Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Noetic Encounter with a Lion

Something happened. Something I have never experienced. I have had encounters with God, but not like this. I have been learning about the Orthodox understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity in my Inquirers class. The priest (Fr. Andrew Welzig) was explaining everything in his eloquent, yet straight-forward way. Dissecting theological definitions, and distilling dogmatic assertions with humor, reverence, and an extremely joyful disposition. As I was listening to him teach, I experienced what other Orthodox Christians call a "Noetic Experience". I honestly can't even remember now what specifically, and more to the point, verbally was even said. However, I do remember an odd sensation that, though non-physical, nor emotional, nor rational, was profoundly real, existentially pleasurable, and extremely subtle. For the first time in my life, it "clicked". That "it", is Orthodoxy.

 It was like a new game cartridge was inserted into my spiritual NES,(that's short for Nintendo Entertainment System for anyone born after 95'). My whole perception of Orthodox Christianity changed in a moment. Literally, a moment. On the one hand it was an almost ineffable sensation, filled with waves of fulfillment, and spirit-watering satisfaction. On the other hand, it was incredibly low-key. I didn't bi-locate, nor did I levitate, nor did I see anything out of the ordinary. All I could do was say, "wow", and smile from ear to ear. It was like a soul-massage. I'm sure Fr. Andrew thought I had smoked some, as we say in Washington State now, "medicine". I looked, frankly, high. I'm sure of it. And you know what, I guess I was high....or.....medicated.

After the 1 hour class, I proceeded to stay for Vespers, and I'm so glad I did. You see, I have been trying to remove the last little bit of Scientific Materialistic Atheism from my being now for, well, I'm not sure how long honestly. No matter how many books I read, no matter how many miracle testimonies I hear/read, and no matter how many Masses I attend, it won't go away. Sort of like that gross Mucinex mucus cartoon that follows people around, and lives in their lungs. Except my "skeptical slime ball" was firmly attached to my soul. Maybe I carry my skepticism around as some sort of a safety net to land in when my leap of faith goes horribly wrong. Atheism is "safe", and who doesn't want safety?

C. S. Lewis, in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, records this familiar line. He writes, 

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

We all know who Aslan is representative of in that story. He is Jesus. Our King. Our Savior, and our Redeemer. He is also violently loving, and wholly unsafe to have any dealings with. He requires your life. Literally your whole life. Anyone who requires our lives of us, needs to be taken seriously. My defensive atheistic safety measures are no match for, in the words of my favorite songwriter Rich Mullins, the "wreckless raging fury, that they call the Love of God." Indeed, He truly is not safe, and he took a pair of shears to my safety net during vespers that night.

Again, the heavens did not open up. I saw no angels, nor did I hear the audible voice of God before, during, or after the beautiful prayers of the priest. One thing was different though. In a moment, I knew, KNEW, that He was there. No, I don't have epistemological certainty about the existence of God. How boring. How safe. I do however posses a subtle security, and a new outlook that allow me to finally have some peace about God's existence. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Josef Pieper's Idea of a Vacation, and My First Post.

  I feel like I need to start off by laying out a few of the reasons I am spending my not-so-abundant time writing a blog. It seems like everybody has some type of electronic monument to themselves these day. Either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,(and yes I have some of those as well), or some other interwebz social media forum that I am finally too old to be aware of. (What's Grindr?lol) Anyways, the reason I am spending the wee hours of the morning clicking away at my used laptop, is to share with anyone and everyone, my confessions and experiences in my obsessive search for transcendence, meaning, love, truth, and inevitably, God. I can not live without God. Period. You can't either. You may not have ever really taken the time to evaluate the question of the existence of God thoroughly. You may think that the question is irrelevant, or doesn't matter anymore. Honestly, most people don't really care enough to set aside the endless distractions of their lives to focus on what their answer to that question is, and anyone who forces them to consider that question, is told to "lighten up", or labeled a religious "fanatic". I know from unfortunate experience. You see the question of the existence of God, in my mind, is the only question worth even attempting to address. Every other area of your life, big or small, is effected by the way you answer that question. If God is real, and Jesus is who he claims to be, than nothing else matters. Absolutely nothing. That question has haunted me for the better part of 12 years, and though I have swerved to every edge and off ramp of the highway of spiritual awakenings, I always come back around to face it. Sort of like an eighteen wheeler full of the rarest transcendence, barrelling towards me at 90 miles per hour, and about to collide with me head-on. I simply can't escape it, nor can I ignore, or lull myself into complacency. I have tried.

 You always hear from some snot-nosed, pretentious, Internet intellectuals that infamous, and over used line from Marx about religion being "the opiate of the masses." I don't know how many lame hipster parties I have attended that that comment gets thrown around, or quoted to make that person look somehow superior to "those people" who are soooo stupid as to believe in religion of any kind. It reminds me of seeing someone reading "On the Road" or "Catcher in the Rye" in a Starbucks. We all see you, and we all agree that you are smart, well-informed, and intellectually superior to us. My point being, that it seems like all those cursory one-liners about the fallacy of religious belief are only trotted out as a kind of opiate in and of themselves. No, I assure you, I am not trying to squeeze something profound out of an admittedly shallow statement. What I am saying, is that most people are lulled into a good nod by their agnostic unbelief, or skeptical predisposition. It is truly, the other way around, and I am sure I'm not the first person to observe this hypocrisy. Distraction becomes the opiate. Work becomes the opiate. Anything to dull the pain of being chronically unsatisfied. 

  Josef Pieper, in his amazing book "Leisure:The Basis of Culture", says “Of course the world of work begins to become - threatens to become - our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.” All encompassing, imminent, and ever present is our career. Work, though necessary, becomes an addiction. An idol even. It defines who, what, and how we live, and are perceived by those around us. Your career can, and does, destroy you life, if you let the addiction of careerism, and the addiction of distraction rule your life. Sort of like an opiate. Right? We all need to take some time to enjoy, as Pieper puts it, Leisure. No, not lounging on your couch eating 3 whole Totino's pizzas and binge watching Arrested Development kind of leisure, but, as he puts it, leisure as a philosophical concept. Actually taking the time to quiet the distractions in our lives, and focus the head, and the heart on those nagging, all important questions regarding the meaning of all this, and the futility of life apart from God. 

  For some reason, when I read things I have written, I feel like I sound like the aforementioned Starbucks kid reading Salinger in a very "public" way. If I do, my apologies. I'm truly not that self-absorbed, nor do I have anything "all figured out". I'm lost, just like you are. The only difference, is that God, in His absolutely unmerited grace, has seen it fit to stir a profound sense of restlessness in me, that seems to be drawing me into Orthodox Christianity. I hope to chronicle my experiences here, and to hopefully help, and or encourage others who have the same disposition. Later on down the line, I hope to start producing a podcast directly related to my blog, and the things I would like to discuss here regarding Atheism, Nihilism, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity. To end this inaugural post, I would like to encourage any and all of you to pick up and read the previously mentioned book by German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper. Its a quick, and thought provoking book, and helped me immensely. Here is the link.