Breaching the Walled Garden of the Self

Fall                                               Waning Harvest Moon

Prepping for a presentation on Spiritual Resources for Humanists.  Reading books, articles, letting ideas slip past as I get ready to sleep, keeping my antennae out for what feeds me now.

The book I mentioned before, All Things Shining, has convinced me of one thing.  It’s important to know why we need resourcing in the first place.

The title offers a rationale, unpacked.  Humanism embraces a world shorn of its medieval metaphysics; the Great Chain of Being has met Nietzsche’s Bolt Cutter, God is dead. God is dead, of course, was not an argument, but an observation, a sensitive man’s awareness that the God drenched era of the ancien regime had been drained by the empirical method, reason and the strangely acidic effect of the Protestant Reformation.

This world, a world with a strangled sense of the sacred, gave birth to the angst and anomie of the existentialist 20th century, a world with no center, or rather, a world with millions of centers, each person a godhead struggling with their own creation.

What can buttress the Self that must navigate these empty places?  Does our supernatural vacuum hold enough air to nourish the isolated self?

We stumble toward wonder, toward joy, hope for a glimpse of the sacred, of the moment that can lift us out of our isolation and put us in communion with others, with the natural world, with the stars which birthed the very atoms which constitute us.

These things we seek not out of some vestigial institutional memory, an anachronistic impulse to live again in a God drenched world.  No, we seek these things because the essential paradox at the heart of our lives is this:  we live alone, the only one with our world; yet we live together, up against galaxies of other worlds, sometimes with other worlds so close that they seem to intersect with ours.  We seek the venn diagram, a mandorla labeled self and other, where the other is another person, a flower, a sky, a lightning bolt.

So, spiritual resources in this context, then, would be those fragments of culture that can weaken or penetrate the walled gardens of our Selves, not in order to breach the walls, but to let in companion armies, allies in our quest.

The quest seems to similar to the one Sir Gawain faced when he beheaded the Green Knight and, in a year and a day, had to bend his own neck before the Green Knight’s sword.  That is, we somehow must will ourselves into a vulnerable, ultimately vulnerable position, to those we have beheaded.  Interestingly, as the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight proposes, this vulnerability is not only, perhaps not even mostly, a human to human one, rather, it is human to the whole Green world.

So we seek allies who will keep us strong in our vulnerability, mighty in our humility.  We seek at least love.