"I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels"--Pearl S. Buck
When I was a boy, political conventions marked the ultimate showdown between the left wing and the right wing of the politcal party in question. The debate over the stated position of the political party in question had a religious importance.
The "progressive Republicanism" of Nelson Rockefeller differed to a serious extent from the "conservative revolution" proposed by Ronald Reagan. The distance between McGovern and the southern conservative democrats was wider than the distance between the two candidates in this, the most hotly contested election in four entire years. The platform--the words as to the party's goals, were debated with high seriousness, as if the Words mattered.
This election marks a time when platforms are irrelevant. The technocrats won, and we all speak newspeak now.
My topic, tonight, though, is the platforms which hinder people from just being human to one another.
I love the formulae which define life. The code words, the incantations, and the declarations all enchant me. I like the ones I don't even use. I love people who ask questions like "are you washed in the blood of the lamb" or who declare "blessed be".
I love to read theology, although sometimes it is, I admit entirely beyond me. Take tonight, for example. I've been reading this fellow Rudolf Otto, who wrote a book with the intriguing title "The Idea of the Holy". I am all about ideas of things.
He writes a lot about the "numinous"--the rational conception of the irrational ineffable. The structure is almost crytalline in my mind--as if the terms and ideas resulted from hours in the lab, playing with fractals (though, to be appropriately self-derogatory, it's actually just the work of a few moments' indifferently skilled browsing). But I must admit that no matter how much my conception of the holy is elevated by the lexicon Mr. Otto provides, I don't think that the sum and whole of it all puts a single cup of soup in the hands of any hungry child.
I wonder, sometimes, how often my life is filled with positions rather than actual actions. I can write one hundred planks on my personal platform in a good two hours.
But, really, the notion of the extraordinary is nothing like living the ordinary life extraordinarily well.
I'm not disparaging the complex effort to understand things.
I find myself a person who feels himself both extremely simple and extremely complex. I have in mind an upcoming post topic, for that matter, about how I sure am convoluted to be so darn free of whorls.
But lately I wonder if I do not try (ineffectually) to play the harpsichord, when it is the kazoo alone to which I admit any ability to play.
I like songs sung in unison. I like the feel of the sun on my closed eyelids on an August sunset day. I like it when people are kind to me, and talk to me, and I like to talk and be kind to people. Why bother with the extra hassle?
Today my radio told me about people who blew up old people on buses as a matter of dogma. I drove on the CF Hawn Freeway, back from a doctor's appointment in which his advice amounted to little more than "live right and eat healthy", and I passed a Church of Christ. I have no interest whatsoever in joining a Church of Christ, but I thought of their Sunday a capella hymns, and their refusal to discuss theology, because they imagine they don't have any.
Even the person without religion or theology has a religion and a theology, you know. It's a definitional thing. I'm bored of the articulated platforms of dogma. Even freethought, founded on the principle of dogma's rejection, has generated immense quantities of the stuff.
It's viscuous, this dogma stuff, though not nearly as tasty as maple syrup. I wish that instead of theories of the numinous one could just tap into some font of natural good things like a maple tree.
That's where the pop theologian Frederick Bailes comes in.He was a Hollywood religious science minister, decades ago.
He proposes that "there are powers available to man which far transcend those that the average person is using. Their names do not matter as much as their existence does". He proposes, in essence, that the natural order of things is that we all can access what we might otherwise call the supenatural--a set of infinite powers for good.
But I propose instead that a life of service to what matters transcends the need for some extra-sensory deliverance from the oppression of living. I suggest instead that what little good one can do one does while living with one's personal banality, and not in spite of it.
I think it's good to work out what one believes. I think that one's personal meaning, whether in a religion or its lack, whether in certainty or rational acceptance of doubt, is a good thing.
I think that sometimes it's tempting to hand someone a pamphlet,when they really need a kind word. It's tempting to
have a theory of art, rather than just exposing people to things worth seeing.
I'm not saying that we should all have none but the most basic beliefs. I treasure the kaleidoscope of opinions and religions and politics and views.
But sometimes I wonder if there aren't enough positions in life, and not enough actual actions in light of the true situations in life.
But even as I say that, it sounds like one more platform.
I'm pondering tonight how to move beyond ideas and positions, but I have not gotten past pondering yet.