A GOOD DAY TO WONDER

I was going to title this awkward post GOOD FRIDAY FARE, but thought better of it (a little too light to fill the bill). Or I could have titled it REALLY?. Really? I may be an ex-Catholic, but I still respect the meaning of Good Friday for the hundreds of millions who take the premise of this day at faith value. My breach of faith is not with the faithful, but with the premise of their faith — as explained in the poem which follows this paragraph of Christian apologia:

What’s So Good about Good Friday? asks Episcopal priest Justin Holcomb in a recent article. The origin of the term, he says, is debatable, but “Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins….all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures.” We can all agree, can we not, with the gross understatement that people have been sinning since time immemorial? But….

DIDN’T THE ANCIENTS EVER WONDER?

One of the earliest questions which presented itself to my youthful mind was that of election: Why had God chosen the Jewish people as the sole recipients of  His divine revelation and of the messianic promise? By what creative caprice had he excluded all others? –Morris West, Catholic novelist & playwright (1916-99)

After the Lord God said Let there be light, there was no one
to share the scene. God looked down and beheld a creation
too wondrous to keep to Himself. Flesh forward.
Adam, meet Eve.
But, inevitably, Adam and Eve stray.
They have a bad day.
‘Twas the serpent, they say.

Boys and girls, welcome to hard times
where life becomes a chance bet
begetters scatter and beget
until they forget
without regret
where they came from and divine not
what they’re about

until at last there emerges a Chosen People on
whom it never dawns that revelation comes with
implications: were untold others not equally in need
of deliverance from their benighted nature? If
what you don’t know can’t hurt you, why now the
Voice in the wilderness….and if it can hurt you,
how was silence justified? You see we still live
in the shadows of tribal primitives, still die in
the wake of unasked questions….save for He who
would die to save us from our sins, without asking
if the creator was in need of saving from His own?

Did my poem blaspheme, or did it pose a serious question (or did it blaspheme in posing a serious question)? Does your answer depend on whether you believe in an ALL-PERFECT, ALL-LOVING GOD, a MIGHT-MAKES-RIGHT GOD, or NO GOD at all? How far would you go to try to convince or force (as if belief can be forced) others to believe as you do? Isn’t it sad enough when members of one family can’t agree to disagree, much less the human family writ large? How much longer would you and your god have the world pay the price of religion’s aggressive side?

Peace, however awkward, be with you on this Good Friday.

 

 

 

Advertisements

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

Man is learning all his life and yet he dies in ignorance. –Yugoslav proverb

Most of us never get it.
It’s not as if we run out of time.
Had Methuselah lived a thousand nine hundred sixty nine years,
could he have handled more than he feared not to believe?
If what you want to see is what you “get” — if you don’t
know what you don’t know — what is there to be learned?
The answer, my friend, is growin’ in the womb….
the surreal promise of perpetuity born in real time.

 

TO DEist OR NOT TO DEist

….that is the question. And the only reason I ask it is because I came across this believable deist T-shirt website (notice I didn’t say unbelievable, because deists do believe in a creator of the universe — they just don’t believe he has been seen since setting it in motion….or Day One, if you prefer).

Now, whatever hidden agenda the creator may have, I have none here. Far deist from me to try to convert anyone. If you got religion, God bless you, and happy praying (you can even include me in your prayers if you think it enhances your and/or my chances of eternal bliss or whatever, but I don’t buy it).

What I do buy — or rather, being a cheapskate, what I’ll ask someone else to buy me for a Deistmas present — is one of these:

http://www.zazzle.com/deist+tshirts

My problem is choosing one from among these three favorites:

FEEL the PAINE
I’M TOO OLD FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS
You Say “Heretic” Like It Was a BAD Thing

What do you think? (Deists do believe in thinking before deciding.)

 

KNOWS JOBS

WE LIVE IN IGNORANCE

Who knows why?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FOR ALL WE KNOW

When one’s faith is fetter
And hope faces test,
Faith knows no better
Than hope for the best.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The above pretty much encapsulates religion for me as a natural antiphon to the question of human existence. It is only logical to assume that there is not only a reason for life, but a creator of it. From those conclusions, lacking direct knowledge — possibilities become suppositions, suppositions become mantras, mantras become answers, answers become beliefs, and beliefs become truth: religions, collectively speaking.

I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist.  –J. K. Rowling

Well, life does exist….unless you and I and J. K. Rowling and billions  of other passers-through are figments of some creator’s imagination — which, I suppose, is a possibility. As for the rest, revelations are a dime a dozen, and, bargains though they be, I’m buying none of them.

And that, my friends, is why I’m a deist (just in case anyone’s curious).

TRUE BE OR NOT TRUE BE….

That is the question: “What is truth?”, as Pontius Pilate asked. In what sense did he ask it? It seems that Pilate did not wait for Jesus to answer, so a good guess is that he asked it rhetorically….and why not? Better men than Pilate have concluded that the truth of a thing is nothing more than what each of us believes it to be — religious beliefs being the supreme example, and killing/persecuting over religious differences being the supreme irony….as if it is necessarily so that belief equals truth to demand surrender to. Like Ira Gershwin, “I takes dat gospel whenever it’s pos’ple– but wid a grain of salt!”

Many wise things have been said concerning the concept of truth, but I believe we must look outside of religion for most of the wise men and women who have said those wise things, just as we look beyond politicians for the deeper concepts that govern us. Here are some of these “outsiders” and their sayings that ring true to me:

Between truth and the search for truth, I choose the second. -Bernard Berenson

Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods. -Albert Einstein

Truth exists; only lies are invented. -Georges Braque

There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth. – Samuel Butler

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. -Aldous Huxley

Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth. -Lillian Hellman

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it. -George Bernard Shaw

It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar. -Jerome K. Jerome

We occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. -Winston Churchill

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. -Friedrich Nietzsche

An error does not become truth by means of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it. -Mahatma Gandhi

Would you believe that this treatise was brought to you by the same libertine who brought you yesterday’s less high-minded, but perhaps more uplifting, post MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RAUNCH…. what can I say?

DEATH BEYOND ABSTRACTION

Perhaps you saw the story, reported by Associated Press writer Michael Rubikam, on 07/06/10. The headline was an attention grabber: Widow lives with corpses of husband, twin. It was the kind of headline that, save for the limited attention-span generation, won’t let you not take time to read the story behind it.

It seems that a 91 year old widow in rural northern Pennsylvania, Jean Stevens, had the embalmed corpses of her late husband and twin sister dug up and placed in her garage and house, where she could look at and talk to them. After someone revealed this to authorities and had the bodies removed, the story reports that “She knows what people must think of her. But she had her reasons, and they are complicated, a bit sad, and in their own peculiar way, sweet.” They come across as the reasons of, not an unbalanced or pitifully ignorant person, but of a thinking, if somewhat eccentric, person.

She kept her husband and sister well-dressed and seated on couches where she could see and touch them…even talk to them…because, “when you put them in the (ground), that’s goodbye, goodbye.” She worries that after death, there is nothing. But then, gazing at the stars in the skies and the deer in the fields, she thinks “There must be somebody who created this. It didn’t come up like mushrooms. I don’t always go to church, but I want to believe.”

If anyone in this AP story strikes me as holier-than-thou and less than grounded, it’s Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA psychiatry professor, who is reported as declaring that

…people who aren’t particularly spiritual or religious often have a difficult time with death because they fear that death is truly the end. For them, she said, “death doesn’t exist. They deny death.”

In the first place, people can be spiritual without being religious, and in the second place, Stevens doesn’t deny death – she deals with it in her own way. Just because Mrs. Stevens’ way isn’t Dr. Lavretsky’s way is no reason to put down the former from on high.

Somehow I can’t help but feel that I could have a much more engaging, thoughtful and human conversation with Mrs. Stevens than with Dr. Lavretsky. One thing I know for certain – I would much rather give a great big hug to Mrs. Stevens.

COMFORT ZONE ALARM

Shortly after I became an ex-Catholic, my non-Catholic son-in-law asked why I’d remained in the Church so many years. Off the top of my head, I replied that I was brainwashed. I could’ve added that, possibly, that was the same reason he remained ideologically conservative all his life.

Yet, I doubt that such an observation would have led him to consider re-examining his own thinking. In my experience, even very intelligent people like him seldom change their mindset – they’re so invested in what they’ve been and where they are. And, to be honest, maybe it’s just as well.

We can theorize that self-questioning of entrenched views would lead automatically to a better place. Granted, it could lead you to a more open place, a wiser place, but a better place (if you equate better with more comfortable), probably not. There is nothing comfortable about realizing that everything you believed (or, at least, hoped) was gospel, is not. I would hate to think I caused someone I love to abandon their black & white comfort zone for a gray area they may not be equipped to face. An evangelizer, I am not. But if I were, I would challenge you to ask why you don’t challenge at least some of your own assertions.

Even I’m not right 100% of the time.