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by Thom Fiet
I am running into more and more people these days who are disciples of Energy. I have a friend who is a well-known jazz saxophonist who plays every weekend at a New York City landmark. He thinks Energy is the sum of all things, seen and unseen—the basic unit of reality. He referred me to movie icon Jim Carrey, star of Dumb and Dumber, who gave a little speech saying all matter is essentially Energy and that personality is a kind of shell we must jettison, because it is so false, troublesome, and distorted. I ran into an IBM computer whiz at a party and he too offered a slightly lubricated credo about Energy. All of them making the point that Energy is NOT Personality, making this point with all the feeling an average Muslim might have being paired with ISIS. They make the point that the personality, ego–the I we experience is something of a false aberration. Thankfully, it is implied, we are not at our core, a self, or at least we will not have to suffer ourselves forever. Our basic self is on lease, in other words, we don’t have to put up with our lemon forever. Lemonade is not in our teleology, rather we can throw ourselves into the compost heap and enter the nothingness of Energy.
It seems, however, the human experience of consciousness drives us to a more disturbing issue: that Energy has indeed evolved into personality. Energy has unwittingly done something existential: created from its un-self a conscious being. We ourselves are the genie who have been let out of the proverbial bottle. We are a scandal in the universe, an embarrassment to Energy–the freaks of nature collected here on planet earth–the greatest show around (no wonder aliens come to visit!). See the man with two heads! See the woman with the beard! See the humans who are conscious!
Things get problematic for the Energetic. We have this morning the story of the disciple Thomas, who for the better part of three years followed Jesus around the back and beyond of Palestine. He was a witness to healings, great teaching, fabulous storytelling, the odd exorcism, and something of a warm up to Jesus’ own resurrection, that would be the miracle for his old friend Lazarus. Even with all this, Thomas is unmoved when his traumatized colleagues tell him that their Master has now been resurrected.
Nope, we return to Energy. Thomas does not exactly say that, but what he does say makes perfect sense—“Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” There is no life after death because the universe is not conscious and therefore it follows that there is no greater consciousness, no God, not even Carl Jung’s penny-pinching collective unconscious.
Eight days later, we are told, Jesus comes knocking again (actually he doesn’t knock, but somehow bleeds through a locked door-just like my daughters seemed to do when they were little). So here’s Thomas’s chance to get his hands on the physical evidence. “Check me out,” says Jesus, the Freak of Nature. But the story never tells us that Thomas gets around to touching the resurrected Jesus. No, instead he encounters Personality. They speak to each other. And in this crisis of contact with Jesus, Thomas moves from a follower of Energy to a creed about Personality: “My Lord and my God!” Personality meets personality.
It seems that human personality dissolving into an amorphous Energy is not as much of a scandal as Energy evolving into a specific Personality. But if the story of Jesus’s resurrection can be trusted, this is exactly what we find. What we are primarily dealing with is Personality, not Energy.
Which means we must live with ourselves, maybe for all time. It also means we must live with God who is a Person, maybe for all time. At issue then is relationship between persons, this is the core meaning of the universe. St. Thomas then could be seen as the first Christian cosmologist. And at the center of his universe, even beyond, is a Self, who has created other selves to contend with, die for, die with, and enjoy-forever.
Thom Fiet is pastor at Lyall Memorial Federated Church, located in Millbrook, New York