I recently broke down and purchased an inversion table. One of those contraptions that flip you over and decompress the spine. Hanging upside down by one's feet is an unusual experience. After the initial adjustments to inversion (relaxing one's muscles, the pressure on one's ankles, the blood flow difference, and emptying one's pockets prior to doing so) there is a strange comfort with the position. Few of us, beyond our childhood jungle gym antics and a very select group of adult athletes and harder core yoga enthusiasts change our physical positioning more than from somewhere between prone to upright. We live between lying down and standing up. Inverting ourselves even slightly is more than most of us experience, let alone entirely upending ourselves.
Aside from the spinal alignment benefits associated with inversion, the change in perspective offers some insight. While hanging upside down I look around and see things...well, upside down. The floor is near my head and the ceiling is near my feet. I scan the room and look at the chairs, the lamps, the items on the table, the books on the shelf. It reminds me of Grandfather's Mansion at Silver Dollar City, which is a low tech entertainment feature of the park. You walk through a set of rooms and hallways with oddities, like the room that is uneven but all the items are set up to appear level with the unlevel floor, thereby making you and everyone else appear to be leaning. One of the hallways leads you past a window through which you can look at a room entirely upside down. All the furniture is attached to the ceiling made to look like a floor.
Inversion. It's my upside down view of the books on the shelf that reminds me of a book I purchased a long time ago called The Upside Down Kingdom. It takes the approach that the message Jesus proclaimed was inverted from what everyone thinks is important: go the extra distance for someone you actually have contempt for, forgive the person who has wronged you, give more than is required, pray for your enemies (as in pray for their wellbeing, not that they get what you think they deserve), help the ones who can't repay you, expose the hypocrisy of the righteous (which essentially exposes us all), and his counter-cultural list of inversions goes on. He upended everything, not just each person's pet issues that get them upset and angry, but everything. His inverted kingdom perspective is exhaustive, leaving no one standing upright. He even upended the religious establishment. All of which is why he was arrested, accused, tried, convicted, and received capital punishment.
The inverted kingdom of Jesus hasn't changed. It is still contrary to everything we think is reasonable and necessary. It isn't difficult to see how well adapted we are to the pursuit of wealth, personal comfort, security, power, self-righteousness (don't think you're excused from this party, we're all guilty of believing our perspective is more right than others), and so many other skewed values. The only way to see it as it truly is, is to become inverted yourself. The irony of this is that if you're successful in living according the upside down kingdom, then you're likely to be hung by your heels. You'll be in good company though. Many of the people we call saints are upside downers. One of the qualifications required for canonization as a saint is a miracle: healing someone, casting out an evil spirit, spontaneous generation of food, and so on. I can't think of anything more miraculous than truly being turned upside down by the inversion of the worldly values we too easily adopt and defend.
© 2016 Stephen Carl