Friday, October 17, 2008

existential joy/angst

Pentecost +23 – Year A

From time to time a reader poses a question or offers a comment in regard to these postings. Yesterday brought this question: "Would taking great joy from the Holy Spirit have an inherent risk of leaving the Holy Spirit joyless?"

There is the joy of play in the question and the writer continues: "I am still working on a construct in which an 'existential joy' lens would be as readily embraced as the 'existential angst' lens. I, of course, am admitting to the power and pervasiveness of the latter in my own life by having even posited the above question. It may well be the unspoken existential joy that enables us to be willing to continue in the face of existential angst."

I am going to leave the initial question alone, as any koan should be respected. In response to the existential joy/angst comment, here are some words from a book I am currently reading, That which Transpires Behind that which Appears: The Experience of Sufism by Pir Vilayat Inayat Kahn. I do recommend it.

"You do not have to look for beautiful music, or beautiful churches or painting. You can find beauty in a face that for all intents and purposes does not appear particularly beautiful. Behind the mask you can see beauty. Jelaluddin Rumi said If only you could see your face through my eyes, you would realize how beautiful you are. People can see themselves through your eyes. You can help them in one of the most important aspects of the personality: their self-esteem. It also confirms your utopic thoughts that, in fact, there is beauty behind whatever appears at the surface of the universe.

"So you are continually guarding your emotional attunement from slipping into a low-key condition. At the same time, you are outraged by any offense against honesty, and outraged against rank selfishness. In a way, you are exalting in joy and, at the same time, enduring terrible suffering. Your heart is broken, there is so much suffering in the world.

"You are so full of joy; yet, as you become aware of the suffering of people around you, it is very difficult to maintain that level of jubilations which you encountered when you lifted your consciousness upward. You find that you are being tested in life: are you able to be full of joy and, at the same time, have a broken heart?

"You may also find that you feel precarious and strong at the same time. As Pir-o-Murshid says, Be able to reconcile the perfection of your divine inheritance with the imperfection of your idiosyncrasies. He calls it the aristocracy of the soul, together with the democracy of the ego-- both together, not one or the other. If you tilt too much in the direction of your personal dimensions, you have a sense of inadequacy; you have a bad self-image. If you tilt too much in the direction of your divine inheritance, you could become sanctimonious; you might think of yourself as superior to others. It is very difficult to reconcile these two."

[Note: This is a way of viewing the pericopes of the week. How do you hear the conversations between Jesus and some Pharisees, Moses and G*D, Paul and some Thessalonian converts? Can you experience them as internal conversations within yourself?]

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