The Steampunk Vicar

A Presbyterian Pastor on Neo-Victoriana and American Faith

Tag: hope

Narrativus Tertius, or the Third Story

I’ve been thinking a great Deal, this Week, about Narrative. My natural Bent for Storytelling has reared again its Head, and the Tales we tell to One Another, and to our Selves, has been heavy on my Mind. Much of this, to be sure, was influenced by the Obsequies for Dr. Lorraine Stanfield, and the Throughline of Narrative that dominated that Service. Then, too, there are Stories being told, and telling Themselves, even now, as I write this.

For much of the last Year, I have been initiated into the Eastern Mysteries of Yogic Practice, and some of the more spiritual Dimensions of that Work have centered on Narrative, and on those Frames around Events that are central to human Experience. The experienced Yogi would tell you that these Stories are worse than useless, and are, indeed, a Distraction from our mindful Presence to those Occurrences. God, the Yogi would say, is not angry with you because you lost your Keys – you simply lost your Keys, which are, Themselves, a burdensome Abstraction, and One that you could dispense with profitably. Shed Attachment, especially Attachment to Narrative, and your Mind and Soul will clear.

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In contrast, a fair Percentage of my Rearing was conducted in the more lightly evangelical Branches of the American Protestant Christian Tree, the Sorts of Folks who will speak earnestly of God’s visible Work in the World, of God’s illimitable Call, and of Spiritual Forces which dominate this mortal Vale. For these, no Happenstance is to small to lack God’s guiding Hand. In its extremest Forms, this thinking yields Hurricanes and the Deaths of Soldiers as God’s smiting Wrath, and walks inevitably to that false Gospel (I have no Hesitation in claiming it as false, and no very little Qualm about the nominative “Gospel”) of Prosperity. The Wealthy are Rewarded and the Improvident are punished – could it ever be otherwise?

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I find it not at all surprising then, that when bad Things happen, we turn to these Tools to help us interpret our World. The Yogi says that our Narratives harm us; the Preacher says that God is their Author. One advises us to seek no Thread of Meaning; the other swears that God weaves a Tapestry with such Threads.

And when I scan the Æthernet in the Morning and find more of my countrymen Dead without Purpose, I cannot help but be dissatisfied with either Solution. If God is so terrible as to wrack a hapless Isle and move a Man to murder scores, then God deserves a fouler Name. If All is Naught and Naught is All and our Presence here is charmless Accident, the siren Song of Oblivion beckons us all, and Nothing is so sweet as to bind us here.

Some Months ago, a Friend was injured, just as another Comrade received a hideous Diagnosis. This, too, as Politics went Mad and Nations raged and Death stalked those near and dear to my Kindred. Once again, I stared at a World upheaving, and sought Sense in either closing my Eyes to Meaning, or closing my Eyes to Sense. My Compatriot, her Ankle splinted, reported to me the Comment of another Parishioner.

“If the Devil is trying to get us this bad, we must be doing Something right.”

I am not, in general, a Diabolist, but I was so much struck the good Sense of the Remark, and it has guided me. I refuse to countenance an Epic of God’s Punishment, and I will by no means relinquish the Precious Stories of my beloved Friends and Neighbors. To give up either is to surrender the Ship. But render unto me an Enemy – a hater of Life, and Love, and Light, and Hope, and Grace, no Human Tyrant but an Immortal Foe, and I will tell you a Tale that might open your Eyes…one that neither detaches nor rationalizes, but, instead, seeks to heal and transform. Mr. Enten of FiveThirtyEight quoted today the wise Rev. Rogers, who deserves more Upvotes than I can alone render:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

These are the ones with their Eyes opened – let those with Eyes to see and Ears to hear receive Understanding.

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Many wonderful Helpers can be found – some of my Favorites work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

 

De Commutatione Caelorum et Matrimonio

I am in the Process of grinding my Way through Laudato Si’, His Holiness Francis’ Encyclical Letter concerning Climatic Alteration due to Human Activity. I await eagerly the more theological Portions of this Work, but am currently following His Holiness’ Recitation of the Facts of the Case.

However, as I was searching for an aetheric Edition of the Encyclical, preferably in Portable Document Format, I came across this Article, which niggled at the Back of my Mind for a good Half Hour of my Reading.

Surprising precisely No One, there have been a great many Opinions tossed back and forth over the Aether over the Week End on the Subject of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, but None that troubled me quite so much as this One did. I am astonished to find that this Priest and Professor in the United States could be so blinkered by the political Reality of a social Issue in one Nation when a far greater Issue confronts our entire Species. I felt that this Essay revealed a deeply rooted Case of #FirstWorldProblems, when Catholics in this Country are too concerned with their Neighbors’ civil Marriage (which has Nothing to do with them), to read and listen to their spiritual Leader’s very pointed Criticism at our global Care for the entire Planet, which is very much the Business of the Citizens of the United States, as Members of the World’s largest Economy.

I would best describe my Sensation in the Reading as Annoyance. While I acknowledge that, for many American Catholics and Christians, there is (for some Reason obscure to me) no greater Event occurring than the license or not of civil Marriage between two consenting Adults of the same Gender, and thus the Pater‘s very becoming Pastoral Concern for his Flock, I cannot but feel that the looming Crisis of our Climate will have Impacts of Life and Death on Millions of Souls across the Globe. Most of these Changes, of course, are not being wrought by the Citizens of, say, Pakistan, where more than a thousand Persons have perished in the Course of this Summer’s heat Wave. Nor is this Revision in global Temperature and Weather the Fault of the Corals of Australia or the Forests of the Amazon.  Even the Farmers and Movie Stars of California are not to blame for that State’s enduring Drought.

We are all responsible, you see. Each of us. Even I, driving a Friend to the Airport this Morning in my own Locomotive Gasoline Vehicle, when she could have, had we chosen, taken the City and County of Denver’s excellent Public Transit System. I must take Responsibility for that.

Perhaps the most striking Item I’ve yet encountered in His Holiness’ Letter was this: “In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet:” If our Societies are degrading, it must be, it is in Conversation with the Degradation of our World. How will we hope to Solve one Problem, when the Other has an excellent chance of killing us all?