Invisible or Visible?

“Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves” (see yesterday’s post) brought to mind the following piece written in 2007.

Do you ever feel invisible? Ever wonder whether you’re really there? I do. People walk by on the street or in the mall…it’s like I’m not there.  People walk by like ghosts talking to ghosts. They don’t see me. They’re somewhere else, not really there.  They walk like people; they talk like people; they look like people.  But their eyes and ears are somewhere else . . . in some far off place. Their heads down, reading or writing a text or staring into space, babbling to someone who’s not there.  I’ve become invisible.

I have the same experience driving to and from work.  Drivers cut in front of me or run up behind me. They laugh and smile and wildly gesture, but there’s no one else in the car! When their driving puts me in jeopardy, I honk. They just keep talking.  They don’t look and they don’t hear anything but the voice on the other end of the cell phone. Even my Toyota’s invisible; it’s become a non-material world.

Sign along Bellaire Boulevard in Southside Place, Texas

It’s nothing new really.  Western spirituality has always been dualistic. It says that we have a body and we have a soul – the physical and the spiritual.  We have these bodies for a while, and then we die, but we don’t really die; we just escape these bodies, like birds set free from our cages.  This dualistic understanding of life made its way from classical Greek philosophy into the writings of St. Paul as the war between “the flesh” and the spirit. “I’ll fly away,” often sung at funerals, expresses the underlying philosophy. “When the shadows of this life have gone, I’ll fly away Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly. I’ll fly away.” The rudeness on the highways, in the malls, coffee shops and restaurants — and even in our homes — is the latest expression of this deprecation of bodily existence.

We don’t see each other anymore. The voice on the other end of the phone is more important than the person in front of me, and the ones I cannot see or hear or receive a text from are unreal…in Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else I decide to hang up and nuke their worlds into the permanent invisibility of nonexistence or the fires of hell.

I sit quietly at the airport gate, waiting for my flight. Used to be people would at least acknowledge one another’s existence – the bare fact that you were really there and not somewhere else or nowhere – but now they’re on their phones, babbling away as though the room were empty except for them. Because, I suppose, we’re ancient Greeks with head sets, cell phones, and iPads, seduced by the old idea that we are meant for non-embodied existence. It’s just me and my invisible world, and you with yours, a rude collection of loud mouths with headsets, alone in the crowd, bereft of the silent pauses between the noises that make us anxious.

Barclay and Kristin pausing on the walking path.

Touch is a basic need. My dog knows it.  I know it.  Hearing and speaking are important. But the most important communication comes by touch. An animal that goes untouched becomes mad as a March hare.  So do we.

In this world of disembodied spirits, we crave the gift of touch. But to touch and be touched is a vulnerable thing. It reminds us of our embodied selves, our mortal selves, our dependent and interdependent selves. The non-material world is safer. Unlike the body, the worlds in our head are invulnerable.

Building of the Tower of Babel – Master of the Duke of Bedford

In my faith tradition, the Feast of Pentecost celebrates the day the babbling stopped, the day the Spirit shifted the crowd’s eyes and ears out of the lonely silos of self-absorption and self-deception — away from their iPhones, iPads, and headsets.

The sound of a mighty wind was so profound, so inescapable and unmistakable, that the company of lonely strangers stopped babbling around the phone tower and noticed the other people around them.


— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, Jan. 9, 2019

Verse – “Sleeping Beauty”

How can the woman in my life,
and in my bed, sleep placidly
while lying next to her is ME-
so sexy, handsome–any wife
should toss and turn, moan now and then
just from the pure proximity!

Or better yet, talk in her sleep!
My darling, sweetheart, you’re the man!
Please wake me now with a deep kiss,
my dreams of you fill me with bliss…

Surely now she’ll beg for MOAR!
But instead she starts to snore…

[Consult an urban dictionary for the meaning of “MOAR”]

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Jan. 15, 2014

“70+”

I’ve always loved her touches when in bed –
But now she touches to see if I’m dead.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, January 13, 2014

NOTE: “70+” just arrived. Must mean Nadja and “nature-boy” have another day to love and be loved in return.

 

Prepare our hands for touch

This  prayer by Ernesto Barros Cardoso of Brazil is a nice follow-up to yesterday’s post about the need for embodied spirituality and the need to recover the senses, including the gift of touch.

God of Life Prepare our hands for a touch

A new and different touch

Prepare our hands for a touch

A touch of encounter

A touch of awakening

A touch of hope

A touch of feeling

Many are the worn-out gestures

Many are the movements frozen in time

Many are the useless excuses just to repeat attitudes…

Give us daring

To create new titles of community

New links of affection

Breaking away from old ways of relating,

Encouraging true, meaningful ways to move into closeness.

Ever feel invisible?

Sometimes I feel invisible.  People walk by me on the street or in the mall…and it’s like I’m not there.  People walk by like ghosts talking to ghosts.  They don’t see me.  They’re somewhere else, not really there.  They walk like people.  They talk like people.  They look like people.  But their eyes are somewhere else…in some far off place. Their heads down, reading or writing a text or staring into space, babbling to someone who’s not there.  They don’t see me. I’m invisible.

I have the same experience driving to and from work.  Drivers cut in front of me or run up behind me. They laugh and smile and wildly gesture, but there’s no one else in the car! When their driving puts me in jeopardy, and I honk, they keep talking.  They don’t look and they don’t hear anything but the voice on the other end of the cell phone. Even my Toyota’s invisible; it’s become a non-material world.

It’s nothing new really.  Western spirituality has always been dualistic. It says that we have a body and we have a soul – the physical and the spiritual.  We just have these bodies for a while.  We don’t really die; we just get rid of these bodies and fly away like birds set free from their cages.  It’s an old Greek philosophy that made its way into the writings of St. Paul.  The world of “the flesh” is evil; the world of the spirit is good.

The rudeness on the highways and in the malls, in the coffee shops and even in our homes is but the latest expression of this deprecation of bodily existence.

The voice on the other end of the phone is more important than the person in front of me, and the ones I cannot see or hear or receive a text from are unreal…in Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else I decide to hang up and nuke their worlds into the permanent invisibility of nonexistence or the fires of hell.

I sit quietly at the airport gate, waiting for my flight. Used to be people would at least acknowledge one another’s existence – the bare fact that you were really there and not somewhere else or nowhere – but now they’re on cell phones, babbling away as though the room were empty except for them. Because, I suppose, we’re ancient Greeks with head sets, cell phones, and iPods, seduced by the old idea that we are meant for non-embodied existence. It’s just me and my invisible world, and you with yours, a rude collection of loud mouths and headsets, mouths and ears disembodied from eyes that see, noses that smell, hands that touch and minds that actually think in the silence between our noises.

Touch is a basic need. My dog knows it.  I know it.  Hearing and speaking are important. But the most important communication comes by touch. An animal that goes untouched becomes wild and crazy.  So do we.

To touch and be touched is a vulnerable thing. We crave it. But to touch and be touched is a vulnerable thing. It reminds us of our embodied selves, our mortal selves, our dependent and interdependent selves. The non-material world is safer. Unlike the body, the worlds in our head are invulnerable. In the world of disembodied spirits

The oldest Christian creed says “I believe in the resurrection of the body” because those who developed the creed saw the body – the physical world,  the material world, the world of the five senses as not only “good” but essential to existence itself. There is no human life without a body. The body is not a thing to be shed. It’s a gift that places us squarely in time and space.

Next Sunday is Pentecost, the day the babbling stopped, the day the Spirit transformed their separate worlds. Tore down the barriers of language, class, race, gender, and nationality with the sound of a mighty wind so profound that they all stopping babbling and listened to the Voice that spoke in and through the strangers around them.

It may be hard to comprehend exactly what happened on the Day of Pentecost – tongues of fire descending and resting on each one – but it’s not so hard to make the translation for us in the era of instant communication lonely crowd.

Do you feel the wind and the tongues of fire calling us back into the celebration of embodied existence?  Isn’t it time to see each other again? Talk with people who occupy the same space?  Time we grow up and stop talking to imaginary friends or hanging up on real people who don’t do what we don’t want them to do? Time we recover the spiritual joy of physical community: the recovery of sight, smell and touch.  Time we pay attention to common courtesy. Time to notice that the person on the other end of my cell phone and I are not the only ones in the universe: a Pentecost in disembodied world of the 21st Century.

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