Friday, April 05, 2013

BELIEVE AND BE DAMNED--PART 6: RESPONDING TO SERIOUS QUESTIONS.

Part 5 of my (faux) revival sermon attempted to show how meaning and satisfaction can be had without recourse to religion.  7 of your comments represent compelling challenges or questions that I choose to address in this separate blog:

Michael questions whether the anxieties of Death, Guilt and Meaninglessness is an adequate breakdown to account for the hundreds of forms of human suffering---like loneliness, pain, shame, defectiveness.

Answer:  Anxiety is a dis-ease of the mind and it's distinguishing characteristic is that it has no object.  It is a dread where you do not know what you are dreading.  No one can bear naked anxiety---it would kill us. (Paul Tillich) (those who've suffered deep depression have a glimpse of the anxiety of meaninglessness)  So we all attempt to morph anxiety into fear----because fear has an object---you fear something.  We can try to deal with our fears-- by dealing with the thing we fear.  Not so with anxiety.  So yes there are hundreds of human ills but they all are expressions of one of these anxieties. (I think)

Wayne ask: If after 32 years (when I wrote the speech) has my opinion changed any.
Yes---Lots.  And this speech has been revised about 10 times.

Do I still think that pursuing temporary pleasures provides any real meaning.
Answer:  Yes I do--if you define pleasures broadly----and here is where we differ Wayne.  I think EVERYTHING is temporary and fleeting. Even this earth and our sun are temporary.  Our very being is ever more temporary.  There is nothing else to do but enjoy/experience/respond to this temporary existence.  The entire cosmos is a fleeting experience. 
My hope is that you and billions of others would "Catch the drift" of the Bhagavad Gita in your spiritual pursuits. (I'll summarize it in a sentence:  The Cosmos is God--- amusing itself in a grand drama---eternity is adventuring in time---God is you---wake up-- and play the role you find yourself in with passion.)

Wayne  continues his question:  Is self centeredness and hedonism  what this world  needs more of.  Have you found anything deeper? 

Answer:  What this world needs more of is people pursuing their hearts' desires through RATIONAL SELF INTEREST.  Ayn Rand and Nietzsche both had this right.  The notion of surrendering your life's energy for pie in the sky bye and bye---or just fulfilling societal expectations--for a lifetime is a less than empowering ethic. 
I suspect that by deeper you mean the bliss, joy and creativity of being in touch with and guided by the divine.  I believe in bliss ---I think the deepest happiness is indeed inside us.  I question most seriously your notion of divine guidance.  I think you and I when we are our most effective and creative are simply being guided by OUR DEEPEST INTUITION. (call it God if you will---I don't seriously object)

George: does not think that "deserts will bloom and love will permeate the atmosphere if we will only UNBELIEVE---(and become experiencers). 

Answer:  Of course he is right about this---I was engaging in fun Puffery.  I am confident, however, that most of the current wars are clashes of religion--and would indeed stop.

George continues:  Instead of brainglow---try heartglow for awhile. 

Answer:  Also good advice---Laurie was kind enough to scan some of my answers and instruct me in non violent communication.  She makes my heart glow with her Love is my Country mission.

Anonymous:  A church without messages from God?  How is that possible?
Answer:  It's very possible---The Unitarian/Universalist have done it by shucking all those tedious and improbable doctrines and bonded together in a search for truth and values. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism

Anonymous continues:  Seeking fun is all you ever do.
Answer:  You may be right---but I tell myself that I'm seeking fulfillment through adventure and inquiry and self expression.  I am definitely at war with drudgery and I urge everyone to read the first chapter of Walden by Thoreau and see how unnecessary it is.

Mary Matzek: (a very bright involved lady--- have a look: http://otrwjam.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/women-have-to-fight/ ) asks about people who vigorously play the game of life---doing evil---like serial killers--finding meaning in mayhem.

Answer: I interviewed a genuine bank robber once who told me how incredibly exciting it was to plan and rob a bank-----seems to prove her point.  It may well be that killers and con men and Nazi's have meaningful lives ---their brains certainly glow as they do their deeds.  The Bhagavad Gita implies that evil is an integral part of the drama of life---that it is "plot thickener". That death isn't real--so no real harm is done. 
I guess she has persuaded me that there is "good glow" and   "bad glow"---that my formula for meaning creation needs a guiding ethic.  Mine is called CONSEQUENTIALISM ---it matters what the consequences of our games are.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentialism

Steven: asks if  billions of separate egos pursuing their personal satisfaction---playing Ayn Rand's game with RATIONAL SELF INTEREST will lead to a more loving, joyful, environmentally sustainable world or end wars.

Answer:  I think it will---eventually---in the same way as the "invisible hand" of self interest can make economic markets work.  It is masses of people somehow persuaded to surrender and sacrifice their life energies (usually in the name of religion) for the good of others----that has retarded our progress toward fairness and sustainability.
Thoreau marveled that so many people could be found to build the pyramids as a tomb for a booby.  He would have like to have known people who "were beyond such trifling."

Ron (a very creative friend)  makes an interesting point:  The thrill of pure experience can be diminished by thinking (or judging/analyzing).

Answer:  I think that the ability to experience life is a personal art form---never perfected---and slightly different for all of us. Two people on a Disneyland ride might well focus on different things:  one on the thrill of motion---the other on the mechanics of the ride.  Both could enjoy the ride.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Thanks to the Yuma Unitarians for the opportunity to revise my speech once again and enjoy ranting against belief and for unbelief and creative responsiveness to life.  Thanks to my readers for challenging me----I've received a good dose of meaning ---my head glowed a bit---maybe even my heart.






9 comments:

Wayne (Wirs) said...

Randy and I have had an exchange of emails on this topic, and particularly on our different "approaches" to what is meaningful in life. Here is my post from earlier today on Meaning and Pleasure and Surrender.

Randy, thanks for the exchange. I guess we are both damned by our beliefs. :)

Anonymous said...

A "church" without religion? I guess so...

http://www.uua.org/finance/184681.shtml

Tax Exempt Status

Often congregations get confused about their tax status under IRS rules. Every Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) congregation is a “church” under U.S. tax law, therefore tax exempt, charitable, and exempt from tax filing. There is no “blanket exemption” from the UUA, but the UUA will provide a letter saying a congregation is in good standing. This addresses most tax exemption issues. However, it still may be in the interest of a congregation to get its own classification letter from the IRS.

Jim said...

htHi Randy,
You and I have spent many hours discussing these topics during our 16 years of friendship. You already know the one minor point we see differently and have even confessed to me that you are drifting in my direction as the years roll by.

Well done and keep up the good work. Perhaps when you get too old to RV any further you can become a Baptist Preacher! :)
Jim J

George said...

Personally, I pay more attention to how people act than what they say they believe. There are many times that stated beliefs and behaviors do not match up.

You have shown yourself to be a man who *believes* in holding himself accountable for his words. You have shown that you *believe* in truly listening and sincerely considering the reactions offered by others.

My hat's off to you, Randy. That's real character in my book.

sail4free said...

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JIM: "Perhaps when you get too old to RV any further you can become a Baptist Preacher!"
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Too old to RV? Blasphemy!
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To Randy RE: Ayn Rand, I don't think she got anything right. The essence of her message is not so much rational self-interest as it is rationalIZED self-interest. If we truly go through this life governed ONLY by what we *think* is our selfish best interest with absolutely no regard for the best interests of others, we will be alone and lonely beyond measure and fall f-a-r short of our potential. The selfishness AR advocates and seeks to elevate to an art form is emotionally adolescent at best. A more mature assessment moves us beyond independence (I can't do it myself; I don't need your help!) to inter-dependence -- getting comfortable with the reality that we ALL need each other more than we'll ever know or accept.
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sail4free
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George said...

I remembered today that you have an admiration for Joseph Campbell. I wonder if you are familiar with the conclusions he ultimately drew about religion, God, and the spiritual experience? A really good book to read about this is "Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor." I think you would enjoy it. He gets way past belief, gets into the *experience* of the mystery of God, etc. the deeper meaning of Christian symbols.
I don't think this interesting issue is as black and white as you suggested.
Campbell himself did not believe in the traditional God but did believe that there was more than the physical world, a sort of life force that permeated all. He believed in an underlying spiritual truth to humanity.

Anonymous said...

"Steven: asks if billions of separate egos pursuing their personal satisfaction---playing Ayn Rand's game with RATIONAL SELF INTEREST will lead to a more loving, joyful, environmentally sustainable world or end wars.

Answer: I think it will---eventually---in the same way as the "invisible hand" of self interest can make economic markets work."

Randy, you appear to have more "faith" in Ayn Rand's philosophy of extraordinary selfishness and "invisible hands" than most Baptists have in an invisible Jesus!

As far as I can tell, "Rational Self Interest" is a meaningless term that "means" whatever the proponent wants it to mean. As sail4free suggests, it should be called "rationalized self interest."

In the mind of a decent, kind-hearted person, such as you, it may include compassion and consideration for others, animals, the environment, etc.

In the minds of narcissistic sociopaths, like Ayn Rand, it can be used to rationalize the most sadistic forms of violence and oppression. Rand herself thought it was completely justified for "civilized" Europeans to dispossess Indians of land they had lived on for centuries, because they were "savages" who didn't understand the concept of land ownership:

"They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you're a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn't know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights--they didn't have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal "cultures"--they didn't have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using.

* * *

But let's suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages--which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched--to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did."

In other words, Rand's brand of "rational self interest" would justify your extermination, because you live an uncivilized, nomadic lifestyle and don't recognize the property rights of land owners!

By the way, my fire is directed to Ayn Rand, not you. I think you are a fine person and have found your life and work inspirational.

George said...


You once had referenced "the hero's journey" when speaking of your RV adventures, inferring that it was the physical experience of traveling in an RV that qualified you and yours as being on this hero's journey.
The hero's journey, Campbell's style, is actually more of a spiritual/psychological journey, ending in a transformation of the psyche/spirit/soul. I would guess that your hero's journey has more to do with your search for meaning, as demonstrated in these last entries, and your search for how to live a good life and that it has very little to do with RV adventures. It may well be the avenue you personally choose to take, but it is not a requirement for everyone.
If you look in Wikipedia and enter "monomyth" you'll find an in depth explanation of the process.

1 More Mile! said...

HEY!!!

How about my question/challenge on your "conflicting dogma"?

Your appointment as "RV Boondocking Czar" is in jeopardy!