Of Waterbeds and Mystics: Mosaics of the Spirit

Kevin J. Rice, Kevin@justanyone.com, http://JustAnyone.com

Religion Paper 11, Operative question: What Does Being Religious Mean to Me (revisited)?

In this, my second opportunity to answer this question, I've had several ideas of explanatory approaches. I first thought of comparing my associative memory to waterbed that has thoughts rolling like waves, where one good push (this question) would return chaotically different responses for the specific part of religious life at issue. Since I was in the allegorical mood, the second attempt was a comparison to the word game "Free Association", where I would throw out words like ritual, myth, historical instigations, spirituality, worldview, self-image, bible study, fellowship, and the big G word (dare I say GOD in public?!?).

Alas, it seems the best approach is to yield to my desire for a formulaic solution: "Go with the old 'Thoughts', 'Emotions', 'Actions' triune." I don't want this to be boring, so I'll try to be brief.

Intellectually, my lifelong confused state continues. The big questions concerning the existence of god, of the soul/personality separate from the physical being, and (assuming the affirmative on the first question) of the role of a deity in the workings of the world. My mind is so dominated by the rational that the miracle has a difficult place in my cosmos, and the idea that any one subject can be entirely out of the realm of the rational is difficult to grasp. Yes, I've had mystical experiences, but somehow I've managed to shunt and/or debunk most of them. Is this a barrier to my further development? Yes, most definitely, and a large one to surmount.

Emotionally, my despairing moments feature feelings of abandonment and oblivion as the future of us all. Fear of the unknown and unknowable contrasts sharply with other moments of bright warmth walking and staring at trees or into the eyes of a woman I love. The world can seem safe and beautiful, and there is the occasional sense of a presence beyond oneself. Despite these occasionally intense moments, my masculine upbringing has placed limits on my sense of emotional depth. I realize my early childhood was one of intense feelings, so I know I have within me a fairly large yet barely tapped capability to emote. My work in this direction has been curtailed in the past year due to a lack of a partner with which to share my self-exploration, but perhaps things will change soon.

My religious actions have usually been limited to the more intellectually oriented activities, as opposed to the heavily devotional. I found so much difficulty with belief during my communicance class that I declined to join the church at the end. My conscience would not allow my lying by saying I believed in God. I didn't at the time. I hope I do now, but it is hard. Christian I'm not, since the trinity doesn't pass Occam's razor by my book. I can accept a perfect, divine Jesus, only if every other person can be able to access their own perfect, divine nature. It seems most sensible to me that if God exists, he/she/it is within us all, and we have both a choice and an ability to recognize that essence. Moslem teachings have much good in them, but don't quite fit the bill either.

So, one might ask, what tradition does my being religious encompass? The answer might be that it is varied. I like the Native American ideas about proactive world stewardship via sensing the divinity of all of nature. I also like the Taoist emphasis on letting things happen at their own pace. Buddhism's basing of an entire religion on the wants of mankind seems to be missing the larger picture, but the message of the real quest being internal fits very well with my worldview.

Mostly, though, I feel Jewish in a lot of ways. I'm not observing, and probably won't ever be, but the individual redemption, emphasis on scholarship and clear argument, traditional celebrations, history, and culture are things I feel comfortable with. Some would say that despite my upbringing being heavily seasoned by Judaism, I have no privilege to embrace Judaism. I have no argument; I make no pleas. I'm just painting a mosaic with appealing colors and that's the way it's turning out. On the other had, maybe I'll change my name to Armand and wait until I'm 94 to have my Bar Mitzvah. Oy Veh, what decisions.


Of Waterbeds and Mystics: Mosaics of the Spirit

by Kevin J. Rice

Tuesday, December 13th, 1990

Introduction to World Religions

Professor Derfler

Tues & Thurs 9:30 am

Fall Semester, 1990


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