Two Bonds

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage.

                                                --Psalm 126:4

What God has bound together let no one put asunder.

                                                                                    --Mark 10:9 

Some bonds constrain us, and confine us to isolation one from another. Others release us from our confinement and our isolation, letting us loose and inviting us to enter into community with one another. The former bonds cage and enslave us, whereas the latter ones open our cage-doors and set us free. The former constipate us, tightening us up and closing us down. The latter act laxatively, as it were. They open us out like blossoms, loosening us up and relaxing us.

The gap between the two ways of binding cannot be bridged. Nor do their paths ever meet or cross, not even at infinity. They do not even run parallel, which would at least entail that they both occur in some one, common space--which they do not. Rather, the gap that separates the two ways is an abyss, and there is no tie that can ever connect them.

The two sorts of bond are not species of the one and the same genus, which means "kind." A shared genus bridges the gap between the different species that belong to that genus, however great the distance between those species may grow--just as applies and oranges both remain fruit despite all their obvious difference from one another, a difference of species so great as to have made "comparing apples and oranges" our common clich√© for trying to compare things that are really incomparable. 

Nor are the two ways of binding separated as are such pairs of opposites as Hegel makes the concepts of "being" and "nothing," or of "master" and "slave." That is, the two ways of binding do not stand to one another in any sort of "dialectical" relationship such that their opposition (literally, their being "placed, put, or set against") to one another might somehow be Aufgehoben--"sublated":  negated or denied yet still preserved in some fashion by being elevated into some "higher unity." Ties that disconnect are not related (that is, connected) to ties that connect as any such set of dialectical opposites, the opposition of which could ever be sublated into some higher unity. Once again, no such bridge can be built.

Rather, the two ways of binding stand to one another as good stands to evil. One of the two is the twisted and twisting, distorted and distorting mirror image of the other, an image in which what was originally blessing has become curse.

 It takes little reflection to discern which is the blessing and which the curse.

Angles and Demons

Angles and Demons

*     *     *

It is wise, listening not to me but to the logos, to acknowledge that all is one.

                                                                                    --Heraclitus

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

                                                                                    --John 1:1

The word that is translated as "Word" in the first verse of John's first epistle is actually the same Greek word, logos, that Heraclitus uses in the line by him cited above, the line that tells us, if we will but listen, what it's wise to hear. Nor is that accidental. That word logos came down to John through the Stoics, who themselves inherited it in their own usage from Heraclitus. 

Logos derives ultimately from the presumed Proto-Indo-European root *leg-, meaning "to collect, to gather, to harvest," as one gathers, collects, or harvests grapes, for example, at harvest time, to make them into wine. In modern German, that root meaning remains alive and well in the names for the various kinds of German wines that are available, from Auslese ("select harvest") to Spatlese ("late harvest") to Beerenauslese (harvest of individual berries) to Trokenbeerenauslese  ("harvest of select 'dry berries'," which is to say "raisins"--a sweet desert wine). I have myself harvested and consumed with pleasure many bottles of all of those varieties over the years (though none since I sobered up more than thirty years ago, responding to a different call than the one that used to call me to harvest so much harvest of the vine). 

The words of Heraclitus deliver to us who hear them the message we are sent when we truly listen to what alone is worth listening to, which is not Heraclitus himself but rather what is speaking to us through and in what he says. What so speaks is the very logos itself, which gathers up and gathers together into unity all of us human beings along with all the other things that are. 

To hear that very message, in turn, is just this: to let  the logos so gather us--to accept the gift of being bound in a single great community, binding each of us to one another, each one of us to all the others, whoever they may be, near or far, large or small, known or unknown. It is to enter into the community of each one in and with all others.

Let us all pray alone together this closing prayer from the Indian Theravada Buddhist tradition (slightly modified), a prayer with which I would like to end this post--and the first prayer I ever prayed myself, after at last I finally learned, in my early forties, just what that mysterious word prayer itself means:

May all beings be. May they all be happy and free--all beings whatever, without exception, weak or strong, long or tall, large or small, subtle or gross, seen or unseen, afar or near, born or yet to be born. May all beings be.

 Amen!