Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dispatch From The Comfort Zone

The "Comfort Zone," of course, is that place out of which we are perpetually encouraged to get ourselves, usually for someone else's idea of our own good, that "good" often being some species of alleged personal growth and transformation. Those who inhabit the introverted, shy and reclusive side of the human spectrum will know what I mean.

Since childhood, we're admonished: come out of your shell, speak up, mingle, interact, converse, commune, join in, join up. If we take the advice, either by choice or force, we end up in environments in which we are aliens, our strangeness discussed in whispered and not-so-whispered conversations. As if we did not know that already.

"Get out of your comfort zone," shouts the life coach, muscles rippling under Spandex, sweating plutonium-hued Gator-Ade.

For those of us for whom the world is one big Discomfort Zone, do not begrudge us our asylums. We spend our exhausting lives in your Zone Of Conviviality, trying to pass for One Of You, for some of us, a lifetime of mauvais foi. We need our warm, shadowy burrows of solitude. Without them, we lead lives of utter refraction.

Googling "get out of your comfort zone" results in a horrifying but not surprising 14,300,000 hits -- we've heard this chorus all our waking life and in our dreams, the chorus of those who know, far better than we do, what's good for us.

I came home from work the other day and plopped myself down in my study. I exhaled and slumped. I had a distinct feeling that I'd barely survived another sprint through the savage gauntlet of the world, and, finally I was safe. In my --

comfort zone.

Even among the tribe there are factions, for example introverts wanting to make it very, very, very clear that they are not "shy," and certainly not a -- gasp -- loner. Well, guess what. The coach -- no, the drill sergeant -- screaming Get out of your comfort zones ! screams for thee, all of thee, nuances notwithstanding.

So, from henceforth, let it be known that my study (my hut, my anchorhold, my lair, my den) shall be known as The Comfort Zone.

And in the absence of interpersonal angst, metaphysical angst shall flourish !

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Deadline 2

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that "Belief in God" refers to linguistic usage,

that "God" is a word that somehow situates or orients the varieties of human reaction to the "that there is something rather than nothing" -- awe, fear, anguish, gratitude, joy, curiosity, rebellion, anger, despair, hope, love.

So, then, what is "God" without the humans that designate "God" ? Is that a nonsensical question ?

What was God before humans evolved ? An abstract potentiality ?

A blind vector awaiting its name ? Nothing at all ?

Saturday, January 07, 2012


It goes without saying.

What an opening phrase ! Even against such classics as In the beginning was the Word or Call me Ishmael it bravely stakes its paradoxical claim, begging us to interrogate the It goes even as we enter the wordless silence to which it points.

In winter the weeds go without saying, pod by pod, stem by stem, into the ground. Some are pulled rudely into a kind of saying by my and my camera's eye. There is a transaction, an exchange, a conversation even; one could anthropomorphize it, and try to apply the lesson to the inscrutable and exasperating dynamics of that activity called "prayer." But, by and large -- how do I know this ? -- the weeds prefer silence. Just as the weedily anthropomorphized Ground of Being may also prefer silence.

Anonymity, solitude and silence -- I have come to understand that the whole project and ground of organized religion is based on states that are antithetical to these three most congenial ones: personal relationship, community, speech and text. Christianity, in particular, traffics in symbols, analogies and metaphors that are, like it's central Incarnate Word, human, and, moreover, human-in-relationship, -in-community, -in-history, -in-society.

To be alienated from these is to be alienated from God, which is, by definition, sin.

Outer darkness.

Maybe Christianity is not the best arena in which to work out one's neuralgic relationship with the great that there is something rather than nothing.

Christianity looks back, contemptuous, and says:

Who the hell knows. You're wasting your time and mine. Here are some pretty stories about it. Try to ignore the sexist and imperial language. Now go out and love your neighbor as yourself.

Oh, and by the way, don't forget that extra ecclesiam nulla salus.