Just say "No!" to oversimplification!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Diagnosis

We trust in oracles of stone,
in names of air, electrical
abundances of nothing

yet faith eludes us; hope
remains a treacherous
enticement to futility
and vain regrets. Faith

I tell you truly
is different -- That lost sense
disparaged and counterfeited, credulity
usurps its place, sets us to building
houses of despair, where faith
would break the eggshell prison
from inside, and free us all.


  1. Forest, I tried to post this as a comment related to this poem you shared at Steven's blog. It ended up being too many characters relative to the limit placed on comments here. So I'm breaking it into parts. I've used [] to encapsulate my replies in context before the straightforward reply segment.

    Clement Wood’s preface to the old rhyming dictionary does a good job of explaining the distinction between poetry & verse; your piece strikes me as heavy verse or worse; [Assuming you mean the "dis for belief people", and FYI, it wrote itself in about a half an hour the morning after I watched Eminem's "8 Mile". So whatever that poetic style is called, it's in that genre.] but you have some serious points, although I do disagree.

    Rather than theological differences, I’d say that class membership is the strongest determinant of the LiberalFriendish tendency to political conventionality; [I was not clear. My use of the term 'handmaiden' for 'loyal opposition', as a gendered term, does not explicitly reference class, but classism, is inate to the human psyche, particularly the male one.] I think that’s equally echoed at the Friends Church end of the theological spectrum — going, that is, by what people post on sites like quakerquaker.org. [My 'activism'/ministry was ecumenical...with a major in Quakerism! ;) And I'd be interested in what you did/do for the activism you mentioned. About what were/are you a wearer of a hair shirt? Part of the opening I've talked about in my posts at Steven's blog, that it is impossible in our culture to be religious about anything but CapitalismFail, derives from that experience. Motivated reasoning withstanding, of course!]

    My own Meeting used to suffer from having a larger percentage of Phds than any other, as one member occasionally bragged. So the overall class membership, while not ‘wealthy’, was certainly up there among the low-flying academic “retainer” classes — the sort of group whose children might hope to save the world incrementally by going to work for the World Bank (with a straight face.) It was one of our more pious members who spoke against taking any stand against Predident Clinton’s unprovoked bombing of some Middle-Eastern city back in his reign, arguing that “They might know Something We Don’t.” [Both a great example, and one that is expressive of the dominance of woman's way of knowing (or not knowing) in the liberal memes.]

    1. Concerning Quaker Renewal, I'll trade essays with you. This one is my version of the Renewal Committee report that Steven and I both served on in NYYM in the early '90s: http://opentoinfo.byethost7.com/RCreport/gcrrcr.html

      Concerning this poem you cross-posted, and the terms 'hope' and 'faith', we are using them differently. Clarence Jordan (in conjunction with the Holy Spirit) opened scripture for me in a way that had guided me on my journey. Friends played a significant apophatic role in that journey. Particularly in what eventually became a prolonged series of amazingly instructive Dark Night periods as I was led to experientially test the content of the linked report in Cornwall Monthly Meeting, 9 Partners Quarterly Meeting, and NYYM. If you are not aware of Clarence, it is his faithfulness that resulted in the birth of Habitat for Humanity. Anyway, he pointed out that in Hebrews 11 Paul defines his meaning and relationship of these terms. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. It is betting your life on an unseen reality. What is done is ones faith. What what you do is reveals ones hope. Therefore, isn't this why, in Corinthians, Paul talks about them as two of the three things that simply are?

      And to augment the classism thing and slightly digress, charity also is. This is because classism always will be. A Peaceable Kingdom vision can help this species with a self-aware psyche, to do what is required of it by G_d: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly...or, socially, be more safe than it would otherwise feel and be among populations of this species. If so, is this irony, or proof of how powerful a deluder motivated reasoning is when homeostasis is socially defined? What friends pride themselves in: leadership in matters of social justice, is also a story of the RSOF being one of resistant and rebellious spoiled children. If so, which story edifies, and why? Is this too, a both and situation where maturation, and/or gender-based proclivities make the difference?

      To the degree motivated reasoning is integral to our condition, both within and without the Society, it is also why, systemically, freedom is the right to be responsible? IBID re wealth? CapitalismFail, with its enabling limited liability laws, has allowed us to avoid this truth...until, with abrupt climate change triggered, it isn't so easy to do any more. Quakerism, for all its strengths, is exceptionally deaf, dumb, and blind because, and paraphrasing the pious' argument in your story (and, perhaps, too big a leap): we might learn something we yet don't know!

      Pragmatism's encroachment on, and usurping of, the Sense of the Meeting solves the psychological problem of not acting on what we know while maintaining a feeling of piety/homeostasis. The meanings of the terms 'hope' and 'faith', as I hear you using them, does as well. And this is also why the terms have come to mean what they currently do in English. Three concepts are now without concise simple words in this culture/religion of CapitalismFail: what we do (faith), what we feel that informs what we do (hope), and freedom as the right to be responsible (charity).

    2. As you have pointed out, we are using words differently; that also makes it hard for either of us to understand what the other is saying. We aren't just saying 'the same thing in different words'; we're saying extremely different things.

      To some extent this is a difference in emphasis between things we might well agree on valuing; but I would say your emphases put you in the position of seeking the fruits without the tree.

      If a person has faith (in the sense I mean) the work of God will manifest in, around, and through that person. But the work he (personally) does is not the measure of his faith.

      So far as the prevailing Quaker ideologies show the corruptive effects of self-justification, of a sad appetite for self-congratulation and (what my wife describes as)'Quaker smugness' -- We would both like to see those tendencies overcome. Expecting to see them overcome through some strenuous process of self-criticism & having anyone 'hold accountable' themselves or anyone else -- or expecting to see Friends regularly 'renewing their minds' rather than simply renewing the same old prejudices -- in short, for them to stop being the actual people they are and become somewhat different people they aren't -- is simply a futile wish.

      Ultimately it comes down to a dissatisfaction with the way God is making human beings and with the way God actually does things.

      God, on the contrary, takes people where He finds them and leads them along paths they can follow, not up & down cliffs & pits and over routes for mountain goats. I leave it for you to consider: Whose expectations and means of achieving them... are most likely to prove functional here?

    3. Forest, in the above poem, I read allusions to an assertion quite different than what is in the last paragraph of this reply. And a chunk of Matthew 7, with the whole chapter as context, in conjunction with the imagery of Pilgrims Progress (i.e. other scriptures that reference the hard work of perfection…the precursor to traveling joyfully over the earth and being able to greet that of G_d in others), comes to mind; informed how I read your poem.

      Without knowing what the activism was/is that garnered you the hair-shirt label you talked about some Friends giving you, I know not how to hear you nor how to respond. History indicates that what we do states what we hope in, regardless of a culture's lexicon. Observably, we have hoped in CapitalismFail. Motivated reasoning withstanding, we have been, and continue to be, the handmaidens of its Anthropocene and abrupt climate change. Such apostasy is judged. Great is its darkness.

      Isn't "smugness" a euphemism for thinking that would deny physics and thermal dynamics? To say such is foolish, is, for me, an understatement, but it is also developmentally childish. The blue collar worker in me says its simply F'ing stupid…&/or too lathered in the salve in our privileged comfort to get the clues of our need for salvation/maturation/evolution. Regardless, I'm biased, experientially – & particularly what I learned apophatically among Friends – to see it as a matter of the latter. Therefore, in lieu of a maturing hunger for righteousness, our condition continues to be a matter of our doing what we've hoped in…or punning this, and thinking of the frog in a pot of heating water on a stove, hopped in!


  2. I've removed the duplicate comment (which you pulled) and I'm now in the middle of your essay. Almost as long as my own, with some profound dis/agree-ments; I expect it will take awhile for me to grip these well enough to address them as they deserve.

    Meanwhile I think we do agree that disagreements should be resolved rather than veiled under "language we can agree on" -- See http://sneezingflower.blogspot.com/2006/09/pamphlet-of-few-years-ago.html

    but conflict in the "wrong" spirit is as useless as pseudoagreement. So, I will need to better digest where we do disagree vs where we're just quibbling our favorite ways-of-saying.

  3. I don't understand you either.
    God As-Is
    is a good enough God,
    doesn't put on airs,
    keeps right on
    patiently creating.

    demand more!
    "Make us
    gooder than Thou,
    Your perfect children,
    heroes of
    Your story";
    we are
    perfectly silly.

    God has to love us;
    we're so cute!

    Over a fairly long time, I've learned that the universe is constructed of Narrativium -- but will teach a person if he's paying attention. The lessons do change to fit the student; and I've stopped expecting anyone to understand much beyond their current grade level.

    Meanwhile I'm tired and retired, and don't find myself Assigned to great accomplishments. A good wife, a few good friends who keep each other going by mutual loans at need. The big stuff is in other hands; that's not an empty piety, but an accurate one.


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