Father Christmas, the tooth fairy, and God.
Itís Easter 2001 and I went to the Roman Catholic church in Kidlington for the Friday and Sunday services. What is the connection between Father Christmas, the tooth fairy and God? (and why do Father Christmas and God get capital letters but the tooth fairy doesnít?) Well it strikes me that they are all in the imagination. When I speak with young children it seems that there is an on going debate about belief in Father Christmas. My problem with this is that it seems evident that the debate is about whether someone believes that something that evidently doesn't exist exists or not. The established churches have a history of objecting to descent. Well I feel that I can take the objectionable position of questioning the existence of God whilst remaining acceptable to the Roman Catholic church. So long as I am an insignificant individual I can get away with that because it is excused as simple doubt. And they've got that covered because Thomas was a doubter. Historically they, like many other religious establishments, have a bad record of objecting to anything that questions their absolute authority. It's a subjective thing, but there it is. Galeleo was a prime example when he supported the theory of heliocentric astronomy, first proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus, suggesting that the earth was orbiting the sun.
Here comes an apparent non sequitur - I had a lady Jehovah's Witness regularly visiting me on a Saturday. Catherine Northover was her name. My poor wife couldn't cope. She, almost hysterically, objected to having zealots (who are dangerous - in her view) in her house (whose house? - but we won't go into that just now) (to be fair I understand her objection, I just disagree with it). So I explained this to Catherine and asked her not to call anymore. This saddens me but that's just how it is. I don't object because I don't have a problem with other people having and expressing their views. And I don't object to them offering those ideas to other people. If I don't want her calling round I'll ask her not to and I would expect her not to otherwise I would object. But, for some reason, Marianne is afraid of her. That said - I loved some of her thoughts and ideas. One thing I had never appreciated about the Jehovah's Witnesses was that one of their declared objectives was to realise what underlying truth could exist such that the apparently contradictory theories and explanations of life might make sense. That is so sensible and profound and I'd never thought of them like that. Now it may turn out that they have deep rooted contradictions in their own belief structure, I don't know enough about them to comment (but most organised religions seem to have). But one of the more profound things that have struck me during my life is that we constantly take two ideas that each seem to make sense and wonder why, in the same universe, they appear contradictory. What we do then is try to imagine what the underlying truth could be that would allow both the other descriptions to remain correct. This way we advance out understanding of the universe. Some people prefer to reject one of the evident truths because they can't face the insecurity of doubt. So they dogmatically hang on to one of the views and argue feverishly that the other view is wrong.
Back to the point - My questioning of the existence of God (see God claims he doesn't exist). The problem does need putting in terms of the Father Christmas analogy first. Why - because God is presented by the proponents of the Roman Catholic church in a similar form. - And itís no good you theologians saying itís not, cos I was brought up and educated by proponents of the Roman Catholic church, and that is how it is portrayed. - An imaginary person who has all sorts of magical powers. Well I can't believe that a benevolent God (and God does have to be benevolent - I may explain that one day) who put me here to feel lost and oppressed and to suffer whilst giving some other people inside information that would remain outside of my range of perception and then "blame" me for not believing them, exists or is a tenable concept. Why would God give secret information to a priest and then expect me to believe the priest? Not a benevolent God - a mischievous God, who didn't understand the profundity of the damage he was doing, perhaps - but that sounds a little more like a human condition to me. And, on a serious level, totally self-contradictory. God is all knowing and could not be mistaken in such a way. And what of life after death - a nonsense. Life is when you are alive. Dead is when you are not alive. But they say you can be alive when you are not alive. This sounds like a linguistic problem to me. When is a cat not a cat? When it's a Schrödinger's cat. (You'll have to look up Erwin Schrödinger if you don't already know about that one.)
There's something rather nasty about this idea of life after death and the way it is used. It is used when people are afraid of dying. Its kind of saying look, you are afraid of something and I want to alleviate you of your fear so I will assure you that when you are dead you will be alive in a better place. So please don't be afraid now. Uh! - What's all that about? Am I detecting some disorientation going on here? Why is this person trying to stop the other one being afraid - is it because it upsets them? Does the subtext go something like this: "I can't bear to watch you suffer - it makes me uncomfortable and so I want you to stop. Please don't express your fear, please don't even feel it. Please hide yourself from your real experience and become blind to your own life so that I might avoid my own fears and remain unconscious and unaware of my own experience."
I'm struggling here to keep the train of thought on track and to keep my own thoughts consolidated such that I can reach my objective correctly. Part of the problem is that the whole subject of fear of death and of oppression and political control is huge in itself.
But here goes - The idea is that Christ is alive today. This is not an illusion. This is not a weird unreal imaginary thing that we just bow down to and pretend to believe. I believe there is some significant meaning to this. But it is not outside of anybody's ability to comprehend. But the problem is what we mean by alive. We too much associate our experience of biological "alive" and egocentric experience of "alive" with the term. When I am standing in front of you and tell you that there is a banana skin on the floor behind you, you might take a look behind you, see a banana skin, pick it up, pop it in the bin. You might turn back and, if asked, say that I am alive. You have a large amount of your own experience to support that notion. You perceive me. But what is really happening is that you are responding to the altered universe caused by my presence. In other words it is your interpretation of light waves affecting your optic nerves, the pressure changes in the air in your ear, it is these things, these effects, that give you the conclusive knowledge that I am alive. That I communicate a perception about another thing in the universe (the banana skin) to you which you understand and then confirm for yourself, tells you that I am in some ways similar to you. It confirms our mutual objective reality. But - fundamentally, you are responding to the changes that I affect on your surroundings. It takes time for light to travel and for sound to travel. And I affect you. I affect what you do. From our understanding of the universe it seems evident today that nothing disappears. The light bouncing off my body goes somewhere. And it goes somewhere forever. It may go into your eye, but you are changed forever when it affects your optic nerves. If the light heads upwards into outer space, it will go on forever. Whenever it contacts with something else the effect will go on forever. The "me" that you experience is the effect I have on the universe. If we need to analogise things try this - think of the eternal time as a space. A place where this is all going on. The time it takes for things to travel is the space. This is the whole. Then no matter how far away from me you travel, I am still here. The beginning and end of my life is where I am. It defines me. Christ still lives in that he still affects us all. In that sense, everybody still exists. This is not a joke. This is not an illusion. There is not one person who has existed once, who does not exist any more. The sum total of all things that have been is still the same. Every thought, every action, every feeling that has ever existed, has affected the whole. My time span defines me in a similar way that my physical limits define me. When you are a hundred miles away from me I am not "dead". I am perhaps not immediately perceivable. But for biological purposes, I can die. But that is another paradigm. If life relates to the significance and reality of your effect on the universe, you never die. If it is a reference to the biological mechanisms of your growing physical body then you do. What is the "you" in all of this? I suspect that Christ could see that there was an inappropriate dogmatism formed around some otherwise profound and reasonable ideas. The dogmatism was being used in a wholly inappropriate way. And the "illusion" of a God was unholy. I suspect that he knew he was the son of God, and by that way, God, because God is the sum total of everything, and it was written in the scriptures to that effect, and he lived it. The fact that so many people think that means that he was "different" from the rest of us was something he knew they would do. But what more could he do than to attune himself to his own existence and remain wholly true to himself. He understood that to immerse himself in other peoples deception was no way to help them undeceive themselves. The only correct path is to live the truth. That is the only way that one person's life can carry the message of that life. Whosoever that life belongs to.
I have debates with people about how to bring up children (see I blame the parents). I have a daughter, currently 7 years old, and I, like most parents, have my ideas about how to bring a child up. Frequently I am confronted with notions such as "But you have to teach them what's right and wrong." Well, we all know that that hides a multitude of sins. (see Educating Children on Toxic Drums) No - I do not have to teach any child what is right and wrong. The world is here for them to see and judge for themselves. I am here to protect and nurture. And I am here for myself to judge. My responsibility to that area of "teaching" is that I get it right. Not that my daughter gets it right. That is her business. My concern is to get it right myself. My daughter helps me focus on that. Any time that I am tempted to criticise her, I consider myself and whether or not I get it right. Do I get it wrong or is the criticism valid? Although I have shouted at her (and apologised for it) those errors are rare. I do not recall any time that I have had to criticise her or correct her with any kind of force. What makes me mad - That Christians think you have to discipline children. When I was at school it was accepted that punishment was the way. This is from Roman catholic clergy. Physical abuse was legitimate. Hit people with a stick - in public - that'll teach them. But what of the adulterer being stoned to death. What did Christ have to say on that subject? He didn't rush in and tell the folks who wanted to do the stoning that they were wrong. He didn't punish them. He didn't even attempt to stop them. Rather he wrote his thoughts in the sand for anyone who wanted to, to read them. His thoughts on the matter were that one who had not sinned themselves should throw the first stone. My reading of that (and there's lots more to it) is that if you are in a position of never having erred you would understand that throwing a stone at the person would not improve anything. But whilst you have unresolved error in your own life you cannot make clear, correct judgements about the here and now. What - me? - angry? YES!
I am amazed by the paradoxical method that Christ's teachings get carried through history. I do not think that there is some mystical "life after death" that can easily be equated with out immediate fears of "death". I think death is a defining part of our lives. I think that materialism leads us to equate and fear death with the end, and loss, of something. I think that when I have been to a party that I am not dead the next day (though I sometimes feel like it). But the experience of the party is past, the effects of my being there continue - otherwise there would be no past and so no continuum, and so no now - The effect of my existence live on and now I am different and doing something else. I do suspect that in some way, we are an interface with reality, a defining edge, that our whole life from conception to death (and no black and white lines please) is as real as we are from head to foot and that because there is a universe outside of us does nothing to lesson the significance of our existence - in fact it is part of that existence and gives it significance.
But we come into this life and respond to the experience. We experience something we call learning, and we learn how to comprehend life. But sadly, we are loaded with the errors of history. Those problems, it seems to me, are there to be resolved. They have to be incorporated into the comprehension of everything. So for every pain that has not been experienced, it is carried through history for someone else to deal with. My problem is that I feel as if I don't want to have to deal with all these problems that are not mine. It is my problem because they evidently are mine, I just wish they werenít. I would like to think that this is what is sometimes called justified anger. I feel angry about the pain that has been imposed on me. I feel angry about the volume of cruelty that echoes through history. I feel angry at what I perceive as the lack of love. And to tell children that they have to be good or God will be angry is arrogance and a mean and vicious lie. No - those people who think that, are the ones who have to listen to their own judgement and do what they also know to be right - leave the judgement of others to God.
Anyway - if I was God I wouldnít have to be troubling myself with all this anguish and writing all this stuff. No - Iíd be floating along in some ethereal state enjoying the experience of reality. But Iím in pain and have my own misperception of reality. But Iím working on it. And anyway, is this just self-indulgent crap or is it helpful to anyone out there?
The real story.
Iíve never been very (consciously) interested in words. Iíve been more interested in expressing my feelings through visual arts and enjoy music with a tragic sense of not being able to do it. But - just at the moment - I have to work for a meagre living and have very little time to consolidate my ideas in a creative way - so I throw them all out via words. (If you like what I write then for Godís sake send me money - in fact just send me money.) and the bottom line is...
some thoughts on lizards and lorries