Probable Impossibles

Walking On Water

Reflections on Faith & Art

Chapter 5

Let me return to Aristotle’s “that which is probable and impossible is better than that which is possible and improbable.” I’ve been chewing on that one since college, and it’s all tied in with Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief.” If the artist can make it probable, we can accept the impossible—impossible in man’s terms, that is. Aristotle, not knowing the New Testament, could not add, “With man it is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” — The artist at work is less bound by time and space than in ordinary life. But we should be less restricted in ordinary life than we are. We are not supposed to be limited and trapped. As a child it did not seem strange to me that Jesus was able to talk face to face with Moses and Elijah, the centuries between them making no difference.

~Madeline L’Engle

Continue reading “Probable Impossibles”

Love The One You’re With

The Cliff Dwellers by George Bellows (1913)

LOVE AFTER LOVE
Dereck Wolcott

The day will come
the time will come
when with elation

you will greet yourself
arriving at your own door
and each will smile at each others welcome

saying sit here, eat
you will love again the stranger who was yourself
Give wine, give bread
give back your heart to yourself

to the stranger who has loved you all your life
who you ignored for another
who knows you by heart

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes
feel your own image in the mirror, see it
Feast on your life.

Psalm 86

1 Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
4 Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
9 All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

11 Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
13 For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Romans 13:8–10

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


We waste a lot of energy talking about self-esteem.  The human heart intuitively longs to give and receive a love based on the priceless worth of the soul which can only be realized in the union of the creation and its Creator.  We chase hard after self-esteem when self-worth is what we already possess.  Our value does not have to be earned.

As Ken Kovacs says in his book Out of the Depths:

Writing toward the end of his life, Carl Jung argued that the “acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.” Then he addressed his concerns directly at the Church, targeting Christians who pride themselves on their virtuous life and good deeds, yet don’t know how to love themselves. The Church needs to hear this today; Christians need to wrestle with what he said because I think Jung gets right to the core of what’s wrong within Christianity and what’s wrong with so much of the Church these days— we have yet to fully embrace and embody the implications of the gospel.

Jung wrote:

“That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ—all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself—that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness—that I myself am the enemy who must be loved—what then?”

What is your understanding of loving yourself?

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Logo

John 1:1

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

 

Ken Kovacs
Ken Kovacs

Kenneth E. Kovacs is pastor of the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland, and has served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. He is also an analyst-in-training at the C. G. Jung Institute-Zürich. Author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter & Conviction (New York: Peter Lang, 2011) and Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), his current research areas include C. G. Jung and contemporary Christian experience. Ken has served on the board of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, is a current board member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, and a book reviewer for The Presbyterian Outlook.

Ken’s weekly sermons at CPC can be found at http://kekovacs.blogspot.com/

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Carl Jung

Carl Jung

Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, prolific writer, and founder of analytical (Jungian) psychology. Many consider him the father of psychospirituality for his distinct contribution to the psychology of religion. He was born Karle Gustav II Jung in a small town in Switzerland, the only surviving child of Paul Achilles Jung, a rural pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church, and Emilie Preiswerk. Jung was married (1903–1955) to Emma Rauschenbach until her death, and together they had five children.

Jung was influenced by the great philosophers Plato, Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Schopenhauer, as well as by his travels abroad and the world religions he studied extensively. In his early years, he was mentored by psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857–1939), and later, by psychiatrist/neurologist/psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856–1939).

The close friendship Jung had with Freud for many years did not survive their ideological differences. Among other things, Jung disagreed with Freud’s emphasis on sexuality as a prime source of motivation, his disdain for religion and the belief that it was a neurosis to be cured, and his theory of the unconscious.

Jung continuously wrestled with core concepts of Christianity, believing that life has a spiritual purpose beyond the material world, and that the heart of all religions is the journey of individual transformation (individuation). Yet to him the institution of religion distorted and obstructed true spirituality and healing, while the absence of religion was a main cause of psychological disorders. To this day, Jung influences psychology, the wider society, and Christianity with his theory of personality types and his concept of archetypes (universally recognizable symbols of personality).

Others of his famous concepts include the collective unconscious (versus the personal unconscious), the meaning and interpretation of dreams, the meaning and use of symbols and rituals, and the shadow (repressed weaknesses and instinct of the unconscious mind). He believed that if the shadow is not consciously acknowledged and integrated, it will become darker and impede healing and transformation. Jung paved the way for many different schools of psychology and psychotherapy, and created an indelible bridge between psychology and spirituality that still influences us today.

Art:  The Cliff Dwellers by George Bellows (1913)

Cliff Dwellers was exhibited in the 1913 Armory Show, which Bellows helped organize. The painter captures the colorful crowd on New York City’s Lower East Side. It appears to be a hot summer day. People spill out of tenement buildings onto the streets, stoops, and fire escapes. Laundry flaps overhead and a street vendor hawks his goods from his pushcart in the midst of all the traffic. In the background, a trolley car heads toward Vesey Street. Shadowing is evident throughout this painting as make out the distance of each building based on the light and dark shade of each one. This also helps make the crowd seem deeper than we can actually see.

The perception of such a large crowd contrasts with the immediate foreground, which leads our eye specifically to the subjects in this area and therefore displaying their significance to this painting. Looking further into the composition of Cliff Dwellers specifically in the system of colors used, The Paintings of George Bellows”, a commentary on most of Bellows’ work, states that: “Bellows continued to use Maratta’s system to select the palettes of the paintings through 1913… Cliff Dwellers, painted in May 1913, was the exception, representing his most complex exploration of the Maratta color system.” The significance of Bellows’ willingness to stray away from his usual system of color and choose a more monochromatic scale of colors, shows the audience how unique this piece of art is and how it differs from all other works not only in subject or theme but also in color. The painting, made in 1913, suggests the new face of New York.

Between 1870 and 1915, the city’s population grew from one-and-a-half to five million, largely due to immigration. Many of the new arrivals—Italian, Jewish, Irish, and Chinese—crowded into tenement houses on the Lower East Side—the area north of the Brooklyn Bridge, south of Houston Street, and east of the Bowery. Among them were thousands of Eastern European Jews, who found temporary or permanent shelter along streets such as East Broadway, the setting for Cliff Dwellers. The city had never seen this kind of density before. Within the context of Cliff Dwellers the audience is able to convey a sense of congestion, overpopulation and (primarily seen in the foreground) the impact of the city among the youth.

Within the book, The Paintings of George Bellows a historical account of how adamant “urban reformers” were during the early twentieth century as thousands of immigrants migrated to neighborhoods of New York. “The children in Bellows’s Cliff Dwellers, innocent as they appear, exhibited no effects of the requisite “Americanizing” process urban reformers considered crucial to the maintenance of social order.” Paired with the scrutiny heaped upon immigrants was the fact that they were made to live in conditions, which were made unbearable by the toll of industrialization within these areas. Small and dense were the living quarters of many who worked in similar environments in factories. Small, dense, dark, which can easily be seen within the painting and helps promote the idea of how industrialization has impacted the working class lifestyle. New York Realists were called by critics as the “revolutionary black gang” and the “apostles of ugliness.” A critic, referring to their depictions also conferred them the pejorative label Ashcan School which became the standard term for this first important American art movement of the 20th century.

For Further Reading: D. Bair, Jung (2003); J. Dourley, The Illnesses That We Are (1989); R. Hopcke, A Guided Tour of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung (1999); C. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, ed. A. Jaffé, trans. R. and A. Winston (1989); R. Moore, Carl Jung and Christian Spirituality (1988).

Minoa Chang, “Jung, Carl G. (1875–1961),” ed. Glen G. Scorgie, Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 554–555.