Sunday, May 20, 2018

Conscientious Rebel

I have been in revolt my entire life.
Roughly the first half I spent in rebellion against God. The second half has been a more careful insurrection, against anything I perceive as being wrong, particularly if that wrong is widely accepted and/or taught.
As a child and then as a teenager I was extremely conscientious, even fearful. I was afraid to do anything that in my limited understanding might even possibly be wrong. I walked the line, not out of a desire to do good, but out of mortal dread of the consequences of doing anything wrong. This is not to say that I never did anything that I thought was wrong, but they were "lesser," secret sins. Contrary to Martin Luther's admonition to sin boldly, I sinned timidly, and asked for forgiveness not at all, only occasionally sought a guarantee that I wasn't doing anything that would send me to hell.  And while fear of consequences may bring many who lack understanding to a point of reckoning, it is no substitute for forgiveness and living gratefully.
When I was converted, I was scuttled in a bottomless grace; grateful, euphoric and eager to show my love for my Savior.
After a time however, the fearful part of my phsyche reinflated, displacing gratefulness with a cold legalism and I shot back to the surface where lashed a storm that still has not abated.
If a fish is a person who lives on grace, I am a dolphin.
I can only remain submerged in grace for so long until my mammalian lungs burn with the need for the oxygen of real world, merit based reassurance.
I have often joked that the teenage rebellion against the establishment that so many people engage in was also mine to experience, just delayed a couple of decades.
But my rebellion is driven by my conscientiousness. It's not that I look for every opportunity to be set apart, it's that so much of the time, the crowd, the establishment, the status quo is wrong. And it is not sheer coincidence. If an idea or practice is widely accepted, it is often because it holds within it an insidious element that appeals to fallen human nature. In addition to that inherent virus, popularity itself has a corrupting influence. There is a dangerous unity in the pulse of the mob. Even good propositions, such as the Church, can be become unrecognizable powers for evil when left unquestioned.
There is also a deep personality trait that spurs my rebellion.
I don't remember the exact age, but somewhere around 8 years old, I made a self discovery. I was conversing with someone who has also been lost to memory, and was suddenly struck by a realization that I often said yes, nodded or otherwise offered affirmation or at least acceptance of things said with which I did not necessarily agree. It seemed lazy, and weak.
Why am I pressured to go with the flow and, more importantly, why do I give in to the pressure?
It's perhaps an unusual thought for an eight year old, but it was and is an integral part of me: the guilt of doing things the easy way. Even at that age, my conscience was overactive, and in charge. Then, as now, I've little doubt that I overcompensated for that perceived weakness. In fact, only a few short weeks later, as I recall, someone asked me why I always had to challenge everything that was said. I have since learned to choose my battles more discriminately, but I am still driven to challenge everything, driven by my conscience to be a rebel.
My Dad, who was also crucially involved in my spiritual development, was influential to my own development of independence. I distinctly remember him recounting a conversation with my Mom, who told him that while she could not say that he was always right, she could definitely say that his thoughts and conclusions were always his own.  I took that to heart, particularly since it reinforced my own determination not to be a follower, as difficult as it might be.
And then, as if I needed encouragement, I began reading after Kierkegaard, and was electrified by the following:
"Moreover living as the individual is thought to be the easiest thing of all, and it is the universal that people must be coerced into becoming.
I can share neither this fear nor this opinion, and for the same reason.
No person who has learned that to exist as the individual is the most terrifying thing of all will be afraid of saying it is the greatest."
There is always a danger with being your own man. The danger lies not in a greater likelihood of going wrong than if you were in larger company, but in becoming arrogant. And, while my recalcitrance is a matter of conscience, I cannot deny that I sometimes find a perverse pleasure in being THAT guy. In moderation, it's harmless gratification, but it always bears watching.


Monday, April 2, 2018

What Is That To Thee?

Raise your hand if you saw conservatives react to the recent student walkout in protest of mass shootings and in support of gun control by urging us to focus more on the root causes of these tragedies, specifically bullying.
If you're anything like me, your initial reaction was agreement, then mild surprise since the last you might have heard from this particular person on the subject of bullying was that kids these days were just too soft.
There seems to be a pattern in the culture war these days.
Whatever we might call the opposite of the Left, (the Right, conservatism, etc) it is almost obviously being led around by the nose by the Left.
The Left makes a move, the Right reacts.
One of the most jarring examples of this is the overall loyal opposition's response to the many character issues with President Trump; for example, the Stormy Daniels story. Many, conservative, even right wing evangelical responses could almost have been plagiarized word for word from good old southern Democrats defense of Bill Clinton's character issues, with "media" standing in for "right wing" in the phrase "vast right wing conspiracy."
 (In fairness, there were those who supported Bill Clinton, considered his infidelity insignificant, who now feel the same about Trump. They seem to feel that character is not something to be considered in a political leader, and they definitely have a point. To expect integrity from power brokers is foolish, but my argument here is with the overwhelming remainder of the population which seems to at least pretend that their chosen champions are not high paid thugs.)
But there is a much larger group who felt deeply that Bill Clinton's liberalism was an assault on traditional American values and that his loose moral character was proof of that assault, who now either completely dismiss the scandal swirling around Trump as a pack of lies, or, more likely, simply see it as insignificant in the big picture.
At any rate, they certainly do not see Trump's character as proof of an assault on traditional values. Many of the same people who cheered the impeachment of President Clinton as a a fit reprimand for his behavior now have apparently no qualms saying that they will continue to stand behind president Trump 100% regardless of his dalliances.
 Is this just fighting fire with fire, tit-for-tat, or is the Right being led slowly, unconsciously but surely down the path of moral relativism by the Left?
Another possible example is the Right's subconscious acceptance of the blurring of the gender roles lines. The result of part of the radical feminist agenda that ostensibly wanted to equalize the sexes was to actually lower women to the point that it was perfectly acceptable for a woman to get down in the dirt and mix it up with the boys. While the Right is still more or less insistent that gender is binary and distinct, they seem to have quite willingly accepted that part of the feminist agenda that allows them to fight women the same way they fight men.
Someone may protest that this is some political fragment of the Socratic method, trying to point out hypocrisy or inconsistency, as one conservative mouthpiece used to delight in "illustrating absurdity by being absurd." (And, yes, there is hypocrisy, inconsistency and absurdity in spades on the Left.)
 Or perhaps they may even consider it strategic, using the useful parts of the Left's agenda against them.
Still someone else will doubtless say that women have become just as coarse as men and so we must deal with them accordingly. I won't argue that. I will simply point out that they have in fact capitulated on what used to be a key point of traditional values, the ideal of gentlemen placing women on a pedestal (whether or not individual women were actually treated as such.)
In fact, much of the conservative and libertarian single male response to the #metoo movement was downright bitter towards women in general, indicating that a significant portion of the non-left male population is quite willing to accept the reality of a gender war.
The pattern that emerges is one of nothing but reaction.
It is an inherent weakness of conservatism: that of being forced to continually play defense. After all, the aim is to "conserve." When we are relegated to trying to preserve a culture that we feel was better, the wagons will always be in a circle.
While conservatives may recognize that not everything was perfect back in the good ol days, most of them just wonder why things just can't be like they used to be.
But whether or not things were overall better back when, it must be acknowledged that time will never stand still. It carries on ceaselessly and carries society, and culture, along with it.
What to make of this?
The problem is not a new one.
It's one of the fear that "they" will win, while not being certain of what is at stake, and not even certain of who they are, since we have certainly lost track of who we are.
It's one of trends and fighting trends.
It's one of missing the trees for the forest.
It's one of fear at the loss of identity overwhelming the virtue that ever made that identity valuable.
It's one of being too concerned with things out of your control, and making deals with devils you think CAN control things, or at least limit the damage to things until such time as they relinquish control back to you, back to us, the rightful overseers of culture.

My solution to this problem of losing track of what we are fighting for will come as a surprise to practically no one.
Stop worrying about "we" and "they."
Your concern over the culture has almost certainly distracted you from your greatest concern: yourself and your relationship with the truth.
We tell ourselves every vote counts, but don't seem to realize that our individual adherence to the highest standard we can attain will go a lot farther in preserving what we treasure.
And don't concern yourself when "they" fight dirty, because...




"If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
 Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
 And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:......
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
 And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!"

Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Individual Christian

"Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it."
-Soren Kierkegaard.
Christianity is harmed by the incessant attempts to yolk it with "us, them, we" or any personal pronoun other than "I".
It invariably leads not to closer brotherhood among believers, but to sectarianism, pride and judgment.
As an individual, a Christian is more likely than most to be humble, peaceful and understanding.
As a collective, or as a demographic, we can tend to be proud (of our Christianity), hostile (to anyone or thing perceived to be hostile to us as Christians) and judgmental (to anyone who does not hold our values).
As the individual Christian, we have a better sense of who we are in relation to world, and to God himself.
As "Christendom", we tend to find safety in numbers, establish insular subcultures, and hide behind our own theologians and teachers.
Christians lose something of the peculiar shame of the Cross when Christianity becomes accepted, respectable, a movement or even, God forbid, official.
We become quite at home in the world, and even begin to claim portions of it as our own. And become quite defensive and even combative when we feel that holy ground is being invaded.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Boredom is perhaps the environment of hell.
It is similar to Chaos, because it is the state of an unfocused mind.
It is the inverse of the excitement of countless possibilities. It is the despairing certainty that every one of those potentialities will end in disappointment.
Every child has known the horror of boredom, as well as they have known the exasperation of an adult who scolds them for being ungrateful, as any adult would be profess to be profoundly grateful for a moment's peace in which boredom might be a welcome change to busyness.
This is hogwash on the part of the adult; partly because busyness is the unconsciously agreed upon crowning virtue of adulthood and would never be so easily traded for a mess of potted boredom, and partly because even in an adult's "leisure" time, he would be terrified to encounter boredom as he did as a child: that ennui, that dissatisfaction with all things and no remedy for it, not entertainment, nor opiate, nor sleep, nor sex, nor any other stimulation that a grown-up engages in when his mind has reached the end of that ultimate high, the Validation of Work.
Boredom is not quite merely the absence of stimulation, it is a tangible thing: a paralyzing banality that leaves a mind stricken and sometimes in search of renewal in the strangeness of the new and unfamiliar and even unappealing.
If we were created with purpose, there can be few pains equitable to purposelessness.
A child avoids this void in any number of ways, almost all of which are more honest than the ways adults avoid it. The dishonesty of adults in their frantic attempts to escape from boredom is motivated by guilt. An aimless child may be scolded, but an aimless adult is judged, and pitied.
Equating boredom with damnation may seem hyperbolic, but only if you have forgotten what boredom is, and think of it as free time when no one expects anything of you.
It is the opposite of freedom.
It is the state of mind so bereft of the excitement of possibility that it imprisons itself. And self imprisonment is the most hopeless of all jails.
Kierkegaard said Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, thus pointing out the silver lining back of the cloud of the Unknown.
The bleakness of Boredom's cloud is the certainty that a distant star has exploded somewhere in the universe that will at last drag every ounce of meaning across it's event horizon.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Greatest Fear

Like the white tail of a fleeing doe is caught in the corner of a headlight beam, there is a fear, at odd intervals, that crosses my mind, almost gone before I recognize it.
"What if I, in spite of everything and of all people, should become an atheist?"
It's an old dread, the Fear of No God, the Realization of Nothing, that first stole over me in a Christian bookstore at the age of 17.
I had recently come to know God, important to note since prior to that introduction, my greatest fear was that He DID exist.
I must be unwittingly bound to consider the worst. In everyday matters, I rarely deal in worst case scenarios, because that extreme perpetually beats on the walls of my lowest mental dungeon. Consciously, it's warden makes no admission of those muted howls.
But the fear of nothing had it's humble beginnings in my earliest remembered nightmares, which featured exceedingly common sights, such as the the fabric of my blanket, in sudden and inexplicable dream like fashion, growing very, very large. Awakened by my own screams, I could never explain why non threatening, inanimate objects became sinister when enlarged. It was much later when I realized that it was not the size of the objects, but it's implication to MY size. Which was, obviously, that I was really very small and growing smaller (as in the dream I always was frightened awake while the thing was yet growing) and, if left alone, I would surely fade at last into nothing.
In Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, the protagonist, Gabriel Syme, faces a similar fear when meeting Sunday, a God type.
"The form it took was a childish and yet hateful fancy. As he walked across the inner room towards the balcony, the large face of Sunday grew larger and larger; and Syme was gripped with a fear that when he was quite close the face would be too big to be possible, and that he would scream aloud. He remembered that as a child he would not look at the mask of Memnon in the British Museum, because it was a face, and so large."
The fear of a man who does not know God is that God's greatness will diminish himself and that the self opposed to God will never cease shrinking.
My young nightmares are troubling because I was so young and still under the protection of Adamic innocence. Syme was a grown man and thus seemingly responsible for his unfamiliarity with God. But Syme was also a fictional character, representative of the yet innocently ignorant child: a child under God's protection is not the same as one who has eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and been bought back.
But with the fear of diminution, of irrelevance, there is something in common with the choice not to believe in something greater than the self.
Nietzsche speaks: "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looks. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives; who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves?"
Nietzsche was as terrifyingly honest as an atheist may be, grappling with the stygian fear of causeless effect, of meaningless existence. Yet, as honest as an atheist may be, he still does not recognize how deep the abyss is that stares into his soul, for though he says that "Hope, in reality, is the greatest of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.", he also insists that although "To live is to suffer," still, "to survive is to find meaning in the suffering."
Hope, then, is evil because it is false and yet meaning is still attainable. Such a titanically irreconcilable statement is understandable when you begin to understand that there is no such creature as a living nihilist. True nihilists are far more rare than Scotsmen of the same fidelity, for all true nihilists are dead, and by their own hand.
It is my personal belief that your greatest fear must stand as the gainsaying of your chosen purpose.  Therefore, I believe that nihilists must somehow find comfort in utter meaninglessness, and be really terrified by meaning and purpose.
Now that I know God, and am found in Him, the fear that He does not exist is also the fear that the self I surrendered to Him will also cease to exist. In that fearful fancy, some dim and distant star is imploded which will quickly drag every ounce of meaning across it's event horizon.
C.S. Lewis imagined that Hell is a very confined space. In The Great Divorce, an inhabitant of Heaven explains the geography of Hell. "All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World."
As small as it is, it continues to shrink; a very intuitive speculation, corresponding conversely with Hubble's Law. Listen to the visitor from Hell's objection and the citizen of Heaven's response
"It seems large enough when you are in it, sir."
"And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies, and itchings that it contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good. If all Hell's miseries together entered the consciousness of yon wee yellow bird on the bough there, they would be swallowed up without trace, as if one drop of ink had been dropped into that Great Ocean to which your terrestrial Pacific is only a molecule'"
Consider then the horror of being trapped in oneself, in one's Hell, the fate of continuing to shrink, but never to cease.
That is the fear that I face, that love has not yet cast out.
Logically, if God does not exist, the fear of Hell should disappear along with it. And yet, the fear persists.
Cessation, I fear, is the greatest myth of them all.





"He had turned his eyes so as to see suddenly the great face of Sunday, which wore a strange smile. "Have you," he cried in a dreadful voice, "have you ever suffered?" As he gazed, the great face grew to an awful size, grew larger than the colossal mask of Memnon, which had made him scream as a child. It grew larger and larger, filling the whole sky; then everything went black. Only in the blackness it entirely destroyed his brain he seemed to hear a distant voice saying a commonplace text that he had heard somewhere, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?"


Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Plain Account Of Myself

The Christian heroism (and perhaps it is rarely to be seen) is to venture wholly to be oneself, as an individual man, this definite individual man, alone before the face of God, alone in this tremendous exertion and this tremendous responsibility...

Soren Kierkegaard
Preface to Sickness Unto Death

A good part of my contemplative beard stroking has had to do with the objectivity of truth. In an age where the sides in moral disputes are often picked according to one's political affiliations and favorite decades, the lines drawn up hard based upon whether you prefer the 1950's (or any era prior to that) or the dizzying contemporaneity of the last second, it seems that so much of what we say we believe is either rooted merely in the discomfort with change or the impatience with inertia.
Conservatism being more often the champion of what is supposed to be Christian values (indeed, the two designations have become almost an inseperable demographical duo), it has leaned hard on the objectivity of truth; as have I.
It has been and is still important to me to have a fixed point of reference, without which one must wander with the predictable aimlessness of a snowflake in search of the ground on a very windy day.
With it, one may, probably will, still wander but at least knows it came from above and is headed for below.
I have often taken issue with American christian conservatism, partly for being intractable, nationalistic, xenophobic, authoritarian and partly for being too much like the moral relativists they claim to oppose, especially when justification is needed for a compromise.
But as it is presumed that I as a Christian must hold more in common with conservatism than liberalism, in the popularly slightly erroneous definition of the terms, I accept that presumption for a jumping off point.
There is such a thing as absolute truth that is objectively true. God, in fact, stands as the Absolute Objective Truth. God has many attributes, but all of them are shot completely through with a truth that ultimately cannot be adjusted, not to say that it will be completely attained. In fact, it won't, thus the scriptural apologetic His ways are past our finding out.
In hoisting the banner of objective truth, it may be supposed that I would find subjective truth to be the gospel of the Adversary. What is supposed, however, is not completely accurate.
I have referred to a fixed point of reference.
The importance of this monolith is found not only in the fact that it doesn't move, but also in the fact that due to its immobility, by it we know where we are. I may be on one side, you on the other, coloring our perception of course, but more importantly for my purposes here, casting each one of us in a unique relationship to it.
I have also referred to snowflakes. Quite apart from the current perjorative sense in which it's generally meant, I would like to take from this comparison the one-in-an-existence distinction that snowflakes enjoy.
Every last one is distinctive, bearing the signature of divine design.
As do we.
Bearing these distinctions in mind should make us appreciate the unique position in which every one of us stands in relation to the absolute.
There are several aphorisms that apply: Be your own man, Think for yourself, Don't be a follower.
My aim in life is this: To take all responsibility for myself upon myself.
No Christian would dispute that at the final Judgement, there will be no one to advocate for you before God, unless of course, you have chosen to be represented by Christ, which will entail holding nothing back from your Lawyer. In exchange for His representation, He asks that you stand in integrity before Him, so that He may plead your case unabashed to His Father.
You must give an account of yourself.
To do so, you must shoulder an enormous responsibility.
Think and believe for yourself, recognizing what a grave concern it is, while recognizing that not thinking and believing for yourself is a terminal mistake.
Here is where I begin to differ from conservatism. It's in the term itself. Taken literally, it is to "conserve" what is reckoned to be good and beneficial to​ society. The "good and the beneficial" is often, almost always, in fact, embedded in tradition, in creeds, and in the wisdom inherited from the previous generations.
But, the problem anyone faces when conserving is the problem of stagnation ​and rot. Wisdom can't really be inherited. Wisdom is subject to a 90+% inheritance tax. It does not transfer from parent to child. Customs, ideals and traditions are tax free and even times accrue interest.
Wisdom is manna from Heaven, and we all remember what happened when proactive Israelites tried to conserve leftovers.
There is also a sense in which conservation can contribute to the laziness and irresponsibility of consecutive generations. There is a good comparison to be drawn here between trust fund babies and second, third, fourth and so on generations of a movement. A loving parent will have to fight the temptation to cushion the life of the child. A loving parent knows that wisdom is self-activated. Telling your progeny to do this, and not do that, to avoid mistakes and heartache is as natural, and helpful as a passenger who knows where the destination is telling the driver what turns to make. It will get you there once, but if the driver has not driven it himself, looking for landmarks and orientating himself, he will likely never find it again.
Much has been said by more learned and familiar men than I about Rene Descartes, with some vanguards of Western Christianity even declaring that the delicate philosopher introduced a virus into that institution.
But there is a courage in what he did that I can't help but admire. He burned down the suppositional structure of epistemology and sifted through the ashes until he found the indestructible grain of existence.
A man must have belief, before all.
Belief in something precedes all logic, as a foundation underlies a structure.
That belief itself must be personally attained and attested.
How easy it would be, even under the most severe and technically legalistic system, to lay the responsibilities for oneself upon another. Slavery is a comfort to those who fear anxiety as the dizziness of freedom, to paraphrase Kierkegaard.
Freedom is euphoria only if a man chooses to be free. If a man is lazy, freedom is a burden far more ponderous than chains.
"Free thinking" has often been derided as irresponsible and gratuitous. It has been maligned as a way for a heretic or a fool to justify his heresy or his foolishness. And, it often is.
But truth shows her paradoxical colors here, as in all things worthwhile. "Free thinking" can be a way astray, but it is the ONLY way to the Truth.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Unsafe

I'm going to make a suggestion to potential readers that I really hope you will take seriously. If you are a person who has a generally positive outlook on life, a person who doesn't have to try to find the good in things, a person who sees life as good with a few hiccups, I would suggest you not read this. There are a couple of reasons. The first is that you may entirely misunderstand me and begin regarding me as a malcontent. The second is that it will likely be a waste of time for you.  In suggesting that you pass on this one, I am not suggesting that you are wrong, or naive. In fact, it could be that you have life figured out while I'm still hopelessly befuddled. You can read this first sentence, and then see what I mean, and decide for yourself whether to continue.

"To think unimpeded and remain optimistic is not possible. Let a man face facts as they really are, and pessimism is the only logical conclusion."
"Once grief touches a man he is full of reaction, he says spiteful things because he is hurt, but in the end grief leads a man to the right point of view: that the basis of things is tragic."
Oswald Chambers

I offer this scenario. Someone, be it a KGB agent in a gulag, a confused kid in a high school in Columbine, or a run of the mill militant atheist, places a gun to my head and says "Renounce your faith in Jesus Christ or die now." I would not hesitate. If there were no reasoning with the threat, or possibility of disarming him, I would say "Absolutely not. If that is the way of things with no third choice, then kindly be swift and spatter brain matter on yon wall."
But suppose the threatener asks a second question, specifically "Why? Why do you choose to die instead of renounce your faith in Jesus Christ?"
I would answer, quite simply, "Because God sent his Son to die to save me from my sin and the penalty of it."
Supposing again, for the sake of my point, that the agent of death poses a third question. Perhaps he's genuinely curious, or perhaps he's a sadist, denying my pathetic request to do his deed quickly.
"Let me ask you this. You say you choose to die within the confines of the two choices I have given you because God sent his Son as an act of Mercy to save you from your sin and the penalty of it. I would ask you, as the holder of the gun, if you could lay aside (as Chambers and the author of Ecclesiastes did) that one event. That one cataclysm that you did not, in fact, witness for yourself, and only believe happened, I ask you to disregard as I ask this third question. I ask you, in your experience as a human, with the things that you have learned, the experiences you have had, the sights that you've seen, the unpleasantness you've suffered, the things you have seen those you love and the world at large go through, in this context alone, would you say that God is kind? Would you say that He is gentle? Would you say, as the Scriptures say, that He is tender?"
My answer would once again be quickly forthcoming "What are you, crazy? Of COURSE not. If I must base my answer on my experiential observational life, I tell you that God is less kind gentle and tender than  yourself with a loaded gun at my head."

(Optimist, if you're still reading, you were warned.)

After all, what have I observed? I was born causing great pain to my mother. My memories of childhood are depressed and lonely. I married a woman who underwent horrific childhood trauma and still suffers from it today. I have a chronic disease and a stressful means of paying my bills. But enough about me. Every day, children are abused, the weak are exploited and tortured, sickness and disease ravages millions, famine is rampant, demigods rain terror and death down from the skies and erupt it from the earth. Sickness of the mind tortures many, leading to lives of quiet desperation, loud desperation, and suicide.
"What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted....and in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain."

Chambers says that the root of things is tragic, the ecclesiastical preacher says that life itself is vanity.
More and more, the question becomes not why would I choose to die, but why would I choose to live?

As I grow older, there is an excerpt from a children's book that becomes sadder, more relevant, and paradoxically more hopeful.
Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are shipped off to the English countryside to escape the incessant German bombing of London, while Mom stays behind in the danger zone and Dad fights in the War. In the expansive manor, there sits a wardrobe which temperamentally allows access to a magical world the inhabitants call Narnia. After some time in Narnia, the children are given to understand the way things stand. Narnia is under the control of an evil tyrant. But there are a faithful few who eagerly anticipate deliverance from a person named Aslan, who will depose the tyrant and restore the land. So far, so good. But then it is somewhat casually mentioned that "Aslan" is, in fact, a lion.
Susan voices an immediate concern that must be on all of their minds, with the possible exception of the childlike and credulous Lucy.
"Is he quite safe?"
The startled Beaver's response is the lifeblood of my middle aged faith.
If I may paraphrase, "Safe?! .....................Are you quite mad? What did I just say? I told you, He. Is. A. Lion! Of COURSE he isn't safe!!!!"
A lion is a man eating beast, a cunning hunter, a savage and mercurial killer.
What Beaver has just told them has terrifying implications.
Implications such as: this "Savior" could fasten his massive jaws around your throat and end your existence. He could tear you limb from limb and eat your flesh while you still breathe. He could toy with you endlessly, allowing bursts of false hope, only to dash them with his corralling roar.
More to the point, given the difference in perception between a human, a Narnian and this Lion, even his benevolence will likely be inscrutable. His offer of life will seem sadistic and controlling. His very nature will be to us savage, brutal, manipulative, narcissistic and unpredictable. His very helping paws have claws in them. His voice issues from between fangs.
So, at this point, I imagine Peter and Susan are thinking, "Yeah, no. The land is under siege by  a cruel dictator and you're telling us our only hope is a killing machine. We can just go back to the lamp post, walk through the wardrobe and be done with it. Oh, wait. England is about to be overrun by the enemy. Well, this is just bloody fantastic.
Lion or Hitler? Maybe we should just flip a coin!"
Of course, you know what Beaver says next.
His next sentence is quite possibly the most contradictory statement possible given his previous utterance of "He's a LION, course he isn't SAFE!"
But.................................. He's good."
What?!
He's good?!
Yes, He's good. To my finite understanding, He is beyond finding out. He is a cosmic sadist, a cold and distant ultimatum, an Entity that knows me intimately and yet allows cruel things to happen to me.
To my faith, He is goodness that is so beyond my comprehension of goodness, kindness that outstrips the kindest human I've ever known, gentleness and tenderness that would make the most awestruck, devoted mother a faithless, abusive caretaker.
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.