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Altered States: Windows from the Past 28 September 2012

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings.

As I reach that point on a Friday afternoon where there is still some time to go, and all the get up and go is in danger of leaving; a time when I’d like to be somewhere else, either mentally or physically, but cannot muster up the mental or physical energy, I’m reminded of something I happened upon this morning and seems worth sharing.

I have never thought of it this way – unless I’ve forgotten to record it – but Greenbelt is one enormous sensate experience, removing you from the mundane as much as drugs, alcohol and other means. It is one enormous altered state: a place that sidesteps the usual frame of reference. Not enough to move from reality into fantasy. Not enough to be a bad trip, but enough to show a fresh perspective, to echo postmodern fragmentation. It is altered.

But a state? A state is not just a condition – medical or locational. A state is an entity, a body, formal or informal. The state as parallel to the nation – a homeland for identity. Greenbelt is a state, maybe even a nation-state – a place where people of common (re-)birth, along with strangers and friends, may catch a glimpse of God’s homeland. Not heaven, not the eschatological Kingdom, but something other. For all our fallen-ness, fragmentation and failures Greenbelt is, if not the goal, then a resting place in the world that for some is a wilderness and for others the uncriticised home.

An altered state, familiarity blending with the holy – the place where colours bleed into one at the same time as being an infinite spectrum that makes the whole and shows the insufficiency of 32M colour VDU displays.

Shift the view, the state is altered.

Shift the view, the state is altared – a holy place where the veil is stretched thin and the offering of worship; lives, faith, questions, ascends, or transcends, to the divine.

The programme states “Shrine – a place made holy by association”, given that then each Greenbelter becomes, willingly or not, surely a living shrine – maybe a reflection of original sinlessness, even if only from an unusual angle.

What theological implications and resonances would arise if we thought of ourselves as such – living shrines rather than living sacrifices?

Do sacrifice and surrender – the action of giving over to destruction – need to be balanced by the image of the shining shrine – being living windows and reflections of the image of God within, the glimmer of grace and glory escaping the grime of our stained mundanity?”

The time: August 2004 ; The place:  Cheltenham Racecourse ; The event: Greenbelt 2004, Freedom Bound; The author: an 8-year-younger me.

Make of it what you will.



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