I'm reading David Whyte's "The Three Marriages" (people's lifetime of a commitment to a relationship with a partner, to their work, to themselves) these days and thinking on how the externality of God, and the concept of there being a true measure and judge of all things, really molded me, became the fundamental story of who I am and how I relate to the world. I'm not saying it was the direct or only way to grow out of the particular religious upbringing I had, but I wonder if other faiths would have left me in a more useful, more self-actualized place.
February 26, 2020
The Hindu "Namaste", "The Divine in Me salutes the Divine in You" never really rang true for me, because I have no feeling for there being divine in me. Or you. Or anyone (In fact I half-jokingly asked my yoga instructor if there was any gesture saying "The Profane in Me salutes the Profane in You.")
Would Catholicism's greater respect for wonder and mystery have left me more open to a belief in inner light? That's just a scatter-shot guess. I know some Catholics, or former Catholics, who do seem to have that kind of ease, and others who seem to have imbibed more of the guilt and fear.
I've mused before on growing up as not just as the Sweet Talkin' Son of a Preacher Man, but as a Salvation Army "Officer's Kid" - witnessing my parents being commanded on where to live and what to do, pseudo-military style, their home provided and furnished and then changed up at will by an organization which in turn set itself as commanded by God... yow! That is more of a direct and all-encompassing God->kid chain of command than most kids deal with! And I think more so than for preacher's kids in other Protestant churches where the Pastor and Congregation have more autonomy in choosing one another. (Catholics of course have even bolder claims from God on down, but it doesn't become a family matter.)
And I guess there might have been some synergy with my self-aggrandizing as a clever, precocious kid. Parallel to me trying to force a love of jazz and classical, since that's what smart people liked, I fostered a love of science, since that was what smart people believed! Plus, as with my religion, science was an externalized source of The Truth. In both cases, the only meaningful - or perhaps transcendent - role the individual has is as a conduit for that external Truth. Everything else is just mundane and arbitrary.
As a teen, I had to shift away from active faith, when considering how many different faiths there were. if a Faith was True, if it represented a supernatural or at least objective absolute truth, then how on earth (or from heaven) did we get to have so many religions? What hubris the Believer, the person sure of their faith, displays -- to presume that all the believers in incompatible cosmologies are either deluded or being disingenuous! Absolute Faith seems so incompatible with universal empathy.
I suppose you can squint and take a "many paths" interpretation of all or at least most of the world's religions. Again, if I had more of a feeling for my own inner light, a better intuition on the legitimacy of self-actualization, "many paths" would feel like less milquetoast, makeshift compromise to me than it does now.
Instead, I guess Science is weirdly more compatible with the religious notions that formed me- science strives for doubt and skepticism and constantly putting itself to the test against The Truth, which it assumes exists, and would by definition be the same for all people who took the time to measure it accurately.
But of course Science is limited. It shouldn't be mistaken for philosophy, because "You can't get ought from is". Once your goal is selected, science can be useful in aligning your methods with your target, but it doesn't have much to say on what that target Should Be. (Maybe science can give you a better idea of the possibility space? But maybe not, since almost by definition that extends to the dark edges science has not yet brought light to.)
Yeesh. I'm in my mid-40s now and had my crisis of faith when I was in my mid-teens. So it took me about twice as long to figure out what was going on than it did to go on in the first place!
So I navel gaze a lot, but I appreciate when a new interpretation seems to provide a better explanation for aspects of me that have always seemed kind of weird. I've always noticed my own lack of a need for privacy... maybe that's just because I don't have a meaningful inner life worth shielding- and by trying to put good stuff out there, I can create value for the group (which is what matters) as well as get validation that is always best when it's external, because I don't trust my own self-serving evaluation to be as in line with the objective truth as what outsiders can tell me.
And a lack-of-inner-light helps explain my skepticism about the idea of personal growth (and resulting indifference to literature involving character arcs). I mean, there's just not much there to grow! People are who they are, they don't change all that much over time, myself included. Behaviors can change but it always seems to take a tremendous force of will.
I guess I should credit my estranged debating partner EB for cottoning on to some of this. He's noted a phenomenon where he tells me an idea that I reject at first and later come around to, often forgetting to credit him for it - his take being I just can't accept something if it comes from him, that I'm perpetually ad-hominem about it all.
I don't think that's quite fair; he's presented difficult to accept truths that are often married with things that I believe are untrue. Like he was right to note some of the influence the Salvation Army had in externalizing approval for me but also (operating under the misassumption that most of my dinners were communal) he'd go on to assume that's because I live in fear of rejection from the group - like if they rejected me, I wouldn't eat! But in practice I'm kind of indifferent to people's opinion except as a way of getting to an objective evaluation.
For example, I was always willing to stand up to teachers if they were being unjust - if a fellow student missed a question I got right, but thought it was an unfair trick quick question I happened to see through - I would fight for that student. (Sometimes I was an argumentative pain in the butt.) The teacher's authority can only rightfully come from being righteous in an objective sense. I suspect EB's irritation sometimes springs from me paying insufficient heed to his authority - and again, he's a really good thinker - he finds insult in the time it takes me to come around, and the places where I never will.
So I've been consistent for the first 8 or so days of my "walk half an hour over lunchbreak" club at work. A few days a coworker joined me, but mostly I listen to podcasts.
Another daily ritual is an after-lunch popsicle - uh, freezer bar. Whatever the hell Outshine bars are even when it's the creamy type.
New idea: I can't have my daily popsicle 'til I get to Inbox Zero. I've really been struggling with that lately, but it's a classic case where procrastinating on it hardly ever makes it better.