After spending the entire day reading in Middle English, it’s no wonder that when I come home from the office I blast Benny Goodman or the Andrews Sisters and collapse on my bed for a few minutes before going to make dinner and watch an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. No, right now I don’t really care if my neighbors don’t like jazz. Yes, I’m aware that the Parson would say my sin is pride.
I finished The Cloud of Unknowing today. Cloud is a work of medieval apophatic theology, or negative theology, meaning that you gain understanding of God through negation. That’s the easiest way to explain it, even if it’s not entirely accurate. The goal is to clear your mind completely, to separate yourself from everything else in the world, to separate body from spirit. Between you and God will always exist a cloud of darkness, the cloud of unknowing, but by separating yourself from everything else with the cloud of forgetting you are as close to God as you can get whilst living on this earth. There’s also a whole lot on how to get to that state, and how to fend off distractions when you’re in that state, and digressions on the various aspects of the active and the contemplative lives. ‘Fascinating,’ as Spock would say.
Ian said reading Cloud would change my life. Honestly, I think I was too annoyed by a variety of factors to really enjoy it as much as I wanted to. The idea of approaching God with a clear mind and centering one’s meditation on a single word (ie, ‘love’ or ‘God’) is a practice I am already familiar with. Actually, I was intrigued by how much the Cloud author sounded like some Zen writings I’ve read.
I want to reread Cloud sometime this summer, perhaps in a modern translation or a different edition if I can find one. It seems like something I would enjoy if I were in the right frame of mind. There is much to be learned from this book, if only from this line:
It is not what you are nor what you have been that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be.
In other news, I have been rereading The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. More once I’ve finished it. For now, just know that I love Le Guin, I love The Dispossessed, and that reading it has been helping “Masterpiece” tremendously. Amazing how much temporal physics has in common with classical piano.
On a similar note: I may or may not have a tab open in Firefox to the Creative Writing PhD at the University. My supervisor wants me to answer, “Why is studying vernacular theology in medieval drama important?” and trying to answer that has me terrified. I don’t think my supervisors will like the idea that I’m doing academia as a day job so that I can write science fiction and fantasy, so the creative part of me says, “So why can’t I be the day job?” I most likely will feel less terrified once I have a better idea of where this dissertation is going. Finding alternatives is one of my ways of coping… I just don’t know if they approve of genre writing.
Going to Oxford in a few weeks. Getting out of Town will do me a load of good.
I’m going to go read about an anarchist temporal physicist now.