Perception

This post follows on from the previous one. It was, originally, part of the same post, but the link between the two parts wasn’t strong enough to publish them together. But it deals with another of life’s contrasts, in similar vein to the previous one. And, again, it’s about how we see things.

There is something crude and unsophisticated about us humans and our emotions. We have just five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing, and we seem to possess similarly simple emotions - joy, sadness, worry, anger... Quite different stimuli can induce the same, or similar, physical and emotional responses in us. I don't know about you, but sometimes, something 'intangible' produces a physical response in me - something I can't touch, taste, smell, see or hear makes me feel in a particular way. Walking through our church when no one else is there for instance; there is a sense of peace and stillness which I feel almost nowhere else, together with a sense of praise, almost of faintly heard singing, feeling almost as if it has been 'layered on' over decade after decade.

Why should I 'feel' that?

In the purely physical sense, it is 'just' a building - stone and cement, plaster and paint; a solid object, built by men’s hands. The fact that there's an 'intangible' feeling to the place suggests to me that there is more going on in the world than my five senses are capable of detecting other than in the most rudimentary fashion. I think we can choose (or not!) to engage with the world, both seen and unseen, in more than one way, and on more than one level; despite the lack of sophistication of our frail human bodies. Our emotions, whilst also in some way 'primitive', seem to have some way of 'tapping into' at least some of these other 'layers of existence'.

Hmm...

I wonder...

I wonder whether, perhaps, our emotions are really quite subtle and sophisticated, but that it's only our physical side, and our physical reactions to emotional stimuli which are crude and unsophisticated? Think of tears for example. We can (at least if we're 'in touch with' our feelings) cry when we're angry, sad, frustrated, cry tears of joy, laugh until we cry... Does that, perhaps illustrate my point? The emotions themselves are complex, the physical responses most often aren't.

This is all familiar stuff, on one level, but at the same time, it's also new to me... Since the summer, and my sabbatical, I have become much more 'contemplative' and (perhaps) in consequence, more aware that there's much more going on in the world than I can touch, taste, see, smell or hear. Because it's 'new' to me, I haven't thought my way around it very well yet - and so am probably not expressing it well either. I think there's probably more to come in this vein.

It's quite surprising to me what simply sitting quietly, concentrating on God, achieves, in terms of connection - with my own feelings, but also with 'something bigger' - the mind of God? When I was young, we were told that meditation, accompanied by an emptying of the mind, was dangerous - it was a way to 'let the devil in'. But actually, I am finding that, in order to let God in, I need to 'empty out' the every day, the mundane, to 'make space' for 'God thoughts'. I'm not good at it. I need to spend time 'dismissing' the inevitable mental distractions by a process of 'I've noted that, I'll deal with it later'. It can take me quite a while before I am quiet enough, still enough, to hear God...

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13

There is a sense in which I need to 'pull my cloak over my face' - to remove the distractions, so that I am able to become aware enough to hear the 'gentle whisper' of God. It doesn’t always happen, by any means. I know he’s always there, but sometimes, I’m just not quite in the right frame of mind (or something) to make the connection.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2016