Monday, January 09, 2006

Word From the Deathless Land

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 (ESV)

The quality of “done”, the quality of “gone”: both are present in their opposites in this fading, dying world, in our dimming eyes, our slowly closing ears.

The “here” and the “to be”, the present and the beginning, are muddied always by their opposites in this stale world.

All that’s best here, glorious as it is, drips with what it can never be: human love that will never be perfect love; peace that will inevitably shatter; faith that will sputter and go out like a candle. Everything is fading, slowing, dying.

There is a lusciously vital moment that occurs when this comes home to a person all at once, in single souring breath: there it goes, it’s going, it’s gone. Recognition of this truth, as of any really true truth, is satisfying and freeing for a time. We can live on it as food (indeed, no other food will really satisfy), even when it’s bitter. We melt a cube of sugar into the absinthe and swallow it down. It’s wonderful, for a while.

But eventually it loses its savour because it’s only part of the truth. Out hearts have feasted and are hungry again.

How do we live in such a dying world, in our own dying bodies, and still long for anything beyond, outside of, above death, as people have done since anyone ever bothered to write anything down at all? Surely in a universe where everything is subject to death and entropy, any idea of a universe without these things must have come from...well, somewhere outside that universe.

It is as though a very wise fish began to tell his schoolmates about breathing oxygen in a waterless atmosphere. It’s not an idea he likely came up with on his own. He would have no reference point, no way to begin to think of such a thing. Somehow someone from the world-of-no-water reached him and told him about it.

As for us – some information from outside the universe-of-death-and-entropy must have reached us, or we would have no way to believe or even imagine any existence without it.

Because humans as a rule do, we almost always have, imagined and believed in such a world, it must have happened. Word from the deathless land has reached us, has been given us, and unless we are dead inside already we can never forget it. It eats our hearts, our minds; it eats into everyone, from politicians to pop stars, from the latest clique of obscure poets to the creators of the newest TV commercials.

We make no sense, really. Everyone is at once constantly dying and yet constantly hungering for deathlessness, for the full, fulfilled, complete and consummated life that has never occurred in time and space.

Well, except for that one time...

And whether we remember that one time, that one life, with love or with fear, with gratitude or with vague annoyance, we can’t seem to put the knowledge of it out of the human mind. It is the Life outside of entropy; the Word that keeps reaching us from the deathless land.

What pain it is, but what hope it brings! For if even the truth of our slow death can be a brief, delicious meal for our hearts, think what food Real Life will be: real, deathless, irreversible Life.


At 6:53 am, January 10, 2006, Blogger Paula said...

Human love will never be perfect love.

That is a real kick in the gut when that truth comes home. I remember looking at my marriage (which I am still happily in) and crying, because this person who is closer to me than anyone on Earth doesn't really know me. I felt so alone!! And I don't really know him! I know how he likes his coffee, I know what makes him mad...but--who is he? Why don't I understand him?

And why does that bother me? I put it down to "hungering and thirsting for righteousness". I somehow know that love can be better than that. I don't know by experiencing it here on Earth...but there must be a piece of heaven in my heart, because it aches with homesickness some days.


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