Just say "No!" to oversimplification!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Is God Knowable? --

II. What is there to know?

One defining characteristic, for most people and religions, would be 'Creator of the Universe.'

Exceptions? For some Gnostics, this particular physical construction we dwell in was evil -- at best a mistake, a lapse akin to playing with mud pies, something only an inferior deity could have perpetrated. That necessitated a 'Real God' in a higher, more spiritual reality:  either God seen as the creator of lessor spirits, or as the one from whom they just emanated -- at the least their ultimate superior in power and character.

A common flavor in many religions paints this world as a place of suffering or futility, which we do best to escape from, no matter its origin. I've got to agree with the Jewish tradition that God made it and called it 'good', that God could at least say that about the original product.

There isn't much point trying to argue that with anyone who's finding this a bad place, aside from the obvious fact that most people, most of the time, don't actually kill themselves. People find some beauty (we're told) even in utterly ghastly situations. We want to know how it comes out, we want all we can get of this life -- or we realize on some level that we don't have the actual power 'to be or not to be'. We're in this thing called Life and had better deal with it.

However you decide that one, the world is the first, most pressing evidence we get as to what God is like. That isn't so much the abstract things we know about science and history and the current condition of the world -- but what we experience of living. Not so bad, not so good... but then we find, if we're lucky, that Something less obvious is at work in all that, is seeking to get our attention.

Some of us are more lucky in that sense; this isn't fair! And so it isn't, on that level. This follows from the inferred, observed fact that God isn't easy to get to know!

Some people insist that God isn't in fact knowable, that any divinity we can know must be some lesser being. That's a convenient view: gives us a lovely conception to contemplate while kicking any immanent version of God safely upstairs. It may even be true; but it's moot. All that we can know is the One who's striving to be known. And that One is elusive by Hsr very nature, and by our very nature, and that tricky relation between us.

There's this physiological  thing called 'the blind spot.' Every human eye has one; there are techniques you can use to 'see' that it's there (although of course you never see anything there; that's why it's called a blind spot.)

Of the two most logical ways to design an eyeball, our eyes grow in one form while a squid's eyes grow in the other. You can have 'retina inside, nerves outside,' -- or you could potentially have, like a squid, 'retina outside, nerves inside.' Our human version is a design flaw... but it does provide a useful metaphor. In the very place where we have the most retinal neurons, where all these little fibers are coming together to plug into our brains, there is no room for the light-sensitive rods & cones. That's our blind spot, right in the structural center of what we see by.

God is hard to see because God is what we 'am' by.

Elijah found that God was not in the fire he saw, nor in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake, but in a quiet 'voice' inside. That's the best place to 'look'.

Where is this "inside"? In our heads, in our hearts -- our tummies? If you must have a physical location, there seem to be many possible starting points -- but if you consider the real place to be in the very 'looking' you're looking with, you get a hint of what makes for that 'elusive' quality!

Is this another 'convenient' view? -- Does it place 'God' safely inside where He can't get out to make trouble? Some people think so, find it so -- but if you keep on meditating, that pesky 'inside-vs-outside' distinction gets problematical.

Does this view make us God? Won't it tempt us to run around loose imposing our Divine Whim on everything & everyone? Well, consider what the word 'you' means. There certainly are a great many things going on in your head -- and your heart and various other places -- that may not entirely represent your best self, what you truly (eventually, if it isn't so very much trouble) want to do. All of it is you. All of it is a manifestation of God's ongoing life living you. Everything you did as a baby wasn't charming, nor is everything you've been doing since; but the process is life; and it grows in wisdom and in stature. (With some setbacks, sure. But what you 'are' is eternal.)

So God is striving to be known, and need not be in a rush about it. What about us? How urgent is our need? That sounds like the subject of another post.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Is God Knowable?

I. Do we want to know?

Do we want to know God? Agnostics seem most comfortable being sure they can't know. Atheists are simply sure that there's nothing/no-one there to know. "God", from those viewpoints, looks very much like a person's Imaginary Friend. And that isn't really what anybody wants.

People want God to be real and 'not a monster'. But so long as people don't know God, their Imaginary Friends can be both unreal and monstrous. When we say we know God, we're claiming that our Friend is real... and that claim can easily disturb people. "Will he take his kid up the hill for sacrifice? Will 'God' tell him to slaughter the neighbors?" There could be political complications.

We don't want God to be a monster, yet when we consider the news-world it's all about events that only a monster or a human being could find entertaining. This isn't just an artifact of the media's focus on bizarre and frightening situations; these events are usually real, no matter how distorted. There are bizarre and frightening situations the media won't even consider for public display.

So, one critical element of our traditional idea of God is downright scary: That God created the world and determines what happens here. First off, we can't easily trust an entity we don't know to do that! Furthermore, look at the sort of show God puts on; consider that we aren't just 'audience' but could readily find ourselves unhappily onstage.

We have this abstraction called "Good" -- and also we've got this world that doesn't fit into that. But is it a good show? "Yeah!" That answer tells us something a little strange about our own nature, doesn't it? I remember in high school, going to see a movie of 'Romeo and Juliet'. I knew this was all very cultural, yet here I was on my way to watch a young couple fall in love -- and then have awful things happen to them. Wasn't there something downright sicko about that? If the Romans could have done it in the arena with real people, certainly! Yet isn't it wonderful, to be a young fool in love?

The point is, we wanted a 'Realistic' world; and we needed the sort of world which would produce us, the people we are as we are. Then we kvetch that such a world isn't 'Good'. Of course we do! It's as pointless to blame us for doing that as it is to blame God for making a world that suits us.

So God is no more monstrous than we are, even better, by my experience! But is God 'real'? -- Are we permitted 'to believe in' God? [See next post!]

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Good News and the Bad News

The jokes probably go back to ancient times... because life is like that; because we're like that.

Back then, whenever the Authorities told you something was Good News, that was really bad news: "There's a new kleptocrat in charge of keeping you people down!" The only thing good about it was: "We aren't fighting over who's in charge!"

We need to hear both aspects to really get either of them. Who's going to believe good news if they aren't hearing the bad? Who can face the horror of the bad news if they don't see it's part of a situation we can live with?

There are some awful difficulties: Most people these days, if you start talking about God, say: "Oh no! Someone else wants to tell me where I mustn't put what!" Or "Somebody else wants to tell me there's something more I should be doing!" That is, they think 'God' means 'Guilt' and they don't need guilt; they've got all the guilt they can handle and half of it about stuff that doesn't matter!

Hope is even harder to bear, for anyone with eyes and ears and mind keeping score. The Earth is terminal; our country has gone corrupt and blind crazy -- and even if we're just talking about our own bodies, the warranty is subject to expiration without notice.

People can accept that bad news about our bodies... because "The good news is that there's no Bad God to send me to Hell when I drop dead!" Hey, hey, look at that fine print! The bad news is, you're supposed to die! I know, it's a trade-off; but that's a lousy deal.

Some people take the deal because it's the only one they can believe. "So I'll be lying in my last hospital bed, full of wires and tubing with all the gauges reading 'empty' -- and your guy will just zip by on a white cloud and take me to choir practice? That's your opinion; and we Postmoderns are too sophisticated to imagine that anyone's opinion is really about anything, except of course ours."

I can't say about "most people". Maybe most people know "We aren't supposed to believe in anything anymore" but do it anyway?  Inconsistency is better than being consistently wrong, but still -- At some point we want to reach agreement between mind, heart, and how-things-are.

How do I know there really is actual 'Good News', that you can know it and walk on it and trust it not to drop you in a hole?

I really do know this... and hope to explain (later) how you can know it as well. But for now, just entertain the notion that the Life who's living you has something it's working to teach you. Open the eyes, mind, heart; look for a bit of 'Maybe' waving at you between the cracks...