Tag Archive: meaning


It seems that the one constant on internet forums, at least as far as religious dialogues go, is intolerance for the other opinion. Believers don’t gladly suffer non-believers and vice versa, Christians versus Atheists, Muslims and even other Christians, and again vice versa.

Christians so often take a type of spiritual high ground, claiming to know something or at least someone that the others don’t. Sometimes they even claim to know something of someone which other Christians don’t. A subjective understanding is mistaken for an absolute acquaintance and intimate knowledge of the ultimate mystery. It seems the humbleness of the Rabbi is forgotten.

Non-believers, on the other hand, often retreat into the bastion of reason. From here they lob high-handed pronouncements, often in the form of insults, to the so called dim-witted, superstitious believers who hold on, according to them, to worldviews and other opinions that was already thrown out with yesterday’s trash.

Why is it that these forums are so often riddled by an intolerant few? I would like to venture two reasons although I am certain there are many more that can be considered. Firstly, it seems that any chest-beating is accompanied by a certain sense of insecurity, that 0.0001% of doubt that creeps in during the quiet of the night. A sense that maybe, just maybe, we are not quite as right, quite as absolute as we would like to be; a nagging sense that there might be more to the universe, the world, and even transcended, at least other, realities to my own. With all the data we are bombarded with every day, it is almost impossible not to acknowledge that the model we build and the narratives we construct does not 100% reflect Reality nor Narrative. This begs the question, is there such a thing as Reality or Narrative and, if there is, can we have objective, maybe even subjective, access to it?

It does however seem that the more and louder the chest-beating seems to be, the louder and challenging our own insecurities is, at least as far as the way we build our models and narrate our stories.

Secondly, it seems that we suffer from a good dose, maybe a severe overdose, of arrogance. We simply know. Contrary to the postulation that we might not have the free access to the Reality that we think we have, we construct from the perspective that we do not only have access to Reality but that we have unbridled, objective, and absolute access. It seems that we think that we can transcend ourselves in order to be completely objective and have the language ability to formulate the exactness of the Reality without limiting it. Of course only the I and those who agree exactly with the I has this ability. What is interesting is the assumption that we can transcend our own subjectivity at will, but that something Transcendent can’t exist.

Thus, maybe it is time we should all heed the call of the ancients and the contemporaries, from Confucius, The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Florence Nightingale, Dorothy Day, Karen Armstrong, and The Dalai Lama that the mark of an adult person who lives with happiness and contentment in his/her skin, one would be able to argue, in her/his own faith, is the ability to live with the Golden Rule, with compassion. And if you are wondering what this rule is, here it is in its positive form: Do onto others as you would like them do onto you, this might just lead to dialogues where we listen to others and really hear them, rather than construct what they are saying from our own preconceived ideas.

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Coca-Cola would like us to believe it is as easy as opening it, the faithful (seemingly from a diversity of different religions) would like us to believe it can be attained by confessing it, afaithful would like us to believe it is a case of not confessing it, the producers and retailers would like us to believe it increases with consumption and the naturalists and greenies would like us to stop consuming in order to truly gain it, the moralists champions the life-long commitment to a person of the opposite sex as the doorway to a lifetime of it and the more liberal finds it in the diversity of multiple connections. Whatever the answer, it seems that there are many different answers to the question and that these answers are directly linked to the underlying philosophy of the person that answers the question. The question of course being: What will bring us lasting happiness?

Implied in the question is that such a thing as lasting happiness does indeed exist and all we need to do is to find the start of the correct path towards it, journey it with commitment and persistence and at some or other time, we will arrive at the source of lasting happiness. Maybe the challenge lies in the assumption and not in the diversity, and sometimes even apposing, answers.

It might just be that in the uncritical acceptance of the existence of lasting happiness, and the assertion that every person, and therefore myself as well, has a given right to happiness, we are excluding ourselves from the very thing we seek. The view that happiness is something that can be achieved and the moment it can be achieved happiness is turned into the result of a doing function. It puts the Self in control and constantly asks an evaluative question about every moment; is this, what is experienced, truly happiness or is there something greater?

Maybe the first step towards understanding lasting happiness is the acknowledgement that our reality is often filled, or even that the default setting of our reality, is a place of unhappiness; that happiness, especially lasting happiness, has an Other-worldly quality to it. C.S Lewis famously writes that joy “is the serious business of heaven” (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on prayer). Thus it might just be true that in search of lasting happiness we are not in control, because we are searching for something that does not essentially exists to be grasped.

This acceptance that happiness is not something of our doing but rather a state of being, might open whole different perspective on lasting happiness. An acceptance of life as it is, an openness that much of who we are, are marked by honest struggle, by hardship and challenges, by hunger and thirst and by the realization that everyone around us is faced with the same reality, might be the change of perspective we need to see the Other-worldly. Maybe it is when we surrender our desperate quest to find a mythical happiness, that we find a much more down to earth, even fragile, but ultimately a lasting, happiness.

We live in an age, somewhere post modernism, after the demise of meta-narratives, somehow knowing where we are not and desperately trying to figure out where exactly we are. This short sketch is an attempt to struggle with the “exactly where we are”. I propose three common denominators for the age we live in, Digital, Networked, and Anthropocene.

Without a doubt two of the most significant developments during the late 20th century was the personal computer, which Taleb signifies as a Black Swan Event, and the web, another of those Black Swans. The Web made it’s debut during 1989 and it spread to offices and homes by 1994. Digital cameras arrived on the scene in 1990, cellphones during 1977, cellphones with cameras during 1999, chatrooms opened it’s doors during 1980, Facebook launched 2004, Twitter 2006 and an ever increasing list of portals where digital data is created and stored. The mere act of using the internet during 2011 will create more digital data about an user than the user him-/herself can generate. The dawn of the digital age broke over the earth during 2002 when more digital data was generated than analogue data. 2011 will see another 1.8 zettabytes of data created, 33% more than 2010, or in other words, the equivalent of 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads filled with data. Enough to build a technological wall of China, as long and as wide, but twice as high. We truly live in a digital world.

One of the mainstays of the digital era is the hubs, nodes, linking datacables, and wifi signals that create a vast Network of 1’s and 0’s. The network(s) that underlie the digital world is not merely a bunch of microchips and optic fibre, but creates an environment which allows not only digital communication and data creation, but for interactions in the “real” world with very “real” implications. We use networks to order our lives, from buying food to organizing social get togethers, from insiting revolution on the one side of the planet to exploiting the planet on the other side, from building community with family and friends vast distances away to destroying communities close by. Today more than ever before do we realize that we are part of a vast network, both digitally and naturally, where technology matters but networks far exceed the virtual world. It seems there might be truth in the saying that when a butterfly flaps it’s wings in America, it creates a tropical storm in the Orient, a truly networked society.

Last, but not least, is the realization that we live in a day an age, a biosphere where the activities of man(!)kind is shaping the very space we live in. It’s been suggested that a case can be made that we are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological age or even a new geological epoch alltogether. If the suggested Anthropocene is an age it falls under the epoch Holocene. If not and it is recognize as an epoch in its own right, it follows on the Holocene that started approximately 10 000 years ago after the end of the Pleistocene and falls under the period Quaternary, which started an estimated 2.6 million years ago. The term was coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and widely popularized by the atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen. The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London deemed the proposal, to formally accept the Anthropocene as part of the Geological Time Scale, as having merit and thus the proposed addition of the Anthropocene is currently being studied. Accepted or not, we are living in an age where (wo)mankind has an ever increasing impact on the world around us.

The age we are experiencing at the moment often leaves us gasping for air, scrambling for descriptive words. There might be many such word and concepts out there, however, I want to welcome you to… the Digital Networked Anthropocen (DNA).

Barefoot

With shoes we tread without a thought. We stomp around without a care in the world! There is no need; we are not discomforted by the place we choose to rest heavily for awhile. And more often than not we leave a small catastrophe behind with each step, blissfully unaware of the carnage, for our feet are encased in foot armour.

Going barefoot changes the equilibrium; no longer can we go blissfully unaware. We move to the other side of the equation, we are increated, acutely aware of what is underfoot. Stomping hurts, not only where we choose to stomp, but it causes pain to ourselves at the same time. Maybe we should rather say, the carnage is still the same, we just become aware of the effect of our tread, to others and to ourselves.

So please go barefoot, be increated, tread lightly, and live simply. Maybe such acts of simplicity and humbleness will allow others to simply live, and by grace, maybe, with an awareness of God.

Quietness

Quietness is where we meet ourselves,

something sometimes terrifying

and other times soothing.

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Of course, sometimes,

we are met by the

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wholly Other!

I am privilege that a recent blog entry, God is dead! Or is (S)He)?, was duplicated on www.news24.com. This entry was fairly popular and solicited an active debate. To be expected there were pundits who claimed that God was dead indeed, or, that God cannot be dead as (s)he) never existed to start with. On the other hand there were those who vigorously defended their belief, based on personal experience, faith and Scriptures.

Evolution, the tension between religion and science, Pascal’s wager and a number of other arguments surfaced amongst the, probably to be expected, stereotyping from both sides. The one argument, against the existence of God, which I would like to address, is that of causality.

The argument goes something like this. Nature is governed by the law of causality; nothing can exist without something else causing it. It is within the context of a causal world that the faithful confesses a Creator-God, which is the origin or source of all that exists, including the laws that orders our natural world. The critique that is levelled at the identification of this first cause with a personal deity is that of the continuity of causality; who or what created the Creator? Why stop at Creation, the Big Bang or the Big Bang as creation event as the start of the causal chain?

In my mind the assumption that everything is governed by the law of causality is based on our extended experiences of the natural world. In order for something to happen, it must be caused by another event. From here it is a small jump to conclude that this is the only way that anything is possible and, as such, if there is no cause, then the resulting reaction cannot exist. The fruit that grows on this tree is the question that, if God exists, who caused or created him, it or her and if no such a cause can be identified, God obviously does not exist.

Into the debate, enters the Black Swan Theory, popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan. This theory postulates that certain events falls so far outside the scope of personal experience that it cannot be predicted in any way. The theory is named after the falsification of an old world presumption. In 16th century London the statement “black swan” referred to something that was impossible. The current and historical experience at the time was that all swans had white feathers and therefore the popular conclusion was that the occurrence of a black swan was indeed impossible. It was only when a Dutch expedition in 1697 discovered black swans in Western Australia, that the presumption was falsified.

What does this have to do with the law of causality and the question to who or what created (or caused) the Creator.  Simple; why do we contend that we know everything and that the law of causality is an absolute truth. It might just be that there is a black swan waiting on the causal horizon and that this horizon is closer than we care to imagine, that is, if relativity and quantum mechanics are to be believed.

Why do we (I) believe?

This seems to be an easy question; that is till we buckle down to real honesty and square with the eyes that reflects back at us from the mirror. What does my faith mean to me?

The easy answer is of course that I am the chosen of God, bought by the blood of Christ and gifted by the Holy Spirit. This is true and an answer to be satisfied with, especially if you are from the Reformed variety of the Christian faith. Everything is indeed grace; God’s gift in Christ.

Another approach is to confuse the why with what and try to answer the question with rational and reason. The answer does not sound much different from the one above. The biggest difference being that the formulation might be slightly more formal; slightly expanded into three volumes (if you are shrewd or learned enough).

Philosophy of religion, psychology, theology of religion, sociology and maybe even biology and genetics might offer answers to this question from different angles. These can range from things like a genetic pre-programming to think in terms of the metaphysical (the God-gene), the context in which we were born and raised to a Freudian interpretation of religion as a whole. You might agree or disagree with a number of these approaches but it might be that you still believe, even after the theories, and that the question asks on yet a deeper level.

In my mind the reason I believe is a mixture of all of these factors with a good deal of grace, however when I look myself in the eye, the question change from the factors forming believe in me to the purpose of my faith, and this is where honesty starts to hurt. This is where Jesus confronts me with my own agenda. Is my faith used to merely further my own cause, justify my own way of thinking, my domination of the other, my thirst for power and status or is the purpose of my faith to serve others, to allow justice to happen through me, to be a voice for those without a voice and to further the cause of the One whom worked the faith in me.

Why do I believe? I believe because a vision that was granted me in grace. This vision is at the same time is the reason and the purpose of my faith. It calls me to action, asks of me to evaluate my behaviour, to live not for myself but for the other, to keep the focus on the One who is the vision. It opens me to community, to share and receive vision(s). What is this vision? What is the cause of the One who grants this vision?

In my understanding? To love God and your neighbour like yourself.

You

My life was broken

You came and fixed it

My life was empty

You came and filled it

Tears were running down my face

You came and dried them

I was searching for a place in this world

You came and made space for me next to you

My being was restless

You calmed it

And all I can tell You

All I can give You is my love

Just my love and that’s all

The God illusions

“The most dangerous thing is illusion”    –              Ralph Aldo Emerson

Statements about God are made, seemingly, with impunity. Is it He or She, maybe It? God exist, God doesn’t exist. God is love but (S)He) allows pain. Pain and suffering are a reality, therefore God either does not exist or (S)He) is not love. Which God is the true one: the triune God of Christianity, the One God of the Muslims, the Life Force of esotericism etc?

While many a statement and an opinion about God and (S)His) existence are bandied about; I think some of these are based on important illusions. Below is four, not all of them, illusions from which we suffer in regards to statements about God.

The first illusion is that we can capture or describe something wholly different, some would say infinite, with our finite language.  We suffer from a severe lack of knowledge as far as the metaphysical is concerned. Faith is based on believe, and that is essential being convinced about things that cannot be seen.

The second illusion is closely related to the first. When people of faith confess a God that is love or grace etc; God is not restricted to the “worldly” understanding of the term used. (S)He) transcends the term and becomes the perfection thereof, often to the extent that it affronts the confessors.

The third illusion is that we boldly proclaim we know the essence of God. This is a prerequisite to the bold statements about God’s essence, intent and judgement. Many people of faith confess a living God and at the same time judge other possible revelation by (S)Him) or experiences of (S)Him).

The fourth illusion is that we can control or deny God by our language. The existence of God is not based on our say so. (S)He either exist or (S)He doesn’t; our opinions on the matter change nothing about the reality thereof.  In the same vein people of faith cannot dictate God’s actions by their sweet talk. (S)He might decide to act in ways that goes against what people think might think is proper.

Once we acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge and language in regards to God, we cannot continue in a subjective, arrogant approach to the subject. The result in breaking the hold of these illusions is that we will treat the subject with more humbleness and each other with more dignity and open-mindedness.

Meaning in my life

Running through an empty street

Under a cloud filled sky

Trying to forget

The emptiness of missing you

To no prevail

The sea whispering Your name

The wind crying out:  “I miss you!”

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And then I knew

How much You mean to me

More than riches

More than popularity

More than fame and stardom

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Because only You

Only You can give me what I need most

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A willing ear

Full of understanding

A warm shoulder

Full of comfort

And most of all

A caring heart

Full of love