All History Is Right Now

“Life After” by Mark R. Turner, composite from photos by Kathy Marsh, Dave Hoefler, and Nagara Oyodo. Inspired by the end of Isaiah 6. Prints available HERE.

Do you dream of returning to the simpler, idyllic state of the Garden of Eden (Arcadian view), or do you believe we can finally make our way forward to the perfect arrangement (Utopian view)? Usually each of these views is casting to the past or to the future in search of the Happy Place excused from our current realities – witness the delusions distracting many from the real needs they were elected to attend to.

What about the “Eternal Now” in which we must deal with the troubles and exigencies of the present?

In “For the Time Being: a Christmas Oratorio” and other works, poet W.H. Auden dealt with each view conceding the impossibility of returning to the peace of the womb, and, as Jan Curtis says, “the inadequacy of the utopian flight into a timeless Happy Place.” Our reality is to continue the dance of Abraham, Moses, the wilderness, the Messiah, the realization of God’s Body beyond the Judeo-Christian cultural boundaries. These are not historic points in a line of finite strangers, but symbols of us moving and breathing as a whole humanity.

Christians have just observed Advent as they do every year, but many assumed it was the celebration of just one historical event “back then” not considering it as a timeless icon always happening. It was not just one baby being born but US always coming forth, a Body with many members.

Past, present, and future are parts of us and we carry it all in us right now.

Ever since we started dissecting reality into what we call history, we have been historicizing humanity as if we are continually separating from those who went before and creating future people of our own design. We keep thinking we can disassociate from past things no longer “relevant” and finally get it right. Raimon Panikkar offers the alternative to this linear thinking by characterizing reality as “the Rhythm of Being”, a dance of ebb and flow.

For centuries we have been trying to sort out everybody, everything, and every moment separately in the attempt to “understand” reality. It is the “scientific method” applied to reality so that God and people and things and phenomena are all in their compartments and we can “know” everything; the Unknown is only temporary. Regime after regime has claimed to “know” what is best for the world and enforced their paradise only to implode with the consequences. Yet, we continue to think we can, or will eventually contain reality and make everything perfect by our own ingenuity — witness Christian Nationalism, the Taliban, Putin’s dictatorship.

Spiritual wisdom offers the third way:

acknowledge our limits, all the contradictions, absurdities, tragedies, and imperfections, and walk creatively, humbly through the Unknown trusting the Will of Life to bring forth the “New Creation”. This is symbolized in Isaiah 6 as the sprout after the ruins, after the messenger expresses the Truth of grace for our inadequacies regardless of unheeding, dying humanity. The Truth is the Mystery of all the wrongness being inexplicably annulled by the Sovereign, “this is the Lord’s doing and we are glad in it.” (Psalm 118:23-24)

It is what the unknowing infant in the traumatic process of being born requires, the grace of Love.

The Will of Life comes forth; we are brought forth by the Will. We sense the power and impetus for us to blossom and learn to cooperate rather than try to take over and control the Will.

In our new year’s conferencing, my wife and I reaffirmed this as a summary of the basis for our mission:

continue to express our awakening to spiritual wisdom in word and deed to the best of our ability 
in obscurity or notoriety, 
whether or not people pay heed; 
proceed through the wilderness of conflict and threat 
experiencing the Presence of God providing all we need, 
communing with God the Vine from Whom we grow forth as our True Selves (John 15). 

We are in the process of being born, as Jesus told Nicodemus that physical birth is only part of being born (John 3)
and told the woman at the well that physical water only quenches physical thirst temporarily; the Spirit and Truth is our eternal Life springing up from our innermost beings (John 4).

We say and do all the Good we can, and trust God’s Will is accomplishing what is beyond us to know.

2 Responses

  1. Barry

    Mark & Donna, So glad you can be deliberate about assessing where you are and where you want to go. Your end of the year practice is the kind of intention we all need to help new realities come into being. When we can hope that our labors are taking part in this new creation it gives us hope and hope is what we really need to keep ourselves alive and loving. Just my rift on your meditation. Thank you both for your faithful and beautiful service to the world.

  2. markart

    Thank you, Barry, for that encouraging word. We thank God for contributions, known and unknown, from each person to the Goodness we all are part of. It is often more apparent in others and we need to remind each other that we all have the capacity to contribute. You and Ruth are also a source of inspiration to us.