[ previous: "all the livelong day" ] [ return to the present ] [ next: "oh, the suspense" ]
6 March 2002 (Wednesday): god, period
Wow, that got people talking. Cool.
I have to admit, though, that discussions on the truth of religion seem ultimately fruitless after a certain point. Either everyone's more or less on the same page, which is great for feeling good about oneself but not for stretching the brain, or it's a passionate disagreement that boils down to the faith vs. logic schism. You can't have a cogent debate if you're not even using the same basis for argument. The whole point of faith is setting aside one's logical misgivings. It seems to me that people who are devout Christians leave their need for proof at the church door, and trying to discredit their faith by pointing to lack of evidence is about as effective as trying to convince an atheist of the Bible's authority by quoting from it. Doesn't work.
That said, I have a rather clear idea of God. Not being a person of faith -- I plead guilty to using that well-worn claim "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual!" -- it's labeled My Current Working Theory: something to live by until new experiences make me revise it. I thought I might share it here, since I've talked a good bit about my reaction to other people's beliefs, but haven't said what my own actually are.
So here we go:
God is ripe tomatoes, a best friend's laugh, and recursive algorithms. God is a really damn fine orgasm, late afternoon sunlight striking red desert cliffs, a good loud rock song, the structure of isocitrate dehydrogenase, and the invention of the printing press. God is beauty, and love, and my heart rejoices when I know I'm witnessing it.
God is also disease and pollution. God is back-alley muggings, the rape of a six-year-old girl, and the beheading of Daniel Pearl. God is every brutal war ever fought, every species ever driven to extinction, every small-minded insult ever hurled down a hall of a high school, and every freak tragic accident on the news. God is ugliness, and hate, and my heart breaks when I know I'm witnessing it.
Here's the thing: they have to coexist, these two sides. Together they make the whole. It's impossible to separate them and say that one was meant to be, the other unnatural. Human beings use good and evil to determine how we live our lives and construct our societies, dividing things into desirables and undesirables, actions to reward and actions to punish. But in the big picture it all just is. God is simply the fact that the universe is weird and wondrous and terribly complicated, but somehow it all fits together and just works.
There's nothing about morality in this concept of God. Nothing indicates what would make my brief existence a success or a failure. Nothing even says I have to strive for success, actually. I believe in complete predestination -- another topic entirely -- but there's no promise of justice involved, no notion that some omnipotent being is looking out for my personal welfare. I have a personal relationship with God in that I believe in God, I recognize God in all of existence with a sense of awe...and I know that I'm a crucial part of the Grand Plan, like every other tiny speck in the cosmos. But God certainly isn't a source of comfort for me. Maybe dying a painful and apparently pointless death is my role in the Plan. Who knows.
In the meantime, I go about my business. I pursue my dreams; I keep learning; I struggle with my capacity for self-pity and laziness. I love the people close to me as best as I know how; I also try to figure out how to love people I barely know, people I actively dislike, and the billions of people I'll never meet. I call my senators to urge them to support family planning and to oppose drilling in arctic wildlife refuges. Basically, I choose for myself what is good and bad, based on my genetic tendencies and how my parents raised me and ideas I've absorbed from the outside world. Then I try to live by those standards. God doesn't tell me how to do any of that. God is just the fact that I'm doing it.
Have I figured it out, or do the Muslims who bow five times daily toward Mecca have it right? We'll never know. Each person follows what feels like truth to him or her, personally. Go in peace.
posted by enjelani @ 05:07 PM PST
Replies: 1 comment
"...I go about my business. I pursue my dreams; I keep learning; I struggle with my capacity for self-pity and laziness. I love the people close to me as best as I know how; I also try to figure out how to love people I barely know, people I actively dislike, and the billions of people I'll never meet".
That my dear, is good shit. I guess it's not about being the best, but rather striving to be the best (however you define it).
Thanks for putting this up for me to read (your entire site). Sometimes when it's late and quiet like it is now, I need to connect with someone elses thoughts and relate to them. I guess it helps the little bits of lonliness slide away :)
posted by syndromes @ 07 07 2002 01:16 AM PST