There’s that faith thing again

Just when I think that I can not resolve some of my lack of deep conviction in the existence of God, because I’m too rational, too analytical, too scientific, a friend of mine tells me he was reading Miguel de Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life (alternate title: The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and Nations). My library doesn’t carry this little known but spiritually dense and timeless book of his spiritual philosophy.

Fortunately for me, it is a free download at the Project Gutenburg. You can find a HTML or plain text copy to download here: The Tragic Sense of Life.

These are some quotes from the chapter IX: Faith, Hope and Charity:

For faith is not the mere adherence of the intellect to an abstract principle; it is not the recognition of a theoretical truth, a process in which the will merely sets in motion our faculty of comprehension; faith is an act of the will—it is a movement of the soul towards a practical truth, towards a person, towards something that makes us not merely comprehend life, but that makes us live.
Faith makes us live by showing us that life, although it is dependent upon reason, has its well-spring and source of power elsewhere, in something supernatural and miraculous. Cournot the mathematician, a man of singularly well-balanced and scientifically equipped mind, has said that it is this tendency towards the supernatural and miraculous that gives life, and that when it is lacking, all the speculations of the reason lead to nothing but affliction of spirit (Traité de l’enchaînement des idées fondamentales dans les sciences et dans l’histoire, § 329). And in truth we wish to live.

Moral truth, the road that leads to intellectual truth, which also is moral, inculcates the study of science, which is over and above all a school of sincerity and humility. Science teaches us, in effect, to submit our reason to the truth and to know and judge of things as they are—that is to say, as they themselves choose to be and not as we would have them be. In a religiously scientific investigation, it is the data of reality themselves, it is the perceptions which we receive from the outside world, that formulate themselves in our mind as laws—it is not we ourselves who thus formulate them. It is the numbers themselves which in our mind create mathematics. Science is the most intimate school of resignation and humility, for it teaches us to bow before the seemingly most insignificant of facts. And it is the gateway of religion; but within the temple itself its function ceases.

Religious faith, it must be repeated yet again, is not only irrational, it is contra-rational. Kierkegaard says: “Poetry is illusion before knowledge; religion illusion after knowledge. Between poetry and religion the worldly wisdom of living plays its comedy. Every individual who does not live either poetically or religiously is a fool” (Afsluttende uvidenskabelig Efterskrift, chap. iv., sect. 2a, § 2).

What is certain is that for thinking believers to-day, faith is, before all and above all, wishing that God may exist.

Wishing that God may exist, and acting and feeling as if He did exist. And desiring God’s existence and acting conformably with this desire, is the means whereby we create God—that is, whereby God creates Himself in us, manifests Himself to us, opens and reveals Himself to us. For God goes out to meet him who seeks Him with love and by love, and hides Himself from him who searches for Him with the cold and loveless reason. God wills that the heart should have rest, but not the head, reversing the order of the physical life in which the head sleeps and rests at times while the heart wakes and works unceasingly. And thus knowledge without love leads us away from God; and love, even without knowledge, and perhaps better without it, leads us to God, and through God to wisdom. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!

My friend has been telling me that sometimes we reason too much, analyze things excessively, and in doing so, create our own misery. There seems to be a conflict between our thinking and our feeling/sensing sides and a difficulty integrating both. I know he’s right on that…and it’s being echoed many places elsewhere.

About a week ago, I picked up a book on poetry writing at the local Borders. I have to be honest…in some ways I dislike writing poetry, telling myself it’s a waste of time and energy and besides, it’s impossible for me to write anything beautiful (yes, I realize that it’s all self-limiting talk). But, I do enjoy reading poetry…at least some types of poetry…the kind that rhymes, mostly because it has a delightful cadence. It’s also National Poetry Month, so in addition to reading poetry to the girls, I wanted to see if I couldn’t write some of my own.

The poetry book I picked up is called Poetry as Spiritual Practice:Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions, and I chose it because of the practical aspects of learning how to write poetry (having forgotten all I learned in school about the mechanics of poetry), and because I’d hoped it would help me to turn deeply inward and unlock previously blocked creative and spiritual areas of my self.

I found the quote by Kierkegaard surprising and yet not so, given the fact that my life seems to be full of synchronicity lately. This bears repeating here: “Between poetry and religion the worldly wisdom of living plays its comedy. Every individual who does not live either poetically or religiously is a fool”. And so I, already declaring I might be the foolish one in a previous post of mine, will be working on rectifying this shortly.

Perhaps, through poetry, I will find myself closer to a spiritually fulfilling life, and also unlock the blocked creative areas I find myself in sometimes (I would like to get back to finishing that novel I started in NaNoWriMo some day). 

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This entry was posted in faith, incompleteness, intellectual stuff, introspection, personal growth, poetry, synchronicity, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to There’s that faith thing again

  1. Rick says:

    This is a conversation I’ve had among close friends, and in my head, for 20 years now. I can’t say I have the answer; I can only say what I believe, today:

    Existentialism and faith are incompatible views of life. One says life has no inherent meaning, and is largely ludicrous; the other says life does have meaning, and while it is difficult, it can also be rewarding.

    Have I felt, for most of my life, that life has no meaning beyond what I assign it, or have I felt that life is something bigger than what’s in my head?

    I have found existentialism appealing at times because it suits a dour mood, not because it’s how I really feel most of the time. The trickiness of it, for me, is that it’s mostly true. We do live independent lives that have little impact, unless we choose to reach out, and are accepted. That takes effort. You and I have both experienced this. 🙂

    I believe that for every step we take toward God, God takes seven toward us. That’s automatic acceptance. It is a completely unequal relationship. And, it is completely unprovable, in the terms an existential philosophy demands.

    For me, today, a life of faith is not a balm for troubles, or putting a happy face on an uncaring world, or a clever self-hypnosis to make life palatable. It is simply a reflection of a deeper reality than existentialism can recognize.

    I don’t reject existentialism because it’s too sophisticated; I reject it because it’s too simple to encompass life. It is the blunt instrument of the disposessed.

    I believe that, eventually, we won’t need religion, or labels for God, any more than we need to know about oxygen to breathe. We’ll just live it. That’s the Nirvana, the Kingdom of Heaven, I believe in.

    And we have to believe in it to make it appear, because it’s not here yet. It’s nutty, but that seems to be how it works.

    Existentialism is just… lazy. 🙂

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Rick –

      I’m smiling right now from ear to ear. I appreciate your beautiful and well-spoken comment and I do agree whole-heartedly with it.

      I have looked back upon these past few months. I have examined some existentialist thought in my writings, have been troubled by my own mortality, and questioned what I believe, and yet I remain open to faith. I think, in some ways, depending on what one experiences in life, one will be led towards existentialism or faith. And that this can change based on what happens. We certainly feel more or less hopeful depending on external circumstances.

      The reason, I think is that it’s easy to argue that God must be absent because of all the trials and tribulations in one’s life. I became attuned to look beyond the surface of these trials and tribulations to find what these could mean instead of the obvious “well, life just sucks, and then you die”.

      I’ve looked at the people who cross my path at pivotal times in my life. Support, strength and comfort came in the least expected places. Most of these people didn’t know at the time what they did for me. They had no idea they served a definite purpose in my life, just by being who they are and walking with me a while on my path. And even I, at the time, may not have realized the magnitude of their impact until much later.

      The thing of it is, I DO believe that God does reveal Himself (Herself, Itself) to me in ways I need. As you say, I don’t think of the label “God” when I’m looking as much as I look for the positive meaning I can ascribe to people and events in my life. In those instances where synchronicity occur, I DO believe this is a revelation of the presence of God in my life.

      I think I’d been taking on other people’s views that believing in God is, in some ways, is only for the sheeple, those people who can’t behave unless there are rules and consequences to breaking those rules. And I, of course, with my (ahem) exquisite powers of reason, have no need for rules supposedly handed down to man from God Himself.

      I’ve heard it said that those hell is not fire and brimstone but a place where those who don’t believe in God are eternally separated from Him.

      But it just dawned on me, hell is not somewhere in the future, a place I might go after I die.

      I was living hell up until recently, separated from God because I was seeking clear evidence which definitely proves He exists. I torture myself with the anguish I feel because I couldn’t fully believe in a Supreme Being who magically created the earth. How is this self-torture not hell?

      God is in me, and in you, and in others who strive to hope and love and give of ourselves, not because we get anything in return, but because we get the chance to create hope for another and in doing so, perpetuate our own hope.

      I don’t reject existentialism because it’s too sophisticated; I reject it because it’s too simple to encompass life. It is the blunt instrument of the disposessed.

      An emphatic YES!

      • Rick says:

        I was lucky enough to have a pastor once who told me he thought “Doubting” Thomas was blessed, and that his need for proof is where many of us are today. We want to know, and, we just can’t. It sucks.

        It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for proof. And I don’t accept near death experiences as evidence, because “near death” ain’t death. By the time you find out, you can’t tell anybody. I hate that.

        You can bet I will take it up with the creator when I get there… although, after Moses met God face to face, he wore a veil the rest of his life. Hmm. Maybe the current setup is for the best. 🙂

      • raisingsmartgirls says:

        Actually not to be contrary, but we (husband read it to me) checked scripture (the NIV version of the Bible) that Moses did not actually see God face to face…but rather, face to back. Because if he actually gazed upon the countenance of God, he would have to die.

        Exodus 33:19-23

        9And he said,”I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

        And Moses wore the veil but did take it off, to show others his radiance at having seen God. I think his radiance must have weirded people out a little.

        But yeah, I’d like to know. But then I’d have to die. So I think I’ll wait a little longer.

  2. Papa T says:

    Wow…you sure have some weird friends.

    Look, I’m not going to go all analytical on you here, but…

    It’s like Rilke once told that “young poet”: (paraphrase) Go inside yourself. Express YOU through your poetry. Stop asking other people what THEY think/feel about it. Just do it for YOU. When you do that, THEN you will know whether or not your ‘creativity’ leans in that direction. Stop worrying about what the publishers might think. Stop listening to them…start listening to YOU. …and so on.

    Amen.

    Poetry is (drum roll, please) just writing–or saying–what you feel without getting all hung up on structure OR how anybody else might judge it. SOMETIMES some poets pen stuff that appeals to other people. SOMETIMES some poets pen stuff that appeals to A LOT of people. Most poetry is just dross in the grand scheme. Just like most of our musings. Muse on, Mrs. RSG!

    And, of course, there is our ever-present (why the heck can’t we sit down and have coffee or wine with THIS dude!?) Herr Hermann Hesse. He declared himself–albeit indirectly–a seeker. Was one, is one, will always be one. BUT…he said that he had stopped searching books and the stars and instead had turned his ear to the blood that was rustling in his OWN veins. Further saying that, while we can understand each other, it is up to each one of us to interpret our OWN Self.

    Amen.

    When I read Don Unamuno (tediously as it may be sometimes…), I wonder how much he DIDN’T SAY. Yeah, back in those days when people were still being ruined (or GRAC(E)iously killed) for speaking/writing in ways that pi$$ed off “The Church.” [Oh, I forgot…that’s STILL liable to happen. Just more churches to look out for.] Whatever Don Miguel’s overarching views/beliefs were, he was true to them.

    I’m not going to argue the whole faith-is-wishing-that-God-exists thing with our dearly departed philosopher OR with you. [But I suppose there is some application of the thesis to “thinking believers”…which strikes me as somewhat of an oxymoron.] I will say though that I am not going to spend another minute (or millisecond) of my life WISHING that ANYthing–or anybody–exists. There’s plenty of stuff around that I’m fairly certain DOES exist. For me, today, I am certain that IF this G-d exists, he-she-it is more than capable of weathering the storm of my insolence. I have six children…SOMEHOW I have survived more insolence than I can recount here. And “God” knows I dealt out my share of it to my parents…and they’ve kept breathing through it all.

    How much more can an allegedly omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal Being tolerate his goofy kids? And this always begs the question (in my mind): What the heck does “He” need ME for!?

    ‘Nuf sed…

    Peace, out…

    • raisingsmartgirls says:

      Papa T –

      Yes, I do have some weird friends.

      As far as poetry goes…I have my likes and dislikes. I won’t write poetry unless I know some basics. I pretty much hate free verse. But that’s just me.

      I like lyrical verse, and I like rhyming, and so I will learn how to do a few different kinds simply to find out which ones I like best.

      As far as seeking the books…I’m not looking for someone else’s ideas, just those that can help me resolve the scientific/analytical side of me with the side of me that needs the mythology, the hope, the faith, the love.

      I wrote this a while back

      https://raisingsmartgirls.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/existential-depression-and-death-anxiety/

      It may or may not help you understand my desire to create some sort of spiritual structure. Not because of some future afterlife (or not) but because it’s important to me to have peace and comfort now.

  3. Papa T says:

    Yeah…but what do I know? I just ramble on…

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Papa T –

    What do you know? You know quite a bit. Some of which I agree with. Some of which challenges my perceptions. All of which is welcome.

    I know I think too much and feel too little. I know the God I perceive is NOT out there, somewhere above me, unattainable, invisible. God is within me, compelling me to live a little more selflessly every day, to think of ways I can engage others and walk with them along their path a little.

    God, to me, is pure love – loving everything and everyone, even if the object is contemptible to my sense of reason. Whether God is exactly as it’s been told to us – creating the universe and everything in it, I know not. But, for now, I’m okay with the not knowing. The pure love comes in for loving everything and everyone in the world, whether or not we think they are worthy of it.

    We all suffer, we are all united in this suffering. We’d be better off if we strive to love EVERYTHING and EVERYONE and strive to relieve the suffering of others. I mean this globally. But since we do not all believe this principle, we will never be free of suffering. And so it goes and will go until the end of time.

    If, for instance, existentialism works for someone else, and they are at peace, well, if I am to love everything and everyone, I accept that. It doesn’t work for me anymore.

    And yes, if God truly does exist, he will understand and weather the storm of your insolence.

    I found the parts of Unamuno I’ve read not be tedious, but rather very moving. I cried when I talked to Mr. RSG about parts of chapter IX.

    Why I cry about such things (and I am not THAT prone to crying), I know that I need to take note that it moved me for a reason. It reaches that part of me that I guard closely and I can’t ignore that. It reaches deep inside and resonates with me.

  5. Spacemom says:

    Hm, interesting.
    I count my self as an atheist. I fail to accept a need to have a guiding spirit in my life. However, I can still sit in the still of the forest, in the Smokey Mountains, as I did last week, and revel in the beauty of life that allowed me to be at THAT place which had experienced upthrust and folding, devistation, seedlings that became mature pines, soil that covered and then was washed away to expose the rock face, and I was THERE at the right time to experience all of this beauty.

    I protect nature to protect it for others. I do nice things for others, because I am selfish and it makes me happy to see other people happy.

    God is without. Spirituality is within.They are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive.

  6. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Spacemom –

    It IS interesting.

    I don’t necessarily NEED a guiding spirit (did I say I did??? that’s just like me to be inconsistent), but I do seem to experience lots of synchronicity in my life.

    Whether or not this synchronicity is attributable to the Divine Supreme Being, or to simply MY own strong desire to create meaning, I don’t know.

    I do like what de Grasse Tyson has to say here (who is a staunch atheist) that

    We are all connected:

    To each other biologically
    To the earth, chemically
    To the rest of the universe, atomically

    Or Feynman’s

    I think Nature’s imagination, is so much greater than man’s

    Yeah, I got that from this Symphony of Science YouTube video

    We are all connected

    You said,
    “I protect nature to protect it for others. I do nice things for others, because I am selfish and it makes me happy to see other people happy.”

    That’s cool.

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