Thirty-five minutes until the Beanery coffeehouse closes. One sixteen ounce of coffee to consume while composing a caffeinated blog post. I accept the mission.
Now. In this moment.
To say something about one of my favorite chapters in one of my favorite books: "God in the Moment," in Luther Askeland's marvelous Ways in Mystery. I've highlighted this chapter so many times, there's fewer non-colored lines than colored.
Blogged about this chapter before in my very early blogging days, when I wrote "Still trying to set my hair on fire."
Re-reading it, I was pleased to find that when I was nine years younger I was still not noticing whether I'd locked my car as I walked away from it, key fob in hand. So however senile I was then, I haven't changed much.
Anyway... back to Askeland's moment. And that nasty word, "God."
It's nasty to me the way most people use it: as referencing something, or someone, knowable. In that knowing arises all of religion's problems. Dogmatism. Holier-than-thouness. Preachiness. Intolerance. Rigid commandments.
Askeland, though, is speaking quite differently when he uses the word "God."
That unencompassable source from which all things flow, we ourselves, our energies, and our lives included.
Me, I prefer "existence." Existence exists. That's mind-blowing. Or utterly obvious. Either way, we're talking mystery here. Not only that: the mystery of all mysteries. Call it existence. Call it God. Whatever.
Something, or someone, is the source. Eternal, whatever that word means. All-encompassing, whatever that word means. Uncreated, whatever that word means.
Luther Askeland is big on recognizing the useful uselessness of words. They're really valuable. Except when they aren't. When it comes to understanding the mystery of existence, which Askeland prefers to call the mystery of God, words and their associated concepts lead us nowhere.
But neither does anything else.
This is one of Askeland's creative insights. Religiosity, mysticism, spirituality -- these are just other ways we use to pretend to ourselves that we've got some sort of grasp on the mystery that can't be grasped. We expand our repertoire of illusory mystery-penetrating mechanisms to include supposedly metaphysical ways.
We still imagine, in other words, that we can name and describe the world, ourselves, and our spiritual lives, only we now add to our repertoire world by adding to it images of a perfect condition contrasting sharply with our present state... we imagine that this perfected condition as one that will someday be ours.
In all this, however, we are just like a chick that, still enclosed in the egg, thinks it knows what the world is like, for we have at that point no more knowledge of other "worlds" than does the chick in the egg or the butterfly still working free of its cocoon.
Here's the thing: there's no outside of the egg, no freedom from the cocoon.
How could there be? How is it possible to get outside of existence, to be free of "God" -- whatever you want to call the mystery of the source?
Give it up, dudes and dudettes. In this moment, says Askeland, is all there ever was and ever shall be. Mystery. The mystery of us is identical with the mystery of the cosmos.
Accept that you will never know either. Because it isn't possible to get outside of either yourself or the cosmos and know it as an object. Best approach, no, the only approach, says Askeland, is to open up a hole of mystery within, or as, yourself.
Then the mystery within and the mystery without are realized as a single mystery. Which doesn't make it less mysterious. Just a much more intimate mystery.
Which brings me to closing time. And a final sip of coffee. Now.