Category Religion

A Few Notes on Paddling and Faith

Reader David Moriah wrote a heartfelt comment in response to my previous post on “Is the Center No Longer Holding?” I offer it to you here as a prelude to a brief meditation of my own, because I believe, among the various important points he raised, none is more vital and literally noteworthy for our time than the implications of the “faith” that he sketches with the powerful imagery that he does.

His comment in full:

“I have reached a stage in my life and amidst the accelerating centrifugal forces at loose on the planet when I surrender to my inability to forecast where we are headed. There are times when I sense an impending darkness capturing more and more of the globe, and most disturbingly many of the supposedly enlightened corners that have been cleansed of tribal lunacy by liberal democracy and both secular and religious messages of tolerance and good will toward all...

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Is the Center No Longer Holding?

We seem to be living in riven times. (Though one could ask with substantial justification: When hasn’t humanity lived in riven times?)

Schisms abound, and they appear to be more rancorous and sharp than at any time in recent memory. The European Union is fragmenting; the French may well follow the lead of their counterparts across the channel by doing a “Frexit,” with the added dimension of electing an overt racist to lead them.

Much of the world stays mired in intractable poverty under the autocracies and kleptocracies that serve as both its cause and effect.

And in the United States, we endure, in a kind of downcast awe, the awfulness that is Donald Trump.

So is the vaunted center, that core of shared values and aspirations and steady-minded tending of continued progress in the human project, whatever the differences in means and tactics to achieve it, slipping away from us?

Is the center no longer...

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The Puffed Up Self in Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

“Our Delight in Destruction,” read the headline from a recent philosophy blog in the New York Times. (Yes, actual philosophers blogging in readable English in a daily newspaper—hope lives!)

This was just a day after I had come across and held to my eyes a treasured volume, “Irrational Man,” a 1960s-era study of the great existential philosophers who detailed the human penchant for, well, not always behaving in the optimal fashion to promote our own best interests (nor the well-being of those around us).

And through both those works, a long chew through Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance,” a far-reaching, soul-stirring anthem celebrating, no matter how “destructive” or “irrational” it might appear to those other thinkers mentioned above, the absolute primacy of the Self, the lone self-reflective individual, our own deepest heart of hearts, for whom the Bard of Concord intoned:

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Iris Dement Takes on the Philosophers

 

***

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where they all came from
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain
And so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

***

“Through the ontological interpretation of Dasein as being-in-the-world no decision, whether positive or negative, is made concerning a possible being toward God. It is, however, the case that through an illumination of transcendence we first achieve an adequate concept of Dasein, with respect to which it can now be asked how the relationship of Dasein to God is ontologically ordered.”
—From Martin Heidegger’s essay, “On the Essence of Ground” (1928)

***

Some say once you’re gone you’re gone forever
And some say you’re gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
If in sinful ways you lack

 ***

“How do we know there is an afterlife? B...

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Religious Huckster Take-Down: Carl Sandburg’s “To a Contemporary Bunkshooter”

There will always be Billy Sundays among us. Smooth, snake-tongued preachers talking up either the gospel of prosperity that creates prosperity mostly for themselves, or else painting pictures of heavenly hereafters with which their impoverished followers will be rewarded—provided they dig deep for what is in their meagerly endowed pockets to sustain the preacher’s enterprise.

The historical Billy Sunday was the latter, a ragingly successful turn-of-the-20th century evangelist who wowed crowds with theatrical religious oratory that he embellished with long slides across or dives off the stage, stunts that called upon his former career as a major league baseball player with a penchant for stealing bases.

Sunday soothed his listeners and their hollowed out lives with promises of heavenly days everlasting even as he himself became wealthy...

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