Keeping in mind that these ruminations are purely speculative.
Each holiday has its own character and its own image. Our American 4th of July is about sun, noise, grilling, healthy flesh. The image of Thanksgiving is a good appetite and the stuffed extended family lolling about afterwards, desultorily playing at games. Christmas is unusual–it has two main images
The first theme is the happy, domestic one. It’s the family gathered around the tree. Lights are dim. There’s probably a fire and a fireplace. People are happy and smiling.
The other image is the spiritual feeling of the clear, cold night sky with the remote and beautiful stars. Christmas spirituality is the spirituality of looking up at the night sky when everything is still.
Our normal image of the birth of Jesus combines the two. We see the cozy stable, warmly and dimly lit by a lamp, with the small family gathered in around, and the animals gathered in, and the shepherds and such. Then around them the night and the stars, especially the one bright star.
Easter is a morning holiday. Christmas is perhaps more about Christmas Eve than Christmas morning. Certainly there are more rituals associated with Christmas Eve then there are our Christmas morning. Christmas Eve is when the candles are lit, when the children act out the nativity, when we dig dirt to fill our paper bags for luminarias, when we set up the stockings and put out milk for Santa.
The other night holiday is spooky. Christmas Eve isn’t. But the night, the clear, cold night, still takes the holiday out of the ordinary.
Sunrise and sunset are great for casual glancing enjoyment in passing. But if you really look at them they seem to demand something more. You see that there is a glory about them that approaches the transcendent. You want to have an appreciation that is worthy of the site. You want to commune. And you can’t. If you try–when I try–frustration results.
For many people, Christmas is a pretty frustrating holiday. I love Christmas, personally, but I understand the frustration. Christmas isn’t only a time to have a shindy. There is a spiritual element there, a grandeur, and it demands that you reach out for it, and your reaching always never quite succeeds. You never fully commune.
Today I told my family that I had had a dream. When they were grown, I said, and I and their mother were gone, I dreamed that on Christmas Eve when all was quiet and still, when the only light was from the tree and the dying fire, I would be permitted to return. I would be permitted to sit by the tree and remember when they were young. Perhaps, I told them, if they briefly awoke they might hear the sound of rocking, and know that the old ties were still there.
The truth is that I already spend part of Christmas Eve night that way. After the children are all gone to bed and I’ve finished wrapping and bustling, I usually sit by the dying fire for awhile. I contemplate the lights, and think of Christmases that have gone, and the Christmases to come when my children will be grown. My wife says I puzzle her. For someone who loves Christmas so much, she says, I can get remarkably melancholic about it.
Remembering old days, my childhood days and my children’s, that will not come again, is part of the melancholy. Another part is my inability to fully penetrate into the heart of Christmas. I have never fully gone inside.
But I keep trying. Because there is a voice that whispers. It promises that someday I will be at the very manger, and all the old Christmases will be one.
It was Fast and Testimony Meeting in my ward today. I normally sit towards the back, where all the Class C medical devices I’m wrapped in are a bit less of a distraction for my fellow Saints.
The most powerful image of covenant in the scriptures for me is the image of marriage. Israel, we are told, is like the (often faithless) spouse of God.
A marriage is a relationship that is defined by reciprocal promises, but it isn’t just defined by reciprocal promises. It is also defined by love, passion, and what I think of as habits of affection. We often think of love as a kind of Dionysian force that assaults us, but married love is more than simply Dionysian. It is also agricultural, something that one treasures, cultivates, and seeks to protect. I think it suggestive that in English “husband” can denote both a spouse and a farmer.
-thus Nate Oman.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not coincidentally, my poppets, I was thinking on the same subject this morning. (more…)
Filed under: Birkenhead Drill,Deseret Review | Tags: all things before my face, Bruce Charlton, hope, http://www.jrganymede.com/tag/all-things-before-my-face/, LDS, the Old Country
Insofar as Mormon theology implies a rejection of the classical metaphyics of a disembodied God outside of space and time; it seems to imply a different infinite: that space is infinite.
Because for there to be significance, there must be permanence, and permanence requires permanence of memory.
Since memory must occupy space, and there must be scope for progression; then space must not be limited – space must be infinite so that a growing reality can always accomodate permanent cumulative memories.
Either we must be always expanding into infinity; or else breaking into new infinities – those new universes of the King Follett dicourse, perhaps.
But, whenever we find ourselves referencing infinities; we should recognise that we have crossed the edge of our understanding.
The tragic vision of Mormon Christianity has four dimensions.
The first tragedy is that growth can only come through suffering and death.
The second tragedy is that free will means people can choose with finality to reject God and damn themselves.
The third tragedy is the tragedy that those we love can only grow through suffering and death and sometimes choose not to grow. Love holds us hostage to them, and it has to, or else it wouldn’t be love.
The fourth tragedy is that people miss out on growth that they are capable of, because they refuse to take the steps that would get them there. And perhaps nothing can be done about this.
That fourth tragedy deserves a little explanation. (more…)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: afterlife, agency, all things before my face, choice and accountability, judgment, LDS, Mormon, Mormonism, Responsibility and meaning, sociality
One of the most important and fruitful branches of higher mathematics is group theory. And one of the most fruitful branches of group theory is the theory of Lie groups and the associated symmetries.
A man will always be judged, full stop. A person will always be judged, full stop. You will always be judged for everything you do for every second you are doing it.
The judges are God, everyone else, and yourself.
Thing is, you want it. You want to be judged and found worthy.
The other day, when we were getting ready to put the kids to bed, our oldest pulled one of us aside and described a day he suddenly remembered from a few years ago, “when I was little.” It was nothing very unusual, just a funny way we were sitting next to each other and talking. But he recalled it with what was clearly a lot of fondness. Here was a seven-year-old waxing nostalgic about the good old days when he was four, and we thought how much more of this he has to look forward to, how many more years he has to pile up good memories before he leaves the nest for good. And all of us will have this to draw on for the rest of our lives.
I’ve discovered this week just how much His Majesty can be a pain in the
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: all things before my face, Breakfast at Palpatine's, it is a difficult concept, memory and experience, Mormonism
What do people collectively want? It’s hard to say. Voting gives you one kind of answer, but voting isn’t nuanced. Voters can only say yes or no to ballot questions as phrased and as they understand them. It’s possible that with more explanation they might feel differently, or with even slightly different phrasing they choose the other option. Or else they can only select between candidates. Different voting systems give different answers. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem says that no voting system can ever perfectly capture voter intent. Polls are even more fallible.
That’s where the concept of the General Will comes in. What if someone knew the people well enough to have an intuitive, almost literary, sense of what they wanted? That’s why dictatorships claim to be democracies. They say they’re giving the nation what it really, collectively, wants.
The reason it’s hard to know what voters want is because it’s hard to know what a voter wants. Individuals are something like a collection of people over time. No man can step in the same river twice, the Greek said, because it’s never the same man. The mind is always engaged in editing memory to fit the needs of the present, which it wouldn’t need to do if we were really fully the same throughout, if we always had the same end in view. (more…)
The presence of God is eternity. (more…)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: all things before my face, atonement, eternity, Jesus Christ, LDS, Mormon, Mormonism, quotation and aphorism
His Majesty was almost creepily cheerful this morning.
Bruce Charlton is thinking deeply about the Atonement. He is working out alternatives to the customary belief that Christ took on the punitive consequences of sin for us and to the customary liberal notion that the atonement was fundamentally an act of symbolic engineering to excise our retrograde belief in sin and guilt. Charlton thinks he’s found one. (more…)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: all things before my face, atonement, Bruce Charlton, Jesus Christ, LDS, memory and experience, Mormon, Mormonism, repentance