Friday, September 26, 2014

0 and 1

It was reported earlier in the week, in a tittering sort of way, that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sometimes wondered if God were really there.  Oh my.


Welby explained that, "The other day I was praying over something while I was running and I ended up saying to God, 'this is all very well, but isn't it about time you did something, if you're there,' which is not probably what the Archbishop of Canterbury should say...."

The bishop prays to God while jogging?  Only in the Church of England is such a thing possible.

To be fair, though, Welby wasn’t really praying but rather chatting with himself during which he entertained doubts as to God’s existence, presence or love. 

Le silence eternal de ces espaces infinis m’effraie. (Pascal) It is hardly a new question and anyone who has not doubted is not human.  The archbishop understands this, for he explicitly cited Psalms 22, 44 and 88, those great cries of the doubting heart and despair

Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?

But Welby resolved the despair with a trite and blatant recourse to an external locus of control,

"The extraordinary thing about being a Christian, is that God is faithful even when we are not.  ... So  there may be people here whose life is a complete havoc and they know they've really messed up and God doesn't say, 'once you're out of the mess we'll move on together', he says, 'I'm right here, let's start dealing with this together'."

The extraordinary thing is that is exactly what Psalm 44 does not say, 

Thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant, although thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death

Who is doing the forgetting here?

Welby is skirting the issue with happy talk.  It is one thing to say that faith is not a resolution but a commitment — a determination to act as if the Great Tomorrow were here.   But it is childish to invert and externalize that formula into an assertion that He is here, even if we don’t know it or feel it or see any evidence of any good that comes from it.

It seems to me that Welby is simply supplying noise to the silence and fattening his flock with the thickness self-importance.

It all boils down to 0 or 1; either you work on loosing your ego or on building it.  You are either a rope or you pass through the eye of a needle.

Building ego proceeds on the assumption that the “I” is worth maximizing or perfecting.  The assumption is that one can be more, do more and have more.  Even when one is “weeding” out imperfections, resisting bad propensities, overcoming sin or "centering," one is doing so not to become less, but to maximize what are conceived to be the strengths and potentials of self-hood.  Even when the ego is conceived of as being perfected through usefulness or service to others, it is still given importance in so far as it is assumed that it can effect things of importance.

True selflessness, the zero, is just the opposite.  It begins with the realization that one has achieved nothing, has acquired nothing and is nothing to anyone .. even to God.   This is an absolute.  It is not an exercise in order to then be something; it is a permanent realization. I am dust; the end.

One can imagine that one is nothing by looking at photographs of mass assemblies and realizing that every minuscule dot in the picture was once its own universe of importances, just as one’s self, and that the dot is now nothing, nowhere.  That dot, that individual face, felt cold and heat, the urge to dump and the urge to fuck, the glow of triumph, the confusion and sorrow of defeat, the fear of loss and the joy of love and procreation.   One can imagine one’s insignificance by pondering upon all the generations of hands that crafted the pyramids, the skyscrapers, the great ships and marvelous machines or by thinking upon all the generations of men which have been mowed like grass in bloody conflicts. Vanity of vanities; all are all nothing, nowhere.

But these imaginings do little more than frighten us... that is, our ego.  They are an induced “low” which is no better than an induced “high”.

The true zero is achieved only on the cross, after a via crucis, when one hangs naked, useless, failed, forsaken and forgotten.

True zero is not given to all, but only to those who still living have been reduced to living dust — those who are homeless, friendless, childless and of no account to anyone.

This is what the Crucifixion represents: to be strung up,  forgotten and then tossed into the pit, dead meat for mangy dogs.  

But surely there follows a resurrection?   This is surely what the one wants to believe.  But to believe as much is simply to turn a zero into a one.  It is a disbelief which stands for a refusal to accept that one is nothing. It is a negation which seeks to turn the via crucis into a technique of self potentializing. 

When you mean nothing to any one, endowing yourself with significance is simply an act of pure ego.

Is there life after zero?  I suspect not.  This is the question Welby is too trite to answer.   What one thinks of the hereafter depends on one’s opinion of one’s self.

At the end of the day, the ego hopes to be taken up in burst of joyous light.  Whether it is forever or a momentary contact with the forever it is an ascent into laughter and light.  

At the end of the day, the zero is content that darkness is pulled over all, that strife and life and pain are at an end, and that nothing follows upon nothing. 


The poor inherit the kingdom of heaven because there is nothing there.

Lord,   day and night I cry out to you.

2    May my prayer come before you;
  turn your ear to my cry.
3    I am overwhelmed with troubles
  and my life draws near to death.

4    I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
  I am like one without strength.

5   I am set apart with the dead,
  like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
  who are cut off from your care.

6   You have put me in the lowest pit,
  in the darkest depths.

7   Your wrath lies heavily on me;
  you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

8   You have taken from me my closest friends
  and have made me repulsive to them.
  I am confined and cannot escape;

9   My eyes are dim with grief.  I call to you, Lord, every day;
  I spread out my hands to you.

10   Do you show your wonders to the dead?
   Do their spirits rise up and praise you?

11   Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction?

12   Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
  or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13   But I cry to you for help, Lord;  in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14   Why, Lord, do you reject me
  and hide your face from me?

15  From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
  I have borne your terrors and am in despair.

16  Your wrath has swept over me;
  your terrors have destroyed me.

17   All day long they surround me like a flood;
  they have completely engulfed me.

18   You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
  darkness is my closest friend.

No comments: