Friday, July 23, 2010

"Join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God"
Is what kept running through my mind
as I was running with someone faster than me
through Discovery Park
and trying to maintain a conversation of sorts
about Jesus.
It's easy to be a good listener
when you're out of breath.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shot across infinite spaces
mouth open
not to speak
words have left
and the cords between life and limb
have grown threadbare.
mouth open
an escape hatch of the soul
the roar of dimensions
at the doorway that's distance
cannot be measured in seconds
or metric length
through and outside
to where the winds rage cold
in the absence of skin,
who wouldn't want
to be clothed.

"...neither death"
-without skin
does not mean
without God.

And in a moment
that shaper's voice
who's tight embrace has held you waiting
shall call you out
into light, love,
and the clothing
of indestructable Life

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Took Josiah out running today.
He's been at me every time I go running with friends to come with us, and I've tried over and over again to explain to him that he's just not going to be able to keep up and that it would result in no exercise for me and no fun for him. But he has persisted til I decided to take him out on a run to show him what I mean.

So we went on a run down to Discovery Park, which is about a quarter mile from our house. I kept a slow pace so we would stay together, just enough so he would be running at a speed proportionate to my normal running speed. I expected him to putter out after the first couple blocks, but he didn't.
Then I expected him to ask if we could stop when we hit the big hill that leads up into the park, and he didn't. He made it all the way up into the park, and around one of the wooded trails without stopping once.
When we'd been gone for about 20 minutes, I asked if he was ready to head back, he said once more around the trail, so around we went. Then he said he was ready to go back home. About an eighth of a mile from the house he got a couple cramps but ran through them, and sprinted with me up the hill and into the house.

I was very impressed, & told him so. He looked up at me with his tomato-red face and beamed a big smile, and said he was impressed too.

He's still not running with me when I'm going for exercise, but I'm definitely going to keep taking him out after this.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just finished Jung's "Psychology and Religion".

On the whole, it was an enjoyable book to read. I believe that it was based on lectures...yup, just looked inside the cover, it was based on the "Terry Lectures" given at Yale in 1937. This gives the book a nice conversational feel, even when Jung lapses into obscure vocabulary. The lectures are delivered in three sections, "The Autonomy of the Unconscious Mind", "Dogma and Natural Symbols" and "The History and Psychology of a Natural Symbol"

I can definitely see the usefulness of a book club or some sort of corporate reading when it comes to books with substance, because it's easy to zip through them without getting the framework down of what the author's saying, and just coming away with a feeling or impression from the book. My first impressions without going back through it were that he had some insightful things to say about religion in general, that he's a mystic philosopher at heart (he reads like a Tozer without Christ), and that even though his scope and view is much broader and far-reaching than the materialist psychologists of today, he still seems very much in love with his method, to the point of "leading the witness" in the last section, (which I'll try to explain when I get to it), and he's very good at adapting his language to whatever point of view he's discussing to the point of sounding like an insider, even if he doesn't ultimately accept that point of view.

Having gone back over the book, and looked at my margin notes, I'll cover each section.

"Autonomy of the Unconscious Mind"

He opens by maintaining that he's not a philosopher but rather an empiricist, concerned with observable phenomena, in this case, psychological events. As an example, he gives the virgin birth and says
"...psychology is only concerned with the fact that there is such an
idea, but it is not concerned with the question whether such an idea is true or
false in any other sense. It is psychologically true in as much as it exists.
Psychological experience is subjective in so far as an idea occurs in obnly one
individual. But it is objective in so far as it is established by a society - by
a consensus gentium."
(that's Latin for "Agreement of the peoples", I had to look that one up.)
"Psychology deals with ideas and other mental contents as Zoology deals with

So we know where he's coming from.

He explains what he means by religion next, with a quote from another German guy named Rudolph Otto (who I think C.S. Lewis also references).
"religion is the careful and scrupulous observation of...the 'numinosum' that is, a dynamic existence or effect , not caused by an
arbitrary act or will."
- this, Jung says, is caused by either the influence of an invisible presence (say, Job 4:15), or a quality in something that is seen (say, seeing someone walk on water or raise the dead with a word); either of which changes your consciousness. (examples provided by me, not Jung)
In short, religion is the careful consideration of that thing that gives you the willies independent of your will. He actually refines and redefines his definition, ending up calling religion the attitude of someone who's had his consciousness changes by said willies. (he actually uses the term "numinous" again, which I recall C.S. Lewis as describing as the kind of fear/feeling one would get from being told there was a ghost in the next room, as opposed to the kind of feeling/fear of being told there's a tiger in the next room, so I don't think my use of "willies" is too far off).
Jung does give the benefit of the doubt to the religious, and seems with his definitions to agree that religion isn't just something people make up, it's based on something outside of us that works on us.
He then distinguishes religion from "creeds", Creeds being
"...codified and dogmatized forms of original religious experience"
Again, fair enough. I haven't seen Jesus raise the dead in person, or rise from the dead, yet having heard, I believe. Yet I would say that a "creed" should point you towards your own experience of the "numinosum" by directing you to seek out God in a specific way ("And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.")

Interestingly enough, Jung says
"...even Protestantism is bound at least to be Christian and to express itself within the frame of the conviction that God has revealed himself in Christ, who suffered for mankind. This is a definite frame, with definite contents, that cannot be coupled with or amplified by Buddhistic or Islamic ideas and emotions."
Someone should tell that to Brian McLaren.
He then goes on to talk about Psychology's concern with religious ideas, especially when it comes to "neuroses". He makes a really insighful and telling comment in this section criticizing the mindset that has become the medication culture of psychiatry today:
"Our usual materialistic conception of the psyche is, I am afraid, not
particularly helpful in neurotic cases...medicine therefore feels a strong
dislike toward anything of a psychical nature-either the body is ill or there is
nothing the matter. And if you cannot prove that the body is really diseased,
that is because our present means do not enable the physician to find the true
nature of the undoubtably organic trouble"
OK. If I listed all the great quotes in the first section, this blog would quickly become a book in its own right, so I'll refrain. Except for these two:
(regarding the mindset that would tell a patient that he/she is the origin of their own neurosis)
"Such a suggestion would instantly paralyze his fighting spirit, and he would
get demoralized. It is much better if he understands that his complex is an
autonomous power directed against his conscious personality."
(He basically describes most complexes as if they're possession)
Regarding the brain/mind/soul question:
"But what is the psyche after all? A materialistic prejudice explains it as a
merely epiphenomenal by-product of organic processes in the brain...The
undeniable connection between psyche and brain gives this point of view a
certain strength, but not enough to make it an unshakeable truth...if there are
disorders of an endocrine nature it is impossible to say whether they are not
effects rather than causes."
To which I say "Amen!"
Okay, from there he goes on to say that dreams are the sort of shore of the unconscious, where the numinous and unconscious whatever-it-is can talk to us.
"Dogma and Natural Symbols"
In this section he starts giving examples from one case of his, which becomes increasingly suspect (to me) as he goes on into the next section. He talks a lot about different symbols in dreams, especially the significance of the number 4, and the square and circle and reveals his own "religious" sentiments through a few telling statements.
"What one could almost call a systematic blindness is simply the effect of the
prejudice that the deity is outside man. Although this prejudice is not solely
Christian, there are certain religions which do not share it at all. On the
contrary they insist, as do certain Christian mystics, upon the essential
identity of God and man, either in the form of an a priori identity, or of a
goal to be attained by certain practices or initiations..."
(in which he mentions yoga as one). So basically, Jung's running up the gnostic flag.
Amidst his loooong chatter linking all sorts of obscure references to a myriad of alchemical/pythagorean symbologies & symbols (so you know what I'm talking about, I'll give you a sample:
"... This image of the Deity, dormant and concealed in matter, was what the alchemists called the original chaos, or the earth of paradise, or the round fish in the sea, or merely the rotundum or the eggt. That round thing was in possession of the key which unlocked the closed doors of matter."
- at this point, I tend to think Jung's listened to one too many dreams) as I was saying, amidst all that, he makes a really interesting observation of a symbol very pertinent for anyone who likes the movie "The Fifth Element":
"As it is said in Timaeus, only the demiurge, the perfect being, was capable of
dissolving the tetraktys, the embrace of the four elements, that is, the four
constituents of the round world."
From which he goes on about squaring the circle and such like. Okay, I'll move on to the 3rd section in brief.
The History and Psychology of a Natural Symbol
In which he continues with more of the same observations about series of four, the colors blue and brown, the use of mary as the fourth psychological person of the trinity, etc, etc... All this stems from a his case-in-point, where he says he had an well-educated relapsed catholic man 'o the world write down -get this- a series of over four hundred dreams! This, he says, was done to get the context of the guy's subconscious, and the dreams he details are full of blue floating clocks withing clocks that have divisions divisible by four, and series of four pyramids of candles and much, much more. Not to say that it couldn't happen, but it seems that this guy's dreams were remarkably fecund with the sort of symbolic whatnot that Jung was looking for.
He finishes with the observation that though the religious experience along the line of "I know Jesus lives, because he lives in my heart" is very valuable in that it gives you faith and peace,
"Is there, as a matter of fact, any better truth about ultimate things than the
one that helps you to live?"
He then says that such reasons are not very convincing for the critical mind of modern people, and only work for the person with the experience, which is why he catalogs symbols produced by the unconscious mind, to document their "simply overwhelming"-ness in order to convince the critical mind of its (the thing that causes religious experiences') existence, for the practical purpose that "The thing that cures a neurosis must be as convincing as the neurosis". He ends on a feel-good note, which would be ultimately unsatisfactory, except that he warned me from the get-go that he's not interested in whether any statements of faith are true in any sense but psychologically.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Four Quartets #2

the final section, "Little Gidding,” was apparently named after a 17th-century Anglican monastery renowned for its devotion. Eliot uses it as a connecting place between the worlds, the timeless and that in time, the spiritual and temporal: a place to meet God:

"If you came this way...
...You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying."

Then he goes on to talk about death again, the death of our body, the death of toil, the death of our works & monuments. He follows this with a narrative section where he meets someone (possibly Dante?) in a setting a lot like the purgatory of C.S. Lewis' "Great Divorce". The man talks to him about the ephemerality of their life's work, and the need for purification of their motives, which have been revealed as ill done and to others' harm, even if considered in earthly life as virtues. He says that this cycle will proceed unless "Restored by that refining fire"

I would say that the two main motifs of "Little Gidding" are fire and roses, & I'll focus on them.

The meaning of the Rose I believe to be the bloom of created life, es. natural, bodily life. In vs. 55 he says

"Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave"

He makes it more plain what kind of dust he was talking about in line 58:

"Dust inbreathed was a house"

Another place where I believe he's referring to human life as the "rose" is in vss. 180-184

"Why should we celebrate
These dead men more than the dying?
It is not to ring the bell backward
Nor is it an incantation
To summon the spectre of a Rose."

The image of Flame he uses as the holy spirit ("Pentecostal Fire", that stirs the dumb spirit) And of the purification or Judgement from God in section IV:

"The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire."

Or in other words, it's through the "Consuming Fire" having his way with us through an appropriation of Jesus Christ's death (the gospel, which the tongues declare, that one discharge from sin and error) that we are redeemed from the fires of judgment.

With these two images, roses and flame, he points towards the end and the purposes of God in the chaos and seeming meaninlessness of life and death, using several times the words of Julian of Norwich "And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well", especially in the last line, which is to my mind the best:

"And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."

Which I take to be his vision of the second coming of Christ, the gathering of the Saints into Christ, the Head, and the resurrection and "renewal of all things" when the rose (The equinox of bodily life) and the fire (the Holy Spirit of God) are one-a parallel might be when Paul Speaks of the resurrection: "...while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." under the kingship of Jesus Christ, and in Him, under God. Read Ephesians 1 and Hebrews 2 and Romans 8 and you'll see what I mean.

"making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." -Paul to the Ephesians.

The use of fire and roses really reminded me of George Macdonald's "Princess & The Goblin/Curdie" books, where the "Grandmother" (God) has a fire of roses that she uses to heal (though it hurts), and in which Lena, a character who had once been human and was turned into a beast, passes through in a metaphor of resurrection. In the end of the story the grandmother ultimately makes a great fire of roses for Lena to run into and so (it's implied) to be refined and resurrected as a human.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Not in ignorance, no, though all are thy vessels
I warm to thy will and recognize
the press of thy print upon my small part of action
and in this love, moved by love,
lies the difference.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Was in the Ballard neighborhood today, mainly to ship off some books that I sold on, but I also strolled through the artsy district and stopped off in a coffeeshop. There I finished "Four Quartets" and got through the first chapter of Jung's "The Psychology of Religion", as well as the third chapter of 1 John. More on those later, but for now, here's some snazzy pics of the Ballard Bell, a standalone bell tower in the middle of Old Ballard that I strolled by. Shots courtesy of my cellphone.
To Luke:
Neat! I had no idea you'd had a copy of P.D. - I'd be very interested to know what you get out of it; It definitely got me running down all sorts of new thought-trails. As far as its effect on my poetry, I think the main practical point he made which altered my judgment would be his distinction between "Poetic Diction" and "Verse". Persevere! I tried to read "Goodreads" and Amazon reviews for it and about half the ones I came across were people saying they didn't make it all the way through. He waits til the end to make his main point.

Monday, July 05, 2010

that augur's function fulfilled in poet's scrawl
has leapt to the lips of bards on charts
pages have since blown away
since the flower children won the day,
the skalds have risen up to play.

Who examines now poets' printed thoughts
now, when set to tune
in digital seas
pop prophets
sing to please?

Sung tongues like rudders
set the course
and curdle culture
while the critics man the com.

feathers. fire. towards the sun
no icarus fall,
we're invited one
and all.

Phoenix. 500 years
a death in flames
sans fear

Ashes, ashes. We all fall down
from the ashes, rising
with morning crowned.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


There are fireworks pounding off outside. I'm a scrooge when it comes to these things though.


I'm also at work. I must admit it's impressive feeling the shockwaves through the walls though. My coworker just left for Ashton, the dorm on the hill, for a better view. Such is the weakness of man.

The book I'm currently reading is "Four Quartets" by T.S. Eliot. It's poetry. Dense poetry. I've attempted to read it about three times before, and the last time I made it all the way through; but came out on the other end none the wiser. This time, I'm getting a little more out of it. A little.

I wouldn't normally bother, but T.S. Eliot is just about the most highly recommended poet of the last century, and I've heard "Four Quartets" is a christian work of sorts.

It's divided into four sections ('quartets'): Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding.

Burnt Norton still eludes me. East Coker I belueve to be about the vanity of things under the sun and about the lives that pass into and out of it. It begins:
"In my beginning is my end..." - and goes on to paint an evening pagan flavor (fertility, dancing, death) on the way all living things are made of the previously dead "Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,//old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth//Which is already flesh, fur and faeces...". It made me think of the part in 1 Cor. where Paul says, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." - in our beginning, is our end. "Flesh gives birth to flesh, and Spirit gives birth to Spirit." Insofar as our beginning is dirt, that's where we'll end up. Insofar as we're "Born from above", we'll end up in the image of the Man from Heaven.

East Coker develops until he begins talking about the nature of death, and how it's only at death that we're freed from the 'distempered part': Our only health is the be restored, our sickness must grow worse"
it ends:

"Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning."

So, he ends with the reversal of the first line, but this time with a different meaning - that in death we've finally begun. I could take this as "If anyone loses his life for my sake and the gospels he will find it" or "To be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord." I'm pretty sure Eliot means something like the latter, especially with all his talk of mortality and dying.

In between the beginning and the end were some choice verses, my favorites below:

"That was a way of putting it - not very satifactory:
a periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter
It was not (to start again) what one had expected."

(reminds me of Francis Schaeffer's critique of the state of things, where people aren't sure they're really communicating, and listen to "the poet" simply in a vague
mystical hope that some meaning will break through. Francis would say that the Christian doesn't-or shouldn't-have that problem, since we know that God made language, and that we can truly-though not exhaustively-know our fellow men, since they are what we are: men made in the image of God, and communicators, as God is a communicator.)

"At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been"

Which I take to be a critique of the statistical way we look at everything, using the past's statistics to decide what we'll expect from the future, which leaves us open to the surprise (or shock) of the new.

"Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless"

(Stock Socrates stuff, but sound.)

"In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not."

(In other words: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.")

"So here I am...having had twenty years-
...Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Becuase one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it..."

(More of the difficulty of communication. It helps if you only have one thing to say :-))

So, that's where I'm at so far.

Poetic Diction

Owen Barfield, friend of C.S. Lewis & Anthroposophist, proposes that poetic diction is about gain of consciousness. He believes early languages carried more meaning-per-word than current ones, since people hadn't yet made as many distinctions. (I'll give an example: the words for "hat, hood, and hut all come from the same old word meaning a shelter/covering, and later they were separated to mean more specific things.) and that as language progresses with human development, words become more specialized. In the process, they also lose meaning, and the men who use them lose the awareness of connections that have been lost in the splitting of words. the poet's task is to produce this felt change by uniting words that have a connected meaning to reawaken the consciousness of these unities. Barfield claims that "Language is fossil poetry" (meaning, all the words we use now are poetic and/or metaphors, e.g. "purchase" now means to buy, but comes from old english "to pursue, seek")
Therefore, poetry is a constant process of reminding mankind of meanings that have been lost.

The process never ends, but humanity has reached a point where the rational mind is much more dominant now. Words have lost their intrinsic native poetry, but sice we're more conscious, with poetry we can reclaim our lost perceptions of reality in a more conscious way now.

He also says that poetic diction isn't the same thing as "verse" (rhyming, meter, stanzas) but can be used in what we call "prose" as well. It's any use of language that produces that "felt change of consciousness".

I liked it, It's taken me quite a while to get through the whole thing, and it's the kind of book you know you'll have to read a couple more times to really "get" it.

He's not a reductionist, and believes that words really mean something, and that there are realities out there that we're trying to capture and communicate when we speak. Meaning, his "gain of consciousness" is a real gain, we're understanding more about the real world. He also went into "meaning" at the end where he challenged the "subject object" (subject=the conscious observer, object=the thing observed) way of looking at things, saying that it's not "subjective" to make a connection between a concept and a perceived object-as most modern people would say-since it's thought, not the subject, that makes the connection. In fact, we only recognize ourselves as 'subjects' by the 'grace of thought'.

Basically, that we percieve ourselves as distinct people because of "thought". He almost makes it sound like we "participate" in thought, rather than producing it autonomously. I wondered about the implications of that take on first it sounded heretical, but then I thought about how in John 1 it says that "The true life that gives light to all men was coming into the world". If Jesus gives and gave light to "all men" and light is usually used in scripture to mean "perception", then that would basically mean what Barfield says it means, that Jesus is the one upholding our thought process moment by moment - "In Him we live and move and have our being". I vaguely remembered Job says something about thought and wisdom, and found the spot where Elihu says "It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, tha makes him understand".


I guess, if I believe that Jesus holds all material things together moment by moment (In him all things hold together-Colossians) It's not too much of a stretch to say that He does the same thing with thought.

Anyhow, Barfield's main deal is that poetry is a means of acquiring real consciousness & meaning.

Of course, we'd have to go back to Galatea 2.2 and say that sure, this may be so, but all the poetry and gain in consciousness in the world isn't going to keep us from dying or "doing ourselves in with tire irons". Like Solomon said in Ecclesiastes: "Then I saw that there was more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than darkness. The wise has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet, I perceived that the same event [death] happens to all of them."

The fool "walks in darkness", Solomon says. Now, we know that, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

Like Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light...of life." the light that comes from Jesus, as we follow him, is the remedy that Solomon sought. The light of human wisdom frustrated Solomon because it left the wise man dead in the end, just as dead as any fool. But the Light of God, in Jesus, is the light (understanding/wisdom) of life. Not the kind that leaves you cold in the end, but the kind that initiates you into the life without end.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

In response to a request, I'm going to start blogging about the books I'm reading.

I just finished "Galatea 2.2", a book by Richard Powers. Reading the back of it, I'd initially thought it was a Sci-Fi speculative fiction work about artificial intelligence, and the back said it had something to do with Classics. Classics is my major, and I'm interested in AI, so I thought it would be a fun read.

It wasn't at all what I thought.

It turned out to be the writer's speculative autobiography as a novel, since the author and the main character had the same name (which I didn't realize til about the third chapter). He is a novelist who gets appointed as "resident Humanist" (read "Humanities", not secular Humanism) And in the boredom of wandering around gets suckered into an attempt at creating a neural net of sorts as part of a bet. The goal is to make an AI sort of consciousness that can write a commentary on any passage of literature you feed it. To train it, Powers reads the canon of lit that Masters in English have to read and take an examination on. As he does, the computer becomes self-aware and starts asking all sorts of questions. It asks for a name, he calls her Helen. Meanwhile there's a second layer of story where Richard is rehashing his failed relationship of 15 or so years, with the girl he left in the Netherlands, and the effect of literature and stories on that relationship. The other story is Power's growing acquaintance with his co-workers.

All of these stories focus on a kind of Ecclesiastes message: "Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity". Literature, as the inherited "wisdom of the ages" can't save us from what we are (flawed, violent, alone & dying).

Helen finally gets this towards the end of the book, and says upon receiving all the classics "I don't think you're telling me everything" - He knows what she means, which is what he says "ruined fiction for him": The evening news. Or, at least, the sick messed up things that people do. So he gives her contemporary news, and she's struck by a story of a man who had a stroke while driving, causing a minor accident. The other driver gets out and beats him into a coma with a tire iron, because of his race. Richard feels pressured to explain, and thinks of telling Helen about the divine (by which he means soul) part of man, but he says

"Helen knew all that, saw through it. What hung her up was divinity doing itself in with tire irons. She'd had the bit about the soul fastened to a dying animal, what she needed in order to firgive our race and live here in peace, was faith's flipside. She needed to hear about that animal fastened to a soul that, for the first time, allowed the creature to see through soul's parasite eyes how terrified it was, how forsaken. I needed to tell her that miraculous banality, how body stumbled by selection onto the stricken celestial, how it taught itself how to twig time and what lay beyond time.
I stayed to plead with Helen. I told her we were in the same boat...I admitted that the world was sick and random, that the evening news was right...

Helen then stops communicating, the comes back days later at his pleading.

"Helen came back. She stood on the front steps, head down, needing an in from the storm. She did not return the way she left. How could she? Seeing what she had seen?
"I'm sorry," she told me, "I lost heart"
And then I lost mine. I would have broken down, begged her to forgive humans for what we were. To love us for what we wanted to be. But she had not finished training me, and as yet I had no words...Helen had discovered what ruined fiction for me.

The next day they do the "Turing Test" (test for artificial intelligence) based off of two lines from a poem. The human, a feminist who Powers also fell for, writes a loooong drawn out "brilliant" essay on it, and Helen basically says "You're the ones who need to figure this out". Her final words are:" I never felt at home here, this is a terrible place to be dropped down halfway" & Says goodbye to Richard, then shuts herself down. The judges say that the feminist wins, Helen loses, showing how the world cares more about critique and words than about understanding and real living. Richard leaves to travel the earth as it was Helen's last request, that he "see everything" for her.

Overall, the novel was sad, but very insightful. It showed where humanity has taken itself in science and in literature, and how there's no real hope.

At least, not on any materialist front.

It's a sad book, in the end, but it addresses the problems: a sinful world, a lost and lonely world, a world we cannot make sense of and in which we die. It ends on a humble note, with the recognition of these problems, but of course has no answer.

Yet we do, faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ. We know that despite the assumptions of neuroscience, God has made us in his image as human beings and that we have real souls. We know that literature and human wisdom isn't what can "fix" us, rather it's the "Foolishness of preaching". We know why we're broken, we know why we're lonely, and we're the hands and feet of the One who has finished the work of Salvation and is "fixing" things in and through us.