Friday, September 20, 2013

New Hope in New Paltz

Some six years ago I wrote a blog called "Finding Fair Hope" from the little town of Fairhope, Alabama.  I deliberately split the name of the town into two components, to expand my reach beyond just writing about the town itself, and in order to write sometimes of fairness and sometimes of hope as well.

I loved the scope of that blog, and kept site meters active in searching the whereabouts of my readers and the words they chose that led them to my postings. I was especially taken aback when, according to my tracker, someone typed this phrase into Google “please give me hope that god is fair” and was directed to the Fair Hope blog.

The person who typed that desperate phrase was not sent to the posts I had made on the nature of God, the soul, and the relationship of man to the universe. You probably know that a search engine’s spider can zero in on a word or group of words and locate any number of ephemeral or peripheral mentions of the word or words you want to search. Thus, some seeking hope that God or anything else be fair, might be sent to a blog called "Finding Fair Hope."

The person with this poignant wish came to this blog on a day when I was rhapsodizing about the weather and even the opportunities for romance at sunset and didn’t stay long enough to check out the many opinions voiced here about whether there is hope that God is fair.

For the record I shall try to answer that question now. In my opinion there is some kind of force that I am not uncomfortable calling god, with or without the capital letter. This force needs a name, and long ago man gave it the name “god” and I don’t think even with all that baggage that identity has accumulated that we have come up with anything better. The problem is that the name is so old, it has literally grown a beard, as we used to say about old stories in the newspaper game. It carries with it a human picture. “God” appears to be a man, although, as Margaret Atwood has pointed out, never in the Bible does the image appear as a man – it appears as a burning bush, or in any number of guises, not including a male human being. But when Leonardo and others wanted to paint a picture, they referred to the old pictures of the god of gods--Zeus--who dwelt in the clouds and carried a handful of lightning bolts for added impact, as if that were needed. That guy also had a long white beard.

Today when we want to be iconoclastic, we say, “I don’t believe in an old man in the clouds with a long white beard,” but that is not the concept of a higher power anyway. There are people to whom those old paintings reveal the face of God, but to deny that we are moved by them is not to deny the existence of God – or even to prove that we are deep thinkers. It’s simply Step One in the process of examining the question. This is what I do not believe. What do I believe?

Do I believe that “god is fair”? I’m afraid I have to answer no to that one. I assume the question comes from someone who wants a specific thing from life, and has observed that less deserving people seem to get all they want. If there is a god, why does “he” do things this way?

Some say that he gives us the lessons we need. I think even that is too pat an answer. There are far too many people who never get any lessons at all, or appear not to. All too often, they are the ones with all the stuff. We don’t know what is happening in their life, but we know they have done bad things to acquire what they have, and we tell ourselves that “what goes around comes around.” Unfortunately, I haven’t seen this to be true either.

I read a wonderful book review today by Margaret Atwood, who, to my mind is one of the most refreshing women in the world today.  I think I could say I'd like to be her when I grow up. Reading her words about Stephen King's latest novel reminded me of this post on the "Fair Hope" blog. About that time she was discussing faith and reason with Bill Moyers. There is no better person alive to make those topics come to life--in a novel, a poem, a television interview, or in my livingroom if she would just drop in for a visit.

She claimed to be a committed agnostic, and made the statement that atheism is a religion. Ha ha. I love that, and agree with her. Ha ha, because those I know who claim to be atheists would hate that characterization -- but Atwood says, it is a belief, therefore it is a religion. As a committed agnostic, she admits the possibility that God may or may not exist, and that her commitment allows discussion of the matter. She says we believe what we are comfortable believing, and that that is a choice we make because it works for us. An atheist believes--because he demands proof--in a negative. An agnostic simply wonders and investigates, not looking for proof so much as for belief. And a believer is happy with his choice -- there is something he just knows is there. I think that's what she said, but I was half asleep as I watched. It may just have been my own conclusion.

Where is the hope, then? It’s inside you, if you are a human being. It is hope that is making you ask the question. Through the power of organized religion and traditional upbringing, many of us are conflicted by even having doubts that what we were told is true. We expect that guy in the clouds to release the lightning bolts our way.

If the person who asked the Internet about fairness ever came back to the blog, I never knew of it. I tried to keep an open, healthy discussion of the question going. For now, let this be my answer: There are times in life when a re-examination of one’s expectations is required. There are times when we all feel hopeless and hurt. It is part of the condition of life on this human plane, which no amount of examination can adequately define. We are created to ask and not get answers. But in the Pandora’s box there is also that last element, all too often left behind. We are also, as human beings, endowed with hope.

1 comment:

  1. "How many times I've wondered
    And it still comes out the same
    No matter how you look at it or think of it
    It's life, and you just gotta play the game..."