Ashes to Ashes


It’s convenient that you don’t check your email, as it allows me to write to you as if you were an imaginary friend, without having to go through the delusion involved in constructing an actually imaginary friend. I’ve decided to call my non-imaginary friend “Fleet”.

I had been dreaming this morning of working in some sort of interstellar observatory, when we received a signal that cars were being manufactured around some distant star. Somehow, traces of the manufacturing got embedded in the starlight. The dream unravelled after that into a confusing question of which one of us – not you and I, but the workers in this lab – was dead.

The signal of intelligent life from a distant star is, it strikes me now, an image of immortality. There’s nothing exceptional in talking to Heaven, but when Heaven talks back it changes everything.

Since the time of the Egyptians at least, the stars shone from the realm of the dead. You can see a remnant of this old belief in that Frank Capra movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which opens with stars looking down and talking about what’s going on on Earth, before one of them steps down from Heaven and incarnates as a human being. He’s the angel Clarence, who has taken on human form in order that he might gain his wings.

I don’t know if the Egyptians had this notion of heavenly descent into human form in order to do some essential work, but this certainly came to be the dominant idea. In normative (as opposed to gnostic) Christianity, the incarnation of Christ follows his pattern, but it isn’t driven by his need to evolve, but by humanity’s evolutionary need for his sacrifice. But even within that idea was the idea of evolution through falling.

The question is how to turn the descent around. This is the question behind my 4 questions 4 St. Cinder.

In the ancient Christian saint cults, the saints were regarded as higher selves. Ourselves, but having grown wings. They were images of evolutionary ascent, all of whom were like individual models on the general archetype of the Christ, who is the Saint of Saints. The image of humanity fallen and then risen again. Reborn.

This aim, to be reborn, to grow wings and so reverse the fall, is distinct from the usual human course, wherein the fall into generation leads on to the next generation. I mean, the usual course is not to grow wings, but to get married and have kids. (Really, marriage or not, to procreate.)

That’s why in that Capra movie the angel’s evolution is linked to his service to a human family. It’s the angel that helps the man be a father. The two need one another. In fact, we might say that the angel is all in the man’s head.

And the truth, long story short, is that I feel lost in all of this process, in that I don’t know how to connect the evolution of the angel with the life of the man. Hence my questions to St. Cinder, the patron saint of persons whose lives have been reduced to the ashes of their former selves.

This wasn’t the letter I intended to write. I meant to recapture some clarity I had about suffering and art that had become momentarily clear to me after waking from the dream above. The structure of that clarity is gone, though, so I’ll have to just leave this as it is.

It was good to talk with you, and I hope your return to retirement provides the rest you need.

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