Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seeking the Inherent God Spark

Someone at my other blog tore into me the other day for being unnecessarily harsh in my criticisms of other people. Apparently also a Friend, the poster admonished me for failing to adhere to the Quaker principle of seeking to find the divine within every human being. He or she raised a good point that deserves a response, and in that spirit, allow me to be completely honest. While I understand the spiritual intent of trying to find that which is God within all souls, I am unsure if the human and the divine are even slightly compatible with one another. While conceived as a means of encouraging people to get alone with each other, upon further reflection, I really don't think it's a realistic goal to aim for. Let me try to explain myself a little bit better.

Though I aim for perfection in my conduct and in my art, I can't say that either of them have even once reached the status of inherently divine. Divinely inspired, yes. Divinely perfect, no. Perhaps I'm just too skeptical these days. I wish I believed that humans were capable of reaching the heights of the divine, even slightly or for a brief moment in time. These days, I'm much more comfortable with believing that God's ways are utterly foreign to human ways. I'd rather they not mix even the slightest. It makes me uncomfortable to think that flawed humanity should even aspire towards such ends. Even striving towards such ends, no matter how noble the intention, is an untoward exercise which reminds me of nothing less than good old fashioned idolatry.

It's difficult, furthermore, to find evidence of God in people whose core, fundamental beliefs appear to be contrary to reason and logic. Many people who I associated with in my youth believe the polar opposite of what I do, both politically and ideologically. While they may be well-meaning or well-intentioned in what they assert, this doesn't mean they are any less wrong. The road to bad Presidents, unfit government, and hell itself is paved with good intentions and probably well-meaning conservatives to boot. I wish I knew the ways to make people act in their own best interest, but as we know well, free will leans towards educated guess and a guess is not divine certainty.

I take many such religious admonishments with a grain of salt. They too are often born out of the best of intentions, but in this rough and tumble world, many simply aren't feasible. For example, if I take the Quaker Peace Testimony at face value, then I should have nothing to do with war. Literally speaking, I shouldn't fight in any conflict, no matter the justification. I shouldn't contribute to anyone's war effort, even tangentially. I shouldn't even take a non-combat role in the proceedings. I am to be totally, wholly against armed conflict. In an ideal world, living a literal interpretation of this testimony would be easy. In reality, Quakers have frequently broken with the Peace Testimony to take up arms or, more often than not slyly pursued more nuanced positions when war has raged in their native lands.

Here, another example--everyone compliments the politician who takes the high road. If character and ethics were as contagious as the common cold, this approach might work. In great contrast, however, the politician who takes the low road, slings mud, and launches personal attacks on his opponent usually wins. Many of us seek to emulate the example of the pacifist, but when war breaks out, this philosophy quickly falls by the wayside, since there are any number of people willing to kill each other for material gain, financial profit, or in a spirit of patriotic, primal fervor.

In conclusion, while I acknowledge might be better served by cutting people a break every now and then, I've accepted there is divination, not divinity, in human beings.

1 comment:

P. E. Nolan said...

I haven't sat in silence to ponder this post - as I should have if I were strictly following Quaker practice.

I would argue that cutting some people a break because everyone must have some divinity in them somewhere has allowed certain jack asses to trample the rest of us - whether they are politicans or the common tyranical control freaks that we all have to deal with in our ordinary lives.

These individuals have ignored and/or crushed their own divinity in order to achieve their own ends. Why should we have to acknowledge that divinity if they themselves have pissed on it?