Fusions in the Void, Part 13. East and West: Children Of a Different Culture

In the most challenging moments of our lives, when that void is at its most vast point…

When we’ve leapt from the one side of the cliff, willing ourselves across the chasm and find ourselves suspended between, hanging for a moment like Wile E. Coyote, recognizing that no amount of Acme Rocket Fuel will get us across …

When we try to connect with a culture that isn’t our own and our fingers stretch out to find some sort of purchase, not even a grip or handhold, but even something to touch…

And we don’t feel anything, we don’t feel ourselves connecting with anything, the void is deepest between ourselves and even those we’ve always known, the people who have loved us as best they know how

Yet there is a gap between East and West …

We become the bridge across the gorge. We become the one to whom others can connect.

A third-culture child never does truly reach the other side, because at some point in their youth, there was a Void, and God created something out of nothing there. God said, let there be West and let there be East and somehow in flight between the two we never quite left and never quite arrived. Instead, in that void, God did something new. God fused East and West in us, and made children of a different culture.

I perhaps a bit vainly say that this third culture is really the culture that most mirrors Heaven. If we believe that Jesus was both God and man, 100% each, somehow a 200% being, which I cannot really explain, then we have to believe that somehow Jesus also made a perfect bridge. So those of us who are in that painful, vacuous spot and see nothing, feel nothing at our fingertips, are being invited to connect in the same way. Cultures are not static. So when you are part of the formation of a new culture, you’re on the dynamic cutting edge of culture itself.

When God makes something out of nothing, it’s significant. God makes things every day. New Chinese babies, new Brazilian babies, New Palestinian and Israeli babies. New American babies. New babies with fine, soft skin of every race, of every creature. New butterflies, new rainbows, new sunsets, new unicorns.

Well, not the unicorns, but if God did, then he’d be making something out of nothing, and that’s what’s extra special about being in the void itself: you get to see what God will make in a vacuum. The point is that when God fuses something like East and West to create something Central, God has done something new in the void.

Fusions in the Void, Part 12. Summer and Winter: A new spring

Fitting that this blog is set to release on December 1. I know that winter officially begins later, but December 1 is that day you wake up and say, “Well, I can’t fool myself any longer into thinking it’s fall.” I love autumn, I never really want it to go away. I don’t particularly like winter:

get out your shovel and dig
get out your shovel and dig…

There are days I don’t like summer, either. Our house doesn’t have air conditioning, but by controlling when the windows are open or shut we can keep it fairly cool, around 72 degrees, except for on the really hot and humid days we suffer one or two weeks of every August. Then, I sit in my office with drops of perspiration rolling down my back and wish for October to come again.

Natural cycles are like this. Even in the desert the rain comes, just enough to sustain cacti or lizards. Then, times and places change, nothing’s ever static. There are places in the world where drought is this unexpected thing. Australia and California are prime examples of places that were breadbaskets but are struggling for water.

In the Void, nothing seems to be happening. It’s emotionally and spiritually dry like summer, or dead and cold like winter, never quite what you wish it was. That’s the definition of being in the void, or in a valley experience. The imagery is palpable when you feel this way; you can’t function even in what you know you can do well because your locks are frozen, the air hurts your lungs (And Christians sing “this is the air I breathe/ your holy presence, living in me”). But what if it’s painful to inhale anything? What if you feel like you’re sweating?

In the void, God is fusing summer and winter to create a new spring. Even though fall is what I like best– fall seems like a less rainy springtime– we all hunger for spring. New growth, new life. Looking back at the beginning of this series, we talked about that passage in Genesis 1:2 where the spirit of God is hovering over the waters. The Spirit is calculating the perfect blend for us: a sun just far enough away that in winter we have a tolerable temperature, but in summer as well. On average, the temperature of springtime, we have a perfect blend of hot and cold, summer and winter, that gives us the spring time needed for new growth.

When it’s hot, or cold, in a spiritual or emotional way, it’s our invitation to remember that spring is delicately balanced as the world tilts so that things will grow. Hang on to that reminder. Summer, you can sweat it out. Winter can’t last forever. Spring will come again, because God knows how to Fuse stuff in the Void of your life.

(this series began October 3– see the archives in the left-hand toolbar to work your way back to the beginning.)

Fusions in the Void, Part 9. Iron Hand and Carbon Heart: Steeled Resolve

He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

— Louis Nizer, 1948 (often misattributed to St. Francis of Assisi) 

The longer title here is “Iron Hand and Carbon Heart: A Steeled Resolve”

Steel is made of iron and carbon (and small amounts of other elements). Adding chromium-oxide gets you stainless steel.

The Iron Age began around 1200 B.C. in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) and steel came along roughly eight hundred years later in China. Iron is convertible to steel and becomes strong because of its excess of ductility –meaning it has properties which allow it to be stretched into wire. In other words, if you take a cylinder of iron and pull from either end, it will stretch a bit before it breaks. You can add carbon without losing structural integrity, and it makes the entire thing harder.

So what do I mean by the phrase “iron hand and carbon heart”? First of all, I’m not talking about the old cliche ruling with an iron fist. The work we do has to have a certain strength. The control we exert via our hands includes a measure of strength, but also skill, dexterity, flexibility and malleability. When we close our hand up into a fist, we become unreceptive to other influences. We think we’re getting harder, but really we’re getting weaker. More breakable. Cooler heads will prevail: the goal in keeping our heads cool is that we must remember that our hands really do have an excess of ductility. Something really could be added to what we do. Effort alone won’t get us where we hope to go, and we have to keep our hand open and extended to take hold of it.

Who would think you could add something as organic as carbon to make iron harder? It must have been discovered by accident! But this is our heart. This is the human component. Empathy and passion, things of the heart, things of carbon, must be added to our strength, skill, dexterity, etc., if we are to work as artists at whatever we do. This is no accident, but it’s also no easy task.

In the Void we experience this pain as though we were being stretched into a wire. Twisted, spun out, narrowed. What’s happening in our hearts here is that we’re finding out what we’re really made of. I read a secular coach’s blog once in which he asked the question regarding finding purpose in life: “What sort of sh*t sandwich are you willing to eat?” In the Void, you’re finding that out. You’re finding out just how far you can stretch, and you’re also mixing in your carbon. The minute you can’t take it anymore, you quit, you break. But if you can take it, and mix the carbon of your heart in with the skills you’ve learned, then you’re right on top of this fusion. The iron of your hand and the carbon of your heart. They come together in the Void to leave you with a steeled resolve. When you emerge from the void, you’re (mostly) impervious to the ill effects of success. Instant success means you didn’t get the fusion, you didn’t get steel. People who have instant success don’t have an appreciation for it, and they don’t maintain their stainless resolve to continue doing excellent work the way someone who has a steeled resolve will do. They know that the success isn’t about them, it’s about what happened in the Void. It’s about a fusion they fought for.

Paper beats rock, and steel beats iron.