EPISODE 252: Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life

In a quote that’s been making the rounds recently, Rudolph Bultmann wrote, “When we encounter the words of Jesus in history, we do not judge them by a philosophical system with reference to their rational validity; they meet us with the question of how we are to interpret our own mode of existence. That we ourselves be deeply disturbed by the problem of our own life is the indispensable condition of our inquiry.”

Note that word “indispensable”.

I used to pussy foot some around this, trying to allow for “stronger” personalities or less either-or ways of putting the Christian Gospel. But all the time, I was really just scared to put it the full way I’d experienced it myself, afraid to do full (albeit excoriating) justice to the insoluble problem of being human — insoluble, that is, on its own terms.

The truth is — “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” (from ‘Naughty Marietta’) — you can’t make an inch of progress in solving your problem until you state the problem with no holds barred. And at that point, at the point of total and indeed helpless admission, it’s as if every window opens and every door! Somehow embedded in your true statement/admission of your case is the answer itself.

This is why prayers of sincere apology, for example, are almost always instantaneously accompanied by radical new composure and peace. This is why sober assessments of what’s actually going on in your beleaguered life — your “Holy City” (John Bunyan; HT RKA) — are almost always accompanied, within minutes, or even seconds, by external solutions. It is the truth of life: state the problem as it actually is, and the solution will hit you over the head.

Episode 252 of PZ’s Podcast imports the Holy Ghost at the end. Listen carefully to Eddie James and co’s inspired song, “Power”. Then listen to it again. Everything’s there.

Oh, and my podcast today is dedicated to DAVID BABIKOW, a hero and dedicated hearer of this Sweet Mystery of Life.

EPISODE 253: Facing the Cannons (NOT!)

Shibboleth’s are often true in part. Maxims are true in part. But they are never, or at least rarely, wholly true.

One such maxim is a current fashionable imperative, Face the Cannons. The idea is that when you are confronted with opposition or antagonism, your best bet is to look it squarely in the face and permit it to do its worst. Somehow in that acquiescent transaction, your foe will lose its power and kind of flow through you and get de-potentiated.

There is a truth to this. Frank Lake used to talk about “assimilating the negativity” of one’s life. He had, in practice, an important therapeutic point.

And yet! There seem to be certain “antagonists”, certain oppositional forces — some of them inside a person, some of them outside — that resist the treatment. Certainly, there exists pain in our lives so acute that the prospect of facing it directly is too heavy for words. In other words, facing it, practically speaking, is almost impossible.

This podcast talks about THAT particular and specific pain — THAT concrete negativity which is simply too much for one to bear, let alone welcome. I submit that you may well be conscious of such an element in the composition of your life. It is an element that resists assimilation, and even the hope of assimilation.

What then? Well, here I invoke our old ally Dennis Wheatley, not to mention America’s most perceptive preacher; not to mention Jesus and St. Paul. There are some things, just a few but they’re decisive, that resist acquiescence. Rather, they call for flight or, if worst comes to worst, that miraculous life’s lesson known as “How To Throw a Crucifix”.

Hope you like the music for this one, too! Especially the last track, “Easy To Be Hard”, which unmasks a certain fashionable form of hypocrisy in the now.

EPISODE 254: Tupper

No finer Southern prep ever hit the scene than the Sewanee graduate Tupper Saussy. His two albums produced under the name “The Neon Philharmonic”, with Don Gant, are supreme examples of symphonic rock. More than that, however, the songs are profound.

Saussy’s track entitled “Something to Believe In” speaks the voice of a questing human soul, “riding the wind” of life and searching for “something to believe in”. Needless to say, the soul finds “a girl”, whom the soul believes in and worships, only to lose. Now what? At the end of the song, Tupper’s soul prepares to die, still looking for that “something to believe in”.

I think we’re probably almost all in that boat. Life’s a wholly engaged existential search for God, and it’s quite dangerous, because “in the dark”, which is life in the world, you can think you’ve found it but you haven’t. And then, when what you thought was It turns out not to be It, one’s disillusion, and dissolution, becomes terminal. Be careful, in other words, about what you put your trust in. If you make an enduring, imprinting mistake, you may never find It! And the It — call it by whatever name you will (HT Bill W.) — is “the Rock that is higher than I”. Just avow this, that YOU’re not it — nor is she and nor is he — and you’re almost home.

Oh, and two other things:

First, go out and find Enid Bagnold’s play “The Chinese Ambassador” and read it from cover to cover. (It’s quite short. It’s just a play.)

Second, this cast is dedicated to TAMARA SANSBURY, who understands my Instagram posts.