Hope is “an unexpected rupture in the system.What do i mean by system? Every system. As humans we all live and inscribe our lives within a series of systems, of games whose rules we know and to which we adapt ourselves to a greater or lesser extent. By “the system” I mean every way of ours of having a story, of organizing our thinking and acting, every way of forging our lives and of talking about them as something sure. And this system is, for many people, most of the time, quite livable. It is moved neither by great hopes nor shaken by great despairs. However, as I have tried to show throughout these pages, every story, insofar as it is grasped, is a system structured by the murderous lie, whose security depends on some exclusion. That is, every system is dominated and shared by the definitive impossibility which comes from death, the impossibility of moving the stone.”
In the midst, then, of every system of ours, hope appears not as the escape route from a cul-de-sac, nor as the fulfillment and embellishment of what we already live, but as an unexpected rupture in the system. It is a door open where all appeared to be closed, but not the door open where we would like it to be, as the consoling confirmation of our little hopes; rather it is exactly where we have a tendency not to look, the gate of the victim. And at the moment that it is that gate, small and not very attractive, which stands open, the door of the victim risen and seated at the right hand of God, an unexpected rupture is produced in the system. It means that there is no secure, grasped, story, not entirely satisfactory, but not wholly without its satisfactions. The fissure in the system is a terrible shaking up because, exactly at the same time as it offers an unexpected way out from the system, it casts a much more drastic and terrifying light on it than what we had perceived before. It is in this context, and I suspect that only in this context, that it is possible to understand well the Christian discourse about hell.
Somebody once asked, “What is enlightenment like? What is awakening like”? It’s like the tramp in London who was settling in for the night. He’d hardly been able to get a crust of bread to eat. Then he reaches this embankment on the river Thames. There was a slight drizzle, so he huddled in his old tattered cloak. He was about to go to sleep when suddenly a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce pulls up. Out of the car steps a beautiful young lady who says to him, “My poor man, are you planning on spending the night here on this embankment”?
And the tramp says, “Yes”. She says, “I won’t have it. You’re coming to my house and you’re going to spend a comfortable night and you’re going to get a good dinner”. She insists on his getting into the car. Well, they ride out of London and get to a place where she has a sprawling mansion with large grounds. They are ushered in by the butler, to whom she says, “James, please make sure he’s put in the servants’ quarters and treated well”. Which is what James does. The young lady had undressed and was about to go to bed when she suddenly remembers her guest for the night.
So she slips something on and pads along the corridor to the servants’ quarters. She sees a little chink of light from the room where the tramp was put up. She taps lightly at the door, opens it, and finds the man awake. She says, “What’s the trouble, my good man, didn’t you get a good meal”? He said, “Never had a better meal in my life, lady”. “Are you warm enough”? He says, “Yes, lovely warm bed”. Then she says, “Maybe you need a little company. Why don’t you move over a bit”. And she comes closer to him and he moves over and falls right into the Thames.
Ha! You didn’t expect that one! Enlightenment! Enlightenment! Wake up. When you’re ready to exchange your illusions for reality, when you’re ready to exchange your dreams for facts, that’s the way you find it all. That’s where life finally becomes meaningful. Life becomes beautiful.
God should be most where man is least:
So, where is neither church nor priest,
And never rag nor form of creed
To clothe the nakedness of need,—
Where farmer folk in silence meet,—
I turn my bell-unsummoned feet;
I lay the critic’s glass aside,
I tread upon my lettered pride,
And, lowest-seated, testify
To the oneness of humanity;
Confess the universal want,
And share whatever Heaven may grant.
He findeth not who seeks his own,
The soul is lost that’s saved alone.
Walmart just reported shrinking sales for a third straight quarter. What’s going on? Explained William S. Simon, the CEO of Walmart, referring to the company’s customers, “their income is going down while food costs are not. Gas and energy prices, while they’re abating, I think they’re still…
Death is a lonely visitor. After it visits your home, nothing is ever the same again. There is an empty place at the table; there is an absence in the house. Having someone close to you die is an incredibly strange and desolate experience. Something breaks within you then that will never come together again. Gone is the person whom you loved, whose face and hands and body you knew so well. This body, for the first time, is completely empty. This is very frightening and strange. After the death many questions come into your mind concerning where the person has gone, what they see and feel now. The death of a loved one is bitterly lonely. When you really love someone, you would be willing to die in their place. Yet no one can take another’s place when that time comes. Each one of us has to go alone. It is so strange that when someone dies, they literally disappear. Human experience includes all kinds of continuity and discontinuity, closeness and distance. In death, experience reaches the ultimate frontier. The deceased literally falls out of the visible world of form and presence. At birth you appear out of nowhere, at death you disappear to nowhere… . The terrible moment of loneliness in grief comes when you realize that you will never see the deceased again. The absence of their life, the absence of their voice, face, and presence become something that, as Sylvia Plath says, begins to grow beside you like a tree.
Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know ~ all mystics ~ Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion ~ are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Thought everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.
Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. “Jaime,” he says, “wake up!” Jaime answers, “I don’t want to get up, Papa.”
The father shouts, “Get up, you have to go to school.” Jaime says, “I don’t want to go to school.” “Why not?” asks the father. “Three reasons,” says Jaime. First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school. And the father says, “Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster.” Wake up! Wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.