Do you ever have those moments when your mind is so utterly frenzied and unsettled and all-over-the-place that you couldn’t possibly articulate a coherent thought? Well I had a moment like that last night, and it was kind of wonderful.
I was sitting in church (the place I usually get all my blog post ideas… even about things that have nothing to do with church) and found myself in one of those totally involuntary mental overdrive moments. I tried and tried to think of a good topic to think and then write about, but too much else was in my mind. So in lieu of a real posting, I’ll just do what I tell my English 3 writing students at UCLA to do: freewrite.
So it’s been ridiculously rainy in L.A. all weekend. For like five days straight now. And cold. Tonight as I drove to church and the sun was setting, the clouds were ominous and I even saw lightning and what looked like a funnel cloud. Things were whirling and wispy and foggy and alive…
At church the sermon had something to do with Adam and Eve: the knowledge of good and evil, the tree, the serpent, the whole shebang. There was a good point about Othello and Desdemona (and Iago as the serpent)… and then there was some point about Martin Buber (who I love). He’s a Jewish theologian and not typically cited in protestant settings, but his I-It / I-Thou ideas are brilliant. Here’s one of my favorite Martin Buber quotes: “Spirit is not in the I but between I and You. It is not like the blood that circulates in you but like the air in which you breathe. Man lives in the spirit when he is able to respond to his You.”
The “You” is God I think, or perhaps the bit of God that we can touch and feel and “breathe,” as Buber writes. And I think that the “You moments” are the key to some sort of Joy. Buber calls these moments “queer lyric-dramatic episodes”—which reminds me of Lost in Translation or Once or any of a number of Richard Linklater films.
But this is but one of the many things bouncing around my head during church. I was also thinking about the millions of things I have to do this week, and then self-consciously thinking about how unholy it was to be thinking about such trifles in a time of worship. And then all of a sudden I became totally mesmerized by the word “Jesus” that was up on the screen during some mediocre Matt Redman worship song.
Jesus. How odd that this massive collection of wealthy white people is passionately singing about a Jewish guy named “Jesus.” J-E-S-U-S. Have you ever taken a step back from words like that? It’s a trip.
But then there was something in the sermon about how we should never ask the question: Is God really a loving Being? After all, Satan tried to get Eve to question what she thought about God… and look how that turned out. Hmm… I don’t know. I’m not sure that questioning God’s relative benevolence or malevolence is even a question I’m qualified to ask. Isn’t God beyond those categories? Aren’t those just words, anyway? Oh, deconstructionism. Death to Derrida (who, incidentally, is already dead).
In the end, the chaos in my brain gave way to a strange sort of epiphany. Most epiphanies, I think, might also be called “moments of clarity,” but in this case it was the opposite of clarity. But it was clarity, in a sense, because for a brief flutter of a moment I saw—or imagined—some large-scale meta connection in my life and the world and the weather and the cross. In and through the fragments and puzzles pieces of my schizophrenic cognition a truth revealed itself, though I couldn’t tell you what it was exactly . It was like a Picasso or Kandinsky painting or something—a thoroughly messy tapestry of colors and lines and ideas that somehow, inexplicably, coheres. You might not “get it” in the sense that you think you should, but it nevertheless brings you into a mysterious communion that transcends labels and categories and rationality.