Sometimes the world seems to leave you no option but to ‘spill everyone’s blood’, so to speak, no room for peace at all, because it will keep coming until you respond and leave you no response but to defeat it.
- Image by loswl via Flickr
I think this is one of the great traps of the world. I don’t think the world always wants to win. I think the world sometimes wants you to do what it takes to defeat it, because doing that will be gruesome and require you to become something you don’t want to be – it pulls you into the battle, so you have to destroy your enemies in order to defend your loved ones.
This is how the world defeats strong men. The world wins by making itself vulnerable to defeat, but only by a bare margin that requires maximum suffering to accomplish, and then it attacks your loved ones until it leaves you no choice. This is, in fact, the theory of war currently at work in the world. I don’t mean that I sympathize with the Cheneys and Rumsfelds and the men behind the scenes (e.g. in The Family). I mean that even the innocent are pulled into the kinds of fights the Cheneys and the Rumsfelds wage, precisely so that we can cease to be innocent. It seems to be the goal to corrupt us all. If someone beats down your family member and makes it to where you have to become a beater to protect him/her, then it corrupts you quite successfully. Happy are the martyrs more than the fighters.
This is my Faith, that one definition of Death is that there is not always a just, good, or right decision. But that sometimes all decisions sully us, because what is broken, in Death, is not just our moral capacity, but the world itself, and all things related to our existence. Death is the great problem, not sin. Death causes sin, even unavoidable sin, because it has broken everything. This is why we pray “my sins voluntary and involuntary, in knowledge and in ignorance” – because even though Death breaks our will, it goes further to break the very possibility of a right choice – it leaves only ones, at times, that are all wrong. Likewise, Death doesn’t just break our knowledge of good and evil, but it goes farther to break the possibility of knowledge of what is good or evil in many cases. So we pray “voluntary and involuntary, in knowledge and in ignorance”, because Death didn’t/doesn’t just break us, it broke/breaks all our works, all we have made, all the processes involved in working and making, and it broke/keeps breaking the entire cosmos, and every principle of the cosmos, so that it turns in on itself, with decaying, entropy, dying, corruption, conflict, fragmentation, and dissolution. The volcanos rage and the hurricanes destroy and the species wipe each other out and we club each other and put each other in chains and make tools out of one another, defacing and depersonalizing ourselves and others, because of Death at work still unraveling it all – defacing and depersonalizing it all.
And when it’s all done, all that will be left of all that is in Death’s power is a void, and not even the void, because that at least is a concept of something. Death itself will remain, unable to find or consume anything left that is not Death, and endlessly consuming itself.
Death is therefore the one thing against which Christ set himself, the hero, to destroy – the Destroyer. Not the “world, the flesh, and the devil”, as the Protestants like to say, but Death. He both overcame the world and trampled the Evil One, by overcoming Death, which is why the enemy didn’t see it coming. Crushing one enemy and leaving another? No, Death is the cause of all our passions, and our complicity with the world and bondage to the enemy. The curse was not “you will be cast from Eden into the world” – that came after. The curse was not “the serpent will bite your heel” – that came after. The curse, as it’s often called, is Death – the meaning of all curses. The only possible curse. The definition of “curse”. But because of my sins and mercy, and as a mercy for space to repent, I live in Death, granted life in the world and a life of animosity with the Evil One, because any living at all is a mercy, because it is living in and through the energies of God. But I experience Death, in my sins – experience the brokenness, and so again… for what I have done, for what I do, for what I will do… with knowledge and without it, in my will and against it… mercy. Mercy.
Addendum: I recently became able to choose whether to be depressed. It’s hard to explain to people who are physiologically standard – I won’t say “normal” – none of us is normal – Death just wreaks upon us unique ‘kindnesses’ based on our unique personalities – hard to explain what it’s like not to have had a choice all one’s life – not to have the physiological conditions necessary to make a choice – so that Death gets in behind your will and owns you from there, like its puppet. You either know, or you can’t imagine. It’s not without the help of some pretty helpful supplements that this has been overcome – and no, I won’t write about them – I don’t make prescriptions – we are not generic, you and I, even if some people have standard equipment. But with this help, I have a choice now. It’s like being blind all one’s life and then discovering you were made for seeing, because there’s healing mud in your eyes. But seeing doesn’t take away what you saw with blind eyes – it enhances your vision, in fact. You see more horror, too, with open eyes than blind ones.
But while I have a choice, I have decided not to let Death have despair out of me, too. It is one thing to constantly get cut to one’s knees, and sometimes for some people all responses to it are equally devastating choices – depression, destruction, whatever. You can’t judge them – you would be foolish to do so. I have been foolish, in my life – I know. It is another thing entirely to surrender what you have a choice about surrendering, out of despair. Despair is not the same thing as what people call “clinical depression”. Both are results of Death, but they’re not entirely the same. The depressed person, physiologically so, has no choice about despair. His will is ravaged by Death. If you are granted life with a way to fight depression, you may begin to recover that choice – that ability to choose not to despair. And that’s what I’ve been given and what I’m not giving back. What is needed is acknowledgment of the gruesome truth of Death at work in the world, not pansy-ass prettying up the situation – not the “just think positive thoughts and Death will have no power…” Gee, Christ really blew it then, didn’t He? He didn’t have to die for all of us to conquer Death – he could have just thought some positive thoughts for all of us! What is needed is acknowledgment, but with defiance. Acknowledgment without willing surrender, where you can find your will. You set your will to fight whether you’ll win or not. Do you have the courage for that? Or do you have to win to have ‘courage’? That’s the question I put to myself when even the barest temptation to depression comes now. I find myself faced with untenable choices on all sides, but I have at last this choice. To make the untenable choice, to sin perhaps, but without despair. With sadness, with remorse, and to confess and to repent, but without despair. Glory be to God.
Addendum Too: By the way, someone once demanded an answer to this question: “If Christ has destroyed Death, defeated the Evil One, and overcome the World, in fact has redeemed the World, isn’t the World redeemed, and therefore shouldn’t we immerse ourselves in it? And why then do we still see Death? So either Christ didn’t do these things, or he did – either one leaves you saying things that make no sense.” Superficially, this is an intelligent question. But it contains some flawed assumptions, much like Origen’s problematic. He was proud of his question, but it was a false one. Protestants will tell you that you have to “accept” these things for them to be true for you – an ultimately subjectivist rendering which, if you’re paying attention to anything, can’t make any sense. So let’s just get it out of the way, I’m not going to say something like that. I can give a discourse on synergy, on free will, on theosis, and perhaps say some true things in response, but the asker of the above question won’t hear them, because the question itself is being asked from Death. Death is the condition out of which it comes, and into which all answers to it will be rendered. Sometimes answering a person is not as useful as responding. I will respond, tho frankly I don’t do it often, and probably won’t be doing it again soon. And I won’t use illustrations like tearing down a jail and the prisoners being unwilling to leave, or proving a concept untrue only to find that the other person wishes to keep believing it, or exposing a huxter only to have people still following him – even claiming they’re still hearing from him and his flying saucer after he died of some disease he wasn’t supposed to be able to get. We’ve all experienced those things or know people who have or know people who know people. What good will more illustrations do? If you can’t look around you for references, my description won’t help. I have given answers of all kinds in the past, and there are many, and many are true, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing the other person any good.
The question is based on a theoretical – if/then. I will simply respond that I don’t have to answer an if /then because I am not referring to merely theoretical events – rather, you have to answer a did / did not. If you determine, really, if the events I refer to happened, your question will change. The same if you determine they didn’t. But I do not agree to what your question is really asking me to do – that is to stake historical events on a theoretical condition. In other words, I don’t have to satisfy your understanding of theoretical matters in order for historical events to be truthful or not – the order of priority in a sane epistemology is that what is governs and supersedes what I think – if it’s the other way around – if a did/did not actually depends upon a what if or an if/then as a rule – then we all become neurotic solipsists living in worlds we dream up in our heads. A thing is so or not so (did/did not) regardless of whether your understanding of it is satisfied. Get the so or not so first, then you get more understanding (or less, if you got it wrong).
So that’s it. Your question offers a false means of analysis – a false epistemology and, frankly, an ultimately subjective one. You would be more at home asking it to the Protestants who will likely give you exactly the kind of answer you are hoping for, one way or another. I will not pretend it’s a legitimate question. Again: you first answer the did / did not (Did Christ destroy Death? Did Christ defeat the Enemy. Did Christ overcome the world and redeem it?), and then ask questions appropriate to what is or is not. A question staked on a theoretical doesn’t yield understanding – it just yields another theoretical, and I’m not in that business. Once more, because some infernal wretch will insist I repeat it in different words, if I don’t do so from the outset, you do not, logically get an is from an if. How you answer the historical questions will determine not only your next question but its context – whether it is asked out of Death or something else. And then again, if the order of your analysis is incorrect, I or hopefully someone else, since I was unlikely to do it even this time let alone later, will show you again where you have gotten the order wrong.
If you were looking for a profound answer, rather than a response, that presumes your question is meritorious – but it isn’t – it’s fallacious and cannot be met but with an answer that not only slanders our Faith, but also leads you astray in your own mind, thinking you know how to think. Your epistemology is just as affected by Death as everything else is, in other words. And I can’t help you with that. I can barely help myself. So if I seem a bit negative, it’s because I’m telling you I’m no guru and not going to have wisdom that I’d dare to share with you, lest it run out of my fingers, coil up and become a serpent, and strike us both dead. I have responded, which is what we do when to answer a question would be to falsely accept as real the ground presumed by the questioner, thereby fooling both of us, me into thinking I’m wise, and you into thinking you have figured out something real. Better we don’t understand one another at all, than that. Good luck, by which I mean without presumption, “God have mercy on us both, and by your prayers save me, the sinner.”