Friday, December 30, 2005

Modern Problem from Middle Ages

Peter Abelard (1079-1142) was one of the great figures of the intellectual revolution which occured during the Middle Ages. He said, "The first key to wisdom is assiduous and frequent questioning...For by doubting we come to inquiry, and by inquiry we arrive at the truth."

This sounds all too familiar. And what happened to Peter? He was deemed a heretic by the Church and imprisoned. Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, who was mainly responsible for Abelard's imprisonment said, in response to the ideology Abelard was teaching, "The faith of the righteous believes, it does not dispute."

Kind of a frightening idea. Excommunication and imprisonment aren't real big nowadays, or are they? The Church is trying a new advertising campaign, saying that it is safe to ask questions in church. But what happens when someone like Peter Abelard comes along with questions the church either isn't ready for, or plain doesn't want to address? During the rise of Scholasticism, there were things that could be studied and questioned, and other things that were forbidden. These forbidden things being the foundational concepts of the Catholic Church. Any questioning of such ideas was deemed heresy. We'd like to think in our "enlightened" civilization that such concepts have been swept away. But, in many cases, that doesn't seem to be true. People aren't excommunitcated from the Church as they used to be; but there are more ways to shut someone out besides throwing them out the door. I grew up Protestant/Evangelical and I've seen such shunning. That's one of the reasons I left the institutional church all together.

When Peter Abelard taught, people flocked to him. Why would they do that? Was it because he was tearing away at the foundation of the Catholic Church? I'd bet not. The Catholic Church was the universal church of the time, and Peter doesn't strike me as a Martin Luther. It seems that Abelard was defining that which the Church required people take on faith. And people, no matter the age, are searching for those definitions. Most people aren't satisfied with pat answers; and they sure as hell don't like people answering questions for them. The people flocking to Abelard seemed to represent, in my mind, the current generation of seekers. People who want more than faith; they want belief. And to gain belief they must be allowed to ask questions, seek answers; and in putting the answers together, hopefully, come up with the Truth that will "set them free".

I don't know where I'm going with this. I just felt a bit of a kinship to Peter Abelard, so I thought I'd share a bit of that.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Shattered Pieces of Nothing

It’s funny that in a time of great struggle to figure so much out, I have been confronted by yet another disappointment. I can’t call it failure, because it is not my failure. The theatre that I was writing for is in turmoil, and as a result the future of the play I was writing for it is now in jeopardy. And what’s the turmoil? People; fighting; backstabbing; hurt feelings. Human things, it shouldn’t surprise me. And it doesn’t surprise me; it disappoints me. I had hopes in this; I had a dream in the middle of all of this. And, as it stands, that dream is shattered. But what was it that was shattered? Hell, it could be potential failure; perhaps this is the best thing to have happen. It sucks when something falls apart before you even know what it was.

It’s left me wondering where to go. I didn’t realize how firmly I’d placed all my eggs in this one basket. Life’s been a challenge lately, and that doesn’t make any of this easier. I’ve found myself asking THE questions. The questions we all ask from time to time. Things about happiness and where it comes from, things about job satisfaction and if it’s possible, things about passion and how to live life with it without burning out. I must admit, I’m coming up with a lot more questions than answers, but maybe there’s something to that. Perhaps life IS more about the questions than the answers. I guess that sort of makes sense. Once you’ve got an answer, you’re done. Journey over. But questions move you forward; they egg you on. But questions can be daunting, and tiresome after a while. Maybe that’s my problem at the moment. Maybe the thing that shattered last week wasn’t my dream with the theatre, but the answer to “what should I be doing with my art?” I guess I’m pissed because I thought I had that answer. Silly me. I know I never had it, but now I’ve lost the illusion. And here I am back in reality. The thing that bugs me most about the world of art is that we spend so much time analyzing what makes us tick as artists, we don’t spend enough time DOING the art. I’ve spent many years thinking about art, and precious few doing my art. I am afraid that I’ll slip back into old habits, now that I’ve no theatre to write for. I just have to hope that my fear of those habits will be enough to keep me from them. To remember that talking about art doesn’t make you an artist, it makes you a critic. To be an artist you must be active; dig deep into the soul and pull something out. Maybe it is something full of hope, maybe it’s something full of sorrow. It could be just about anything, but THAT is what makes you an artist. I think that the trick to being a good artist is to forget that you are one. As I worked on this play I forgot I was an artist, I was just a guy writing a play about Mark Twain. Now I’ve lost my Mark. Gotta find something else.

Keep on traveling down roads paved in many questions, and few answers.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lament for Lost Community and other ramblings

Please don’t confuse my lack of blog with a lack of thinking. Actually, I’ve been so consumed by thought, I’ve had no room to write. Not even sure what I’m writing about right now; I just know if I don’t write something soon, I may forget how.

Been feeling a bit lost lately. I haven’t gone to church in over eight months. And the group of people that I was getting together with weekly for many months fizzled out in September. I guess I’ve lost a sense of community. And here’s what I mean by that. I always thought “community” was a really stupid word. It was like, if you rode bikes a lot, you were in the biking community; knitters with their community, and on and on. I used to listen to Garage Logic and “community” was a “fog-horn” word. Meaning that it was a word that had lost all its meaning in our society. And I believe the show was right to some extent. But just because a word loses its meaning, doesn’t mean that the meaning can’t be grasped again. The institutional church likes to claim the word community. And I’d agree that it is a community, but only to the same extent that the bikers and knitters are. A bunch of people with a similar interest, hanging out from time to time; Sundays in their case (Wednesdays if there’s kids involved). I know that I’m being quite the cynic, but there’s something about this that rings true to me, even if I am indeed taking it too far. So about eight months ago I left the institutional church; I left the community. At the time I had been meeting with a group of friends once a week to talk about God and Church and stuff like that. We’d been doing this for about five months when I left the institutional church. And here’s the deal; I didn’t even realize I’d stopped going to “church” because of these people. I’d stopped going for a month before realizing I wasn’t going anymore. Why? These people had replaced “church” for me. But that’s not even quite true; these get-togethers were not like church at all. What they were was Community. I had come upon something that in a lifetime within the walls of the institutional church I had never known. Community. Now on some level these gatherings could be labeled alongside the “knitters”, because we all did have something in common, a general disdain for the organized church; but there was something more there. Suddenly, I was living my life with these people. Not all of them, of course, but some of them. We were experiencing ideas together, talking through issues together, finding strength in each other. There was a fair amount of “bitching” in those gatherings. But, hell, these people had stuff to bitch about, and they’d been clammed up their whole lives. I think, sometimes, in order to move forward; you first must purge yourself of anger, frustration, sorrow, confusion, etc. From there, you can start to do positive things; things that really matter. Some people make a life’s work of complaining; and there’s nothing positive there. So anyway, this group just sorta ended. I was sorry to see it go. Not because I still had stuff to bitch about; but because I was ready to do something. What? I don’t know; I was just starting to sort that out. But, the real bummer is, I’d lost my Community. I was alone again; as I had felt I was for so long within the institutional church.

That’s where I’ve been for over a month. Reading blogs of people living in real Community, and bitter that I’m outside of this stuff. But would I find real community with these people, if given the opportunity? I don’t know. Something makes me think not. Though, again, I’m a cynic. It seems to me, we stumble through life, whether we like it or not. I stumbled out of the institution, I stumbled into this community of friends, I’ve stumbled out of it. But now I’m waiting for the next thing to stumble into. And I ain’t hittin’ nothin’.

So that’s why I’m lost. That’s why I’m angry. That’s why I’m sad. I believe in the power of real Love. I believe that Love equals Truth. I know that I must move forward, stumble forward, with a heart of Love, made of pieces of Truth. But it’s hard to do that. Because that requires something that doesn’t come naturally for humans. But, then again, if you’ve allied yourself with any one of many different theologies, you know that more is expected of you, than is expected of humans. Christians have charity, Muslims have devotion, Buddhists have kharma. I’m not sure what I am anymore. But I know I believe in God. A specific God. And I know that if my life is focused on attaining communion with that God, He will not deny me. It is often said that the afterlife is merely the attainment of your earthly desire. And my desire is quite clear. Though my path is dark, crooked, and filled with fog.