Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My latest column ...

... Realizing the grand adventure.


  1. May I offer a supplement to your superb column?

    St. Augustine said, "Doubt is but another element of faith."

    And I say, "Enjoy the mystery and expect few answers."

  2. Hi R.T. That's a great quote that I was not familiar with. It is interesting that the more you come to appreciate the mystery, the less you seem to need precise answers (perhaps because you sense they would fall far short of the reality).

  3. Perhaps the acceptance of the mystery and the willingness to embrace (or at least tolerate) doubt comes with age. However, Augustine was still young when he spoke of doubt; in my case, I am somewhat older than Augustine, and I embrace the mystery. Why not!

  4. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Black is but another element of white.

    Good is but another element of bad.

    In is but another element of out.

    We could play this game for hours.

  5. I'm not sure, Anonymous, if the analogy works so easily. Hard to see good as another part of bad, at least if you regard evil as the privation of good. We Thomists do not believe evil has being, but is, rather, an absence of something that should be there. And one is in no way "in" when one is in fact "out".

  6. There's a saying from the Enlightenment (was it Kant? I don't recall at the moment) that "Man is the rational animal."

    I rather feel, however, that man is the rationalizing animal.

    Because we often use reason to rationalize, justify, and explain—or explain away—our most unreasonable and irrational behaviors. Krishnamurti had some things to say about this, too. One way in which we rationalize cruelty is by using stereotypical categories to remove empathy. So reason is unreliable outside the domains in which it best operates; because like any tool of thought, it can be turned towards unreason.

    The need to categorize is indeed the need to create a shorthand for thinking about larger aspects of things. Probably no one over-categorizes more than statisticians. Yet there is a benefit, beyond the purely mathematical, to grouping things into sets in order to think about them. If all we can look at is the particular and individual, we eliminate the possibility of dealing with, for example, population ecology or viral pandemics. We need to be able to look at the grand overview, at times, in order to be able to help the individuals.

    I prefer fuzzy-set theory, though, in which the boundaries of the set are "soft," even permeable, and in which not every aspect of the members of the set is known, or can be known. I also prefer fractal geometry, which is far more accurate than Euclidean geometry in describing nature.

    I am perfectly comfortable not knowing everything. I am comfortable with Mystery, as comfortable as one can be. Faith is involved, but faith is also trust, and surrender. It is one thing to know that one doesn't always intellectually know, and be okay with not always knowing why things happen. But it is something else to know that one cannot know, and surrender the idea that there even IS a why, much less a why that we will ever know. I see a lot of people claiming to have faith who are okay with never knowing why some thing has happened—but they still believe, deep down, that there IS a why, even if it's one they cannot know. Many religious claim that the why will become clear in the postulated afterlife. Maybe so. Yet this still seems to me to not have gone deep enough, to still be a kind of rationalizing faith. The assumption that Someone knows why, and that there IS a why, is still seeking reasons and meaning where there may be none, or none that we can every understand. You see how deep this can go? It returns me to Krishnamurti's comment that we can't think our way out of our troubles.