Saturday, May 26, 2012

Immortality: Celebrating a Need for Continuity

I remember the day of my salvation acceptance, that moment when, in the spirit of spatial irrationality I “invited Jesus into my heart.” There are countless others who have experienced a similar moment, reveled in its purifying quality and soberly accepted the reality of a world in which death was no longer the enemy but simply a momentary stop on the way to worshiping the Lord in a celestial body. There is no qualm about committing hypocrisy or demeaning the experience and its power in noting that the primary reason I knelt with my mother that night was to avoid the great black demon of fear that represented death. I may have been only eight, or perhaps 12 (memory is at times a fickle thing) but I recognized then the awesome power and weight of final judgment; that moment when having given up this mortal coil where there is a seeming inevitability in being found wanting, in noting that one lacks the essential component that would confer everlasting life. Fear of damnation and eternal torture at the hands of a supposedly loving God drove me to the contemplation of my mortality and not rather a further perusal of life’s many manifestations, the potential for something new and glorious.

Thankfully whereas then I saw “through a glass darkly” now I see “face to face,” that reality of life’s continuance, of the abundance in which death is not a finality but merely the end of only one manifestation of nature's abundant forms. Death has lost its sting and not because of some sacrifice by a person who's followers delved into delusions of grandeur and created a caricature of ethical replacement. Rather, it no longer pricks because of its lack of judgment and the inevitable feeling of lack that is at the heart of such jurisprudence over-reach. Life goes on, it must, it cannot do other than perpetuate its own life-giving-ness. Where in that should fear reside? Where in a universe that has all that we can even potentially comprehend, pushing us by virtue of creative constancy to the frontiers of inquiry, is there a place for having lack, either here or in the moment of our final breath?

Life breeds more life just as love manifests more love and joy luxuriates in the openness of more joy. I posit here that the existential angst that death often brings initially resulted not in fear but in a profound need for a belief in continuance or continuity in experience. We create narratives out of the implicit memories of emotional connections to events we are often consciously unaware and from a childhood we cannot recall, crafting explicit autobiographies pushed by energies that seem flowing from the universe itself, a constant stream of meaning-making desire. Within this maelstrom of intent we connect memories, recreated through present experience and cast into the variability of the future in the hope of controlling outcomes.

While stories of the here-after are numerous and often fantastical, they provide little in the way of true revelation beyond exhibiting the imaginative manifestation of the individual. Each is a story drawing from personal experience, cultural stories and familial ties. We want to keep going on and our bodies, caught as they are in this middle earth, can only conceive from a place of personal knowledge. Does this negate the truth of the experiences? I don’t believe so, at least in so far as they are a fair expression of personal experience. What truth they all have in common is a heartfelt desire for personal continuance in some form or other. This desire should be celebrated as rather than being a source of concern and anxiety, it is in fact a deep connection to the inevitable continuance of creative expression, where the cessation of the ego is not a place of finality but an emergence into an infinite potential plane of possibility. To reflect on this connection is to draw lines of imaginative creation to all the life.

What continuity is desired is, I believe, a reflection of the values life holds for each person. If one lives a life of judgment, then the afterlife will exhibit such. If one lives a life of acceptance and celebration of connection, then the afterlife will reflect this. The relationship one has with immortality is not about whether one’s conscious presence continues in a different body, but ultimately of the connection to the life currently practiced. Ask yourself what you desire to continue on when this form has ceased its presentation and there you will find the connection to the immortal. If such is life-denying then so shall death be, but if such is life-giving then so shall the immortal be.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Forgiveness: A Virtue in Defiance of Common Sense

        Virtues have two relationships, that of the internal identity and of the relation from that internal to another person. A person may possess or value the virtue of kindness but in their behavior exhibit such kindness with ruthlessness and from another perspective, cruelty. The abuse of children comes to mind here, where the parental authority finds it a kindness within the context of “spare the rod, spoil the child” where not physically reprimanding behavior would be a greater evil. Another person may possess or value the virtue of fiscal responsibility, but in their behavior towards others exhibit such that in restraint is found denial of the interconnection of his/her fellow person. The “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” thinking of oligarchical capitalism comes to mind, where the familial and social context of one’s place and opportunity is taken as divine right rather than privilege and the support of infrastructure is ignored for the self-centered declaration of personal empowerment.
        I am greatly fond of words and their meaning, so in thinking about virtues, the dual relationships found in them noted above immediately point to the disparities in how people live their lives and engage with others in dialogue. The “Pro-Life” camp seeks to exploit the value of life, though any honest consideration of the “Pro-Choice” side would see that they no more hate life than their counterparts, no more than the other side hates choice. Both have the same values, but in that value’s relationship to others is found contention. We are none of us engaged in creating meaning that any other person cannot find as well, for we all are bound within the limitless potential of our human selves. The imaginative quality of our mental constructs knows only the bounds that we take for granted and as anyone who has had a “eureka!” moment knows, even these can be set aside.
        In this time of political demagoguery, religious extremism and its “rational” counterpart, where brother is quite often set against brother and families and communities are torn asunder by virtues seemingly questioned and discarded, I wish to extend to all the virtue of forgiveness for consideration.
        Forgiveness is not synonymous with condoning nor is it necessarily connected with denial of self-worth in the face of tragedy. In fact, I contend that in truly practicing it, one’s self-worth is fully realized. There is not a person alive with any amount of life having been lived who has not looked in the face of an “oops” moment and lamented at their failure to live to their highest standard; nobody who has not had a moment of wonder at what came over them, of some other person having possessed their mouth or body to have said or done the things they did. Put aside for a moment the knee-jerk reaction to the phrase “I don’t know what came over me” and consider it not as a cop-out but an honest declaration of identity confusion, where the self-narrative of one’s life gets run over by the exigencies of social pressure and the free-will crushing reality of neurochemistry. For one moment attempt to think of yourself in relation to nothing else and you will see the futility of thinking one is apart from context, that the self can be in any way divorced from transcendental connections.
        Practicing forgiveness is honoring the self in this context, the reality that we do not define all that we are and are at the mercy of forces beyond our comprehension more often than we care to admit. This is not a denial of responsibility or a declaration of the wrongness of consequence. Rather it is an attempt at putting them in correct context. If we are able to accept and move on from the moments of action that were not synonymous with our stated values, then surely we can learn to apply the same understanding to others. Indeed, I challenge all to attempt this shift not just to those who are perceived to have directly done us wrong but those who haven’t, those we see in the news and in our walks to work and play who don’t match our view of the world. In doing so there can be a growing appreciation that while their actions we may find abhorrent, they are not so removed from us that makes them unworthy of forgiveness and the understanding that holds them in their personal context, that accepts that they too hold the values of life and liberty and love, but have not seen better ways of showing them.
        In every desire for condemnation is and can be found the potential for forgiveness. In doing so is the ability to change the relation one has to the “other” and thereby perhaps facilitate real value.