Nature is out of joint

HAMLET

Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit!—So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you,
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together,
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together.
Act 1, Scene 5
Human beings suffer greatly because we are out of place in the world we have expounded, as Rilke write in the Dunio Elegies, Elegy 1  “and the resourceful creatures see clearly/ that we are not really at home/in the interpreted world.” Ecclesiastes elegantly tell us the world is vain and unsatisfying. The difficulty lies in our place, we cannot be content unless we put the purpose for which we exist:

Use 1. To press you to seek God. The motives are:—
1. It was the end of our creation. We do not live merely to live; but for this end were we sent into the world, to seek God. Nature is sensible of it in part by the dissatisfaction it finds in other things; and therefore the apostle describes the Gentiles to he groping and feeling about for God, Acts 17:27. God is the cause of all things, and nature cannot be satisfied without him. We were made for God, and can never enjoy satisfaction until we come to enjoy him; therefore the Psalmist saith, Ps. 14:2, We are ‘all gone aside, and altogether become filthy.’ Nature is out of joint; we are quite out of our way to true happiness. We are seeking that for which we were created, when we seek and inquire after God.

Thomas Manton, “Sermon III”, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 6 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 23–24.

If we believed this firmly

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“But he is the head, and all his people are his body, his members, of his flesh, and of his bones, Eph. 5:30. A marvellous word! Can the flesh be torn, and the bones be broken, and the head not feel it? Though he be glorified above what we can conceive, he is a living, sensible, and compassionate head; and as nearly and closely united to all his members now, as when they saw with their eyes, and heard with their ears, and with their hands handled the word of life, 1 John 1:1. There is nothing ails a poor believer in Christ, there is no groan riseth from his distressed heart, but it is immediately felt at the tender heart of the Lord Jesus, at the Father’s right-hand. We would groan and sing with the same breath, if we believed this firmly.”

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation L

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(From William Spurstowe’s 1666, The Spiritual Chymist. The previous post in this series may be found here)

Upon the Vanity of Wishes

True and perfect happiness is a good with neither the light Nature can discover nor its endeavors obtain; it being as impotent to the acquiring of it, as it is blind to the beholding of it. And yet there is nothing in which man less apprehends himself at a loss than in this: of fully contriving at least, if not effecting, his own happiness.

Who is it that is not confident, that if he might have the liberty of his options to wish whatever he would, and to have them turned into realities for him, but that he could readily frame to himself a condition as full of happiness as the sun is of light or the sea of water?

What poor and contemptible thoughts would he have of all that glory of the world which the devil showed to Christ as a bait when he tempted him the worse of sins, to those stately schemes and representations which he could suppose to be the objects of his delight? (Matthew 4:8-9)

If wishes were the measure of happiness, what is it that the boundless imagination of man would not suppose and desire? What strange changes would he forthwith make in the universe, in leveling of mountains, in raising of valleys, in altering climates and elements themselves? Happily he might wish that the sea were turned into a delicious bath, in which he might sport himself without any fear of drowning; that the rocks were so many polished diamonds; the sands as so many fair pearls to beautify it; and the islands as so many may retiring houses of pleasure to betake himself unto he pleased.

He might that all the trees of the earth were as the choicest plants of paradise, every one of which might at his beck down own their branches and tender their ripe fruit unto him.

And thus multiply his wishes until every spire of grass and every dust of earth have undergone some remarkable mutation according to the lust of his fancy, and yet be as far from any satisfaction in his desires or rest in his thoughts. As the apes in the fable were from warmth [became warm], which finding a glow-worm on a cold night, gathered some sticks together and blew themselves breathless to kindle a little fire.

For all these supposed gayeties are not the perfection but the disease of the fancy, which has (as I may so speak) which has (as I may so speak) a bulimia in respect of objects, as some corrupt and vitiated appetites have in respect of meats, who thought they eat much are yet never satisfied.

And hence it is, that men who enjoy plenty and are far from having any just cause of complaint of want [they are not lacking anything], do yet, as unsatisfied persons, feed themselves with fond suppositions of being in such an estate and condition of which they can have no possibility, much less any real hope to obtain. The ambitious man pleases himself in thinking how bravely he could King-it, if he were but upon the throne, and how far he would out strip all other princes that have been before him for state and glory: he fancies what pleasures he would have for his recreation, what meats for his table, what persons for his attendants, what laws for his government, and then, Absalom-like, he wishes in himself, O that I were king in Israel. (2 Samuel 15:4)

The covetous person whose heart is set upon riches, never ceases in the midst of his abundance to desire more. Riches and his desires still keep at a distance, as they come on, so do his desire come on too, the one can never overtake the other, no more than the hinder wheels of a coach can overtake the former.

If she should, as Peter, cast his hook into the sea and take up the first first that came up with a stater or piece of money in his mouth, how eagerly straightways would eh wish to take a second and then a third, yea, how would he still renew his wishes so as sooner to empty the sea of all its fish than to satisfy his desires with accumulated treasures.

But are these, O vain man, the highest wishes with you could impede you present enjoyments and so make your speedy flight unto perfect happiness? What if all these suppositions and wishes, which are (as I may so speak) the creations of fancy were real existence? Yea, what if your condition did as far exceed the pump of all human imagination, as Solomon did the fame that was spread abroad of him? (1 Kings 10:6-7)

Might I not say as David did, O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity and seek after leasing? (Psalm 4:2) Are these things for which Angels will give you the right of hand of fellowship? Or will this glory make them stoop to become ministering spirits unto you? Though you may conceive as highly of yourselves as the Prince of Tyre did of himself, who said he was a god and sat in the seat of God (Ezekiel 28:2), yet they will look upon you no better than as gilded dust and ashes.

That which they adore, and with wonder look into, (1 Peter 1:12), is not the happiness of the worldling, but of believers who are blessed — not according to what they ask or desire, but far above whatever could have entered into the thoughts of men and angels to conceive. (1 Cor. 2:9)

Who could ever have said to God, as Haman did to Ahasuerus, if he had been asked, What shall be done to the man whom God delighteth to honor? (Esther 6:6).

Let the foundation and cornerstone of his happiness be laid in the exinanition [an emptying, enfeebling] of the Son of God (Phil. 2:6-8), let him come from heaven to earth to purchase it with his blood: let his nature be dignified by being personally united uno the Divine Nature, let him be a co-heir with him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory (Romans 8:17; Hebrews 1:3), sit with him upon the same throne (Romans 8:17), and be conformed to his likeness (Romans 8:29): let him stand forever the highest and sweetest relations uno the three most glorious persons ,having God to be his Father, his Son to be his Elder Brother, and the Holy Spirit to be his Friend and Comforter: are not these things, as may pose angels to tell whether is the greater wonder or the mercy?

May it not be truly said, that omnipotency itself is exhausted so that there remains neither power in God to do, nor wisdom to find out a great happiness than this, which he has vouchsafed to man in his lowest condition?

Can there be any addition made by the narrow conceptions of weak creatures Let me therefore expostulate with Christians whose happiness in Christ is compelte, and yet, as if there were an emptiness in their condition, are still hankering in their minds after the world’s vanities and wishing, like carnal Israelites to eat of the fleshpots and garlic of Egypt. (Numbers 11:4-5).

Is there nothing in this world which you cannot find made up to you in Christ? Are not all the scattered comforts which can be had only in the creature by retail, parceled out some to one and some to another, to be had fully in Christ, in whom they are summed up, as broken particulars are in the foot of an account?

Though he be a bonus formaliter simplex, a good formally simple; yet he is eminentur multiplex, a good eminently manifold. And there is more to be had in Christ than can be had any-way out of him [that is apart from Christ]. Who, as the first figure in a number stands for more than all the figures that can bee added unto to it. Whom, saith holy David, have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. (Psalm 73:5).

Surely, if heaven which has legions of beauties and perfections in it, yield nothing worthy of his love and affection but God and Christ, we may well conclude, that Earth, which is a void of God as heaven is full, can have nothing in it that is to be desired by us. Why they should any, in whom Christ is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27) be as the men of the world, who cry out, Who will show us any good? (Psalm 4:6)
For them to be unsatisfied who feed upon vanities is no wonder; but for those who possess him that is and has all things, it is strange that they should seek anything out of him [apart from him]. Quid ultra querit cui amnia suus conditor fit? aut quid ei sufficit, cui ipse non sufficit? What can he seek further (saith Prosper) to him God is made everything?

Or what will suffice him, to whom He is not sufficient?

I know but one wish that any believer has to make, and that is the wish of St. John, with which he seals up the Book of God, as the common desire of all the faithful, with which I shall shut up this meditation, as the best of wishes,

Come Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20)
even so come as thou has promised
Come quickly
In whose present there is fulness of joy
And at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11).

How to Have Hope

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Romans 5:1–5 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

This is a seemingly confused passage: why and how does Paul jump from justification to suffering?

Note the argument:

 A.Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have

B. peace with God

C.  through our Lord Jesus Christ.

C’. Through him we have also obtained

B’.  access by faith into this grace in which we stand,

A’ and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God — being justified — is the subjective state of the one justified. Col. 1:27. This hope of glory is a great subjective benefit of the Christian life.  Paul next turns to, how does one have more of this hope? The next section which discusses suffering, actually answers the question of “So how then do we obtain more hope, now?”

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,” — but not because suffering is good (it is not, if it were “good”, it would not be suffering), but because of what suffering does:

knowing that

suffering produces endurance, 4

and endurance produces character,

and character produces hope,

This, however, is not the sum total of Paul’s argument. Paul makes a similar argument in chapter 8, but this time he develops more of the psychology which produces home. Using language deliberately allusive to Ecclesiastes (all is vanity), Paul explains that present suffering is unavoidable in this world (the creation has been subjected to futility), but this suffering can cause us to long for the age to come (glory):

Romans 8:18–25 (ESV)

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Human being “identifies” as large river dwelling quadruped.

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Ego Hippo

This article explores the formation of a tranimal, hippopotamus alter-ego. Confronting transgender with transpecies, the author claims that his hippopotamus “identity” allowed him to (verbally) escape, all at once, several sets of categorization that govern human bodies (“gender,” “sexuality,” age). He starts with an account of how his metaphorical hippo-self is collectively produced and performed, distinguishing the subjective, the intersubjective and the social. The article then investigates the politics of equating transgender and transpecies, critically examining the question of the inclusion of “xenogenders” in the trans political movement. Finally, the author returns to the magical power of metaphors, arguing that metaphors do materialize insofar as the flesh does not remain unchanged by them. Analogizing his hippo-self to a “cut” as theorized by Eva Hayward – a regeneration of the boundaries of the self – he offers a final crossing to the world of fiction by showing how the His Dark Materials trilogy outlines an aesthetics of porosity, which suggests that the self is, as much as a novel, a work of fiction.

Hat tip, Real Peer Review

Paul got there first

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“We aren’t built to live in the moment”:

What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation. Other animals have springtime rituals for educating the young, but only we subject them to “commencement” speeches grandly informing them that today is the first day of the rest of their lives.

A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present.

Paul got there first, Colossians 1:3–8 (ESV):

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

Paul anchors the faith and love exhibited by the church in their forward expectation.

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All the more are human works mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.

The inevitable deduction from the preceding thesis is clear. For where there is no fear there is no humility. Where there is no humility there is pride, and where there is pride there are the wrath and judgment of God, for God opposes the haughty. Indeed, if pride would cease there would be no sin anywhere. 

The Annotated Luther, vol. 1, The Roots of Reform, Heidleberg Disputation 1518, no. 8
https://ref.ly/o/annotlutv1/462431?length=418

We Listened With Horror

Don’t go to court:

“Aye!” said the old man, coming slowly out of his abstraction.  “Yes!  Tom Jarndyce you’ll excuse me, being related; but he was never known about court by any other name, and was as well known there as she is now,” nodding slightly at his lodger.  “Tom Jarndyce was often in here.  He got into a restless habit of strolling about when the cause was on, or expected, talking to the little shopkeepers and telling ’em to keep out of Chancery, whatever they did.  ‘For,’ says he, ‘it’s being ground to bits in a slow mill; it’s being roasted at a slow fire; it’s being stung to death by single bees; it’s being drowned by drops; it’s going mad by grains.’  He was as near making away with himself, just where the young lady stands, as near could be.”

We listened with horror.

Charles Dicken, Bleak House

A Marvelous Word

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We have an high-priest which can be (and is) touched with the feeling of our infirmities. How a sinless man as Christ ever was, can be touched with the feeling of the infirmities of sinners, and many of these infirmities sinful ones; how a glorified man, as Christ now is, exalted to, and possessed of the highest glory and bliss, can be, and is touched with the feeling of all the infirmities of all his people, is what the word plainly reveals to be believed; but it is not to be fully known till we come to heaven. But he is the head, and all his people are his body, his members, of his flesh, and of his bones, Eph. 5:30. A marvellous word! Can the flesh be torn, and the bones be broken, and the head not feel it? Though he be glorified above what we can conceive, he is a living, sensible, and compassionate head; and as nearly and closely united to all his members now, as when they saw with their eyes, and heard with their ears, and with their hands handled the word of life, 1 John 1:1. There is nothing ails a poor believer in Christ, there is no groan riseth from his distressed heart, but it is immediately felt at the tender heart of the Lord Jesus, at the Father’s right-hand. We would groan and sing with the same breath, if we believed this firmly.

 

Robert Traill, The Works of Robert Traill, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1810), 12–13.

Microbes controlling your genes

First, no one can know all environmental data. Second, no one can know all physiological data. Third, no one has a comprehensive knowledge of all workings of the human heart. Even the devout materialist cannot know the mere functioning of the nervous system. I here cite to recent studies which concern neuro-physiology which were not even considered until a few years ago:

Duke researchers have shown that microbes can control the actions of their animal hosts by manipulating the molecular machinery of animal cells, triggering patterns of gene expression that consequently contribute to health and disease. The work, which was conducted in zebrafish and mice, could have implications for human inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The findings appear in the journal Genome Research.

“Our results suggest that ancient parts of our genome and ancient interactions with our microbes are relevant to modern-day human diseases,” said John F. Rawls, Ph.D., senior author of the study and associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered abundant links between our trillions of resident bacteria, viruses and fungi—known collectively as the microbiome—and a spectrum of human conditions, ranging from anorexia to diabetes. But Rawls says important gaps remain in our understanding of how these microbes influence health and cause disease in humans as well as other members of the animal kingdom.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-microbes-action-host-genes.html#jCp