Every Angel is Terror

First re: work, getting used to a full time job has more or less prevented me writing anything online. In fact outside work hours (when I was¬†working) I have not even been at a computer till today. This is my first full time job since I have been in a committed relationship and I now realise that if you have both you literally have no time for anything except those two things. No time for hobbies, no time for “self improvement”, no time for any other kind of socialising even really. I feel ok with that, its actually quite nice to not be constantly naval gazing and trying to measure up to some idealised sense of what I “ought” to be doing because I don’t have time to do anything apart from pre-arranged commitments. I wasted a lot of time before.

The other day walking home from work, along side a heavily congested dual carriageway, I noticed a bird soaring over the road to a cluster of trees on the other side of it, and for some reason, this sight, for I have seen soaring birds a million times, struck me with awe. I marvelled at the bird – I thought at all the magnificent machines we humans have created, cars (because they were in my line of sight), aeroplanes and so on, and I figured that the bird was also a magnificent machine. Yet I felt the bird was so much more tremendous than any car, or any plane or any of man’s creations . And I wondered, why do I feel this way? Why does a bird impress me so much more than a car? Both are tremendous feats of engineering (even if one was “developed” rather than engineered). And I decided after thinking about it that the bird impresses me so much more than the car because the bird is free.

A bird does not exist to serve man’s purposes – even if say God did indeed give man dominion over the “beasts of the field and the birds of the air” this takes nothing from their freedom, any more than man being under the dominion of God takes from his. We can certainly command the creatures of the earth and utterly dominate their lives and environment if we so wish, but does this make them less free – not at all – in response to kindness they can choose to submit to man’s advances, or in response to cruelty they can because vicious and reject us. Living beings are free – they are free in a deeper and more meaningful sense than “having a choice” which is a very superficial manifestation of freedom. They are free in having their own purposes, purposes ingrained in their very being, which are not imposed upon them, but which are “emergent” from their very nature. There is something incredibly majestic about that freedom, incredibly humbling to witness it in another living creature. It is something no man made machine has ever managed to replicate – we have never made a machine that creates it’s own purpose, that is truly “pointless” according to human purposes and only purposeful according to its own.

I have always been fascinated and utterly enamoured by life, that which is living, life is inherently free, sometimes terribly so, other times beautifully so – often terrifyingly so. We are frightened by things we cannot control, but “beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, that we are still able to bear, and we revere it so because it calmly¬†disdains to destroy us.”

If good were what man naturally assumes is good, life would be quite simple – but how to deal with the colours on the canvas that are darker, more complex and maybe even immediately repulsive? How do we deal with the Truth and Beauty that horrifies and engages all in one fell swoop? That terrible freedom, the tremendous love, those wonderful chains, that righteous anger, that horrific forgiveness? When will we admit that “the good” is a lot more complex (and often a lot simpler too) than we are willing to deal with – that Love is more loving than we perhaps can sometimes bear?

We read too much I think, or watch too much for the illiterate – we digest ideas instead of experiencing life. We are closer to one another than we really know because we let ourselves be enamoured of the novelty of new arrangements of words as though they were a symphony, we make them a barrier and a shibboleth. Love and freedom doesn’t know anything about that, life is chaotic in man’s perception, but it’s also the delight of an eternal and ancient counterpoint.