Monday, December 5, 2011

Truth, Beauty, and the American Way

My own creation story is very simple;  God existed as perfection for an infinite period of time but found it "tedious?"or "limiting?" and so exploded her essence into a million billion little God pieces that are now scattered across the Universe. God's essence is then constantly forming the Real.  Some would call this materialism and it probably is but I think it has a "divine" spark.   Just beginning from nothing seems a forlorn epistemology.  The particulars of Life are not usually very godly but instances of godliness sometimes appear.  God is in all things and can re-start or re-order the show whenever.  All Religions seem flawed as paths to God in this scenario. They assume what is necessary.  Religious faith may be better by far than wandering solo in the wilderness but it is an illusion, a mistake about the nature of Reality.  I am a cultural Christian.  This means I am unconvinced by the supernatural underpinnings that require Faith but am a believer in the social interaction demanded by true Christianity  We are asked to love God (the Natural Order) and love one another.  We are also counseled to love our enemies as a means to convert them to our virtue.  Much of our western heritage of belief about the intrinsic rights of Man are supported by a God-centric culture.  If we dispense with God, then we are threatened with the loss of Goodness.
      I could go on but God is not directing Life in a way that is intelligible to us.  There may be an afterlife but that is a question for its own time and place.  Once in heaven or hell we can debate the purpose of what we experienced here.  I don't pray.  Why would I?  I try and be attentive to  what could be considered Good.  I am as right or wrong as everybody else and try to be tolerant.  If God makes you a better person, I am not interested in making you worse.  If we take the Apostles Creed one statement at a time, I vote no on most of it.

Money or spirituality? Two dangerous choices that require some reflection.  Since Darwin, God has been under attack.  Progress and technology seem to have provided more miracles and given more measurable results than faith in God.  Many of us have elected to sign up with the promises of Progress.  But it is looking a little threadbare these days.  The flying arrow arc of Progress, shot so confidently into the sky, is turning down.   It has been a marvelous 150 year run but our powers are waning markedly.  Our success has been based on an unsustainable hubris and we now feel the onrushing chill of a life of austerity.  We do not see a steady state life of hope.  We see the outline of Nature "red in tooth and claw" and we tremble.  Our Progress was our real God while we paid deferential respect to the "old ways" of god fearing religion.  

Truth seekers are always in dangerous territory.  Man appears to be a meaning seeking or meaning dependent creature and truth elusive. So illusions often replace Truth.  Illusions are more predictable and become more comfortable.  Think of some of the fundamental truths:  God loves us, he sent his son to save us, Mohammed is the “messenger” of God, eternity and the afterlife are more important than our transient lives, Humans matter more than dinosaurs (we exist and they don’t).  Money is the best way to organize complicated human activity.  Long term “growth” is possible on a finite planet.  Progress can continue indefinitely with technology.  Human civilizations cycle, rising and falling.  Unlike Tolstoy’s observation about happy and dysfunctional families, a civilization differentiates into its peculiarities while ascending and falls to its lowest common denominator when descending.   Thus rising societies become more idiosyncratic while declining societies become more alike.

So our own preferred illusion is what we call Truth.  But Change is happening every day and as our truths become less “true” they may require re-evaluation.  If we found an Ultimate Truth, life would be spoiled.  We would have only our duty to it, slaves building pyramids.  We are compelled to pursue our truths but advised to open our hearts to our own weaknesses.  Love if you can, fight if you must.   As for philosophy, Man does not live by bread alone but by all the words that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  In my estimation this would be true if we could agree on what we hear.  But maybe Faith is just more important than Rationality in a search for Truth.  How do we “discern”?   Which is the right tool to find Enlightenment?  Faith is easier than changing. 

We live in peculiarly interesting times.  Our lives are complicated and our truths diverse.  We would join together but we are afraid of losing something important.  We cannot hold in our hearts all our possibilities because we are afraid of losing some of our essence.  And perhaps it is not truth, but power we seek?  If we find power we may be able to compel truth.  And if we seek humility can we stumble into deliverance?  If we deliver our Life to that which is bigger than us, do we not join some kind of immortality?  God?  National Socialism? Progress?  So our sacrifice to a cause becomes our truth.  We can believe in ourselves and die a small death or believe in something larger and live in that truth.  If God exists, well there you are—immortal and saved. 

But if we focus on the Now, we are in no hurry for “salvation”.  We mean only to live well.  What is the philosophy of living well?  Epicureanism.  What is the philosophy of living honorably?  Stoicism.  What is the philosophy of living sacrificially?  Buddhism or Christianity.  What is the philosophy of living selfishly?  Trick question.  We cannot help living selfishly.  Whatever we sacrifice, we hope to gain.  If it’s love we give, it’s love we hope to receive.  To be thoroughly altruistic would be bizarre.   It is almost nihilistic and suicidal.  Where can I give my Life to no discernible purpose?  So what about Happiness?  The pursuit of happiness seems a flawed goal.  It is bound to be disappointing.  Connecting it to life and liberty in the Declaration has elevated its importance.  It is a result.  It is causes and principles we sacrifice for and the results are what we live with. 

We have done wars on terrorism, poverty, and drugs.  I would counsel making war on people, groups, nations, and leaving  tactics, conditions, and temptations to other organized amelioration.  Actually, I do not counsel making War.  I prefer making Peace.  I only meant that War works best when focused on our supposed human enemies. They may ultimately become our friends.....


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