Friday, September 3, 2010

Thoughts from the Two Bearded Men

I go through these cycles of insomnia. As I've said before, for some reason, in the middle of the night my emotional senses seem most raw. It is usually a detached anxiety or guilt. Some of my old Evangelical friends would say that it is probably the Holy Spirit convicting me . . . for things I've said or posted here. But I don't think so. I think it is the generalized anxiety that I must carry like Paul's thorn.

Following good sleep hygiene practices, I leave the bedroom and go into another room to read.

Working my way through my list of top 100 English novels, I'm (sadly to say) am still on # 11, HD Lawrence's Sons and Lovers (the profile bearded on the top is Lawrence).

In prep for reading the novel I did a little background checking. One review, which I read, said that Sons and Lovers was banned in several countries when it was first published in 1913 for "inappropriate content" (in this near-post Victorian age).

So I was a bit puzzled as I worked my way through a beautifully written, but clearly "G rated" book. It wasn't until my pre-dawn reading did I move far enough into the second half of the book to start to get the feeling for the controversy.

While the title might make the issue obvious to most, the point of it was not so clearly manifest within the reading of the first chapters. But before I indulge into the complex, I will share just a paragraph of Lawrence's beautiful words;
He sat down against his will, resting his back against the hard wall of hay. They faced the amphitheatre of round hills that glowed with sunset, tiny white farms standing out, the meadows golden, the woods dark and yet luminous, tree-tops folded over the tree-tops, distinct in the distance. The evening had cleared, and the east was tender with magenta flush under which the land lay still and rich.
So, if you can't remember the story, it is about the family under the shadow of an alcoholic and abusive coal-mining father near Nottingham, England soon after the turn of the century. It was quite autobiographical as the author had the same type of upbringing. Who knows where fact ends and fiction begins. Who also knows why Mr. Morel (the father in the novel) drank. There may have been ghost in his closet that I've yet to discover. But it could have easily been his meager existence of climbing down a black hole everyday before the sun had come up, not to re-appear, dark and dirty, after the same sun had set.

But the focus is really on the mom and her life that she tries desperately to live through her children.

Her oldest son dies alone in London. The youngest son foolishly signs up for the war. That leaves Paul. She has daughters but the book's title is about "sons" thus they play only prop.

Paul has this strange relationship with a girl. She dearly loves him. He loves her . . . but there an invisible force field (my words) that stands in their way. He doesn't have any insight and feels helpless.

By the end of my reading last night it became clear. It was his mother's love that is her son's confining cocoon. But the love insidiously evolves from
storge (Greek for motherly love) to eros. In the last scene, before I returned to my bed to try and sleep, Paul tells his girl that it just won't work. He returns home to a grieving and physically sick mother . . . in such a state only because of Paul's neglect. She emotionally manipulates Paul with layers of guilt for exchanging a beautiful young girls attention for that of his own mother. They kiss good night. Lawrence describes the kiss as passionate.

You see how this segues into the second breaded man. Do I need to say more?

My point is, and I've brought this up many times in this blog, that the fall has penetrated our psyche far deeper than each of us realize. In my opinion, none of us know the true depth of our motives nor the inward working of psychological make up (and the scars it bears). Truly altruistic motives are possible and do happen. But so do those that center on the id rather than the superego.

I use to hate Freud as the opium-addicted humanist who was the form of an anti-Christ. I, ironically, was led to Christ by a high school psychology teacher who, on the very first day of class, wrote on the board three names. Freud, Skinner and Jesus Christ. He announced that there were three ways to look at life and he would compare the views of these three sources over the subsequent semester. Clearly his Jesus and Freud were not on the same page.

I now see Freud (as many non-believing scientist and writers) as brilliant people who made some true observations about life . . . even though, without God, they may have reached faulty conclusions. Freud, like a miner himself, dons his carbide headlamp and led us all down into the bowels of our own psyches. It wasn't always pretty.

Life is much easier when we, in our super-ego (especially Christian, saintly super-egos) play croquet on a manicured lawn than when we go down to the bottom floors and look at the reality.

To bring this long thought to a close, I will say that I have changed in my perspective. I, once, thought that I should try to live as honestly as I possibly can. After all, God is a God of truth. I've spoken many times of trying to go down to the first floor.

But, with some more thought, I don't think it is possible or even healthy to always live in pure truth. Without sounding corny is that the way we are made and in the midst of the fall, we simply can't handle the pure truth of life. If we put on pure truth glasses life would look so messy. I would see that virtually everything I did (and everyone did) was for self promotion to fill that bottomless pit of wanting to be of value. Such circular thinking could drive you as mad as a hatter.

Yet, there is still a place for a deeper truth than we now live. I can sit in church and hear a pastor say, "God spoke to me this morning and told me to enlarge my tent for a great work he is about to do in this town. Either you are for God or against Him! Either you are with this project or not on God's side."

Immediately I can know what he really means, down there on the first floor. He is really saying, "I want to be of value. I want to be at the center of attention to make me feel valuable. So, I want this huge church with me at the center of attention. But I must wrap it in 'God's will' in order to manipulate you to make me the superstar."

My concluding thought, and it is about this view of discernment, is about the show's Dateline and 20/20. I am intrigued by many of their stories. especially when it is about supposedly great people, having a secret life where they do terrible things. It has to do with my interest in psychology.

Two weeks ago one of them was about a charismatic pastor in California that made friends with a wealthy atheists, robbed him blind, and then murdered him (via "accident") to cover his trail.

Last week was about a serial rapist, who turned out to be a seasoned police chief.

In both cases, the people closest to the perpetrators totally refused to believe the convictions in spite of overwhelming evidence. In the first case it was the church people. In the later it was the policeman's family.

But when we can believe that "good people" can't do horrible things, we don't fully understand the Fall of Adam.

The positive point of all this rambling once again is, 1) we are completely valuable in Christ and we need nothing else, 2) we shouldn't be naive about our potential for evil nor that of others. But lastly, we also shouldn't be cynical. Sometimes it is okay to play croquet on the Queen of Heart's manicured lawn . . . and love every second of it.

Sorry about the long post. I typed as fast as I could think. It is late, 6:07 PM and I'm at the coffee shop and I need to get home to my wife. I will proofread later.

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