I saw The Dark Knight again. Loved it. Enjoyed it more the second time.
Chaos is another one of those things that we all know is integral to reality and most of us hate. We want control. We like to plan. A good plan when it comes together gives us this wonderful sense of security. It is an illusion.
Heath Ledger will probably win an Oscar for his performance. And he should. Posthumously. God rest his soul. He made the Joker come alive in a way that no one else ever has. It was disturbing. The Joker in this one was chaos personified, a feral spirit, a word that took on flesh. I experienced something that I'm sure a lot of people did, if they could stop editing themselves. I call it the Archie Bunker phenomenon. The things the Joker said were so dark, so diabolical, so inhumane, so offensive to all propriety, and so...true. This was the most disturbing thing I think for people. We want to put on our good Western civilized hats and defy this lunatic criminal, but we find the words he says hitting close to home, scratching an itch deep in our throats that cannot be reached when we are awake to our better nature.
So we talked a bit about chaos in our Sunday gathering this afternoon.
I've often been told that God is not the "author of confusion" or something like that. I think there's a bible verse to go with it. I've also been preached at that God is a god of order. I think there's one for that one, too. The problem that monotheism has that polytheism doesn't is fitting all of reality into the personality of one god. When you have lots of gods, each one introduces a virtue or a vice, or a peculiar combination of both. When you have but one god, that god has to encompass them all. Or if you have no gods at all, just abstract spiritual things like yin and yang you get a by on this one, too. But, when you're a monotheist, you have to answer difficult questions like the problem of pain and the source of evil and how it is that bad things happen to good people. Stuff like that. Sometimes it's kind of like repacking your sleeping bag in that entirely too small stuff-bag.
Jesus, I think, copes with this problem quite well, but not if you listen to popular doctrine. In fact, I think Jesus is the only way to cope.
But Jesus, instead of encompassing the fullness of reality, sometimes just collects a bunch of asterisks. Like when he turns water to wine. (We talked about the account that has made the rounds several times among us of the elder's wife who, when studying the story in John 2 where Jesus' first miracle was turning water to wine, said, "I wish He hadn't done that.") Or like when Jesus trashed the temple, turning over tables, breaking open cages, and cracking the whip at the businessmen there. He introduced a little chaos.
But Jesus wasn't the first.
I ran a search to see what the Bible had to say about planning (all the while hearing in my head, "plan your work and work your plan"). I was surprised to see that the first mention of this is Genesis 11. I'm told by Hebrew scholars that the first mention of a word or the first occurrence of a concept is always the most important, and is critical to understanding subsequent words on the same concept. So that would make this one really important to understanding the nature of God and reality and everything. Anyway, the story goes like this.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
I don't know if you read this story as a myth or as science. Either way the point is the same. These guys, our ancestors, wanted control. They wanted to have a sense of security without appealing to a god, who might or might not give it to them. They didn't want to be scattered like some airheads. It would have been an illusion if they had achieved it. But the God of Confusion introduced a little chaos. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I love Death Cab for Cutie and their album, Plans. It's named for the leader's favorite joke, "How do you make God laugh? Make a plan." And really, that's just like any joke. Funny not in spite of being true, but because of it.
Jesus all but tells us not to make plans. His famous Sermon on the Mount (or as Dallas Willard calls it, Discourse on the Hill) has Jesus teaching us all to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" and ending his midrash on this subject with, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Later, when he almost seems to be ok'ing making big plans, upon re-reading I think Jesus is just pointing out the folly of doing so. He says that if someone is going to build a tower or wage a war, doesn't he first need to sit down and figure out if he has the wherewithal to execute the plan? And if he doesn't he'd better save face before he commits to it. I rather think Jesus doesn't want us building towers or waging wars. The point is not winning wars or building towers, but what they will cost us. That's in Luke 14.
It sounds like heresy to talk about God introducing chaos. We who have been baked at 451 degrees for 451 years are so fully brainwashed with the virtues of order and safety that we can't even make room in the inn for chaos and confusion.
But God is bigger than order. God is in all and through all and over all. If life is in God then so is death. If good then evil. If love then hate. If heaven then hell.
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
And the light become night around me,”
Even the darkness will not be dark to you;
The night will shine like the day,
For darkness is as light to you.
There really is no place to run to, no place to hide, nothing that can keep you from the light of God's love. When God considers darkness and light, they don't really affect him the same way they do you and me.
I am learning to not only accept chaos, but to embrace it. It is part of God, part of this over all and in all and through all deity that is wrapped around all that we can ask or imagine, and even more than we can ask or imagine. When I embrace the chaos of my days I find a joy and peace and harmony with the rhythms of reality. Flight delays, hurricanes, blizzards, cancellations. It's too bad that I need someone as twisted as the Joker to remind me of this. But in a world infatuated with everything going according to plan, sometimes we need a good laugh to set us free.