Preface I, “The Storied Cathedral”
Without my Father, I am a blind man riding a bicycle down a hill. I am a woman who has convinced herself that she is pregnant and, with her hands on her belly, tries to force out the baby. But she passes out and wakes up to find that she is still fat.
He appears as chaos to us, in a whirlwind, and we are frightened and want to run away. It is a violent storm and we want to look away. It is coming for us, because with our shrill voices we have requested a hearing. He comes to us in the fields outside the city. And if we come into his presence, we go outside the city walls, forgetting our reputation with this world, and forgetting ourselves. We go out into the swirling motions, hold our breath, pray, and forget.
And by forgetting, we see that he has planned his stories perfectly.
It would be sacrilegious to say that he is building a cathedral with his stories, because a cathedral is a man-made thing. But it would not be sacrilegious to say that he is building a universe.
In my mid teens, I saw a vision of his complexity and chaotic appearance. Caught in the Whirlwind, a collection of stories, was the child of that vision. But when I let the ideas ferment in my mind, they quickly became stale and self-destructive. I set out to prove through this collection that our search for identity and questions are finished when we enter into the presence of God. The answer to the trial of Job was simply the face of our Father. As soon as we come into his presence, which drives us mad as we watch its ferocity and irregularity from the city walls, we are silenced and the Father speaks with his image. The Father does not communicate to us through frail language, but through the unbreakable force of his own identity revealed in the Christ. He pours out his Spirit on his Son and this wrath is so profound that it kills him. And this is love, that he laid down his own life, so that we could throw our petty questions at his feet.
As I once saw it, your creativity was so endless that all possibilities were realities in your creation. You did not just create this universe, but you breathed a cloud of a billion universes all connected and united under the solitary completed possibility of your Son, Jesus, dying on the cross in this universe for all sins in all possibilities.
This was my construction, but I felt that it was my place as a creature to contemplate your breadth and width and height. I felt that if you really are eternal, then perhaps your creation is eternal beyond just one universe. And in a complex web of thought, I concluded that all of your creation and every possiverse existed in this universe, if even a few miles apart.
Ironically, this eternal creation underneath you began to shrink your own eternality. I felt that if creatures only saw how much you had planned and how much you had fulfilled and how much you governed and guided, then the ancient question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” would be answered.
But in believing your creation to be eternal and in desiring to show this to others, so that their questions would be silenced as mine were when I saw you, I was conflating you with your creation. In making your universe eternal, I was making you finite. And therefore, I increased the questions and confusion for a god that was no longer necessary.
I could not see that you are a god of nature, but not in the classic sense. By saying that the greatest god is a god of nature, someone is usually confessing to be a spiritualized and compromised atheist.
When I say that my Father is a god of nature, I mean that I am who I am. I mean that he is bound by his nature and, unlike my complex fabrications, is satisfied. The eternity in him that answers all the questions of man, the end of the trial of Job, is that he is the Trinity. And in this Trinity, he is self-satisfied and does not need to create an endless tapestry. He is satisfied to make one universe and provide himself as savior once and have me exist only once.
To better understand this, consider yourself. Only you will do certain things and think in your way. You are the only you that has ever existed. And unfortunately, the cliche that we are special no longer makes us satisfied but greedy for proof that we are more special than others. Let me reinstate that old maxim, you are special.
You are special, because you will die and you will never have a second chance to repeat this life. Every mistake you make here is eternal unless you come into the Father’s presence. Only the Father can forget, because he knows all. To forget is righteousness. To live in the present is righteousness. To be satisfied with your nature is righteousness. To wait is righteousness, until you can wait no longer and you die and you are not left asking, “How long, o Lord?” because he is looking at you.
It is impossible for you to act and create outside of your nature. Luckily, our nature is malleable and intentionally so, so that if we face some deficiency of virtue, we may be healed by a graft of identity.
I will only ever create according to my nature. The fact that a multiverse is attractive to me says something about my nature. Everything I do is a footprint of my nature. I cannot be free from my nature, because I have been made good. I do not want to be free from my nature. I am being perfected as a creation of the Father.
The two saddest thoughts to me are these. One, not that someone would die, but that they would be afraid of death. Two, not that someone was insecure, but that they are not content to be themselves. The greatest pleasure in this life comes from our worship of God in our small span through what we have been given, our bodies.
So while I could conceive of a god that would create eternal possiverses, it would be heretical to call that god Father. The Father does not and has never created outside his own nature. The possiverse does not exist. This is a declaration of his eternity, because it is an acceptance of the finitude of creation. Creation is underneath the Father and is therefore not eternal.
So it is with my relationship to my stories. In relation to the stories I create new from the soil and the sun he has given me, I am eternal. I can only ever create something limited. I cannot create possibilities. My stories will only go as far as the words I use will allow. There will always be boundaries.
This is why the artist, being afraid of his limited nature, ends his stories with vague language, estimating that our lack of knowledge is equivalent to the Father’s mystery and proves that the artist is god. He uses vague language to avoid the truth that he holds vague notions of himself. It is the creator who embraces his finitude that is free to create real worlds. Vague language, by allowing for any number of interpretations, gives this pleasure not to himself but to the viewers. They complete the story in their own mind and make it real for themselves. And so by setting himself up as god, the artist takes away the single pleasure he is offered and gives it to someone else. The atheist walks in the footsteps of Esau.
For all of this, every creator should memorize Ecclesiastes. I need to memorize Ecclesiastes, to digest it and have it rest in my elbows and knees. God’s gift to man is to eat, drink, and take pleasure in his toil, because all is vanity and we are the dead.
We are the small. We are the vessels, broken or made whole. We are the paintings, running and blending and God holds us in derision. We are the worried and we grasp for moments with our machines to preserve them. But to every season there is a time and a time for every purpose under heaven. And to writing books there will be no end, so the sum of the matter is this; fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. And all is vain, but God remembers all we do, whether attempted or thought, and he will bring us into his presence and judge us according to what identity we choose to lose.
So, Father, I offer up this gift to you. Take my storied cathedral. It is my joy, my privilege, your gift, my toil to construct a cathedral of as many stories I might write and on the tall front wooden door, I have a plaque that reads soli deo gloria, because my glory is fading, but your victory lives in all of us. Father, I have lost the will to fight, for I was not made for life. And I want to jump into that destruction outside the city walls, because this city is coming down and you have prepared a place for me to create and to laugh.
And this is all not a very serious affair, because there are so many of us. So I have no need to get my arms wrapped around those next to me, unless it is for a hug and not for the sake of influence.
Father, here is this storied cathedral, take and seal it for my court above. It is there that I may perfect my work. It is there that I go to continue my work. It is there that I may remember the darkness here and the fear and the uncertainty about evil and it is there that I may write a million stories that do nothing but retell that deep story of Job, which I have only just begun to understand. And Job had more kids and had a bigger house and his influence on earth spread down through the generations to a skinny pale kid living in the empire of America and he is learning contentedness and he finds pleasure in his thoughts, only because they are completed by gratitude, because I did not invent soil and I did not invent the sun and I have only just begun to tell your single story, your storied universe, through the only way I know how, not as a mirror but as a statue, growing towards heaven.
And each stone I use and the frescoes on the floor and the gargoyles on the towers and the bats in the rafters and the vaulted ceilings with the longing paintings and the saints in the windows, these are all my creations. And they are part of the same possiverse of my own mind and I have taken them from that temple of ideas and fixed them firmly into this construction.
And reader, this is for you. Every story you see is part of the same universe. And I call this universe The Storied Cathedral. And I would be a pagan not to tell some of my characters about the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is as real for them as he is for me. And the same choices are before them, whether I have told his name to them or not, to listen to the Father speak through his idols.
The windows on the left, Caught in the Whirlwind.
-Ludington, Michigan, 2014
Preface II, Puerile Philosophizing
I woke up yesterday and stabbed my eyes out. I can see much better now, after the pain. I can tell you what color your soul is. I know the rhythm of the rain. I understand that the earth is curving at every straight edge. I have seen the blackness of space and felt it. I am not ashamed naked. I can see when failure is heading my way and I can dodge the bullet. I have seen that smaller things are much larger than big things. I can breath underwater. I have dispensed with every outworking of my humanity, except my core remains the same. I am still human and for all my attempts at escape, I still cannot measure God.
I woke up yesterday and my eyes grew back. I see everything again, and that’s much more painful. I can’t see what you really mean. I am clumsy when I try to end something that shouldn’t have begun. I will not live past two hundred. I don’t know how old my descendants are. I plan on planning things. I kill the people I love the most. I leave out hope when it’s needed most. I intend to save others from my own faults. The earth is flat. I cannot dispense with my humanity, but every now and then I try. Every attempt sheds light on something dark. It is not evil, it is not against me. It is very scary. I still cannot measure God.
What variation exists in His head? What has He hid from us? He has not hid my death. He has not hid my failure. I look to Him and I see a face with worlds behind Him. He can allow things that are not to be. Who will argue with Him? Who will demand that He follows rules which we have arbitrarily placed? Who says we have to understand Him? We have to acknowledge Him. If we don’t, every endless line of vision is an absurdity. A world without God would be a world that contains a long list of unconnected unknowables. He is the connection of these things. His existence alone explains why there are universes we cannot see. His existence alone explains simultaneous realities that seem contradictory. He cannot be measured, because He is the measurement.
It is through Him that I become eternal. I am caught up in this flurry of activity, too wild to wrap my head around. It’s wrapped around me and I have to either embrace the ridiculousness or suffocate. This is a reality where anything is possible and where every possibility exists at the same time; where every detail is just as important as the last. There are the wrinkles on an old man’s face and there are billions of galaxies. How many universes are there? How much variation? How much possibility? How much knowledge and force is necessary to control a reality where infinite things exist? A number is not even good enough. I still cannot measure God.
Here are some guidelines to measuring yourself.
1. All things exist at the same time logically, only if God exists.
2. God is working. These motions generate a whirlwind which wraps around everything. He hides the whirlwind with His cloak, so we cannot see.
3. Sometimes the cloak blows out and we see things we ought not.
4. We mean nothing apart from God. He has to focus on everything intently. He has to focus on us. Because we are wrapped up in the whirlwind, we become eternal. We are eternal souls, distinct from everything else and playing an essential role.
5. Apparent contradictions in reality exist and must. They are apparent, because they are there. They are contradictions, because of how we see them, not because of their nature. The Law of Gravity and our other theoretical grids cannot capture what we observe. What we observe is the nature of the universe and a reflection of the nature of God, who loves our categorical creations.
6. Because contradictions exist, they have to exist for some reason. They exist, because God has been loving Himself for eternity. And He has a whirlwind wrapped around Him.
7. Everything is constantly changing and subject to the power and usefulness of God. We can choose to either be tools of Him, or reject Him and use ourselves. The latter is just another form of helping His goals.
8. A reality without numbers – one whose boundaries are incalculable – demands that our finitude be subject to His will, even in the cases when He has given us complete free will.
9. My immortality is born out of this work.
-Geneva, Illinois, 2013