Martin Luther Zen

It seems that the desire for a “fresh start” is an all-pervasive impulse–in art, in faith, in life. Why do you suppose this is? Reformation, innovation…is this, too, morphing? Are we now more inclined toward spiritual and societal evolution and composting as continuation metaphors rather than disruptive ones?

I’m thinking about these things today while listening to Athens, GA band R.E.M.‘s 1986 release Life’s Rich Pageant. Michael Stipe belts an anthem rife with religious imagery. Among it:

Let’s begin again, begin the begin
Let’s begin again like Martin Luther Zen
The mythology begins the begin.

Answer me a question I can’t itemize
I can’t think clearly, look to me for reason
It’s not there, I can’t even rhyme in the begin

A philanderer’s tie, a murderer’s shoe
Example: the finest example is you.

Birdie in the hand for life’s rich demand
The insurgency began and you missed it.
I looked for it and I found it
Miles Standish proud, congratulate me.

Watch this awesome rendition of the song with R.E.M. and Pearl Jam‘s Eddie Vedder:

Miles Standish was a Pilgrim-soldier in America’s Plymouth colony. Martin Luther was a reformer in the 16th-century Magisterial Reformation of Christian faith in Europe. Zen was a reform movement of Mahāyāna Buddhism during the 7th century beginning in China. Both reformations, significantly, shifted the loci of transcendence and liberation from the institution to the personal. It makes me wonder what’s coming next…

Why does faith, like all other aspects of life, need to reinvent itself from time to time? Our concepts of God, like vehicles, seem to only get us so far before the vehicle repairs get so costly, it’s no longer worth maintaining them. We’re pretty sure we want to keep driving, but what? SUVs were popular in the US a decade ago, but now with the rising costs of crude oil, we’re re-thinking this preference as a people. James Canton in The Extreme Future echoes what most many foresight analysts are now agreeing–we will as a planet have exhausted all existing energy supplies by 2040, if not before. How does this effect our vehicle choices? Do we go hybrid, or biodisel?

I hope you realize I’m not just speaking literally here. I think we need a sustainable faith as vitally as we need sustainable energy to live and flourish and in the 21st century. I see “the Begin” as the eternal heart of the Godhead, dynamic hopes and triune dreams spilling out into “life’s rich demand.” Due to the kosmic redemption inherent in God’s reconciling work in Christ, we can tap into the primal mythology–that deeper magic–here and now. There is a rich repository of God’s All-in-all, well, everywhere, drenching us in gratuitous favor. Maybe we need a little “Martin Luther Zen”–recognizing the composting renaissance of Holy Spirit in our midst.

3 Responses to Martin Luther Zen

  1. Frank September 2, 2007 at 3:33 am #

    Ah, “S-Curve” and creative Counter Curve Modeling, one of my favorites! And I would add that God works in BOTH evolutionary and disruptive change (the complexity of God in comparison to the contemporary image of a linear or “simple” God), but it is in the emerging or innovative realities that we are able to participate in the creative process.

    I would also add that Canton is very (extremely) “pop,” so I would question the comment that “most” foresight analysts see such an early date for the exhaustion of present energy supplies. But this is the heart of complexity and interconnectedness of global issues. (Ex. Deforestation may be a greater culprit in global warming than fossil fuel emissions due to a lack of carbon “banking” – estimates say that we have only 53% of forests worldwide since the Industrial Revolution). Important issues to solve, and equally as fun to argue with you! 😉

  2. Dave Blakeslee September 2, 2007 at 3:19 pm #

    I like the video. Was it shot during the “Vote For Change” tour in 2004? It matches Eddie’s “look” from that tour, and Stipe’s “work to be done” rap at the end implies that this was a charity gig.

    Ideas and practices that aim to get us closer to God have a way of ossifying and turning stale over the course of time. Institutionalization, exploitation, familiarity and ennui all take their toll on even the most brilliant or intuitive formulations. This is one reason that I tend to keep my distance from most formalized religious expressions, especially those who seem highly intent on issuing definitive decrees or “once for all” encodings of The Truth. That is, I know, a rather dangerous stance in the view of many, but I think that view is perpetuated mainly by those who stand the most to lose if more people draw conclusions similar to mine.

    That doesn’t mean abandon spirituality or even give up faith, worship, involvement, etc. but I think it does imply a degree of looseness and tentativeness in our grip on dogmas and beliefs, if one can allow oneself to be comfortable in this more open posture on concerns that are often presented as mandatory and non-negotiable.

  3. zoecarnate September 4, 2007 at 4:36 am #

    Frank, I don’t wanna even attempt to debate futures with you for at least another year–maybe then I’ll put up a decent fight before you (richard?)slaughter me!

    And Dave, I think you’re right, re: a charity tour. And it sounds like you’d know more than I just when it was! And I agree; Truth is dynamic, and a Person to boot. More like chasing the Wild Goose than tablets of stone.

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