Monday, August 28, 2006

Don't Need No Proof...

I had a conversation a couple days ago with my Mother. Over the past few years we’ve had an ongoing conversation/debate around the ideas of religion and faith in general. Being that she was the chief influence in my religious “raising”, she of course takes great interest in the current separation of my self from the institution of church. Unlike many children, I maintain a very open and honest relationship with my Mother, and in this posture I am able to have open lines of communication about what I am thinking, and what I am doing. This of course is not always received with open ears, but the acceptance of my thoughts is not my first priority; rather the ability for these thoughts to exist in the first place is where I put most of my energy. And in the case of this particular relationship, my thoughts are allowed their place, which is good and necessary for any ongoing conversation to have any impact on either participant.

This day our conversation revolved around the reliance of people in Christian circles who place more emphasis upon “proofs” rather than “beliefs”. This way of thinking amongst religious people seems to have come out of the “Jesus Movement” generation. In the midst of a world proving everything “scientifically”, religious people decided to try their hand at it themselves. Now the issue wasn’t that they believed that the Bible was the inspired Word of God, but rather that the Bible could be “proved” to be such. It wasn’t that they believed that God created the world from nothing, but that they could “prove” that was the case. With overheads and lectures in hand they came at the world of “science” with these proofs and thought they stood on level ground. I don’t which is worse, that these people thought their proofs would be seen as science, or that they thought level ground ever existed.

Science is about proving things, and as much as evolutionists would like us to believe it, this evolution is still a theory; it has not been proven. At least it has not been proven with the certainty of the known scientific laws, such as gravity and cause and effect. It’s a theory, and though these “proof” Christians would like as to think differently, so is the idea of creation, or “intelligent design” as it’s being called these days. So if both are theories, what’s my point? I guess it’s that “proof” just ain’t gonna get ya there; not if you’re talking about things of faith, belief in things that are unseen and thus hard to prove beyond a shadow of any certainty. If I could be accused of anything, as far as an agenda is concerned, it’s that I want the “proof” generation to remember what it was like when they believed without proof, when they believed because something proved itself without any help from the believer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

If Life's a Journey...

After having surgery last week, I find that I have a lot of time on my hands. Some complications from the surgery have left me rather immobile, but other than that I feel fine. That means, when not moving much I feel totally okay, but when I get up and move around I feel terrible. An interesting place to find oneself. So the mind wanders.

I’ve been reading a lot recently about mythology; what Joseph Campbell would call the “Hero’s Journey”. How people can enter into a mythological experience and change themselves and in some cases, the world. As I was reading Campbell’s book “The Power of Myth” I found that identified with many of his analogies. The idea of a person leaving what is “known”, what is comfortable, and journeying into the unknown to truly discover oneself. I believe I am on that journey. I believe that I have changed in ways I don’t even yet understand, and that is exciting. I have challenged many ideas that I have accepted all my life; in many cases continuing to accept these ideas, but with my own beliefs as the concrete; as opposed to accepting things based on the beliefs of others. Yet some ideas remain up for grabs, and that is okay as well. One thing I have come to understand about myself is that I must be okay with the state of transition. I think I was raised with some idea that things are the way they are. Or new knowledge is built upon the foundation of previous knowledge without effecting what was previously known. It’s an interesting way of looking at things, and as far as I know it might be an excellent way; but for me, I needed to see things differently. Life is transition, and sometimes things previously held to must be abandoned in order to grasp new ideas that you come in contact with. I believe that by embracing ideas with the confidence that these very ideas may one day be proven “not enough”, a person can really learn something. I just don’t know how much a person can learn when they are afraid that their ideas might be proved “wrong”. What really is “wrong” anyway? So with this new found confidence in the uncertainty of the ideas that I hold to, I move forward on the Journey; and if I was a monk sitting up on a mountaintop that would be the end of it. But I’m not, and so it isn’t.

I would be wary to encourage anyone to attempt a mythological journey whilst maintaining a normal everyday existence. What do I mean by that? I was never encouraged to take this journey; the journey sort of found me. I was many miles down the road before I even realized it. There are many moments I curse that moment of realization. If someone feels the desire to engage the myth that’s up to them, but I would not force it on anyone. Nor would I ever attempt to make a system out of it. My cynicism to starting to show through here; sorry. I’d argue that many people will find satisfaction within religious circles, and that is where they should focus their energy. Religion serves the same purpose as the mythological experience; it focuses on what is beyond the self, on what makes up the self, and what the self is responsible for outside of itself. I’ve long recognized that the end of my journey is the same as the end of most religions. Better understanding of and intimacy with that which we call “God”. In the end that is the purpose of all religions, they just differ on the terminology and the means to this end; but really they are all the same. Growing up within the concepts of Evangelical Christianity I came to understand the arguments against other world religions. The funny thing about it is, now I see what the arguments were against were the “means” not the “end”. So much focus is placed on the “means” in most religions, we forget what the ultimate “end” is. Perhaps if we changed our focus we’d be able to understand each other, and maybe even help each other. Dogma be damned.

I know at this point a lot of people are ready to write me off. I get tossed into a stereotypical column. Postmodern thinker some call me; pick and chooser of my faith is another concept I often get confronted with. Hell, take a phone booth a few years back and I would have been one of the very folks confronting me. Christianity is so straight forward, Jesus’ message is so simple; why would I be spending my time finding the Truths disguised in different religious costumes? A few years ago I would have thought it was a waste of time; and it’s not because of my strong faith that this was the case, but my lack in ever actually engaging my faith that allowed me to approach the "opposition" with such a front. So now I get dropped into the “anti-evangelical” column, which I am not. My entire family is evangelical; if I decided to think they were all wrong, I’d have a ton of justification and selective memory to get on top of, and I just don’t have the energy. My family is a testament to some really True things about life and about God, and I recognize that, and as stated earlier, in many ways I still agree with them. But there are areas where I don’t; and it is here that I will allow myself to be labeled.

I’ve said it over and over, but I’ll keep saying it till it sticks. I believe that the only real problem in regards to faith is when a person believe they have the answer, and that there are no others. A cool quote about this comes from Aldous Huxley in his essay “On a Sentence from Shakespears” where he says, “All this (systems of thought) is quite true so far as it goes; quite false if it goes no further.” I revel in my lack of knowledge; I am comfortable with my lack of understanding, and with the idea that life is a never ending learning experience. Most religious people are not, at least on the level that I’m speaking to. They like to know that what they believe is the Ultimate Truth; when, really, that’s just something that cannot be known. It is beyond our grasp. Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to grasp it. To me, that’s what religion is, it’s what the Hero’s Journey is; an attempt to grasp that which cannot be grasped. And in the effort we experience things; things that help us live; things that keep us moving down the road.

I’ll admit it, I’m a mystic. Not the type that reads old writing and tries to reproduce them in the present. But rather a mystic who uses the words of those that came before as a guide to moving forward into new territory. Many mystical thinkers are just as stubborn and arrogant as mainstream religious people, but the same is True that any religious people are as mystically minded as one who claims the title mystic, and that is the bridge that must not be abandoned. We may travel on different sides of the river of Truth, but we must not neglect the bridges; we must not burn the bridges. And each side is guilty of this action. The river is wide the paths are many, and Truth will never be pinned down. At least that’s the way I see it, sitting here on a couch just trying to pass the time.