All of which sets up your standard Marta epiphany. You know that quote from the best five-book trilogy every written?
And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
That's me, only I won't claim it's nearly so important as all that. I just see things clearly every once in a while and can exalt in it, even if only for a moment. It's what a friend once called me going all Form-y (where I'd be involved in deep philosophical discussion and would be almost glowing. Makes me wonder why I mess around with politics and internet memes and wrestling laundry, except that Form-iness, life life, only seems to happen when you're busy making other planes.
Anyway, I was listening to Jason Mraz on Spotify and wanted to track down the source to some of his lyrics, and fell into the treasure-trove that is Khilal Gibran:
Like sheaves of corn [love] gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, "God is in my heart," but rather, "I am in the heart of God."
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
This strikes me as such a profound insight, and one that I am not entirely comfortable with. Especially that last bit: that if God exists, He must surely be something bigger than what can be in my heart, or in my denomination or in my mind. As my guy Anselm put it, "thou art not only that than which a greater cannot be conceived, but thou art a being greater than can be conceived."
For love is sufficient unto love, and God (whatever He may be, if He is anything) is sufficient unto God.
This is the danger of religion: on the one hand you tell everyone that they must agree to certain truths, and how can you agree if you do not yet understand it? And then you offer them truths greater than can be conceived. So like Plato's philosopher-kings offering the noble lie, those who have begun to move beyond the need to understand things clearly will offer half-truths to ease the way. They think it is better than nothing, and perhaps it is, but it gives a false sense of confidence to those who still cling to confidence. The result is "honor" killings, Israeli women spat on because they don't dress sufficiently modest in ultra Orthodox neighborhoods and gay Christian evangelical kids kidnapped out of their homes (VIDEO) and sent to "reorientation" camps. And all the myriads of smaller traumas.
None of this means that religion is false, or that it can't be useful or should be abandoned or even that all religions are equally good paths. What I think it does mean is that religion and faith isn't about knowing, at least not in the same way that we know things we grasp with our senses and rational capacities. I also think that the ensuing humility is a good thing, but not if it is a pride-masquerading-as-humility. As someone who's strongly rational and likes my self-reliance, so I'm not going to sit here I recognize these ideals as anything other than what I should be striving for. Definitely not something I see within myself.
Still, I can't help wonder if religions would be less disruptive if we didn't focus on dogmatism. Is there a way to do this without devolving into a kind of noncommittal "God is whatever you make of him" solipsism. I honestly don't know, but I do think it's a question worth asking.