Empty Days

Saturday, September 10, 2005



It's the same story as after my bike-trip last summer: I can't import any impressions or anything that might be of value from "there" to "here" - because as soon as I find myself "here", I start feeling like I am about to die and I need to fight a sort of huge snake that wants to suffocate me.

I honestly had no inkling whatsoever that it would happen again - I was in perfect mental shape for exactly 3 months and the snake manifested only on arrival.

And by the way: what if this is how it happens when we die? The soul leaves the body, crosses from a well-known "here" to a totally unknown "there", and it turns out to be something completely unexpected and terribly suffocating? And since you're dead you can't do a thing about it...
There are zero garantees against that happening.

In other words, we modern-people share the same cheer and good mood as the astronauts of the shuttle Columbia upon entering the atmosphere on their way home... they clearly had no idea they would burn to death in only a minute. No one did in fact.

Perhaps it doesn't matter? Perhaps indeed it matters not.

Friday, September 09, 2005



On being alone.

I don't know the first thing about faith and I don't know the first thing about prayer.

Also, I could never understand how one could possibly ask forgiveness of God if - firstly - one knew nothing of God except a bunch of grand words, and - secondly - felt no inclination for such asking or understanding as to what effect it could have.

Well, I guess I was right in not understanding.

And the many sermons I kept hearing regarding one's duty to get rid of pride and thus make yourself available for such forgiveness from this completely unknown entity - well, these sermons were infuriatingly useless and ennoying - not of any help in despair.

If you're dumb like this - and I suspect the vast majority of people are about as dumb and worse - the only way you gonna get a glimpse of light on this whole subject is by getting it directly from above inside your mind and your heart. No other admonitions will do any good.

Yes, you're helpless in these things - you can't possibly want what you don't even know exists. And we hardly even believe that an invisible world exists, and even when we have such beliefs we still have pretty much no idea - or very strange and vague ideas - as to what it consists of. We are perpetual fools of the invisible world and everything that comes from it usually comes as a complete surprise. "Oh really?' - and we thought we were alone out here.

So how can you ask for anything in an empty room - from whom will you ask? - unless you finally feel that there is a door somewhere, and somebody is there who bids you...

Wordly despair is the first step to helplessness - the next step is the revelation of these unfathomable realms. I don't know what comes after that. Helplessness seems to be the key.

***

When I just started reading the desert fathers I was impressed by what I read - and I wanted to know how to pray. But I couldn't really pray and I felt no inclination to ask for forgiveness. One night I suddenly woke up before dawn and before my mind started thinking I felt some sort of praying exude from my heart and words and feeling of regret came out of their own, like a sort of tiny brook spurting out from hard rock.
But when my mind cleared, it started thinking, and this thinking supressed both the feeling and the prayer.

And I don't know how to make myself pray that way again.




It's a scary business, this inner doing.

*

One of the desert fathers tells his listeners: "try to spend a few days and nights locked up in a small place - in total darkness - and see how you fare if you don't resort to prayer".

I wonder - that's how I spent the last 10 years at least :-/

Thursday, September 08, 2005



Conundrum.

In Russia I was especially attracted by the many churches - not because of their beautiful design, but because of what I found inside everytime. Really, this was an unexpected discovery - I rather expected to go to museums.

There may be a reason to this. The congregation has much less bearing on each parish than in the protestant countries, and every church is open to all and sundry - you can enter it like a temple and there is a service being performed even when there is not one person in the chruch except the priest. The result of this is that everyone is welcome to come and attend. It's really like the house of God and not the house of the congregation only.

They have that in France too as in most catholic countries, I think - great parisian cathedrals may stand nearly empty most of the time but they are open to all and doing service.

It is said that the Holy Spirit manifests in the church during lithurgy (communion) - this can't be verified to say the least, but it would be a very good explanation as to what came over me during those services. I don't know what touched me so much that I started sobbing uncontrollably whenever the service reached up to communion, and only then, and not at any other time - there is truly no rational explanation that I can think of. I have heard of priests nearly collapsing from that same effect while holding the cup and calling for the Holy Spirit - but I can only guess what they felt or how deeply.

I certainly would never have believed any of this would happen to me. And I can't draw any rational conclusions or say that I know more now than I knew before.

What I know is that I can't feel this by my own effort.

And now that I am back to this land of futility and abandonment, where there are no such churches to go to freely, what can I do except resume the usual despair and lie down into the coffin of my solitude?

***

It is true that there is also the church of wild nature, remote from all human futility, where the only worshipping priest is one's own soul - but to reach to it one has to leave everything behind - and I am not sure I have enough spirit to do this yet.

It is difficult to express just how much I detest all the stuff of the modern world with its hopelessly material thinking and its system of useless values. The more riches and comforts I see, the more despair I feel. After the poor rusty sights of a provincial town in eastern Ukraine, the airport of Munich seemed like some sort of crystal-palace full of golden things - but what I saw was a wasteland of comfortable egotism and utter futility envelopping every one of those supposedly superior people.

I know by experience what's inside all this rationally enhanced luxury - just rot and emptiness - and it's inside me too because I live here.

***

There is no worse way to talk of spritual things than to talk about them without true experience but from what others have said. I do that often and most of those who write on such subjects do that too - because we all want to imagine we know and understand more than we really do.

It'd be probably safe to say that almost every mention of God in human talk is done in vain and is a stupid offense to something much greater than we can imagine. The more intellectually loaded the talk, the greater and stupider the offense.

I do believe it doesn't stick though.

Most of the New Age "spiritual talk" is such blathering - done by people who know nothing yet imagine otherwise. The desire to achieve more comfort is paramount in New Age thinking - which is why it always smacks of rot.
A desert fathers remarks: one will never overcome one's passions and one's ego if one only wants to escape the suffering they bring. What he means is this: you can't do it alone, you must seek not your own inner comfort but to know God and let him enter you and transform you. Another desert father says: salvation or fall happen not in a minute but in a second and less.

***

In Saint-Petersburg I met a guy who came back from his fourth trip to India. He was exceedingly thin and hardly said a word. Apparently he went to rural India to achieve complete silence and overcome his ego (he went without money but later wrote to friends in Russia asking for some donations). It was impossible to communicate with him because he never answered. However at one point there was the tv on and I asked him how it was in India - he didn't answer, but at that moment the tv started talking about India and it was said that some people there spend so much energy in spiritual effort that they sometimes lose a few pounds per hour from pure inner burning.

An interesting way of answering questions without interrupting one's silence. I guess his trips weren't completely useless.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005



I may be completely wrong about all of this though.

But at the moment I don't know it.




What can be said.

All fathers of the desert repeat the same thing in various ways: life of the spirit cannot be perceived or acquired through reason, it is revealed to us and is given beyond and outside of rational argument.

In other words, it is useless to try and convince people of the existence of God and the invisible world beyond the visible if they have not had at least some kind of inner experience that would give them at least an insight into the very possibility of such things. Which is why all pious sermons that aim at proving the existence of God or whatever such thing are fundamentally and utterly useless and misleading. And ENNOYING.

The domain of the Spirit is not egaliterian - it is not given to all, and it is never known who will or might get to it and in what manner or by which means. The one thing that can be said however is that it can be given. And what is given can be also asked for.

Likewise, such writings as the Gospels are fairly incomprehensible to rational mind and require something more to be heard. Even if people are inclined to believe in such things as resurrection, it is still impossible to understand. Or what is this whole thing about Sin and Communion and overcoming Death...

There is no need to argue pro or contra - it's incomprehensible and it's not there to be "understood". God knows what it's there for, I guess.

***

At the same time, I guess I have to be greatful to various fanatics of past and present for having preserved the Church to us - so that we may still have a place where we can attend something as absurd in our eyes as a service to God. If we all had our own brigth way, there wouldn't be one church left standing, as it appears so useless to the rational mind.

What a paradox indeed - that the Inquisition had a better insight than some of the humane crowd.




Dead by day.

Predictably, I did not find the meaning of life in the course of my latest travels. Nevertheless, it was not a stupid touristy trip. I had some experiences that put me on to something new - the kind of thing you can never invent on your own, it has to happen for you to know it actually can happen.

That's what a new perspective is all about, I guess.

I have great news for you, lost peoples of the modern world - there is still some actual Living Spirit visiting upon the churches of Russia. To my immense surprise, the first time I set foot into a small russian church during lithurgical service, I was suddenly overcome by tears - and I only opened the door to take a peek! My touristy bus was leaving in 5 minutes, but it so happened that I went in right during the holy communion, the church was full of old women, the priest just raised the cup with a strange remote look on his face... I can't describe what there was in that church, but it completely blasted me right then and there.

What happened next is that almost every time I went to church after that, I had that same overwhelming emotion but only during lithurgical service - inability to contain tears - which was kinda embarassing in the beginning. I can't really say anything specific about all this except that through these and concurrent happenings I was given a very small but tangible insight into what may be called life of the Spirit.

***

It would serve us well to remember that, as things go in this world, we simply have no notion left (except in stale words of some religious pamphlet) that any such life may even exist. As things stand, it's enough for me to have had an unthinking experience of its very possibility - even though I still have no clue about the wider context or where it may and may not lead. I don't know what Holy Communion is really about - I am not even sure I believe in Christ - perhaps it doesn't even matter - at this stage it's enough to have a clear idea that there is something out there, a great unknown depth that may or may not want to reveal itself.

Because of the religious rebirth in Russia, they publish a lot of writings of the byzantian and russian monks who try to explain their inner doing - I bought as many books as I could cary. It's a kind of psychology - but as opposed to modern psychology, it actually has meaning.




Return from life.

On landing in Montreal I felt a great heavy stone fall down on me - so I may never rise again. This place is obviously cursed for me, or I am cursed for this place, but I do wish I never had to go back here (same feeling, only ten-times heavier, when returning from bike-trip last summer).





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