(78) S5E2 SOTM: Onyx
Our first dive into the Sermon on the Mount looking at Mt. 5:1-12 and Mt. 7:12-29.
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- Richard Rohr's "Sermon on the Mount": https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003A0IASQ/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_uOXEFbGCN7ASQ
- Dallas Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy": https://www.amazon.com/Divine-Conspiracy-Rediscovering-Hidden-Life/dp/0007596545/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=dallas+willard+divine+conspiracy&qid=1601907374&sr=8-1
Words our minds hear are often left unsaid
Enlightened thoughts only see light of night
Divorced from ideal, to cynic wed
Our grounded beings never taking flight
In painful world most seek only pleasure
Juxtaposed lives, like black and white onyx
Living subjectively in great measure
Those who seek to find life in cryonics
But facing life means not avoiding pain
As we defend the clean from the besmirched
With courage we retreat from the inane
To battle fallen demons who are perched
Christ's illocution is not vacuous
The cross is and is not precipitous
[Mt. 5:1-12 and Mt. 7:12-29] Onyx has a number of variations, but the one which I refer to here is the black and white style onyx. It was difficult to get a common theme for its use in mythology, but it seemed that a quelling of fear and pain were common. It was thought to give courage in Rome (or take away fear of death and injury), give eloquence in Europe (or take away fear of being humiliated), and taking away or dampening pain in childbirth as well as quell sexual lust. It was also thought to be able to constrain evil spirits. In all of these senses, onyx seems to be a depressive sort of material towards particular emotions and entities.
Here I thought back to my poem “The Unspoken” (see Appendix 8). Most of the things we hear in our head throughout the day are left unsaid. While this may sometimes be good, there are many lovely thoughts we have which never see the light of day – only the dark of night - because we are too timid to share them with others.
In our embracing of the fallen world as it is, rather than the ideal that it should be (and will be as God restores it), we refuse to live as God intends for us to live. A Christian realist may understand that an ideal will never be realized until Christ’s return, at least in terms of the effects. However, they should also understand that God calls us to live as idealists, with faith and reliance on him for the means. We are a foretaste of the Kingdom as we live it out in a world that is not yet fully in submission to the King.
We are most averse to the sensation of pain and are highly tuned into the presence of pain in our world. We seek to distance ourselves from this as much as possible. Our aversion to pain and attraction to pleasure means that even if something is good, but painful, we will avoid it (e.g. exercise, the way of God, healthy food), and if something feels good, but is harmful, we will indulge (e.g. alcohol, nicotine, drugs, junk food, etc).
People seek the perpetuation of pleasure so much that they attempt to become immortal. One way modern humans try to do this is through cryonics (not to be confused with cryogenics, which is the science of studying cold temperatures). Cryonics seeks to freeze human bodies and then resurrect them when their lives can be healed so they live longer. In fact, as molecules approach colder and colder temperatures, nearing Absolute 0, they move less and less until they completely stop. In this great irony, individuals prematurely embrace death, “living” as a frozen corpse for who knows how long. While this may subjectively be what some individuals call “living,” it doesn’t seem like living to me. It’s empty. Seek and find are also intended to allude to the real way we’re supposed to seek and find in Matthew 5-7.
But true life isn’t the avoidance of pain. Rather, it’s the promotion and upholding of that which is clean and good, defending what is true, real, and ideal from that which defiles and corrupts. Even if it means pain for me, upholding what is good is what gives meaning to life. That to which we adhere and obey shows where our hope and love lie. If we lose the fabric of objective good, we lose everything, because we lose the source of objective good with it.
This references two of the myths of onyx (courage and trapping demons). As we fight for the holy and good, we move away from all that is inane, and we fight our battle not against flesh and blood, but against the demonic. These devils prey on us as they perpetuate their false dichotomy of pleasure and pain (similar to Lewis’s demonic dichotomy in the “Great Divorce), and we must fight them.
Jesus had three illocutions to which I’m referring (a promise, a command, and a warning). First, he commands believers. He commands us to follow him, to take up our crosses, etc. Second, he warns us of how serious it is to deny him. If we deny him, he will deny us. Finally, he promises that those who follow him and seek his Kingdom will be provided for and receive eternal rewards.
Taking up our cross and following Jesus can be precipitous in two ways. First, it is a very steep and dangerous path, filled with hardship and pain. While the world’s view is that such a path should be avoided, we must climb it to victory. Second, the way of the cross is often precipitous in that there are many dangers. There are many goats on the path, heading for judgment. The path to destruction is wide and many choose that path. In this sense, many who choose to say they follow Christ are nominal. They make a precipitous – not well thought out and damning – commitment and end up falling off the precipitous heights.
To mimic the juxtaposition seen visually in onyx, I created a verbal juxtaposition in each line. Every line has at least two words which have opposing meanings, images, or ideas associated with them. 1) hears/unsaid, 2) enlightened/light/night, 3) divorced/wed, 4) grounded/flight, 5) painful/pleasure, 6) black/white, 7) subjectively/measure, 8) seek/find, 9) facing/avoiding, 10) clean/besmirched, 11) courage/retreat, 12) fallen/perched, 13) illocution/vacuous, 14) is/is not