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Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Current Page In The Spiritual Journal

I find that I struggle with blogging. Most of the time it feels as though my entries are contrived and brimming with intellectual contempt. I always have good intentions but the deliveries seem to always be forced and lacking; perhaps that is because such is the deeper spiritual life. I am finding that many of my core beliefs these days are much more existential than communicable, but I'll give it a shot here.

There is a school of theology called Apophatic theology. The function of this study is to speak in negative terms about what "God" is not. Most of the the western world centers on a Kataphatic approach to this which means that "God" is defined in certain terms of what is. In other words, most people are accustomed to defining God and life in terms of God being loving or life being difficult....God being all powerful or life being joyful.....

Apophatic approaches would look at things more in terms of what they are not.....rather than being inductive it is deductive. Rather than defining things by the obviousness of what is, there is more of an emphasis of what is not and the rest of the unknown is left for contemplative speculation.

I primarily use these terms because of a recent conversation with a friend of mine who is a self claimed Apophatic Mystic Christian. This does make for very fascinating discussion because the Apophatic method does seem a lot more fulfilling to the intellectual than the Kataphatic. Both approaches have their share of interesting nuances but the main difference is the approach; like varying types of art- a painter adds strokes and colours to create a picture while someone who works in stone to create a statue actually chisels away what is not needed. This is very akin to the differences between inductive and deductive logic.

Most people would tend to fall on either one side of the logic or the other. I find that where I am seems to be a mixture of the two. There are certain things about the "spiritual" realm that I find are easier to induce based on what is seen and other things that I end up deducing because of what is not seen. Most of either approach is based on naturalistic observation but I also still like to leave myself open to the unknown. However, being "open" doesn't necessarily mean that I'll seriously entertain just anything.

I am apophatic spiritually.

What I mean by that is that I am not the following- Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Rastafarian, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Satanic, Wiccan...etc.

I am not exclusively any of these for specific reasons pertaining to each of them....and yet in a way I am all of them in limited ways. Probably not, but again, this is a hard point to make.

I am coming to a state of understanding that perhaps religion isn't something that a person must find. I am starting to think that religion is something that may or may not find a person. Someone doesn't necessarily become a Jew or Christian....but rather maybe Judaism or Christianity becomes a person; that is to say that through experience, logic, a transcendent experience, doubt....a person takes a particular shape toward a certain way of thinking and then at a moment in time they may find that there is a religion to match.

I am sure that many, if not most, people would probably argue with this and that is fine. This is just how I see things right now.

Lately I am finding that the Eastern Traditions are becoming me, namely that of Zen Buddhism. Now, that is not to say that I am a Buddhist, but rather to say that it seems to be the philosophy that most closely fits the frame of thinking that I have developed on my own.

So what does this have to do with a talk with an old friend? The mentioning of the Apophatic approach seemed to have a timing like no other as I journeyed into the acquaintance with Buddhism and found very many similarities between the eastern traditions and the classical mysticism that was held to by many of the early Christian Church fathers that has been sadly lost in the western world.

An apophatic theologian does not define God in terms of what he/she/it is. The short description of the result is that of a mystical detached sense of wonder and awe. I find myself in a similar boat, except the Christian would turn that wonder and awe into worship and I just file it away somewhere else to just be thought about once in a while.

I suspect that "God" is so big of a ________ that mere human words, regardless of the complexity, are a naughty means of explanation of the divine. I know from my own previous experience that I once thought that I had a grasp of God simply because I could explain theories and attributes away...almost like I was His creator. I, like most other westerners, ultimately started to assume that one "experienced" God in direct correlation to the depth at which they could talk about Him. Eventually I realized that they were only words that had no certainty outside of empty dogma.

I recently stumbled across this quote from a hero of mine, Alan Watts-

...In other words, a person who is a fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about God and the nature of the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all.

The trap is the dogma, as I both do and don't have faith in my own system. Well, I guess ultimately there is nothing that really merits "faith." It is more a matter of whether or not my "reality" is real or just an illusion...but I don't know that anyone will ever know.

I am now starting to see all things as ONE. There is no ONE thing that is separate from everything else in our universe. "Good" is only a concept that we have that is relative to our definition of "evil." That will come as quite a shock to most people in a "civilized" society because of the immediate assumptions and implications that they will jump to....but just to think about it in terms of what happens in nature:

We don't call a spider evil because it catches flies in its web. We don't call a snake evil because it eats spiders.

We do, however, call a snake good because it eats spiders....but only in the sense as it is relative to us. The act of a thing eating spiders is good for the person who doesn't like spiders...but what about the snake? Is the snake still good if they don't like snakes either? Or is the snake evil for eating spiders to someone who enjoys spiders? We seldom think about these deeper implications. It is easier for most people to define the boundaries of acceptable things in their mind and then base the concept of evil on the opposite.

That might be all and well for most if they like limitation....but one really needs the other to survive.

The spider needs files and other bugs.
The snake needs spiders
The birds need snakes
The wild cats need birds
The jackyls need wild cats
The vultures need jackyls

This is just a brief and simple example of how everything is truly connected to everything else, but it is often we who separate things out into different classes in which they do not belong.

For me, right now, this current stage of enlightenment is unveiling that it is probably dualism that is the greatest of all "sins." It has many different manifestations; religiously, psychologically, sociologically, etc. Dualism leads to dangerous dichotamies for people. It makes people unhappy on their job, it makes a husband unhappy with his wife or could also lead one to suicide.

We like the scenarios of either/or....but I am now seeing that you can't have one without the other, ultimately.

Whether "God" exists and is what we think it is or not....I don't know. What I do know is that what can be seen, inducted or deducted, seems to point to all things being perfectly in harmony at all times with all other things in such a way that perhaps "God" has no need for appearance...

Or maybe part of the puzzle is that God's presence is actually his absense that is manifest in seeking him out; like the way Hindus explain this idea of God playing hide and seek with himself through people and things.

In any event many modern movies capture these ideas pretty well. One movie that comes to mind is The Matrix.

Neo doesn't think he's the one because of what the Oracle tells him, but Trinity reassures him that she only told him what he needed to hear. This can be like the so many times in our lives when differing versions of reality manifest even though it is all the same thing.

Neo finally bends the spoon when he realizes that there is no spoon and that he has to bend himself instead. This can be like calling something a problem or an opportunity when in reality it is just part of the path.

Neo has many "memories" of doing things in the past only to come to find out that those were only part of the Matrix. This resembles all of the different sources that we have telling us what to think, feel, buy and sell. Our ideas are often not our ideas but rather just impressions that others have made on us....even my writing this right now may be an example of that.

Neo gets shot and thinks that he's dead before he comes back to life. Often we may not be open to an enlightening moment until we are at our wit's end and have a moment of mental death. Too much worry weighs down and too much apathy makes us slothful; it is more the surprise of the moment that brings an awakening. Taking off the glasses for a blink and an eye rub can be the moment where two become one.

Although a dumb movie doesn't do the non-verbal justice it is at least a faint way of using the tangible to explain the intangible. And there is still a lot more to develop here, but this makes for a good start.

I have not become a Zen Buddhist, but I have certainly found the Zen philosophy very becoming of me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mr. Brightside

I love this cover...

I sit

Right now I sit....kind of working......but not, as I wait for a computer to finish updating so that I can then hit the road for my 2 hour trek back to the office to be followed by another 1/2 hour of unpacking and then off to my mother's house for the remainder of the week through the weekend with the rest of my family; we're gonna be snowed in, but not like my buddy Mr. Sanderson out in Salt Lake City who might be buried under 2 feet of the white stuff.

None of these are complaints, mind you. I absolutely love my job as it gives me fulfillment in 3 major areas- 1. I get to maintain my technical mind as I troubleshoot issues and design solutions 2. I get to interact with all types of people whom I believe in what they are doing and 3. I get to travel and do A LOT of driving which fulfills my desire for adventure on the open road.

Between yesterday and today I will have driven a total of around 650 miles for work. I am greatly enjoying the open road and a loaded iPod.

So we are fixin' to get a lot of snow and ice here in the next day or so...makes me wonder if I will be able to even get to work tomorrow or Thursday...I don't care what people say it's Friday I'm in love....oh, sorry not that song.

Last night I did stop in Omaha on my way home and had a nice chat with an old college professor of mine about his journey into mystical Christian spirituality. I am on my own different mystical journey right now but it is very refreshing to know that I am not the only one who feels my struggles with various issues. I don't think there is anything wrong with mysticism as long as one understands that being a mystic automatically puts onesself into a class that will be questioned.

My family has been sick. I hope that they all get better. This is the worst time of year for it because everyone is out and about in all sorts of ways either being sick or carrying parasites with them all through the stores and hills and valleys.

Sometime when I am feeling a little more mentally rested I will do an elaborate post on my current state of enlightenment. For now I have to go check to see how that computer is doing...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

No Picture

I didn't care enough to see just how long it has been since my last post but I do know that it has been quite a while.

So, what has been happening with me and mine?

The 8 month old is now crawling and spending a good amount of time on his feet exploring what it is to stand. He is such a happy boy that it just makes us want to have more...but we know that every child is different so we can't be naive enough to believe that the next one will be just like the last.

The 4 year old is now also certainly developing more in his personality. He is anxious about school and actually does very well for his age. He has his own interest in getting involved, partly because he sees older sister doing it and partly because he likes his own personal challenge. He can be a challenge but more often than not, when I look into his eyes I can only imagine that I am seeing myself when I was younger. I know that visually there are enough resemblances to know for sure that we are of the same tree but there is also just as much personality to reflect it as well.

The 6 year old is getting ever so older and bigger each day. She is progressing in school. Sometimes it seems like a little bit more of a challenge with her but she eventually breaks through and climbs to a new level. Her math is coming along really well. What she may take a while to learn really sticks once it is in her mind. She is also reading at a higher level now than she was even a few months ago. She is also so very helpful with the baby. She loves to carry him around and play with him. She is a big help.

Right now as I sit here typing this little entry the older 2 kids are watching Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears A Who. I am really beginning to see that the Dr. is probably more of a genius than I ever gave credit to. I am probably not the first to acknowledge this though.

My job is coming along very swimmingly. I can finally say for the first time in a very long time that, even after almost 6 months, I love my job. I get to do a fair amount of travel which is very good for me in more ways than one. Let me count some of the ways:

I love to drive
I love to see differing terrain
I get a chance to distance myself from certain office politics
Time to think
Different schedules each week
Meeting a lot of different people
Working with my hands
Using my mind extensively for problem solving and future planning

I really feel fortunate that I am in a rare position to enjoy my job as much as I do. I know that most people dread going to work each day. I might have trouble getting up each morning but it is usually just because I have been up too late the night before. When I get to work and start in for the day I start to feel energized. [I know my good friend Gary Nebeker would appreciate that aspect]

Speaking of getting energized I have also gotten a formal membership at a fitness center. Anytime Fitness is now my sanctuary of physical activity. My goal is going to be to try and make it there 6 days a week, but even if I only make it 4 or 5 I will be happy.

Christmas is now breathing down our necks. I really like this holiday less and less each year.

From a religious standpoint it is not needed. A minority of Americans follow the Christian tradition of celebrating this day as Jesus' birthday. This is not a mandate that is found in their Bible; it is a cultural choice, but it is treated as though it is sacred. Perhaps it is sacred to the observer but it is only a personal sanctification of the day.

From a worldly standpoint it is silly. People decide that once a year they need to spend tons of money to arbitrarily buy things for people that they don't need. It is as much a commercial holiday than anything else, like Mother's or Father's Day. The day only has meaning because certain people give it meaning. I am thankful to have the day off work but I don't feel as though I really need it.

It snowed again today. Not much but yet another subtle reminder that the cold season is now fully here and there are no signs of it melting away any time soon.

So much for a lame post today; or did I achieve my goal?