San Simeon, California. Photo courtesy of Karen Daniel
And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, and the round ocean and the living air, and the blue sky, and in the mind of man: a motion and a spirit, that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things, from William Wordworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”
We’ve spent a little time here on the topic of tension. We’ve addressed the notion of new romanticism—the postmodern age in which emotion and heart may take their rightful places alongside reason. New Romanticism not only amounts to the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling, but also asks us to set aside the pragmatic for the magical; the formula for mystery; the predictable for the unknown. At San Simeon, CA I was able to stand on what seemed like the edge of the world; beyond which at one time was identified on the maps as just that: “Unknown.” There on the rocks, looking out in the gray, was the sense of some sort of demarcating line between where I stood and the call of some other world beyond anything I could ever know.
In reality it’s the line we walk every day between comfort and calling. And here is where the tension builds—to take another step, forsaking the known world so to speak; or to wait another day. Standing on the rocks, feeling the cold air and the sea spray in such a real way, Wordsworth’s words echo with each lash of the waves on the shore. There certainly is the joyous presence. To be disturbed by the joyous presence is exactly what we wish to imply when we decide to embrace the tension, thereby refusing to abdicate the fights of our lives. To struggle with the line; to wrestle with tension is ultimately the culmination of life. The “sense sublime” is akin to Elisha’s “still small voice,” so powerful in its softness and subtelty. True majesty need not boast. But it does ask us to remain engaged.
Don’t drink cola if you want to be healthy. Consuming soft drinks is bad for so many reasons that science cannot even state all the consequences. But one thing we know for sure is that drinking Coke, as a representative of soft drinks, wreaks havoc on the human organism. What happens?
In The First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing you to keep it down.
20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (There’s plenty of that at this particular moment)
40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, as a response your livers dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
60 Minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
60 minutes: As the rave inside of you dies down you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like even having the ability to hydrate your system or build strong bones and teeth.
“A third kind of contemplative prayer is meditation upon the creation. Now, this is no infantile pantheism, but a majestic monotheism in which the great creator of the universe shows us something of his glory through his creation. The heavens do indeed declare the glory of God and the firmament does show forth his handiwork (Ps. 19:1). Evelyn Underhill recommends, “… begin with that first form of contemplation which the old mystics sometimes called ‘the discovery of God in his creatures.'” from Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline).
Just finished another novel by Robert Penn Warren: Wilderness. It’s my eighth by this great Southern writer.
He could try, he thought, to be worthy of their namelessness, and of what they, as men and in their error, had endured.
As we consider the journey of life, could these last words go some way in helping us understand what is meant? Moments earlier the narrator refers to the “fullness of time and human effort.” Some big words there. I’ve given quite a bit of thought to what it means when we refer to “being human.” Although scary at times and uncertain all the time, the wilderness invites into its unknown paths in the same way God invites us to trust Him as He leads down “unknown paths” (Isaiah 42.16). The wilderness is synonymous with a life of adventure; a life of conviction; a life of meaning. It’s taking the first step into the unknown. It signifies the turning and facing of one’s fears and a careful introspection of one’s own heart. Beyond this, however, it promises nothing—certainly not safety.
In Wilderness, Adam goes on an epic journey in order to come to a place—maybe even the same place, or even no place—with a different heart. But to get to this new heart he first had to go into the Wilderness, face his fears and his handicap, and act. To get to the point of action, however, even there, he first had to take that first step across the ocean from his native Germany, not even knowing, he admits, to what he was drawn in the first place. That first step was the not-so-simple decision to stop and listen to the faintest traces of his own heart’s voice. It was responding to the inner cry to be more.
The last page gives a brief mention to notions of betrayal. The point is that we could try to know that the truth is unbetrayable, and that only the betrayer is ever betrayed, and then only by his own betraying. But this only acknowledges a Larger Story, a narrative beyond the telling of Adam’s story—your story, my story—even though our own stories occur within the context of the Larger Story. Ultimately life is about freedom. Once we get to the point where our coping skills and methods no longer work–for Adam it was his handicap, our restlessness either owns us or drives us. Galatians 5:1 reveals to us that Jesus didn’t need any other reason than freedom. Your freedom, my freedom was enough. Freedom is enough. We betray ourselves when we settle for anything less. Thus only the betrayer can be betrayed.