Friday, September 05, 2014

The Wave, The Particle, and the Holy Spirit

To many of us incorrigibly religious people, the fact of Presence is simply indisputable. We may, and do, argue all day about what exactly it is or isn't. We can be frustratingly vague or charmingly naive. (God is a free swerve of intention; God is an old man who sits on a cloud.) But to us God -- or Something -- is no more a proposition to be disputed than light is. If someone proposes to you that there is no such thing as light, you're perfectly willing to hear them out, but it's with a sort of indulgent tolerance. "All right, well, no such thing as 'light.' What do you call all of this, then?" And they point out that we can't see the light rays -- or particles, or wavicles, or whatever -- traveling from the lamp to the wall, and that we might very well be making them up, and we can see, yes, that's true, we might; but somehow the argument doesn't make as much of an impression on us as they think it should.

When all of our talking and thinking and feeling about moral life and ecstasy and affection has been phrased in terms of God, all our lives, and someone proposes that there is no such thing as God, it sounds like nonsense, as if they were proposing that none of the meaningful parts of our lives existed. Or it sounds like they are very horrible people indeed, if their lives have no moral or ecstatic or affectionate component to them. The truth, of course, is disappointingly bland. They just have different names for all these things, different ways of thinking about them. They try to do the right thing, they experience just as much awe, they love their kids just as much as we do. If there are fundamental philosophical contradictions in their point of view, well, there are fundamental philosophical contradictions in ours, too. My question is not so much: "are we right, or are they right?" -- but rather, "are we even disputing about anything?"

Well, except, of course, that people are murdering each other all over the globe according to the exact shades of the God color they wear. Really I think mostly they need to create a royal row to divert attention from their hand being in someone else's pocket, but the fact remains.

A sweet pale blue sky, and the leaves turning.

Oh, God, and such important things left undiscussed. That is the real problem. The things we aren't talking about.

9 comments:

Ruth Werner said...

Augh. This rips at my heart.

NT said...

Amen. If you don't mind me saying so.

Zhoen said...

Yeah, you know about me.

I see evidence for light.

Define 'god.'

Lori Witzel said...

"Oh, God, and such important things left undiscussed. That is the real problem. The things we aren't talking about." This bit took the post from wave to particle for me, left me quirking an eyebrow and then reflecting.

Dale said...

:-) Zhoen, that's always my line: "you tell me what you mean by 'God' and I'll tell you if I believe in it." But "God" isn't my own tradition's term, and I'm always wary of facile equivalences between religious tradition, so I think I'll pass on the invitation. It's obvious that we're often talking about the same things using very different terms, but there's also a lot of, what do the French call them? faux amis. Things that look the same but aren't.

christopher said...

The argument permits attachments to tag along and usually the wars are about the attachments rather than the proposed argument. Thus we can say it's really about power or money or oil and not be that wrong but the people in the trenches die for their God nonetheless. Or perhaps against the other guy's God Who must not win this one.

It seems far better to not argue.

I can go from Buddhist to some kind of monotheist thru panentheist to outright pantheist to atheist all in sixty seconds because I have been living with science, philosophy and religion in a serious vein for 48 years.

I do not imply mastery - not even in my music or my poetry.

Tom said...

I think the point about defining the indefinable, namely God, is why I feel close to some atheists; not joined but close....sometimes! It almost beggars belief that we can screwed up into knots over egost semantics when often the truth is staring us in the face.

I enjoyed this post, Dale.

rbarenblat said...

Presence everywhere. Yes.

am said...

On the darkest day
Light clear white seen
Sound of wind heard
Presence by her skin felt
Those mysterious gifts shared
No God and no Not-God either
And yes, yes, yes