Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thoughts about Not-Knowing God

Many moons ago, and then, more recently, I read Bertrand Russell's Why I am Not a Christian. At the first reading, I was convinced that anyone who “believed” had been duped. More recently, I felt that Russell stereotyped the tenets of belief in such a way that his argument was valid, but did not apply to many believers.

When I started going to Torah study I wondered who this God was to the participants. I found that they generally thought of him/her as an expression of an idea, much like beauty or love. I came to believe that there wasn't much to deny. If you call God the nature of things, or the overarching force to the universe, then that's what it is.

But then I just talked with Linda about her mom's funeral today, and she told me about how the minister said that if you don't believe in Jesus you won't be saved... and I'm glad I wasn't there because then I would have had to practice restraint.

I really wanted to write about something more interesting... to me, at least. In the Torah (Lev.19:4) we read, “Do not turn to idols.” In the Talmud (Shabbat 149a) it interprets this to mean, “Do not turn to that which you conceive in your own minds.”

I see this as a beautiful expression about how we really don't know answers to the really big questions... and believing (or conceiving) answers is playing a very dangerous game. Not knowing allows the universe to breathe. And it allows us to breathe. The problem with knowing is that we have to hold our breath because we can be proved wrong at any moment.

The Zen precept I'm working on now is meeting people on equal ground. I think not knowing helps me do this. I don't know what havoc the person next to me has experienced recently. I don't know their ambitions and accomplishments. I don't know much of anything about them. I do know that they are unique and special. Isn't that enough?

When we idolize one thing we un-idolize another thing. Yet, meeting all on equal ground places us all at the same level. We are all well-intentioned and honorable. We are all chosen. But we aren't more special or chosen than anyone else, despite what we've been told all our lives.

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Who's in the world?

Xiushan said, "What can you do about the world?" Dizang said, "What do you call the world?"