Analysis, CPJ-Saga, Reflection

CPJ-4: Something Beatitude-ish

I talked to my sister about my last long, long entry last night.

Her story is hers to tell (and not very interesting, honestly) but I knew she would understand where I was coming from in that piece.

She advised that I should identify as agnostic. I get the impression that being gently and flexibly spiritual might be less offensive to an agnostic person than being a chronic questioner is to many Christians. This would be a relief: I don’t want to freak someone out with the fact that I’m still looking around for meaning and/or reasons to believe in supra-ordinate, benevolent consciousness. But I’ve always been one to poke holes in others’ certainty when I feel like an open-minded approach is better. Again, I’m in that hazy realm between universalism and agnosticism… acting in self-interest, I hope, and trying to stay self-aware of that!

Taoist and also Not-Taoist

…but it’s less deceptive to say I’m “not-taoist” –who can even say what Tao is? I suggested to my sister that I might be and she replied she couldn’t remember anything about Taoism/Daoism/etc. –that doesn’t bother me. I balk at taking a label from a tradition that I won’t be able to represent authentically. I found at least one source that said being Taoist was as simple as reading “The Tao Te Ching” and applying lessons from there.

That would make me eight years a de facto Taoist, riding a slow, rolling wave out of Christianity into undefined space. I want balance, not to divide the world into good/evil, dark/light, and conveniently place myself in the middle (self-justifying) but rather to find a workable middle and stretch my tendrils into both dark and light, knowing that Good is a matter of compassion and humility while evils are obsessed with consuming and dominating. I picture a spiritual universe with a great sphere of Light in the middle and a ring of mysteries surrounding. Lawful evil tries to dominate the light, chaotic evil to create confusion from the dark, but a true goodness (I feel) orients a person(?) …as you can see, I’m process-writing again! Departing from one set of spiritual moorings, I’m reorienting to sail the open seas rather than browse for docks. *eye-brow raise*

But Matthew is worth reading

It still bothers me that my sister doesn’t seem to be familiar with the passages in the book of Matthew I referenced on the phone. I wish my sister would glean some values from Matthew before she shrugged and abdicated the entire Christian tradition. The Bible is misleading as a whole (none of those books were written with a compilation in mind) but Matthew is one Biblical book worth reading, if for no other reason than to parry idiot sidewalk ministers. Mark is almost as good (especially for parrying) and Luke has interesting things to consider if you’ve read the previous two.

The assurance that I won’t come back to Western Christian thought is that I haven’t rejected these synoptic gospels whole-cloth. I’m not going to bounce between vice and asceticism, not going to trace the path of the prodigal son. I am the older brother in the story after the father has died: now the inheritance is mine and if I want to go elsewhere then I’ll hit the road, jack. I feel like I’ve understood and gleaned the value. I’ve felt that way for a long time, simply didn’t want to let go of old ways. I knew several years ago I wouldn’t quote from a Pauline letter or an old Testament prophet unless I was, yup, doing some parrying *winks*.

I digress: I feel like Matthew and The Tao Te Ching corroborate each other through the beatitudes. Take a look:

I am trying to illuminate ‘the way out’

The seeming contradictions of the passage in Matthew are an echo of Taoism. There are several explanations. I won’t comment on any specifically. What I want to highlight is the difference between these two places and societies. The region we call Palestine, or Canaan, or Israel, or whatever has always been a crossroads between empires. Occupations and various kinds of oppression by outside powers has been a reality, there, since the Bronze age. From that location comes a personified idea of The Divine: a conscious entity with intentional agency. That’s something I can empathize with– verses 9 – 12 hint at a context where people feel threatened and death seems always at hand.

China wasn’t without conflicts, either, but from there we see an idea of Divine Order that’s not given a particular agency. These two authors have faith in the same outcomes but the one on the right believes everything will be restored because that’s the natural order of the world– it’s a resting state, not an aspirational state. Whether or not mysterious forces can have thoughts and feelings analogous to ours, the author on the right believes these things will come to pass nonetheless. Importantly, there’s not a question of doctrine nor verbal testimony: it’s manifest in behavior. I think that’s why it’s resonating with me. I want to see manifest good, to experience grace that’s not a pop-quiz at death but a natural return to peace during life. How would there be so many good people who believe in NOTHING if good couldn’t be the natural state? Yet it’s so hard for good to be a resting state in a place as contested as The Levant. Good needs to exist in opposition to evil under those circumstances. Isn’t that something to think about? What I’m getting at is so slippery, I’m not sure anyone is going to follow me… …but I’ll keep trying in new ways.

Faiths that aren’t religions… faiths, small-f

There’s not a thing I can prove but I’m deciding what I would like to believe. I need to define and be familiar with the faiths that will bias me! We can’t escape what we’d like to believe by pretending we only believe in what can be empirically verified. The most comforting words of faith I’ve heard in the past two weeks came from my atheist friend who insisted, with no irony and no qualifications, she believed I would find love in my life. It’s what we both want to believe and yet the peace of mind she created for me by saying that brought a real sense of assurance. Her assurance brought me more emotional energy to carry on. My sister’s assurances help me carry on.

I want to make art that assures you we can carry on, make meaning, and find some beauty! Damn it! Let’s do it! I love you! Let’s go!

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