of God, the very almighty Divine.
The development of this – or should we say the birth of the guardians – is not really all that difficult to understand. As questions and controversies arose (as they continue to arise), so did rather antagonistic doctrinal apologetics, in which one particular theological perspective or understanding was virtually and inseparably equated with God. Thus, to disagree with this or that theology was, in effect, to disagree with God, including assaulting his very character and integrity.
Instead of standing upon the same well-laid foundation with its immovable chief cornerstone, and engaging in irenics – in other words, dialogue aimed at peace – guided and directed by the Spirit, in the love of Christ, to the glory of God, the guardians instead excommunicated, issued anathemas, and condemned their opponents and that, not just temporally, but eternally. After all, their opponents – in reality brothers and sisters in the same family – had affronted the very Lord God of Life and salvation.
And so as one generation followed another, age after age, the sundering of the one Body of Christ, the Church, continued unabated as did the guardians, sworn to defend divine truth as well as its Author. Forget the injunction of Christ “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (for) by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” No, that would be too irenical (and perhaps ironical as well!).
Now there are literally thousands of groups, sects, denominations or what-have-you, each with their own guardians. And despite the sometimes chasmic differences in doctrine and practice, each faction has its guardians that share one essential similarity, this is the attitude, sometimes rather bluntly stated, that if you are for us and with us, you are for and with God; if not, you are not part of the Body, the Church, and are, in fact, opposed to the God you claim to worship.
This attitude and perspective extends beyond theology, of course, as theology necessarily touches upon every aspect of life. So while one group of Christians may, with complete sincerity, profess their faith – that is, the cornerstone and apostolic foundation – if they happen to find some scriptural support for the idea of socialism, then there is another group of Christians, professing the same faith, all-too-ready to condemn and anathematize them.
And again, if some Christians pay less heed to political boundaries, leaning in favor of a borderless world (since, after all, all of humanity is but one humanity), then there are those ethno-centric, hyper-nationalist believers (more so in some parts of the world than others) who condemn them, not only as Communist of course, but as being altogether unchristian, i.e. well outside the bounds of Christian faith and practice.
Examples abound: Christians who ardently believe in the sanctity of life “from the womb to the tomb,” so to speak, are beleaguered by fellow Christians who focus upon the individual woman and the alleged God-given rights she has over her own body, which necessarily includes that other life growing within her body. And both sides are likely – and often do, in fact – outrightly condemn the other to an eternity in hell.
All in the name of God and for the divine good, as if God and divine Life and Truth needed protecting. It all amounts to the same sad fact. One person, or group, shouting at another, “Your position, or belief, is not biblical; it’s not Christian. In fact, it’s grossly unbiblical; therefore, you are wrong and well outside the parameters of the Christian faith… You stand condemned.” Wow! And to think God is too powerless to take care of his wayward children that he needs such stalwart guardians to attack, judge and condemn … all in locus Deus.
Perhaps another, better, and more biblical practice would be one of irenics? Standing upon the same simple foundation with its chief cornerstone, and in simple honesty lovingly discuss differences of opinion and perspective, all with an eye toward peace and tranquility, for the honor of God as well as the good of the whole world to whom we have been called to minister, by the power of the Spirit, in the blessed name of Christ.
Put slightly differently, in other words, might it be more beneficial to return to the cornerstone and the simple, sturdy foundation built around it, and first lock arms as brothers and sisters, bow out heads together to the same God we claim to worship, genuinely ask for divine guidance and direction with the intention that we do and will love one another, and then – and only then – proceed to peacefully discuss whatever question or issue?
Might this work better and more blessedly? But, then, here there would be no need for the guardians … and that may present another problem altogether, at least for the guardians!
Caveat: I was invited to offer a lesson or make a presentation of some sort during an apologetics course at a local church, but that plan was scratched at the last moment. Still, since I’d put some time and effort into the project, and since I also truly cannot remember if I’ve published this elsewhere… Well, I’m putting on my blog! I’ve done a little light editing, of course, because you are reading rather than sitting and listening. (Or hopefully you’re reading! LOL) Hope it benefits … or is, at least an enjoyable, stimulating consideration on the whole question of the existence of God. (Note: the above-mentioned apologetics course was just taking off; of course, apologetics carries on much, much further than the existence of God.)
The group Kansas once crooned, and I’m sure you’ve heard the song, “Dust in the wind; all we are is dust in the wind… Everything is dust in the wind.” And the modern physicist Steven Weinberg seems to agree. In his book, The First Three Minutes, this scientist laments that although “it is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents,” we are in fact only “a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe,” which all “seems pointless.”
Ah, but is it all pointless? Are we only an insignificant part of an overwhelmingly antagonistic universe? Just so much dust in the wind? In their very readable and compelling book, A Meaningful World, Drs. Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt say, “No!” We humans are unique and valuable, and we live in an intentional and purpose-filled world, and to prove this there have been and continue to be plenty of compelling arguments to prove the point.
Now, doubtless you have heard most (or at least some) or these arguments, or proofs – the ontological, teleological, efficient causality and whatnot – but here I’d like to begin by following Wiker and Witt’s lead in examining the idea of God and what is, in fact, the beautiful, purpose-filled world God created. Point in fact, I’d like to begin by looking at creativity and beauty, and then proceed from there to make two further, important points (hopefully) worth your consideration.
You see, one important idea in approaching the subject of the existence of God is the innate creativity of humanity – that is, the desire and ability of people to creatively create, which is more than pragmatic engineering, of course. Atheistic, or naturalistic, evolution can account for engineering, for better and sounder construction. After all, this would be necessary in both adaptation to the surrounding environment as well for sheer survival. But why creativity?
Why the creative works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, of Tolstoy and Andrei Rublev, of Mozart and Beethoven? Why the Colossus, the Pyramids, Herodotus and Tacitus and the Mona Lisa? Why Gregorian chants, symphonies and sonatas, jazz and the blues and Baroque? Why the magnificent Taj Mahal, the Hagia Sophia, the Sistine Chapel and the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon?
Why, in other words, has humanity seemingly desired to tell interesting, captivating stories? To draw and to paint pictures that have no pragmatic value, no strictly practical benefit to the community? Why has humanity, at least from the beginnings of recorded history, always made music and engaged in singing? And yet all of this is part and parcel of the “humanness” of humanity. In other words, creativity is fundamentally part of what makes us human.
As the Twentieth century Russian philosopher, Nicholas Berdyaev, observed:
Man is a being capable of rising up above himself, and this rising up above himself, this transcending of himself, this going out beyond the encircling limitations of his own self — is a creative act of man. In creativity, especially, man surmounts himself; creativity is not a self-affirmation, but rather a self-overcoming; it is ecstatic. [i]
How is this possible? Or, perhaps more appropriately, why is this possible? Or we should actually say, why is this true, because Berdyaev is quite right. And he answers the question in his book, The Meaning of the Creative Act, very clearly and (I believe) convincingly:
If there had not been a divine creative act, in which something which had never been before was created, then the creative act (or creativity) in our world would be quite impossible… The very idea of creativity is possible only because there is a Creator and because He carried out an original creative act… [ii]
Humans are, in other words, creative because humanity was created in the image and likeness of the Creator. As we read in Genesis, God said, “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness… So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”[iii] Hence, we are creative or, if you will, miniature creators; not merely constructionists or engineers, but … artistic in the broadest sense of the word.
And this idea of creativity flows very smoothly, almost seamlessly, into our apprehension and appreciation of beauty, neither of which can be adequately explained apart from theism – that is, belief in the divine or, more importantly, the existence of the very personal, Creator God. After all, the idea of beauty and appreciation of the beautiful simply does not fit into the scheme of atheistic evolution and philosophical naturalism.
Why? Well, because beauty in and of itself has no intrinsic value in environmental adaptation or survival of the fittest. Some would argue that beauty has no practical value at all, which probably goes a long way in explaining why our increasingly anti-religious educational system continues cutting funding for art, literature, music and the like … but that is, perhaps, another topic for another time.
Nevertheless, it remains true that humanity is intrinsically creative, and that fundamental to creativity in our innate apprehension and appreciation of beauty, which seems to rather convincingly point to something more, something higher, something or someone beyond our mere biological existence within this physical world. As Anthony O’Hear, professor of philosophy at the University of Buckingham, points out:
Through art, particularly the great masterpieces of the past, we … have intimations of beauty, of order, of divinity … beyond the biological… In appreciating the beauty of the world … we are seeing the world as endowed with value and meaning… In responding to our experience of the world in moral and aesthetic ways, we are implying that there is something to be responded to… We are seeing the world and our own existence as created … seeing the world as animated by some higher … purpose, operating (in and) through and behind the material process revealed and studied by natural science. [iv]
Beauty creates in us an almost nostalgic longing for something more, higher and better. Almost like a road sign, beauty points us to something, or someone, beyond this natural world; in fact, to that which this natural world cannot provide with complete satisfaction. Or as the Christian philosopher and apologist, Peter Williams, observes, “It is as if … finite beauty is a derived quality that draws our aesthetic attention into the heaven of un-derived and absolute beauty.” [v]
No wonder, then, that countless numbers of people down through the ages and in our own day and time have been moved, even inspired, by beauty. Whether the majestic mountains, lush and serene valleys, peaceful lake; whether by sun, moon and stars, or the smiling face of the newborn infant; whether by great works of art and architecture, riveting novel or heartrending poetry; people the world over, in all times and in all places have been passionately stirred into spontaneous doxology, to lift their hands and laugh and dance … yes, to praise and worship.
This earth is a garden, the Lord its gardener, cherishing all, none neglected. [vi]
And in the Orient, from the Shinto religion:
Even in a single leaf of a tree, or a tender blade of grass, the awe-inspiring Deity manifests itself. [vii]
But, of course, our own Sacred Scriptures make the same point very vividly, very poignantly, in completely unadulterated praise and worship of God the Creator:
Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness. It encircles the sky with its glorious arc; the hands of the Most High have stretched it out. [viii]
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord. [ix]
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. [x]
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well. [xi]
Again, thousands upon thousands – no, even millions – of people in every age, in every culture, in every part of the world have in some sense or other stood or, perhaps more appropriately, bowed in reverent awe of the divine, or supernatural. In this delicately balanced, finely tuned world of ours, filled with such variety of creative beauty, generations upon generations have testified to having experienced God, or at least something very much spiritual.
And this is really rather astounding, actually. While not, perhaps, fully convincing as an argument, still one must wonder if so many down through the centuries and in our own day and time could be so very wrong about the nature of their experiences. Would it not be more reasonable to conclude that all of these different people, living in different ages and in different parts of the world have encountered the same divine reality? [xii]
On the other hand, these spiritual-religious experiences may be, after all, only emotional-psychological reactions to aesthetical, environmental stimuli. You know, someone feels overwhelmed by an astonishingly beautiful view from the top of some mountain, and so they interpret (or misinterpret, as the case may be) the experience as being spiritual or supernatural, an encounter with the divine, as it were.
I reject this hypothesis and my answer would be that offered by Peter Kreeft, that is: “No. Given this vast number of claims, and the quality of life of those who made them, it seems incredible that those who made the claims could have been so wrong about them, or that insanity or brain disease could cause such profound goodness and beauty.” [xiii] But this leads us to a rather thorny but fundamentally important consideration, I believe, especially this bit about “quality of life … profound goodness and beauty.”
You see, eventually and invariably, the vitally significant question necessarily comes to the fore: What God? Or for that matter, what Goddess? Or what pantheon of gods and goddesses? When we talk about the spiritual, the supernatural or divine, of what or whom are we speaking? Precisely whose existence are we attempting to prove?
And here is the crux of the matter, really. One might justly suppose that in any assembly of professing Christians, we are talking about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whomever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life;” [xiv] that is, the God of the Patriarchs and Apostles, of the Prophets and Martyrs: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. Right?
So now we come to what is doubtless the greatest apologetic of all, for Christians at least, and it really ties in rather neatly with creativity and the appreciation of beauty. And this is the Novitate Vitae Argument (if we want to sound fancy about it) or, in plainer language, proof from the newness of life, which is what the Latin novitate vitae means. You see, you can plausibly argue from creativity to Creator, and from beauty to the Source of Beauty … but not so much so from there to the God of Christianity.
This is precisely where novitate vitae, the newness of life in Christ, becomes so vitally important in apologetics, specifically Christian apologetics. After all, was it not Jesus himself who said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven…[xv] so that the world may know,” as the Christ later prayed, “that God … sent me and loves you even as God has loved me.”[xvi]
This Jesus of Nazareth claimed that he came from heaven, from God the Father, “that we might have life, and have it abundantly,” [xvii] and apparently he had an awful lot to say about the nature, the constitution of this abundant life; after all, “a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” [xviii] Right? And so what is the fruit of this “tree,” this novitate vitae, the newness of life in Christ?
The Apostle St. Paul tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” [xix] because, as he says elsewhere, “although you were once the personification of darkness, you are now light in the Lord. So act like children of the light For the fruit of the light is all that is good, right, and true. So make it your aim to learn what pleases our Lord,” [xx] living in goodness and truth, bearing the fruits of the Spirit.
Do we want to convince the non-believer, the skeptic, of the existence of God? All of the classical arguments, and even some of the not-so-classical, are all well and fine. When I see creativity in others and even myself, my heart more than my mind almost instinctively reaches out toward the Creator. The phenomenal beauty of the world around me as well as the beauty created by so many gifted, talented men and women lifts my spirit to the Source of Beauty.
This is good, as are all of the other so-called proofs, but being drawn to the Creator and somehow spiritually “lifted,” as it were, to the Source of Beauty is not quite the same as actually, genuinely believing in God, much less the God of the Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs; the God conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, who lived and suffered, died and rose again that those who believe might die no more, but live an unending and most blessed life.
Is this the God whose existence we want to prove? If so, then may I submit to you that the most convincing proof will ultimately be the testimony of the life we live as Christians, the newness of life in Christ. And may I also submit to you that this is the very proof for which so much of the world is waiting; the very proof for which so many are hungering and thirsting? This is the proof for which this world is quite literally dying to be offered? So it would seem the only question that remains for us to ask ourselves tonight is, above and beyond all of the intellectually convincing arguments, are we each willing to offer this proof for the existence of the living, loving God whom we rightly praise and worship?
[i] Nicholas Berdyaev, “The Problem of Man: Towards Construction of a Christian Anthropology,” as accessed at http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1936_408.html on 06/21/2013
[ii] Nicholas Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act, 128 (Parenthetical Mine)
[iii] Gen. 1.26a, 27 (vs. 26a from GW, vs. from NRSV)
[iv] Anthony O’Hear, After Progress, as quoted at http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/williams-aesthetic.shtml accessed on 06/21/2013 (Parenthetical Mine)
[v] Ibid (Emphasis Mine)
[vi] Adi Granth, Majh Ashtpadi 1, M3, 118, as cited in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 204
[vii] Urabe-no-Kanekuni, as cited in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, 204
[viii] Sir. 43.11-12, NRSV
[ix] Ps. 98.7-8, NKJV
[x] Ps. 19. 1-3, NLT
[xi] Ps. 139.14, NRSV
[xii] Cf. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, “20 Arguments for the Existence of God,” from The Handbook of Christian Apologetics as accessed at http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm on 06/21/2013
[xiv] Jn. 3.16
[xv] Mt. 5.16, NRSV (Parenthetical Mine)
[xvi] Cf. Jn. 17.23b, NRSV (Emendations Mine)
[xvii] Jn. 10.10b, NRSV (Emendations Mine)
[xviii] Lk. 6.43-44a, NKJV
[xix] Gal. 5.22-23a, ESV
[xx] Eph. 5.8-10, VOICE
Ah! I am heavy-hearted and sad, even on this most beautiful morning, because I am like the infant who still has some vague notion of your presence even when you have left the room, most nurturing and mothering God.
And so I cry because I can no longer see you, hear you or feel your touch. I want you back in the room, to smile at me, and speak soft and comforting words; to pick me up and hold me.
Nothing may really be wrong ~ you certainly have not left me unattended ~ but I still need you. I want you, and, like the infant, it upsets me that you have walked out of the room.
Very much like the infant, too, I suppose, I never actually think or feel beyond my needs and wants, which all necessarily find fulfillment in you and in you alone. And so my soul cries and keeps crying.
My soul continues to cry till you come back into the room to comfort and reassure me; to hold me in your strong arms; to speak and sing in the Voice I have known from even before I was born I was born … the only Voice able to calm and make me feel safe and secure; that Voice that belongs to the One who provides and takes care of me.
Is this not as it is?
Since we are proactively demanding Syria destroy its chemical weapons and machinery for the manufacture of such, which they have agreed to do (and realistically, they had no choice), and since we are also proactively attempting to deter Iran (and North Korea, too, for that matter) from building nuclear arsenals; then, should we not also proactively demand and work toward Israel destroying its chemical weapons and means of manufacture, as well as dismantling their nuclear arsenal? (In other words, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander?”)
Along these lines, one might fairly point out that while we (the U. S.) focus so much attention on the Islamist/Arab world, Israel has clearly violated International Law on numerous occasions, very and most specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, Israel has forthrightly violated various agreements Israel itself has signed! And, also, is it not interesting that Israel signed the Chemical Weapons Convention Agreement of 1997 … but has to this day never ratified it into law???
Yet, do we hear any of these questions raised within mainstream, Western media? Why? Islamophobia? Arabophobia? Israelolatry? All of the above? Legitimate to ask since Israel has long been suspected of stockpiling chemical weapons ~ and take note, there has been no proposal made to send in any UN team of experts to investigate ~ and we know, of course, that Israel has quite an adequate nuclear arsenal.
Of course, as alluded to above, we could add to the list, especially since we (the U. S. and allies) bother butting in anywhere in the world we feel like it, when we feel like, for whatever reason we happen to concoct for justification … except in the case of Israel, whom we fully support without so much as batting an eye or, God forbid, even questioning. No, so far as we’re concerned Israel is right, her neighbors are wrong. Period. Not even so much as the possibility that Israel does or says anything to antagonize the Arab world … they never have, don’t and never will! Right?
Oh, but then there are those illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, and the barrier wall crossing Palestinian territory at several points, and the degrading (sometimes inhumane) checkpoints, and the treatment of Arab residents as second class “citizens,” officially documented as Arabs (or Palestinians) rather than simply Israelis, as ought to be the case in any modern, civilized nation. No, none of this seems to matter, not even the destruction of Palestinian villages and historic/sacred sites.
(And this is not even mentioning the Nakba, the Day of Catastrophe, remembered each 15th of May to commemorate the displacement that preceded and followed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 ~ the time during which thousands of Palestinians were killed and no less than 800,000 fled the region or were forced to leave.)
But here we are now in the 21st century, hounding Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan and Syria, North Korea and whomever else about chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear armaments (and we still have our own, too, by the way), but never so much as one glance or whisper about Israel. Strange. So again the question, should we not also proactively demand and work toward Israel destroying its chemical weapons and means of manufacture, as well as completely dismantling its nuclear arsenal?
(And then move on to the other very important issues mentioned above, of course.)
Happy Day to All My Readers!
What I have come to learn from God, very beautifully and lovingly…
Written by noblethemes
September 21, 2013 at 3:32 PM
Posted in Personal
The news is the same, really. Different headlines with different characters, perhaps, with different names in different parts of the world, but the content is essentially unchanged. Reality television programs are not real – yet, again, perhaps too real – but everyone is an actor and the audience knows the show is no more than showmanship, and it has all grown old and stale, like renamed and repacked video games that lost their novelty long ago.
New music rolls off an assembly line for mass consumption by an entertainment-saturated culture, and distributed to various artists, who have no authentic artistic ability, which no longer matters because technology adequately substitutes for talent, and rapidly flashing lights and explosives and quick movement are enough to distract an already aesthetically-numbed public anyway. And poets write for personal pleasure but in their heart hate their work.
New books are shelved in bookstores, little more than the rehashing of bygone bestsellers – nothing fresh, nothing innovative. Old cell phones and electronic gadgets are advertised with the flare of advancement as the “next generation” complete with so many trivial, unnecessary but alluring “add-ons.” And people file into churches, synagogues, temples and mosques but the Spirit is gone. Something has died … inside and out, individually and corporately.
Strenuous prayer has been replaced by simple e-cards on Facebook; fasting means only how quickly one is served at an unhealthy hamburger joint; meditation is how intently one can manage to concentrate on the televised football game without being distracted by the nuisance of children, who are better sequestered in their own rooms with their own television sets, CD players and game consoles … largely left alone to care for themselves by whatever resources available.
Astute individuals form reading and writing guilds, academic and intellectual societies, invite others to join and participate. Some respond initially, mostly with lackluster interaction, and then just fade away. Silence replaces what was meant to be stimulation. Art is anything anyone labels art, and there is no genuine appreciation because genuine appreciation requires some standard of measurement of quality. Quality is no longer manifest.
Wave upon wave, customers flow into stores and back out again, an unending tide of flesh and blood once considered human; wiping shelves clean of superfluous product manufactured on the other side of the globe in order to flood their already inundated homes. Most of them are not happy, though, evidenced by merely looking at the myriad faces walking up and down the aisles. There is stress, anxiety, boredom, anger, depression, emptiness … but seldom joy and peace.
Fall has come, as she always does in the changing seasons of this world, but this Autumn is more than merely the effect of an ordinary planetary cycle. No, as the season of Fall brings along customary dying in herald of Winter, so this more significant Autumn portents the death of an age, an era followed by an exceptionally long, dark and cold Season of terrifying tranquility as new life stirs beneath the surface, waiting to be born anew in the coming Spring.
And I wonder, will we be here to greet that happy moment of fresh growth under warming sunshine, ushering in an infant epoch in the history of our world? Will I and my children be here to witness this nativity? I ask with some fear and trepidation, but with excitement and anticipation as well… After all, each and every age and epoch is as unique as each and every individual. So who might I meet in the Spring to come?
To begin with, genuine love and committed relationships require courage, wisdom and maturity enough to admit one’s faults, failings and shortcomings. If, for instance, one has been overly sensitive (a fault for which I have often been guilty), then you need to quickly and sincerely apologize and ask your partner’s forgiveness.
Never claim or even insinuate perfection, nor hold any illusions regarding your own fallibility. You will make mistakes, as will the other person, and often those mistakes or ”sins,” if you will, arise from simple misunderstanding, which itself often springs from miscommunication. Which is why truly learning your companion ~ heart, mind and soul ~ is so vitally important, for the obvious reason that it inevitably leads to clearer and more effective communication.
Relationships also require faith, fortitude and courage, as well as a great deal of openness, honesty and compassionate understanding. If and when you fall short in any of these areas, then ask forgiveness, but also be willing to extend the same kind of authentic forgiveness when necessary. Look, one fact is certain, in any relationship but especially marriage and life companionship, and that is that no relationship, no matter how ideal, is ever a “cake walk.”
One very important question is, are you both willing to listen with the heart, understand and empathize, love and encourage and remain committed to one another despite faults, failings and shortcomings ~ common to both ~ lock arms and walk the path of life together as one … or not? If so, this requires taking very concrete steps forward in merging your lives and actually making it happen. It’s more than song, dance and poetry with a few flowers along the way!
Will there be fear in experiencing what can sometimes be turbulent and catastrophic change? Yes, of course, and that can be true for one or both of you as well. Yet meeting and boldly facing such transformation, in openness and honesty in your lives, may very well open brand new, better and exciting opportunities. This will, however, require bravery, mutual dependence, courage and a great deal of patience filled with hope. There will inevitably be tensions and frustrations, but committed perseverance also promises blessed rewards.
So the question becomes, “Is this what we want, what we desire together?” If so, then seek out the guidance and direction of a few, trusted confidants, pray and pragmatically plan, and move forward carefully and cautiously, in the love and peace of God, preparing as best as possible for the bad, but trusting and believing for the best, with hope in your heart, but your eye always focused on truth and reality.
This is what I have learned about love and relationships … thus far! As it is, I am still learning and trust I will continue to learn from those who are even older, certainly wiser and more mature. Other than this brief essay, I pray blessings to everyone who has taken the time to read; hoping that it has proven of some benefit.