Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Message

The majority of academics I know are, professedly or tacitly, atheists. They do not believe there is a God; they do not acknowledge the existence of, let alone the importance of, the soul; they do not understand their lives, minds, and bodies as anything other than extraordinarily complex chemical events. The near-unanimity of these views is not really surprising. Humans are herd animals to a large extent (or I should say can choose to be herd animals), and these beliefs are products of the same kinds of style systems that drive these same academics’ intellectual pursuits. They are, intellectually and spiritually speaking, simply keeping up with fashion, more or less mindlessly mouthing understandings that have become fashionable in twentieth-century intellectual culture, mimicking the academically trendy views of figures like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. The academic atheists are intellectual fashion-slaves, playing the same game of follow-the-leader that they play in much of their research and teaching. It's a kind of faux scientism. They think they are being "scientific" and "factual" but the problem is that our current science is too primitive to have progressed to the point of understanding the deepest truest truths. Give it another couple thousand years and it too will understand the truths of the soul.

Today is Christmas. I received a long message of holiday greeting from an artist I know who has a different view of the world. I am posting an excerpt from her message to me, which to protect her identity, I have very lightly edited, along with an excerpt from the response I wrote and sent off to her a few minutes ago. (I’d also note that she sent me examples of her work and photographs of everything she mentions seeing that I am not including in the following posting.) Her message is below, followed by a much briefer excerpt from my reply to her. You don’t have to agree with either her or me, but I thought both postings might indicate that there is room for God and the soul in the minds of at least two quite intellectually and artistically sophisticated individuals. — Ray Carney
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My artist friend wrote me:

Subject: I hear God laughing

Last week I went to a local museum to see the Monets. I enjoyed them immensely, and recalled how you once told me that you could wear anyone out going to a museum. I had that same feeling, I could have spent the whole day looking at one particular painting of a bird on a fence. Fortunately, the security guard didn't mind me getting my face right up into it so I could study the brush strokes. (I stood off to one side and kept my hands in my pockets so he wouldn't worry that I would touch it). The snow was absolutely brilliant and breathtaking, I have never seen anything like it! It sparkled and glowed with the softest of pastel whites, it was cold and crunchy. It opened up another world of spirituality, and drew me into it. The lone bird was the perfect grace note giving the feeling of inner peace and solitude. It was like a magnet that kept drawing me back to look at it again and again, and it was annoying to have to leave so soon since the friends I was with had long before moved on and were ready to leave. And to think it was rejected when submitted to the Salon. They didn't understand how to look at it. Oh and a wonderful thing to share from the audio tour, a quote: "Art has its courageous soldiers." Monet had to wear three coats to stay warm while he went outside to study the snow for hours and paint it en plein air. The only way to capture nature is to go outside and be in it. And to keep studying the masters to learn their secrets!

A few days later I had a wonderful photo shoot at the arboretum just prior to the hard freeze that hit for several days. It was cold and very windy. Not an ideal day for shooting flowers, but I've learned that weather can make some great shots anyway. My part is to show up and pay attention. I was really looking forward to seeing the Japanese maples in all of their glory. There's a huge section of them along the walks and by a few creeks. As I was walking along the creek, admiring the brilliant red maple leaves waving in the wind, something red and down low briefly caught the corner of my eye as I passed. What was that?? I decided to stop and figure it out. The red leaves had cast their amazing reflections in the creek, and I immediately had the feeling of experiencing God laughing! Thigh-slapping laughter that only I could see. Only because I turned aside and went back to look was I rewarded. I took some amazing photos to remind me of these intensely mindful moments. I went on to take more abstracts of other tree leaves that were green, and ended up with shots that somehow reminded me of Monet. I imagined myself doing just what Monet had done, braving the weather to go study nature and create art that captured the beauty and feelings it gave me. Fortunately, I was able to get a brilliant experience without the subzero temperatures requiring three coats! Another photo of God laughing! I've decided to explore abstract photography for a while just to understand capturing pure emotion in what's in the world, everywhere around me. For those “with eyes to see.” How true that expression is. I'm a little restless and looking for a new art project. I may work on some poetry about God laughing with my red maple abstracts. I also will be dabbling with a watercolor set. No limits to art, no definitions, no requirements, no deficiencies—that's the beauty of it. I'm also jotting down a few notes for a book about living outside of the lines. Who knows what will take hold and see the light of day? I never know, I always have zillions of ideas on the shelves. Maybe this is the sign of an active soul? My life is certainly not boring.

And playfully, a gazebo reflection that reminds me of a snowman with a jaunty hat in a snow globe just after it's been righted after a good shaking. Frosty the Snowman showing up to say hi! It doesn't have the facial features, but oh well, the impression is still there.

Warmest holiday wishes and hohoho to you for a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Frosty! To one of art's courageous soldiers, stay well in your soul and keep fighting for truth. This will be the year for the completion of your Bresson masterwork, I'm sure of it.

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A much briefer excerpt from my reply:

Subject: Laughter is the sincerest prayer

I just love your stories about attention and laughing with God. And just as much love the attachments. Beautiful, mystical, moving, exciting. Do you know that God actually needs us to laugh? So that He can laugh. We are His sense organs and His way of expressing himself in the world. We are His opening into the world of space and time, since He is above and beyond it and transcends merely human sensory and bodily experience. We are His way of touching and feeling the world. He made us to be His eyes and ears. That’s what life is. And some people, too many people alas, let Him down, shut Him out of themselves and out of the world -- and even worse, let themselves down, and shut themselves out of their Godhead -- by locking themselves up in the prison of their minds, by hermetically sealing themselves up inside their distracting internal dramas, their fears, their hopes, their dreams, when He needs them to see and hear and feel for Him -- when he offers them the glorious opportunity to be Him, to know, care, and love with the purity, intensity, and beauty with which He knows, cares, and loves. I mean this literally. You were really His hands, feet, nose, touch, tongue, skin, eyes, and ears in the museum and on your winter walk. For those moments, for those minutes, for those hours. You are His feelings and thoughts when you make your art. Try to extend these moments into the smallest cracks and crannies of your life, when you are in the kitchen, in your office, in your car, walking down a hall, in the street, smiling at a stranger. Be God's sense organs, God’s mind, God’s feelings, God’s expressions ALL of the time. That is the best you can be. The greatest we can all be. Because we ARE God then. We are not separate from him at those moments. We are really God at those moments. Those moments are why we were made. The reason we exist. They are the purpose of our lives. These are not metaphors or figures of speech. We see through a glass darkly today, but these are truths that will be discovered and proven by physicists of the future -- if you can get your mind around that one!! HoHoHo back at ya! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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I wish a sincerely spiritual, soulful, and very merry Christmas to everyone who is reading this! Dare to become God’s eyes and ears, dare to love with God's love, and dare to laugh God's laugh today, if on no other day of your life. — Ray Carney