Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dealing in Absolutes

With the manuscript away and in the hands of my editor, I've found myself re-engaging with the Believer's Guide.  Some if it came as I wove in the excellent edits plugged in by my wife.  You think you've read a thing through enough to catch every typo...but no...

Some of it has come as I have seen that goldarned fifth chapter for what it was.  Ack.  It's a clumsy flesh golem of a Frankenchapter, knit together out of the bits and pieces of essays and bloggery as I struggled to reassemble a stolen manuscript.

But mostly, the concepts stirred about afresh as I explored the heady fusion of a Many Worlds cosmology and classical theology.

When you come back to something after a while, those renewed eyes mean you can enter into a conversation with yourself, challenge yourself, and reconsider your thinking.  In particular, I found myself wondering about one of the sustained themes of the book: the challenge to absolutism.   Drawing from the joyous, endless generativity and freedom implied by a multiverse creation, a core theme of the book involves challenging the idolatrous certainties of both literalist fundamentalism and militant atheism.   And, frankly, any system that assumes that it's got the one final answer.

Absolutism bad, as Multiverse Hulk might say.

But wait, I say.  I do make claims about truth.  Throughout the book, and particularly in it's exploration of ethics, I present a series of arguments for both Love and God.  Throughout, I make the case that the ethic of radical compassion is The Essential Law governing sentient beings, and that love is the essence of God and God's self-expression.

I also argue for the existence of a Creator, The Ground of Being that is and should be the focus of our existence.

So, isn't that an absolute?  Seriously.  Isn't that just the same thing I rail against?  I mulled that one over for a little bit.  Took a good long walk on it, in the brisk cold of an evening.

And on two significant levels, the answer was no.

First, faith---the orienting of one's existence towards God--is not the same thing as orienting oneself towards a finite object or a neatly, cleanly defined system or pattern of understanding.   If you think for a moment you've entirely grasped the full nature of what you have come into encounter with when you stand in the Presence, then you've missed the point.  The thing you grasp cannot be the completeness of it.  It cannot ever be, for God's completeness is without end or limit.

The rigid certainties of the absolutist bear no resemblance to faith.

And love?  Love...understood not as emotion, but as the state of seeking and engaging in a compassionate relation with another free also not an absolute.  It can't be, not if it's authentic, because the compassionate interplay between two free beings is not a finite thing.  Neither is bounded or delimited or set in stone.  Neither is an object.  Neither is an "it," and both are "Thou," as Martin Buber would have put it.

So the rigid certainty of the absolutist bears no resemblance to love, either.