Room Inside a Box

"There is no room inside a box." ~Doug Pinnick

Location: Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, United States

I started this blog as a soundboard for some much needed therapy during my separation with my wife throughout much of 2005. It was truly a blessing to get my thoughts out there through the writing process. Thankfully things have worked out between us. I would have continued to blog, but ever since I started my teaching career, I have found it impossible to do as much blogging as I would like to. So now I hope to periodically post as time and energy allow.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Long Delayed Response to Ergo

If you want to know why it takes so long for me to respond to things sometimes, just look at Jason's dialogue with his nephews, and imagine that as taking up 12 hours of my life EVERY DAY. But I feel rested enough now so here goes...

Ergo said this:

After all those things you pointed out as limitations to the Bible, why then do
you still consider it of any value to you? What can you glean from it and be
certain that it is the truth of "God"? Can you be certain of *anything* at all
in it?? Despite all the limitations that you acknowledge the Bible has, you
still hold it as the holy book of your religion, and for the most part, follow
its prescriptions. Why!?

In as small of a nutshell as I can, let me say that I am postmodern enough to say that we will never fully know ultimate truth (Truth) but not postmodern enough to say there is no such thing as ultimate truth. I believe that Truth is out there somewhere, but we see through a glass darkly and only see shades of Truth, or truth. In this life, all we will ever know is truth, and what your truth is might be different than my truth. If our truths are genuine--that is, they reflect Truth and are not just the latest humanly concocted paddywagon handing out the flavor of the month--they will help provide a snapshot of Truth. I believe Truth can only come by revelation and only a few people in history have been able to distill it in such a way that our fallen senses can handle it. This is where we get our great religions throughout history. Of course, people being as they are fuck it up along the way, so much so that sometimes genuine seekers become so frustrated that they say to hell with it all and lose their religion, as our bald buddy Michael Stipe might say (Disclaimer: I am not and never have been an REM fan and have no idea what that song is really about, but being a partaker of our popular culture I have had the chorus drilled in my head and it just came to me and I use the reference loosely knowing full well my allusion might be unfounded and downright wrong.)

So while the bible has a lot of truth in it, it was written by people. Inspired by God to be sure, but still written by fallen human beings nonetheless. So it's going to have its fallacies and limitations. But should I throw it all away just because of that? No way! I can most assuredly be certain that it contains truth, but remember, not Truth. I'm neo-orthodox that way. Barth is my hero in this regard. I look to Jesus, not to the bible for Truth. The bible tells his story, so I have to accept it within a certain framework of limitations and idiosyncrasies of culture and values and belief systems. But everything ever written down has these limitations. Nothing in our human world is free from them. But that doesn't make all of our writing-things-down in vain; it just means that we need to tread carefully when we deem something as containing truth and not mistake it for Truth.

Also, keep in mind the bible was not written to be a collection of books called the bible. The bible was written by tent-dwellers and vagabonds--from servants to kings and from lowly farmhands to high-court officials. It was written by storytellers spinning yarns and minstrels singing around campfires. I scoff at the naivete of the fundies when they claim it as the inerrant word of God. It's nothing more than a collection of poems, myths, legends, folklore, stories, and history written by hundreds of people over thousands of years. Its compilation spanned millennia, too, and even that is in dispute to this day, some sects adding books while others taking books away. All of it, though, is to be revered simply because it has survived all that time! How many preserved writings do we have from the ancients? The answer is not that much. It's difficult for our Internet-inundated minds to fathom what that actually means. It's a treasure trove of ideas and insights into a culture so alien to us that these people just as well might have come from Mars. So we can glean truth about God from it simply because those writings were where they were at that time in history. Different from where we are, obviously, but put it all together and you come up with a better truth than they had. It's not Truth; it's truth. Their truth. Let's discover our truth and put it all together and come up with something closer to Truth than we have been.

Think of it this way: When you were a child, you thought and spoke like a child. You went with what you had at the time. You fucked up and made mistakes all along the way. Then when you got older, if you were wise, you learned from those mistakes, held onto your truth, and added someone else's at various stages along the way. Before you die, if you are wise, you will continue this process. Truth is what we aspire to, and truth is all we have to work with. The OT, then, might represent a select people's view of truth in times we cannot even imagine. Furthermore, humanity moved along and the NT represents more truth than their predecessors. Then the church comes and adds more and more. And this is only from the Judeo-Christian realm of humanity; think of the scores of other people's whose truths reveal more and more. Mistakes along the way? Absolutely. We are human. We're like blind, lame people feeling different parts of the elephant in the room. Your truth is a leg and mine is the tail and his is the snout and hers is the ear. The elephant is the Truth, and as long as we keep searching and are wise and prudent with our truth, we'll all become enlightened someday.

So then why am I not a zen buddhist or a taoist? This philosophy might sound quasi-eastern, and it is in many ways. After all, these traditions are all reflections of Truth, are they not? I would say yes, and you may not. That's fine. We'll find out when we die, if we find out at all. Who really, truly knows? But why am I a xian? Why do I follow Christ and not the buddha? While I greatly admire and even whole-heartedly believe certain teachings of Lao-tzu and the Buddha, neither of those two men died for me. The Buddha certainly suffered--that was the core of his teaching, and I honestly don't know much about Lao-tzu, but I know he didn't suffer and bleed for what he thought he was doing for humanity. But Jesus did. His life is an unadulterated radical and rebellious movement against the dominant paradigm of his time, and I dig that. If everything he says is true, then he died so that I might live. If he was just dreaming all this stuff, then at the very least he lived and died by his convictions and you have to respect that. The more I learn about him, the more he grows on me. It's actually something I can't explain too well. The more I learn about certain people, the more I love them, too, especially our founding fathers and guys like Lincoln and even Reagan (sometimes). But all of these guys have flaws somewhere that I learn about and am repelled by these, and I have to remember that they were just dude's living and reacting to the world around them. Jesus is different, though. I have yet to come across any repugnancy or alarm that says, "Okay, he's just a dude living and reacting to the world around him. Get over it." That hasn't happened yet. The dude kicks ass in every way. His life and death are at the very least a fascinating story and at the most a cause to die for. I don't know if I can say that about anyone else, though maybe if Washington was leading me across the Delaware I might die for him and his (which would be mine, of course) cause--who knows? I don't think I'd die for Lincoln, though, and save the Union, as much as I admire the man. But again, who knows?

So that's where I am right now. It's not where I was last year (okay, it probably was!), and it might not be where I'll be next year, but it's where I'm at today. I also could say more, but I must next devote my writing time to Jason, who has been on the right track recently and needs to be recognized.


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