Sunday, August 23, 2009

Too Long For a Comment..

Sometimes I hear Friends talking about nontheism as though it is a species of atheism or agnosticism. And sometimes it is.

But I have also heard it said that nontheism is not necessarily such a negation of a Higher Power (internal or external), rather, it is sometimes an affirmation that this great "whether or not" is so unknowable as to be irrelevant to the human condition and a distraction from its unfolding or being unfolded within and among us.

I cannot know which it is in the sense that knowledge is discussed, in the blog post I have linked, above. I cannot really know many of the things I have read in the very interesting (distracting?) post and the string of following comments. I am in awe at the degree to which some of this writing has mastered the material involved and I certainly have my own sense of how such things go/are.

My failing is that in talking and writing about these things that I can never really know (and about which I can only extend the benefit the doubt in crediting others with this knowledge that eludes me) I end up discounting, dismissing and pushing other people away or stimulating them to push me away. See? I just did that, didn't I?

In a life that has not been short I have been around that barn far too many times.

What I can know is that there is something "going on," here, and that I am dealt with on a daily basis as part of it. Prove it? I can't. But I know that as I am able to submit I am conformed whatever is "going on" and I find my life more pleasant for me and for those around me. This is no small thing.

I know and appreciate (as do those who have known me for years) I am being changed and I recognize the drift of it. This transformation I am experiencing seems similar to the way the Quaker (and other) heroes mentioned in the post and comments to which I have linked, above, describe (and are described by others) as having been changed. Both the five testimonies current in the Liberal domain of the Society of Friends and the Eight Fold Path seem to capture that change, as well. Huxley describes it, too, in "The Perennial Philosophy," as does Rumi's poetry. It's elsewhere--it's everywhere. Everyone has heard it from other people--even if they have not stopped to hear it from the source of it--whatever that is.

For years I tried to get to such places as described in all this (and more) spiritual literature by reading it, parsing it, reasoning from it--I remained largely alienated from others and from myself, seeking "orthodoxy" rather than "orthopraxy." Imagine, what I do is more important than what I think is true. News flash.

Someone who contributed the the comments following the post to which I linked, above, once said it's not so much about "understanding" as it is about "standing under." My take on that is that it's not about figuring it all out and then living according to what I have figured out. It's living as I am led and from that I experience a developing concinnity with whatever it is that is "going on."

So, I don't know if there is a God (whatever someone using the word may mean by it), where S/he may or may not have come from, how S/he works, or why. I don't know about atonement, virgin birth, lakes of fire, unfolding lotus flowers or the brushing wings of butterflies wearing boulders away over incomprehensible periods of time.

And I have to say I don't think my believing in the reality or centrality of such things has ever done me or those around me much good. What matters is how I live out my life and in my experience "belief" about existence of a "God" has been of little help in that. And history seems to indicate to me that belief in a God and reasoning from the concept in which one believes has not been very helpful to a lot of people (or to those around them) in coming to grips with how to live out their lives.

I am part of a religious Society and a world that is badly fractured by contention over things that I can never really know and that I doubt anyone else can, either. So many people are trying to come to some kind of unity about these unknowable things and even trying to force such a unity on others or to police, within the group of which they are a part, a unity that is exclusive them--even though it alienates them from everyone else. Yeah, I know. Don't be yoked to unbelievers. The problem I have found in following that teaching is that I end up too often doing harmful things to those with whom I avoid being yoked--and there are other teachings exhorting me to avoid doing those things.

I don't think that this is all working out for us, as a religious Society or as a global society. Of course, I can't really know if it's supposed to. All I can know, as I say, is the guidance I am getting and that without knowing where it's coming from (God? My psyche? Mars?), or why it's coming, I have come to trust it--based on the outcomes.

As I have put it before--the one celled animal on the forest floor has no concept of the eco-system of which it is a part. It just knows to eat the leaves and, so long as it eats the leaves things work out for it and the system. Maybe there is such a system of which I am a part and maybe there is not. But I know what I am supposed to do and from the moral consensus humanity has developed and ignored across time and space so does everyone else. As the one celled animal is supposed to eat the leaves I am supposed to love and to be connected to others--even those afraid to love me back or who don't understand the interconnectedness. Those are the leaves, bitter and sweet, that I am to eat.

And eat those leaves I do, whether it means anything or not. To the measure of the ability developed and developing in me, I try to clean what's put on my plate each and every day. It's what I keep being told to do. It's all that makes sense, to me. I don't know any better.


Hystery said...

Yes. So well said. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

that my friend is an awe filled lot to know and i appreciate your sharing.

i'd like to copy part of it and share it at meeting next week. may i?


Tmothy Travis said...

you certainly may, Anon.