Showing posts with label Signs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Signs. Show all posts

Friday, October 30, 2009

SIGNS, Trying to Put the Puzzle Together

“If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.”

I woke up to the melody of this verse this morning, and it has been on replay in my head since. I cannot tell you why. After some aimless meandering around the house, some banging of pots and baby cuddling, I hunkered down for prayer and scripture reading. It is not like me to do other things before I pray, yet it seemed as though I was avoiding it. Since the aforementioned verse awakened me earlier than usual, I had extra time this morning. So I decided I would read today’s scripture with my prayers.

This was today’s verse:

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.’

‘When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.” (Luke 11:23-25).

This verse has been a theme for me lately. Between this and our priest last Sunday gave a homily saying, “It doesn't say blessed are those are trying to be pure of heart, blessed are those who want to be pure of heart! It says, blessed of those who are pure of heart for they shall enter the kingdom of God.” The only conclusion I can come to is that “Someone” is screaming at the top of “One’s” lungs for me to get to confession and make a “clean home.”

This whole morning has been in slow motion for me. Alexander did not want to go to preschool this morning. He wanted to build train tracks. So I asked Andrew, who would be working at home this morning, if Alex could stay an extra half hour. I left and took the baby to daycare. As I was coming out of the daycare Alexander and Andrew were entering the school. He played for ten minutes and then decided it was time to go. Okay son, if ten minutes of private playtime with Dad is all you needed, we are happy to oblige.



On the way to work, I heard on the car radio that a military transport, C-130, collided with a coast guard helicopter over the Atlantic last night. (Note: I totally got this one wrong. It was off the coast of California.) I freaked out, because that is the plane my sister flies and she is on her way back from Iraq. So I frantically called my parents asking if they had heard from her. Yes, they had. Her plane is broken down in England. Thankfully it was not my sister’s plane, but it was someone’s family, so I prayed for their souls. It so easy to be unsympathetic toward other’s tragedies until they hit home. Love ya’, Sis. Come home safe.

Everything has been out of order today. It seems as though things are out of order to call these signs to my attention. But, I am still not seeing the big picture.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Vanities of vanities – Your Answer Mr. Knapp

“Religion is the opiate of the masses.” – Karl Marx
I received an email referring to a quote from my blog, Standing in the Long Line,” in which I said, “Being self-deceived is never okay.” The following is a snippet from the email I received:

“I'm not sure if you have kept up with the most recent publishing craze, but there has been an abundance of atheistic writing that has come up in the past 3 years. Many of these authors argue that a belief in God, or religious belief at all is self-deception…Being a religious person how do you distinguish your belief from self-deception, especially regarding the insufficient evidence or objective knowledge of the many things that religious faith would have us believe?”

Again I claim, “Being self-deceived is never okay” including in matters of faith, religion, and God.

I never wanted to turn my blog into a debate, but when discussing faith, or merely being actively religious it is hard to not put myself out there into the public forum. That said, I still do not wish to thrust myself into a public debate in order to defend my faith. Therefore, if the following is not a sufficient answer for you, I am sorry. And not wishing to turn this into a long debate I will most likely not respond to any argument against it. I will not do any clarifying either. This could all turn into a vicious cycle for which I am not qualified to battle against. I am by no means an authority on this. If you wish to further your knowledge on this I can suggest a reading list of better thinkers than I. But, I hope to give a few answers here as to why I do not think that I am self-deceived by having faith in God and religion.

I have spent a lot of time seeking faith and I have found much justification for belief in God and it is far too much to rehash here. Nor do I require myself to go over the arguments frequently enough to remember how all the logic goes. Nevertheless, my degree in philosophy ought to be worth something in this matter.

I hope you will not mind if there are no concrete quotes here. This is not a formal place for me to write.

It is not a new craze to pose that religion is self-deception. Karl Marx did it. Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method, attempted eliminate God all together. Of course, he clearly stated that he did not wish to do that. But, he began his major argument with the “self” alone (“I think, therefore I am”)—this is all he could know for certain. Then he proceeded to prove other indubitable truths. But he had to prove that the world he perceived was not self-deception. He had to prove that the world does exist. For what it is worth, in the end, the only way he managed to escape solopsism and prove that the world existed was to concede that there was a God and a God that was not an “Evil Deceiver”. He had to admit he was a creature. For the rest of the story you will have to read Discourse on Method, Third Meditation. This is not the full picture of Cartesianism.

There are some very good reasons as to why to believe in God that do not fall into fallacy. Just because ideas pertaining to God are often intangible does not mean that it does God does not exist. The edge of the universe is intangible, but I assure you there is evidence that it exists. Likewise there is evidence that God exists. I will try to give only few reasons why I believe that not only having faith is not self-deception, but being religious in faith practice is also not self-deceiving. Keep in mind these are reasons that I believe I am not self-deceived. If you do not comprehend me, you will have to do the mental work yourself to achieve understanding of the concepts I put forth.

Great thinker and metaphysician, St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote probably some of the simplest and clearest proofs for God. They are not only true logically and theoretically, but can be the only answer in the practical sense. St. Thomas got right down to the basics. Not quoting him word for word, but generalizing his notion—he questioned what is basic that we know about the physical universe and life as we know it? Motion. Everything is in motion. This is physics (pre-Newton). Everything in motion has to have a force to set it in motion and keep it in motion. What set it ALL in motion? St. Thomas posits Pure Act. God is Pure Act. And then he waxes philosophically about what is Pure Act. Pure Act is that which set everything in motion. Pure Act is Being. It is also equal to the other universal transcendentals Truth, Good, Unity. The universe did not always exist, but in order for the universe to exist at all Being/Pure Act had to have always existed in order to put in motion all that we, mere creatures, know to exist. So, yes, Being/God does exist. It is no deception.

But perhaps, that answers nothing for you. I know I am no Aquinas. The above little paragraph, I am sure only whets your appetite. You will have to do further study on your own, and find an Aquinas scholar to help with any questions you have. Aquinas has some good proofs for why Pure Act equals Love. Love is the reason that it is important to practice religion.

Further on this subject, when I was a philosophy student at Gonzaga, I took a class on a novelist/philospher Walker Percy. He was a great proponent of semiotics, or study of signs. He said that he looks for the signs from God. He wrote a very good essay called, Why I am a Catholic, in which he pointed to the Jews as a sign. Conquerers have been trying to wipeout the Jews as a race and religion since ancient times. They have been persecuted, enslaved, massacred time and time again, and still they prosper. Historically, they are known as God’s chosen people. If that is not a sign from God, then it is some amazing, awesome coincidence. But, perhaps signs are not enough. They can seem rather childish, easily ignored and misinterpreted.

You may still ask me, “But, what about evolution? How do you account for that?” Well, let me counter with a question. What about it evolution is incoherent or inconsistent with God or the need for religion? The Bible (which is God’s words) claims that God created the heavens and the earth and man, and created man in his own image. It does not say that man looked a certain way; it does not say that man was always the same. Just because at some point humans may have been less intelligent and more animal like in are actions does not mean that we did not have souls—that we could not choose right and wrong—or that we were not stewards of the earth meant to inherit it.

This last weekend during the Liturgy the answer to your very important question dawned on me. “Vanity of vanities!” A great passage from the book of Ecclesiastes was read. I highly recommend reading this book over and over. The passage reads,

“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,and yet to another who has not labored over it,he must leave property. This also is vanity and a great misfortune. For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heartwith which he has labored under the sun? All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;even at night his mind is not at rest. This also is vanity.” (Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23)

I have frequented this book many times in my studies. It also seems to speak straight to my mind and heart. But, thanks to the brilliant priest and his meaningful homilies more light was shed upon this passage for me. He exclaimed that even the most generous, toilsome, selfless good works are vanity. Everything on earth, everything we do, no matter the meaning we think we are assigning to our lives, it is all vanity! It is all passing. This earth is passing away. Everything we create—great thoughts, monuments, legacies—it will all pass away. Therefore, it is all meaningless.

There is only one way any of this world has meaning. And that is, if it is for the love of God. Because, God is Being. God will always exist. If we do it out of our love for God, putting each action into His hands, for his purpose, then by definition God will give it being, meaning and eternal life. Giving ourselves and what we do over to God gives us all eternal life.
So, if all of this, earth, man, evolution is not for God, if there is not a God, then why. Why do we do anything, if is it all to pass away?

Maybe all of this does not answer your question. At least I have started a reading list for you. I think Journey from the Mind to God, St. Bonaventure, would be a good read on this subject: also, Aquinas Five Ways of God argument (pretty meaty, lots of mental arm flexing), Summa. Prima Pars. Questions 2-12.

As for my faith, it is unshaken. I feel more self-deceived being caught up in daily menal chores than I have ever felt in a day of prayer. If you have ever read the “Meaning of life” quote hidden in Spokane, Washington (which I will not publish, because you have to go read it yourself), then you know what I mean. We all have to live this life and we all have our duties, but it’s those of us who know the “meaning of life,” we, perhaps, can gain a little higher existence, no matter what we endure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Danger in Removing Meaning


Andrew always tells me to check the garbage disposal before I turn it on. But, there is no way I am sticking my hand into that dark, dark hole to touch that putrid, rotting mess. Since I always do the dishes, I know that nothing is down there anyway. But, we had a guest visiting, who very kindly helped with the dishes. Unfortunatley, I was not able to keep track of things going in and out of the sink. When I went to wash up some dishes, the sink would not drain and I turned on the garbage disposal. I demolished the lid to a very expensive teapot (when I say expensive, I mean EXPENSIVE. It’s probably the most expensive teapot you can get that you would used everyday). To put it kindly, Andrew was very grumpy with me.

We have been looking for a replacement lid, which with expensive teapots is very hard to find. Anyhow, this weekend we went to a store looking for the replacement and Andrew inquired about the total cost of the teapot. When he heard of the total cost, he was grumpy all over again. I asked, “Are you upset with me allover again?” He said,
“A little. But, that’s all right. It’s just stuff!”

Mostly, I agree with this analysis of the situation. It does help our mental status to think of it this way. But, this mindset can be very harmful when taken too far (See Lancelot, Walker Percy).

Life’s Essentials:
Possessions are just stuff
Food is just sustenance
Shelter is just protection
Clothing is just coverings
Transportation is just a way to get there on time

But, with the human quotient these things are meaningful in everyway. Humans are meaningful in everyway.

Possessions – can be gifts from a loved one representing that person’s love; or it can represent something you did, or somewhere you went, a time that changed who you are; they show your personality—outward representations of who you are on the inside. They can define you, or control you. When they are lost, broken, stolen it can hurt you, because it is meaningful to you. They represent you, but they are not you.

Like our teapot, which we are trying to repair—it was a wedding gift from my grandmother. So, to us it represents so much. It represents our marriage union. It represents family and cross-generational bond. It represents all the years of sacrifice and hardship my grandmother went through to one day be able to bestow this memento of her love on her granddaughter. It represents all those good, relaxing times Andrew and I spent together sipping tea and enjoying each other. It represents the warmth and love of marriage, family and our lives. It is not JUST stuff. It’s meaningful.

Food – It keeps us alive, and it can kill us. That is meaningful enough. But, food can represent times you enjoyed family and friends. It can change your mood. It can change your health. It can change who you are. You can learn from food. It can be beautiful. Indeed, it can bring you closer to God. Thanking God for your sustenance. Opening yourself to God’s beauty and grace in all things. This line of thought carries through to clothing, shelter and all that STUFF that carries us away.

We must be careful to keep the meaning of the stuff, but to not be carried away with it. Our marriage is what it is with or with out the teapot. We will still drink tea and enjoy each other without the teapot. I know that my grandmother cares about me, even if she had not given us the teapot. But, it is a meaningful representation of love. It is a helpful reminder every time we use it. It is a sign.

All this stuff signals to us the meaning in humanity.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Do You Believe in Signals and What Does That Mean?

today between five and six in the afternoon,
when Andrew asked me for my hand—

then I was thinking about signals that could not connect.
It was a thought about Andrew and myself.
And I felt how difficult it is to live.
That night was terribly hard for me,
though it was a truly glorious mountain night,
and full of nature’s secrets.
Everything around seemed
So very necessary
And so in harmony with the world’s totality,
only man was off balance and lost.
Perhaps not every human being,
But I know for certain that I was.
So today, when Andrew asked,
“Would you like to become my life’s companion?”
after ten minutes I answered, “Yes,”
and after a while I asked him if he believed in signals.

Quote from The Jeweller’s Shop
By Karol Wojtyla