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Where Do You Stand?


Mike
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I'm not sure if this idea better fits "discussion" or "survey". I thought it might be meaningful to inquire of everyone what they tend to take as the 'basis' of their faith and way of life. What is your reality? What is most important to you? On what beliefs, if any, are you 'immovable'? As progressives, I see that we tend to be post-modern, pluralistic, and poetic. That's fine. But I also think that it's natural as one progresses through life on a spiritual path that some things become settled, hopefully in a very natural and open way, but settled nonetheless.These 'settled things', then, become formative of how we answer the questions, 'What is reality?', 'What is the meaning of my life?', 'How ought I to live?'

 

Why 'settle' at all? Perhaps some feel no need to, but I think generally people can't live in the constant and prolonged suspension of a 'metaphysical orientation'. 'Man shall not live by bread alone'. Now, I use this word 'settle' because it does conjure an image of something natural, the mind can be stirred up like dust but at some point it needs to rest, to discover what it means what it says 'truth', to decide what is most real about itself.

 

 

In my own life I've come to answer such questions by means of affirming and rejecting certain ideas. That is, I've sided with some things and not others. Most far reaching was my affirmation of the realities of mind and subjectivity, which equates to a rejection of materialism. This rejection was done for philosophical reasons that range from metaphysics to ethics.

 

I also came to accept a nondual understanding of knowledge and reality, as informed by Buddhist philosophy. This has continued to shape the contours of my thinking in big and small ways. All this means that for the questions that became important for me, the alternatives did not speak to me with adequacy. And I say all this by way of pointing out that in effect I have 'taken a stand' on some issues that have been of greatest importance to me, even though I am quite postmodern in my disposition.

 

So, which questions have attracted you and toward which answers do you gravitate? Where have you found your footing?

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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By the way, just to clarify, I'm not looking for this to be a debate between people's respective "stands". This is meant to be more of a survey in intent, just to learn from each other about where we are all coming from.

 

Peace.

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Mike,

 

That's a tough one for me as i don't think that hard. :) Neither am i as well read as most here. I am more one for personal experience, but i'll give it a shot. I guess one could say the following is settled and from these i am no doubt taking leanings in my beliefs as they come . Each has come from subjective experience that make it "truth" or settled for me. In as simple but perhaps inadequate words as i can put.....

 

I Joseph am a phenomena that is temporal but inseparable from my source which i call God and is subjectively experienced as profound peace and home.

I Joseph am living in a subjective world , and I can only subjectively experience it as such.

God is beyond description, formless and can be subjectively experienced in form as the essence of form. God is everywhere because in the formless there is nowhere. Distance is an illusion of thought as Mind is without locality and the only separation there can be between any of us is in thought. In other words, there is only One that appears as many.

In the world of form there are worlds i cannot myself number but i am comfortable in many of them. Each it seems having its own reality. Whether they are more or less real than this world, i cannot say.

 

None of this was settled from philosophical thought that i am aware of. The above alone is my footing. With this basis, love, forgiveness, social justice and mercy as teachings of Jesus seem to fit well because whatever one is doing to the perceived other in reality one is doing to oneself. The rest is all philosophical dust religion and thought. Never did drugs nor do i take medication including aspirin. However, to be totally honest i did once take a drag of mirajuana in the 60's and i did inhale it :lol: but i didn't like it :D because i worked as a computer technician and couldn't read the schematics coherently under the influence.

 

Is that what you are looking for Mike? (the part before the inhale part) :D Or did i misunderstand what you where looking for?

 

Joseph

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That’s a good question, Mike, and may be helpful in giving us snapshots of each other. But before I offer my answer, I have to make a couple of caveats. The first is that saying where I stand is like taking a photograph of a cross-country runner. The photo doesn’t show his whole journey, only where he is at one point in time. Similarly, while there are some things that I hold enough to say that they are firm convictions, I think of myself as on a journey of exploration. This is in contrast to my former way of being a Christian where, indeed, I saw my faith as “taking a stand” and never moving on things. Therefore, I’m always in flux. My second caveat is that, as Einstein said, “Anything that can be put into a nutshell probably belongs there.”

 

My sense of reality, of What Is, in keeping with the Christian and Jewish traditions, is God. Unlike Spong (whom I respect and agree with on many things), I don’t think God is a figment of human imagination. But I do think that how we think of God usually involves our imaginations. Because I am a person (on most days, anyway), I tend to relate to God as a person (which is often helpful but can sometimes be harmful). But I realize that this is only one concept of God and that there are many others. So while I affirm the reality of God, I know that human concepts and experiences of God are subjective. But, put religiously, God is, for me, the Source and Sustainer of all that is, of life, of love.

 

If this is true (and my life is invested in this being true), then what meaning does it give to my life and how should I respond to this? My “nutshell answer” to this question is found in Jesus’ two commands to love God and to love others. Putting these “laws” at the center of my heart is what, for me, makes me a Christian. But what does it mean to love God and to love others? Loving God, to me, means being thankful, being appreciative. It doesn’t mean bowing before some “guy in the sky”, trying to build up his ego with my praises. Rather, it means living my life to the full, looking for what I call God around me, in others, in our world, and even, from time to time, in me. As wonderful as that might be, and I think it is, it is still somewhat selfish. Loving God is not just about me feeling okay with my relationship with God. I’m not in this alone. Therefore, it is incumbent upon me to love others. This goes beyond how I feel about them. To love them means that I take action where I can so that they, too, can live life to the full, to experience what Jesus called the kingdom of God, where we experience God’s Presence with us and in us, and, therefore, we can find meaning and fulfillment in this life…and possibly in the next.

 

In summation, I want my life to be somewhat like that of Jesus of Nazareth. He experienced God’s acceptance and approval of him before he ever started his public ministry. It took me 45 years just to get to that point. Then, because he knew where he stood with his Father, he could live his life in self-sacrificing love for the sake of others. That, too, is what I want to do, though I often fail. Because I know where I “stand” with God, I am able to “move” deeper into life and into the world with both attitudes and actions that point towards this all-embracing love that we call God.

 

ws

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Nice post, Bill

Mike,

 

Maybe this doesn't answer the question in your terms, but if I had to pick one principle it might be non-dualism…the Incarnation showing that matter and spirit are and always have been one. Faith as "the freedom not to know because I am known more fully than I know or even need to know."

 

There's a list in Richard Rohr's book Things Hidden: Scripture as spirituality that creates an evolutionary continuum from ancient to contemporary authors – appeals to me, perhaps you can relate to it also--

 

The way of mystery / paradox/ non duality (apophatic tradition)

 

Moses -- who knows God, but through the cloud

Job – none of whose questions are ever answered

Jesus –the first non-dual teacher of the West

Paul – a dialectical mystic, who was interpreted by a dualistic tradition

Desert Fathers & Mothers –no need for systematic theology, only inner experience

Evagrius Ponticus – introduces the way of unknowing

Cappadocian Fathers – Trinity as the way into mystery

Augustine – "if you understand it, it is not God"

Pseudo Dionysius – classic teacher of the apophatic way

Celtic Christianity – nature based and healing based

John Duns Scotus – intuitive cognition as balance to rational cognition

Bonaventure – the Godhead itself is a coincidence of opposites

Meister Eckhart – classic non-dual mystic and teacher

Thomas Aquinas – "all my writings are straw"

Author of the Cloud of Unknowing – classic text

Nicholas of Cusa – formal teacher of the coincidence of opposites

John of the Cross – "luminous darkness" and inner experience

Jacob Boehme – coincidence of opposites, protestant mystic

George Fox – Quaker appreciation for silence, inner light, non-violence

Thomas Merton – retrieves the contemplative tradition for the West

Bede Griffiths, John Main, Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating, Laurence Freeman, Ruth Burrows – each making use of the language of modern psychology, Eastern wisdom on the process of transformation, and the postmodern critique of knowledge, Centering Prayer / Meditation movement

Ken Wilber – "Everyone is right!" tries to hear the level of truth in every opinion

Cosmologists – making use of science, quantum physics, and knowledge of the universe to lead us back into re-appreciation for "non-knowledge" and mystery

Edited by rivanna
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I can't say I know where I stand, so I offer some comments on how I got to be a TCPC member. Ten years ago last May I joined Beliefnet. I enjoyed participating in it for several years, especially on the science and religion board, the progressive Christianity boards, and in various discussion groups. But occasionally I would look around for something else, and in December 2004 I also joined TCPC. Mostly I stuck with B'net, as there wasn't much going on here that was of interest to me.

A few years ago B'net was purchased by the Murdoch empire, and became less interesting. Maybe that is just a coincidence. But then I took another look at this site. It was ok for a while, though there was one extremely irritating person who was eventually asked to leave. But recently I haven't felt like participating, so I have mostly lurked.

In the survey I called myself a denominational Christian, as I have been an active layperson in a Protestant congregation most of my adult life. But I also think of myself as progressive, and have read and appreciated the work of Borg, Spong, etc. I'm not a particularly philosophical person. I think that is mostly because I was an engineer by trade, and that concerns itself more with what works than with the nature of things. But I do think of myself as agnostic, as not only am I unsure about the existence of God, but am pretty sure that there is really little, if any, evidence of what you might call the existence of God.

In the sixties through the nineties I was a member of a congregation that was heavily influenced by liberation theology. When I was in grad school in the eighties, I discovered process theology, and that has influenced be also.

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I would have to say "faith." Not "faith in" anything, but simply "faith" itself, which I describe as simply trust that it's really all ok.

Faith that accepts tat even if it turns out everything and everything I believe and think I know are wrong, false, untrue, its still all ok.

 

Jenell

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Thank you for the question. In my life I have learned one thing, which has helped me in good times and bad. It has made my life simpler and more enjoyable because I have learned to enjoy those good and bad times. I see no sin, but pleasant and less pleasant experiences. The formula for this is i reduce everything down to one. When life gets complicated.................I reduce everything back to one and become aware of the one ocean of delight and pure consciousness.

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For me the truth is in the journey or maybe the truth is the journey.

 

I try not to look back for anything other than to learn from life.

I try not to look forward with expectations because everything changes.

I try and appreciate today.

 

steve

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If I understand the question:

 

I doubt there is much over which I am "immovable". My beliefs change, my personal philosophy changes, and even (gasp) some of my values change through various stages in my life.

 

I think, if had to nail down something that I stand for, it would be the Budhist concept of non-violence. Not "just" the absence of war, but the whole idea of doing no harm. Well, that, and lifelong learning. ;)

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I thought it might be meaningful to inquire of everyone what they tend to take as the 'basis' of their faith and way of life. What is your reality? What is most important to you? On what beliefs, if any, are you 'immovable'?

 

In the order asked:

 

1.) What is the 'basis" of (a) my faith and (B) my way of life.

 

(a) My faith is in the natural laws of physics until proven otherwise. I am a skeptic and deal in facts, logic and reason. Thinking is very important to me as is questioning what I think and why I think it. I don't use the word believe because I think it limits further questioning. I always ask why.

 

(B) My way of life is determined by my resources including my education, my material wealth, my skills and my motivation to use them and those around me who influence where and when I use them.

 

I tend to seek enjoyment and I get enjoyment from many different things that don't require too much uncomfortable physical effort. I enjoy spending time on the internet communicating with people, reading and learning about history, philosophy, science and technology and human issues around the globe.

 

2.) My reality is simple. "I think therefore I am" beyond that I know I am sensual and emotional. I know I enjoy art, music good wine and food. I am a cognitive being.

 

3.) I am most concerned with humanity and justice in the distribution of wealth.

 

4.) I am a skeptic and have no immovable beliefs.

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...what [do] [you] tend to take as the 'basis' of [your] faith and way of life. What is your reality? What is most important to you? On what beliefs, if any, are you 'immovable'?

 

Faith is not a word that I would use to define my orientation to the world around me. I am a skeptic in most things, and only rely on experience and history to inform my reality. A good book or two can be equally informative, as does stimulating discussion, such as I can find amidst my friends on this forum.

 

My family, friends, neighbors, fellow creatures on this planet and the enjoyment of life are the most important things to me.

 

I have no set of beliefs that are immovable. I don't think that is practical, nor indeed; possible.

 

I no longer feel any sense of the "divine presence" I was once convinced was real. Perhaps one day, that feeling may return, but I sincerely doubt it. I've tried imagining myself in that place and it feels utterly foreign to me.

 

I begin each day with a question: will today be a good day or a great day? My mission in life is to make it a great day, but at least I'll settle for a good day. I've found that when I am focused on making the most out of my time on this rock, everything and everyone around me, hopefully, derives some small benefit in colliding with my presence.

 

NORM

.

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Is that what you are looking for Mike? (the part before the inhale part) :D Or did i misunderstand what you where looking for?

 

:lol: Thanks Joseph, yeah that's what I was looking for.

 

 

 

And thanks everyone for your input. I suppose there's no wrong answers to such questions.

Edited by Mike
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I realize that many of us have been very hesitant to hazard a proposition on which they're more or less 'immovable'. There is definite wisdom in so doing. I did put the word in quotations because -- though it struck me as fitting -- it may also sound rather constricting or doctrinaire.

 

But nevertheless I glean that there are some common themes we have all touched upon, whether or not stated as such. Please correct me if I misrepresent. I venture here because I know that not all beliefs are themselves explicit but may be presupposed in practice or implicit in disposition.

 

We've all made an affirmation of the value of ethical treatment of other beings. As someone who is so inclined, I can't help but analyze the components of such an affirmation something like thus: We value ourselves as persons/subjects; we believe that other people are also subjects (we believe in other minds, that there are indeed other persons besides ourselves); we believe that these persons have intrinsic worth by their very existing, that is, they are ends in themselves, and not mere 'things' to be objectified and manipulated by some external force toward an imposed end (one can also extend this to the animal realm or even the inanimate realm). Correct me if I'm wrong, but such ingredients seem to be present in an affirmation of morality, though at the same time they invoke notions that are deeply philosophical.

 

Personally, though I tend to approach things metaphysically, my metaphysical musings on themes that are most important to me always boil down to the empirical immanence of my reality/existence. I personally see no conflict between a robust sense of empiricism and spirituality.

 

Thanks and peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike,

 

As i re-read the responses, it seems to me that you have very effectively gleaned a common theme expressed in different ways though not explicitly stated by some as 'immovable' in response to your question. Perhaps the practice (or ones actions) of these affirmations speak more succinctly than any of our writings or prose. Thanks for asking such a question.

 

Joseph

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Mike, I agree with much in your post, but to this part I'll particularly respond:

"We've all made an affirmation of the value of ethical treatment of other beings. As someone who is so inclined, I can't help but analyze the components of such an affirmation something like thus: We value ourselves as persons/subjects; we believe that other people are also subjects (we believe in other minds, that there are indeed other persons besides ourselves); we believe that these persons have intrinsic worth by their very existing, that is, they are ends in themselves, and not mere 'things' to be objectified and manipulated by some external force toward an imposed end (one can also extend this to the animal realm or even the inanimate realm). Correct me if I'm wrong, but such ingredients seem to be present in an affirmation of morality, though at the same time they invoke notions that are deeply philosophical."

 

This pretty much sums up the critical core of my beliefs and values system, however... it seems that over time and life experience and deeper study and meditation upon this value concept, the less and less sure I seem to feel secure in any of my own ideas and opinions on how to best 'live it', bring it down from the mountain top into the valley of real life in which we live. So many times when I've thought, and acted out of that thought, what was best for all, myself and others, I seem to have failed to fully consider all the potential consequences as they played out. The same has seemed true to me of the greater things in our world, what seemed for the good of all mankind, or at least some group within mankind, turns out not so good in the end.

 

I think what I'm trying to express here begins in the third line of the Serenity Prayer...the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change, and what we cannot, but a step further into wisdom, to know when something we CAN change is something best NOT changed, best left alone. Sometimes "acceptance" isn't simply for/of those things we can't change, but things we could, but best not to.

 

Jenell

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Mike, this thread has been good for me, thanks :)

 

I'm sure it will be no surprise I've been trying to be overly-intellectual about this. I've been spending time trying to figure out how all my thoughts about things fit together in a logically consistent way, and then tried to identify the most central, least negotiable concepts. ...yeah, that didn't work. I've been so focused on where to go next, what I want to figure out next, etc., that I'm at a bit of a loss at explaining where I stand right now.

 

So, instead, I looked at what seemed to be constantly informing my actions*, rather than trying to put everything in a systematic model.

 

So, looking at my actions as opposed to accounts, I finally have a list:

  1. Fides Quaerens Intellectum. "Faith seeking understanding." Looking at how I behave, this really is part of where I stand, and can do nothing else. Rationality and study are necessary to deepen and figure out faith, but they cannot prove or disprove faith. Faith is always an a priori, but as such it is only a starting point, not an end.
  2. Centrality of Mercy. I hate suffering, and I react to it poorly. I am more interested in care than I am in justice. Part of my horror at some forms of American conservative Christianity is its gleeful belief in the redemptive power of violence.
  3. Focus on this World. We are alive in this life, in this world, and we must learn how best to live here. The claim that we shouldn't worry too much about the evils of this world because a better one awaits us seems horribly flawed to me, even if the claim about a wonderful afterlife is totally true.
  4. The Necessity of Humility. We can never truly be the masters of our own fate, even if we occasionally get to have some say on the subject. THE TRUTH! is not within our grasp. Whether one calls it critical theory, postmodernism, or original sin, these visions of humanity seem wrong to me. Horribly wrong. Arrogance, hubris... these are dangerous things, especially when dressed up to look like righteousness, or (worse) hope & optimism.

 

Anyhow, that's my list.

Now that I have the list, I need to think about them, and figure out how they interact, and how they compel me to act. All of them can be virtues, and all of them can be very problematic. The list I just gave suggests (quite accurately) that I am overly-invested in thinking, that I may not always be assertive, and that I can on occasion be fatalistic. Regardless of what one stands for, it is important to figure out how to make sure one's stance is not a cage, and one's virtues do not become faults. This thread reminded me of this fact, so thanks.

 

* I should mention, lots of things are actions. Walking, arguing with my dad, helping the poor, reading a book, actively thinking, talking, etc... all of these are actions. As a total aside, I have a passionate hatred of the action vs. thinking/talking binary the US seems to adore.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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Thanks for the thoughts Jenell.

 

Personally I'm confident that though we may not always know the "how" of being true to our moral principles, we can perhaps regardless affirm the "why" behind them, the 'ontology' of our morality, if you would. Life of course is not simple, and in actuality it may be that there's no one way to do justice to our moral convictions, and of course we can always be mistaken about what the right thing to do is -- we might unintentionally wind up doing more harm than good. Interestingly, moral solutions can be intrinsically ambiguous. Brook Ziporyn argued that Being is itself Ambiguity -- for it is never of a simple identity but relational in its existence. The more precisely you identify one thing, the more 'out of focus' the rest of reality gets.

 

There are incommensurate levels of description in morality, just like there are in other domains of discourse. A general example of what I mean by 'incommensurate levels of description' could be how we define our "self." Are we fully our "self," or are we a product of our society, or of biology? It seems that all three are true, yet none are exclusively true, though they are mutually exclusive (or rather, an "apples and oranges" sort of thing). What is the moral good, do act in a way which benefits the individual, or the community? No matter how we answer, perplexing counterexamples can be provided. It seems that there is no absolute answer to such questions in way that does not contradict a previous level of description.

 

And yet, we can still understand why we wish to be moral and what the content of the morality is, even though the 'hows' turn out to be much more complex.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Nick,

 

So, instead, I looked at what seemed to be constantly informing my actions*, rather than trying to put everything in a systematic model.

 

I find a lot of wisdom in how you've approached this.

 

THE TRUTH! is not within our grasp.

 

This phrase struck me as having a second meaning for the contemplative path. :)

 

 

Peace,

Mike

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Could you elaborate? Are you referring to contemplation being a tool that highlights the limitation of trying to grasp anything, there is power in stillness, etc., but that's just my guess.

 

I didn't mean anything cryptic by it, just the ontological ungraspability of God/Reality/Truth. Perhaps in the vein of my signature. :)

 

If I looked to the outside, I found him to be far beyond everything that was mine; if I looked within, he was more interior than I was! - Bernard of Clairvaux

Edited by Mike
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