Depression and Recovery

I.

It’s like an accidental fall off a fourth-story balcony. You hadn’t been looking at the edge, because you were so busy, and besides, you’re strong and you know what you’re doing. (Either you believed you were, or you pretended it because other people believed it — people who don’t have balconies.)

Then you’re over the railing, unable to tell forward from backward from left from right. All your ability to make decisions is gone, and nothing anybody can do will give it back. You free-fall.

Forever and an instant later, you hit bottom so hard it knocks everything out of you. Your breath, your sense, your emotions, your awareness. You black out.

They say a person in a coma can hear voices around them, even though they can’t respond. They say maybe even touch and smell, and who knows, maybe the light the doctor shines in one eyeball and then the next.

If there is a limbo, a place on the edge of hell that’s neither the living world nor an active purgatory, you’ve found it. It’s a place where you don’t have to sin to enter its dark waters. It just takes you, because you fell.

Voices murmur in the background, prayers and beseechings for the release of your soul. Some of them beg you to release yourself, to release them from the obligation of their prayers. Others try to shoulder the burden of bringing you to an afterlife, hauling your soul along in their hearts. It’s impossible to tell them apart, and none of them make sense, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is hearing something from the living side, like sounds through water.

The doctor comes. Your case is experimental. Your brain is in a self-protective shutdown. No more feeling. No more thinking. He messes around with drugs. All the prayers go silent, drowned in the deepening fog of wherever you are.

You have no idea how much of your life you’ve lost. In limbo, no one is saved by counting those things. So no one tries.

There’s a rock on top of your shoulders, and you push at it. It moves a fraction of a degree, then falls back harder. You lose ground. The effort of keeping it from crushing you is a nearly intolerable kind of pain.

For some reason, you keep pushing back at it.

As long as I can. I don’t know if I can go another day. I don’t know if I can go another hour.

The doctor tries another drug. Your body is lying on a bed somewhere while your spirit fails to be Sisyphus.

You have no idea how much of your life you’ve lost.

II.

When your eyes open, you realize you’re still lying in the street. It’s night and the streetlights are out. No cars. No voices. No one is coming to help. They can’t find the route to the scene of the accident. There’s nothing but abandoned buildings like bones. At the farthest end of the street, if it’s not too painful to turn your head that way, your old life sits like a painting. You can see the sunshine and grass and mundane busywork sketched two-dimensionally, but it doesn’t call to you. It’s just a picture.

Slowly, very slowly, your brain performs a systems check. You lie on this bone-shattering patch of concrete for months, not minutes. Maybe for years. Reflexively, your body tries to get up and resume normal movement. It can’t. Besides, if you walk through a canvas you only break the image. You stay where you are and try to feel what you used to feel, but that painting of the former life isn’t coming to you, and you’re not going to it.

Slowly, very slowly, you find the pieces of yourself. Memory is here. Task execution is around somewhere. It’s racked up so much vacation time from repeating emergency drills from one end of limbo to the other that it’s not in the office reliably.

You find your simple financial math skills in a dusty corner, along with your ruined budget. Sufficient focus for reading comes back on like a construction spotlight in an abandoned subway corridor. Numbers keep turning to dust, and the light flickers in and out. Either the wiring or the power source still needs work.

Slowly, very slowly, you find the branching limbs of your psyche, but you still can’t feel them. This is the most terrifying of all. All your core nerves were probably crushed in the fall. Does this mean permanent paralysis?

In small increments, you try things that have helped you heal in the past. Oddly, it’s the really old things that work, things that lie closest to remembered pain from when you were too young to absorb it. Things that got buried more than healed.

III.

There are people walking past. You pull yourself upright and hope they don’t notice your broken limbs, your unwashed clothes, and your inability to walk. Your friends and family greet you. You try for old relationships, because maybe there’s comfort in them. Like pages in a crumbling book, no comfort lies there. Only the same old stories. Just when you thought maybe those connections were healing waters, they drown you.

Slowly, very slowly, you realize this is what it means to feel again. it feels painful all the time. It’s fresh and unexpected, like being wounded for the first time as a child. The same old stories hurt even more than their disappointments and disconnections did the first time. The pavement that broke you has turned to tar, and you’re stuck in it. You wallow on the edge of something dark and sucking, trying not to get swallowed by the gyre.

You look normal to everyone else, and they don’t understand why you disappoint them. They’re done praying, now, aren’t they? It’s time for you to hold a job and keep a schedule, engage in hobbies and do all the things a good consumer bobs around the surface of life doing. They have their life jackets, their brightly-coloured inflatable rafts and their snorkels in case they dip below the surface a little.

Your head goes under the waves again, and you wonder how inflatable rafts can float down the black road that killed you. There’s so much fog, and reality still isn’t quite real.

This is life. People seem happy with how senseless it is. This is normal.

The lights are on again. You don’t want to read the book.

IV.

A whisper you haven’t heard before snaps you out of it like an electric shock. Your eyes open for real this time. The lights aren’t just on; the morning sun is brilliant. Blue sparkles surround you, rising and falling. You’re cradled in the warmth of a Gulf current that rocks gently like a father’s arms. When you first gasp a full breath, the air tastes like tears. You choke and fight and everything is awful for a second.

It wasn’t pavement that tried to kill you, it was water that saved you. It wasn’t a balcony and you didn’t do something stupid. It was a plane crash, and you weren’t the pilot, just a passenger. You don’t know who else will be found a survivor. A lot of people die from this.

You’re not one of them. In this moment, that’s all. You’re alive, and you can swim. The ocean pulls you forward, and the salt-spice scent of seagrass finds you as the sand comes up beneath your feet. The water hushes against the land, then trickles away.

It was a long way to get back, but somehow, you’re here. So many things are still gone. As you look around, you wonder if you’ll ever fully take stock of them all.

You’re pretty mad at the pilot.

V.

You stand up and walk up the beach, aching and exhausted, but somehow whole. It hardly seems natural. You’re clear of the wreckage, although some of it is still washing into shore with you. The flotsam of your finances. Broken bits of opportunity and responsibilities. You’ll be picking up the bits of your memory for awhile yet, finding unexpected pieces missing due to defensive mechanisms triggered by the trauma of facing the void.

Looking back, feeling your way through it all again in a diagnostic that’s finally lucid, you realize the pilot brought you down where you wouldn’t be killed. It was wisdom, not negligence, in the face of something that happened because life is broken. In spite of it all, you were brought to where your life was saved.

Your dearest loved ones, who were travelling with you, are bruised and struggling forward. Here in the sunlight, now that you’re done trying not to die, you help them to safety. You sit down on the sand and breathe. Seagulls run the shore, and the grasses wave in a cool, brisk wind. Shells lie everywhere like gems. When did the world get so clean?

You lost everything in the crash, but the parts of you that are needed are the ones that have survived. The parts you couldn’t get rid of, no matter how hard you tried, the baggage you thought you’d never be done carrying around… that’s what’s gone.

You sit on the shore with your loved ones and weep. These tears taste like the sea and all its freedom.

VI.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

-Psalm 139:1-18

The Arbitrary God

Let’s assume we’ve all read the Judeo-Christian origins story. And, for the sake of argument, let’s temporarily accept it at face value and try to imagine how Christians can, in good faith and with full intellect, subscribe to their own religious text.

Right away, here’s an important objection:

It seems like the Christian God is arbitrary and reactive. He creates people in His image, and then punishes them when they act on the nature He gave them. This seems to go on repeatedly as the book of Genesis proceeds.

I can’t state this strongly enough: This objection is one of the most important and foundational to the Christian understanding of God. Ignoring this objection leads into serious theological error. 

So, if you know a skeptic who makes this objection, embrace them and thank them. All Christians should likewise find this concept of God ugly, petty, and not to be worshipped.

For starters, let’s make a note of what it takes to be God: Being the absolute ultimate being. That’s the brute-force, pragmatic definition. What would that mean?

  • Stands separate from the creation, entirely not dependent on it, entirely aware of it and present with it
    • God is not everything and everything is not God
    • God is not in everything, and everything is not outside of God
  • Knows everything
    • Knowing and seeing everything is different than being everything and also different than being in everything
  • Experiences everything, including love, without need for the creation to contribute it to the divine (love exists within the divine, even before and beyond created things — we don’t exist to complete God’s understanding or experience)
  • Has no beginning or ending (eternal)
  • Is everywhere (omnipresent)
    • Being everywhere is different than being in everything
  • The ultimate Personality
    • what it means to be a person is referenced from the ultimate Person
    • what it means to love is referenced from the ultimate being’s love
    • what it means to hate is referenced from the ultimate being’s hate
    • the concept of good is referenced from the ultimate being’s goodness
    • the concept of evil is therefore referenced from the ultimate being’s goodness
    • Etc.
  • The ultimate unified being — no part of an ultimate being would be in competition with any other part, such as love vs. hate or compassion vs. justice or mercy vs. vengeance.
    • Unified (perfectly together and whole) is different than harmonized (having to be fitted together though the fit may or may not be exact)
  • The ultimate non-singular being
    • If God is absolutely unitarian (both one essence and one person), then God cannot be the ultimate definition of love, because there is no equal person for God to love; the definition of love which we recognize as highest and best — freely given between equals — fails the reality test, the ideas of goodness and love can’t be harmonized, and unity is lost
    • This is addressed through the historical Christian understanding of the Trinity, or three persons in one unity of essence
    • God is not in everything, and everything is not God; God is every person of the Trinity.
  • Initiator, engineer, leader and ruler of everything — ultimate power
  • Ultimate relationship to reality
    • the most realistic being and most logically connected to the world as it really is
    • both ultimately abstract (not bounded by physical reality) and ultimately plain-sense (reality is most clearly and coherently explained by following through on the reasoning of the Ultimate Being concept)

A reactive God cannot be God

… And yet, modern Christianity is full of talk about “God is waiting for your decision to trust Him.” Or, “God can’t bless us when we’re disobedient.” Or, “God is waiting for you to listen to Him.” Or, “Well, God gives you your choices and it’s up to you to live with the consequences.”

The skeptic who wants to barf at this pecking, fretful mother hen of a God is exactly on the right track. So should the Christian be.

If God is reactive, then God has allowed the creation to dictate or control the circumstances and His actions. (This includes all concepts of an “evolving” God who “learns from the creation.”) If something other than God controls the situation and determines God’s actions, then “God” isn’t all-powerful or all-knowing… and therefore not The Supreme and Ultimate Being.

The definition of love is perhaps the key proof of this. If God’s love exists only through expressing it towards the creation and having it returned by humans, then we can in fact end up with an evil, imperfect, arbitrary God. Human love fails at every turn, and its flawed expressions cause as much harm and separation as joy and togetherness.

Arbitrary: it’s a bad word, right?

In terms of human relationships, to be arbitrary is to be whimsical, driven by emotion. It’s a key trait in dysfunctional households: Whatever the issue of the moment, it’s arbitrated by how the most powerful person feels that day. The objection is that arbitrary use of power overrides or removes the ability of others to feel and reason freely according to their own nature.

Again: In human relationships, arbitrary use of power overrides the ability of others to feel and reason freely according to their own nature. This, however, requires another basic assumption: That all humans are created equally, as the Americans would have it, under God.

That’s how the skeptic arrives at a disgusting God who crushes human freedom and human will: by way of assumptions that descend from the western heritage of Christian thought. And the skeptic is in agreement with historic Christianity on this point: An arbitrary ultimate being who’s merely reactive to how we exercise our freedom and feelings, who just reacts on whimsy to how we make our mistakes, really is a dangerous and degrading concept.

Even the moral notion that arbitrary power is wrong derives logically only from the idea of a greater moral judge (arbiter). On the surface, it might seem that “no god(s) at all” is the best argument for not holding arbitrary power over, say, our children when we’re parenting them. After all, if there’s no moral Ultimate, shouldn’t they be able to decide for themselves?

On the contrary, this is one more argument for arbitrary power, not against it. Without a higher, (and, most importantly,) objective standard of moral good, who’s to say it’s wrong for a parent to exercise arbitrary power, at least up to the bounds of the law? Or perhaps even beyond, if they don’t care about social consequences.

“I believe it’s wrong, although it works for some and they’re fine with it” is no real answer, either. What is the subject of that arbitrary power to make of how to use power, if all they learn is that it’s an arbitrary choice? What if they choose to harm others? For that matter, why should society step in? Why recognize pain as harm? Why not accept it and embrace it as the natural consequence of circumstance… also known as karma?

Thankfully, there’s more than one way to look at the problem of power.

Power isn’t the only arbiter

A narrow postmodernist focus only on power dynamics ignores the fuller reality: Certain aspects of life really are purely character-based.

We’re character-based about things like agreed-upon level of cleanliness between housemates. Or how people get along (or don’t) with various other people. And whether one will tolerate the behaviour of another towards oneself, or walk away from the relationship in order to remain as emotionally whole as possible.

So, in fact, certain arbitrary boundaries can be healthy. To ignore them would be to lose an aspect of who we are in personality and character. It would cause us to experience a kind of internal death.

Here, the Christian says, you can see what it is to bear the image of God.

If God is by definition an ultimate Person capable of the infinite expression of everything — love, justice, wrath, compassion, truth — can morality and an accurate view of right and wrong arise from outside God’s character?

To flip that coin to its other face, if they can come from somewhere outside of God, then is God really God?

The Christian definition of God and the secular definition of arbitrary power as evil both require that a personal God be the arbiter, the judge, of good and evil. That people dislike such a proclamation speaks not to a disapproval of the arbitrary, but a demand to be the arbiter — to wield a power that they themselves say isn’t right. This was the exact sin described in the tale of Adam, Eve, and the forbidden fruit.

Curiosity, harmony, and unity

This notion of what it takes to qualify for the job of being God, by the way, goes to the question of curiosity in the Bible’s origins story. Is the curiosity of Adam and Eve an attribute of God that they’re mirroring? If it is, how can it be righteous to punish them for trying out the forbidden fruit?

For humans, to lack curiosity is to lack emotion, to lack intellect, to be somehow defective or ill. It’s an inability or unwillingness to reach beyond ourselves. But by definition, can an infinite and ultimate God reach beyond in any sense?

There are necessary disconnections between the concept of the infinitely whole Creator and the finite, searching creation. This also happens with the emotional attributes Christian theists assign to God: If God’s love is in any way contradicted by His justice or wrath, then He is naysaying Himself and is not living up to the definition of The Supreme Being. He would be them, arguing like Greek idols. Christianity holds as firmly to the unity of God as the Muslim, even while reconciling three persons into it.

The same problem occurs when we finite mortals think about things like love and wrath in terms of harmonizing them. If they have to be fitted together, it suggests they’re separate things that overlap, like a Venn diagram. So, then, what happens when we tread into the part of the wrath circle that doesn’t overlap harmoniously with love? What happens when we tread into the part of the love circle that doesn’t overlap harmoniously with justice?

This view of God implies that there areas where God’s love toward sinners must reach for justice and fail, where God’s wrath against sin must reach for love and fail, and so forth. It implies that to put them together will still result in some sort of disharmony at certain points.

Instead, as A. W. Tozer writes in The Attributes of God, the conception of three persons requires a unified essence, just as surely as a unified essence requires more than one person of God, in order to be faithful to the biblical declaration that “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:5), “The Lord your God, the Lord is one,” (Deut. 6:4), etc. Wrath against sin is in unity, not merely harmony, with love and justice. Love and justice exist in unity with grief, joy, and every other personal trait assigned to the Creator. The Christian God, being all-sufficient, all-knowing, and all-present, exists in “unbounded, unextended unity” of essence. There is no mere karma, and no number of prayers can harmonize our actions with this holiness — literally, this wholeness — because harmonization is not enough of a moral standard to live up to this God.

The supernatural as an excuse for the arbitrary

We tend to treat moral and ethical principles as basic, meaning not needing justification. Yet we can’t critique religions, moral codes, ethics, or supernatural claims without questioning whether our basis for doing so corresponds to reality — generalized reality, not just one person’s experience of it.

In order to be an honest Christian, we must investigate: Would God, as described by the Bible, be justified in being arbitrary?

Is every supernatural claim just an excuse to exercise arbitrary power or avoid reality (which is simply another way to attempt control)? If not, then which ones are valid?

Are our own principles justifiable as we critique the belief systems we encounter, or are we holding those systems to standards that are arbitrary to ourselves?

Thus the divide…

Here’s the watershed between Christian and skeptic. The Christian, by her own allegation, has come to personally know and experience relationship with the God of the Bible, and to trust God’s character. As such, she evaluates the actions of God as inherently originating from good. Things which conflict with God’s good are evil, not only because of that philosophical conflict, but because in reality they cause harm, and harm to God’s creation is an unjustifiable arbitrary action.

The skeptic is perfectly happy to say they have no personal knowledge of this God, nor would they trust him/her/it if they encountered it (or are encountering it in the Bible), nor do they want him/her/it, thank you. After all, that’s the definition of skepticism, up to a point. But that limit is reached at the word want.

In conclusion, paradoxes of desire and will

The narrative of the Bible, I would argue from the Christian side of the fence, is a mirror for glimpsing our own spiritual state in this moment, now. When we look into it, we bring all kinds of assumptions to the text: Whether an entity can be reactive, curious, or a host of other traits, and still meet the definition of Supreme and Ultimate Being. Whether humanity is inherently good, inherently bad, or some combination of both. Whether an ancient text from a different culture can be arbitrated — judged — on modern morals gleaned from the sum of our own culture’s popular knowledge and how our culture lives that out.

What does the biblical mirror show me about my own finite willingness to follow curiosity, to follow the telltales of my own limitations past my basic assumptions, towards the unknown?

In a world of ongoing cultural shifts and moral inversions, what if this book is the forbidden fruit, the thing which will make me know good and evil like God does? And if so, then am I throwing off the shackles of a reactive, arbitrary mindset if I reach for it? Am I enslaved by arbitrary, reactive thinking if I don’t?

The Dog and the Handler

“It’s not mysterious. It’s not eerie. It’s a beautiful sight, a dog trusting his nose, ignoring his handler’s efforts to get him to unstick himself from the flypaper scent that he’s stuck to. The dog who ignores the handler’s gaze, which is irrelevant to the task at hand. This is what real faith should look like — hard and unwavering… The dog’s commitment to the truth in the face of your moving away… The dog pointing his nose or paw or whole body at the scent, telling his handler, You bloody idiot! It’s here!”


-Cat Warren, What the Dog Knows

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


-Hebrews 11:1

We all have a dog and a handler within us: an intuition (a concrete body of knowledge built through hands-on experience and training), and an intellect (reasoning and abstraction). Our ability to key in to reality — emotional and spiritual and relational, sometimes even physical — depends on whether the handler controls the dog so much that it learns to alert only in response to the handler’s indications, rather than the reality around it, or whether the dog is given freedom and trust enough to be able to show the handler things unseen, though just as real.

At the same time, the dog can’t do its work without the handler on the team, training the dog, knowing where to start the search. These two function together, not separately, in mutual respect for each other.

This is what real faith should look like — hard and unwavering. It’s realistic, brought about through the external input of hands-on experience, but at the same time, it’s oriented by the compass of reasoning that’s been taught through outside references. Both internal wellsprings need to inform each other by utilizing time-tested things outside themselves.

We have senses that our various cultures teach us to ignore. What the west ignores, the east may embrace, and vice versa. Every dog is a different breed and colour. However, the most crucial and universal sense may be what Calvin called the sensus divinitatis, or sense of the divine. Often, the cues to crush that sense come directly from culture, upbringing, and peer influence.

Scripture says that unbelievers know God (Rom. 1:21), but it also says they do not know him (1 Cor. 2:1415:341 Thess. 4:52 Thess. 1:8, compare 2 Tim. 3:7Tit. 1:161 John 4:8). Evidently, then, we must make some distinctions, for in some sense or senses, knowledge of God is universal, and otherwise it is not.


Rom. 1:18-32 is the classic text on this question. Here Paul stresses the clarity of God’s revelation to the unrighteous. God reveals his wrath to them (verse 18), and makes truth about himself ‘plain to them’ (19), ‘clearly perceived’ (20). That revealed truth includes his ‘eternal power and divine nature’ (20). It also contains moral content, the knowledge of ‘God’s decree that those who practice [wicked things] deserve to die’ (32). Significantly, the text does not state that this revelation in nature communicates the way of salvation. 

John Frame, “Unregenerate Knowledge of God”

Sensing the existence of something divine isn’t enough to let us intuit or reason through how to connect to the divine. In fact, when we follow our own mysticism and our own cherished ethical comforts, such as people are basically good, it’s not that the handler is training the dog badly: it’s that the handler is trying to train the cat.

Now, if you put the cat in charge of the team, the best you can expect is a benevolent anarchy of subservience to the cat’s comforts and a starved, neglected dog. The cat may purr and snuggle and make you feel good, but its nature hasn’t been designed to serve the same functions as a dog.

According to what Romans 1 says, the first glimpse of truth is when we’re able to perceive God as wrathful. Before that, we puttered along obliviously, not even getting wind of a warning of this news. But it’s not the last glimpse. There’s a whole scent trail to follow, things which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man; all that God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9)

The question is, what’s to be done with this? Can the soul bear to proceed further and discover the rest of the picture of a God who is also love? Or will we do as most do, as described in Romans 1? Frame continues:

The knowledge given by general revelation is not only a knowledge about God, a knowledge of propositions. It is a knowledge of God himself, a personal knowledge. For Paul says, not only that the wicked have information about God, but that “they knew God” (21).

Nevertheless, according to Paul, the wicked do not make proper use of this revealed knowledge. Rather, they ‘by their unrighteousness suppress the truth’ (18). He continues, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…’ (21-22). Paul describes their foolishness as idolatry (22-23). In his view, idolatry is not an innocent search for the divine or the result of honest ignorance. It is, rather, willfully and culpably turning away from clear revelation of the true God. So it is ‘exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images…’ (23), exchanging ‘the truth of God for a lie’ (25).

Frame, ibid.

The first thing we want to lie to ourselves about is God’s wrath towards sin: The infinitely powerful grief, anger and outrage of God towards the evil and harm our choices have brought into the world. We begin by exclaiming that God must not be good if He allows bad things to happen. Then we end by discovering in the biblical account that He does in fact judge, punish and intervene to stop evil — and saying we want no part of such a harsh God and the healthy boundaries He imposes upon our various penchants for doing evil.

Most of us give up being dog handlers in favour of being cat herders. This first knowledge is more than anyone can bear, unless the grace of God Himself really does intervene to soothe the spirit with a greater and realer comfort than petting the cat can provide.

There are several problems in this dilemma. First, if the Creator God is good, why is there evil in the world? Secondly, if the Creator God is evil, why is there good in the world? Thirdly, if we do away with this Creator God nonsense altogether, where can we anchor our concepts of personhood, purpose and meaning? Is there anything but the shifting sands of our own opinions? Does any of the pain we’ve experienced even matter, or are we ultimately, utterly alone in our most secret sufferings?

Here, we come upon what the dog knows: The scent of truth that eludes our inner handler and all his or her reasoning and overthinking. That truth is that there is both good and evil in the world, and thousands of years of human effort through religion, good works, social engineering, morality, ethics, and all the best of human love have failed to advance us in goodness or even in moral sophistication. There is nothing new under the sun.

The very, very best we can do is to reimagine the world as something it isn’t: to exchange the truth for a lie.

And that’s not doing anything at all, in reality. We never find out where the dead bodies really are. The innocent take the blame for crimes they didn’t commit, and the guilty go free. Our own perception of justice becomes irreparably warped.

The harder way is to train the dog in the wisdom handed down and then to trust it, rather than controlling it to the point of uselessness. If, by God’s grace, He intervenes to show us how to train our intuition even the tiniest bit, we find ourselves called to something beyond the superstition that matters of life and death are mysterious and eerie. Though it’s stark and harsh, we find ourselves compelled to pursue the trail we can’t see until we find the putrefying corpse that emits its odour through these tangled woods.

Death cannot be untimely if there’s no good; death cannot be death if there’s no evil. And yet, death is.

Of course the wrath of God is awful. It means death is real, and worse, it means there’s no hoping in ourselves, even though we bear His very image.

Though we try to march on past this indication, more and more entangled in our own false narrative of events, that dogged sense of the divine keeps pointing to the evidence and the reality. Usually, we manage to untrain it, starve and neglect it. The cat’s affection will cultivate our ego, our own sense of prowess in the living of life, at the expense of nature and reality.

Yet the cat is still a predator, quietly destroying birdsong in the garden, digging up the flowers and leaving excrement in exchange. She’s indiscriminate: Though she takes the rodents and their damage and diseases, she takes the better things too. Even without active intention, just by following function, the cat and her toxoplasmosis come — affectionately, warmly, comfortingly — to take our sight and mind and health. Death still is.

___________
For the sake of cat lovers everywhere, the author would like to acknowledge that this metaphor, like all metaphors, is not meant to be a literalistic representation of the character of either dogs or cats, just as dogs or cats are not meant to literalistically represent the character of either our sense of the divine or our sin nature, and that this metaphor occurs primarily to provide delight and validation to the incomparable, incorrigible Quixote, whose leathery Texan hide and quick wits enabled him to survive the long over-persistence of a feline demon beneath the sink.