Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Au sujet de Poop

If you are squeamish, don't prod the beach rubble. - Sappho

Last night, during an insomniac couple of hours, I occupied myself with the question of human conversations and how it is that we can sometimes say so much of nothing to one another. This was not an idle or academic musing, but of intense interest to me because I have Princess-and-the-pea syndrome, a consequence of which is that the nothingness gets multiplied (how do you multiply nothing? This was the question that stumped me at 2 AM until I decided to substitute the word "poop" for the word "nothing." You know, because what is poop exactly? Okay, it smells and therefore demands attention, at least from one's nose; it's disgusting and arouses loathing; but it doesn't have any meaning or use. It is pure waste. It doesn't help us grow or learn to experience beauty or the Infinite. Despite the attention that it demands, it is really nothing -- less than nothing).

So, my thought, the first thought, was that the only way to live or breathe in a world full of people (including oneself) who are incontinent, is to ignore the poop (or the "pea") -- just politely ignore it. Then I was stuck again, so I turned to the latest Traces, and began reading Page One -- and I saw this:

"We see darkness and talk about darkness so many times. We mustn't pretend that the darkness doesn't exist; we shouldn't just think some spiritual thoughts about darkness; we can't do something 'alongside' the darkness -- we have to look it in the face! 'I look into my depths and see endless darkness.' What is it that the darkness can't quash? It can't stop my acknowledging this darkness, and it can't stop the moment 'when I realize that You are there,' when I realize that this circumstance, no matter how ugly it may be, is not made by itself; when I live through a dark period, even in that moment I am living, and even in the darkness, I do not make myself; in the darkness I have a radiant clarity: I do not make myself. We've sung, 'Only when I realize that You are there, like an echo, I hear my voice again.' That is, when I discover that I have arrived, not at darkness, but at what is deeper still than the darkness; when I realize that You are there, I realize a fact: that I 'am reborn like time from memory,' and all our chatter about the darkness doesn't eliminate it. It's eliminated by this recognition, this going deep to the bottom of this You. If any of us wants to be spared this, they'll remain in the darkness. We can't avoid this road, nobody can spare us this road, and this is why Christ went deep to the bottom of the darkness: so that we can look at everything. This is anything but an intellectual exercise! It's simply the recognition of reality according to all its factors." (Traces, volume 9, # 9, 2007, page 6, Julian Carron speaking).

Now here's a statement that can really help me to breathe!!

I want to do School of Community on the above quote -- that is, I want to verify what Father Carron is saying by testing it in my experience. But first I want to acknowledge just how radical and astounding this suggestion is -- because we could rephrase it (perhaps, if I'm understanding it properly) like so: Take the poop up in your hands, and really examine it. Recognize that though it seems to proceed from you, from another person, it only exists because you and the other person are each generated by Another. It is this Other who loves us into existence, who gave us the ability to poop, and who doesn't wipe us off the face of the planet because we are often incontinent, that is, vile and messy and reeking! And so the poop itself should arouse wonder and awe -- perhaps even more wonder and awe than any sunset, or potential power encased in an ordinary seed, or small movement of a joint in one of our fingers...

So, where is the evidence? Because before I go opening myself up to the Infinite to be found in attention paid to poop, I need to have a heck of a lot of faith. Well, there's that episode documented in the Gospels -- something about a Cross. All right, but what about right here, right now?

What is brilliant about this particular assertion is that there are too many examples I can find in support of it. Almost all of life seems to require passing through some form of death, some form of (at least) unpleasantness, beginning with our conception, which doesn't happen without the "death" of two separate cells that join to form the one, new cell, which can then begin a new life. And the birth process itself is no walk in the park for any of the concerned parties. The poop smells for a reason, and the pea bruises -- reality educates us!
So, in human conversations, the "so much of nothing" that has been bothering me...how does that lead to You? None of these conversations would be possible without You, the Infinite, loving me into being at every moment of my day (I'm still following Carron). How does this awareness eliminate the nothing? How does this awareness allow me to hear You (standing outside, in daylight, where all is certainty and hope) say, "Suzanne (Lazarus), come out!"?

I don't want to grasp at an easy answer to this question. I want to wait to see how it develops in me.

These rambling thoughts on such an unsavory subject reminded me of something else, an exchange that took place during last year's east coast G.S. winter vacation, at the final assembly. Here's what I have from my notes:

Girl: No one else takes me this seriously. Nobody loves me the way I am loved here. And still I hesitate, I'm afraid to commit.

Chris: I have cancer, you have the cure, but I'm having trouble coming to you. I am hungry, you have food, but I'm having trouble committing to you...

Girl: There's nothing else that matters to me, even though I have these misgivings. I'm scared to say this and it sounds cheesy -- it must be Christ!

Chris: You have been taught that the stuff that comes out of your butt and goes plop into the toilet is called "honey" -- then when someone says, 'Do you want honey on your toast?' you're disgusted...[everyone squirms and laughs nervously]. But the reality of what is happening here IS Christ. When you think of what you experience here, it is the presence of Christ. That name has to refer to something you see -- something that HAPPENS -- you have to see something happening now -- anything that is not happening now is crap. Otherwise we're afraid of the real name for the real Christ.

[then in the synthesis, which occurred almost immediately after the assembly, he said:]

Chris: What does what has happened here suggest to me? It suggests love, affection...What is the enemy? There are 2 enemies: the first is a deep preconception against Christ -- against the word, the possibility, the promise -- that there really be something beyond what you see and touch here...There is a Reason, something beyond me -- and his name is Christ! And when I say his name, you think oh my gosh, that's the stuff that comes out of my butt. The origin of everything is Christ. The second enemy is your jaded attitude -- since you've been burned by other things. There is one word to describe what happens among us -- Adoration -- we have found something worth worshiping. I can get down on my knees in front of you because of what you carry. And I am powerless in front of it. I have to beg, "Come here and do what you did for me before." To beg for it to happen again. I love this, I want this, and I am at this thing's mercy. I am a fool...This man, Jesus of Nazareth, keeps his promise. You have to STAY -- looking for how it is fulfilled -- today, tomorrow, the next day -- asking, "How will you find me, fulfill your promise?" You have to take seriously the promise that has been made to you. Try to be faithful to the promise that was made to you. The true person in you stays true to that begging -- to the promise that has been made to you. Life can become something so true, intense and full of truth because of his preference for us. you must strive, seek, discover for yourself...All my talking is an invitation -- but then it's YOU -- your affection for the origin of what is going on here. Will you say yes -- will you be simple enough to go after it? Will you remain faithful to this affection? Hungry for this presence? I don't know but I HOPE so.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."