Saturday, March 28, 2009

God and the Grand Canyon: I am becoming what is being made of me

Written on March 27, 2009

Once again, sorry for the scarcity of postings. I try to be interesting in my posts and all my creativity seems to be going toward school these days. I’ve just hit that eleven week wall, when my brain starts screaming, “ENOUGH ALREADY”! U of M Flint has sixteen week semesters, so I still have to get through five more weeks of learning and of debating religious philosophy with some peers who are either fundamentalist Christian or angry atheists.

The odd thing is that those two seemingly polar opposite categories of people are almost impossible to distinguish from one another unless they state point blank what their position on religion is. For example: they BOTH state that if you are going to believe anything in the bible, you have to believe everything in the bible. They say you can’t pick and choose which scriptures make sense and which don’t. The adamant atheists keep saying that “true” Christians must stone to death anyone who carries sticks on the Sabbath because it says so in the Old Testament. And the fundamentalists argue that you can’t be a “true” Christian unless you believe in original sin. (Never mind that that is not in the bible, it is in the writings of Augustine.)

My point here is that extremism, be it Christian, Jewish, Islamist or Atheist leaves no room for other people on the planet. It’s odd that at the root, each of those traditions are about live and let live, to each his or her own, etc. Extremists, instead, make it about (to stay in clichĂ© mode here) all or nothing, do or die, etc.

As a Unitarian Universalist, not to mention, as an American, I have the luxury of moderation and possibilities. By that I mean that I can be a skeptical deist, believing in a higher power of my own spiritual vision and reasoning, without a government or a spiritual leader dictating what, exactly, I am supposed to believe. I also have confidence to recognize that the divine is not just transformative, but transforming itself. I have no illusions about a god who is without flaw and unchanging as well. Those two characteristics are mutually exclusive, except perhaps when referring to a mountain of rock-which in fact is not unchanging, but constantly changing due to rain splashing down on it, seismic activity, and other forces that, not knowing much about geology, I don’t know anything about. Like the divine, that big lump of rock changes depending upon what angle we view it from. The Grand Canyon looks far different when standing in the rift, looking up than it does standing on the edge looking across or down. The Grand Canyon can also look different if we are examining one square foot of rock or earth within it than it does if we are seeing an aerial view of the entire canyon. And, the scriptural equivalent of looking at the Grand Canyon would include topographical maps and printed photos of select snaps of other people’s points of view, presenting a very different grand canyon than the grand canyon of an Amerindian clan living in its midst long before topo maps and cameras existed. Differing points of view, like differing view of the canyon, can present many differing visions of what a higher power is or may be.

If we are looking through a microscope, higher power may be the amazing process of evolution, occurring through mitosis, meiosis, natural selection, mutation and time. If we are looking between tree branches in a forest, higher power may be the balance of nature including life and death, growth and birth. If we are looking at the Old Testament, higher power may be a jealous god or a god trying to bring structure and order to a people in need. If we are looking at the New Testament, higher power could be found in the person of Jesus, or in the vision of an evolved, peace-loving god that Jesus claimed as the loving father of us all. Or, higher power may simply be in the notion found in many different religions of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

A really interesting thing that I learned in my class is that in the original Hebrew in the old testament, when God identified Godsself to Moses, God used the phrase “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”. According to one of my textbooks, “because ‘Ehyeh asher Ehyeh’ is in the imperfect tense it carries the sense of an action not yet complete. There are several ways the statement might be translated: (1) ‘I am who I am.” (2) ‘I will be what I will be.’ (3) ‘I am not yet who I am not yet.’ (4) ‘I am who I am becoming.” (5) ‘I am becoming who I am.’ (6) ‘I am not yet who I am becoming.”

Looking at the six interpretations for “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” on page 63 of Intro to World Religions (one of the other students who speaks Hebrew offered even more translations that offered even broader possibilities), there seems to be a much broader possibility of meaning than the way “we” typically (meaning those raised in the Abrahamic traditions) think of God. All but #1 imply that YHVH (god) is yet evolving. Perhaps, YHVH is growing along with the people, becoming what the people need YHVH to be at any given point in human society. Is it possible that we limited humans feel the need for definite answers yes/no right/wrong black/white and therefore have had difficulty absorbing the God in process concept? Why, with all the recent biblical examination and re-translating lately have we not heard about this idea? Has anyone written about what the repercussions would be if we looked at God as in the process of evolving as #2-5 illustrate? How would our world look today if this was the case?

Does anyone else find it kind of presumptuous for certain scholars and rulers (Constantine, Augustine, King James and a couple of Jewish and Muslim scholars who are named in our book but I can’t remember their names and I can’t get to my book just now) to just decide point blank: This document is now complete, despite years of generations of evolving, but now it is the way I say it is because I say it is. (And therefore God is no longer evolving but is static in this snapshot moment that I have chosen and from now on God shall conform to what I say God is whether God really is that way or not.) Amen! ?

How different would this world be if we allowed god and ourselves (in god’s image, or in evolving nature’s image) to be as flexible as “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” appears?! Would we be in a world free of war and oppression if we were conditioned from the get go with the idea that change, evolution, personal growth, flexibility and compromise are the norm and that power over one another and permanence of any kind (ie: ownership, truth) is illusion? Would science be free to delve into theories without fear of reprisals for upsetting the status quo? Or, would that unbinding freedom of thought and movement create its own type of tyranny where people who crave stability are not welcome, where long-term relationships are portrayed as sick or against the family values of openness and impermanence. Would humanity, as a rule be able to balance between extremes and tread the middle path, or as a whole are we doomed to the do or die lemming mentality?

It would be interesting to be able to transform the world’s translation of “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” from one of a stagnant all-powerful vengeful rock-like statement to one of fluid and compassionate flexibility; the middle path of balance between a broad aerial view of life in general and a microscopic view of the microcosm of our own finite lives.

“Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”

“I am becoming what I am going to be”…I am becoming what is being made of me.

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