Monday, January 2, 2017

Part 1 - The Fractal Path of Descent



Part 1 of Several. 
This new blog series offers excerpts from a recent research paper conducted by myself as a part of my MDIV Theological Studies at Seattle University.  All original art, poetry and writing is subject to copywrite. I hope you enjoy!

Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art

Imagine the scene – a child is being born. Having long awaited this moment, the mother is now wincing in pain. Perhaps her legs are up in stirrups in a contemporary setting; perhaps she is squatting in her ancient home; or perhaps she is writhing on the floor between waves of contractions with sweat consuming her entire body. She is a timeless warrior, as she has braved the suffering of new creation for the duration of humanity. She is the voice of terror as she cries uncontrollably. The pain intensifies. She cannot fathom what she must do. She screams, “I can’t go any further…” …yet somehow, she continues. As her baby crowns through the excruciating “ring of fire,” she rips open with primal grace pouring over her. Courageously she labors and ultimately thrusts her baby into the world.

Suffering is the means by which every human arrives in the world. From the womb of a woman, amidst the biological and emotional mess of labor and delivery, we welcome new life. This decidedly feminine fractal pattern of emergence can be observed throughout all of the natural world. From the explosive birth of stars to the creation of new earth in cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, there is a pattern of suffering throughout the whole of Creation. Soren Kierkegaard embraced this pattern throughout his writings as he explored the paradox of the absurd and the inverse.

It is interesting to observe, however, that even Kierkegaard struggled with the offensive nature of the downward path. Of course, that seems appropriate given his context and the fact that the offense is a required in order to be in touch with authentic Christianity. More specifically, Kierkegaard stated, “I prefer the delights of conception to the discomforts of childbirth.”[1] Although this would appear to be a masculine view, his statement contains an underlying paradoxical awareness of the outcome of conception, namely, the downward path of pregnancy and birth that offers both miracle and suffering.

This paradox embedded within the birth of children is among the most powerful examples of the fractal pattern of descent in the human world, and it is a powerfully feminine journey. Like the seasons of Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring, birthing mirrors the natural world. It is a walk into darkness within the crucible of the unseen womb. It offers a fractal representation of the Pascal Mystery at the core of the Christian cross-based theology. Thus, we observe a theme – repeated if you will – throughout Kierkegaard’s writings, in which he argues that suffering often precedes emergence, and yet delight can come before suffering, and so it goes.

Suffering, however, often results in a kind of paralytic speechlessness. Furthermore, awareness of the unsayable also accompanies the experience of touching upon Mystery itself. At both polarities is a lack of words, yet we strive to apply human language in our quest for comprehension. In this tension – through the inverse – the path becomes observable. It is the willingness to drop into the opposite or even the absurd. Therefore, it is appropriate to begin with an alternative form of communication, one that begins without words – in the form of color and creativity – on the embodied road to written language. Thus, the journey begins with abstract art. This will be the next blog post. Until then, I am reminded of the following quote underscoring the value of listening: 

“For at the altar, there is no speaking about him; there he himself is personally present, it is he who speaks – if not, then you are not at the altar.”[2] – Soren Kierkegaard

[1] (Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling/Repetition, 1983, p. 141)
[2] (Kierkegaard, Discourses at the Communion on Fridays, 2011, p. 58)

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