Objective narrative or subjective experience

I have been thinking about religious faith and the tenacity with which adherents hold on to the narratives of faith to which they subscribe.  I cannot talk about all faiths here but I can comment on the Christian brand of religious expression, having spent many years believing and even promoting said faith.

Christians have a narrative that they have received from the Bible.  At the outset it is important to note that a narrative doesn’t exist in a vacuum, narratives must be interpreted.  The vast variety of different christian groups, denominations, churches is proof enough that it is one’s interpretation and understanding of the narrative to which one holds, different groups, different interpretive methods and different theological systems driving that interpretation.

If you ever encountered someone trying to convince you, or convert you, to their deeply held religious faith, you find that the believer works really hard to sell you on the absolute veracity of their interpretation of the judeo-christian narrative.  For them, and for me once upon a time, the comprehensive and cohesive narrative is the structure of the world, of people, of everything.  It is the fabric and matrix by which all ideas and perspectives are vetted.

But what if the point of faith isn’t really the narrative?  What is it that convinces one to believe a version of a narrative?  Is it the logic, the historical accuracy, or something else?  I have been thinking about my former christian faith and what it was that tied my loyalty and fervor to that system of belief.  While I spent many years studying the narratives and texts of the bible, usually attempting to support that faith I already had, my faith was in something else than the narrative.   It was the existential verifications, those subjective moments in prayer, in study where I felt that I encountered something real and because that happened somehow in correlation to the faith I had in god it was verification of the Truth of the version of the narrative I had come to believe.  I would then return to the narrative and seek to understand the experience which I had had.

But if I am honest, and that is what I am attempting here, the genesis of faith was not the narrative but the subjective experience; the subjective experience is the reason that the narrative was accepted.  The interpretation of the text then reinforces the subjective experience thus completing the circle.  So objectively, it doesn’t matter whether the narrative is true, just that it is believed, which is not so much from the narrative itself but from the feelings, believed experiences (existential verifications) which one has.

 

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“Lights Out!”

I am  just beginning to read the book by Ted Kopel, entitled “Lights Out.”  Mind you I have not read too far into this treatise yet, but one thing stuck out to me.  He stated that were a cyber attack on our power grid, that it would “tumble us back into something approximating the mid 19th century.”

Honestly I have to admit that I have been a person that for many years has felt that the possibility of something cataclysmic which would threaten our way of life was inherently possible.  I don’t want to sound like some whacky militia freak, but if his assessment is anywhere near accurate, then we should prepare for life in the mid 19th century.  Meaning that we should think about what that means for lighting, cooking, warmth and sanitation, as well as protection.  As I read this book, I plan to prepare myself and my family to be ready to accept a contingency where life pops back into the mid 1800’s for a little while.  Any other reading of this book would be fruitless.

Not trying to be a crazy here, just a thoughtful and prepared citizen.

Thoughts for today

First of all, with all the holidays approaching, it appears that everyone takes on religious affections, statements etc.  I find it ironic that expressions of faith spike at Christmas and Easter, but wane the rest of the year..  As an agnostic (but former Christian participant), I do not find this cheerful, but rather see it as a cultural facade that is more irritating than pleasant.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate compassion expressed any time of the year, I appreciate generosity, I even appreciate faith (although I no longer share it), but while the goodness done during this time of the year is…good, it seems contrived by the season.

My second thought is regarding politics.  While in my state of residence (especially) the word “liberal” or “socialist” is a profanity, I find it interesting that our frontrunner  in the republican presidential race expresses “fascist” answers to the problems facing us.  Let’s force the registration of all muslims.   Let’s deny muslims entry into  our country.  Let’s shut down specific areas of the internet to avoid the wrong messages, particularly those disseminated by ISIS.

So Trump’s answers to problems are to isolate, to create a group in America (muslims and then probably Mexicans) that are targeted by forced government registration (apparently not learning anything from Jewish prosecution in Germany and our registering and internment of Japanese citizens during WWII), then let’s limit “shut down sections of the internet.”  All this sounds pretty heavy handed to me.  Couple this with his statements of bombing and taking over Iraqi oil fields and you have a concerning candidacy in Mr. Trump.  Add in that most of his supporters are uneducated and that the same are “fed up” with how government has been run in this country and you have a potential formula for disaster like 1940 Germany experienced.

Let’s hope the majority of the vote in 2016 doesn’t follow this heavy handed, scary candidate.

The real challenge of trying to be spiritual

I know that I recently wrote about my desire to recapture my daily practice of meditation.   Interestingly enough, it is challenging to find space and, even more challenging, to find a reservoir of discipline to actually follow through on meditating daily among the rest of life.

It is one thing to resonate with a particular perspective of the world, of what’s larger than my world and what all that means and requires of me.  As many of you who may read my blog know, I grew up in a christian tradition and after some departures from that path when I was young, I returned and actually applied myself to it, academically, theoretically and existentially. But as I pressed into that reality, having accepted it as Truth, I kept bumping up against Inconsistencies regarding the concreteness and veracity of the systematic belief inherent in the Christian tradition.

I tried different Christian traditions to find something concrete.  I found only more questions and doubts, rather than the answers or bedrock of truth that I so desired.

I began to look outside the christian tradition and found some logic in the buddhist tradition.  While I think their evaluation of reality is more inline with the actual reality of things, adhering to the rigors of buddhist contemplation is equally as challenging as the predecessor of worldviews in the Christian tradition.

I appreciate looking beyond one’s self to try and understand my place in the universe, but I am not the disciplined monkish typed person who excels in either tradition.  I am a normal guy looking for something to hang my hat on.

More on that later…I have to sleep I’ve worked all night and I can hardly finish the sentences that are rolling around in my head.

Stay tuned for further thought on this topic.

Everything issues from mind

I recently returned to my Buddhist practice of daily meditation after a long hiatus.  Unfortunately, I found that rather than being present and aware, it was easier in the stress of life to be numb.  I found myself drinking more and using that as a tool to medicate myself.  I found myself more easily angered, less compassionate and more cynical towards life.  I wasn’t happy and that unhappiness affected all those around me.

I am committing to finding time to sit each day, to be mindful of  my feelings and emotions, to cultivate compassion for myself and for others.  My thinking today is on a portion of the first verse of the Dhammapada (this version translated by Gil Fronsdal).  I offer it up to anyone who is reading my blog as food for your thinking and living.

“All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind,
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And Happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.”

Restarting

It has been over a year since I last wrote on this blog.  I finished my bachelors in respiratory care and have been busy working nights as well as being a dad and husband.  I haven’t even thought about this blog, but having just come across a bit of information that stimulated this memory, I think that I may take another stab at blogging.

I thought about just starting a new blog, but I kind of like the idea of continuing where I left off, because this blog with its many articles paints a picture of my journey, of my belief which stimulated doubt, causing me to  wrestle with theology, dogma and the idea of God.  That led to a change which necessitated a change in career and the beginnings of being open and honest with my unbelief.  That is where I again take up writing about my thoughts, about books that I am reading, about what I encounter and how I understand the significance of all these stimuli.

Stay tuned for more.