Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dinner with John, Jim, Rita and Helen

The lamb was cooked to perfection.  Appropriate fare for the Easter season.  But the conversation of these two greats was enthralling like I suppose the "last supper" might have been or other dinner parties reaching for that 'upper room' transcendence.  (I imagine were  I  in the 'upper room' it would have been as server at best.  Here I felt privileged and honoured to listen mostly to the wise, kicking myself whenever I stumbled to comment, choking on words, coughing and spluttering, needing a glass of water to complete a sentence.  All were so calm and centred, having such faith in the Lord.  While I was like the proverbial doubting thomas, afraid)
Arriving late I entered on the conversation about psychoanalysis and spiritual growth.
"We had our backs against the wall with the logical positivists, but Lewis was also concerned about the psychoanalysts.  Freud was rejecting the Old Testament and Neitze was outright killing God." said Jim.
"I think Freud was doing that but not consciously.  Pretty much single handed he re invented the unconscious but had places in his own he dare not go" said John.
"Yes, he saw it as an abyss he feared falling down into."
As we moved to the table for dinner we learned of Rita's inspirational work with a woman who'd been unable to connect with her mother but now knowing Rita she was finding herself.
"I think we're entering a new dark age. " Jim said and went on to explain what he meant.  He told a story about a wise man who faced with a man who said he was  a staticician and a psychologist said, "So that makes you a pornographer"  Shocked the young man asked why, "Because you promise everything but deliver nothing."
This was central to the devolution of society today.  The expulsion of Jesus today following the killing of God in the last generation left only the surface of things.
Talking of therapy John described the difficulty with trust that the young experienced.  "There is no intimacy.  Everyone is afraid."
 When Rita asked Jim to tell the truth about Christianity, he answered, "Well, it's like a ship.  It's been around too many seas too long and it's picked up too many barnacles.  It's wallowing low in the water."
"What's to be done?"
"It needs to get into a dry dock and have the barnacles cleaned off. That's what needs to be done!."
Helen described her coming to Christ in the forests of Papua New Guinea.  The tale was one of being lifted and carried.  John had often spoken with us of his own conversion as falling into the hands of God.  I could only say that I was forever struggling and running away only to be caught again by God's infinite love.  I imagine myself more like Jonah than other characters in the Bible.  Jim spoke of faith though the words he used were varied and beautiful.  I know from times past that 'personhood' and 'relational' are two of his favourite.
John discoursed on Kierkegaard.  He and Jim discussed his works on Love, Jim recommending Sylvia Walsh's "Kierkegaard, Thinking Christianly in an Existential Mode."  I'd only read his Suffering unto Death, but rememberedit as Myth of Sisyphus.  John corrected me by pointing out that Myth of Sysyphus wasn't Kierkegaard.  It was Camus whose conversations I'm indeed reading and Camus is discussing Kierkegaard's existential angst, the anxiety of existence.
"That's his mature work, " offered Jim.  "He speaks to the despair in this world".
John spoke of "Denial of Death", quoting from Ernest Becker, expressing the anxiety our aging population is feeling deprived of God and Jesus but facing in consequence a personal abyss
Jim spoke of 'embodiment'.  I had to ask him what he meant.
"It's what we do with our bodies as well as everything else."
"Jesus was fully human and fully divine but never sinned" added John
" I personally want a face lift and given what you said earlier, Jim, about the failure of promises, I believe there's not going to be enough plastic surgery to satisfy my needs and the public health care system isn't going to be able to give me the youth and immortality I want. We're an aging culture that worships youth. "

"It's about lust rather than love." said Jim.
"It's all the working out and body beautiful and health and exercise," added Helen.  "To what end?"
The conversation then turned to Charles Taylor.  Jim quoted his writing.  John hadn't read him but wrote down his name to add to his already vast reading.  I sometimes think that Jim and John between them are Milton and have read all the books of the world that have anything to do with renaissance of spirit
"He's a brilliant Canadian philosopher, " said Jim.
"I'm reading his "The Secular Age".  I quipped.  (I didn't add that I'm reading Macdonald's Flashman historical novel series with Flashman the most imperfect character.)
A discourse followed on secularity and modernity and loss of substance.
Both Jim and John waxed poetic together about Richard Rohr.  They were talking about the spirituality the world today was searching for. I knew Richard Rohr had written Breathing Under Water, Spirituality and the Twelve Steps.  I couldn't say I'd read him yet but offered that the 12 steps began with the example of Jesus.
There followed a discussion of the image of God as Servant King, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus being anonymous, the prodigal son, and how this was so different from the great Gods of religion.  Here was God as man helping man and a spirituality that wasn't other only ,but as Jim said, involved "embodiment'.
"I really think that embodiment is the challenge of Christianity today, embodiment in all it's dimensions.  Paul spoke to this in his reference to the church.
Helen added, "Jesus said , this is my body."
Jim shared that he thought that the death of Jesus began in the Upper Room that night
Helen spoke to the woman washing his  feet with fine perfume.
There were silences at that table.  Great poignant spaces followed John's sharing his experiences of healing.  Jim talked of his son's desire to create a business corporate model that celebrated highest in humanity rather than the reductionism so characteristic of the modern workplace.
I'd shared I'd never have become a physician if I knew one day I'd be called a 'health care worker'.  Everything is so functionary.  Charles wrote of the disenchantment of modern times.
Jim described John's healing as flowing from his own embodiment of this and Helen spoke with hope of the joy she saw in the work she did in her church.
Rita laughed.  When her face lit up with light I felt like we were just little children and her smiles showed when we' 'got it' .  Her memory for details was slipping but her knowledge of what was truly important seemed way ahead of us all.  Jim helped Rita on with her coat and the two walked out into the night, holding each other.
As we all were leaving we hugged John thanking him for an unforgettable evening.

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