I have posted my writing entitled, “Cry, ‘Justice!.’” When I began writing it over 20 years ago, I thought that the notions expressed therein were the product of my own original thought. As I review my notes and quotes of the various philosophers and theologians that I have read, I see that I owe a great debt to many of them; in fact, unwittingly, I have cited their notions as though they were my own. As I may later describe more fully, late in life I came to realize that my bout with polio at 11 months of age did more damage than the apparent physical paralysis of my legs: it also apparently did some damage to my brain affecting my cognition. I have difficulty dealing with details unless I can fit it into a larger, meaningful context.
I grew up with that limitation, neither recognizing that it might be unusual, nor recognizing that I subconsciously compensated for that deficiency by note taking, highlighting and outlining. In short, hard work. As you have read, I am sure you will recognize my indebtedness in that writing to many of the philosophers and theologians that I will discuss in our Modern period. I tend to think in terms of concepts which integrate in a meaningful way, at least to me, the myriad facts which I am unable to commit to memory.
I did not initiate this blog with the idea that I would be approaching the subjects we are about to discuss. That is all the more reason that Whitehead’s notions of Process have great significance for me. I tried to do well that which appeared before me. I simply believe that anything that is done well is forever – I don’t recall who said that first, but I know that I am indebted. Whoever may have first written it, thank you! I know that “No man is an island.”
I find it curious that some Christian scientists or those trained in the science of their profession ignore their education and experience for the sake of “belief,” utterly disconnected from their education and experience. I have previously stated that I became a Methodist because, in large part, because of the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” which acknowledges that we, as Christians, can come to Truth, not only through the Bible, but also through tradition, experience, and reason. In this blog, I have attempted to be true to those principles.
My complaint concerning fundamentalism, whatever its flavor, is that it appears to falsely compartmentalize life in such a way as to divorce spirit from matter, experience and education from belief and faith. One of the difficulties of such a dualistic view is that belief has no roots in this life, as we experience it and live it. A good friend of mine, Bill Ericson, expresses that notion in the delightful, but powerful, metaphorical phrase, “Swimming in the sea of knowledge without getting wet.”
With that introduction, in the following blog posts I will explore the contributions of philosophy and theology to our experiences of Truth. The language which I use in this blog is quite distinguishable from the language that my parents use to express their faith responses to their own experiences in in themselves and in the world about them. I think that is the way it should be. To merely adopt another’s faith, or to fall back to “that old time religion,” is inauthentic. From my perspective, to create God in our image, or as dictated by a faith statement, is akin to worshipping idols; my experience of the Divine and of the Sacred lives; it is dynamic; it is in process; it is connected with, but transcendent of, all human experience or the products of that experience. That experience is so much more than the words that I use to describe it; but I am compelled to use words, understanding their inadequacy to fully define the experienc, but needing nonetheless to make the attempt.
The need for words became evident to me this past year. My experience with polio, therapy and recovery from that are entirely preverbal. I have in later life recognized my subconscious”fear of abandonment,” and it’s probable connection to my polio experience. But, I never was able to get in touch with that underlying grief until I attempted to answer my neurologist’s inquiry into my polio experience. My mother and father had described in writing their experience of my illness. I typed my parents’ memoirs, which included their description of their experiences relating to my polio illness, hospitalization and following therapy. I had no difficulty reading it silently nor typing their story. But, I never attempted to tell that story until prompted by my neurologist in September, 2012. She was reviewing my medical history, when she said, “Now, you had polio when you were 2 or 3 years old?” I responded, “No, I was 11 months old ” Suddenly, all of the emotions that an infant in that circumstance might experience burst their bounds. Finally, that experience was not just a recounting of what adults reported of my experience, but I felt profound grief, crying like an infant. It continued as I told her of what my parents told me in recent years. Having opened the container, it took me a week until I was able to verbalize those subconscious memories, for which I had no words to describe, except those provided by my parents. Until then, it was as though I was an automaton, subconsciously reacting to any threatening situation as though I were an infant: crying for attention, attempting to appease those in power to meet my needs, and reacting to a profound sense of abandonment. I was no longer a child, but I had a profound subconscious memory of my polio experience. I know from that experience the power of the spoken word. I know that we must, as thinking, rational beings, attempt to put into words experiences for which words are inadequate to fully capture or express. But we must nonetheless attempt to do so, knowing that it merely points to a Truth, an experience, but does not contain it. It struck me that as human beings, we need words to be conscious of it. Words, I have seen, are necessary to thought.
And so it is with philosophers, theologians, ministers and believers of any faith, we must attempt to put it in words, understanding their necessity, but acknowledging their limitations. With that understanding, we will hereafter explore the attempts of philosophers and theologians to explore the potentialites of our existence.
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