Baptism through the Surface

Baptism through the Surface

Perhaps it is the historical roots of Europe, perhaps it is the visit to all the cathedrals, perhaps the beauty of St. Michel, perhaps it is reading up on the Spanish Inquisition – but today I’ll diverge briefly into a form of a religious notion that has stuck with me over the years. I trust that we are far enough in the blog that only our closest of friends are hanging on to continue to listen, as I suspect this post is a bit heavy for the stomach for daily consumption. This musing may be like that hearty country ham soup we tasted in the Pyrenees.

So alas, you have been warned, all ye he enter:

I’ve always embraced the concept of baptism. Perhaps it is the experience of lake baptisms by the Primitive Baptists in my high school years, or my evolutionary DNA speaking to me from eons past, but the ability for water to wash the body and soul of the dirt of travel, and the analogous muddiness of daily decisions has always appealed to me. I reject original sin, I reject that we need cleansing of sin – but I embrace that we need cleansing if only to bring centering and clarity to vision, cleansing from what is otherwise distracting us from purity. Take all the dogma of sin and apply it to distractions to the soul and local maximas of being comfortably numb, and now you are close to touching my inherent internal compass for religion. Remember this compass, at least for the rest of this musing.

There is an emotional state I frequently touch upon that holds value to me, albeit with a touch of religious fear. I’m not sure I believe it, but I find the fear of it healthy given the above religious compass … and that is sufficient for me to turn off the requirements for belief in lieu of the escape hatch of faith. To describe this emotional state, I must start first with Dante’s Inferno, where the mass of souls are trapped in hell – or even worse, the second volume on purgatory, with souls writhing to escape a limbo fate of tedium, which again – given my replacement of sin with comfortable numbness, is the worse volume for me. In purgatory, souls exist just below the surface of the day to day life, like water under a recently frozen lake (Kate Bush’s Under Ice), ot the souls in darkness reaching into the El Transparente in Toledo’s Santa Inglesia. You can touch the subsurface sound of purgatory’s analogy in well-known places where the ice never freezes, like a fresh water source that prevents the crystal formation.

For me, one such place is when water flows solid over my ears, as easily done in a shower. Here, you can hear the writhing frenzied world of purgatory souls yearning to escape when the flowing water fully envelopes both ears. And like Baptists to original sin, this sound spurs me on with my own compass to engage the world, accomplish something for the day, and confront – without distraction or comfort – the indifferent and existential reality that is the world that day.

In this flow of water that overwhelms the senses and opens the ears to the purgatory of wasted and otherwise solidified and stagnant lives, I have the vision of the sound from these souls filling in receptive pools in my spiritual self, like water flooding in after heavy rains places that naturally hold spiritual waters for cleansing. It fills the pockets of atheism and agnosticism, it fills the pockets of spirituality and belief in life beyond solipsism and body. It is a baptism of sorts, pooling up the dust that has accumulated, and making all the concepts a bit more shiny while floating away the dust of life not worth living.  Every shell and rock on the beach looks the best after a nice coating of this cool water.

But yet the baptism is revealing the screams of ordinariness that always sits below the icy surface of daily life, the façade that life is walking on a solid lake, when instead it is the coldness of our own propensity for self importance and our objections to nihilism that have caused the misleading surface layer of ice to hold us up.

These is the real reasons why baptismal showers are important:

  1. to clean away all these distractions and self-created structures at the icy surface, and allows us to touch, yet not dangerously bathe and nihilistically drown in the objectivistic water underneath;
  2. to remind us to how much we create structure in our daily lives to exist in necessary expediency at the surface but that structure otherwise have no meaning towards our ultimate goals in living;
  3. to skitter along the line of tangibility and intangibility to go beyond solipsism, diving in and out of the two like dolphins jumping at the surface – yes a fleeting moment of false flight, but even philosophy can have its fun, and
  4. to awaken us to the stark yet reassuring reality beneath the surface, the reminder of our false daily structures, and awakening us to the freedom and urgency of life (this time to borrow a line from Morrissey).

For my religious compass, I can think of no better goal of baptism than these.

Of course, this is all writing and perspective for me, I say with humor, and it is certainly not consistent with traditional baptism of more earthly purposed religions with different compasses guiding them. But of irony the end result is fairly similar – a freeing of the soul that comes to a broader perspective. Like doing a bit or travel, but within the constraints of daily life. All baptisms are a journey, and with that, I return to travel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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