Lost at Sea

One of the great symbols of modern thought is Mr. Spock.

Mr. Spock? Pointed ears? Blue tunic? Token alien on Star Trek, the original Star Trek. Devoted to dispassionate logic, to the solid principles of cold, hard, dead science. You know the guy.

Spock is a symbol of the modern age not because the modern age is an age of science, of logic and reason. Spock is a symbol of the modern age because Spock is a joke. The hero of nerds everywhere, he is constantly put in his place by Captain Kirk, the impulsive, passionate, emotional human. Spock plays chess with Kirk, and Kirk wins because Kirk is able to make jumps of illogic that Spock cannot anticipate. When facing off with robots, the humans break through their mechanical reasoning by being unreasonable. And in the new movie based on the ancient show, Spock exists, for the most part, to demonstrate that the well thought-out, intellectual course is always the wrong course.

The war cry is taken up by nerds as well as anti-nerds: reason has failed. Logic is dead. They have their place, in the laboratory, inventing new toys like 3D televisions, but God forbid they ever be allowed to face matters of the heart or matters of the soul.

There are many facts about reason and emotion. The most foundational is this: no matter how fast you run, no matter how much you struggle, you cannot escape reason. Reason is light: if you look for a way out of it, you are using it in aid of your search. The only way you can escape is to close your eyes and stop up your ears and hum notes to yourself entirely at random.

I shall demonstrate with the rest of this essay.

Let us start by saying that reason is inferior to love. That reason is a fine servant, but a horrible master, a tool to help us with life, but not life itself.

And there is the first part of my demonstration. For I know these things because they are facts. Because I have reasoned them. Because I know that knowing about air is not the same as having air in my lungs, and knowing about math is not the same as having money in my pocket. Moreover, I know that knowing about air is inferior to having air in my lungs, that knowing the nature of a dollar is inferior to having the dollar to know about. Knowledge of physics can put a rocket on the moon, but the knowledge exists to serve the rocket, not the rocket the knowledge.

This is an oversimplification, of course, but the principle is there, wherever you look for it.

It is reasonable. It is logical. And there’s the rub.

Spock is wrong because he sets Logic as his goddess, but Logic herself declines the role. She is far too humble to assume that throne.

“Balls would be far more rational,” the lady said in Pride and Prejudice, “if conversation rather than dancing were the order of the day.”

“Far more rational,” comes the reply, “but not so much like a ball.” But the reply is wrong. The truth is this: the rational thing to do at a ball is dance.

I know this because I am partial to rationality.

 

The modern church has largely divided itself into two camps. The one is very careful of doctrine, very interested in theology, very devoted to truth.

The other sees her sister as dead or dying. A stale, brain-heavy old crone in a wheelchair. Worse: the theologists are judgmental, the most heinous thing a person could possible be in this day and age.

I once pointed out to someone that judging someone for being judgmental is itself judgmental. I nearly had my head torn off. I was accused of being unloving, unkind, hateful, spiteful, spiritually dead, deaf to the words of the Holy Spirit…

Do you want feelings instead of thoughts? Fine. That hurts. I have torn my heart out, debased myself, neglected my honor, and lived in torment because I cared about someone with whom I disagreed, and I refused to stop caring when she turned from accepting me to rejecting me. I’ve poured out my heart’s blood.

In the words of a very wise man, bite me.

But let’s approach this like adults. Mind you, I mean adults who have discarded modern foolishness about suppressed emotion in the name of maturity, and have risen to the level of saying “bite me” to self-righteous idiots.

 

Suppose that life is an ocean, and logic and reason are a map. It’s a good comparison. The sea is vast and wonderful. In it can be found beauty beyond belief and horror beyond understanding. It has the power to heal and the power to destroy. Meanwhile, a map is a piece of paper, dry and flat, covered with lines that aren’t drawn on the ocean herself, labeled with names that were made up by stuffy men in ivory towers. The sea is alive, but a map is dead. More than dead: it has been ground up into powder, blended into pulp, rolled out and left to dry. The sea has all the colors of the rainbow, all the glories of her sunsets and sunrises; a map might not even have colors. Many are black and white.

Anyone who forsakes the sea for a map of the sea is a fool.

But what can you do with the sea without a map?

You can play along the shore. You can swim or surf in sight of the sand. Oh, you may avoid the worst dangers of the ocean, staying far clear of anything more troubling than a half-dead jellyfish, but you also avoid much of her glory. To really appreciate her majesty, you need to get out there. A sail, some diving equipment, a ship, a star to steer her by – and a map, so you know where you’re steering.

Without a map you’ll be shipwrecked on some jag of stone, or lost in the middle of nowhere with no food and..

Water, water everywhere; the boards began to shrink. / Water water everywhere, but ne’er a drop to drink.

To really get into the sea requires more than an appreciation for her beauty. It requires knowledge and skill. Before you gaze upon the riches of the deep, you must learn the effects of water pressure on the human body, and how to manage them. You need to understand which fish will allow you to befriend it, and which fish will sting you or try to eat you. Before you ride the wind before the storm, you need to know how to tack, which rope to pull, which way to move the rudder.

So it is with every pursuit in life. To plunk out a few notes on a piano, your ear and finger will do. To revel in a piano, only years of dedicated study and practice will do. To draw a picture requires a pen and a bit of paper. To turn that paper into a window onto a magical world requires a deep understanding of the play of light and darkness, of proportion. You must teach yourself to listen to your eye instead of your mind.

Or, let’s look at God’s favorite picture: romance. I think roses are one of the most romantic things there is. The girl I fancy is allergic to roses. She’s allergic to gold. If I don’t use my mind and memory, if I don’t learn the facts about her, I will get her a dozen roses, or a lovely gold necklace, and be a most inferior suitor.

Let us return to the sea, for the sea is an apt picture of life, of the heart, of the soul. Replete with mystery. Alive with both glory and with danger.

And danger is a part we need to consider. When they tell you that your ship is unsinkable, history has taught you to count the lifeboats. In matters of life and death, we don’t just go out of our way to learn how things work; we go out of our way to insist that everyone around us learn how things work. If we are a-sailing and I am a fool, I endanger not only my life, but also yours.

So why do we not hold the same view when it comes to our walk with God, our emotions, our spirits? Bodies are replaceable – indeed, every body will be replaced with a better one at the end of time. Death will turn backwards; injury will be undone.

But hearts are immortal. When you fool around, inattentively with the human heart, you cause eternal changes. And since our new bodies are going to be attached to the same soul, well –

Mess around with matters of life and death, and someone could die once. Mess around with matters of Heaven and Hell, and someone could die eternally.

So why do we refuse to think? Why, once we see that the map is inferior to the sea, do we therefore refuse the map? And, when we get angry with idiots who don’t learn to drive before they start endangering the roads and sidewalks with big metal cars, do we sit by passively while idiots who refuse to learn about God endanger the church with demonic lies?

Worse. We don’t just ignore people who skip over mere mortal peril to attack us with immortal peril. We get indignant, we get angry, we get hateful the moment someone tries to rescue us from our own murderers! Whoever judges the path dangerous is judged evil. If anyone tells us we are driving towards the edge of the cliff, we respond by trying to pitch him over.

The first to fall to the invading army is the frantic watchman who couldn’t rouse us from our beloved slumber.

 

The mind is inferior to the heart, sure. As the sword is inferior to the warrior. As the fur is inferior to the arctic explorer.

As a map is inferior to the sea.

The mind is only a tool. Only a servant. Logic must never sit on the throne of our lives.

But while she is only a tool, she is the only tool that can get us home safely.

 

Jesus told us that if we love him, we will obey his commands.

Jesus told us that the greatest command was to love God with all our hearts, all our minds all our souls, all our strength.

If we do not love God with our minds, we do not love God.

If we do not study His word and work to find out what it means, we will love Him the wrong way. He will ask for a rose, and we will hand Him a viper. He will ask for a kiss, and we will deny Him because we are too busy singing about how beautiful He is. We don’t even know how beautiful He is: we’ve never looked.

When Eros married Psyche, he demanded she never bring a lamp into their bedroom. But God demands that we turn on the lights and feast our eyes. But we…

 

Had bought a large map representing the sea without the least vestige of land,

And the crew were well pleased when they found it to be a map they could all understand

 

What’s the use of Mercator’s north poles and equators, subtropics, meridian lines?”

So the Bellman would cry, and the crew would reply “They are merely conventional signs!”

Other maps are such shapes with their islands and capes, but we’ve got our brave captain to thank,”

So the crew would protest, “That he’s bought us the best, a perfect and absolute blank.”

 

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