existence as a Christian

If the universe, if existence is only a material existence, what hope do we have but to reinvent yourself and stake out a small piece of happiness. No matter the cost. No matter the consequence.
What are we living for? Ourselves? Others? Both of these?

If there is no God, we make our own meaning.

Existence according to most existentialists is depressing. Although existence is depressing even if there is a God. There is opposition on all sides. Dragons at our feet, along the path. There is no surety of anything. We can try but with no guarantees. The end point, no matter who you are, what you believe is death. We are all mortal.

What is the hope here? It isn’t in this existence. The Christian’s hope is in Christ. Not as an escape. But as a surety that the most powerful being has suffered and died and known all of our worst states of existence. But instead of perpetuating that state of existence, the way of ascent is the way of descending into the depths of our broken selves and owning our sin, giving it to the only one who can bear it, and allowing grace to lead us upward in mind, body and spirit to ascend with Christ who has made the way. We cannot live this struggle of existence alone or with our own steam or strength or power.

We all run the race with different ability and help. When the struggle is over, what hope is there but oblivion or for a transfigured life or existence that is no longer in decay and disorder. As a Christian, Jesus left the kingdom in the hands of the church, the body of Christ, not as a castle on a hill, a fortress separated, but as a light touching and transfiguring each place one is called to… yet sometimes the fortress is the sanctuary for a time to strengthen the weak or broken. As little Christ’s is not our charge to reveal a part of Christ’s kingdom, not in our own will but in God’s. Certainly not in our own power.

But even this seems futile much of the time. Although, Mother Teresa is a great example, really, the communion of saints are excellent examples. Each saint is unique in their calling, mission and approach as diverse as the stars, but all in common with Christ. Christ is the most creative–God is the creator, why should he not be the most creative?

If the existentialist creates his own meaning, the Christian creates meaning or echoes the Creators creativity.

Jon Foreman Departures

Jon Foreman – A Place Called Earth (Lyric Video) ft. Lauren Daigle – YouTube

I am very taken with two songs from Jon Foreman’s new EP Departures. The song “A Place Called Earth” speaks to the longing of a world that is perfected and renewed. He sings the hope of the Christian faith–it is the song of faith, hope, and love. It can be taken as a longing for a world that is just despite the human history of screwing things up all the time. But it will take more than human will to change the world. It takes the grace, love, and will of God. The perpetuation of of how things are now is a world that is broken, longing to fix it, but will forever be broken with interludes of peace, maybe. I have been reading a lot of existential philosophers. What I gather from Camus and Sartre is to fight to live although it is absurd that we are here in this world that only has this existence. It is absurd to live in a world without God. Why live, right? But the tension is why believe in God if the only way yo heaven is death? Then why wouldn’t we just commit suicide?

This is the tension we live in. An answer is we have purpose in a fallen world and this world will be renewed in Christ. In the meantime we wait between what is and what will be.

Jon Foreman – Jesus, I Have My Doubts (Audio) – YouTube

The second song that brings to light the tension of this existence is “Jesus, I have My Doubts.” It is a lament and a song of confusion amidst a broken world. It is very relatable especially in light of this past year. What do we do with the seeming silence from God? Camus and Sartre wouldn’t ask this question; Kierkegaard might. This is the song of Job, of Jeremiah, really, of every Christian. We as humans, we as Christians don’t know all the answers and especially the answers of suffering. Isn’t our charge to love and serve the person we are given or called to?

Nonetheless, take a listen to this new EP by Jon Foreman (singer of Switchfoot), he asks many questions in his music and reminds us of the hope and love that is always present though we may not necessarily feel it or know it.

existential anxieties

I had a dream of all my failings. Failings and rejections. Failures of place, relationships, motivation, of moving forward. The drudgery of living.

Depression of winter or melancholy of the uphill battle? Therapy seems to be a distraction within the absurdity of living–how things are an how things ought to be. It is said courage and wisdom are virtues for the Christian because it is seeing how the world is and working on making it how it ought to be. Of course, grace is the divine element needed.

Here is a very limited way of understanding life’s progression: a child, discovery and wonder of the world and all things around the child; in your twenties, understanding a little more about yourself and interests, wants and needs, and the confusion of it all; thirties, aiming toward and nearly accomplishing a goal you set out on in career or family; forties, uncertainty, possible discontent, having met some goals but some seem arbitrary or regret of goals rejected or unfulfilled–the “now what?”

In your late thirties and early forties observing youth reminds of the wonder and beauty of the world, maybe the naivety of how the world is–youth, at least children is a reminder of how the world ought to be. Those in their twenties are still learning the way of existence, some melancholy sets in or just recklessness and aiming toward an ideal. Then ideals are shattered. Isn’t that grace though? Seeing the reality of the way things are.

Is the rest of existence a learning to see? See reality. But also the vision of things through the lens of faith, hope, and love (the theological virtues). Didn’t Jesus say to be as shrewd as snakes and gentle as doves? Meaning don’t be taken advantage of, be wise, but show compassion and grace.

Just some musings and ramblings…

exile

Exile: is a kind of hell or purgatory depending on its sentence. Remembering what once was, regrets, things done and left undone, sins, haunt the whole self: mind and body. Dreams haunted with accusations, unrest, reminders of past happiness, past sins, reminded of rejecting what had been offered, ignoring exhortation, confused how things were, blind to understanding everything outside of self. Led to rejecting and wanting to run away from everything. Driving the escape and the salvation. Driving 7000 miles. Bringing the broken, shipwrecked self along … a respite at the same time from stresses and distresses of familiarity.

Ever-seeking home. Elusive home. Waylaid, lost at sea, no place to return to, seeking renewed shores. The burden of freedom and making one’s own meaning an unbearable weight. Providence, a comfort, not a cage. Salvation or damnation not determined, yet in the midst of a shipwrecked person, even a shipwrecked world, Being cares and works within the world through grace– sending signs, angels, his will in embodied people. I have no answers, except I AM orders what has become disordered. The One Incarnated started the unravelling of the world and its disorder.

Although exiled, my own hope finite and failing; but teleological hope reminds of the divine plan to right all wrongs through a fiery love that consumes and renews all things. Exile, a state for now, until the Last Day. Until I can see.

thoughts on meaning

I sit in a cafe to stifle despair. Assaulting the cortex with caffeine to stimulate further thought and distraction from reflective despair of self. Is everything a distraction from self? From a past that is over? From the realization that my community has shrunk to almost nil. I am like a Karamozov brother whose isolation diminishes his world, his influence, presence shrinking, while Alyosha’s world and Zossima’s expands by the grace of God. Alyosha grieves for his brother, continues to love him and seeks to pull him out of his despair. This is what divine love is and what friendship is, a continual presence to those who are lost, in despair, those who suffer, to shine a light, to extend a hand like the hand of Christ at the resurrection depicted in the icon.

The existentialist finds a hope in a cosmos without a God or Creator in creating one’s own path or fate. Setting goals, finding one’s own telos. Realizing one’s own finitude, yet striving on seeking a flourishing in the midst of a finite universe and existence. Creating one’s own meaning. But this too is despair, for me at least. Kierkegaard sees the self that is in relation to God as the only existence one is not in despair. I think he is correct in this assertion. Otherwise I am in cognitive dissonance if all is finite and there is nothing that is infinite, no God. The burden of being responsible for one’s own subjective freedom is crushing. I cannot happily push my despair and melancholy up the hill to have it roll down continuously. I can suffer well. I’d rather not, but what brings meaning to suffering is Christ’s suffering, the cross the affliction but also the redemption because of the resurrection. The infinite entered this broken finite world–that is our hope. But our hope lies in the renewal of this mess not its entropy and destruction.

Each day brings a vacillation of slight joy or despair or something neutral. Would living elsewhere alleviate any of this? Potentially. But one brings oneself wherever one goes. After an initial excitement, feelings will vacillate as well. Time away temporarily helps renew as well, until the next burn out. Sisyphus continues to push the rock up the hill. Life a seemingly monotonous repetition, with some pleasantness, some despair, some joy, and repeat in all kinds of variations.

Kierkegaard thought his age was too self reflective. I think we are in that same boat in this age. But it depends on the person. Self reflection has its uses, but it can paralyze too. We want someone we trust to tell us what to do, someone wise. We, alone, only know so much.

Paralysis …

the rock and the hill

Sisyphus pushes the rock up the hill

at the top he is conscious of the absurd

the absurdity that life is repetition, suffering,

a monotony

but realizes there is no orchestration that is outside himself

but he creates his own fate

therefore Sisyphus content to create his own meaning

he, happy in the monotony and repetition,

controller and creator of his meaning.

If there is no God or gods, no design

to imagine to be happy in a meaningless repetition is despair,

at least to me. I create my own happiness amidst a world of suffering

all I can do is distract momentarily and fall right into despair once again

or worse, distract from the suffering with endless pleasure, which quickly becomes despair.

The Copenhagen philosopher found a life committed to the aesthetic, a life of despair;

also the ethical …

It was only in the religious life that one finds full meaning and is not in despair, though one suffer.

The one isolated by his own shame, ennui, acedia

stuck, a vision of eudiamonia lost, gazing upon a field of fog,

still has hope when the infinite entered the finite world, suffered with us– giving meaning to suffering,

redeeming wretched trauma.

The story ends after man creates his own fate. But only if we are finite.

If there is a God, this life of purgatory has meaning toward redemption, ever calling us home. The finite desiring the infinite but only finding it in the infinite, not the finite. God, the infinite, although incarnate, suffered with us, knows us, calls us, beckoning us each moment to turn toward God. The journey, the rock, ever pushed, but also constant turning toward or away from the infinite.

Are we to believe Sisyphus to be happy ever pushing the rock up the hill? To create our own fate? Or are we to ever push the rock, yet ever seek to gaze upon a God who created us, gives us the freedom to do God’s will or our own or to match our will to God’s … which is freedom? Freedom is a heavy weight to the atheistic existentialist; solely our responsibility.

Freedom in Christ, less of a burden– “My yoke is easy, my burden light.”

Poetry on Kindle

A year ago I published a book of poetry. The trajectory is Dantean: descent, ascent to transfiguration. It is now available on Kindle. Descent, Ascent, Transfiguration – Kindle edition by Dudek, C. N.. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

buy it today on Kindle or paperback

Descent, Ascent, Transfiguration- Wipf and Stock Publishers

Also available: Beyond the Veil- Wipf and Stock Publishers

buy today on Kindle or paperback/ ebook

Beyond the Veil: Enter the Temple, Enter Heaven – Kindle edition by Dudek, C. N.. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

fire and its remains

through the destructive fires

what remains?

it was your hand — a madness

stripping away preconceptions, ego, prejudices, pride,

revealing virtues fruitless excuses

vices grip, revelation of sins destruction.

sobbing, lamenting

filling tear jars, overflowing.

This existence a purgation

to step through the flames at death

“redeemed from fire by fire.”

wall of flame an apocalypse,

the good led by grace remains,

gold reshaped, but the straw burned away.

spheric song

Look! Look up at the dome of night.

the nuclear fires

burning bright.

modern man seeks

no solace in heavens

dancing—

it is dark, vacuous, cold

an abyss.

spheric song, silent.

nature a danger,

a mother abandoning her child.

Sister moon, dancing stars

set in twilit blue hue.

Saint sees

glory in all created things.

Holy Spirit brooding

over jeweled blue earth

stars and galaxies, nebula

echoing the song of

its Maker,

Creator.

Look! Look up at the dome of night.

holiday

I like when a good amount of the world,

maybe half

slows down and spends a holiday

taking Sabbath whether one knows it or not.

We take Sabbaths unawares.

celebrate in different ways,

but rest from toil.

we,

the religious

unaware.