Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Life in the Slow Lane

What I'm doing: I'm writing a book. So far the title is going to be: "Letting Go Of God". It's hard. To write a book, I mean. Letting go of God was also hard, but I did that a while ago, so it doesn't seem so hard now. What seems hard now is to write this book. I am working on the outline. I have finished a preliminary one. I am terrified and overwhelmed. I have been doing the stage show of the same title, here and there, around and about, for almost three years. This is definitely my hardest show to do.

What's new? Well, I read this wonderful book, "Uncommon Sense" by Alan Cromer. His idea is that scientific, objective, abstract, rational thinking is not natural to us. But, as he says, "...when you think about it, monogamy, honesty & democratic government are unnatural human behaviors as well...." And I have to say, after reading his book, I agree with him. He also says that "Our claim to greatness is that we have at times gone against the grain of our own egocentrism to forge a higher vision of the world."

Also this: "Science is the end product of two unique histories: the biological history in which human beings evolved from anthropod ancestors, and the human history of the discovery of objective thinking and its application to the study of nature. The second history wouldn't be possible if the first didn't endow us with the capacity of abstract thought. But why do we have this capacity? What were the specific environmental factors that selected for high intelligence? Were they the same ones that first caused the hominid line to diverge from the ape line? If so, then science was the destiny of our line. If not, the hominid line from which we descended arose from extraneous factors having nothing to do with heavy thinking -- then human intelligence itself is a fluke, an unpredictable event along the chaotic trajectory of life. Maybe we got to where we are by such a tortuous path that it's likelihood of being repeated elsewhere is very small."

I loved the book, underlining things all through it. I tried to send him an e-mail but it seems he is alive but not able to get e-mail through the university he used to teach at (Northeastern University).

I think it's true, that science asks people to veer away from a passion for believing in spirits and gods and it's difficult. That scientific thinking comes, not naturally, but through formal education. In the end, that was the biggest transformation for me. I thought I was just seeking to find God, and what I ended up with was an entirely new way of seeing the world. It wasn't just God I gave up, but also my confidence in anything that I couldn't pass through my new method of finding truth, which included evidence and objectivity and probabilities and a deep attempt at freeing myself from projecting my own personal wishes and needs into ideas and concepts. Not only out went a personal God, or even any non-personal God, but a lot went with the bathwater -- from astrology, psychics, untested herbal remedies to ideas like transformation through transcendence. But I gained so much more.

This week a friend said to me, "You don't believe anything." And I couldn't stop thinking about that. Because that's not true. In fact, I think it's the oppposite. It's that I believe in so much. I mean, if you define "believe" as in "have confidence in." I have confidence in the laws of nature. I understand how objective truth is arrived at. I have a method that allows me to "believe" in things.

What else? I was in Spokane to visit my parents. I went to a Christian concert -- I took Mulan. I felt a little guilty taking her to her first big concert and having it be a Christian one, but I was curious. The first band was a local one, called Sittser. I couldn't detect any overt Christian references to their songs -- most of them having vague possibly religious themes, like "When you are confused, look up for direction," which of course, could mean looking at the stars or something. The second band was Newsboys, and they were yelling "Praise God!" as soon as they got onstage to a packed Opera House filled with believers yelling "Yes!" and "Praise Jesus!" back at them.
Mulan asked me, "What does 'praise' mean?" and I said, "It means...it means...adore or like...give a compliment."
And she said, "Why does God need a compliment?"
Ha. I said because he's omnipotent and omnicient and also really insecure.

The lead singer of the Newsboys started telling the audience a story. He said, "You know how it's easy to pray when things are going well, when times are good? But it's a lot harder to pray when things are going bad." Then he told about how his wife died of cancer the year before and how he and she used to pray. It felt very manipulative. I looked around at the audience. Couldn't they see how manipulative that was? Plus, it's not true. People pray much quicker and easier when times are tough. It's when they need something and the idea of a loving merciful God who has control or even just comfort is appealing. When things are going well, people usually don't pray. (Although I have to say, I used to pray all the time, good times and bad. I liked to pray in good times because it gave me the idea that there was someone to thank). In any case, this was about the time that I decided that we had to go.

As we were leaving the Opera House, I saw the lead singer of Sittser. I asked him if he considered his band a Christian band. I could tell he couldn't tell where I was coming from, and so he tried to have it both ways, saying that he didn't want to get pigeonholed, but that his band had deep faith, blah blah blah.

I went because I was curious. The radio station that promoted the concert is one of several Christian stations in Spokane and this whole, new, Christian music is a phenomenon. I wanted to see it up close. Mostly, I have to say, it was pretty boring. I mean, almost any gospel music has many times more "soul" than these two bands had. And more vocally appreciative fans.


ShellyD said...

I used to be a fan of the Newsboys. I also went to a Christian music festival that included a group called Geoff Moore and the Distance. At the time I was not really Christian, had a complicated attitude toward the church and got offended when they made fun of evolution. He has a whole song about that, called, I think, "Evolution Redefined." Christian music has its own subculture, like a different world.

I love your entries. I love your little comments like, "I couldn't stop thinking about that," because my sister has told me repeatedly that I think too much. Good to know other introspective people are out there.

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