New Year’s resolve

The New Year is about to begin. Somewhat arbitrarily, as usual.

The length of the day and of the year are physical constants, beyond our control. But the beginning of them is arbitrarily chosen by men. For instance, we consider the day to begin at midnight, but observant Jews see it begin at  sunset. And the start of the year is owed to Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory, at the very least. Even though at least one Pope was involved, I have heard no rumor that divine intervention was ever claimed. People just decided.

So we are stuck with the New Year’s Day of some long dead people. That does not exactly inspire me to consider the change of the year an important event in my life. But hey, it is another occasion to write. ^_^

Usually my New Year’s resolution is to not have any resolutions, but rather to change my life immediately if I find that it needs changing. It would be too bad to delay something good and useful just because of some long dead people!

Today I do have resolutions, but they are not entirely new. (I guess the name is a bit ironic in itself: Re-solution, as in the same solution over again.) I guess you could say these resolutions are slowly crystallizing. (When a solution evaporates, it often causes the solid content to crystallize out, for instance salt water makes small, pretty salt crystals. I did this as a kid.)

So this is my plan: Each day I will do something that would make an atheist wince, if he could see it. (I have every intention of never letting them see it unless it be in dire emergency, of course, since my religion forbids it.) After all, I already do things that would make a saint wince if he saw it, so I suppose I should try to level the playing field a bit.

Mind you, this is not an attack on science (one of my favorite interests) or even on impersonal spirituality. I believe impersonal spirituality is a valid path, but I am not absolutely sure. It is not my path, after all, and it would be foolish to talk with great pathos about another man’s path.

 

 

Meanwhile, in Sims 3

Sim-Tuva in a perhaps not too flattering perspective

Sim-Tuva and Tor the robot. The girl in the picture is the paper girl, I have no recent pictures of Jannikke.

From 4 dimensions to 2:  In Meadow Glen, Sim-Tuva has moved out from the small barn with the three basements, together with her young adult daughter Jannikke and the family robot, Tor. They also took most of the cash, while Sim-Magnus kept the paintings and sculptures and the time machine. Actually they just moved into a neighboring house, a big one with a large garden.

Sim-Magnus wanted to concentrate on meditation and writing his books. He enjoys the solitude, although he will eventually get a new robot.

Contrary to what the picture may imply, Sim-Tuva was not kept around merely for her decorative backside. Beside their long-standing friendship, Sim-Tuva and Sim-Magnus also complemented each other (not complimented, although that happened too). She is an excellent cook and loves making beds and cleaning the house. Sim-Magnus brought home lots of money as a famous scientist and educator, and  had the ability to brighten the day and give interesting talks. But in the end, Sim-Tuva is going to start a new life together with the robot, and Jannikke is looking to start a family of her own with one of the elder vampires in town.

So no, this does not really reflect anything in the real world.  I guess I just include it to show that I am not living entirely in Heaven gazing on esoteric secrets. At least not yet.

Let sleeping dead lie

Anime characters discussing the Akashic records

“Such a mundane question is nothing for one with access to the Akashic Records.” Actually, I have come to understand that Akashic Records strongly discourage unauthorized broadcast.

I got into a conversation with an old friend online about the movie and book What Dreams May Come. The book and movie are actually quite different, but they both deal with a man’s journey after death and his attempt to rescue the soul of his wife who committed suicide.

The after-worldview of the author is actually somewhat similar to that of the new Japanese religion Happy Science (well, not brand new, it’s from 1986, but as religions go, that is new). It is not entirely surprising, since the body of occult material is rather similar, most of it of East Asian origin. But some also from the West: Swedenborg, for instance, spend a good part of his later years visiting the spirit world, which he tried to express in ways people could understand.

Richard Matheson seems to confine himself to what Happy Science calls the 4th dimension, where the souls of the dead largely prefer to ignore the fact that they are dead, and generally don’t think about spiritual things except the occasional stray thought. Their lives are basically like dreams. Or nightmares, for those who have messed up their souls badly enough. I personally am reluctant to use the word “Heaven” about the world the main character wakes up in once he gives up his attachment to Earth. Sure, it is pretty, but I would say I am more in Heaven right now, for I am still allowed to pray even though I am a sinful man, and repent my sins and experience the presence of the Light in my heart. I would not trade that comfort for the most beautiful of vistas and the presence of long-gone loved ones.

***

Despite the dire warnings in the Bible, there are still those who seek to contact the dead. But if you understand a bit about the spirit world, you realize that there is no point in seeking out ordinary souls in the fourth dimension. They don’t suddenly become awesome when they die, although I have seen those left behind  show a lot more respect once someone is dead. But that is a change in them, not in the departed. They are still ordinary and there is no particular benefit in contacting them, apart from asking for the combination to the safe. I really don’t think that is worth incurring a conflict with Heaven over.

There are greater souls who rise above this dreamlike state in which most men live and die. But they cannot be summoned – if anything, they could summon you. And you probably would not want that.

There are higher Heavens, several of them. I should probably not be the one teaching about them. Just know, if you ever watch the movie or read the book, that it only deals with the very lowest levels of the spirit world. There are higher, brighter, amazing places beyond the imagination of most people.

Seek the words of the Living, not the dead. The Bible says this from the Pentateuch onward. (Nor do other great religions disagree.) Heaven will make sure to have its duly appointed representatives on Earth when needed, and from them you can take lessons. But let the sleeping dead lie. Whether they are in dreams or in nightmares, they cannot help you, and you cannot help them in that way.

 

Stop dieting!

Running like the wind in Sims 3

Run like the wind! You’ll love it, at least more than dieting. Or if you are too sick to run, just walk. Or do yoga, if your neighborhood is too dangerous. Don’t just sit there and diet! Do something!

If you know what’s best for you, drop that diet and back away slowly. Then faster and faster. It has been known for years that diets are ineffective; now it seems more and more clear that they are outright harmful, quite likely every one of them.

Of course there are situations where you have to avoid certain foods, such as allergies or particular problems of the digestion. I am here talking about dieting to lose weight, a multi-billion dollar industry which it seems (like so many others) is based on the near-demonic eagerness to exploit the ignorant as if they were cattle.

As I said, we have known for a while that diets don’t work except in so few and rare cases that it would be like relying on lottery for a living. There are in fact numerous diets that leave the subject noticeably lighter after a few months. However, after five years the number who has stayed down in weight is less than those who have actually grown fatter than they were when they started. In all fairness, they might have gained weight anyway, and they did get a brief respite. But in any case, this means we cannot make a correct judgment from the “before” and “after” pictures, but also need a “much later” picture in which you have regained your plumpness and then some.

Still, while I have mentioned this in the past, it did not move me to an impassioned plea. That only happened because of new reports coming in from several sources, including Norway’s University of Science and Technology (NTNU Trondheim), showing evidence that weight has virtually no effect on health and survival in a modern society. What causes the wide range of “lifestyle diseases” is instead inactivity. An overweight person who is physically active is no more likely to get diabetes, hypertension and stroke than a slimmer person. Only when obesity reaches a level where exercise becomes impossible, does it spell impending doom.

The flip side of this is that if you are slim but inactive, you are risking your very life. And this, dear reader, is the problem. Not that diets are ineffective; that is the Light’s own grace, if I may say so. The danger is the time in which the diet is effective and you actually lose weight. This means you no longer have to exercise to keep your weight down; the urgency fades.

If you can both diet and exercise to your fullest extent, then I suppose it is harmless. But the moment you choose between activity and dieting, you need to be aware which one is purely cosmetic and which one is likely to save your life.

***

Even children are at risk now. When I was a boy, 40 years ago in Norway, the idea of children dieting was unnatural if not outright blasphemous. Instead, they would run around. There were two fat kids in our village, a brother and sister; they had some kind of hormone disease, we were told. It is probably true, because they were giants from before they started school. The rest of us, including their brother, were slim. Boys would spend whole afternoon playing soccer; I am not sure what the girls did, probably something useful? In school breaks they were playing tag or throwing small balls.

These days, kids are sitting in front of the TV or computer monitor all afternoon instead. Well, not all of them all of the time, but enough so that there are fat kids everywhere. I very much doubt they have all suddenly  were born with hormone disturbances! And contrary to what you kids may believe, there was plenty of food 40 years ago. OK, so out in the countryside there weren’t potato chips in bags, but we made our own, cutting potatoes in slices and frying them in animal fat, salt and pepper, and frequently adding a fried egg to the mix. And then we ate until we were full.

Some of us loved a good book as well, and would read for hours. So we did not run around all day. But we ran around everyday. Or walked around, in my case, since I have exercise asthma since I was tiny.

But now we have, for the first time in history, teenager whose arteries are partially clogged by fat before they are even grown up. Medical science proceeds at a brisk pace, so hopefully they will live to old age anyway, somehow. But it won’t be cheap. And not particularly pleasant, I dare say. Wouldn’t it have been easier to run around at least an hour each day?

But mainly I write to adults here. You have the opportunity to make your own life decisions, at a cost. So you thought you would not spend the time on walking around (or you live in a neighborhood where you cannot walk around without being mugged / raped / killed, if you live in certain parts of South Africa or America). Instead, you will just eat less fat or sugar or bread, or whatever the fad is when you read this. And it works. You may feel hungry for a while, but you lose weight, and everyone is happy. Until your body starts degenerating from lack of use anyway, and you get the same illnesses as the obese people, only a little later.

Humans are made to move about on their feet, and if you don’t do it, there will be trouble. Even if you diet. So drop that diet and start moving! You’ll soon find you need your energy and can eat with a good conscience.

Happy birthday to me!

I guess I did change

I guess I did change this year. And that makes me happy. But I will be happier if I change more, I am sure.

I did, in fact, have a happy birthday. But then again virtually all my days have been happy for years and years now. For a while this worried me, as I was thinking I would have to suffer in the afterlife for being happier than I deserved in this life.

Reading the books of Ryuho Okawa convinced me logically that some happiness is a natural result of making the right choices (even if, in my case, there was a lot of help to make me do so). I don’t simply take this on faith, there was a solid body of reasoning that I could check for myself. My heart agrees with it as well.

On the other hand, reading about the lives of saints has shown me that some of my more superficial joy is indeed misguided and needs to wither and die. This refers to enjoyment I get from worldly entertainment, such as computer games, and from allowed sense pleasures such as delicate food. For the inner, deeper happiness to increase, my “center of gravity” needs to move further inward. So hopefully my 54th year will be marked by this. I am not made of saint material, really, so who knows how much progress there will be, if any. But that is the direction in which I am looking.

My experience from the past (and I have a lot of past, now!) is that as my center of gravity moves inward, certain parts of my life start to wither and die naturally, without  a lot of whining like when one slaughters a pig. It is more like when you look at old trees, you see they no longer have the lowest branches, which younger trees have, and the lower branches that remain are sometimes already dead, otherwise rather bare and seemingly bound for death. But new branches are growing higher up. It is a natural process. It is something similar here, I think.  I just passed by the stacks of comics that I still have left (having gotten rid of large heaps of these each time I moved) and I was like, what are these doing here? So that is good.  I don’t go around think “Oh noes, I have to give up my comics or God will punish me in Hell!” – in fact, I have bought a few digital ones this fall and winter – but the emotional attachment has been fading for years and still does. I have other interests now.

So that makes me happy. It would be sad if nothing happened and I just stayed the same, even if it was a cheerful same. It is better that I grow a little each year, even if it means some branches close to the earth are withering and dying.

Concupiscence and OKCupidsense

"How about trying out sex..."

In our inner life, concupiscence is the part that is always eager to try out some expected pleasure, common sense be damned. If our will agrees, sin is conceived, meaning “mistake”, “error”, “missing the goal”. When the sin is mature, it causes death – the removal of our link to eternity, so that our physical death becomes an end to the meaning of our life. Apart from the actual vocabulary, I think any serious religion or spiritual philosophy will recognize this. Not all have a word for it though.

I learned a new word! That’s not often. Actually, I had a kind of vague idea of what it meant and would not have fundamentally misunderstood the text; I have a talent for that, absorbing words from context. But in this case it was pretty specialized: “Concupiscence.” I am mildly surprised that my spell checker recognizes it, even.

The only places I have seen this word, that I can remember, is in Catholic theology (or psychology, I guess, since it is about the human soul; God has none of it). Concupiscence is our natural tendency to want the wrong things. The word is indeed related to “cupid” and sexual lust is one of the typical ways this manifests, but it is not so limited. The tendency to seek pleasure in this world in any form outside of God’s will falls under concupiscence.  So it is pretty nearly a description of my whole life up until now. 0_O

In the Christian Church at Brunstad, we called this “the sin in the flesh”. Unlike Protestants, we believed that it is not a sin that condemns, until we give in to it. Rather it is a tendency to sin, and because of this it is really hard to live a pure life. But some people become free from it, bit by bit, eventually. Not many, it seems, but some.

Strangely, it seems the Catholic view is more similar to ours (for I still hold this belief, though without the specific vocabulary, which is too saturated for modern man. Mention “sin” and an elaborate defense mechanism is triggered, ending any rational discourse; so I rarely use the word when explaining how we humans keep hurting ourselves. Like it or hate it, language changes over time. In Norway today, “sin” means “sex”, more or less, and I hear this is getting common in America as well.)

Speaking of which, a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Hence desires contrary to the real good and order of reason may, and often do, rise in it, previous to the attention of the mind, and once risen, dispose the bodily organs to the pursuit and solicit the will to consent, while they more or less hinder reason from considering their lawfulness or unlawfulness. This is concupiscence in its strict and specific sense.” Bodily organs to the pursuit! Oh, the stories one could tell.

***

The word became a lot easier to remember once I realized the “cupid” part. It reminded me of the American matching site OKCupid, of which I have been a member since before City of Heroes came out. I know this, because the reason I joined them was a City of Heroes quiz an online friend linked to, and it was based on the Alpha build of CoH. It was already changed when I took part in the closed beta, so it must have been around 8 years ago.

Anyway, that was how I came to OKCupid, and I am not sure it even was called that at the time. It started – as far as I knew, at least – as a collection of quizzes of all kinds. The idea was that people who had similar results on the quizzes would be interested in getting to know each other, I think. It has developed into a full-fledge dating site, including a mobile app that finds users near you (if they consent to being found). But it is still full of quizzes and questionnaires, so you can hang out there without outing yourself as a desperate loser. “I am just here for the quizzes.”  Actually, that’s more or less what I write in my bio. I certainly don’t need a puny human or its shallow interests. ^_^

But even so, I have plenty of concupiscence of various kinds. It is just that it doesn’t really lend itself well to dating sites. Computer games, on the other hand… I am still occasionally looking for that Fluffy Tails mod for Skyrim. They had one for the previous game, after all. No matter what your concupiscence, the Internet will deliver!

 

Sacred time & holy night

White sun in blue sky

Relux and call it a deity, when the Light comes down from unchanging Heaven to unstable Earth – over and over again, in our heart.

This is something I didn’t think of first, but learned about from others. I have probably touched on it before – I am a bit of a blabbermouth with sacred secrets, I’m afraid, even if I have little actual experience. Think of it as a postcard from a strange land I am still exploring.

Anyone who engages in spiritual practice should be familiar with time having more than one dimension. There is the straight line of time, which we may call “horizontal time”, the one you measure with a clock. Then there is “eternal time”, to express it paradoxically. This is the constant, in most religions compared to the sky above us (“Heaven” originally means sky too). No matter how far you walk, the sky is still above you. Land changes to water and forest to mountain as you wander, but the sky above you is the same. In a similar way, there is a time above you when you pray or meditate that is endless and unchanging, clear and luminous. We can call this “vertical time”.

Sacred time is where the two meet. The Jews have their Sabbath, a day outside of time. A long list of traditions sets this day apart, puts it outside of the full rush of modernity, and makes it more similar to the Sabbath of a thousand years ago or a thousand years in the future than it is similar to the day before or after.

But this is not the end of it. For the observant Jew – or so a couple of them have claimed, I have not been that – it is more than a tradition. It is holy time, which belongs with eternity. It is consecrated, belonging to the Most High, a time when man meets his Maker and (usually) survives. A time when eternity touches time, when the vertical time comes down and infuses the ordinary time, giving it that extra dimension that it otherwise lacks, the vertical dimension where we have the freedom to reach upward.

The Sabbath is not the only such institution, of course, although it is exceedingly well documented, Jews being notorious intellectuals and lovers of writing. But every religion has its holy days, and for the hardcore practitioner, there is also the regular prayer time. The Orthodox and Catholic churches have the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours, in which fixed prayers or Scripture are quoted at certain set times of the day. (They got this too from the Jews, but it has been adapted a great deal over the centuries.)

Islam has, of course, its daily prayers. Unlike Christianity, where lay people are not expected to keep fixed hours of prayer, the faithful of Islam will stop their work if at all possible to pray at the correct time. In addition, there are holy days throughout the years, as there is in every religion.

Eastern faiths also share these traits. The hours of dusk and dawn are frequently set aside for meditation, as a time when the energies of  the Other World are more palpably present.

In each case, the meeting of time and eternity causes an infusion of the holy into the mundane, adding another dimension to time. For those who wish to experience spiritual growth, this is quite necessary. “Timelessness takes time”, and this time spent with eternity causes what St Teresa calls a “dilation” inside.  The moment of Now is by default so brief that it is almost impossible to stay in it: We almost immediately jump into the past (memories) or future (plans, daydreams). But with time spent in sacred time, the Now grows larger, until we fit comfortably in it. (And then it becomes a kingdom inside, and a universe, but that’s how these things go.)

So Christmas, for instance, is not simply a day off from work, to relax. It is a day to relux, to get our spiritual bearings under the clear, open skies of eternity. This is why the Christmases past, present and future converge on this holy night.

For those unfamiliar with the structure of sacred time, the result may become a jumble and a nightmare: Psychologists say that Christmas is a time when childhood trauma resurfaces, causing many crises and a modest number of actual deaths each year. That was not how it was meant to be. Christmas was made for man, not man for Christmas. Read the instruction manual before applying high voltage to your holiday, please.

Christmas Evolution

"There should not be a barrier between Buddhists and Christians"

“There should not be a barrier between Buddhists and Christians” says the Buddhist monk in a Santa Claus costume. Christmas has become a widely celebrated holiday in Japan, among other places,  far from its snowy home in Bethlehem… wait…

Here in Norway, Christmas Eve is the high point of the Yule holiday. Around 5 o’clock, more precisely, though it may perhaps be later now that both adults and children stay up longer in the evenings. But it used to be 5 PM, if my memory serves. Church bells would ring, Christmas songs would be played on the radio, and families would gather around the Christmas Tree. A long evening of heavy food, gifts (usually already placed under the tree) and sugary treats would follow.

(A large number of Norwegians also celebrate Christmas as if it was not about the miracle in Bethlehem but rather the miracle in Cana, where Jesus turned water to wine. My family never took part in any alcoholic celebration, and I personally am not influenced by alcohol on a personality level, only in a purely physical sense.)

Living alone, I don’t celebrate Christmas in any outward way, although I enjoy classic Christmas songs all through the month and more frequently turn my thought to the mystery of the Incarnation.

I have a running joke about Christmas Eve, going like this: “Why is everyone talking about Christmas Eve? What about Christmas Adam?” Of course, arguably Jesus Christ is the “Christmas Adam”, as the Bible says elsewhere, “The first Adam became a living soul; the second Adam became a lifegiving spirit.”

This year, however, the voices in my head had a little fun. I hope it is not too blasphemous.

“Why is everyone talking about Christmas Eve?”
“It is short for Evolution. Like in Adam and Evolution. That sounds too long, you have already forgotten Adam when you come to the end. So people use the nickname, Eve.”

(At the time of writing, I was unaware that generations ago, the story of Adam and Eve was in fact performed as a prelude to Christmas, and presumably is one of the roots, as it were, of the Christmas tree. Whoa.)

Christmas certainly has evolved! The first centuries of Christian history has no sign of celebration of Jesus’ birthday. Although the relevant parts of the gospel were in place already in the earliest known manuscripts, nobody made an attempt to celebrate it or even set a date until the Age of Martyrs came to an end. When Christianity was accepted by the Roman emperors, Jesus’ birthday was quietly aligned with the celebration of Sol Invictus. Christianity has after that gradually absorbed various pagan Solstice rituals, and this evolution has continued into my own lifetime.

The Christmas tree appears as late as the 15th century, and did not become widespread until a century later. Christmas trees in homes appear a couple hundred years ago.

Santa Claus is named for the bishop Nicholas of Myra, who was famous for his timely gifts. However, the modern character is merged with Nordic mythical creatures who protected the farms, often thought to be the spirits of the farm’s founder, or underground gnomes. Santa Claus has only gained his current form very recently, in my lifetime, and is taking over Christmas from Jesus to some extent, being less controversial. (Not that this says much.)

But while Christmas itself has evolved, it has also played an important role in the evolution of our society. For the celebration of a helpless child as God has year by year, generation by generation, increased our respect for children. It still has a long way to go for many people, but you will hardly believe the callous disregard for children that was common by the onset of the Christian Era. Both the Greeks and the Vikings allowed a man to kill his infants at his own whim, with no repercussions of any kind. (One theory of the Viking expansion is that it stemmed from a search for wives, as too many girl babies were killed by their fathers as useless in war.)

The bonding of babies and parents that is universally accepted as a good thing was often deliberately avoided in the past, something that may have made sense on a practical level with the high infant mortality. But the importance of this early bonding for healthy emotional and intellectual development is a major part of modern psychology. In a manner of speaking, the relative humanism of modern western civilization can trace its evolution back to the little child in the crib.

 

“continually with thee”

"Everyone feels that evenings alone are lonely times"

“Everyone feels that evenings alone are lonely times” says the teacher. But wait, there is one who does not feel like that, and that is I. For I am continually with thee…

So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.  Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.” -Psalm 73, verses 22-23.

This paradox is the heart of my life. I am not all heart, I have many other sides as well. But when we come right down to it, this is the mystery that sets me apart from the average person and changes everything.  The “thee” in this text is presumably God. At least it is someone in Heaven. And that’s so for me too. If this Presence is not God personally, it certainly seems to represent Heaven.

The strange thing is that even though I have been as foolish and ignorant as a beast, if not more so, nevertheless I am continually with this Presence. It is beyond obvious that it is not something I have deserved or achieved.

And this more than anything else is what creeps me out about the teachings of St John of the Cross and various other highly respected saints. I can live with not eating tasty snacks or playing computer games; most of the world probably still has other priorities than that. I can live without a lot of things, if it is necessary. But I am not sure I can live, even literally, for long without the Presence.

The few times the Presence has been hid from me, typically for a quarter of an hour or so, I felt an anguish unto death. It felt like the core of my being was ripped out, and I felt physically weak, icy cold from the inside out, stunned by unspeakable fear, and the world had lost a dimension much like if you woke up and could only see in black and white. Everything seemed to be reduced to mere matter, as if the life and beauty and presence that fills everything had retreated to Heaven and closed the door behind it.

Now you may reasonably say that this is how people see the world, but I doubt it. I don’t think even hardcore atheists see the world dead and bare like that. They just are not able to realize that the life and beauty and presence all around them is not an automatic part of matter. Or they think it is just added by their own mind. And I guess that is correct, in a manner of speaking. But it is not automatic. It is not something the mind just can choose to add, or simply add by habit. It is something that can be taken away. But that intrinsic quality of the material world is not all of it, although it is striking. There is also a presence as if someone always watches over me with warm eyes, as if I were a small child playing in the presence of its parents.

“Continually with thee” is the best description I have ever seen of this. And even if I knew that something amazing was on the other side, I would not have the courage to let go of that hand.

I believe this Presence may have been there all my life. When I was four, my mother took me to a hospital in the city where I would spend several days being checked for various things about my asthma. She could not stay there with me, and could not afford to stay in the city even. She had to return to the farm, a night’s travel away, and it probably broke her heart. I did notice, but not much more. I had a most excellent time, except the nurses forced me to eat meat and fish. I put up a ferocious battle, and that was how my mother located me when she came some days later to pick me up. I was screaming – not for my mother, but rather, I was screaming: “I want just dessert! I want just dessert!” – because the main course was all full of dead bodies.

As a child, I was a talkative fellow, but I also spent hours on end alone by the river or in the forest or the mountain. All the while I was speaking out loud (it took quite some effort to stop it when I grew up), as if I took for granted that there was always someone there with me. I did not really think about it until much later, who or what my invisible friend was who was listening to me. When I learned to pray and later, in my teens, learned to stop praying and just listen, I could sense the Presence there, its aura as real as I myself if not more so.

And, except for those brief glimpses of Hell – or that was how it felt to me – I have been continually with my invisible friend. But it is not merely a silent presence. It has definite opinions on many things. It approves and disapproves, warns, comforts, gives me advice. It cannot be forced to “say” anything at all, and not to keep to any particular topic. It will supply information that it deems useful, for the most part, and often practical in nature, while my own thoughts often wander to obscure scientific topics it refuses to discuss.

So that is how it is. Sin is said to separate us from God, and it certainly makes things awkward, but even though I have been as a beast, I have been continually with Thee. It never caused a complete separation, a closing of the door. Well, actually I am not sure that one or two of those glimpses of Hell did not start with me sinning, but I know not all did. It seemed more like a biological thing, as if my God-sense was blinded. In a sense, it may have been more like my spirit had left together with God and the me that was left was “meat”. Although I am not entirely sure. I am in no hurry to test it again. Never is soon enough.

Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.“ -verse 24.

The Presence has guided me with its counsel, exactly, probably before I even read this verse (although that is hard to say, I may have read it in the old Danish Bible I found on the top shelf when I was 10 or so). I am a lot more worried about the reception into glory though, because I did not always (or was that “not very often”?) follow that counsel if it seemed less fun or more bothersome than my own alternative. Only when things went wrong did I have to take the next counsel.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” -verse 25

This was the verse I was actually looking for when I returned to this psalm today. In Norwegian it says “I have lust for nothing on Earth”, which unfortunately is not an accurate description of me AT ALL. But “none” is an entirely different matter. I mean, I am glad there are humans, I would not be able to live long without them, I even like some of them, they are decorative and sometimes interesting. But there is no ONE of them that I “desire beside thee”, no particular person that fills a hole in my life. I have never been in love, even though I tried when I was young. But there is no keyhole to which anyone on Earth is the key. There is no human-shaped hole in my life (or dog-shaped or whatever). There is only one hole in my life, in my heart, and it is continually filled, except during the glimpses of Hell (luckily long in the past right now, long may that last).

I know from experience that if I pray earnestly for something to be taken away from me, it can happen. I made that mistake once! I was young and too eager for my own good, and had noticed that when I did something good for someone, I felt a kind of reward inside, a warm glow of happiness like that of a dog being praised. Having read some hagiography, I prayed to God to take away this feeling, as it was pleasing to the ego. And from then on, it disappeared. I feel bad when I do the opposite, but I feel no pleasure in doing good. Which worked nice for the saint I had been reading about (Madame Guyon, I think), but not for me. I haven’t really done much good since then, because I am a big bag of ego and when I don’t get praised by the Presence, I don’t really care. I mean, sure, I can help, but I don’t look for opportunities or go out of my way.

So I am not going to ask for the “Thee” to leave me. No ifs and buts about it. No way. As far as I am concerned, I would be happy to stay like this forever. And ever, amen.

 

Fire within?

Holy love!

Holy love! I am not sure most people even believe holy love is possible, much less that it can and should exist in our world today. I believe… in theory. I even read books about it. I just don’t practice it myself.

I have for some time been reading a Catholic book, Fire Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay. I typically read it in the morning on the bus to work, and in the afternoon on my way home (unless I am too sleepy then). It is part hagiography, about the lives of the saints Teresa of Avila (also known as Teresa of Jesus, although that seems an extreme title to monopolize) and John of the Cross (likewise, although the competition here seems less fierce). But it is also, and mostly, an explanation of the teachings they lived and shared with others.

These saints are truly superheroes of religion, in the sense that their lives and teachings seem incomprehensible and impossible to the ordinary Christian. Their self-denial goes far beyond abstaining from even venial sin. They would neither eat nor drink unless it was solely for the glory of God and brought their mind closer to the Holy One. Basically all the worries of the ordinary mortal are entirely irrelevant to such a person, and unfortunately this also applies the other way around. They truly live in a different world.

Yet Fr. Dubay insists that this is not only possible, but the natural life of a Christian, and finds it truly saddening that any serious theist could think otherwise. Yes, he uses the word “theist” repeatedly, implying that in essence, this life would be the natural conclusion also for observant Jews, Muslims and even Hindus if they seriously believed in their gods. In contrast, he sharply differentiates it from the Eastern meditation practices: The purpose of emptying oneself of everything human is not to become empty, to cease to exist or cease to feel, but to become filled with God.

The author draws parallels to the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, and to the lives of other saints, to show that the Saints Teresa and John were not outliers, but on the contrary expressed precisely the heart of the Christian religion, and it is everyone who thinks differently who has misunderstood. Now in all fairness, he does not exalt himself – pretty much the only reference to his person is the occasional mention of his experiences as a spiritual director – but there certainly isn’t much timidity either. While Fr. Dubay has not so far come right out and said “This is how I live my life as well”, that had better be the case or he will have something to worry about come his final life review. Of course, so have I. Oh yes, so have I.

Reading about the radical self-denial and heroic love of these saints, I recognize the lives of the saints who instructed me when I was young, in the Christian Church at Brunstad. I guess saints will be saints, even if they did not have all that much respect for the Catholic Church in general. (Unlike some sects, however, the Brunstad Church did not have a theory that people who belonged to other denominations were automatically bound for Hell. Rather the view was that other churches had a mixture of right and wrong teaching, and this made it hard for people to pick the good parts and leave out the bad, but it certainly could happen if they had the heart for it. Conversely if they didn’t, being in the Church would not save them.)

Anyway, back when I was young, I tried to understand all this but I couldn’t. I think that may be because I was driven mostly by fear of Hell rather than love of the Light. I understand it better now, but I wonder if I have the heart for it. It doesn’t look like it, when I look at my life. But as of the time of writing, I am not dead yet. Living completely for the Light does look more and more attractive as time passes, that’s true. But then it looked just plain scary from the start…

The irony is that most people can’t even see this. It is completely meaningless to them. It does not entice them and it doesn’t even scare them, because it is beyond their imagination. But it is not beyond mine. It is a kind of “reverse temptation”, if you can imagine that.

When I read about it now, it makes so much sense. It is even familiar, in a way. I already know the beginning of it. I have seen some of the continuation of it. But that which is far ahead, what I cannot see, sounds kind of creepy. Yet I wonder. Who I am now, is probably “creepy” to a lot of people already. To not need or want status, approval, even earthly love. To be undisturbed by the weather, the lack of promotions, the stupidity of random people, things that keep up the blood pressure of my peers. To have nearly forgotten loneliness, because of the inexplicable, undeserved Presence that is  watching over me.

But that is all things the Light does for me, not I for the Light. When the time comes for me to make sacrifices, there isn’t much sign of fire within.  It’s like a one-sided love, and I’m the one being loved by the Light. You can’t imagine how disturbing that image is. I have a hard time imagining it myself. It is like one of those comedy movies where a superstar falls in love with an average guy and he just doesn’t get it, no matter how far she goes. Except, well, this is a much more extreme difference in status.

Am I really this fireproof within?