Numinous

Ever since I was a child, I never liked the ‘r’ word. Religious. Ugh. Often, people that are not Christians will use that word in conversation, as if it will bridge an invisible gap between themselves and what they see as my version of uniqueness. “Well, *I’ve* never been religious like you, so…” or “Is that something you do/don’t do because you’re religious?” – and so on. Until recently, that word had the power to trigger what I thought was righteous anger, but what was probably closer to very non-righteous snobbery. “It’s not a religion, it’s a RELATIONSHIP”, I’d say in a tone that would suggest I was speaking to a 5 year old instead of a friend or coworker. “There’s a DIFFERENCE.”

Okay, Liz. Let’s not get caught on semantics. People use the words they know, and hey, at least they’re engaging in the topic itself. My mind, and range of reactions, has been expanding to include graciousness at the onset of these conversations, whether or not the ‘r’ word makes its appearance. And this evening I felt some expansion in a wholly unexpected direction to boot.

I was savoring the last few pages of Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (bought for a C. S. Lewis class in college and picked up for a second reading after 6 years) when revelation struck. Lewis took most of a page to compare/contrast the writing of the Gospels to that of myth and history, and the punch, for me, came at the tail end:

“Here {in the Bible} and here only in all time the myth must have become fact; the Word, flesh; God, Man. This is not “a religion,” nor “a philosophy.” It is the summing up and actuality of them all.”

I remember the upper front wall in my 8th grade history classroom had a row of pictures along it, each picture symbolizing a different religion. (I believe – pun intended? – that the Christianity picture showed the statue of Christ the Redeemer from a somewhat unflattering angle.) That memory sprang up as I processed these sentences, and I had an urge to unpin the Christianity picture from that history classroom wall. “This is not a religion.” As said before, I have no issues with separating the “r” word from my relationship with God. But Lewis took me further. Christianity is not a religion. Yes, belief and faith and worship are all included, but it is completely unfounded to place Christianity in the lineup with other world systems of belief. If God is God, then there is no other. There are none beside Him. He is not the figurehead of a religious system, but Ultimate Truth. Christians, followers of Christ Jesus, do not live by the rules and restrictions of a religion, but by the truth inherent in all of creation. He has torn the curtain, He has taken away the veil. Here, there is freedom.

Suggestion

Have you ever seen a mountain range from above? While traveling by airplane, or from an aerial video or picture? From a higher vantage point, you can see the texture of something. A mountain range, gargantuan and rearing from sea level, becomes almost doll-sized from sky level. The dips of each slope and jagged edges where the heights taper toward the ground seem almost…touchable.

This mountain-touching invaded my thoughts last night, in lieu of paying strict attention to a Francis Chan video on the book of Mark (whoops!). While not quite an avid hiker, I do partake in the great outdoors via rocky, tree-laden heights from time to time, but on these hikes it has not entered my mind to reach out and sample the feeling of the stones and trees and shrubbery through which I passed. But somehow, the sight of a mountain far off nearly set my hands to twitching. And as thought follows thought, I wondered how often we purposefully touch? As hands are important, there are plenty of items we come into contact with during each day. Doorknobs, keys, clothes, dishes, food. But how often do we register these sensations? And even more important than mere items – how often do we purposefully touch other people? In the cold-climate culture of New England, personal space is regarded with respect. To enter into another person’s ‘space’ without invitation is to court displeasure at best, and may give the appearance of harassment at worst. Family members or friends may hug, professional hands may be shaken, but it seems that as we get older, outside of spouses or our children or grandchildren, out of our senses, touch is used with intentionality the least of these. Why?

As a kid, I remember the admonition before entering stores: Look, but don’t touch. As an adult, it is my personal opinion that this warning should be, if not done away with entirely, then at least moderated. As a child, I needed to touch everything! Fluffy things, soft things, scratchy things – although I decided quickly that velvet was not deserving of my attention. Yes, there are two eyes for seeing, yes, there are two ears for hearing. But come on, people. We have TEN FREAKING FINGERS! Children in particular are acutely aware of how much touching can be done with these digits. We learn about our world through touch, and kids get this. (Perhaps we lose this knowledge somewhere in the netherworld of teenagery?) On my first trip to Rwanda, I kept my hair tied back most of the time. But one day I let all the bigness loose, and every time I knelt or sat down near a group of kids (which was basically anywhere in sight), every child within reach wanted to feel the curls. No personal space for me then! But I loved it. How they needed to touch, how they needed to be touched – hugs and high fives and just holding hands. And I realized that I needed that too.

I heard about a study done on newborns, that if left in their cribs without being held, their tiny systems don’t get the stimulation through human touch that they need. Babies can die because of this lack of touch. If touch has this large of a nurturing impact, then as adults I think we are unwittingly starving ourselves. Perhaps we should be more purposeful with touch.

Musings

A certain cuddly, honey-loving sage once said: “Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you.” And they do. Sometimes a hummy or poetic tendril tickles the inside of your ear or the back of your eyeballs, and if you are the more adventurous sort and you have some time on your hands (luckily, this often happens to me while I’m driving), you may follow the twists of that tendril on toward a bloom or two or fourteen. Sometimes it unfurls into a song or a revelation or an idea, but wherever it leads, I like the muselike meandering. This blog will be, I suppose, made up less of true poems and songs (although I don’t doubt they will make appearances) and more of these musings. It will be a home, however temporary and digital, for these mental wanderings. How Pooh Bear kept them in his head, I cannot fathom (being a Bear of very little Brain, you know), but mine must be written down in some capacity.

Something I’ve noticed in poetry and blogging in general, is that in writing down these hummy thoughts, words on a page or screen have an effect similar to that of first hearing a recording of my voice – it’s weird. It’s even a bit uncomfortable, knowing that the lovely tempest of thought looks like THAT in unyielding font. But comfort is never the goal, is it? I don’t know of any artist who presented their labored-over piece and then stated “Well, I certainly hope that made you all comfortable.” And even less so does the great Artist. So who am I to balk at a lack of comfort, at a little weirdness? Better to embrace it, I think.

Now to get a jar of something sweet and muse on further tiddly poms. 

New

‘Everything is standing just as before, but not as if nothing had happened.’

Tuesdays have never been for starting over, except for Garfield. Now billions have joined in the reboot, although what with millions of diets starting, I can’t guess as to how little lasagna is involved. Maybe by this weekend we’ll see pasta and all its glorious carbs resurface.

While December slips unsecretively into January, I am feverishly making lists. Ah, yes, resolutions! I have a clean slate, so anything is possible! Which is exactly what I repeat to myself as I crunch out daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals that even Wonder Woman (or maybe particularly Wonder Woman? That gal is busy.) would find difficult to accomplish. Possible? Certainly. Probable? Eh.

In any case, with the advanced wisdom that is bestowed in one’s late 20s (it’s a joke, people), I’m not so much concerned about the year. Slap a new digit or two on the end, and life is still life. It goes on. But what does have my attention, is, well…me. Tides turn, and moons wax and wane, and leaves bud and fall – but do I? The resounding answer, of course, is yes. Former things pass away – fears, doubts, desperately clenched habits. New things spring up – hope and joy and reawakened direction. Always pointing the same way. To One who does not change, yet changes us. To One who stays the same, yet reveals new facets of Himself. And I, for one, would like to be made new not once a year, but continually in His hands.

Happy new you, all.