What’s At the Center?

Recently, there was all this press about the discovery of a super massive black hole at the center of the universe. Somebody, or some group of somebodies, looked at the motions of all the stars, and saw that the most efficient way to account for this was to posit an extraordinary object in the middle of everything.
Now, at this moment, it does not much matter to me if this theory is correct. Sometimes cosmology/astrophysics seems almost Hollywoodish, the way it favors this idea or that one, the way the latest fads seem all important in the moment but so quickly just fade into nothingness.
Here’s what does matter to me: people wanted to know. It was considered debate worthy. It is relevant if there is something in the middle of everything. It is relevant if there is nothing in the middle of everything. It is relevant if a black hole (which is kind-of something, and kind of nothing) is in the middle of everything.
imagesDZEIAYNH
The analogy strikes me as so obvious, it feels almost silly to draw it out.
It is a relevant question: what is in the center of everything?
There are reasons to mean this question literally: what is physically in the geographic center of the universe.
But there are also reasons to mean this figuratively: what is central to the universe?
We use these two senses of the question all the time. My current home, Worcester, Massachusetts is the physical, geographic center of the state of Massachusetts, much in the same way that the super massive black hole may be at the center of the universe.
(And there are those who might smirk and ask, “What else does Worcester have in common with the super massive black hole?… They both suck.)
We could also say that Silicon Valley is at the center of the computer (It, programming, coding, I don’t know, something like that) industry. This would not mean that we could draw a circle around silicon valley and expect that there would be some sort of correlation with closeness to the center and the computer industry. When we say that silicon valley is the center, we mean that it has some fundamental importance.
The_Urantia_Book_Word_Cloud_001_375In this sense of the word center, what lies at the heart of the universe, of the whole cosmos, is God. God is everywhere, most of the time. He sometimes appears to locate some… condensed portion of himself in places. As when he took on the role of Jesus, or met with Moses, or resided in the temple. His physical location has nothing to do with centrality to the universe, just as if we could relocate all the talent, organizations, support staff, infrastructure etc. from silicon valley to Hoboken New Jersey, suddenly Hoboken would be at the center of programming industry.
I have run longer than I wanted to. But I wanted to start with this idea that it’s important, the question “what is at the center of it all.” It’s important no matter which sense you mean to ask the question in. In the next couple days, I will be back. And then, I’ll try to work out just what it means to us, if God is in fact the center of the universe.

Cell Phone Suite

I.
And in the beginning,
It goes as it should:

A message begins in my heart.
Gets filtered through my brain.
Flows down my arms.
Bottlenecks, for just a moment, at my thumbs.

And then something goes wrong.

It does not leave my phone invisibly.
It does not find a nearby tower impossibly.
It does not beam up to a satelite imperceptibly.

It does not find it’s intended destination,
becamed down, becoming something complete,
A message revieved, a purpose fufilled.

You see there are cells and then there cells
I thought it a cell phone.
Instead I find it that other kind of cell.
And that’s what makes a cell a cell.
You can’t leave when you want to leave.

And there is maybe nothing quite so lonely
quite so lonely
as this thing is lonely.

A message to nowhere.
A message to who-knows-where.
Feelings turned to thoughts turned to words,

aborted
before it began.

II.
I will settle for a smart
phone
for now.
But someday, not a smart phone
a wise
phone.

A wise phone.
Knows when I am at the address it says on my license.
But it does not care.

It tells me that I am not at home.
It knows where I hang my hat is not necessarily
where my heart belongs.

It tells me where to go.
That I might find
where it is I belong.

The Grey Stuff on the Lottery Ticket

This reality is like the gray stuff that you scratch off of a lottery ticket with a coin. The physical world is just that… thin. That shallow. That fragile.
lottery-ticket
There is this deeper reality beneath.
This, I think, is one of the most underestimated of the truths that Jesus came here to proclaim, that he came here to demonstrate. The kingdom of heaven is among us.
There will be a time that it falls away. That we see things as they are. But we are not there yet. And sometimes the façade is so convincing, and so brutal. It is such a temptation to forget the deeper and truer reality. It is so easy to deny that the kingdom is already among us.

There is an irony here. Liberals like myself are the first to follow guys like NT Wright and Rob Bell in celebrating this. When it is convenient, we shout from the roof tops that there are not these utterly separate, totally irreconcible worlds.
At the same time, the least likely to make anything of this is as are the conservatives. They read Frank Peretti and see angels and demons everywhere. And yet… they seem to want this distance, too.

This all crystalized for me, as I read a really good book by a fairly conservative writer. “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson takes seriously the idea of demonic influence in our lives. There is some incredibly powerful and valuable insight. But there are also places that I think he just has it wrong.
untitled
Based on my understanding of what I have read so far, he follows most of Christianity in recognizing two possibilities for mental illness:
A) Sometimes it is a worldy mental illness, related to worldy causes and circumstances.
B) Sometimes it is a demonically induced mental illness, caused by the powers and principalities we are meant to combat.

For so long, the debate has been around how often each of those occur. Sometimes, it’s gotten a little more sophisticated, and there has been an attempt to explain A as a result of B, or B as a result of A.
We have been infected by the errors of our age. We are looking for either/or. We resist explanations that are both/and.
Sometimes the both/and possibility is scary because it is hard to wrap our brains around. I don’t claim that I have full explanation of how it works.
But I think it’s worth considering that mental illness is worldy and otherworldy. It is natural and supernatural. We can talk about demons. And we can not talk about neurotransmitters. The first is speaking the language of the world behind this one. The second is comes from the language that we speak here and now in this world.

Hidden Within

I.
I can not turn back
ward, to where I
we
were

I can not pass through the time after his passing,
rising, up, to prepare the way.
I can pass through the time of his silence,
as he bled down and on them.
I can not pass through the time of Love.
Through the time of his words.
And his magics.

From there
I could not pass the assembled shepards,
the frantic flight
The fuffilled promise.

I could not pass through that time Before
when it seemed He was gone.
Or the time of the fire in the desert.
Or the time of enslavement.
Or the fall and rise of our people among the strangers
in those strange lands.

I could not watch its pitchy timbers be reclaimed by the land.
I could not move further back.
Because at the end of that road.
Stands a warrior Angel.
And they are all warriors, the Angels.
With his flaming sword
built to cleave, and purify, and block all those who might wish

to turn backwards the clock.
To undo what has been done.
To escape the punishment inflicted on we sons and daughters.

It was not him but us, all along.
And the angel at the head of the path.

He will slice me opened.
And my innards will dampen my dry feet.
And the way they uncoil will be an oracle.
Speaking this truth:
There is no going home again,
Down the path we already tread.

II
There is the promise.
Of a return
to what we were meant to be.
It will not be founded by retracing our path.

III.
And so here we are
In this inbetween place.
This limbo place.
This dark life.
With it’s cruel glimmers of hope.

The glimmers of hope.
Are the cruelest.
Of all.

We are built to see their truth.
We are to blind to see how far away that truth is.

Our greatness is not a thing recaptured.
Our majesty will not be found in the returning.
What we are meant to be.
What we are made to be.
Wont be fond in our memories.
Our fathers memories. Our mothers.
And all the mothers. All the fathers.
That came before them.

He breathed into the dirt.
Breathed Life.
Breather Glory.
Breathed Image.

That is so long ago.
We have reached back into the filth.
Unliving filth.
With no breath, no glory.
We have smeared it upon ourselves.
We have covered that Great Light.

It is a hidden thing, now.

I can almost understand why you snuff it out.
I can almost see why you cut, and cut, and cut.
But you won’t find it there. Anymore than the astronauts ever found heaven.
And the diggers ever found hell.

I drift like you,
sometimes it is easier.
To deny the glory of our destiny.
We can say that it was self-delusion.
Wishful thinking.
Evolutionarily built in.

but
it is within.
It is within.

Now, all I know.
Is to grasp,
gamble, seek. Seek, and long.
For some truth imprinted upon the very deepest of me.

Cast adrift on endless oceans within.
Stumble and fall, spelunking the caverns of who I am.

Perhaps I will find it.
In the cadence and song of words assembled, just so.
Perhaps it will not be in the meaning but the melody.
Rhyme, and repition, assonance and alliteration.

Or perhaps denotations will conspire.
And suddently there will be this soaring.
As the meanings, constructed truimphant.
Soar! And they carry my very self with them.

Schrodinger

zombie-cat_jpgOh, Mr. Shroddinger.
That poor cat of yours.
It’s not so much that it has been killed so many times.
In endless thought experiments.

It is the not-knowing.
Somehow that is more cruel.
Left in that trunk.
Not dead. Not alive.

I think it must be a zombie cat.

Poor zombie kitty.
Opens wide it’s mouth.
A little line of boood drips out.
And runs down that impossibly soft fir.

Oh, little feline.
Suspended between death and life.
It is a zombies lot to engage in strife.
And so it leaps from the trunk.

With a meow-roar.
If you spoke cat.
Roughly speaking, the translations:
“BRRRRRAAAAAIIIIINNNNNNSSSZ!”

If I have this whole thing right.
Which maybe I don’t.
But if I have this whole thing right.

If the little paws land on the juglar.
If the observer dies before he knows what hits him.
Then the world continues.

Now…
a zombie man.
And a zombie kitty.
Are suspended between death and life.

Waiting for someone to percieve this all.

The Zombie man,
slumps down the hall.
And if he sneaks up on his prey.
If his hands growing cold, beginning to rot already.
If they snap the neck of the poor receptionist…

If they snap her neck with sufficient speed.
If she is dead before she knows it.
Now:
There is a zombie kitty.
A Zombie man.
And a Zombie receptionist.

And so the cat.
That kat.
Still unpercieved, in a way.
Still waiting in the trunk, in a way.
Waiting to have its fate resolved.

It finds a mouse but it does not play.
Jaws find the eyeballs of the little rat.
Jelly-like they ooze.
Zombie rat is born.

While zombie man and zombie receptionist wreak their havoc.

But then someone else sneaks into the room.
Throws open the trunk.
The kitty, meows.
Alive.

None of it ever happened.
Yet.

Skeletons

I have been watching some struggles today. And pain. And hurt.
As the brilliant Ben Harper sang, “Everyone I know is in the fight of their lives.”
I am thinking about that right now. About the pain and the struggles that we all carry. All of us.
Somewhere along the way, we all got stupid. We decided we would all pretend. We would make it look like we had it all together. Maybe we think if we fool everybody else we might someday convince ourselves.
Hows that working out for us?
Let me mix a couple metaphors. We spend our lives living in a closet. And it so happens to be the closet where all our skeletons live. Living with those skeletons in the closet is pretty miserable.

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There some people I am thinking about tonight. Maybe it’s you. I am kind of thinking about everyone I know. and also all the people I have never met.
I am praying for you tonight. I hope, even if you don’t see God the way I do, that you can hear that in the love it’s meant.
I am praying for you.

Adam, Eve and Evolution

A recent facebook exchange has inspired me to try and put words to some things I have been feeling for a really long time, some things I have been wanting to post for a while.
I believe thoroughly that The Bible expresses a deep truth. I also think science is an incredibly powerful tool of humanity. And I think most of the apparent tensions between science and faith are man-made, silly, and politically motivated.
The big question, it seems, for Christians like myself, is around the beginning of humanity. The test case in how to navigate the science/spirituality question is about the meaning of the book of Genesis and the implications of the Neodarwinian understanding of evolution.
Some people claim that they science and Christian faith can be understood to be compatible. I take a more radical (I think) stance. I believe that the book of Genesis is a pretty amazing confirmation of truths we have arrived at through science. And so, I am going to ponder this idea for this blog post: in what ways does The Book of Genesis confirm the scientific view.
It is tempting to get hung up on a wide variety of chronologies. Others have written about how the universe came to be, and eventually we get things like a planet Earth. There is first an ocean, and then land arises. First there are sea creatures and then there are land creatures.
These developments coincide with the scientific understanding. But they are not as interesting as what happens when people arrive on the scene.

Pretty late in the creation story (and in the evolutionary one) humans arise.
God breathes into these first humans. In the intitial account, it appears that Adam came first. (Later, though, in Genesis 10, comes the implication that both were created at the same time)

Ascent_of_Man_3
The question that people get hung up on is this:
Was there a single beginning to the human race? Was there an Adam?
It seems that most people think if the answer to either of the above is ‘yes’ then we have given up the scientific account.
But I think it’s trickier than that.

What if God set the world up at the beginning of time? What if he tweaked the big bang? What if he fine tuned the universe to give rise to pre-human hominids?

And at some point, these hominids passed a critical point. God had wired the universe such that evolution gave rise to an organism which bore his likeness. And these very first humans could have lived in obedience to God.
But they decided that Wisdom of good and evil was preferable to submission to The Creator. In some sense, those early humans ate of that tree that they had been told not to eat.
Could it have been only two people who had come to resemble God? Two people who might be called Adam, and Eve?
Sure. Why not?

There is so much more to be said here. But I think this is a good place to end for now.