One of the personal benefits of writing is creating a record of your ideas. Unlike the jumble of thoughts that swarm around day to day, with no place to settle, take root and deepen, a journal, or a blog serves as a container for reflection so that ideas can connect and be refined.
When I go back and reflect on some of the thoughts and ideas in this blog, I see the thread and am reminded of lifelong themes that stay with me and still call out for understanding and reconciliation. Perhaps for all of us, there are ideas that drive us or compel us, towards the people and situations we find in our closest relationships. Some themes don’t go away; repetition in relationship dynamics, in family life, business and friendships. For me there are two predominant themes in my life: identity and what I can only call the cosmological quest of understanding where, why and what we are; what I understand as the religious instinct. Nothing original here, not even the passion with which my desire for understanding permeates all that I do. There is joy and peace in what little I am able to grasp and a satisfaction that comes with each new understanding. But there’s always more…
From my earliest childhood I have come to sense that we are not just who we think we are. We are not the person showing up randomly on histories timeline, belonging to the families we bond so deeply with and love so much. Our place in time, which family we belong to, while important and emotionally setting us apart from other selves, families, cultures, in both bygone and future eras, serves us well as a mask, a container, something we find ourselves wrapped up in. That is the identity through which we first learn to know ourselves and others, but is there not more than this? Deeper inside, stripped of our historic identity, we are less confined, and if we try, we can see ourselves in a timeless way and so free ourselves from being just that person born at such and such a date to a particular family.
So what, you may ask. I think when you shed the idea of yourself as a being tethered to the place and time you were born, there lies access to a sense of self that we all share, something raw and fundamental that underlies each of us, like a blank piece of paper waiting each day for us to write on. Each day new, another chance. From that place comes compassion, for yourself, all your shortcomings and as well as those of others. Here you see the frailty we all share, the woundedness, the endless attempts to get it right, regardless of ideologies and conceptual makeup that we clothe ourselves with. Here we find a place in which we can disengage our need to be sure of our conclusions and be open to live in that place that needs no conclusions, but is eager to listen and consider.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Having experienced a lifetime of tension between the rationality of Science with it’s orderly, mechanical, material view of the stuff of life and the confounded joy of a world of Beauty, Intelligence and Love that surely points to a God much beyond anything we can measure or make, I can’t take sides. What science and religion offer us are equally valid and equally frightening. As well, it seems that taking sides is tearing us apart into caricatures of our deepest fears offering over simplified solutions to the age old human dilemma of survival, ever tempting us to make Perfect our world which has always known tears, fears and suffering amidst the scarcity, darkness, cold and hunger. Although we can choose to strive to make our world better and more peaceful, it is unreasonable to expect a world free from tension, and human suffering. Both science and religion fail us here as they should when our expectations for life fail to mature through our experience.
Now days we take ideological sides making unfounded claims that the other side is the cause of our ills, serving only to increase the tensions between us. It also serves to keep us from doing the hard work of negotiating with our and other’s ideas about our human predicament and the specific troubles of our times. Neither religion nor science can by themselves solve our problems. Where religion may provide the impetus for fighting the next war, science easily provides the means. Where science provides technologies which feed us and make daily tasks quick and easy and bring us comfort, the more we increase our demand for that comfort the more environmental damage we cause. The overuse of scarce resources is a spiritual problem that we all face. I can no longer drive my car, or take a hot shower without knowing how incredibly amazing it is to live this unprecedented comfortable life. None of us are innocent. Nothing changes by our ideological insistence that some imagined other side is the problem.
Perhaps what must be acknowledged is our love of innocence and simplistic answers for life’s ills, no matter our personal beliefs. Then what must be seen is how our innocence, dear and precious and protective as it may be, fools us into a folly of our own making.