Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Fundamental Choice

Tonight I got to experience an old Camphill tradition, "Bible Supper". In it, everyone all dresses up in their Sunday finest, a dinner is prepared with the table set nicely, and an attempt at "higher conversation" is had. After dinner is over, everyone retires to a separate room to collectively read from the Bible and discuss the meaning contained in the verse therein.

The verse read tonight was about a woman who was sick for years. Then she one day came across Jesus. She knew that simply by touching him, she would be healed. She made her way through a crowd of people, touched his clothes - was healed. Jesus then said in response something along the lines of: "It was the faith in your heart that healed you".

The conversation following this I found to be quite interesting and meaningful. At one point someone said: "If faith can heal people, why can't we be healed from our disabilities?" It felt to me then that there was a sudden shift in intensity throughout the room. "You can't be healed from that", was said in reply. Resignation. Angst seemed to emanate.

I then felt struck to say, "Disabilities or not, there is always one fundamental thing that you can control, and that is your own heart. We can always choose to love or not, we can choose to be closer to God or not."

I admit, this sentiment did not originate from me. For one, there is Victor Frankl:

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

And, similarly, there is the old religious sentiment of - have every moment be taken in prayerful communion with God. This too is a choice that one can make.

It may not seem like much, but at the same time it seems like an incredible foundation to start with.


Anonymous said...

"We can always choose to love or not" is a wonderful, beautiful sentiment. But when you say "we can choose to be closer to God or not" I recoil from the essence of my being. Beauty, love, nature, humanity - all these things are splendid, gorgeous, wonderfuly, intricately complicated and filled with intrinsic fascinating properties and chaotic ever unfolding possiblities. As far as I can tell "God" is the opposite of this. Humility is knowing the limit of your understanding and revelling in wonder at that which you do not understand - "God" or "gods" are attempts through superstition, religion or moralism to make up explanations for that which you cannot currently explain or understand, to pin it down and try to manipulate it and make it predictable and understandable through magic, meditation, worship, sacrifice, divination etc. etc. etc. While I admit there are a small minority of people who sometimes use the term God or gods in ways that allow them to be humble and accepting and joyous in the face of chaos and unpredictability, they are not the ones who are the guiding force and creators and maintainers of the religions that created and rely on "God" or "gods" - those creaters and maintainers of religion want control through prayer and other practices, control of people and of the universe. Using the term or concept of "God" only encourages people in the egotistic and irrational practices at the basis of superstition and religion - while it may be useful to find communion, empathy, connection and identification with religious people by identifying where things they refer to as "God" cross over with our own experiences of connection with each other and nature and chaos, we do not have to use words like God or divine for this, and in doing so I see only a harmful potential. No Gods, No Masters, is a sentiment we need now more than ever, but it does not mean we cannot be compassionate and connected to those sad lost souls who feel they only have value in them selves when they serve a god or a master. Needing to believe in a "God" whose existence you can never prove, is as as far as I can tell, a denial that the world that exists is totally amazing and beautiful. And those who deny that, well, I feel sorry for them, and for their failure of awareness.

Much Love,

Anonymous said...

And to go back to your original story, this discussion you are talking about at Camphill highlights how religion, especially Christianiy, is dishonest and manipulative and seeks power and control. Faith in god or self does not heal physical ailments. Positive self regard and optimism has the potential in some instances to aid health and healing for diverse reasons. And physical ailments do some times go away in inexplicable ways, and it's not impossible that these inexplicable spontaneous healings some times actually do appear to correspond with the actions of prayers or faith healers or visits to blessed healing shrines - but these are statistically insignificant when kept in perspective with the number of people who are contstantly praying for each other or visiting healing shrines in droves. And, as I've heard it pointed out in arguments about faith healing, so-called miraculous healing never happens to those who have had limbs chopped off - so why does God hate amputees? And I'm sure the experiences of developmentally disabled people are in a similar vein. But it's only when faith healing obviously fails that I ever hear self proclaimed religious or spiritual people saying that the healing power of faith in God or Jesus or Vishnu or who ever is really about faith in love or self or interconnection. But when it suits their purposes of control and power - when they want to make money off attractions or gain power through seeming incidents of magic or miracles for instance - then self-proclaimed spiritual or religous people are glad to tell you to believe in faith healing as literal truth. If I learned anything from our experiences with Ann, I learned this. And I also learned that when religious or spiritual people offer magical healing they should be challenged and disproven by those of us who know better, so the more naive don't fall prey to them and their manipulation and domination. So IF they express belief in miraculous faith healing of any kind, Bible prophets and Camphill Christians alike need to be called out on this, challenged, and educated if they are naive, or exposed if they are frauds.

Angela Harms said...

Sure seems like 'much' to me. It seems like everything.

Duchesse said...

You have stimulated at least one commenter, with the connection of various assertions and beliefs, to god. And I noticed the Frankl quote does not include mention of god.

I used to be an atheist, now I am an omnitheist, and not interested in being right about that.

I am grateful and moved that you spoke and brought them back to the guiding need of love.

(Kathleen in Toronto)