Skip to main content

"Like" when you see it

The ceaseless boundless thoughtless tribal head-to-head which is the social interweb plays host to many glorious, definitive, profoundly opposition-overwhelming JPEGs which are variously tweeted, posted, liked, re-tweeted, followed, commented-on, shared, reported, voted (up or down), removed from News Feed (hide all stories...? change what updates...? send feedback to [insert friend here]...?) and generally marvelled at in any of several possible senses for all of a matter of seconds before the page refreshes to deliver a fresh cavalcade of bite-sized resolutions to the deepest, most bewildering bewilderments of human nature and existence:

Reality? Wow! Really? For sure? I mean...really? 'Cos, well, I always, like, totally wondered about that. What is the deal, then? All this stuff around me...the fabrications of Descarte's malevolent demon? the projections of my own imagination? What am I? a brain in a vat? a cell in a giant battery powering the Matrix? if every part of me were incrementally replaced with mechanised prosthetics at what point (if at all) would I cease to be myself? What about other minds -- do they exist? what's all this like for them -- pretty much the same, or something unimaginably different? am I always me (this me now, that is) or do I move around and forget? How about the past -- did it really happen? is time moving forward? am I stuck in a loop? is it always now, this single moment, with all memory and anticipation an illusion?

When people say that they only believe what they can see with their eyes I'm impressed by their faith. Especially if they include those things which they have seen but are not currently observing: one of these days I am going to start eating my dinner in front of the oven, so that I don't have to keep getting up to check that I really did turn it off. And maybe I'll hook up CCTV cameras over my doors and windows so that I can reassure myself from the undisturbed productive situation of my desk that, yes, I really did close them all before I left the house. But even if I could entirely guard myself against the possible deceptions of my memory [1], I would remain dissatisfied as to the soundness of my senses. And reliable senses, in turn, offer no guarantees against untrustworthy stimuli.

I'm not dismissing those who take (some version of) reality for granted [2]. It's pretty clear that I'm in no position to judge -- after all, I only know what it feels like to be me (indeed, that's kinda my point), and the me that I know what it feels like to be is hardly known for her mental stability. The people who claim to know what reality is -- well, all I can say is, maybe they really do. That is how uncertain I am: I am so unconvinced about the possibility of knowing and asserting reality with any confidence that I daren't even assert the impossibility of asserting reality with any confidence. For real, for sure, I'm not just trying to be clever. (Although, don't get me wrong, a non-negligible fraction of my efforts are always geared towards the hopeless, foolish, unattainable and fruitless-anyway end of cleverness).

I don't really know what I am getting at, except that, well, everything seems too plain ginormous and crazy-tacular for me to even begin to begin to think I've begun to get my head around the beginnings of it. And I like to think that, after all, I'm in pretty good company:
Bill: So-cratz - "The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing".
Ted: That's us, dude.
(The most excellent Bill and Ted expressing their approval for the works of Socrates)
When it comes down to it, though, I generally aim at some sort of pragmatism. I try to do the best I can with the evidence before me and to live my life in a way which is consistent with the conclusions that I come to -- including certain conclusions about Jesus: that he reveals God, effects redemption, invites me to follow him, etc etc... (The etc's aren't intended flippantly, they're there to doubly make sure that nobody mistakes these example aspects for an attempt at a definitive list...). Other bits and pieces I've written expand (hopefully not entirely incoherently :-/ ) on why I hold these beliefs and how I came to them. But I don't think faith means wrapping everything up in a neat package and saying "hah! that's me done with wondering" -- far from it. In fact, I would say that my relationship with God, as it deepens, both humbles me to recognise my lack of understanding, and emboldens me to wonder and explore my own bewilderment -- and in all, to seek and be responsive to His presence and His guidance. I am reminded of the final chapters (38-42) of the book of Job: after all of the mostly misguided attempts, on behalf of his friends, to "make sense of it all", God speaks...
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken. Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!" (Job 38:1-21) 
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." (Job 42:1-4)

[1] The other day I confidently asserted that Beckett had originally penned Waiting for Godot in Latin. Which is just flagrantly untrue, as I started to suspect when Wikipedia (my first port of call) failed to pick up on such a would-be-remarkable fact. He wrote it in French first, and then English, but I have 'known' that he wrote it in Latin for at least two years. I read it in an article, I'm sure... Possibly I contracted the misconception from another confused person, but I've not been able to track down a candidate source; most likely I just dreamt it.

[2] Oh, and this certainly isn't an attack on atheists. To demonstrate -- behold! The incontrovertible proof of the existence of God which is the banana:

Checkmate, as they say. LOL, and all that. 


Popular posts from this blog

An autobiographical poem about walking on water

A decade ago, give or take – feeling at crisis point in my mental health and desperately socially disconnected – I "went up for prayer" at a church I was visiting. (I find it hard to do this at my own church when I feel desperately socially disconnected. It's hard enough even to be at my own church at such times). And the gentle, kindly woman who placed her hand on my shoulder and prayed some simple, general, healing words to suit my simple, general, hurting plea looked thoughtfully at me afterwards and said "just, if and when you can, keep taking each next step towards Jesus, whatever that looks like," or words to that effect. It seemed as good a plan as any, so I did. (Not instead of getting medical and professional help, I hasten to add; seeking out and receiving whatever support is available has always felt more like an action of faith than a compromise of it).

Since then, stepping towards Jesus has taken me (slowly, often painfully, and usually the long w…

The Sin of Onan

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. (Genesis 38:6-10) According to Google's answer to what (let's face it) must be right up there among the most-asked questions since the invention of the search engine, this story is the closest the Bible comes to saying anything directly about masturbation.

And it isn't a story about masturbation. It's not even a story, not really, about birth control methods – although they feature. It's a story about the denial of ju…

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock)

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.  (T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land, part I: The Burial of the Dead,1922) These lines have lingered in my mind the past few days. Eliot wrote The Waste Land in the years following the First World War, when the landscape of humanity seemed perhaps particularly stark and bleak. The poem resounds with disquiet and despair: all glimpsed respite turns out to be illusory or faltering; it seems improbable that any grounds for real hope exist at all. Eliot …