Monday, April 14, 2008

I Tried. Really.

I've been keeping the following statement on the idea of eternity in my hamster-clutch of items to blog upon for a good solid week. I've read it and re-read it and re-read it again, waiting for the epiphany that would drop the scales from my eyes, show me perspective I hadn't previously considered, and expose the small-minded character of my filthy, wretched atheism. But the epiphany has not arrived. Here's the statement from Andrew Sullivan:

The precious gift of religious life lies in part, in Oakeshott's words, "in the poetic quality, humble or magnificent, of the images, the rites, the observances, and the offerings (the wisp of wheat on the wayside calvary) in which it recalls to us that 'eternity is in love with the productions of time' and invites us to live 'so far as is possible' as an immortal."
I'm reminded again of T.S. Eliot's assertion that
"to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint."
These moments may come upon us when we least expect them. We may see flashes of eternity in the simple grin of a child in a game of hide and seek, in the approach of the tide on an autumn afternoon, in the eyes of a lover in sex, or in a grandmother's ritual - but we know them when we see them. The key is to be open to them, because they happen all the time, all around us. But we are too "busy" to notice.
To be fair to Sullivan, I'm equally flummoxed about what T.S. Eliot and Michael Oakeshott are trying to express here, but I am willing to concede that Sullivan has quoted both appropriately in support of whatever point he is attempting to make, if only because I am not very familiar with Oakeshott and because I've always considered T.S. Eliot a reliable source of obscurantist crap.

The most charitable reading I can muster is to say that eternity, according to Sullivan, should be understood as appreciating the beauty of the present -- a state of being and a frame of mind so immersed in the fullness of a moment's experience that time recedes to utter inconsequentiality. That's not a new idea, and in the end, it just gives me a headache to label it as "eternity" -- much less to try to harmonize it with the otherly-vacuous sputterings about "eternity" that pockmark the written traditions of the leading brands of Abrahamic faith, which appears to have been Sullivan's starting intention.


Speaking of obscurantist crap, the new film Expelled takes crap and lying to toxic levels.


Zombie said...

You are worth hundreds of sparrows.

Paul said...

Perhaps Sullivan was trying to be profound, but his words come across as a weak tea made from some kind of undisclosed sap.

Dale said...

Zombie, hundreds? I don't know that I'd put it above a few dozen. But thanks anyway.

Paul, I agree. I am not against reaching for profundity, but I am also (evidently) not against criticizing when it falls short.

Zombie said...

Or maybe we will have a lot to deal with. God didn't cause the holocaust, he didn't orchestrate 911, God doesn't cause starvation. We did those things. We did those things because of sin in the world. We are all plagued with it. We are a violent and self-serving people who are hell bent of ruining everything. Who are we to even question a perfect God as imperfect people? Who are we to sit in judgment of the actions of God? We make mistakes daily and think with minds that are flawed and seemingly unable to get a grip on reality. If we can't see God's master plan we get angry with Him. But who told us that we are entitled to see God's master plan? Sometimes we get to see something great happen, miracles, healing, happiness, children born. And sometimes we see the awful, children die, people killing, natural disasters, and all of that. This is all due to the fact that the world is dying and plagued with sin. God said that in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned, they brought death to the whole creation, and so have we. I am not blaming things like 911 or New Orleans or anything on that particular places sin, don't get me wrong, but it was the a product of the fall of mankind. Maybe this sounds silly to you, believing in God, but with some thought, think of the alternatives. We created ourselves out of some explosion somewhere in space from things that created themselves, then kept changing from one appearance to another for millions of years never leaving behind any fossil evidence. Come on, that is so unbelievable it reeks of humor.

mikesdak said...

zombie,your ability to excuse God from responsibility for the bad and give him credit for the good is standard procedure for believers, but not in keeping with the notion of an all-powerful, benevolent deity. The simple fact is an all-powerful God would be at least capable of preventing innocent suffering. If God's plan involves allowing such suffering, then God is not benevolent as we know it. Saying we're not worthy of understanding God's plan doesn't change that, any more than an abused child being unable to understand the reason for the parent's cruelty excuses the cruelty. You may choose to accept the fact of God's cruelty as beyond human understanding, but you can't deny it's existence unless you deny his omnipotence. Either God can't prevent innocent suffering, or God chooses not to prevent it. The latter option would at least be consistent with the notion of mankind being "created in God's image".

Zombie said...

Mikesdak, how can you define benevolence for God? You use human words, phrases, philosophies, that were made by humans. You think with a mind that has been trained by humans in school, books, teachers, pop culture, politics etc. Your idea of benevolence is based on that. If all are deserving of death, which the Bible states, assuming that were true: does it make God a bad guy for saving some from and not others. Should the governor pardon all of the inmates in prison? Maybe some, but all? I am not asserting that I have all of the answers, I certainly do not, but neither do you. We experience misery together though and for that I am thankful for others and their view points and am not into standing in defense of God whom I am not adequately trained to defend. I question God, all the time, but in the end I rest knowing that He is in control and their is a lot of wonder out there.