Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Flush of Dawn

I'm sort of between posts here, and don't have much time to spare - plus, half the things I want to blog about require books I no longer have and cannot afford. So to fill in the gap, I thought I'd quote somebody else. This comes from "The Flush of Dawn" by Jacob Boehme, a 16-17C Christian mystic. It is, if you like, my credo. Incidentally, William Blake paraphrases part of this in The Songs of Innocence.

All men are thus, be they Christians, Jews, Turks or heathens; in whoever love and gentleness is, in him is also the light of God.

You want to say, "No"? But the Turks, Jews and heathens also live in the same corporality in which you live, they also use the same bodily strength that you use, in addition they have the same body that you have; and the same God that is your God is also their God.

Then you will say, "But they do not know him and do not honour him." Yes, my dear man, only boast that you have indeed hit upon it; you rathter than others indeed know him. See, blind human, where love rises up in gentleness, there the heart of God rises up.

For you may not ask, "Where is God?" Listen, blind human, you live in God and God is in you: and if you live holily, you are yourself God, wherever you look, there is God.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Edward Abbey's Crucifixion

Edward Abbey, the self-proclaimed barbarian, made this drawing in one of his notebooks. What confronts us here? On one level a crude joke. Blasphemous to some. And yet is it not in some way true to the Gospels? Look at his face, his eyes. To me he looks defiant. As if, if we ever let him down from the cross, he'd go straight back into the Temple and start overturning tables.

Look at the way the body sags, frail, mortal, imperfect. And - blasphemous detail - the son of God has a cock! Does this remind us of things we'd rather forget - and literally cover up? Human frailty, not divine perfection. Sex. Gender. The animal need to piss and shit. This figure looks to me a bit like Edward Abbey himself.

In his journal he writes of the religious vultures, "hunched in a row on the cemetery wall watching me, huddled in their ragged black wings ... around their scrawny necks the clerical ruff that hides the ugly separation of head and body, and inside their bald skulls, locked like a corpse in a coffin, the scheming little brain. Eaters of carrion, parasites on death, idolaters of fear and decay." In this drawing, he forces us to confront the body. He confronts taste and decency with a tormented human body.

This is an unsanitised crucifixion. An offence, as it should be. And a Jesus not sentimentalised but dangerous.

The picture, and the quotation, come from Edward Abbey, "The Confessions of a Barbarian," Johnson books, 2003. Among other things Abbey wrote a raucous, vulgar and subversive masterpiece, "The Monkey Wrench Gang."