A Symbol of Serenity

I purchased a Buddha the other day; a concrete yard sculpture, a fairly generic cast form, the sort of thing one finds at garden stores next to the gnomes and angels. Being concrete the buddha was pretty heavy to move, it required two workers to lift it into my van and a couple of hours sweat on my part to move it to the location near the pond in my backyard where I’d chosen to place it.

Now, as I stand back and view this sculpture situated as it is amid the verdancy of the surrounding ferns, hostas, Maple canopy and water surface it seems to emanate a significance greater than its generic origin would suggest; maybe it’s massive weight contributes psychologically to the concrete Buddha’s inflated worth, but, even so, it conveys a sense of the serene that I’m thinking will be helpful as I contemplate the big questions from the comfort of a lounge chair on my back deck.

Realizing the Sublime

The diminutive tribal people indigenous to the primal forests of equatorial Africa represent an autonomous culture able to thrive in a most prohibitive environment. Survival means understanding the flora and fauna, what’s edible and what has medicinal applications since the extremely dense jungle in which they live is rife with tropical diseases and man-eating predators. To thrive, tribal identity requires a philosophy of sanctity of group rather than individuality. To exist in such a place means finding the sublime in the terrible. They must become one with their sacred world.

Lessons to be learned here, I think, about how to nurture and support a life-providing environment.

Intellectual Energy

I’ve been thinking lately about how one uses or wastes intellectual energy over the course of even one day. Would that IE be characterized as merely mental distraction? Allowing oneself to become bored, to slovenly slide into mundane existence would likely result in mental sludge, frivolous, insignificant, aimless meanderings; social, relational or escapist distractions of no redeeming worth far removed from any sort of constructive contemplation.

When, on the other hand one might find her way through reading, study or acute observation to realms of enlightening insight; finding concepts, building ideas with the potential to reveal applications useful in all sorts of ways, or, at the very least, result in something tangible.

As I think about it, there’s no doubt I waste intellectual energy every day; how long has it taken me to put together these three paragraphs? And can I honestly say any of my precious IE has been well used? At least I can say I produced a product I suppose.

contemplating eternal recurrence

Trickster Gods

I’ve been thinking, lately, about the trickster gods polytheistic religions have conjured or otherwise discovered among their myriad deities. Tricksters like the Nordic Loki and Kokopelli, God of the indigenous tribes of the desert southwest, are known to be instigators of chaos, are blamed when life’s routines are interrupted or seen as tempters when one strays from the straight and narrow. Deceit, betrayal and treachery are the domains of the tricksters.

In contrast the monotheistic religions, who, of course, do have Satan to blame when things go awry, have the dilemma of reconciling their infallible, all-powerful Deity with the idea He would allow evil to occur, that He is unable to thwart the Satanic demons mortals struggle with.

On the one hand we have the pagans, who, keeping things simple, perform rites to solicit favor from gods they recognized as having faults as well as attributes, who may or may not perform as desired. On the other hand, the intellectual discrepancies monotheists are continually confronted with in order to sustain faith in an Infallible God must consistently be addressed.

When it comes down to it, though, I guess the real issue isn’t about specifics of belief but the mystery of belief in the unknown itself.

Knowing the Ineffable

I’ve been reading about the religious concept ’Via Negativa’, the idea that the only way to really know God is to obliterate any association one might imagine about a supreme being with tangible realities like personhood, embodiment, even singularity, that to truly grasp the enormity of the concept of an Ineffable Other is to eliminate the limitations imposed by naming or envisioning being.

I guess the idea is, that to sense the presence of the Un-nameable, Non-entity in one’s surrounding environment and personal interactions every waking moment is to achieve true spiritual enlightenment.

I must say such an idea is intriguing and not totally unfamiliar sensing as I do, well, maybe not in every waking moment, but occasionally, something more in my surroundings and personal relationships than mere physical or psychic reality would suggest.

It’s good, I think, to have alternate ways to contemplate a personal spirituality beyond the limitations of conventional religion.

How to Live Authentically

Some twentieth century thinkers spent considerable time trying to understand what, exactly, one can know about the world. They thought that the fundamental basis upon which our knowledge of the world rests is suspect, based, as it is, on imagined truths originating from cultural orientations that define reality in terms of conceptual dualisms. Human inclination was to seek a secure ground of being in God or, perhaps, science that could provide reliable answers in dark times of stress and desperation. Such grounding led to unverifiable premises that produced false assumptions about the nature of the world.

A number of these deep thinkers dismissed the reliance on the eternal and infinite as being outside the realm of finite human understanding. All that can be known for certain, they thought, are the facts that exist in this world. These guys thought a primordial ground of being as disclosed through conventional world views was not to be found. An honest search would instead reveal an abyss, a nothingness beneath the cultural veneer. To live an authentic life, they believed, one must man-up, face uncertainty, tempt fate and step away from the safety of familiarity.

Other philosophers of the time thought a subjective ground of being could be found. Realizing the freedom to do what one chose depended upon a spiritual component to lift such a person beyond causal necessity. This ground of being will be personal and dependent on a belief in an existence beyond factual knowledge.

I have to say I admire these great thinkers living as they did through difficult times, unstable finances and psychological angst, who spend so much time and energy pursing ideas that provide us all the opportunity to at least contemplate how we can live our lives authentically.

The Psychology of Isolation

Experiencing, as I am, the self-imposed (if not state mandated) isolation brought about by the invasion of the insidious virus, I think a lot about traveling. The desire to seek unfamiliar environs is something I’ve always known but now the desire is stronger than ever. And it appears I’m not alone in wanting to be some where else these days. I understand recreational equipment is flying off the shelves and out the doors and I know campground reservation are hard to come by. It seems there’s a strong psychological need to escape what feels a bit like viral entrapment.

I suppose a lot of our motivation to get away has to do with finding alternatives to our engrained daily routines. So much of what we’re used to doing has been interrupted: social interactions, museum visits, shopping excursions, sporting events are either no longer possibilities or complicated by the need to social distance and wear masks. Now we face a prolonged societal shut-down due to the politicization of the issue, one faction convinced on the advice of self-interested parties the danger is overblown, the other side heeding the medical communities advice to mask-up, curtail the spread.

Being free to follow one’s political intuitions does have it’s downside sometimes, I guess.

 

 

Great Mysteries

I’ve been reading lately about the difficulties purveyors of religious faith have had over the centuries reasoning about the nature of the supernatural. Take early Christianity. The concept of a singular all-mighty deity the early Christians inherited from their Hebrew forebears had to be reconciled with the son as well as the Holy Spirit. How, after all, can three be one. The controversy roiled for centuries, I guess, until Augustine of Hippo settled the issue. God is one, he said, but it exists in three forms and if you find this idea contradictory, if it defies reason, then, as a believer get over it, accept it as a mystery and move on.

I guess there’s something to be said for embracing mystery; the existent unknown, if you think about it, never gets old, keeps one wondering about something that can never be fully grasped; curiosity, without a doubt, can be compelling. Which, I bet, is a significant reason so many people maintain a religious faith, not wanting to deny the existence of something mystical defined as all-powerful.

Of course, in order to be reasonably functional in one’s daily life in the real world the working admonition the devout practitioner pretty much must accept is: Just don’t overthink it.

 

Cancel Culture for Adults

I’ve been coming across some new terms in my readings lately that seem to indicate a bit of cultural shift or maybe potential social upheaval in the ways we all relate to each other. The term ‘woke’, I find, suggests the importance of paying closer attention to sexist or racial slights that have existed for a long time and need to be called out. These slights or ‘micro-aggressions’ marginalize minority groups and really have no place, I totally agree, in public discourse.

I’m just wondering, if, perhaps, some of us are spending too much time, looking too hard for slights and questionable behaviors , and are, thereby, bordering on adherence to ‘safetyism’ in which emotional reasoning distorts what reality actually offers, because now, I read, the paintings of Paul Gauguin, the 19th century French painter are being petitioned for museum removal because of the artist’s dalliances with underage girls during his years in Tahiti.

Considering the personal behaviors of some of the other art world notables, Leonardo and Michelangelo among them, I fear the cancel culture, given free reign, could erase a whole lot of the history of western civilization.

The Cancel Culture

I’ve been reading about a phenomenon occurring within the social milieu of high school students. It appears there’s a censorial application called ‘cancelling’ that groups impose upon those they find to be politically incorrect (you, know, from a high school perspective), out of sync or in some way offensive to the group. The cancelled individual becomes persona non grata, looses any sort of identity or recognition and is ignored as non-existent, which, I suspect, among socially needy adolescents may very well be devastating.

I can kind of understand negative reaction to someone spouting racist, sexist or misogynistic commentary among their peers, those whom the offender might wish to befriend. But it seems at some point confrontation is warranted. An attempt, maybe, to understand the offender’s point of view or at the very least informing him/her that his/her comments are upsetting and inappropriate, whereby an understanding may be reached, a consolidation of views that will reasonably determine the potential or lack thereof for future friendship.

Maybe the social milieu of politicized adults could benefit from similar interventions.