THE RAZOR'S EDGE
THIS ARTICLE IS A FOLLOW-UP TO THE PRINCESS PATHOS
Mystics have sometimes reckoned the spiritual quest to be like walking along a razorís edge. W. Somerset Maugham wrote a book by that title, from which two movie versions have been made; first in 1946 with Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney, and then in 1984 with Bill Murray and Catherine Hicks. Larry Darrel was a young man engaged to a beautiful daughter of a banker, with a promising future career of affluence. Gone to Europe for WWI, he saw the horrors that are possible to men. After the war, affluence seemed meaningless to him. So, he went to France to drift and think, committing himself to nothing in particular. He went to India, found a guru, and then the isolation of a mountain cave where he could read and meditate. Throwing all his books into a fire because no other person can answer oneís own questions, he returned to France and friends but declined the trap of social norm with "It just doesnít matter." But, he had found a contentment with himself more valuable than material security. Iíve watched both movie versions several times because I feel so keenly his spiritual hunger.
For the past several years, most of my spiritual ponderings have been expressed in my website articles about disconnecting from world, about Liberation of oneís spirit from the body, about Jesusí command to follow Him to the death, and about how one pursues such a radical path, perhaps even to the extreme act of self-sacrifice. On my website HomePage is a section of Bible passages in which Jesus calls a seeker to a terrible quest, dramatically different from that of todayís sermons. We see a quite different Jesus if we listen to Him instead of to our preachers. Finding the real Jesus has been a profoundly terrible and wonderful influence in my own life.
I came to understand why the multitudes who were originally drawn to Him then turned away after recognizing what He was really saying. They said his teachings were too hard. As I tried to grasp this Lord on a white stallion, sword in mouth and fire from eyes, I found myself recalling the song of Mary Magdalene in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR: "I Donít Know How to Love Him," with her wails of "I never thought Iíd come to this; whatís it all about?" and "He scares me so, I want Him so, I love Him so."
When I was a young Vicar in the Lutheran Church, I preached the churchís Jesus, trying to present His love and His work more meaningful than any ever before me. But, my Jesus then did NOT scare anyone, nor did He leave anyone bewildered with the angst of "I never thought Iíd come to this; whatís it all about?"
[Sidenote: I really like this definition of "angst" from
"Angst, often confused with anxiety, is a transcendent emotion in that it combines the unbearable anguish of life with the hopes of overcoming this seemingly impossible situation. Without the important element of hope, then the emotion is anxiety, not angst. Angst denotes the constant struggle one has with the burdens of life that weighs on the dispossessed and not knowing when the salvation will appear."]
I think that one who really hears Jesusí call to disconnect from this world, and transcend it mentally and physically, must suffer the angst of a soul in jeopardy, of one trying to balance on the razorís edge, of one who finally realizes the terror of the command to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." I would say that all of my writings were born of such angst, and that I still tremble with concern about what the next step might bring. I guess my one constant and unquestioned conviction is that I will take that next step, and those beyond it, no matter what they carry me into. After all, it is that great Lord on the Stallion whom I follow, so I let him lead my steps. Perhaps the only hope that I dare, that carrot which keeps me motivated, is that I might be permitted the great honor of dying boldly in service to my General, my Lord, whose name is Jesus.
As I wrote in a paragraph above, my writings for several years have been "articles about disconnecting from world, about Liberation of oneís spirit from the body, about Jesusí command to follow Him to the death, and about how one pursues such a radical path." That is the path of a solitaire, one who has estranged himself from every other person, and his own personal self, and any worldly desires. For a man, that includes estrangement from a wife, at least in some kind of inexplicable spiritual way.
But, THEN!, here comes the piece which I titled "Princess Pathos," a weeping lament over the tragic betrayal of the innocent dreams of young girls ó by both men and the cruel facts of life. I got so caught up in the emotions of that piece that it was only days later that I recognized its conflict with my writings of recent years. I asked Lisa if she saw it; she gently laughed and said perhaps I should find a balance between the two. A balance??? I asked how the hell can I find a balance between estrangement from everything, unto death, and the duty of a knight to help a girlís dream come true.
"ANGST," yes, thatís me, on the razorís edge, giving 100 percent of my devotion to my General, and another 100 percent to those noble virtues which are the natural instincts of Godís own sons.
I will tell you this about myself; I havenít prayed for years with any words, or at the most, extremely rarely. I will also tell you that I pray without ceasing. Both are equally true. The King in the stands Who sent me out to represent Him will never hear me crying for help; I need not verbalize what He already knows. I will charge through the darkness of battle like Don Quixote, trusting that my next step is up to Him who directs me. Oblivious to all else, my inner ear strains to hear the soft whisper of instructions; I darenít talk when I should be listening.
So, here it is that I find Iíve written the Princess Pathos, so totally focused on the topic that it never occurred to me how it conflicts with several years work! When I write, it is usually at one sitting and I never question what appears. And I loved doing it. Aaaaaaggggghhh. (That spelled angst, didnít it?).
Oh, if you are a spiritual seeker, I hope you arenít disappointed that this article didnít lead to any destination. Sorry. But, I confess that I sure do wish I could have a clear answer. Maybe with the next step, eh? Or the one after?
by Roger Hathaway, June 2012
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