my faith & what it has to do with this guy

Ramakrishna_image_cropped

Update: I’m still awake.  It’s now 5 a.m., so I think I might just stay up…? There’s a difference between having a hard time getting to sleep and knowing with complete certainty that it’s just not going to happen for you tonight.  Anyway, I’ve been reflecting on that earlier post and just how good it felt.  This process is actually quite cathartic. It also occurred to me that, if I’m going to try to honestly articulate the way I feel about things, I should introduce the basis of my perception of the world. It’s my faith.

I know that the whole “spiritual but not religious” thing is a bit of a fad with young people at the moment (if you haven’t seen the CollegeHumor video…here), but I personally – and, maybe, narcissistically – think we young folk are onto something.  I think, for the most part, like Hegel, that each generation is the next step in a process that works toward universal human freedom. I like that idea, and I think it makes sense.  Each stage of history is a building block for the next.  Human thought is a product of evolution just as much as our biological makeup is.  Hegel. What a dude. Anyway, I think it’s funny when older people scoff at the growing faction of “spiritual but not religious” people like they’re a product of naive idealism.  I don’t think that’s right.  I will tell you what I think.

The biggest influence on my current thinking about religion is Ramakrishna. I actually heard about him during a sermon at one of our weekly high school chapel services.  Basically, he was a mystic who asserted that all paths lead to God.  He disregarded the particulars of any specific religion and basically told everyone to calm down because errbody’s headed to God. If the believer is cruising along doing what he deems good and righteous, he’s going to make it to the ultimate Being for which he searches whether he’s a Christian or a Buddhist.  Isn’t that a cool idea.  It blew my mind when I heard it.  Well, it didn’t blow my mind, because I’d always had a very vague outline of that idea functioning somewhere in my brainhole, but I was psyched to find out that someone had already thought it all up with a nice metaphor and everything.  Side note, I’ve realized that getting an education (in the humanities, at least) is kind of just realizing that most everything you think has been thought before and probably articulated way more eloquently than you could ever hope to. Back to the point.

I agree with the concept that all these different paths lead to one ultimate Being that unites us all in universal peace and harmony. I think that makes the most sense out of anything I’ve heard regarding religion. I consider myself to be an Episcopalian because I like the tradition and I love Christ’s message, but that could change, maybe. Ramakrishna tried a little bit of everything.  Maybe I’ll do that.  Maybe I’m actually a wrinkly Indian mystic reincarnate. Food for thought. You know how some people are gender-fluid?  I’m religion-fluid.  Ha.

Where my thinking gets kind of weird is when my spirituality meets my Epicurean nature.  I really like…stuff.  I like being alive.  I see God in cookies & cream milkshakes and cold, soft sheets. I see God in Freebirds nachos and cold bottles of white wine.  I see God in sex.

In class today, we talked about Nietzsche a lot. Obviously, I hold religion to be more important than he does…I mean I think it’s real, for starters. I do like his point about the kingdom of God though. He basically says that the kingdom of God, this idea of salvation that awaits at the end of physical life, is not an external, other-worldly space; it is, like Jesus says, within you.  Nietzsche says that Jesus died precisely to do away with the notion of sin and redemption that so burdened the Jews; Jesus is a symbolic figure meant to represent a life correctly lived by accepting the material world as something not at all separate from that of God.  The kingdom of God is within you.  It’s here.  This is it.  Yerr looking at it.

That concept actually does blow my mind.  It too makes a lot of sense to me.  In the past, I’ve always had this problem conceptualizing heaven.  Well, since I was like sixteen. My issue is, and forgive me if I offend, how would an eternity of bliss be…blissful?  We know pleasure precisely because we know pain; the two are bound in a symbiotic relationship, each sharpened by the severity of the other. I mean think about it, have you ever been super obsessed with a new song you found only to hate it by day three of listening to it on repeat?  I’m sure you adore a nice cold Coke, but if all you drank were nice cold Cokes I’m sure you’d get pretty sick of Coke.  Also, if you’ve been at all culturally aware at any point in the past seven years, you’ll know that vampires struggle with the monotony of immortality a lot.  So yeah, you can probably see that when I read Nietzsche I got kind of excited.

Nietzsche’s conclusion is, basically, to be satisfied with what you’ve got.  He still finds significance in a life well lived.  He asserts that when you free yourself from the notion of one ultimate and unshakeable truth (i.e. religion) you open yourself up to an infinity of truths yet to be discovered in your world. The creation of another, entirely separate reality that “actually matters” is not constructive; what is constructive is the acceptance and enjoyment of the complete reality encapsulated by a human life. Cool stuff.  I think this notion of wholeheartedly accepting life as it is and rolling with the punches is something everyone should subscribe to.  For me, it’s incongruous with the idea that God created the world according to his perfect vision to assume that we should deny ourselves enjoyment of it. I think that allowing a strict code of conduct set forth by a book written by human hands to dictate your behavior is not the way to get the most out of your existence.  Again, not trying to be disrespectful, just thinking this through.

Now I’m going to try to articulate the summation of all of these ideas in my brainhole. Bear with me. This won’t be pretty. Basically, I think that there is a benevolent force operating at the center of all creation.  I think this for another specific set of reasons I’ll talk about another time (the…kind of…inexplicable evolution of altruism, etc.), but I know that. I think, like Ramakrishna, that all who seek this Spirit will find it in the way they imagine, precisely because He is benevolent and seeks to make peace in our hearts. So, basically, I say go for it.  Do whatever you want. If you want a Bible quote in your instagram bio, go for it.  If you’re an atheist, go for it. I, personally, am going to enjoy life as much as I can while it lasts. I’m going to say yes to too many things and make a lot of horrible decisions in hopes of maybe making some good ones along the way.  I’m not going to hold myself to a code of law that extends any further than, fundamentally, to love thy neighbor. I’ll see where it gets me.

 

P.S. I have a lot of very weird ideas that are basically a convenient smashing together of random bits of philosophy that I like.  See, I feel like if I write it all down and refer back to it later, it could help me actually figure out what the feck I think.

 

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