Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Internal world in the External World of the Globalized Economy

Spirituality is as much of a need as sex, food, mental exercise, work and socializing. Today I caught on Radio 4 a repeat Catholic service by one John O'Donohue that was recorded in March 2001. Note that this was still at the height of the Millenium Economic Boom, just when the Dot Com crash had begun, and before the New York 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks.

There is something lost in the transcript which is conveyed in the service, but it is possible to Listen Again for up to a week on Sunday Worship

There is a sublime wildness in God that calls us to risk becoming who we dream and have long been dreamed to be. .... More often that not, the language of religion falsifies the subtlety of Divine Presence and Imagination, and labels and names mislead us into the bland territories of the obvious. Often, when you wake in the middle of the night, unprotected, uncertainty finds you. The role and name you wear during the day, the things you do, what you have achieved, who others hold you to be, all of that seems so far away now. You feel alone, a stranger in the world. Though disturbing, such moments of dangerous knowing draw us deeper into who we really are and why it is that we are here.

We can have everything else, friends, achievements, possessions and success, but if we have closed off contact with God, something gnaws at us and the heart can find no contentment. Deep in every heart, this longing is alive. It seems that Hegel and Nietzsche were right. In our times, God has died. Churches are emptying and the public talk about God as clich├ęd, dead and deadening. There is no excitement in that kind of deity, and deftly the psychology of consumerism has stolen the garments of deity, to present products that awaken, even if only temporarily, the call of desire. We need to find a new concept of God in order to awaken our lives and impassion us again with eternal desire. We need to unearth our submerged longing for the Divine. We have allowed our desire to become cheapened through false satisfactions. We seem to have lost the practice and patience of true desire. Our surface minds are saturated with invitations that lack direction and depth. For too long, we have lingered on the chromatic surfaces, where nothing can root and where experience is reduced to a momentary gleaming. We need to reach deeper and begin to excavate our eternal desire. Without the passion of God, all the proofs and arguments of theology become dry and forced. Perhaps belief, after all, is but a helpless attraction go God, and the saints and mystics are people who simply fall head over heels in love with the divine. We have become weary of Religion telling us how to think and what to do. In a time when culture is trading soul for image, we need to retrieve again a sense of what Keats called ‘the holiness of the heart’s affections’. The deepest thing, after all, in each heart, is the imprint of the divine. The loneliness in us is a loneliness for the tenderness of God, and we should never allow any system or voice to evict us from the embrace of that tenderness.

One of the great mysteries of the world is the mystery of difference. No two pains are ever the same. In a landscape, each stone, tree and field are different, but difference doesn’t seem to trouble nature. Each stone dwells in its own shape of stillness. Outside, millions of years pass, but can never enter or intrude on it. For humans, though, difference is always intense. No two faces are ever the same and behind each face there is a hidden world that no one else can see. Each life is a narrative that remains mostly hidden.

This is why it’s so difficult to be human. You live in two worlds, the outer world of name, family, address and role, and the inner world which is profoundly nameless, where no one else can enter, and which remains intimate, though unknown, largely to you, yet so much depends on how you see and understand this amazing, concealed world that you carry around every moment. If you live only in the outside world, your heart will wither in the famine fields of image, information and noise. You will become so weary and worn, struggling on the treadmills of competition, impression and pretence, and you will never learn to be yourself. One of the most noble duties of the human being is to learn the art of individuality.

The Irish word ‘ushla’ [?] captures this. It evokes the coherence, dignity and rhythm of being at one with your own nature. This finds classical expression, for instance, in the confessions of St. Patrick, where we see his ‘ushla anima’, his nobility of soul, a life of critical and creative presence always at the threshold of risk.

Each one of us is completely individual. No one else sees the world like you do. No one else feels pains like you do. No one else has the view from where you stand, and no other carries the memories and gifts and wounds that you do. You were sent to the Earth to learn to be yourself, to see and recognise the miracle of your own individuality. Something is coming alive in you that can be found nowhere else, and the Divine Artist exercised huge care in creating you. For thousands of years before you came here, you were prepared, you were dreamed and imagined, who you would be, when you would come here, where you would arrive, to whom, and all the drama and depth of narrative that would emerge as your life.

Immense care went into shaping all the events and experiences that unfold naturally as your daily life. Nothing is accidental and when you forget yourself, neglect or deny who you are, or desperately try to ignore your soul, you disrespect the gift that was so tenderly and lovingly prepared for you. When you negate yourself, you diminish the divine, and when you awaken your life and inhabit the sacrament of your own individuality, you enter divine presence. The mystery of your individuality was given to you not merely for yourself, but as a gift to awaken divine presence wherever you go. To be the individual that you were dreamed to be is often a hard and lonely path to travel. Though there is shelter in sameness and predictability, there is no growth or peace in a denied life.

There is a bit of genius here that rises above the mundane doctrines and machinations of the Christian Churches. Nonetheless, although he recognizes that we have to find a new concept of God, he is forced to use the word God endlessly to express his criticism of a soulless materialist life.

Note also that he also resorts to implying that an individual is on this earth by DESIGN, which is one of the ingenious psychological devices used by human beings, and taught by the Catholic Church, to insulate the internal spiritual world from the external real world. To believe that you arrived and exist by design automatically bestows upon you:

- a sense of purpose and direction
- an omnipresent sense of supervised guidance.

There is no doubt in my soul that we all need spirituality, but if we are to be individuals, then we should not want to be sheep with the wool pulled over our eyes. Specialists at the Internal World, in a Global Economy, should beware how they are used to serve the Global Human Machine.

There is at least one new concept of God, mine, or this blog would never have come into existence. It is harder to get words shorter than three letters in English, but the shortest word of all is one with no letters. When I say that there is Love and the Planet, then there is my internal world, and my external world both in the very title of this blog.

He said to His disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or about your body, what you will wear, for life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens. They neither sew nor reap. They have neither storehouse nor barn and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds, and can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

You see that Christianity dwells on teachings from a time when Nature was so abundant that there was no prospect of Man ever dominating it as completely as today. God does not feed the ravens very much any more, for Man has been killing the Planet while also killing God. Anyone who cannot see that the Planet must be protected, must foolishly believe in Divine Providence. Divine Providence did not build the Ark that saved all living things. Divine Providence made floods, and famines. Divine Providence is an extravagant belief that can only be indulged in by well-fed poets. Spirituality does not need to be associated with such extravagance.

Nonetheless, there is a deep need for spirituality such as John O'Donohue expresses. The Churches and those who think they are Christian, should begin to update themselves so that they can address the world that exists today. They should not rely on applying their speciality for the internal world on those people who arrive at infirmity, old age, and death's door. There is a need in the vast population, and that need must be served, or its perversion will continue to destroy the whole Planet.

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