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possibility

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Everything posted by possibility

  1. possibility

    I versus i

    I'm going to try and describe my perspective on the 'I' versus 'i' - not as two sides of the same coin, as Rom suggested, but more like the way we 'experience' the world - as a function of consciousness (I know, Rom - bear with me). With the human brain bombarded by so much data through our senses every second, our consciousness can process only a small part of it by comparison - even in those rare moments when our awareness is fully in the present, as opposed to pulling up data from memory, imagining possibilities or manipulating abstract concepts. So the mind manages a seamless awareness of the universe by focusing only on a small section at a time, and then generically renders the periphery with memory, knowledge, guesswork, systematic grouping and gross simplification. If we think of our awareness or consciousness as a camera lens on a satellite, then we can focus in as the 'i' (the experiencing self) or focus out towards an experience of the 'I' (the experiencing universe) - but not consciously experience both simultaneously, because in order to fully understand or experience the unfolding 'I' as it is, the mind must let go of a number of concepts as illusion, including language, thought, time, objective reality and the 'i'. When the mind or consciousness returns from this experience to regain its 'control' of language, meaning and a concept of 'self' (illusory though they may be), any communication of this subjective experience is going to be insufficient. This is because thinking and writing/talking about what is a holistic experience of the unfolding 'I' must rely on simultaneous recognition of subsets of the 'I' that have been compartmentalised by the mind or defined by language, but appear to overlap, coalesce, contradict and disappear in the holistic experience of the 'I'. As an example, the notion of 'decay' is irrelevant when you consider that there is no loss experienced in the unfolding 'I' - 'decay' is a term defined by the illusion that each subset exists independent of each other: that a decaying apple or a body in a casket, including the 'life' that was once evident and the , is not simply an illusory subset of the 'I' but 'something' or 'someone' 'existing' in its own right, leading to the thought-defined experience that the 'person' who has 'died' is lost and their body decaying, instead of 'living' eternally as a subset of the unfolding 'I' that exists as a 'person' only in the communication of our shared subjective experience.... The 'I' that is conceived as I write this - that each 'i' conceives mentally - is also incomplete in that the subjective experiences we each have of the universe (including our first hand and second hand knowledge or understanding), are limited by the 'i'. We can imagine or speculate on the experiences of others based on the information we currently have, but even the most observant, imaginative and empathic human being cannot fully experience the pinpoint focus of every 'i' that has ever experienced the universe. And so it helps me, at least, to recognise that a complete awareness of the 'I' remains beyond the 'i', but its potentiality exists in every interaction with the universe - that I can approach a more complete and accurate awareness of the 'I' through my connection with others, my attempts to understand their subjective experiences and my recognition that, within that diversity from my own experiences, lies the experience of the 'I' that is missing from my own.
  2. possibility

    How We Form Beliefs

    Sorry, Rom - I don't believe in summaries How did I form a belief that Jesus was born of a virgin? By trusting the source (parents, teachers, clergy, books, etc). I had an almost cloistered childhood - 'beliefs' were synonymous with facts. How did I lose that belief? By holding it up to logic and knowledge. I wouldn't at first - instead I tucked it away unchallenged for years, safeguarded as a connection to my family and culture. This is imperfectly simplified, but I think losing a belief is a conscious action to reject information that was previously trusted - it doesn't just happen when you're exposed to accurate and conflicting information. The mind is surprisingly adept at holding conflicting ideas safely apart from each other...one tied to logic and the other to emotion, for instance.
  3. possibility

    I versus i

    Of course, if they're all blind....
  4. possibility

    I versus i

    No problem, Rom. I had gone back to an interfaith site recently, and it struck me how well most posters here negotiate differences in beliefs by comparison. I felt I needed to say so. As for the analogy, you assume that one has an 'elephant' in one's experience to simply name and have everyone go "Hey, yeah - you're right - it IS an elephant, isn't it?" I don't know if this is the case here. Perhaps if he swings one arm in front of his face and makes trumpet noises, someone else might get a clearer picture of what he's saying. Sometimes precision of language can be more of a hindrance than a help. When you achieve a recognition of the subjective experience that lies behind the words, that's when you get mutual understanding. Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly enjoying the discussion.
  5. possibility

    I versus i

    Joseph, thormas and Rom, I'm reminded of the blind men surrounding the elephant. Rather than comparing and discarding different positions in search of the one truth, you at least recognise that we're attempting to integrate limited, sometimes contradictory and/or overlapping subjective experiences - communicated from different positions - into one holistic understanding. If what at first thought couldn't possibly be flat, broad and solid as well as long, cylindrical and hollow can eventually be conceived of as two limited experiences of one large elephant, then there is certainly hope for these discussions yet... In the meantime, you have all provided plenty of food for thought, and the fact that I more or less agree with so much of what each of you have said at any one time is not only rather confusing for me, but also suggests to me that, yes - you are perhaps not far apart at all. Certainly much closer than those blind men... Cheers
  6. possibility

    Religion - Positive or Negative

    Agreed. I think also the idea or promise that pain and suffering can somehow be averted through religion, whether that promise is for this life or an afterlife, has been just as damaging. Religion has the potential to divide or to unite and connect us. I sometimes think the more solid, definitive or concrete a religion appears, the weaker its ability to unite and the more it divides us.
  7. possibility

    Evolution and Original Sin

    Fair enough, Paul. I hope you get some interest, although it seems to me as if you're hoping for someone who takes Genesis 1 and 2 as figurative, but then Genesis 3 as literal...?
  8. possibility

    Evolution and Original Sin

    Hi Paul The story of Adam & Eve and its relation to sin has intrigued me, particularly since the idea of 'original sin' is not actually mentioned in Genesis at all. Everyone focuses on the eating of the fruit, and as a catholic it was never clear to me what the 'original sin' was. Was it disobedience, eating the fruit, listening to the serpent, recognising their nakedness, being ashamed of nakedness or hiding from God? Below are some of my thoughts... As far as I can see, the story of Adam & Eve marks that turning point in evolution when humans became humans instead of just another animal. In looking at the tree of 'the knowledge of good and evil', what did they gain in terms of knowledge by eating from it? Defining knowledge as 'an awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation', what Adam & Eve gained in particular was an awareness that they were naked. This is a deeper perception or awareness of the world - not of 'good' and 'evil', but of 'ourselves' as active participants in life. Being naked in front of someone else is the most vulnerable a person could ever be. No barriers, no shield, no interface, no pretence. And no weapons, either. Nakedness exposes us to every potential danger that we know: from cold and pain to assault, criticism and rejection. When we are naked, we have nothing to help us deflect or absorb the injury - we must bear it all, physically and emotionally. In evolution, we know that humans are just like other animals in most respects. When an animal senses danger, it responds instinctively by preparing to fight or to flee. But an animal is aware of danger only as a stimulus. It has no concept of the participating self, so it cannot be afraid, and therefore it has no awareness of good or evil. Like the serpent, all it knows is what is seen, felt, tasted, heard, etc. in relation to the response of its physiology. So the serpent also encourages Eve to respond according to her physiology: her instincts to survive and to bring her specific biological system to dominance. In eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve acquire the knowledge or awareness of themselves interacting with life. By knowing ourselves to be participating in each interaction, we are no longer confined to 'fight or flee' in response to threatening stimuli - we can also apply change to ourselves. Covering the body with fig leaves is different to a chameleon who changes colour to hide from predators. We are able to learn and adapt how we interact with life in a way that changes how life interacts with us. And even though it has so many other, much more productive applications, we mostly apply it to try and protect our vulnerable, naked selves from potential danger. An awareness of ourselves participating in this interaction of life brings with it an awareness of our vulnerability, which results in fear of what could undermine our ability to survive, to procreate or to bring benefit to ourselves and our kin, our kind. This fear encourages us to create barriers and shields - to close ourselves off from interacting with life - and prevents us from seeking the awareness, knowledge and understanding we need to reach our potential. Fear also encourages us to classify everything around us on a sliding scale of good and evil. This is for our own protection, of course. The difference between our knowledge of good and evil, and this idea of God's knowledge, is one of perspective. God sees His creation in its entirety, is aware of every tiny part of it and the role each part plays in perpetuating the whole and maintaining a perfect balance. Everything He sees is 'good', because He knows exactly how everything works and interacts with each other to benefit the whole, not just at this moment but into eternity. There is nothing here that has the potential to destroy life when viewed as a universal whole. Adam's perspective of God's creation is significantly limited in comparison. He has no idea how anything works. All he knows are the names he has given to everything, and what he has experienced so far - and that isn't much. He has barely grasped the concept of a day and night, let alone a million years. So the knowledge of good and evil that he acquires is equally limited. What Adam sees as 'good' is anything that is pleasing to him, such as beauty and taste, or that offers direct or indirect benefit to him-self. What he sees as 'not good' or 'evil', therefore, would be anything that is potentially harmful to himself. So natural disasters would be evil, as are any animals that are dangerous to humans, such as snakes, sharks and spiders. The first to make Adam's list of evil, however, is the first thing he notices with this new awareness: his own nakedness. After all, what could potentially be more harmful to Adam than a recognition of his own vulnerability? And the most evil of all beings is the serpent, without whom he would still be in the Garden of Eden. Women, other humans and animals are potentially evil, too - but they can also be beneficial. Even now, with many thousands of years experiencing life and the universe, we classify 'evil' or 'wickedness' as anything that intentionally sets out to be harmful towards, or else indirectly or potentially threatens the 'protected' status of, me or mine - depending on how we happen to define 'me or mine' at the time. Paedophiles and serial killers are considered increasingly more wicked or evil the closer they get to those we seek to protect, and so are weapons in the hands of strangers, devastating earthquakes or tsunamis, illicit drugs and anyone with a strong ideology that is different to our own.
  9. possibility

    How We Form Beliefs

    I don't think it sounds silly at all, Paul. I still feel the occasional urge to 'talk to God', before reminding myself that I no longer believe there is anyone listening. Romansh, I can relate to that sense of belonging, of community, that encourages us to appear to 'live out' beliefs that are not our own, without consciously thinking "does this fit with what I believe?" When confronted with the conflict on a conscious level, though, it's hard to go back to that disconnect. You feel like you're not being true to yourself - living a lie, almost. But in the moment, it's surprisingly easy to keep what we think or believe from interfering with what we say or do or how we act. I hope she has since found a community, and didn't feel that particular loss too deeply. We build lots of 'walls' that appear to compartmentalise our conscious awareness of our own beliefs, words and actions - it's what enables people to cheat and lie, I guess. Denial is a big part of this internal sense of disconnect. The 'fear' I mentioned, Thormas, was not so much a conscious fear of harm, hatred or ostracism, but a need to hold onto the comfort and safety of a solid, known world that made sense - rather than tear down apparent walls that I can't get back. I chose to avoid the risk of losing that sense of connection to my culture and family by closing off any thought of beliefs that might compromise it. I could be conscious of my original beliefs in connection to my family, and conscious of the logic that would ultimately destroy those beliefs - but it was like there was a wall separating them - I couldn't or wouldn't be conscious of both at once. I am still re-routing the connection to my mother in particular, now that I no longer entertain those beliefs. I occasionally sense the gap in our relationship where that connection used to be - but it is what it is, and I know dwelling on that particular area of 'disconnect' will only spoil the connection we do have. Like a wound, it's a little tender in that area on both sides, but I'm making repairs bit by bit - building a new appreciation for each other's sense of God.
  10. possibility

    How We Form Beliefs

    Thanks Paul - I think in order to feel betrayed, I would have had to attribute the formation of my beliefs to others. But these are my experiences and how my mind has processed them that have formed these beliefs and subsequently how I have lived them, just as my parents' or teachers' words and actions are guided by their beliefs, which are in turn formed by their experiences, and so on, until blame becomes irrelevant. At the time, I wanted to crawl back into that worldview where I was able to ignore or dismiss the logic as a lack of faith, to feel the comfort of being surrounded by like-minded believers - but I looked around and wondered how many others were simply rattling off the sounds without thinking about what they were saying, or if they ever had a chance to 'live out' these beliefs, or were they just there, rattling around unchallenged in their mind...
  11. possibility

    How We Form Beliefs

    I'm happy to take it back to the original question, although I am interested in where thormas is headed with the creator-created discussion, because I think he's missed my point somewhat, as the decay, like the separation of creator and created, is merely perception - it's only 'decay' because of the way we 'believe' the system operates. While I am unable to put into words how this has changed for me, I can say that I no longer believe that the word 'decay' fits my understanding of what is happening. But let's humour Romansh and go back to the original topic... I once 'believed' that Jesus was born of a virgin. Born into a catholic family, this particular belief was perceived in my mind as a 'fact' - in much the same way as I also believed that the earth was a spheroid: I 'knew', because I relied on and trusted the data or information I had experienced, because I relied on and trusted the source: my parents, teachers, parish priest, church leaders, and the books, documentaries, etc that I was exposed to. Anyone who said differently was distant enough to be disregarded or distrusted - no reliable source directly challenged either belief, and I never felt the need to search. I was secure in my world. After 12 years of catholic schooling and very little exposure to alternative religious beliefs, it wasn't until I reached university that I had any thought that what I believed might be a 'belief' as opposed to a fact. People I began to care about or learned to trust as a source of information made conflicting - and convincing - arguments, and previous sources were gradually found less reliable or less informed by comparison. But I am non-confrontational by nature (and nurture), so for the most part I avoided processing this conflicting data, and focused only on thinking about or discussing those beliefs that were discussed by my social circle...for twenty years. I believed 'A', received new information, but then avoided the need to investigate, question or wrestle with that new information. In hindsight, I was afraid - I had become very good at avoiding conflict, both inside and out. 'Never discuss religion or politics' worked well for me for many years. I stopped going to church, and my mother, probably afraid to face the possibility that her eldest daughter may have lost the faith, and unable to make a strong argument herself, never pushed the issue. Because I avoided the need to articulate or even think about my religious beliefs, it's hard to say what they were at that stage - because I never had to 'say'. When pressed, my 'belief' would depend on the audience - if I'm being honest. I think fear can play a big part in the formation of our beliefs. I could say that I 'lost' my belief when I stopped going to church, but in truth I simply avoided it. I don't know if we lose a belief until we are asked to 'live out' that belief in word or deed, and find that we can no longer do so. I remember sitting in church a few years ago and starting to mindlessly rattle off the creed, when I realised that I no longer believed the words. It was a jarring experience for me - I remember feeling a distinct sense of loss.
  12. possibility

    How We Form Beliefs

    But aren't you still separating the creator and created? You observe 'decay' because you perceive the individual body, for instance, as a closed system. But if created is the same as creator, then the body you observe is really an inseparable part of a much larger, interconnected system of energy which is not subject to decay. Pardon me for piping in - I have been reading along with great interest.
  13. possibility

    Free Will

    Tough one. I think our language is ill equipped to define what may exist in the universe that is independent of physics and chemistry. So I'm going to ramble for a bit, if you'll indulge me, because I can't deny that there is something... We often refer to it as 'something else', something undefined, unexplained, strange or surreal, a sensation, a gut feeling, a sense we can't put into words. We struggle to observe it, measure it or quantify it objectively, and often dismiss it because it exists only within the subjective experience itself, and is changed by the act of observation or measurement. Perhaps it is that 'wave of potentiality' inherent in each particle, oscillating continually in spaces between molecules, between elements of matter, between life forms and objects. Perhaps it is 'life' in action. We tend to think of the universe in terms of subjective experiences that we can share with others. If I experience something, I know it is real only if that experience is verified by others. The more people I can share it with, the more real it seems. If others can't relate to what I communicate then they doubt the experience, and I begin to wonder myself if I really experienced it at all. This is the basis of science. The key is communication. If I see a flash of light move briefly across the sky at night and disappear, then I turn to others around me and ask "Did you see that?" "See what?" "That bright flash moving across the sky." "Where?" "Over there, above that clump of trees." "When?" "Just a second ago." "Oh - no, I was looking at my phone." "Oh." Then someone else speaks up. "I thought I saw something, too." "You did?" "There was a flash out of the corner of my eye. In that direction." "Yes! It was moving down like this, and then it disappeared." "What was it?" "Maybe it was a meteor?" "Probably. It makes sense." The flash of light could very well have been a meteor, or it could have been something else. But it is an experience successfully shared through communication, and that makes it 'real'. But sometimes we respond to something in our subjective experience that we fail to share or verify convincingly with others. David Eggers' novel The Circle illustrates this purely subjective element of experience, and its rapidly decreasing importance in a world that relies more and more on sharable data. A crucial turning point in the novel comes when the main character must justify her decision to paddle on the river alone, without sharing the experience with others. She is unable to articulate the value of her unique experience, where she encountered a group of seals, and eventually accepts that her actions were dangerous, selfish and anti-social. For those of us who acknowledge the value of such an experience independent of any sharable data, her capitulation at this point is tragic. Society may be rapidly approaching that point where you can no longer trust your own experience - as if you didn't really go on that holiday or swim with dolphins unless you've posted a selfie on Instagram to prove it, and it's almost considered selfish or anti-social to not share everything. But the experience of paddling with seals or swimming with dolphins can't be fully expressed in a selfie, a tweet, or even a conversation. There is an element to the experience that can't be recorded or measured, satisfactorily explained with physics or chemistry, or proven to exist. Admittedly, you won't understand quite what I'm talking about unless you've perhaps swum with dolphins yourself, and even then you may not have been fully in the moment, or your own experience may have had a different focus. I'm think maybe what we insufficiently describe as the 'beauty' or the 'magic' of such an experience exists only in the space between molecules that are actively participating in that particular place and time. You're either conscious of it at the time, or you're not. And once the moment has passed, your memories (the retrievable data in your mind) can only point to the experience without recapturing it entirely. The subjective value of the experience leaves no trace in your physiology that can be reliably attributed to anything other than a 'feeling' or 'emotion', which we then reduce to chemistry and physics. But every possible method you have available to objectively share this subjective value with others feels incomplete, insufficient. Something isn't covered. And yet it is that 'something' more than anything measurable, that has changed you. Your view of the world is different, your decisions affected, even in some small way, by the experience. The closest you may get to sharing such an experience is through artistic expression: fine art, literature, dance, music, sculpture, theatre, film, etc. In this way you can attempt to fabricate a subjective experience for others that approximates your own. Looking at pictures of Michelangelo's David, for instance, or reading a book on the subject, is so far removed from the lived experience of standing at the statue's feet imagining a young man at the turning point of his career, embarking on a task that many 'greater men' had abandoned, using nothing but a questionable method of approach, his courage and his raw potential. The parallels are striking, and the result is nothing short of a masterpiece. The experience is as if thousands of years and thousands of miles were condensed into the truth of humanity carved into this block of stone, humanity in the process of conquering its sense of fragility and realising its own awesome potential. But many people don't share this experience at the feet of David. Does that make mine less credible? If I make decisions based on this experience, can it be reduced to chemistry or physics, or is there something else there? Is inspiration perhaps independent of physics or chemistry...?
  14. possibility

    Shades of Grey

    Thanks for clarifying, Paul. It seems like your definition of 'traditional' differs a little from Burl: it can mean regular, common or usual as well as conservative, orthodox or old-fashioned. This only points out that such sweeping generalisations as 'traditional Christianity' aren't doing either of you any favours. Personally I see the points you made as traditionalist teachings within Christianity, because these types of teachings also occur across other faiths, and undermine interfaith discussions as much as they damage progress within a particular religion. What we try to do with religion is to make the spiritual or eternal appear concrete and tangible - it seems to be the only way some people will accept it as real, because we have learned to distrust our subjective experience. Then we begin to define it, perhaps kind of manipulate it, even try to control it... But it's like trying to keep pure white smoke in a gilded cage. Eventually you're going to have to decide which is more important - the smoke or the cage? I like to keep the cage handy because it reminds me about the smoke when I have trouble seeing it. It also makes a handy talking point. But I'm focused very much on the smoke these days. I know the cage can't confine it - all I have is my subjective experience to share with others. Traditionalist teachings will insist: - that the smoke is only inside the cage; - that the cage makes the smoke precious; or - that the cage is the smoke. But all you really possess in the end is an empty cage.
  15. possibility

    Shades of Grey

    Yes, it does include it, but to 'run far away' from traditional Christianity as a whole is to deny the positive influences it has had on your life, alongside the negative. Perhaps this is an example of the 'black and white' thinking to which you were referring. My own Catholic upbringing has been a factor in a lot of problems I've experienced: my relationships, feelings of shame and guilt, my sexuality and the narrow view I've had of the world for the first twenty or thirty years of my life. It's easy for me to focus on these negative influences, and dismiss traditional Christianity as 'bad'. I did walk away from traditional Christianity from the age of 18-19, but I know now that it never left me because, like it or not, it's a fundamental part of who I am. I came to realise that I am fifty shades of grey - no purest white or darkest black, but everything in between. Any attempts to deny a part of who I am, to label it as 'bad', hide it in the darkness or reject it as something outside of myself only contributed to the shame and guilt that plagued my life, and prevented me from truly understanding (and accepting) myself. Letting go of black and white thinking has enabled me to accept my traditional Christian upbringing as a factor in many aspects of who I have become - from the issues I've had to work on, through to the values I want to pass on to my own children. My kids are now attending catholic school, were baptised and even decided for themselves to be confirmed in the church. With guidance from my own experiences and from my agnostic husband, they haven't been indoctrinated by any of the narrow-mindedness you've listed above, although they've certainly experienced it. But I see the positive influence this 'traditional' foundation has on their developing worldview, as they draw from all the myths and legends of their childhood alongside their experiences and expanding knowledge of the universe. And I have no regrets.
  16. possibility

    Shades of Grey

    FWIW - EL James actually handles the 'black and white' versus 'shades of grey' discussion you're referring to surprisingly well in her books, particularly in terms of power-play in relationships, good vs evil, strong vs weak, etc. It's a trashy bodice ripper because the illustration works best this way - and it challenges our ideas of good and bad fiction, morality, etc. in the process. Just saying.
  17. possibility

    Shades of Grey

    Hi Paul I agree that my own Catholic upbringing fits the points you've listed describing 'traditional Christianity', and I certainly wouldn't recommend this type of upbringing for those reasons. But - I also agree with Burl that there would be many others, particularly in the churches you listed, who would take exception to your denigration of 'traditional Christianity', because, while they identify with the term by their own definition (not yours), they weren't all raised with the same myopic attitude. I think an open-minded upbringing within a traditional christian church environment can be a good grounding for progressive Christianity as the children approach adolescence.
  18. possibility

    This Week's Lectionary

    Hi thormas, Thanks for your comments. You make a couple of excellent points. You're right, and I didn't explain myself very well. My use of 'given' comes from the text itself, and in hindsight I should have placed it in inverted commas, because I think the wording of the parable is aimed at the perspective of God that was prevalent at the time. I don't believe that God is up there dealing out pain and suffering to specific people according to their ability to handle it. From our adult point of view, yes, a child suffering cancer does seem particularly ill-equipped to deal with the devastation and possible death, and it certainly doesn't seem fair for their young shoulders to bear it. It's tragic and heartbreaking and collectively we should work towards eliminating this kind of suffering. But to question why a particular child has to suffer while others don't assumes that a healthy, long and pain free life is somehow a birthright. In every species of nature, some lives are short and painful while others are long and prosperous. Humans are no exception in this respect. Faith, prayer and even science cannot fully eliminate this terrible reality that is a part of the natural world. I do believe, however, that human beings in general have a capacity and potential far greater than most of us will ever realise. That is what we have been 'given' through evolution in terms of ability and responsibility. In many ways children facing terminal illness or permanent disability gain a clearer understanding of this capacity and potential than most adults, because they're not yet conditioned to expect certain things out of life. It seems we have to confront the limitations of our all too brief physical life before most of us ask ourselves what we're doing with this opportunity of human consciousness beyond 'go to school, grow up, get a job, get married, have kids, make money, buy a house, etc....' I'm not under the illusion that what Jesus is reported to have said in the Bible is what was actually said in real life, and I probably should have pointed that out. All we have is a collection of writings, each offering their own take on Jesus. And by 'the example Jesus set for us' I didn't mean what Jesus is reported to have said in the quote (although I can see how you could have read it that way), but the sum expression of his life and death. His example reminds us that much can be achieved in a short lifespan, without formal education, without money, prestige or power, and without avoiding pain, humiliation, suffering or death. I also agree that the quote from Luke doesn't always need to be taken quite as literally as I have. Interpreting 'life' as 'selfishness' seems to me like it's saying the same thing, only not as strongly. Being willing to give your life up for love is the ultimate in selflessness, but I think the message loses something in this interpretation. Why water it down to mean 'selfishness'? Why convince ourselves that Jesus didn't really mean our physical life, when the example he set for us to follow clearly shows that he did? Is it impossible when interpreted as our physical life, or just too frightening to contemplate - too much to ask? I'm not suggesting that we all go out and become human shields. But when faced with choices and opportunities in our own life where our discipleship - following Jesus - carries a risk, what risk is too great? Interpreting it as selfishness and NOT physical life gives us permission to stop well short of the potential that Jesus showed us, because of our fear. I'm not saying that's wrong - it's part of being human - but we can't pretend the shortfall isn't an issue to work on. I think what matters is not whether we overcome pain and suffering, oppression or poverty to live a long, healthy or prosperous life, but how we make use of the brief time we have as a conscious human being, including, despite or because of what we have to go through, to build on our collective awareness of this interconnection between all life and all matter that transcends the apparent limitations of nature. I think that's what Jesus taught. But, again, it's only my opinion.
  19. possibility

    This Week's Lectionary

    Sharing my thoughts, if you'll indulge me: Fear can prevent us from taking action to fulfill our life's potential. But God has given us in life only what we are capable of handling - both in ability and responsibility. We can spend so much of our lives 'buried' in the ground, protected from anything that might risk this precious, mortal life we have been given. We are so afraid of losing or squandering it that in the end we do so little with it. Jesus also said: So it isn't the physical mortality of my life that I should be holding onto - I think that's apparent in the example Jesus set for us. Instead I am called to use this brief existence and potential as 'me' in the fullest way possible to help bring about God's plan. Personally, I have found that it is only in connecting with others that I can have any real and lasting impact on life beyond my own physical existence. So I am starting there, and working on developing the courage to risk embarrassment, humiliation, all my physical possessions, my professional and personal reputation, and possibly even pain, torture and death in order to achieve what 'my' unique combination of abilities, interests and life experiences have laid out for me in terms of living as close to my understanding of Jesus' example as I can manage. It's a work in progress, I'll admit. In the end I believe it's only fear - that unique human awareness of a precious 'self' participating all too briefly in the cycle of life - that keeps me from risking 'my' one temporary, physical life (and its connections to loved ones and family) for the sake of a spiritual connection to all life. How valuable is my life? Was I given one thousand, two or five? Do I understand its full potential? Am I willing to use what was given to me to increase my impact on the eternity of life, and earn a place as 'partner' in this grand scheme? Or is it all I can manage to return this untapped potential, safe and sound, for another life to put to better use?
  20. possibility

    This Week's Lectionary

    Hi Burl, I've only recently found this forum, and this set of lectionaries. I enjoyed reading them from the beginning, including your attempts to stimulate discussion. Having recently grappled (unsuccessfully) with biblical hermeneutics, I was interested in exploring interpretations from a PC standpoint, and many of the readings are precisely the ones that both resonate with me and seem to be ignored or misinterpreted, in my opinion, by many Christians. But I noticed some changes occurred as I progressed through the thread. The discussions have ceased, and the bible version seems to have changed to a modern, 'easy-to-read' one that incorporates its own interpretation, rather than inviting one. Are both of these changes intentional or incidental? Are you still attempting to stimulate discussion, or is this serving a different purpose? I wonder if there are some further details you could offer in your introduction regarding what you hope to achieve here... Previous discussions seemed to get caught up in the idea of an 'original version' of the writings, and the assumption that when one offers their opinion they are trying to persuade others to agree with them. There is a tendency for those 'discussing' to attempt to provide some kind of solid, widely accepted basis for their opinion - but the problem is that no such solid ground exists in spirituality, so this seems a pointless exercise to me. All we can do is share our own subjective experience of the text (which in itself is an attempt to share subjective experience and form a basis of 'truth'), and recognise that there is no 'truth' or 'fact' - only an interconnection of a variety of experiences. Perhaps 'debate' is not how we should approach this particular thread, although I am not so naive as to think it can be avoided completely. I like BillM's idea: perhaps this is an opportunity to offer our personal interpretation of how a particular reading resonates with our own lives and our understanding of Progressive Christianity, of 'God' and of our experiences with traditional Christianity. Maybe we can enter discussions in this thread acknowledging that: - there is no 'correct' or 'original' wording or interpretation of scripture that can be agreed upon; - any interpretation of scripture is a personal one, based on the sum of our own personal experiences including what we think we know; - all we can offer to these discussions is opinion and personal experience, not facts, evidence or truth. Or perhaps I am being too naive...
  21. possibility

    Greetings from Oz

    Thank Paul. Nice to see a fellow West Aussie willing to talk about religion along these lines. I look forward to many discussions with you here.
  22. possibility

    Greetings from Oz

    I have been wandering around the Internet of late in search of a faith community. I was raised Catholic: church every Sunday, private schools, 'the pope is infallible', and 'ours is the one true church' type of Catholic. Then I went to university and discovered the rest of the world as well as my own mind. I soon stopped attending church, married an agnostic and put aside any thoughts of spirituality. I was never an atheist, but I lived almost entirely in the material world for the next two decades, before a series of life experiences led me to pick up the bible and read it, from the beginning, with an open mind and a quiet prayer seeking understanding. What I began to realise was that the bible communicates something very different to what I had been taught - and that it actually makes more sense. If God is eternal and unchanging, then all the many instances of change in the nature and personality of God as described in the bible must have been written in by the authors themselves. Suddenly the bible was just a series of very human writings, documenting a particular cultural group's valiant attempts to share their experience of 'God' as it developed over many centuries, and in doing so, try to make this spirituality appear more concrete than it is. These days I still consider myself to be 'Christian', in that I strive to follow the teachings and example of Jesus as a human being who connected so completely with this eternal and limitless source of life, wisdom, power and possibility. But I don't consider 'Jesus' to be the only way to this spiritual connection. I cannot say the creed, and I cannot assert what are widely proclaimed as the main tenets of Christianity: the divinity of Jesus, the concept of the trinity and the physical resurrection, among other things. I firmly believe that we've somehow got confused - we got lost somewhere between the death of Jesus and the creation of the bible, and then we called a halt to what, up to that point, was an ongoing journey of spiritual discovery and understanding. So I explored other faiths, as well as online forums and meeting points of Christians, atheists, ex-Christians, biblical hermeneutics, interfaith communities, etc. I found lots of argument and debate, lots of attempts to label my beliefs as agnostic atheist, Christian, New Thought, Jainist, etc. Then I read Spong's Twelve Points for Reform, and I have never felt more fully understood. That's why I'm here.
  23. possibility

    Any Sisters In Christ?

    Late to the party, here. Another mum of 2 kids, in my 40s. I'm here because I've been looking for a community that can discuss Christianity alongside biblical criticism and non-theistic concepts of spirituality, without resorting to name-calling and squabbles over semantics. In home and work life I encounter either Catholics or people unwilling to discuss religion in any depth at all. On most other forums I tend to get labels thrown at me like outfits I should 'try on', as if by refusing to be pigeonholed into a religious or ideological grouping, I've shown up either unacceptably under-dressed or naked. Still looking around at this stage, but so far I like what I'm reading here...
  24. possibility

    Deleting 'god'

    Great post, BillM. Words are only lines on a page, shapes or sounds without the interconnection of shared experience. Removing the word 'God' from our vocabulary only limits our ability to connect with the experiences of others, and therefore to communicate meaningfully with them. As long as we focus on the interconnection of experiences and not the words used, and recognise that when I write 'God' it could be different to your experience of the word or it could be the same, I think we open our minds to the possibility of understanding each other without necessarily having to agree on everything.
  25. possibility

    Living with Uncertainty

    I think wanting to know and having to know are not the same, thormas, so I don't believe you differ with BillM as much as you might think. In my opinion, wanting to know is part of who we are as humans. We have this amazing capacity to at least strive to understand the universe, as well as our own position in it, that is not available to other animals. There is a reason for that - and it's a potential that can't be fulfilled by being like the flowers or grass. In terms of having to know, I think the problem occurs when we close our minds to the possibility that our current understanding might be flawed, or that someone else with a different perspective might have something to teach us. We need to be prepared to continually return to that feeling of 'not knowing' in order to develop and evolve our understanding of the universe and God. It requires courage, facing that fear - not having to know all the time. My own quest to understand God led me to a point where I realised that there are no boundaries - all the limits we think are there don't actually exist. They are constructs of the human brain. Religion, nation, law, walls, words - nothing can protect me from someone or something that intends to do me harm, because there is always a way through. Everything in life relies on the interrelationship between elements of matter. That is my only protection. It was tempting at that point, and at many other points along my journey, to seek refuge in the words of those who claim to 'know' a different 'reality' with absolute certainty, and to perhaps ignore or close my mind to any evidence that might challenge that reality. But if I'm honest with myself, that isn't knowing. And I think I'd rather not know than pretend to know. When we use the word 'faith' outside of religion, we refer to the attitude employed in taking a journey away from what is known towards something else. Those who emigrate to another country talk about faith - trusting limited information that what they are heading towards and what they take with them are more important, more essential, or better, than what they leave behind. The whole process of 'taking a leap' requires one to leave solid ground. There is nothing solid or certain about faith. It is part of wanting to know - which involves both the acceptance that where we currently are is not knowing, and the hope that we are moving closer to knowing with each courageous leap we take away from the solid ground of pretending to know.
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