Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The basic problem

Anyone who reads enough of what I write knows I reduce all sorts of problems to human nature. What ails human beings is their humanity. So it is with all the problems of the cultures we have produced in interaction with our environment. The problem with cultures is that human nature made them. Our shortcomings are amplified in them. I think evolutionary psychologists are on the right track when it comes to how this relates to religion. There isn’t enough known yet to make that a first-rate story. We need to finish understanding all 25,000 of our genes to see how they make this God-shaped void in us, maybe more in some than in others. Is it mostly the work of individual genes recreating that God-shaped void in each individual human being or by feeding back to us through the culture our genes created? I also think we need to appreciate the possibilities for what fills that void in us, for a God who isn’t just an abstraction, but a being as people have experienced. God is whoever and whatever God is, not just what anyone would like Him to be, traditional, non-existent, abstract, whatever.

I suppose the comfort I find in this is that it means there is something real behind all the misery in life, not just the conjecture of any one religion, such as the idea of sin for Jews and Christians or delusions and attachments for Buddhism. There is some truth in those, but some fantasy, too, and people are confused as a result. There are challenges to being human, maybe one challenge that is the most fundamental, and I’m sure it’s natural, not spiritual, not the result of Adam’s sin, but the result of evolution, not imposed by God, but something for which God is a solution. So what is the basic problem?

Is it that people live in Fantasyland and only awaken to reality when some trauma forces them to see their fantasy? Is it selfishness? Is it materialism? Is it how overwhelming culture is in corrupting our minds with the fantasies of one particular culture? Are we so weak that we will be healed only when our cultures are healed?

It’s not that we can’t function now. We reproduce. Physically we have been enormously successful. We even have had some success at turning away from war. Maybe everything is fine. Maybe it only seems so troubled as this is such a time of transition from living the fairly natural lives that people lived in early civilizations to a time when we understand our nature better than we once did and can make choices that counter our nature. Do we really have such choices or is it just our nature fooling us that we do? Such a question makes me wonder what the basic problem is. What do we struggle against?

Do we struggle mostly against our own fears? Is the future fine no matter who wins some battle for the hearts and minds of people? I’m not sure how the future can be such a sure thing, even though I always find some flaw in those who say our future is doomed for whatever reason.

Do we struggle against our powerlessness? People are such control freaks. Those who aren’t warning others that everyone has to do this or die are trying to control the flow of information that could show that those warnings are correct. Everyone must control some part of his or her life, yet so often people deny that there is more that they cannot control, cannot know. One can argue about how much of life is which, but it’s obvious that there is much to life we cannot control, and it is human nature to minimize that. That’s healthy. It’s good to say, “What could I have done differently?” when something bad happens, but most people overdo that or focus on the supposed power of someone else to have done something when the others are just as powerless.

I am tempted to say that the basic problem is that people don’t give up in all these things to some higher power. Yet people often do exactly that, only so often what they give up to is something false. I’m sure I’ve given enough reasons elsewhere why I think both traditionalists and atheists are false, yet I’ve lived my entire life knowing that there is always some way they could be right. I don’t believe it, but there is a way. I can live with that. I truly believe that God is whoever and whatever God is. I’m at peace with any possibility. The ultimate power is beyond me, no matter what it is.

Yet there is only one reality. Everything else is false. My guess is that not a single human religion has gotten everything just right. They’ve all missed the mark. Not only is that the conclusion the odds favor, look at what religions have done. What perfection have they produced? What culture have they made that is so good, everyone else wants to be part of it?

I can restate how I started this and say that the basic problem is that we’re only human. We only know what our senses have told us. That has built up impressively over the millennia. Still the claims that so many people make for what they believe, politically, religiously, are so overblown. Few understand how much they don’t know.

If all we have is humanity, biological evolution will proceed, and the culture produced by the intelligent life biology produced will evolve as well. Being the self-regulating systems that they are, biological and cultural evolution will go exactly where they were “supposed” to go. Why fight the inevitable, especially when I’m so small, and the world is so big? Anyone who wants to steer is welcome to try. It’s only in trying that people learn to give up.

I find it hard to believe that human misery will ever end that way. Maybe I’m wrong. Whichever it is, I think more about what help we can get from beyond us, from God. Obviously that’s not easy. Whether that’s because of us, because of God, or because of the process of communication between us is hard to say. God has not demonstrated the power that 1st-century Christians thought He had. Some 21st-century Christians don’t believe that. They’ll die off eventually like everyone else. The future is in who comes next.

We are whoever and whatever we are. God is whoever and whatever God is. It seems neither of us can make all the pain go away easily. That leaves communication.

I hear from God in words. Some people do. A few publish what God tells them, and such publications vary from New Age speeches that God gave to Neale Donald Walsch in his 3 volumes of Conversations With God to the simplistic things that evangelist Joyce Meyer reports as hearing from God in her books. Unlike my fellow liberals who believe that all religions are true, I don’t think the words that are in common between the three of us are worth anything. Not even 2 of the 3 of us can both be right. So is human reasoning going to pick out which one is right or if all are wrong, including me? I don’t see how.

I see one entity that might help me with this, God. If there is no God, then it doesn’t matter. If there is, why not let Him bring me to wherever He wills? If God is not trustworthy, there’s no chance of my doing anything on my own anyway. I could go on like that at length, but it all amounts to the first 3 steps of the 12 steps, the ones I first did in 1994. People have been facing those for a long time, some embracing them, some rejecting them. The question has been around for a very long time before 12 steps: Will you let God help you do what you cannot? Anyone who is willing to answer in the affirmative will find that God can’t do everything we might want. Why not? So many words and ideas have been devoted to answering that. They’re contradictory, saying people didn’t approach God the right way, were interfered with by evil spirits, aren’t the ones chosen by God, … with different details from each religion. I don’t believe any of it any more. The basic problem is something else.

God tells me that. We’ve done what we know to do. He’s done what He’s known to do. There’s more to it than that. What can we do together?

Come again? That’s right, when have people ever cooperated with the real God? People have heard about God, a source of power, knowledge, love, and goodness. They’ve tried to reach Him in various ways. They’ve made up stories about who they think God is and what He’s done. Those stories are wrong. Anyone who hasn’t figured that out in the 21st century is headed for a dead end.

God is whoever and whatever God is. Even God can’t know the details of that – He has no mirror. He has us, but so much of what we say and do is wrapped up in us. We say we worship God, but whom do we worship, the real God or this substitute Daddy and King whose only agenda is conformity? Conservative Christians insist on conformity. Buddhist monks are begrudgingly allowed to watch the World Cup on TV, but are supposed to keep from having any emotion from it. What God does this?

God is whoever and whatever God is. If He thinks emotions are bad, I’m willing to listen. That’s not what I hear, though. My life with God has taken us up mountains and down into valleys so much I’ve lost count of them. Eventually I got the hang of it. God, You’re just as emotional as I am. Maybe that’s just the way He is with me. Maybe that’s how it translates into my language. He is whoever and whatever He is.

I don’t know what exactly has released everything I experience of God. I used to ask the Spirit when our relationship started. Was it when the bishop had his hands on my head at Confirmation? Was it when I prayed the right prayer in my thirties? The Spirit said it was before the beginning of time, whenever that is. I don’t think She was trying to be cryptic. It just sounds that way after a time.

Eventually I’ll write more about this here, but one of the summary things I know from God is that God is different from what any religion says He is. It gets back to what the basic problem is for human beings.

My understanding is that this is the basic problem:


I really think that’s it. Listen, it’s good for you individually. It’s good for the planet. Listen to know that what you’re hearing is junk. Listen to know that what you’re hearing is exactly right. Unfortunately people aren’t good at this distinction – many things about our nature influence that. But there is a God who can help this.

I suppose it would take a lot to sell that. There are lots of issues like what things are worth listening to. I like surrendering to God, whoever and whatever God is, those parts of life that are good and trustworthy, or if He does hurt me, He has a good explanation. If it’s all up to humanity, from my human abilities to finding the perfect religion to guide me, it’s all human nature. It’s all flawed. God can be past that. Why deal with middlemen? If it worked to deal with middlemen, wouldn’t that be obvious?

It’s a tough sell. I don’t know why I don’t hear more people advocating simply surrendering to God, not worrying about any other label. They do in 12-step groups, but many have a hard time listening to God in them. Well, it’s the best I’ve done in 51 years. I don’t expect to find anything better. What future that gives me I can only trust God for. It makes everyday in the present better for me. If that’s all there is, what a waste. People could have so much more than they do. How much is it people’s choice not to listen to God? How many people could God relate to directly? How many would He or She want to know better?

I don’t know what the possibilities are for people listening to God, but I’m pretty sure that this is the basic problem: People don’t listen to God. It would transform our nature if we did that more.

It is interesting to me that this is what the Bible says. Adam and Eve didn’t listen. Or they listened too much to what is not God. I find the Bible unbelievable in the details of how it says that flaw in listening led to so much misery, but there is such a flaw in us. Someone has known that much for a long time.

Life is enough. But there is this basic problem that makes life difficult. So it is difficult, but not impossible. So many people are sure they can’t hear God. It is difficult, but not impossible. Anyone can ask for His help in doing that. It’s not up to us to answer such a prayer ourselves, but the only way to know that is to listen.

1 comment:

The Lizard Queen said...

I found this post very true and very comforting. I find that I don't always speak (or even write) well, but I think I'm pretty good at listening. I think that's enough.