Praying for Time?

Late last night, sitting in the basement, hoping that the latest bout of insomnia would pass, I got to thinking about some things. So doing was, admittedly, not the best course of action if I was looking to put myself to sleep, but what are you going to do? Brain is going to brain.

Spurred by an earlier chat with one of my dearest dears, I thought about the importance of words (a common theme – back when I spent a whole lot more time hanging about these parts) and the impact of time – in all its conceptual varietals – on the way we use words.

After what can be described, at most, as ‘fitful’ sleep, I woke this morning to discover that I wrote and hit publish on these words a year ago today.

Add to that the fact that ‘FOMO’ cropped up in conversation earlier today, along with my diligent attempts to keep to my goal of 1000 words/day in an effort to get shape and record the thoughts in my head (a narrative that includes a whole bunch of apocalyptic ideations, actually) sometime before the (increasingly likely) end of the world, and I’m starting to feel like January 11 has something in common with Groundhog Day.

So, while I ruminate further on this seeming pattern, here’s a revisiting of my thoughts ‘on this day’ in 2017.

colemining

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers

This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses

The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
Because god stopped keeping score
I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all god’s children
Crept out the back door

And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time

These are the days of the…

View original post 3,253 more words

Reflection

It’s still unseasonably cold here.  Honestly.  What do we have to do to get some Indian Summer thrown our way?  And since I’m nearly as cold in the city as I was at the cottage (okay, that’s hyperbolic- it was DAMN cold at the cottage) I’ve been wishing I was back there more than a little bit.

I got to thinking today about one of the kitchen chats I joined after walking in on it in the middle- because that’s what we do- talk, interject, offer opinions/advice/whatever.  The things friends do when interested in each others’ ideas, opinions and perspectives.  They were discussing atheism vs. agnosticism and asked me to define both terms.  I offered my definition- and some of the reasoning behind my non-belief, which led to the same argument which our host and I have been having for well over two decades.

Theism is defined by the belief that at least one deity exists- somewhere- and the term is commonly used to describe the belief in a deity that is personal, present and active in the world/universe and who is gainfully employed in providing its governance.  Therefore, an a-theist is someone who does not believe that any such a deity exists.

Going back to the original Greek roots of the term, I am literally ‘without gods’.

And I’m good with that.

Agnosticism is a bit more complicated- and varied- in its definition- and that was a source of a bit of contention.  Also from the Greek, agnostic literally means ‘without knowledge’ and generally is applied to those who neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a god- or many gods- as they have been imagined and described by people.

Agnostics admit to ‘not knowing’.  They‘re good with that.

Some will apply more of a philosophical meaning to the term, asserting that human reason and rationality are not capable of justifying whether- or not- deities do- or do not- exist.  Essentially those philosophers among us would claim that there is no way of knowing one way or the other.  Some suggest that you ‘can’t prove a negative’ and this ‘evidence of absence’ argument is one that is often tossed around when believers and non-believers (or those who allow for uncertainty) ‘discuss’ such things.

I concede that proving the non-existence of something is pretty tough to do, but I also suggest (as have others before me) that the flip side of that little tautology is that those who maintain the existence of something are likewise required to offer proof- that is acceptable to my particular worldview– that that same thing DOES exist.

Otherwise, I’m not likely to buy what you’re selling.

And since no one has, as of yet anyway, offered me anything remotely resembling definitive proof that the gods are anything other than the creations of us human beings, I’m very comfortable with my non-belief and I will thank you to not attempt to sway me to your perspective.

By all means- believe as you wish.  We are fortunate to live in a society that allows us the freedom of our beliefs- and their expression (at least at the moment and in Provinces other than Quebec…) so I will likewise not attempt to disabuse you of any privately held views on religion and gods.

Do I have time for proselytising?  Can’t say as I do.  Sometimes my Canadian politesse comes into conflict with this reality, but as willing as I am to hear you out in your argumentation, if it includes anything about me being condemned to eternal hellfire or cursed for my non-belief, I’ll likely cut you off pretty quickly.

Name-calling has no place in rational discourse, and telling me that I’m ‘damned’ isn’t nice at all.

And attacks launched from the defensive?  Also not attractive.  Nor something that will incline me to listen all that sincerely to what you have to say.

Clear example of this tension- but also the way in which it is consistently overcome- is the ongoing discussion about this subject that takes place repeatedly.  We will never agree on the divinity/non-divinity of Jesus (although ‘never’ is a word I hesitate to use.  Too restricting- he might yet change his mind…  Joking.  Seriously- just joking.  He knows I’m joking- and that I’m not looking to change his mind on the subject).

As an historian of religion. I believe in the existence of Jesus as an historical figure who sought change within his religious framework and social milieu, and that the guy had great ideas and inclinations toward inclusion, love and peace.  He was a radical dude, seeking religious and cultural change for the better.

A prime example of the heights of humanity to which we should all aspire?

Zero argument there.

Son of a deity?  One third of a triumvirate god that became incarnate in human form?  Immortal and supernatural?

None of the above.

The thing with this ongoing discussion is that we always take the time to listen to what the other person has to say, and we both are secure enough in our belief(s) that we can maintain a sense of humour about the arguments.  We happily agree to disagree.

When I touched upon this subject previously, I offered up an meme I’ve seen circulating that demonstrates the worst of the ‘New Atheist’ propensity toward labeling those with opposing views as ‘stupid’ or the like.

Not productive.

On the other side of the fence… I happened upon this little gem (that would be sarcasm) last night:

Also not remotely cool.

Although I’d think that Dawkins (and Hitchens before he died) would likely have found it quite amusing to be described as one of the harbingers of the Apocalypse.

A mythological story about the ending of all things and the return of a deity in which they do not believe.

Productive.

Such rhetoric is demonstrative of this insidious propensity toward the externalization of ‘evil’ and making people monstrous because of a differing worldview- that I keep harping on about.  Not good.

Definitely not good.

The more we vilify each other and create and perpetuate dichotomies of right/wrong, good/evil, black/white, the farther away we continue to stray from the message and the mission of teachers like Jesus of Nazareth.

One of the reasons I love and respect my friends and family (and the peeps I have had the opportunity to meet through this forum) is because we can continue to engage in dialogue without in any way dismissing or diminishing the beliefs of those around us.

Last night, while out for dinner in one of our local little restaurants (Focaccia near Yonge and Bloor.  Try it if you get the chance.  The staff is FANTASTIC), I overheard the conversation of the couple who had been at the next table, just as they were leaving.  They were discussing their full-fledged support of the nonsense in Quebec– while loudly proclaiming their total ignorance of the beliefs and traditions of those they were demonizing.

Respect for our beleaguered waiter- who had been dealing with such commentary for the duration of their meal- was the only thing that kept me from speaking out as they exited.  That, and the awareness (after years of experience) that minds cannot be forced open, and that, sadly, some people are just unwilling to even attempt to see a perspective outside of their own.

So instead I wrote this post.

In frustration that there are still so many who will not offer dignity and respect to those whose ideas differ from their own.

In exasperation that there are too many among us who still seek to divide rather than to bring together.

But also in remembrance of the fact that there are all kinds of people out there who are honestly willing to listen to one another and, as required, agree to disagree.

Lots and lots of people who realize that all humans are reflections of one another- regardless of place of origin, cultural context or belief or non-belief.

And that I am privileged to have a whole bunch of people like that in my life.

P.S. Speaking of the Four Horsemen and such things… I watched the series premiere of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ earlier this week.  Seems the Headless Horseman is really Death- that Rider on a Pale Horse who seems to have been called up by a demon-type thing in the woods around town.  Potentially interesting amalgam of a classic American story and apocalyptic mythology all thrown into the 21st century Hudson River Valley.  Will have to check it out for a while and see.  Told you apocalypses seem to be everywhere lately…

I’m told it’s a virtue.

That’s what Prudentius said anyway.  In the Psychomachia.  In the 4th century CE.

I am very patient most of the time.

I routinely wait, without much effort, for results, feedback, holidays, tardy friends and etc.  Especially the tardy friends.  I am habitually early for things (it’s an illness) and I am friends with a disproportionate number of people who are habitually late (also an illness) so I spend a whole lot of time waiting for people to show up.

I’m okay with that.  I almost always have a book on me so the time is generally well spent.  No point in stressing about a personality quirk in a good friend (THEY are the ones with the quirk, never me).

Unless the lateness makes US late for something else.  That I have a problem with.  I CAN control my behaviour, and I hatehatehate being late for commitments.

Really, the only times I get truly impatient is when I am trying to do something fiddly and it’s not working out, I can’t find something I’m looking for despite the fact that I know FOR SURE that I put it right there the last time I used it, and, most of all, when I am waiting for something to happen.  Something that I’ve been told will happen, but that is taking its sweet sweet time.

Crazy-making.

It’s probably symptomatic of some outrageous level of control-freakdom.

Whatev.

If you tell me to anticipate something, I do.  Anticipate it.  Often with increasing anxiety when it doesn’t show up according to a reasonable (as decided by me, of course) time frame.

Situations when I’m told to look for further information or follow-up ‘in the next few days’, or ‘early next week’, or ‘before the end of the month’ make me nutso with the waiting.

Lack of specificity is my nemesis in the waiting game.

All this technology and access to various forms of communication serve to make it waaaaaay worse.  Although I am not normally one who has to be constantly logged in (I can generally forget my phone at home and be fine with that, or turn the computer off for days at a time without jonesin’), when I’m waiting for something, I start to obsessively check my email.

All.  The.  Time.

And if a subject line in the Inbox catches my eye that looks like it might be what I’m waiting for, something wacky happens to my breathing and I get all tense and jittery.  And then, when the email isn’t what I was looking for, I sign out and try to focus on something (anything) else, but really just go back to checking every 4 minutes or so.

Ack.

I could never be an apocalyptic.

Seriously.

In order to buy into an apocalyptic worldview I’d have to (among other crazy things) resign myself to the fact that the end, or the return, or the justification, or the final battle is going to happen maybe sometime.

How near, exactly?  No, really.  HOW FREAKIN’ NEAR?!?

I’d be a nervous wreck after a week.

That new era?  Second Coming?  Final Judgement?  Ascension of the Antichrist?  Extraterrestrials showing up to take us to another planet?

WHEN.  IS.  IT.  GOING.  TO.  HAPPEN.  WHEN?!

If it’s not something I can put down on my calendar as definitely coming on January 22, 2014, then I don’t want to even know about it.  And don’t just tell me it’s going to happen on January 22, 2014.  You’d best be showing me solid proof that it’s all going to go down then.

And none of this 24-hour cancellation policy stuff either.  If it doesn’t happen then you’re going to have to pay me for the missed appointment.  I am a Doctor (okay, of Philosophy.  But still).  I should be able to charge for missed appointments like dentists and physicians.  Especially since not showing up to end the world/era/whatev is far more serious than missing a cleaning appointment.

Isn’t it?

ISN’T IT?!

Oh, another thing about me and waiting?

When I’m nervously anticipating stuff I have a tendency to procrastinate.

Not that I’m doing that right now or anything.

… and I feel (de)fine

The Eschaton.  The End of Days.  It seems to be everywhere lately.  There are television shows, movies, books and seemingly constant news articles about various ways in which society as we know it might be brought, abruptly, to a problematic conclusion.

There are viruses, plagues, earthquakes, aliens, and, pretty much everywhere you look, zombies!  Zombies!  ZOMBIES!  From the Walking Dead to World War Z(ed)- they are among us and just waiting to rise and make life even more miserable.

I wrote here about societal anomie and how it leads to expressions of anxiety that include apocalyptic stories.  The apocalyptic tradition has provided some of the best, and most enduring myths.  They endure, in part, because periods of great collective social anxiety tend to be cyclical.  As the stresses return again and again, the idea that there is something better (or at least different) that will redeem us while punishing those responsible for the stress- albeit after a period of complete lousiness- is quite attractive.

Some definition of terms:

Apocalypticism is one of the major literary trends in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, often representative of the uncertainty of the of the sociopolitical environment of the time.  As is the case with other hermeneutical categories found in the historical and literary studies of Judaism and Christianity (gnosticism is another such category- we’ll explore that one later), the designation ‘apocalyptic’ is often too-freely or non-specifically applied.

The myths of all cultures reflect the issues and beliefs of the times specific to each composition.  The apocalyptic tradition developed as a response to the perceived disparity between expectations and the reality of the societal situation faced by the Jews of antiquity.

Apocalypticism can be defined as “a type of religious thinking characterized by the notion that through an act of divine intervention, the present evil world is about to be destroyed and replaced with a new and better world in which (a) god’s justice prevails.  Apocalyptic schemes usually involve a moment of judgement, in which persons are called upon to answer for the evil of the world and are either acquitted to salvation in the new world or convicted to suffer divine punishment or destruction” (J.S. Kloppenborg, Q-Thomas Reader, 1990).

Dealing with the such realities as exile and diaspora, apocalypticism as a literary expression and theological speculation developed according to societal and religions necessity.  It was used variably as legitimation for political and religious propaganda, and to fulfill a socially perceived need for justice, transforming from a vision of messianic prosperity to one focusing on expectations not being met.

As a nascent religious movement, Christianity arose during a time of upheaval caused by foreign (Roman) domination of Palestine.  The issue of this dominance was relevant to the people involved in the Jesus movement and the authors of the writings that would eventually form the New Testament (along with the many contemporaneous non-canonical myths and writings).  Problems associated with justice and right order plagued the early Christian inheritors of the apocalyptic tradition as it had inspired their authorial predecessors.

Obviously, the current definition of apocalyptic has expanded to include all manner of potential cataclysms- either originating in this world (in evil laboratories or through nature rebelling against the repeated abuses to which it has been exposed at the hands of humanity) or from somewhere beyond (the myriad alien invasions from outer space or the reappearance of Lovecraftian creatures from the centre of the earth).

Regardless, these stories reflect the continuum of a mythological tradition that arises in response to significant disconnects between social expectations and the reality of the day.  Even when presented with tongue-in-cheek humour- think This is the End– now in theatres, or the upcoming, much anticipated (I really would like Simon Pegg to be my best friend) The World’s End.

In a social reality which, in one week (sigh), sees ever-increasing evidence of political corruption and the mishandling and violation of public trust at ALL levels of government and regardless of particular ideological affiliation, it really is no wonder that we are revisiting the mythological themes behind the apocalyptic vision.  When those we have elected to look out for the best interests of all citizens are not delivering the expected level of justice, frustration levels are made manifest in many ways.

Apocalyptic angst- as it appears in popular culture and literature- is a prevalent contemporary use of mythology that clearly demonstrates the truism ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’  We express our anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo through our various creative outlets.

The ideological forecast for the summer seems to be rife with apocalyptic thinking.  It will be interesting to see if such murmurs of discontent garner results in the larger societal context.  They will certainly provide entertainment and something to think- and blog- about.