February 8, 2019 in Views
As an Agnostic Pantheist, I feel it is important to define what I mean by Faith, and its hypothetical perfection. First and foremost, the “Perfection Of Faith” is a very tangible and concrete goal for me. It is a goal that outweighs the vague and ephemeral notion of happiness, although for the sake of simplicity I will refer to my goal as if it were a pursuit of happiness.
The three definitions that align with my personal understanding of faith are:
Confidence or trust in a person or thing.
Belief in anything as a code of ethics or
standard of merits.
The obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise or engagement.
Faith as defined here is a way of life that is not limited to dogma or belief in arbitrary authority. As for its perfection; that would be a life thoroughly permeated, shaped and defined by my own healthy conscience.
By focusing on happiness as a goal, I am acting under the impression that I am capable of unflinchingly standing behind my deepest convictions of right and wrong, as well as living those convictions out completely.
This assumption lays emphasis on three important aspects of my capacity as a human being. My ability to soberly study and filter my experience with Reason. My Will to define what is right and wrong, and my ability to live with an attitude of sustained effort toward my convictions and goals. I’ll call that Vitality.
So, in focusing on happiness, I am assuming
Responsibility for my Experience, Perception and Relationship to the world. I am also daring to affirm my Will, as opposed to automatically conforming to the behavioral patterns and ethical code of others. Implicit in all of this and in relation to my supposed pursuit of happiness, is my Vitality. To think, to feel, to reason, to take up responsibility and affirm my will in matters of right and wrong all amount to an unfledged effort and a premature outcome without Vitality.
Vitality is the consummate lifestyle in which all of the previous mentioned implications of my pursuit of happiness are grounded and continually brought to life. Vitality is a kind of discipline that gets me passed the finish line, ultimately with a sense of peace. But Ironically, what I assume to be happiness cannot be prognosticated as the eventual cause of the aforementioned peace. In fact, happiness is the most permeable factor among all of the other included factors. The more involved I am with growing as an individual the more happiness may take on new textures and tones; therefore what seemed like a tenable path toward Nirvana yesterday may be deemed inadequate in less than a few months.
Knowing this, focusing on happiness is like betting on that lucky butterfly in Venezuela to deliver the perfect wave behind the shoreline of a Far Rockaway beach. In explaining Chaos Theory, one scientist said that there are two ways to look at the potential affect of small changes on big systems. We can either walk away with a dream about a butterfly, disregarding the reality that the flapping of most butterflies amount to nothing special, or we can take away from the theory that initial conditions matter.
I think its the same with happiness. Living a life of reason, will, and vitality is my way of consciously focusing on the initial conditions. If those are satisfied then I see no reason to regret, complain, or worry. For me, this is what comes closest to the perfection of faith.
February 5, 2019 in Views
What is Faith for a pantheist? Unlike theists, our life here on earth is not only a sacred opportunity but also a sacred end in and of itself. Our spiritual destination is a moral one. Yet, we are animals. Self-conscious animals, perhaps with a dose more of life’s complexity than others. We can and are overcome with hopelessness. We experience death in ways that doesn’t interrupt the beating of our heart, but leaves us dead to the world nonetheless. Pantheism is essentially a human experience, first and foremost. There is no room in a pantheist’s ethics or theology for even a millisecond of invulnerability. As living beings, we are perpetually vulnerable until we cease to exist and an awakened connection to God (Nature/Universe/Existence) is not guaranteed. A good deed doesn’t secure a spot with the “the big guy” and a bad one doesn’t condemn us to hell fire. I suppose that is why critics of pantheism are often unconvinced by our claims to purposeful living and reliance on a moral foundation. But they have misjudged our situation.
I believe that there isn’t any ground more fertile for the cultivation of values than the receptive, enduring, and life-giving ground of a pantheist. However, it would be cheap to deny my own experience. An experience that has continued to drill into my heart the fact that the realization of our ideals are not gently wrestled from the arms of reality. In regard to the environment, our assault on its integrity has left us with an almost unbearable aftertaste which is often translated by society in ways that dilute the significance of our connection with Nature. As a nature enthusiast who was born and raised in the shade of city buildings— inevitably receiving my baptism in gas and litter —I have always been astonished by how the natural link we have to Earth could develop into anything more than a passing suspicion. It was the same feeling I would get when occasionally noticing a red jay expeditiously planting itself on as many branches as possible before vanishing into some unknown corner of the home we both share.
Our ability to feel our connection to the world, even amidst the least natural environments , struck me as a powerful sign of divinity. It may not have been anything close to the miracles canonized in theistic religions, but it was enough to unearth my attitude toward life and examine it thoroughly along with its consequences. I think the interconnection of the world for the modern human being often vacillates between fiction and reality; between a romantic idea that merely passes through and an earthy impulse that reminds us just how inclusive self-responsibility is. Recalling a statement made by James Baldwin during a talk on religion, I realize how much this conviction has grown with me over time. He said quite plainly that “God is our responsibility.” My faith as a pantheist echoes the deep-pragmatism of that statement. Its a statement that captures a sense of life that is integral to the present and future. I have faith in the probability that if I act as mindfully and responsibly toward the world as I can, then future generations will live in a world where human beings can welcome the magic that is life in its various forms. Welcoming it and confidently seeing it into its mysterious corner with the conviction that it is accounted for.