Novalis..a reflection

Page 2, The Essence of Wisdom-

Novalis: “We are close to waking up when we dream that we are dreaming.”

Let’s begin with baby pictures. Here’s one of me, and of you, too:

baby pictures

From the Keck Observatory, photo images were released today of the most distant galaxies ever seen. This is a picture of light from these galaxies which has been traveling at the speed of light for over 13 billion years, which puts these galaxies within 500 million years from the birthplace of the universe.

They really are pictures of the very stuff- the starstuff- of which everything in the universe is composed. Before the stars and the suns, before planets and moons and asteroids, there was rushing, always cooling gases. Collapsing on itself, gathering in on itself in trillions of stars, the gas burned, sending photons (light) into the cosmos. The photons in this picture have been traveling a long, long time.

What follows from this point will offend every person who continues to construct a God crippled by their own human capacity to imagine and believe the data collected by telescopes like Hubble, Keck, and Cassini. Stop reading now, if you don’t want to know about a God who is larger than your doctrines about God.

Really, I’m serious.

As the photons of our star, the Sun,were absorbed by the dust of exploding galaxies and the cooled hydrogen which had become Earth, a new something began to emerge. A life form which consumed the dust, then reproduced, then changed over billions of years into a nucleus centered, cilia propelled bacteria, began to emerge. The by-product of its eating was one of the harshest gases found anywhere in the universe: oxygen. Yet new bacteria adapted even to that poisonous environment. Those bacteria cooperated, became communities of bacteria, became mobile, adapted sensing appendages, and over much much much time became the wiggly, scaly, winged, swimming, flying, crawling, seeing, hearing, many-legged, few-legged things which today fill the earth along with their many and distant cousins, the things that grow from the earth.

To make a very long story a little shorter, and to get more quickly to the quote which began this essay, one day, once upon a time..

One of the animals, (almost certainly a furry one, with a backbone, and probably moving most of the time in a two-legged manner), looked at the hill he was near, or the ground she was standing on, and perceived the hill or the ground to be something that was not a part of themselves. It was “other” and that “other” could be thought about. At that moment, whenever it was, human consciousness began. That animal could think about an object, and know that the thoughts were coming from within itself- not from the wind, or the water, or the food they ate, but from within themselves, somewhere.

It will always be impossible to definitively verbalize the specifics of those first moments of conscious thought, but I find it to be delicious contemplative food! For these were the moments when the frontal lobes of our brains began to develop. Those two halves of our brain in front of the ear and above the eyes, where our abilities to remember, plan, imagine, and think abstractly, now had a reason to expand, and indeed they did! That ancient animal- a bonomo? a chimp? A lemur?- set in motion our human ability to take pictures of 13 billion year old galaxial explosions, and everything else, good and bad, that we do so well. On that ancient of days began the universe’s ability to think about itself.

Us! You, me, and the other 8 billion of our fellow thinkers on earth today- we are the entire universe’s ability to think about and begin to understand itself!

Each person has the occasional opportunity to experience at least a little of what it was like for that first conscious thinker. We relegate our dreams to dry psychological definitions sometimes and miss the substantive and, I think, important insights they can give us about the nature of our consciousness. We swim through our dreams; the persons and objects of our illogical and unable-to-be-controlled consciousness are one with us, very much like water surrounds us when are swimming. They are projections of ourselves into the day’s events, or reflections of our DNA-fueled “memories,” or even our bodily reaction to food we have eaten. Whatever their source, we are “in” them, much as our ancient ancestor was “in” her or his world.

We literally are close to waking up, when our conscious mind begins to interact with our unconscious, dreaming mind. We try to make things we want have happen in our dream, happen; or we try to escape the hole that is opening up in our dream or the dark and hairy something that is gaining on us, but we can’t. And then, the cursed or blessed alarm clock drags us back up into our developed frontal lobes again. Time to get up!

Dreaming about dreaming; feeling and experiencing the awareness of the universe within ourselves; waking up to our abilities to see, hear, and feel more deeply; becoming more fully awake to the encompassing God, who connects us with the stars, the bonomos, and each other in our dreams about dreaming.

Our consciousness.

Cicada Choirs

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A voice of God, droning beneath the ceilings of green cathedrals, punctuating the heat of summer’s sun..the cicada chorus begins!

A voice of God, meant for others of this canopied world: an announcement, a proclamation, a primordial Yowl raised in reverberating affirmation of Presence here, here now- out of the earth at last and now, a song sung to the now of light and space and air, and in discovering-delight of wings to move through them all. A voice- beckoning, celebrating, welcoming, and holy because now the world has begun..

Behold! And now all things are made new in the branch-buttressed universe of the cicada singer. And now, now all things are beginning again and new life now and the journey now begins now. A voice, the voice in this verdant world, the only voice to be heard, the one voice to be answered, the single voice to be shared.

A voice of God pure, a Godsong focused, a choir of Continuing Creation now, here, in these moments, only for these moments, raised in harmonic invitation for others to join..

Listen. Sing now.

Too.

n-g-cicada6304

This gentlest of insects is emerging now from the soils beneath trees in Texas. Their years spent underground, since the time they were larva and dropped from the branches above them, are over, and they are now beginning a several day quest of finding mates, breeding, and laying the new eggs of a new generation.

Some will be eaten by others of their world; they are easily, and defenselessly gobbled up by the crow and even the occasional squirrel. But enough will complete their purpose, so that their species and their songs (so beautifully summer) will go on..

Here is a wonderful, five minute video about their lives:

Snakes in Church..

Mark 16:17-18:And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover”

The first time it happened was in 1910, near Cleveland, Tennessee. George Hensley, a 30 year old, self-taught Pentecostal preacher, took a rattlesnake from a box at the end of his sermon, and told the men in the room to “Handle it, or face the fires of hell” as an outward and visible demonstration of their faith, and as a sign to others that their faith was true.

He went on to preach this same kind of message for 45 years, starting several churches in the Tennessee-Kentucky area, loosely affiliated under the name “Church of God with Signs Following.” Hensley died in 1955.

Snakebitten.

There are still scattered snake-handling, cyanide-drinking, fire-touching churches that get together in the backwoods of Appalachia. They’re hard to find because most states have outlawed their practices; Tennessee did so in the mid-40s after three people had died in the process of proving their faith. But it goes on, still. Just last November, an elderly woman in Georgia succumbed to the venom of several rattlesnake bites.

So what in the name of Jesus, or that picture on the wall titled “Jesus”, is going on here?

It’s religion. It’s the acting out of faith in superficial (but deadly) ways, rather than the acting in faith that Jesus taught and demonstrated. It is always easier to go through the motions of Christianity than it is to follow Jesus. The motions of Christianity are always done within a friendly gathering with other, like-minded members, according to ritual, tradition, and approved liturgies. The snake-handlers, of course, take those rituals to an extreme which causes their average age to be somewhat less (I’m guessing) than the average Presbyterian congregation’s median age. But it is still a hollow, religious, self-affirming and ultimately pointless set of motions in which they are participating. Handling snakes has no more to do with following Jesus than the lighting of brass and glass “candles” in church, or the installation of a kabillion dollar pipe organ.

The superficialities of Christianity are often beautiful, sometimes exciting, and pleasantly reassuring, but have little to do with following Jesus. They make us feel like we are doing something for the Kingdom of God, when it’s usually for the benefit of others in our subset of religionists that we are really doing them. (We love the applause!) The superficialities of Christianity make us feel good but always at the expense of someone else’s ignored and continuing misery.

Jesus was about the alleviation of suffering, and the direct and unencumbered relationship between humans and God, and humans with each other. He taught that, demonstrated that, and died for that. Everything else is fluff- decorations hung on the cross in an attempt to disguise its severity and its revolutionary thrust into the affairs of humankind.

And, besides that, the snake handlers have chosen a tiny piece of scripture as their gathering point, that virtually no serious student of the scripture believes was written by Mark. I’ll talk about that later. Meantime, look in your Bibles, and you’ll see that scripture just kind of hanging there, out of tradition, and not much else.

The Battle of Kruger- Beauty and Brutality

This has been viewed over a million times on Youtube, but in case you missed it, it is worth watching. It’s about eight minutes, and thrilling:

And a Texas pasture..

I stood yesterday in a field full of wildflowers- firewheels, coneflowers, verbena, winecups, prickly pear and many others. The sky was not merely blue, it was cerulean, and filled with sun-tinged cumulous clouds and perfect light, the kind that van Gogh, and only van Gogh could capture with his oils. Each flower absorbed and reflected that light. A hundred thousand of them together created a symphony of that light, and my heart danced.

For me, it is easy to be entranced by such a scene and consider that to be the standard of what I deem to be natural and lovely. And while it is beautiful, I must not close my eyes or mind to the grinding brutality of the natural world. Nor must I consider that beauty to be one thing, and that brutality another. They are both part of the same wave of life which washes over our planet continuously. There is a season of lavenders, yellows, reds, and magenta; and there is a season when those colors will become crisp and dry, bend toward the earth, and be absorbed by it again. It is not one or the other; it is both, together, a crescendo and a rest, pianissimo and forte, an endless concert.

In scenes like the ones in the “Battle at Kruger,” we wince and are discomforted by the savagery (our word) and pain (our empathetic response) involved in the life cycles of animals. But we are enabled to be drawn into the beauty of a pride of lions in sated relaxation, watching the tumbling of their cubs, only because of the ten thousand generations of lions before- those which tore through a hundred thousand years of herds and flocks of slower or weaker or smaller mammals and birds. As humans, we watch an incredible scene like the one played out in “Kruger” and project our own human history and our own notions of chaos or contentment onto it, wanting even to interfere with the lions’ hunger-defined onslaught – somehow- so that the buffalo calf might escape. And then we cheer as the buffalo successfully and heroically regroup, and charge the dastardly raiders in the rescue of their young one.

Our own emotions are involved in such a scene, I think, because of the relatedness we feel to all the animals involved. If the lions were sucking little white worms from the edges of the pond, few of us would cringe in horror over the worms’ fate. But we feel the calf’s confusion and wounds; we know something about the nervous system and emotions of a fellow mammal. We admire the courage and selfless, sacrificial willingness of the adult buffalo. We see our own human heroes in their actions.

But it all, all of it, is part of that same symphony of life, wherever it is being heard. The chords struck in South Africa reverberate and blend in the melodies of a Texas prairie. The waves of life peak, wash ashore, and recede in eternal and renewing rhythms. Lions, buffalo, crocodiles; firewheels, verbena, coneflowers, and..us. We reflect the same light as the wildflowers; we live within the same passions as the animals. And our seasons, our melodies, are always renewing, too.