Thesis 24: The Aleph In My Stomach

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.
There is a slow, blue-cool burn deep in my stomach that, if I am still enough, murmurs like fire.

On some days, it feels like a needling wash making its way across my torso and my head.

On other days, it is a controlled flame in my abdomen where it usually resides, perhaps with a corresponding sporadic lit match in my conscious brain that burns out after a minute or two, tethered only loosely to the burn in my stomach.

On still others, it is a juggernaut suit of wildfire I wear around throughout the day, allowing me to see out through it, but not others to see in. 

In the Borges short story, "The Aleph," the protagonist ends up in the basement of a house where it is believed resides an aleph, a point in space-time which contains all other elements of existence in itself. To see the aleph is to experience the entirety of the cosmos and, perhaps more overwhelming, of humankind.

In another story, "The Library of Babel," a library exists wherein are books written using every possible combination of the letters in the alphabet, the period, the space, and the comma. Therefore, the librarians conclude, there must be every possible book, every possible biography, every possible story about every single human (alive, dead, and unborn), as well as, somewhere, a book containing the contents of the rest of the library. This drives many of the librarians to utter despair and loneliness. Others spend their entire days searching for the book which contains their story, hoping to read their future, only to discover an error, finding out hundreds of pages into the book that it is not their story, but full of mistakes.

We live inside prisons that we build from our own design. Luther knew that the feeling of freedom lie deep inside the core of every human, especially and specifically those who felt the pang of guilt from ongoing sin. Church leaders at the time knew that they could exploit that feeling and profit from it.

Whatever that blue-cool burn in my stomach is, it's something akin to that feeling. As soon as I move to put words to it, though, it scatters out of view quickly, like an electron in two places at once, and yet at no specific place ever. 

Freedom is not being released into complete independence. It is the result of staring directly at what binds us and naming it. It is keeping the suit of wildfire at bay, relegated to the small flame that will burn regardless. It is reading my own biography and lining out the error in the current chapter, knowing good and well that others are yet to be read.

Every day, we must struggle against the indiscrimate and highsounding promise of release from penalty. That work has already been done for us. We need only claim it.


Original image by flickr user jontintinjordan. Used under Creative Commons license.


Popular Posts