As I was driving through Sydney yesterday, I had the Bach Goldberg Variations on ABC Radio. I was stopped at a traffic light, and noticed the people crossing past my windshield, some talking to a friend, some punching their iPhone’s screen, no doubt linked to someone else doing the same thing. There was a cluster of people in front of a pub across the street socializing and having a great time (it seemed). What suddenly struck me was how much stimulation each person in the scene I was observing was experiencing (including myself) — and how difficult it is for the “still small voice” within them (and me) to “cut through” all this stimulation, to use the common marketing term.
Literal reality versus constructed reality
I am no different. Yesterday (everyday) I constructed my own world as I always do. As I drove, I chose to listen to Bach, I decided (somewhat habitually) what I needed to observe as I was driving, I observed Sydney as I drove along, and of course I had my thoughts about all these. This constructed world of mine pretty much filled my conscious mind. Yet (reflecting on this now) I believe as a Christian that literally the Kingdom of God was also really present, independent of my belief or what I allowed into my constructed world at any time.
How do I include the reality of God’s presence every moment that I am awake? Is that even a practical thing to do? (I might have a car accident if I got carried away in some rapturous encounter with God.)
Time, Consciousness and the Kingdom
I think one answer to these questions is having a different view of time and consciousness as a Christian. Let me explain. My usual constructed world works like this.
- I do many things automatically, with only occasional interventions by my conscious mind. For example, driving a car.
- I choose some stimulation consciously, like listening to classical music when I drive. (I flick between 2 stations in Sydney to find the piece of music I want). This choice then fills my consciousness with some beauty or drama or humour, depending on what I choose to listen to.
- Some outside stimulation intrudes and I notice it; like the people who crossed my path or stood in the pub as I was stopped at the traffic light.
- My thoughts are also always there, chattering away. That is who I am. I think everyone must be thinking, more or less all the time.
But in my constructed world I also intentionally add a different type of stimulation — the presence of God– which happens in a different time and different level of consciousness. Did I learn to do this? I don’t know. It seems like it has always been part of me. I know I have become a better observer of this aspect of myself as I get older. My thinking contains its hints, usually surprising me. (I don’t plan to meet God; He seems to seek me out occasionally, even insistently at times.) What this feels like to me is the timeless intruding on time — and a different form of consciousness intruding on my ordinary constructed world. That feeling is actually inexpressible; I just know that it is real.
My conclusion? A Christian constructs their world differently than many people. We are ready to receive God’s stimulation. (Maybe that happens with other religions as well; I can only talk about Christians.) When God “knocks” we “answer the door.” We take God’s stimuli as seriously as stop lights and pedestrians when we are driving an automobile. We decide to pay attention to God’s timeless demands in order to “drive our lives well.” They come when God decides it’s time; we receive them when we make ourselves ready each day by our intention to be alert and respond. And we learn more and more about the Kingdom when we reflect on what we have experienced after the fact. What I have just described is commonly called “prayer.”
CONTINUE TO READ: The insistence of everyday reality, Part 2. [Click here]