Carve Space

 Cutting Cheese.

Cutting Cheese.

Let us think about the spaces in this world we carve out for ourselves and live within, physical spaces, and mental spaces. There’s that Emerson quote I like (if you excuse the exclusive language), “A man is what he thinks about all day long.” To my mind that captures a reality we’re all familiar with - though we may be, geographically and physically, near another person, our worlds may in fact be poles apart. When it comes to our everyday lives, the friends we have, the company we keep, the communities of which we are a part, or when it comes to our mental space, the beliefs we have, our assumptions, our worldviews, or even our sense of the sacred in our lives, we can often discern that there is a gulf between what an edifying and affirming ideal would look like, and what the reality on the ground within our lives looks like; that drains us, or drains even our very humanity, exhausting us to the core of our being.

'Anger'

Take a very simple example, the disapproval or anger of another. We are very adaptable, we are capable of taking on a lot, holding a lot, responding even in love to those who express or act upon their anger towards us. Sometimes our humanity calls upon us to do just that. But we have our limits. If the very fabric of our reality, if the spaces in which we inhabit this world, in an abstract sense, are dominated by the anger or disapproval of another, that is not space we can easily inhabit. We will need to seek after self-care, to find those moments in our lives of gentleness, to plumb the depths of the self, to bring peace into our minds, and feed our souls.  Otherwise we will burn up and get worn out. We must seek after that which affirms our humanity, that which is humanizing. In the same way then that the anger of another person might be a dehumanizing force for us, and blacken our world, and even belittle our souls, so too can even our worldviews, our vantage upon this world, our ideas about the world, act in this way! A by-product of our worldview could be that we are alienated from an interior sense of the sacred, or the good. A by-product of our worldview could be that in some sense we are brutalized from the Self. Excessive cynicism might be an example of this. If we’re so jaded that we are unable to see any good, in any apparent acts of selfless love, say, then our worldview really has landed us in a pretty dark place. Again, not a space we as human beings can easily inhabit. Not a place good for our souls. Perhaps, in such cases, our worldview requires some scrutiny, and re-examination?

But sometimes, to complicate things a little further, our worldview that we sense as being dehumanising to us, and our interior sense of the self, in some way is nevertheless also, in as far as our vantage upon the world is concerned, true, or reasonable to us. Or on balance, the truest view of the world we might have. And that is a difficult problem to square. It would be wrong (I believe) to assume that the natural order, if we can call it that, necessarily lines up in such a way that we can always bridge that space between our worldview and humanity’s collective sense of the good being realised. Why would we assume that was the case? They need not equate as comfortably as we would like. Often, we encounter this problem in the space between ‘idealism’ and ‘reality’. Now, the trouble I have here, at this juncture, is not so much with this trade-off per se. If it is correct to assume idealism and reality cannot easily be aligned, then we are inevitably going to find ourselves discerning paths through such troubled in-between space a lot. The problem, rather, is in not acknowledging it as such. To allow your own sense of self-righteousness to cloud your ability to see the reality of this conundrum, and in turn fabricating some get out to avoid confronting, or even acknowledging, the inbuilt paradoxes we face. It is in this lack of acknowledgment that the real shadows lie – that’s the real danger.

For the shadows within our midst, which go on unacknowledged, in turn are projected out on to the other, who is, through no fault of their own, fated to carry upon their shoulders the shadows we have failed to discern and speak into our awareness within our own respective worldviews. The sin then (if we were to call it that), would be hubris – to believe your perspective, or worldview, considered though it is, does not lack for something. It’s for this reason, as I have expressed before, that I take a dim view of ‘principles’, and see them as so destructive. The expressed ‘principle’ in question serves to close down conversation; egg shells are strewn across the path, one is forced to have conversations behind closed doors. I think ‘principles’ are so often conflated with ‘authenticity’ in a person, though really, they’re more like the antithesis of one another. We can all think, I imagine, of worldviews, or ideologies, whose shadows have gone on ignored, and this in turn has caused great damage. I think all ideology, by definition, is probably culpable of this.

Hopefully, all this introduction lays down enough groundwork that I can actually say a little bit directly about Alastair McIntosh & Matt Carmichael’s work. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. The ideology in question with which they’re wrestling, in whatever way you want to express it, is Hyper-Capitalism, or neoliberalism: basically any form of unexamined deference towards market forces to the exclusion of our innate humanity, as we upon this world exist and have our being, not as automatons within a global machine, or as numbers upon a screen, or as bums on seats, or as nodes to be maximised, but rather, as spiritual beings, connected in some way beyond our understanding to all other spiritual beings. As activists then, they’re obviously concerned with enacting change in the world. But unlike a lot of activism we might see, their kind of spiritual activism hopes to ground that action (that activism) within the context of a wholly realised conception of who we as human beings are. Which is to say, as spiritual beings with depths beyond our knowing, deeply interconnected with one another the world over, and as such, all deserving of our naturally afforded dignity, living into the present, the beloved community, not with competition at its core, but with cooperation at its core. All the while, as they seek after this, they endeavour to do so without unduly compromising their own humanity in the process. Seeking after the freedom of the oppressed and the oppressor, because regardless of whatever worldview, someone is advocating they are still, first of all, human beings.

An 'Automaton'.

They would argue then, returning to the point I began this address with, that to inhabit this world, to see this world through a materialistic, hyper-capitalistic vantage, is by its very nature or character dehumanising to us. It distorts a proper, spiritually grounded perspective upon reality and the self. But where this perspective might fall upon that continuum between ‘idealism’ and ‘reality’ - I’ll leave you to be the judge of that. Perhaps we’re called to model idealism, or perhaps we’re called to model that more paradoxical middle way, in an open and transparent way. Some of the theory which underpins this approach to preserve our own humanity and dignity, while at the same time, modelling and pressing earnestly after a new paradigm, or you could say the Kingdom of God on earth, arises from the non-violent resistance movements. Particularly, in as far as such an approach was modelled by Jesus in his resistance of Roman imperialism. Matt Carmichael (At the GA conference) spent a lot of time on this point, particularly focusing on this morning’s Bible reading, the three examples Jesus gives of resisting your enemy: turn the other cheek; if someone asks for your coat, give your shirt also; and go the extra mile. Matt showed how each of these are not actually examples of allowing your enemy to use you as a doormat, but rather resisting your enemy by non-violent means and subverting their worldview, using their worldview against them to thwart their efforts, while maintaining our own dignity in the process. After all, the man who kills the murderer becomes a murderer. I won’t go through all three examples, but I will explain the ‘turn the other cheek’ saying, as that’s the most cited, and also the most misunderstood. It has to do with responding specifically to Roman soldiers and the rules Roman soldiers were governed by from high command, as an occupying force seeking to maintain order in Israel.

Okay, so a Roman soldier. First, everyone in antiquity is right-handed. There are a few isolated cultures which saw left-handedness as special, but for the most part not at all. And in the Roman Empire definitely not; they were stigmatised and forced to conform. Furthermore, in the Roman Empire we’re in a period before toilet paper, and so one used the next best thing – your hand. Specifically, your left hand. So, your left hand was thought of as your unclean hand, your ‘poo’ hand, and therefore remained, at all times, locked by your side. Your right hand, however, was your hand for everything else. Your hand for eating, your hand for greeting your brother, and your hand for inflicting harm. But even how you inflicted harm was not straightforward. A Roman soldier would never slap with the palm for example, because that was considered an effeminate gesture. And a Roman soldier would only punch if they were brawling or sparring with an equal, a fellow soldier perhaps. Which leaves only one option - the back of the hand. Roman occupation was enforced with the back of the hand. But even then there were limits to the force they were legally allowed to inflict upon the oppressed populous. They were trying to maintain order, maintain the status-quo, and prevent revolt. So they were permitted to be firm, but not to inflict permanent damage, because this may very well rile the local population. If a Roman soldier went against this directive, they could face serious disciplinary measures. This is because when they became a Roman soldier they swore a military oath, the breaking of which resulted in corporal punishment, or even possible death.

 Roman soldier. 

Roman soldier. 

So, with all that in mind, what does it mean to turn the other cheek? You’re smacked on the cheek with the back of a soldier’s hand, and you hit the ground, but you feel your dignity has been bruised, your humanity belittled. And so, you take a deep breath, you absorb the hit, and you straighten up, thus allowing the soldier to repeat his move – smacking you again across your right cheek. But instead of doing that, you turn the other cheek, your left cheek. (Turning your face up and away from the solider). The soldier is then unable to hit you on the cheek at all. If he was to strike again, it would hit the face, by turning the other cheek you’re not being meek, it’s the opposite of that, you’re daring the Roman soldier to hit you again to risk for himself a potential flogging or worse. In this act you are affirming boldly your own humanity, and inviting your oppressor to denigrate their own. You’re using the Roman soldier’s worldview against them. You’re turning the tables 360°. One moment that soldier is only concerned with exercising their dominance over you, but the next they’re thinking about themselves and their own role in all this. Their neck is on the line, their reputation maybe, their dignity. And by extension, the very dehumanising nature of their entire enforced ideology, which they were previously blind to, shows up for what it is. That’s the difficulty with ideology – until you’re confronted with its dehumanizing effect, it’s difficult to even see its effects on fellow human beings.

In conclusion, all of this amounts to what’s easily stated, difficult to enact: ‘Know thy self’. To know yourself, to know what you are – a human being, a spiritual being. A human being seeking to grow in our humanity, seeking to open our eyes, and see the paradoxes we’re stuck with. To see our shadows. To carve in this world spaces, mental spaces, and physical spaces, which affirm our humanity and nurture us. Or where that’s not possible, to recognise it as such, and to find that affirming space elsewhere. There need to be springs of life somewhere in this life feeding us. We enact into this very space around us, from here, grounded, we are reaching out - To enact thy community of love.

Amen.

Facing Cucumbers

In our modern world YouTube has become wormhole upon our attention. Last year there was a collection of videos on YouTube doing the rounds. Cat videos. These particular cat videos involved the relationship between cucumbers and cats. If you’ve not seen them, I’ll explain what happens. The videos involved secretly putting cucumbers behind cats, and then filming their response as they notice the cucumbers. The reason these videos are funny is because cucumbers trigger cats’ fight or flight response. As of course cats have not evolved in environments where they would normally encounter rouge cucumbers, they perceive them as a threat, perhaps a snake or some other predator like that. In evolutionary terms, the cat’s response to the harmless cucumber is entirely understandable. It makes sense that animals – cats and humans alike – would have inbuilt responses like this. Our bodies need to be able to have immediate responses to positive and negative stimuli. Our ancestors walk through the primordial fauna. Locking eyes with a beast, the world narrows, and they run, darting through the vegetation fast. If our response was slower, more considered, it would be no use to us. For threats of this magnitude it has to be fast, and so it has to be simple. The cat is not processing masses of information. Small, round, and green equals very bad in the reactive cat’s mind. There’s no more to it. All the cat’s attention is locked on that cucumber. There is no self-reflection taking place, no musing on the significance of the cucumber after the fact. The cat lacks the mental capacity to reassess a cucumber’s threat after the fact, and learn its fight or flight response is unnecessary. The cat doesn’t learn. It cannot override its instinctual response. It cannot turn its attention inwards.

Forest.

Similarly, with our ancestor in the fauna, he or she is capable of considering the wider implications of the beast, how it makes them feel, but it’s probably not very wise. Spend too long considering the knots in our stomach, the adrenalin running in our blood, or the sweat on our palms, and we’ll probably end up being dinner. These instincts then are the opposite of introspection. Our attention becomes focused on what’s out there, instead of in here. ‘I want more’, or, ‘get me out of here’. Like the cat, these responses come right out of our gut, they’re pre-verbal and automatic. The experience of this stimuli, this instinctual tightening, is actually the second of the Buddha’s ‘Four Noble Truths.’ And the third Noble Truth is that we can release that tension and relax, regardless of our circumstances. Navigating the choppy waters, but more than navigate it, thrive, even when times are tough. My reading of the Buddhist tradition puts these two things right at the centre: recognising our instinctual response to the world, and learning to release that instinctual response, and thrive even in adverse circumstances. This instinctual tension and apprehension is carried by most of us, most of the time. Our anxious bodily knee-jerk responses to a world we feel constant at war with.

There’s a slight pause in the conversion. She looks away. ‘Sorry did I say something wrong?’ ‘No, no everything’s fine’, and she walks away. I wonder what I said. Teeth gritted. Just dipping slightly into some of that negativity – that negativity which is rarely even voiced. You feel slightly misunderstood. Slightly rushed. Slightly in conflict. Slightly miffed, as you once again do that thing, as others now seem to expect of you. And the tension within you rises, but you’re nice and polite and you don’t say anything, and the moment passes. And everything works out fine. Little interior discomforts begging a response, but no response is given so we’re left slightly on edge, slightly irked, focusing in on some detail of negativity.

 Sliced Cucumber.

Sliced Cucumber.

We see the other in some ways more clearly than we see ourselves. And often we see this response play out in others more clearly. We observe, as they hone in on some isolated aspect of negativity, losing all perspective. They only see what’s irking them, and the rest is absorbed into the background. This kind of tension colours a great deal of reality, this tension which focuses our awareness on that negative stimuli out there. The cucumbers in our lives, which unlike the cat is not causing us to jump out of our skin, but just tightening us slightly, locking us up slightly. All this stuff is stuff on the surface of life. It’s at the superficial level, at the level of the stone skimming across the lake. Stuff that there is no obvious fix for. A lot of these little problems, little frustrations, are not problems with straightforward solutions. It’s down to circumstances. It’s down to relational dynamics. It’s down to the dysfunctionality present in other people. Not easily solved. Not easily avoided.

In the face of unsolvable problems we often respond by grabbing control in some way. Become needy. Something to fill the void. Maybe control others as a way to handle our own discomfort. Or we push away, separate ourselves from the problem. Snap at people. Criticise. Or in some way ignore the problem – we space out. ‘I can’t think what to do, so I’m just not going to think about it.’ Or we busy ourselves, distract ourselves, drink to forget maybe. And then you listen, and you actually hear the trouble some people are in, and you are not surprised that they’re grabbing, or pushing, or spacing themselves out to deal with their unsolvable problem. Their unsolvable problems are huge, and frankly, the fact that they’re finding the strength at all to show up, to be present, be active, to engage, is remarkable. All this negativity is unselective in who it hits of course. We can influence aspects of our life in places, but most of the time we’re subject to the way the winds blow. Despite this, we seem amazingly capable of carrying more negativity than we might imagine. We are capable as human beings of being subjected to great horrors, and yet after all that, still operating as loving rational people. These reactive responses to the world rear up particularly when we are not present to ourselves. To thrive in difficult circumstances, to navigate the choppy waters, to not respond reactively to these unsolvable problems, we must practice, more and more, being present to ourselves. That is what the Buddha’s teaching comes down to. What does it mean to be present to ourselves? It’s not about avoiding the pain and frustration, but acknowledging it, sitting with it. Being a friend to ourselves. Not locked in an internal battle, but accepting the hurt, and being with it.

The Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. 

You might be surprised, but this is actually a question I seem to get asked more than most, definitely more than theological or philosophical questions. ‘I know someone who is hurting – what do you think I should say?’ Or, ‘I’m with someone who is hurting – what do you think I should do?’ I know there are no words. Words can help make us feel less isolated sometimes, but there are no words, and we all know that.  And so all there is is being present, being present to ourselves, being present to the other. We lie awake at night and we can’t let go, and it goes round and round in our heads. But to be present not to these thoughts, these unsolvable problems, but to ourselves, to accept all that choppiness but be attentive to our self in a heartful way, when we do this the edges of all this jaggedness in our head seems to soften. Not disappear, but soften. And all this falls into the category ‘easier said than done’. Easily said, but when it comes down to it, we’re attempting to override our instinctual response to negative stimuli. And in that depth we uncover a sense of wholeness, of well-bring as the Buddha experienced it, enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. And within the Christian tradition this sense resonates strongly with the manifesting of the Kingdom of God. A present, manifested reality. The unsolvable problems are still unsolved, but they’re softened. And we’re whole. And we’re present. And we breath. And so, we spread out, we open up, we draw from deep within us something brighter and warmer. As the reading said: happiness and ease flow from the bottom of the lake. From this place of peace we manifest the fruits of the spirit, kindness, love, and joy. And once we have been present to ourselves, and slowed down enough to settle into ourselves, we find what? A manifestation of love, of the Kingdom of God. Buddha’s sayings are recorded a good century before Jesus, and yet I hear so much of Jesus in there. Don’t hate. Love. Love those who hate you. Live free, free of idols, of greed, free from craving, and disharmony. Free yourself from fear, from sin, and live in truth, in love, in joy. Be present. Be present to yourself.

Amen.

Resurrection and the Nature of Truth

Oil rigs.

Without spiritual symbols informing our lives, we are incomplete beings. The temptation is, in our hyper-rationalistic, literal world, to strip symbols of their significance, and understand everything in binary terms: as true or false, as scientifically verifiable or not, as history or myth. Most of the time this approach is preferable. My dad is a geophysicist. He calculates the probability of oil being in one place as opposed to another. This is done by sending acoustic energy into the ground, and then analysing the data collected back. Algorithms are built which take that data and turn it into sound pictures of what is beneath the surface. Oil rigs cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and so before they embark upon building one, one needs to be sure there is oil there - though 100% assurance is never possible. Growing up, as you might imagine, with all this as the backdrop upon our lives, it informed the way I thought about the world. In the same way that the oil was either there or not, I believed things could only be true or not. And it was just a case of collecting enough data and asking the right questions, and though I could never be 100% sure, if I was meticulous enough, I could be correct within a negligible margin of error. I could have a working model which was reliable.

'The Incredulity of St. Thomas' by Caravaggio

Today is Easter Sunday. Today is about resurrection. For most Christians, it’s about the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago. A man, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and on the third day he rose again. At university, when I began to think about the topic of Jesus’ resurrection systematically, I approached the problem in the way my dad approached finding oil. My first assumption was it must be either true or false. Either Jesus did bodily resurrect, or he did not. And though I could not be 100% sure in my conclusion, the data would surely point me in one direction or another. The data in this case was historical evidence. What was the historical evidence that Jesus came back to life? With this line of enquiry, however, one quickly runs into a lot of problems. There is a lack of evidence. Indeed, the only evidence available comes from the New Testament itself, and so, the whole topic shifts quickly towards the question - to what extent can we take the various accounts in the Bible to be historically credible? There is a huge amount of scholarship surrounding this question, and a great deal could be said on this. We certainly don’t have data as reliable as that data my dad worked with when finding oil. But scholars agree that the New Testament can, to an extent, be trusted as historically credible, in part. Which is to say, some of it is more credible than other parts, and that statement comes with a lot of caveats.

 The Apostle Paul.

The Apostle Paul.

Broadly speaking, earlier accounts are seen as more reliable. However, the more explicit resurrection accounts that we find in the Gospels, such as the famous ‘doubting Thomas’ account, in which Jesus invites Thomas to touch his pierced body, that account only appears in the Gospel of John, and as such can be seen as a later myth, John being the last book to be written. That doesn’t mean we can just dismiss Jesus’ resurrection however, as there are much earlier references to it. It’s debatable which book in the New Testament was written first. My money is on 1 Corinthians, which was written by Paul, which, unlike the Gospels, was written in living memory. Towards the end of 1 Corinthians there is a part which reads: “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me”. This little part in 1 Corinthians is thought to be very early, because it reads almost like a creed. It is likely that this pithy statement was a faith pronouncement memorised to express the faith of the earliest Christians, perhaps formulated less than ten years after Jesus’ death. As such, many scholars have concluded that at the very least, early Christians did believe they experienced the risen Christ. It’s difficult to dispute that. What is far less clear, however, is in what sense they experienced the risen Christ.

What does it actually mean to say he appeared to such and such a person? Here are a group of individuals, having some kind of collective experience. Now the jump that people often make at this point is to assume that this collective experience is seeing Jesus walk and talk to people in the flesh. After all, that is what the accounts in the Gospels point towards. But the earliest accounts from 1 Corinthians (as I’ve read), and Paul’s other letters make no such claim. It's far more ambiguous and more in keeping with some kind of spiritual encounter with Christ. Indeed, the appearance of Jesus need not mean a reanimation of the body, but rather, a sense of hope found in hopelessness, a sense that what Jesus stood for can carry on in us despite his death, a sense of Jesus’ spirit finding some form almost tangible amongst us. The time that elapses from that credo I read out in 1 Corinthians - ‘that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve’ etc. - the time between that and the account we find in the Gospel of John, of Jesus in the flesh appearing amongst the disciples, and Jesus inviting Thomas to touch his pierced side etc., is a period of about 100 years. In other words, the accounts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection are evolving, and they’re evolving fast. They’re being shaped into a more compelling story.

The Ark of the Covenant. 

Let’s take another example: today's reading (John 20:1-18). It reads to us like the account of an event, but if you dig a little deeper it's clearly not. We heard, ‘But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet.’ Sounds nice, two angels hanging out in Jesus’ tomb, but why, what’s the point of that? First of all, these two angels are not in the other three Gospels. This suggests it did not happen, so why would John have even include it, what is the point of this image being added to John’s resurrection account? Picture the scene. Concrete Slab, at one end a big angel, at the other end, another big angel. Does that remind you of anything…? In Exodus, Moses goes up the mountain and carves the ten commandments on stone tablets. Ultimately, those tablets are housed within the Ark of the Covenant, which is itself housed in the Holy of Holies – the innermost sanctuary of the Temple. The Ark of the Covenant symbolises the presence of Yahweh on earth. It acts as the throne of Yahweh on earth. And what does the Ark of the Covenant look like? It looks like this – a concrete slab with a big angel at one end, and another big angel at the other end. The Gospel writer is making the not-so-subtle assertion that Jesus, or the risen Christ, is now the true representative of Yahweh. It’s clever. It makes the point well, but it’s clear evidence that this aspect of the story at least did not happen. We are not supposed to be taking it literally; it’s trying to tell us something.

If you compare the various things said about the resurrection in order - first what Paul says about the resurrection, then compare that to how it’s talked about in the Gospel of Mark (the earliest of the Gospels), and then read how it’s talked about in the Gospel of John (the latest of the Gospels) - there is a clear evolution taking place. Over time the accounts are becoming far more detailed. And if you think about it, that’s quite weird. The accounts become more detailed the further from the actual events we go. The reason for that, I would suggest, is that they’re trying to build the case for Jesus as time goes on. As the early Christians are travelling around modern day Turkey and Greece, they need to make their case stronger, and so they tell stories and make rhetorical assertions to bolster the claims they’re making. A surface reading today might suggest to us that they were therefore lying, and that would be a mistake. Because to make that leap one must assume these accounts were intended to be taken literally in the first place, which I think is a mistake. Anyone Jewish in the second/third century who heard the Gospel of John talking about one angel there and another there, would have immediately thought of the symbolic significance of that language – these accounts are written to inspire us! To get us on board with the Jesus’ message, to get us to participate in Jesus’ Kingdom!

A fantasticaldepiction of Jesus' bodily resurrection.

And so, returning to my original question. Back in university I set out to answer it with as much certainty as possible, assuming it must either be one way or another. Either Jesus did bodily resurrect, or he did not! I’ve come to see that question as really missing the point. If pressed I would say there is no reason to think he did bodily resurrect, but it's really a pointless assertion. The development present in the New Testament shows that Jesus’ earliest followers really didn’t care about that question either. For them such accounts were a rhetorical device. They were much more concerned with winning people for the Kingdom – getting people to participate in Jesus’ ongoing mission. My initial assumption was based on a belief about truth, that truth is a single thing, that something was either true or it was false. Rather, I think a two-truth model is superior - two truths we can label as inner truth and outer truth. And it’s when these two modes of truth are conflated that is where the confusion lies. In ancient times, in Bible times, people didn’t make a distinction between inner truth and outer truth. Jesus’ resurrection to his earliest followers was true because it elucidated a deep spiritual truth, even though today we struggle with it because it’s not a verifiable outer truth, it's not a scientific truth. Nor, however (as you sometimes get in response), is it valid to say ‘well you have your outer truth and I have mine’. The geophysicist who relied upon their intuitive sense would not get very far, which is why a complete relativizing of truth is also deeply problematic.

There is clearly a world of things which you can say concrete things about. And so one must be discerning. There is an appropriate sphere in which outer truth is king, and there is an appropriate sphere in which inner truth is king, and to conflate the two can be dangerous, and in some cases could even be fatal. And so, this Easter we practice resurrection. We affirm resurrection as an inner truth, as a mythological truth. As a symbol which points us towards an inner dimension of the self which we disregard at our own peril. To not believe in hope, in the second chance, in the redeemed soul, in the light beyond the darkness, in the ongoing community of love after your own personal death, would be an incredibly bleak world to inhabit. To not have faith in this kind of resurrection, one would, in effect, be stuck on Good Friday. Stuck in the nihilistic dread of death at Calvary, seeing no point beyond, no path through, the death of meaning, and the despair in all things. But my Easter message is that we can believe in hope, we can believe in resurrection – and we don’t have to convince ourselves of magic or the impossible to have such faith. We must merely need to be present to the spirit within us, and love one another.

Amen.