Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Cry in the Wilderness

September 2

The week went well. An orgy of comments on profound topics, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, and a couple of posts I never thought I’d be making explaining my impressions of the meaning of life and death, and then today no interest at all. I am posting at 8:20 my time, by which time I usually have gathered at least 10 visitors to the blog and today, since midnight there was only one.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t expect to have the 100-some-odd daily travelers seeking to find fair hope that come to other sites on the web. My average as of today is 48 per day, and I’m glad to have each and every one, even those who are appalled at what they read. Last week was actually a banner week for me. Exciting comments abounded and there was one cry in the wilderness that still haunts me.

According to my tracker, someone typed this phrase into Google and was directed here: “please give me hope that god is fair”.

The person who typed that desperate phrase was not sent to the posts we made on the nature of God, the soul, and the relationship of man to the universe. You probably know that a search engine’s spider can zero in on a word or group of words and locate any number of ephemeral or peripheral mentions of the word or words you want to search. Thus, some seeking hope that God or anything else be fair, might be sent to a blog called Finding Fair Hope.

The person with this poignant wish came to this blog on a day when I was rhapsodizing about the weather or the opportunities for romance at sunset and didn’t stay long enough to check out the many opinions voiced here about whether there is hope that God is fair.

For the record I shall try to answer that question now. In my opinion there is some kind of force that I am not uncomfortable calling god, with or without the capital letter. This force needs a name, and long ago man gave it the name “god” and I don’t think even with all that baggage that identity has accumulated that we have come up with anything better. The problem is that the name is so old, it’s literally grown a beard, as we used to say about old stories in the newspaper game. It carries with it a human picture. “God” appears to be a man, although, as Margaret Atwood has pointed out, never in the Bible does the image appear as a man – it appears as a burning bush, or in any number of guises, not including a male human being. But when Leonardo and others wanted to paint a picture, they referred to the old pictures of the god of gods, Zeus, who dwelt in the clouds and carried a handful of lightning bolts for added impact, as if that were needed. That guy also had a long white beard.

Today when we want to be iconoclastic, we say, “I don’t believe in an old man in the clouds with a long white beard,” but that is not the concept of a higher power anyway. There are people to whom those old paintings reveal the face of God, but to deny that we are moved by them is not to deny the existence of God – or even to prove that we are deep thinkers. It’s simply Step One in the process of examining the question. This is what I do not believe. What do I believe?

Do I believe that “god is fair”? I’m afraid I have to answer no to that one. I assume the question comes from someone who wants a specific thing from life, and has observed that less deserving people seem to get all they want. If there is a god, why does “he” do things this way?

Some say that he gives us the lessons we need. I think even that is too pat an answer. There are far too many people who never get any lessons at all, or appear not to. All too often, they are the ones with all the stuff. We don’t know what is happening in their life, but we know they have done bad things to acquire what they have, and we tell ourselves that “what goes around comes around.” I haven’t seen this to be true either.

Where is the hope, then? It’s inside you, if you are a human being. It is hope that is making you ask the question. My friend who has begun to post comments as “the oaf” on this blog is full of questions that begin with “Why?” as a child does when he first notices that things are not necessarily linear. If we don’t fill a child too full of unnecessary and unexplained consequences – “Because I said so!” – he may grow up learning to examine on his own and not expect an all-powerful God to hold the reins of his life. He may be spared the guilt of that personal revelation, in other words he may have given himself permission to find his own answers without rebuke. But most of us are conflicted by even having doubts that what we were told is true. We expect that guy in the clouds to release the lightning bolts our way.

I hope the person who asked the Internet about fairness will come back to this blog where he or she can be assured of an open, healthy discussion of the question. For now, let this be my answer: There are times in life when a re-examination of one’s expectations is required. There are times when we all feel hopeless and hurt. It is part of the condition of life on this human plane, which no amount of examination can adequately define. We are created to ask and not get answers. But in the Pandora’s box there is also that last element, all too often left behind. We are also, as human beings, endowed with hope.


Isadora2 said...

This post made more sense to me than any discussion of god that I
have heard or read to date. Thank you!

Robin said...

IMO it isn't god that is fair or unfair, god doesn't care one way or another. A person is the sum of his or her experiences. whatever experiences
are aquired create the sum of a persons logic, and all conceivable
logic is created out of exposure to experiences. That is to say, that
if there were nothing around for you to think about, you would think
nothing at all. However logic is an example of 'now' as it is a
mixture of cognizance and experience. That is, the mind manipulates these experiences and can change the belief system associated with experiences, often associated with hedonistic principles but, more so
motivated by personal validation. person a may have experience y and
achive one belief system, but thier cognizance b might render the
example b+y or z. the question remains where that creative energy
might come from. people like to think they have a choice, and that
the sum of thier experiences renders thier cognizance, but in that
cognizance there might be a choice, to choose a belief system or
motivation. Is it really such? the current argument for
predestination psychologically says that according to simple
motivations like hedonism a person will always choose one way and not
the other. But mankind is the only being whose existance is a puzzle
which she must solve.God doesn't owe us anything.

Hope reduces for many human beings the unpleasant feelings in many situations. Among others many unpleasant feelings and pains
caused through sickness,loss, and other unwanted feelings, seem to be reduced or disappeared through hoping in these powers. Also some human beings believe that through
parapsychological connection with these powers, they can gain some
new abilities to change the unwanted situations.

Benedict S. said...

I think it was the poet Blake who wrote a little verse -- can't recall the name -- suggesting that if God does in fact have the power to change this world so that it would not be the realm of misery that it appears to be, and He doesn't, then is it love we owe him, or hate?

Here's a lyric from a Unitarian Hym that was certainly written by Blake....

Every night and every morn
Some to misery or born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

I wonder, do the UUs in Fairhope sing that one as often as the UUs outside Washington?

Robin said...

Blake, a dark, foreboding poet:

Til a Web dark and cold, throughout all
The tormented element stretch'd
From the sorrows of Urizens soul...
None could break the Web, no wings of fire.

So twisted the cords, & so knotted
The meshes: twisted like to the human brain

And all calld it, The Net of Religion
William Blake, The Book of Urizen

Officious Oaf said...

Come on guys, give me a break. God didn't give you all that 'free will' to use, then punish or reward you for using it. Misused or properly used free will brings on its own consequences. If one thinks that there is fairness or unfairness on God's part in this Earth plane we live in means someone doesn't have the rules of the game very clear. It's like in football when a punted ball is headed towards an opposite team player. That player is about to exercise his free will by a)letting the ball bounce and see what good or bad fortune comes from it, b) catching the ball and trying to run with it or 3)quickly surveying the terrain, weighing the pros and cons of the first two options, concluding a free catch is the smart thing to do. God had nothing to do with the player's choice. In knowing the rules, the exercise of free will makes the game less of a guessing one.

The biggest oversight that one commits when even pondering a notion of fairness or unfairness of God is the failure to recongize the perfectness of God. I find it inceiveable that God would concoct an unfair plan, and then have to rush in latter to offset some unfair misfortune that has unfairly befallen a 'good' person by rewarding them with something? I am by no means an authority on Plans made by God, and all the rules of the game, but there are a couple of things that I would expect from any Master Plan Creator that I would worship: fairness and rationality. The fairness part I believe is inherent in it, and the rationality and rules of the game I'm working on. If you don't agree with what I said, then that is probably a plus for you; oafs aren't known for their smarts.

Finding Fair Hope said...

The game metaphor just doesn't work for all of us, Oaf. If you presume that the better players win, what does God care about that? The sticking point is seeing the gods as "a master creator." This is old Sunday School thinking: God as Santa Claus.

You can tell me that god is perfection and I will buy that. I can accept the notion that good things that come from God, but not because I am playing the game according to some cosmic rules.

Jess said...

>>There are times when we all feel hopeless and hurt. It is part of the condition of life on this human plane, which no amount of examination can adequately define. We are created to ask and not get answers. But in the Pandora’s box there is also that last element, all too often left behind. We are also, as human beings, endowed with hope. <<

You said so beautifully what I would have liked to have said to someone else when life hit me between the eyes unexpectedly. Instead all I could come up with is, life is unfair at times. Thank you for this.

Officious Oaf said...

Esteemed FF, you paint a lovely word picture in which certain befuddled people find a portrait of themselves. And in doing so, they say, "Heh, I'm not alone in what I experience, in what I feel, and that in itself is hope for me." And that is good.

Out of respect, appreciation and admiration for the hostess of Finding Fairhope, and as a guest at her blog party, attacking her points of view that we don't agree with would be discourteous, especially considering that hers are presented eloquently, graciously, and sincerely. However, offering reasoned, polite and differently focused ones in disagreement would seem appropriate for a guest. After all, what is the purpose of exploring such profound issues as God, souls and the meaning of it all at a blog party if it is not to find answers that make sense on the human intellectual and spiritual level? That's where we are, aren't we? Maybe there are different questions and answers on higher or lower planes.

The sole point of this comment is to underscore the error of looking at a single piece of the puzzle, hoping to see the whole picture. When we do that, each with his or her own little piece in hand, it is no wonder heated discussions arise among friends -and with adversaies, flaming ones- about the correct interpretation of the grand Cosmosscape painted by God. Perhaps by concentrating on what is the nature of the Cosmosscape, and having some sort of agreement on that, which I think we can, the meaning of brush strokes, colors used, and symbols won't be so controversial. Anyone have a painting they want to look at? Bring it to the party.

Benedict S. said...

Oaf: I don't think Miss FF was questioning your right to disagree. She seemed to be simply disagreeing with your disagreement. Your first comment was very close to the truth (as I see it). Now all you have to do is see God and Nature as the same thing, and all your difficulties with the "rules of the game" will go away. Well, they won't go away, because you still may not discover them, but at least you will know where to look.

Miss FF: Your objection to Oaf begs the question. If God is not involved in our decisions, then where is the problem of trying to decide if God is fair or not. I personally see no reason to believe that God or Nature is either fair or unfair. As Oaf said, Nature does appear to be subject to rational analysis, and that's a big leg up on what we would have if Nature were purely chaotic. But God/Nature didn't make herslf into a cosmos simply to please us. She simply is what she is.

Finding Fair Hope said...

With respect to the good intentions behind the comments of the Oaf and benedict, I don't object to any comments that criticize my conclusions. I didn't see that the Oaf was offended that I disagreed, but was suggesting that commenters be polite and consider my stands, wrong though they may be.

As for me, I don't care if the comments are polite or not as long as they address the basic points I am making or those of other commenters. Hell, they can even go on a tangent if it's one the writer is passionate about. I don't mind if feelings run high; that's to be expected in such discussions.

Sometimes being controversial is going to cause some strong reaction. I can take it. (And what's controversial about any of this, anyway? It looks to me as if everybody who reads my blog agrees that the issues discussed herein are worth thinking about. Some, like Isadora2 and Jess have found a certain amount of enlightenment, if they are to be believed. There may be more of them lurking in the loft for all I know.)

Bert Bananas said...

Laztheism teaches us that people will work on the things they make up until they get them right. And then they'll work on them some more, to make them 'righter.'

If "coincidence" doesn't explain something, you need to expand your definition of coincidence.

Isadora2 said...

"We are created to ask and not get answers. We are also, as human
beings, endowed with hope."

Not in any of the blog comments is the question of hope addressed. We
live on this earth, plane, whatever you want to call it, with the hope
that, eventually, there an answer. YES! Many people believe that they
already have The Answer and preach it loudly. For those of us who
accept that we may never find an answer to whether there is a god, fair or not and can only hope that there is, at least, more of a reason for life on earth than just microbes and atoms, maybe the questions and
hope are enough.

Robin said...

I tried to address the issue of hope in my comment.

It is accepted as a metaphysical or an aesthetic necessity about knowing what Nature or god IS. But we cannot know what Nature IS. We can only know what we perceive and do the best we can patching our perceptions into a coherent story which gives us good predictions.

Life is not fair?! Life is life - what are you comparing it to when you call it unfair? An ideal society? A dystopia? The only thing that one has to compare one's life to is one's life - hence it is neither fair, nor unfair -
it just is. If one chose to compare it to another's life then you could say it were fair or unfair in relation to his, but again it is so narrowly relative that the statement would be practically meaningless. Alternatively you could compare it to heaven and hell - but then as neither you and I have any experience of them, nor do the scriptures talk about them in any detail, to say Life is unfair relative to the afterlife would again be unfounded.

Is "fairness" a concept to be found in nature, or is it an exclusively human concept? Once we have clarified that we can consider proceeding to the question.

Humuns do stuff - seek answers - seek love - seek pleasure - avoid
pain - because we are not perfect and not complete and perfect.
We can always be smarter or stronger or "better" than we already are -
we can find purpose because of our limitations and lacks.
We can strive to overcome our limitations.
We act because we have needs and desires.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Circular and contradictory as this little examination of the question of fairness has been, I do think it's been open, honest and maybe has shed some light on the possibilities that exist in the universe as we know it, and as we don't, for the apparently despondent questioner whose search prompted the blog post in the first place.

The question was posed by someone clearly in pain, and I tried to answer it with that in mind, maybe being a little gentler and emotionally responsive than I needed to have been. But I don't think it's an intellectual question, and I don't think the convolutions of our philosophical research are going to be satisfying to a soul in distress. I was sympathetic to the questioner and didn't want to be didactic or pontificous (my word) -- but that doesn't mean that others shouldn't. Yes, it made me uncomfortable to deal with such a profound question on an emotional level, and I tried to be reasonable, as I think all of my commenters have.

It's been a nice spiritual workout for a weekend.

Thank you all who participated, and if there are others out there who would like to add something, let's have it.

Benedict S. said...

Miss FF: You did well. Only stronger emotions can deal with emotions. But then, that's an intellectual realization.

Miss Robin: It was not flesh and blood that taught you those things, but your "father" who is in "Heaven." (Are you sure you're as young as you say you are?)