The insistence of everyday, Part 2

I posted a link to Part 1, The insistence of everyday, and a good friend commented: “Interesting post Jim. May be applicable to anyone who believes in a higher power, not just Christians. You took the time to reflect, which I must confess, I don’t do nearly enough.” What struck me was his phrase “may be applicable to anyone who believes in a higher power, not just Christians.” I agree. What I call God and others call Allah or higher power doesn’t just shower Christians with hints of His presence. The Spirit pursues every human being to lure them closer. Indeed, God is the creative source of every human’s spirit (soul, life force). (There is of course a different point of view, which one might term ‘relentless secularism.’ There are no supernatural causes only natural causes. I will not debate that point of view in this post. Read my book Imagining Rama; a brief guide to exploring the universe, mystery and meaning if you want to engage in that conversation.)

What I attempted to say in Part 1 is that the literal reality of God impinges on each person’s constructed reality, whether or not they open themselves to be aware of this. This gets us into the question of truth. Is what I am saying true, or only my version of truth? That seems like an “either/or” question but is actually a “both/and question.” Let me explain.

The question of truth.

In its simplest terms, God literally can both be true (really what is) and also untrue (non-existing) for an individual who programs their constructed world to eliminate the possibility of God. This happens because God honors human freedom to the extreme of even deciding God doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t end the discussion. What happens next? Does God “walk away” from a person who chooses non-God and “wash His hands” so to speak of this person? What is true about the relationship between God and human beings? That is where Christians make a claim that, so far as I am aware, no other religion holds as true.

Christians say it very simply. “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that  anyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16] You can see this reference plastered on public places by Christians who are trying to alert people to this reality. Unfortunately, some non-Christians take this as a threat — believe or you won’t be saved.  But you have to read the next line to get the full context and what this statement really means. “Indeed God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” [John 3:17] God isn’t in the business of giving people ultimatums. He is in the business of helping people to get out of their limited constructed realities without Him and take up their rightful place with Him as divine-like beings, created to live forever with him.” That is what Chrtistians say is true. But is it? If other religions hold that Allah or a higher power acts differently than this, what is literally true?

On one level, that of each person’s constructed mental model, there is no certain way to estabish the facts about this reality. God is beyond human comprehension and God’s ways are also impenetrable. That is why each human being engages in a “quest for truth” throughout life, to seek and hopefully find answers to such ultimate questions. Many stories have been written about this quest over thousands of years ranging from religious epics like the Bhagavad Gita, to Chretein de Troyes myth about Parsifal and the quest for the Holy Grail, to Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. The essence of the human quest for truth is to find what is authentically true outside themselves. Out of that quest comes a sense of completion and peace. “The pursuit of truth shall set you free.” Each person recognizes when they have reached the goal of their quest, which is truth which they didn’t reason to or construct. Until they reach that point, they sense they must not cease in their quest.

The Christian claim about truth

So, how can Christians be so confident about the truth? For some, truth is simple. If the Bible says it’s true, it’s true. In reality, that is very similar to what believers in other religions also claim. “My book is right and yours isn’t.” To someone engaged in a quest for truth, simply starting to accept the Bible as the end of their quest is as difficult as accepting they know God’s reality. They are unwilling to short-circuit their quest for truth — and good on them! None of what I have said addresses, however, the Christian claim to know the actual, literal truth about God — only the everyday reality that many people won’t accept what individual Christians say as true.

Where I come out on this is that every human being (including Christians by the way) must engage in an authentic quest for the truth — about God and who they are. It is the pursuit of truth not the possession of truth that grows human beings into the divine beings we are destined to become. In these two posts I have tried to show (though some trivial examples) that opening up yourself, and admiting the hints of God into your constructed mental model is a necessary step in this quest. Unless you do that, you never find your way out of Plato’s cave — your own limited self-constructed mental model for the world. The Christian claim is that the quest is worth it — and that you are never alone when you are pursuing truth.

The insistence of everyday

As I was driving through Sydney yesterday, I had the Bach Goldberg Variations on ABC Radio. I was stopped at a traffic light, and noticed the people crossing past my windshield, some talking to a friend, some punching their iPhone’s screen, no doubt linked to someone else doing the same thing. There was a cluster of people in front of a pub across the street socializing and having a great time (it seemed). What suddenly struck me was how much stimulation each person in the scene I was observing was experiencing (including myself) — and how difficult it is for the “still small voice” within them (and me) to “cut through” all this stimulation, to use the common marketing term.

Literal reality versus constructed reality

I am no different. Yesterday (everyday) I constructed my own world as I always do. As I drove, I chose to listen to Bach, I decided (somewhat habitually) what I needed to observe as I was driving, I observed Sydney as I drove along, and of course I had my thoughts about all these. This constructed world of mine pretty much filled my conscious mind. Yet (reflecting on this now) I believe as a Christian that literally the Kingdom of God was also really present, independent of my belief or what I allowed into my constructed world at any time.

How do I include the reality of God’s presence every moment that I am awake? Is that even a practical thing to do? (I might have a car accident if I got carried away in some rapturous encounter with God.)

Time, Consciousness and the Kingdom

I think one answer to these questions is having a different view of time and consciousness as a Christian. Let me explain. My usual constructed world works like this.

  • I do many things automatically, with only occasional interventions by my conscious mind. For example, driving a car.
  • I choose some stimulation consciously, like listening to classical music when I drive. (I flick between 2 stations in Sydney to find the piece of music I want). This choice then fills my consciousness with some beauty or drama or humour, depending on what I choose to listen to.
  • Some outside stimulation intrudes and I notice it; like the people who crossed my path or stood in the pub as I was stopped at the traffic light.
  • My thoughts are also always there, chattering away. That is who I am. I think everyone must be thinking, more or less all the time.

But in my constructed world I also intentionally add a different type of stimulation — the presence of God–  which happens in a different time and different level of consciousness. Did I learn to do this? I don’t know. It seems like it has always been part of me. I know I have become a better observer of this aspect of myself as I get older. My thinking contains its hints, usually surprising me. (I don’t plan to meet God; He seems to seek me out occasionally, even insistently at times.) What this feels like to me is the timeless intruding on time — and a different form of consciousness intruding on my ordinary constructed world. That feeling is actually inexpressible; I just know that it is real.

My conclusion? A Christian constructs their world differently than many people. We are ready to receive God’s stimulation. (Maybe that happens with other religions as well; I can only talk about Christians.) When God “knocks” we “answer the door.” We take God’s stimuli as seriously as stop lights and pedestrians when we are driving an automobile. We decide to pay attention to God’s timeless demands in order to “drive our lives well.” They come when God decides it’s time; we receive them when we make ourselves ready each day by our intention to be alert and respond. And we learn more and more about the Kingdom when we reflect on what we have experienced after the fact. What I have just described is commonly called “prayer.”

CONTINUE TO READ: The insistence of everyday reality, Part 2. [Click here]