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Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

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Photo credit to AppleTan

This has been on my mind for months, and I have recently been able to talk with others about it. It has continued to stay with me, and now, I’m letting it out [to a certain extent] here.

I see this in my classes.

One student raises their hand to make a point about a text, about an idea. Another student raises their hand to make a point about the text, one entirely contradictory to the first. They are both right.

We are living in a generation, in a society that decides that you say you are right because you see the world your way, and I am also right because I see it my way. Truth is becoming more and more unclear, undefined in every class I take. Perhaps this is not a new concept. But daily, it becomes more relevant to my life and I’m certain many others.

Our generation, at least the one that I see in my own life, I believe, is  growing more open-minded in many ways. Acceptance is beautiful. We are still undoubtedly in lack of open-mindedness often.

But there has to be an ultimate “right” answer in life. Do you not agree?

Let’s say I venture to say that God is truth.

There are many different aspects of God he places into each one of us, I tell you. For example, someone might see God as not only their heavenly father, but as the only father figure in their life. I, being blessed with a great dad, don’t see God as much of an earthly father for me. In that way, the roles God takes on in our lives are a little bit different—but they all connect to the same, basic truth of who God is: merciful, loving, forgiving, a warrior, a jealous God for our souls….

There is variation about who God is, I tell you, but there is also a solid truth that I cannot deny, that we all cannot deny.

There is also variation in the way that you are “allowed” to act as someone who believes in Him. You can read ten different articles on whether or not it’s “okay” to get drunk as a Christian, you can listen to the people who tell you it’s okay, the people who tell you moderation, the people who tell you check your motives, the people who tell you no way, José/insert-your-name-here. You can walk away compromising to a certain extent—you believe what you believe, fine, and I’ll believe what I believe.

Open-mindedness is not the problem. Open-mindedness is what many of us are in need of to erase the judgmental sides of us.

I deal with this all the time. So many times I’ll sit down with friends—Catholic, Baptist, Atheist, Agnostic….and I’ll listen to them, and try to “understand” them, but then my only motive in the conversation will be for me to be “right”. I want to convince them to see the world my way, but for all the wrong reasons. For the sake of my being right. For the sake of not walking away having somebody believe that I am unintelligent, or arrogant.

For when you speak what you believe is truth, and feel so strongly about it, you are likely to be considered arrogant.

In all the art and English classes I’m taking, the idea of truth becomes more and more abstract. We can read a story and have several opinions on it. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is one of the reasons I have a strong love for stories, for words…it is easy for us to take what we want from art, easy for us to twist it to meet our needs. We write essays catered toward the knowledge of how to do just that. Say anything in this paper, as long as you support it.

But as the idea of truth becomes more and more abstract, I frantically begin to understand that there has to be something we agree on. And by we, I mean you and I.

Let’s say you and I read a book, and have differentiating opinions on it. How about we pretend that we are going to read Lord of the Flies, since we are interested in whether or not humans are innately good or evil, and we like stories that involve dead pigs and small children stuck on uninhabited islands. (Plus one for innately evil….)

Let’s say we both pick out different themes of the book, and that you notice symbolism in the book that I haven’t noticed before. I can learn from your point of view, or strengthen mine from it, or both. I can recognize a general truth that we have both come to an understanding of the many themes of this book; I recognize that you have read the book, even if our interpretations are different. I can recognize it because even though I might not completely agree with your saying that humans are innately good according to Golding, you use character names like Piggy and Ralph and Simon, and you talk about plot points that I know, and you mention the importance of the symbolism of the Conch.

But boundaries have to be drawn, a truth has to prevail, if you start off by telling me that this book that you just read is actually the story of a girl who travels down a rabbit hole to inhabit another world, and who runs into strange creatures like a bunny who yells “I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date!”, and who ends up waking up to find that it was all a dream. When I ask you “Wait a minute, are you sure you’re talking about Lord of the Flies?” and you reply, “yes, Lord of the Flies,” something is off. Corrections have to be made when I say, “No, you’re talking about Alice in Wonderland,” and you say, “No, I’m talking about Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Alice in Wonderland is about a little girl who lives with her father and brother in Alabama and who comes to an understanding of racial injustice and adulthood; oh and there’s also this one character named Boo Radley who everyone is afraid of.”

When I ask how on earth you came to that conclusion, you could say that you’ve read the book by closing your eyes and setting it on your head and patting its cover; that’s how you read books now. In fact, you’ve discovered that not only is this the real way to read books; it’s more entertaining this way.

These concepts seem abstract, but the reality is that we have made truth this abstract.

Even if you claim there is no ultimate truth, that is an ultimate truth of yours. People backlash against this statement, saying it is a cop-out for the religious. But I ask: if there were no such thing as an ultimate truth, would it even be fair to say that anything is true? Might I read a book by setting it on my head? Why couldn’t I be right about the story inside of it? If it were true to me, but not my society, wouldn’t I still be right, if I could respond that truth is relevant and this is how I read? Why can I not pass my exams this way?

Would you let me read that way? Sure, you say, if it pleases me. If it makes me happy. What do I know about truth anyway, you’d say to yourself. Maybe I should start reading books on my head, you might say to yourself. Maybe we all should. And suddenly I miss out on the story inside of the book, and I miss out on many stories afterward. I miss out on knowing greater tales than I could think up, tales that are beyond me and outside of me because I have yet to read them. And I continue to read books on the top of my head, unknowingly missing out on something better than my satisfaction of reading books on my head….

But what if you’ve already tried to read books the normal way, as you obviously have with your mixed-up knowledge of the stories, you say? What if the person reading books on their head has opened the pages of the story and didn’t like reading them that way. Let them put their books on their head. Let them do what they want. Let them never give books another chance.

But is that any way to leave them, I ask you? Leave them to read books on their head, and in a motion of intensive cover-patting?

Now let’s say that you know a test is coming up in our literature class. A test on Lord of the Flies. And the person who reads books on their head was going to have to take that test. What would you think then? What would you believe? Pretend that this metaphor doesn’t imply what you think it does, if it offends you, and you’re thinking of the “ultimate” test of heaven we Christians ramble on about—pretend that this metaphor is not a metaphor but simply: if your friend was reading books on their head and had to pass this test in order to not be kicked out of school, and they genuinely believed this was the right and true way to read books, what would you say? Would you say anything? Or would you honestly let them go about with their way of “reading”? (We’ll come back to this idea.)

I’m going to make the statement now that we all must have an absolute truth of some sort in our lives. We all put our faith in something. Whether it is God, many gods, the idea that god/s does not exist, or whether we put our faith in dark matter. We put our faith into a belief of the way the world was created, we show signs of faith believing that the facts supporting this belief are valid and are proven, that the people who agree or have inspired our belief are worthy. Science is a field full of faith. And science is a field that should not be discredited or scorned at, for it reveals many interpretations of faith, and no matter what you believe, it humbles you to believe that there is something greater than our own human knowledge. Even people who claim not to care whether or not life has purpose, have, I’m sure, at least once in their lifetime asked what the point of life was, and have had to consider it out of sheer curiosity and awe—why the moon, why the sun? Why air, why muscles and bone and skin, and eyes that see color? Why hunger and why language? Why me, why this train of thought; am I the only one who will see it in this way? Why light and why dark, why hot and why cold, why this moment, this time, to be sitting here reading these words and nodding up and down, or left to right?

Saying there is no ‘ultimate’ truth is much like saying there is no original source. You must agree that we are not original beings. The evidence is on our face, under our skin—our DNA is a mesh of two previous beings. I once wrote thoughts on this, to sum it up:

I see a cat seeing me. I did not give eyes to the cat, I never considered giving eyes to the cat. I see a tree as still as the wind allows. I did not decide the wind would affect the tree so. Orange and pink thrown into the sky when the sun drops. Who can come up with these shapes, these concepts? Who can think of these colors?
My own thoughts are not created by me. Nothing is. They are given specially to me, some of them. But they are not made by me. I am but their keeper. I am not their factory, but I am their keeper. This paragraph is strung together by me, yes, but is only made possible by these words that have pre-existed.
Who dreams up the sky? Who dreams up the concept of our dreams?
Try to think of a new color without using the colors we already have; do the same with words. Try thinking up a new sound for a word that doesn’t already exist somewhere in the world. We are the quirky and fragile elements of what already exists; we are not given new ideas and new perspective with a sudden bang, but from something else that causes them to surface. We are designed, not thrown together. How, how, can anyone believe that life is a coincidence, oh how?

 

Not being restricted by an ultimate truth sounds a lot like not being restricted under anything, or anyone. It sounds like not having an authority figure. It might even sound humble; a willingness to accept that you do not know something that is so far beyond your knowing. It sounds great. It sounds freeing. But it’s actually chaotic. We have a think-outside-the-box mindset, many of us, or at least many people whom I’ve come to know, and that’s a wonderful ability, the ability to think outside the box. We will not blindly follow, we will do our research. (I’m speaking to those of us who actually do our research, and do not blindly follow.)  And you know what I’ve come to realize? This idea of not being able to accept, fully accept, any authority—of always having to figure things out for ourselves, of having to have the knowledge of it all… it’s what brought sin upon us in the first place. You probably know the story, even if you believe it is merely a story. Eve ate and shared with Adam the forbidden fruit, in a quest to gain knowledge. The devil, whom had taken on the form of a snake, told her that God wasn’t revealing to her all that she could know. He tricked her into thinking that there was more truth behind the truth of God’s command to not eat from the forbidden tree, and His love. The reality is, the God that we can fully understand, that we can justify in words—is no bigger than our own knowledge and words. No bigger than us. Eve believed God was keeping from her something great, something beyond God himself, maybe. When really, the entire piece of fruit she ate from symbolized sheer trust. God wanted Eve to trust Him enough to believe that He would not keep from her what was meant for her; keep from her greatness that ironically could be found in keeping his commands, not breaking them.

Now here is where the belief of God in general, the belief that this is absolute truth, seems to get difficult. (As if it did not seem difficult already!)

People disagree.

And some people are too afraid to disagree with the disagreements, and some people are too harsh in disagreeing with the disagree-rs.

Please do not misunderstand. Of course we cannot go around pointing fingers and declaring “wrongness” in the world. There are “right” answers to questions that we will possibly never know whilst on earth. And only going around pointing out “wrongness” is why much hatred has developed as is. I know I am guilty of hatred and hypocrisy. Too often I focus on winning arguments that don’t matter as much as showing love to my ‘opponent’ would. For “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”. Certainly I’ve clashed my cymbals in others’ faces.

What I have said this much this to say, I suppose, is: Have you ever felt like something was missing in the complexity of it all? That in all the analyzing and interpreting, we’ve missed something basic, something basic and beautiful? There is a simplicity of it all that is being lost. There is a justification for everything. There is an embrace of many things. We can disagree completely, but feel obliged to nod our head in agreement. We are afraid to be labeled as close-minded. We are being promoted and encouraged to become masters of spinning. I am even writing this everlasting essay to you just to explain myself; certainly you could laugh and say there is no simplicity in this.

We try to persuade that God is real because we want to win an argument. We try to persuade that God is not real because we want to be justified. We might even go the same church, be in the same denomination, and we bicker constantly, about whether or not the world was literally created in seven days; tear each other a part with differentiating stances on gay marriage rights and whether or not Christians can drink or if the Bible was being literal or metaphorical in this passage or that passage.

We Christians become perceived as ones who either beat themselves up daily or sit on a rather high horse. You might see us self-proclaimed Christ followers screaming on sidewalks at you telling you it is likely you’ll be in hell in some odd years; or perhaps in your mind we are thanking Jesus in a baby-soft voice for helping us pick out our outfit in the morning and how we love that the sun is yellow, because yellow is such a pretty color. There’s the idea of the lion and the lamb, descriptions of God, and it seems we have taken them both to extremes many times. The lion has blood dangling from its teeth, but the lamb has blood on its fur, with startled eyes and unmoving limbs. Perhaps many of us have forgotten that the two are not completely separate, as they belong in one.

I see many my age, at least the people who I have been around, desperately trying to break free of the stereotypes of Christianity; desperately trying to live the “in the world, but not of it” concept, unabashedly dissolving into the world to love it, but still deciphering where the limits of “in” and “of” are. Trying to prove that they are not solely the lion by becoming like the lamb, not solely the lamb by becoming like the lion.

We’re afraid we might turn into our parents, some of us, or the old folk who sit on the pews stubbornly mumbling about how they’re “sick of all this liberalism”. It makes us want to consider everything, but not in a positive way. In a way in which we doubt we know ultimate truth.

God is truth. You can argue with that if you’d like. You can break it down and turn this article around on me, sure. You can use my own words to fight me. You can say that I’m being ignorant to the idea that I’m actually wrong; that I’m being the exact person I wrote about who wears a book on her head and says “this is how you read”. You can say that an atheist believes their truth just as fully, with just as much passion. I understand. I don’t doubt that.

But there has to be a truth. In the end, there will be an answer. Some of us, maybe all of us, maybe many of us, will be wrong. Maybe I’ll be wrong. But God is truth. And I’m willing enough to be called arrogant to say that this is it.

What I want you to understand, is that you and I are alike in that we so strongly desire to advocate our truth, correct?  And that these ways in which we go about advocating it can be dangerous if our motives are purely to better ourselves.

Let’s finish up with the book example. I could easily be called out on it. Somebody could tell me that I am obviously the one reading the book on my head, because books are tangible. You can pick up and feel a book and lick it even, if you’d like. But what about God? You can see some of the signs of your belief in purely the scientific, you say. You can see them and you can show me them with pages and pages of charts and pieces of earth and rock and tangible, wonderful things. I am not saying these things aren’t real; I’m not saying these systems are necessarily wrong. But what I am saying is that you must believe in the same way you believe in your charts, I believe in the evidence claiming that the Bible has remained true to its word throughout the years. That it has impacted millions upon millions of lives not because it’s a fad, for it seems it would have died long ago if it were just a fad. Perhaps you could argue that you cannot prove the Bible, but I would argue that in many ways you can, to a certain extent. We both get to those limitations of “to a certain extent”, whether you believe there is more “proof” for your claim or not. And once we both get to the limitations of where our “proof” can go, well, that’s where our faith comes in.  I do not deny your evidence. I do not deny your reasoning. In many ways, they are my evidence and reasoning, too. I simply believe this evidence and reasoning is a part of something bigger than what I can comprehend, just as I’m sure you believe it is. As we work to break down particles into particles into the tiniest of tiny particles, I find myself believing more strongly in something bigger, and bigger. I believe that this thing that I cannot fully comprehend is called God; and that God (for reasons I will never understand) wants to communicate with me and to love me, because he created me. In trying to communicate with me, he decided he would have to speak my language—to walk the way I know how to walk, to put on flesh and bones and breath air, to be encapsulated in the creation of His, the one He knew well but now would get to experience firsthand. I believe he did this to better understand what it was like to be not only the creator, but the creation. For we are creations given free will, the desire to choose whether not to believe in a creator, or to be only restricted by that which is seen with one of our senses—our eyes. It seems idiotic, sometimes, believing in such a thing. Believe me, I know. Believing in a God like this; the word “God” even has been given such negative connotation, as the word “Christian”. Because many of us do not fully believe in this God, we just believe in the idea of being morally superior. I have been guilty of this myself. We have been guilty of wanting to be right over wanting to know who our creator is, and what being his creation means.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not advocating intolerance. There is a fine line between stepping on somebody’s toes and punching them in the face. There is not a big difference between holding your ears shut and screaming “La la la, I can’t hear you!”, and hearing somebody talk whilst planning your perfect comeback to respond to thoughts that you haven’t really been listening to.

Open-mindedness is a wonderful thing to seek after; our generation, I feel, is striving for it more than ever in many respects. So, be open-minded to the world with the understanding that you will never fully understand God, and that he can always surprise you. But let’s stop pretending we don’t have any right to tell somebody that no, the story, the heart of Alice in Wonderland in its entirety cannot and will never be found in Lord of the Flies. That is wrong.

A pastor I talked to a while ago about this idea of ultimate truth and disagreements mentioned that a nice way to decide if something was worth fighting for was to decide if it was something worth dying for.

What is a truth that you would die for?

Is it the idea that there is a God and He is one God? How about the idea that the earth was created in literally 7 days? Is it the idea that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us? Is it the idea that cursing is unacceptable?

As for truth?

Jesus answered, “I am a way, a truth, a life”…..

No, no. That’s not what He said.

Jesus answered, “ I am the way, the truth, the life”.

When you truly listen, when you truly seek to understand, when you truly desire to love—that my friend, becomes the boldest of statements.

I recognize I can never quite sum this type of thing up. We won’t all agree now. Many will try to explain. Some will listen, some will be the type of “listeners” only preparing their comeback. But I leave you with this statement; a simple statement I suppose I have been trying to explain all along: I believe that God is truth for me. And I believe that God is truth for you. The question of God’s existence will be “answered” in a time that isn’t even worthy of the tag of “one day”, for who knows if it will be answered within the concept of time, if “the end” will be within a frame of time as known to us? But it will be answered.

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