The Other World
And so I cross into another world
shyly and in homage linger for an invitation
from this unknown that I would trespass on.
I am very glad, and all alone in the world,
all alone, and very glad, in a new world
where I am disembarked at last.
I could cry with joy, because I am in the new world, just ventured in.
I could cry with joy, and quite freely, there is nobody to know.
And whosoever the unknown people of this unknown world may be
they will never understand my weeping for joy to be adventuring
because it will still be a gesture of the old world I am making
which they will not understand, because it is quite, quite
foreign to them.
That is D.H. Lawrence. I am not too sure how I look to you this
morning, but I feel just a little bit wild like a young tom cat
who is not sure whether in the next moment he just may race off
around the room for several minutes. I feel like all of my hair
is sort of standing up. Preparing this lecture has been a fantastic
experience. I want to bear testimony to that an experience
that probably everyone ought to have but no more than
once in their life. I was rocked yesterday when I got up to look
around the room and saw my colleague David Scott sitting back
of that column there. I have known David for awhile but I have
never seen a look on his face like I saw when I saw him sitting
there. I mean he was pale. And that reminded me, not long ago
when I looked across and saw Larry Ward preparing for his lecture
on the Other World. Once in a lifetime.
We need to talk about that chart a little bit but it is not the
chart we are talking about. And you are aware of that. I am not
sure how to say how to articulate the language of
the trek. Because of that, I want to try in whatever feeble way
to point to it. Whatever else I do this morning I do not want
to describe something that happens only to a few in life, for
I believe that every man in our time knows that which those charts
indicate. Now, I am certain there is no sequence in those charts.
You do not start in the Land of Mystery and then show up in the
River of Consciousness and then the Mountain of Care, and then
the Sea of Tranquillity. Something different than that happens.
I also want to bear witness to you that a man who has not discovered himself standing upon the Mountain of Care, suddenly understanding that the suffering of this world is his, has ever lived on the Sea of Tranquillity. I do not know the relationship there but I know that the Sea of Tranquillity is not given to the man who has not stood upon the Mountain of Care, has not seen that the doom of this world is his ownand then has taken up that doom.
I am intrigued by that Mountain of Care with the interplay of
passion and compassion. For with Kazantzakis, I have become clear
that in my life only one thing calls forth passion from me. And
I mean, only one thing. That is passion for God- not my children,
not my wife, not my colleagues. I have passion for one thing and
one thing only and that is God. And so does any man; for on that
Mountain of Care, that passion for God is transmuted into compassion
for the world. And your compassion is acted out in care for creation-
which is passion for God. Every man knows that he lives before
the God of heaven and earth. Whether he dares to invoke that awesome
symbol or not, he lives before God- and to live before God is
to be alive. Oh, but what life, for to be alive, really alive,
is to live before the God who is God.
I want to bear testimony to you that I have passion for one thing
and one thing only, and to know that is to begin to be able to
articulate what it means to be being in the midst of the Sea of
Tranquillity. Now, that sea, as you begin to get a smell- like
the other day, you do not experience the cessation of struggle
and conflict to be there. To be in that sea is not to experience
giving up. No, it is like life swells around you in furious struggle.
That you are in the midst. I like David Scott's image of the eye
of the hurricane. There you are in the midst- right in the midst
of all of it.
"This feast unsettles me." Do you like that line out
of that song, "Mystery?" It wipes me out every time
we sing it. This feast unsettles me. I want to make a confession,
because I believe that it is yours too. "This feast unsettles
me." You see, all my life I have been something of a spiritual
ascetic in a strange kind of way. What I mean by that is that
my conscious life has been lived in a season of scarcity. You
see in the season of scarcity you become an ascetic to survive.
You know that. We have lived in a season of scarcity. And now,
my God, there is a new time. This feast unsettles me. I want to
say more about that later on. You need to hear that before we
begin this little trip.
What is it called? Vital Spirit? Let me spin a bit, on Vital Spirits.
I call it a new vitality, it rules the universe, because one day
everything is new. How does that happen? Or, in the Book of Revelation:
"Behold, I make all things new." One day everything
is new. Just, one day, everything is new. Colleagues are new.
Children are new. My feet are new. Even though I smell, one day
everything is new. I call it unexpected newness. It has the feel
of- Have you walked outside in the summer on a fresh clean morning,
before the sun has really gotten all the way up? And the traffic
has not moved yet and you know the smell of the air and the feel
of it on your flesh? Or have you ever walked in the desert in
the afternoon in the summer after a rain storm. One day everything
is new. It is just new, unexplainable, inexplicably, and the universe
If you looked on your chart you saw the little word elan,
vital. The universe is vibrant one day, wildly vibrant. Remember
Walt Whitman? "I sing the body electric." One day the
whole universe seems to sing or just hum. It is like electricity
just humming, singing there and you hum and sing and the deeps
begin to stir in a way that maybe you have not known before. The
subterranean passages of your life rumble. Great currents begin
to move about. You feel like you are swimming and suddenly an
undercurrent has taken you and pulled you in a new direction.
And then you are "alive beyond life." Do you remember
that poem of D. H. Lawrence's? Boy, you go back and read it now
after you have looked into the other world. Then you are "alive
beyond life." I want to talk about that for just a moment.
How does one get a hold of the poetry? I grew up in Eastern Arizona
in the mountains in a copper mining area. And in the town where
I went to school there was, about three miles south of us, a dam,
a hydroelectric power dam. It was built in the thirties to honor
Calvin Coolidge. My friend's father was the engineer that ran
the dam and we used to go out on weekends and play in the midst
of that monstrous dam. Now overlooking that dam and the lake,
was a huge rock. I mean it was fifteen hundred feet high if it
was a hundred. It was just a huge boulderous mountain and then
there were mountains all around it.
One day, friend, Tom, and I decided we were going to climb it.
Well, we labored for hours and hours and hours and my, my, my.
Standing at the top of that mountain after laboring for hours
to get up there...whew! Oh I mean to tell you there was an aliveness
in me there was a vitality there, and when we got to the top of
that mountain, wow, you will never guess what we did. In a wild
kind of youthful ritual of manhood we irrigated the universe.
Then we got back to his home and his parents who had a pair of
binoculars sitting on the shelf said, "We really enjoyed
watching you climb that mountain."
"Alive beyond life! Living where life was never yet dreamed
of" not hinted at. Here! in the other world, "Alive
beyond life." I have strange passions. A passion for running.
It is difficult for me to pass by a well manicured golf course
without experiencing just the wild urge to run. Oh the joy! Oh,
the vitality that is in that running. One day life is new the
universe sings. The deeps are stirred. You are alive beyond life.
That is what it means to be in the sea. To know about life.
What are the souvenirs of that trip? What are the indicative resolves?
I will articulate them like this. You have seen those cotton picking
posters? You know that they put out these days? "Live! Live
life?" They kind of nauseate me. I hope that does not bother
anybody. But that is the truth. They nauseate me because they
do not say it. I shall live! I shall live. To hell with those
damm posters. I shall live. I mean I shall bask in the deeps.
My life trembles. Have you over stood before a hill filled with
quaking aspens. Do you know what quaking aspens are? They are
a white barked tree that when the wind blows through them they
shimmer and in the autumn you see a stand of quaking aspen shimmering
in the distance. Oh, my, I want to tell you that these days my
life feels like there is a stand of quaking aspen somewhere down
in there shimmering all the time. My resolve is to shimmer.
Well, they named the next box Spontaneous Gratitude, For me it
begins something like this. Remember Auntie Mame? When she was
on that stairway? In that monstrous red outfit she began walking
, swooping down the stairway? Life is a banquet! Yeah, life is
a banquet and I am undone. Can you understand that? I am undone.
How do you? Look, there is a feast laid out before you and I.
Every where you look, a morsel. And my God I have been living
off table scraps all my life. Haven't you? Life is a banquet.
That is the beginning of that one. I mean it is a feast. It puts
to shame what you and I experienced last Sunday morning. What
we experienced was simply a rehearsal. An artificial DRAMA. And
if you had eyes to see what you saw was, my God!, life is a banquet.
Then I call it consummate abundance. I mean it teems. Have you
ever seen those old newsreels? Where they have tuna fishermen
and they're out and they ultimately run into a school of tuna
and they are wildly throwing the hooks in and pulling them out
as fast as they can and then they have mechanical nets that they
crank up on the side of the boats and it just teems with huge
fish, Life teems. Everywhere you look it reaches out and teems.
The harvest is great and I am overwhelmed. Exquisite Plenitude.
Then there is an invitation. The beginning of that song that we
put to the tune of "Danny Boy." I never thought we would
capture that tune but we did. I have to think to remember the
name of it now. What I remember is that the first line or at least
I remember it as the first line: "Life beckons me."
Yeah, that is the invitation. Life beckons me.
Then I remember the story out of the New Testament. Go out to
the hedgerows and make them come in. Life is a feast. It teems
everywhere you turn and there is the invitation, a beckoning.
In my mind life becomes... I wanted to use the word wild Joy,
but that is not enough. It is like the Kairos take over. Oh, those
posters. You can see I have got an ax about posters. One of the
most fantastic places to have a course is a Roman Catholic Retreat
Center except for the fact that you walk in the door and there
are those posters. Makes me so angry. Have you ever seen them?
"Celebrate life. Hmmmm, the kairos takes over. That is all
there is to life. I have been invited. Now if you knew me like
I know me, that would overwhelm you, too, and you know you like
I know me. I have been invited to know all there is. Wild celebration.
Let me underscore that word wild. If you think that living on
a Sea of Tranquillity is a serene experience in the way that the
world talks about it, you have decided to quit.
You just explode its siesta. I mean it is wild. It is the kind
of wildness that you meet when you are looking into the eyes of
an animal - like a young tom cat suddenly tearing off in a wild
spin around the yard with his hair on end and he stops right in
front of you and you look face to face in his eyes. Rowrrrrrr.
That is sort of what you see there. A celebration that is all
there is. My life is seized. A shock and a wild cry tears loose
from my mouth. A celebration. And the souvenirs, the awesome yes
to my fate and that is not an easy yes, and yet, once you have
read Psalm 51 and know that that is your Psalm then you know what
the resolve is that grasps your life. For you remember what the
Psalmist points out and you know that the only sacrifice, the
only offering the mystery desires is your own brokenness and your
own spilled outness and you and I have got more than enough of
that to go around. The resolve that grips my life is yes to my
fate and it always comes out something like this Y E S!!
YES. Yes, I am resolved to feast in life, every crumb of it; every
moment of it is holy, even a fly crawling up the post that holds
up the ceiling. Every moment of it, I feast, that is my resolve.
I resolve to see and I resolve to hear, and I resolve to feel
the stirring of the deeps. Those are souvenirs that I am left
with. Accent the invitation. Accent the invitation; that's my
They call the next trip Blissful Seizure. One of the songs that
we sing that I do not like is that Sousa thing that is so hard
to sing. What is the name of it? Yes, Washington Post. But it
has fantastic music, once you begin and the poetry is fantastic?
"a wild kind of joy". I call the first part of that
"rapture walks with woe." I think that is up there in
the chart, too. For you have to understand that the Joy that comes
in life to man comes in the midst of the woes of his life and
does not take them away. Rapture walks with woe. It is the bittersweet-
the sweet bitterness of life. That is where the joy comes. It
is in the midst of the real life that you have on your hands.
In the midst of trials a wild kind of joy breaks through. And
if I had to name an emotion there it would be the tears of joy.
Do you see the paradox there? Tears of joy, the only response.
Tears of joy.
The first year of religious houses, colleagues and I spent a year
in Atlanta. That was one of the greatest years of my life. In
that year I learned the meaning of trials and tribulations and
it was with the help of Soren Kierkegaard in a little book called
the Gospel of Suffering, that I gained the poetry by which to
articulate the meaning of that period. One day while sitting on
an airplane, towards the end of that year, I suddenly realized
- I can die. I suddenly realized, something had changed. Life
was different. And the bittersweet joy that had been there was
transmuted. I call it Surprising Seizure. And I am defenseless,
for you see, once you have been on the Mountain of Care, you are
defenseless, but standing before the woes of this world. You are
defenseless before the suffering in this world - in the sense
that you cannot keep it out. In the Sea of Tranquillity you are
defenseless against the seizure for it comes in the midst of woe
and trial and tribulation and carts you away. You awake and birds
are swooping down from some clear topped area, seeking you. I
mean it is the experience of being seized. That's the rapture.
That is the explosive seizure that is there in the midst of the
trials and tribulations and woes.
And I am possessed by that like I'm a madman and I am the kind
of madman that all men wished that they dared to be. It is madness,
that is the rapture. It is holy madness. It is passion for God.
That is the seizure. That is the meaning of the rapture. It passes
over your life and seizes you and takes you away . And then you
are struck dumb. It is the rapture silence. It is being caught
off guard. It is looking open-mouthed, surprised, unable to speak.
Sometimes you feel like perhaps half inarticulate cries are trying
to get out. It is sort of life if you could talk, all that would
come out if you could speak would be umpf, umpf, umpf.
I remember once, a colleague and I were teaching, and we were
in a hot room between courses asleep. And in the middle of the
night I was awakened by the strangest sound you could imagine.
I mean literally, it was sort of a yumaramufftl! Wild inarticulate
cries and then they stopped. And I knew he was a Godman.
Do you remember the 23rd Psalm? "My cup runneth over."
Have you read St. Theresa? Suddenly in the middle of your life
there's a fountain and the living waters are flowing.
On my uncle's ranch, in central Arizona, he had an artesian well
and it was always just spewing up on the ground, And sweet! You
would not believe that water could taste like that. Oh, I remember
the first summer that I stayed on the ranch and really got to
help work. I used to ride with them every day, and Oh my,... It
reminds me of Little Big Man, not only was I "playing"
cowboys; I was "cowboys." And we used to just long for
the part of the day when you came to that section of the ranch
where the well was to drink that water. The rest of the day we
would drink out of the horse troughs. But that sweet water from
that sweet water well was something else.
One time in your life, perhaps your cup runs over. Pouring water
-living streams. My God, what do you do when your cup runs over?
What do you do when your cup runs over? How does the next line
go? "Surely goodness and mercy"- is that it? "Shall
follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house
of the Lord for ever." The water bubbles up and around and
through you and you feel like you are being swept off. My cup
runs over. That's the souvenir, the resolve.
How does Kazantzakis put it? I am! This ecstatic. I will never
forget that. I mean there is a touch of that madness. That is
going to always be there. And I will never be the same. I am the
ecstatic. And I am resolved to drain the flagon of the bitter
sweet liquid that life is. I mean every drop. Fill it again.-.I'll
drain the flagon. I will be a good fountain. That is the way Lawrence
puts it, isn't it? A good wellhead, yes. Blur no whispers, spoil
no expression. And I'll admit the silence of the rapture to my
And then that box called Final Blessings. Now you have known that
and so has everyman. Everything is worthwhile. I call it first
essential goodness. It's the time when being present to creation
becomes incomparably salutary. Does that communicate to you? Life
is good. How do you say that? Life is good. It is like the memory
of eating hot corn on the cob with butter dripping off of it.
Life is good. Death is good. That is the next one. I call it final
home. I can die. I can die. Which means that I can live and once
you understand that, you know the secret. But, oh boy, when David
referred to St. Francis yesterday. Do you remember the verse out
of his song? "And thou most kind and gentle death. Waiting
to hush our latest breath. Oh, Praise him, Oh Praise him. Thou
leadest home the child of God. And Christ our Lord thy way has
trod. Oh praise him."
Death is good. The way Kazantzakis puts it is, Life is good and
Death is good and the earth is round and firm in my hands like
the breast of a woman. And then I call it beatific repose.
Do you like that word repose? I do. I thought a long time before
I came up with it. Beatific Repose. It is contentment. I don't
know if you have ever sat through a Jewish seder meal but the
first time I did, I couldn't get up off the floor. When I lived
in Atlanta, the first year of the Religious Houses, I was at a
seder meal in Jacksonville, Florida. What an experience. I wanted
to say something to that rabbi, but all I could say to him was
I sure appreciate being here. My God, what that man did not know
was I could hardly walk out of there. You know in the seder meal,
they rehearse the story of being a people and they go back to
the beginning and they rehearse the whole thing. And then by golly
the liturgist pauses after he rehearses part of the story and
the people say "Dayenu". Do you know what Dayenu means?
It would have been enough. It would have been sufficient. It would
have sufficed. It would have satisfied us. And he begins the story
about Moses taking them across the Red Sea. . . The sea is malcontent
and this and that you have got on your hands. It is sufficient.
If you have not seen that movie McCleskey mentioned today, see
it, "Ivan Denisovitch." One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovitch. Life is sufficient. I mean your real life is sufficient.
If you had driven us through Week One and just let us write those
documents, it would have been enough. Life is sufficient. To live
in the Sea is to be content. That is happiness.
When I lived in Washington, one night I went over to the Church
of the Savior - a great experiment, and did a little presentation
at their coffee house, called Potter's House. And afterwards one
of the people, strange friend, who was instrumental in that experiment
came up and asked me a question. She looked into my face and said,
"Are you happy?" My immediate response to that was something
like -well you can imagine what it was. How many times have you
taught a course and had somebody ask you that? Do you know what
I said to her? I looked her back in the eye and in the space of
time that it took, she asked the question and I answered it- -
- - - - -
I remember a great happening that occurred to me as I was going
out on a metro visit a week or so earlier. Something relative
to the category of happiness exploded my being and for the first
time I had a new handle on the gospel of John. Let me read it
to you. You will remember it and it will be familiar to you. "I
will not leave you bereft; I am coming back in a little while.
The world will see me no longer but you will see me. Because I
live you will live. Then you will know that I am in the Father
and you in me and I in you." Well I understand that what
it is to be happy is to live before God, in the Word. And I looked
in her eye and I said "YES" and that's all I said. That's
all there is to say. I call that Eternal Felicity.
Do you like that word Felicity? It reminds you of the Inn of the
Sixth Happiness or something, doesn't it? This life, my girl,
this marriage, this wife, this husband, this job, the congregation,
this home, Dayenu! I am content and happiness is mine for God.
The only souvenir of that trip is resolution to go to heaven and
I mean to tell you, I am resolved, I am resolved. Because you
can trust life and you can welcome death and you
can be God's man. I am happiness. I am happiness. Once
you've known that, there is nothing else.