Tag Archives: disciples

Gifts from the Spirit

A fellow named John, perhaps John the disciple, gets a revelation, a series of visions. As he believes the revelation has come by way of an angel, he writes down his visions.

I’m writing about Mount Shasta, California forty years before I first saw it, and the layout of the town comes to me. Later, a woman who has read the book writes and tells me she lived in Mount Shasta during that time, and she wonders how I got it exactly right.

A novel I’ve labored over most of my adult life, and as yet haven’t mastered, still calls me to go back and fix it, though I’ve been willing to let other manuscripts stay on the shelves for eternity.

Richard Shelton is sitting atop his roof when the phone rings. He’s expecting an important call, so he starts to climb down but slips and falls into a tree, which breaks his fall. He scurries out of the tree and runs into the house but misses the phone call, and in a flash, a whole poem comes to him. He writes it down and submits it to The New Yorker. They publish it. Years later, he can still say it was the only poem he has written that he didn’t revise.

When I tell stories about my relatives and other people I know, I get comments like “How come you get to meet all the interesting people?” One reason I like to use people I have known as the beginnings of characters I fictionalize, is that so many people I have known intrigue me. People we meet can be gifts from the spirit.

Gifts from the spirit may include such occurrences as confidence that although we haven’t a clue where the story is headed, it will find its way and lead us to some event that brings the previous stuff together. Even words, images or lines that spring to mind most unexpectedly may be gifts from the spirit.

For a whole book about writing and the spirit, click here.

Soren Kierkegaard approves of Jesus Christ Superstar

Last evening I watched Jesus Christ Superstar. I hadn’t seen the film since the year of its release. The songs and choreography are fun, and the portrayal of Christ offers some thoughtful moments.

The disciples and followers join in a frenzied dance, singing “Christ you know I love you, did you see I waved? I believe in you and God, so tell me that I’m saved.” Jesus replies with an accusation, the essence of which is: not one of you gets it. You don’t even know who I am or what I’m doing.

Soren Kierkegaard would agree. “In the world there is lots of talk about this or that strife, about this person in conflict with that person, about that man and that woman living in strife with one another, about this one challenging another to a fight, about there being unrest in the city, about a war that is impending, about the conflict of nature’s elements that rage fearfully. But if one should bring up or mention the strife and unrest that resides within every person with God–what an astonishing effect! To most people such talk is but nonsense, a mere trifle. There are too many other important things to talk about.

“Travel the world over, enter into conversation with all the different peoples, visit them in their houses, follow them to the meetings, and listen attentively to what they talk about. Now tell me if you ever hear anything said about the eternal strife, the war between God and man, the war within a person’s soul. And yet this strife is the affair within every single person.

“But it is certain that every person has opportunity, in one way or another, to become aware of this strife. And it is this strife that underlies all others. Oh, whoever you are, pay heed to this sacred strife. This alone is the strife of eternity.”

He means the war between flesh and spirit. He defines the spirit as the synthesis of the finite and the infinite.

For instance, Christ was spirit, a perfect synthesis. If finite necessity such as communicating with or healing people threatened to overpower the infinite and disintegrate the synthesis, he commonly withdrew and re-engaged with the infinite, thereby preserving his spirit.

Most of us are only vaguely, if at all, aware of the infinite. So any contact with that realm feels awfully foreign and dangerous, like madness, and naturally sparks fear.  On account of the fear, we resist its pull. For distraction from the dread this resistance creates, we occupy ourselves with all manner of insipid conflict, as in a current magazine headline: “Kim calls Khloe fat,” or with relatively trivial strife, such as our retirement accounts.

Unless we surrender to the frightening pull of the infinite, we never achieve the synthesis that creates spirit.

Kierkegaard points out that unless we integrate the finite and infinite our creator endowed us with, we not only have no spirit, neither do we have a true self. We don’t even have a partial self, because we sense the need for a true self and attempt to manufacture one by imitating others we see or imagine and come to believe we ought to be.

If we can surrender to the pull of the infinite, we can become ourselves. Otherwise, we are not real.

When, before Tae Kwon Do sessions, Master Jeong would tell us to meditate and  “Think about who you are. Not what you do or what you think. Who you are,” he wanted us to expel the trivial, invite the infinite, and become ourselves.