Ambiguity and paradox occupy the core of all our spiritual selves. The closer we get to God, the less we discover who God is. We look at God from the corner of our eye, in the dark, and perceive the divinity of this cosmos through a glass darkly.
We are surrounded by conflict and unresolved nuances of meaning. We feel sorrow and then find joy in its conclusion. Without the sorrow there could be no joy. Without the dark, there is no light. There is the paradox of love: shaped by its absence we find the loss to be sweeter when it returns. Blessed by understanding, we struggle to grasp the deeper meaning in our spirit. As much as we grasp God’s closeness, it is gone like the mist. All these metaphors serve only to heighten the distance, but bring us together in our understanding.
And it is nothing new. It is what underpins the whole of creation. Gödel points it out in his theorem. He shows us that we cannot hope ever fully to know all things, and yet we cannot but seek to try. Paradoxology is how we struggle to combine our faith with the material world around us. Wittgenstein reminds us that there are things we cannot ever know, and so should not mention. Kierkegaard warns against trying to much to know things before their time. Most of all, language limits us. There are those who consider they have found ‘it’ out, and yet cannot explain what ‘it’ is. There are those who realise they can never know it all, and so find it for all of us to share.
This confusion is the starting point for the cost of living.
The phrase “the cost of living”, well worn as it is, hides away a depth of ambiguity. Chew the words over, roll them on your tongue. What if we replace ‘of’ with ‘from’ or ‘to’? We think of cost in our material world and growling before us is the economist warning against a loss of growth. Without growth, seemingly, we are nothing. The greatest ambiguity: in our birth we already told our departure. “If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable,” said T. S. Eliot. We are trapped in a present and yearn for the past but are driven to the future, all the while scrambling for the pause button. The cost of living has been considered as how we spend our wealth in order to continue. But we are given the potential to continue before we can pay. What then, is the cost? And how are we to live? Should we seek to reduce the cost, or is the cost a prescribed value, immutable and unfindable, just recognised when all is reckoned up?
Christianity is trapped in material economics. Seeking growth rather than good, seeking money rather than spirit. We aim for the eye of the needle but reel away in good time, once we see the narrowness of gate. How we live is not about showing others how to be better Christians. It is to be found in seeking out how better Christians are found in other people.
For all the ambiguity and paradox, the one thing we can be sure of is ourselves. We have a theory of mind that demonstrates the likelihood of you and them, and we know that pain exists. After that it’s all a search for truth. So, we have to work from that understanding. There is a value associated with all things, and there is a therefore a cost. This is the cost of living: to relate.