Saturday, January 30, 2010

Livin' on a Prayer: Resilience and Surrender

"We cannot command nature except by obeying her." 
-- Sir Francis Bacon

To be honest, I first encountered that quote, where else, but in Ayn Rand. I found this fairly recently, so my life has not changed much since its discovery but it encapsulated so many of the thoughts that I had been working on up to that point. If we wish to play the game, we must first understand the rules. Or there will be no game. Or the game will play you. Or work with the analogy however you want, but you lose. 

For most of my Christian life, I struggled quite intensely with the theology of prayer. I wanted something to happen and they told me that if I wanted anything, I would have to pray for it. You do not have because you do not ask. So I asked and I sometimes got. I remember the day we prayed for my sister to come to the Lord. It was only 3 hours later that she made a decision. I remember praying for the success of an event close to my heart. I remember watching the train wreck of an event unfold in agonizing slowness with every miscue cascading into an ever greater deluge of awful happenstance. My follow-up prayer for the earth to open up and swallow me alive went similarly unanswered. 

The results bothered me, but they were comfortable in comparison to the explanations I received. You asked, but your heart was wrong. You asked, but God had other plans. You asked, but Satan was working against you. You asked, but... but... but perhaps I had not considered something altogether different. 

"When confronted with an error, science says 'Let me reconsider my hypothesis.' When confronted with an error, religion says 'Let me rephrase that.'"

No, the quote is not meant to state an absolute fact. Douchebag scientists coexist with douchebag pulpit-fillers. Neither has immunity to bouts of unreasonable obstinacy or childish behavior. But I share the quote to highlight a fundamental fact of procedural integrity. The answers given to me, by good friends who had my best interests in mind, quite sincere in their faith, gave me answers that needed little understanding of the situation. To dispense counsel, all they needed was a flow-chart and a 3rd grade reading comprehension. Does that sit right with you? It, by no means, should. Do your troubles not rob you of your sleep for good reason? Isn't it because you have invested so much of yourself, your care and concern in these things? Could you sleep well with an ill child? 

I simultaneously love and hate rehashing this point; by effort and intelligence humanity has achieved so much. I hate it because I wonder if you, the reader, has grown tired of my humanism thumping. I love it because each time I write it, I think anew and more importantly, I wonder anew. Reconsidering your original hypothesis cannot be undervalued. It means you recognize that you were wrong, that you believe the problem can be located and finally, that you haven't given up on it. Can the last one be underestimated? You. Have. Not. Given. Up. 

For countless years I had bought into the notion of Christian surrender. "Oh, God didn't give you what you asked for in prayer? Why are you so sad? It must be that you desired it too much and it was an idol to you. Cheer up! You still have Jesus! Surrender your heart's desires to Jesus and he'll fill them better than you can ever dream." Even now I try to write in a parodic mode. It's no satire. It may very well come as a quote straight out of any number of mouths -- all of which I wish to introduce to my right cross. Christian surrender, the notion that no desire you have felt is worthy of being felt, no thought worthy of rumination, except that it resembles a Thomas Kinkade painting. Like Nietzsche wrote in Twilight of the Idols, it would be quite one thing if the Christians had spiritualized love, had allowed it to transcend the urge and impulse aspect of the physical, but that they did not do. No, the Christians, they are the ones who mutilate the flesh, the defilers of God's temple, those that declare desire, effort and determination as evil. Pleasure and desire is no good, not apart from God, but apart from Christendom. Doubt me? Then consider how those with real musical talent get picked out at a young age to... play church music. What kind of development would they find in a repetition of 4 chords and 10 or 11 catchphrases, with or without capo. Could an athlete develop on a diet of crushed pears and apple juice? That saccharine diet will poison and retard whatever gifting they have, musical or athletic. 

So surrender. Surrender your life to God. 

Is it any wonder that for 2 years now, I have fought tooth and nail to reclaim that which I lost? I surrendered my life? It feels like I surrendered my testes. Like a eunuch, I was nice, placid, giving, powerless. The more that these Christians preached a God of grace who loved, gave and offered the more I realized that they hated, pillaged and suppressed. How could the yokes they make us wear be anything but the accursed millstones in the Gospels? I have learned many things over the past 2 years. If someone sneers at your dreams, strike them in the face. If someone wants to take your strength, give them a knee to the groin. And if someone asks you to walk a mile away from your goals, walk them into oncoming traffic. Pleasure and that individual joyous sensation of uplift is enough justification on its own. 

If you wish to master nature, you must first obey it. If you wish to fulfill your desires, you must work for it. How could any prayer be honest except that it be accompanied by the tears and sweat of the petitioner? How could anyone ask if they don't care enough to have begun work? How can you surrender before you've ever known struggle? How can you say anything is impossible, when quite literally an entire universe of potential and possibilities lays undisclosed before our eyes?

Below is a video that I've also seen, courtesy of Ross, that has encouraged me tremendously. Watch and be encouraged as you make your way towards accomplishing your goals!

1 comment:

  1. We've recently been sharing the same loathing for laziness, complacency, idleness, hopeless fatalism or is there a better word to sum all of that up?