TRUTH analyzed and TRUTH lived
I have been doing a lot of reading on moral philosophy and ethics and our faith, and there is so much I could read on the subject that I would appreciate guidance from anyone who reads this and has textbooks or classic literature to recommend to anyone trying to solve the puzzle of what is right, individually and in community. Today I ordered the book After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory by the Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, after I saw this quote from it in another book:
I can only answer the question "What am I to do?" if I can answer the prior question "Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?"
At the same time, I have come to some conclusions about the study of TRUTH and the attempt to systematize it. As Einstein said, it is rather like trying to copy to paper all the elements of a symphony one hears a wonderful orchestra and conductor perform. One cannot just get the notes for each part down and have actually captured the whole. One cannot even get all the musical notations right and have captured the TRUTH about what was heard. No matter how perfectly one can put music on paper, music on paper is not really music, is it? The nature of music is that it must be heard to be understood.
That is not only true of the music of life in the "Big Story", but even of the music of life in all our little stories. We may get the facts right, or even the perspective of one or several participants, but no story told later ever captures the reality of what really happened. Life just doesn't work that way. We do not understand the full set of dynamics at work in the social fabric or in the individual psyches, nor the spiritual dimension, nor even the physical dimension. We know very little about life, really!
But we don't need to understand it to live it and feel it, do we? And our Rabbi did not teach us to spend more time studying it all so that we could make better ethical choices or have a fuller life. He said to show we are his followers by doing what He commands us to do, and then immediately taught us to ABIDE IN HIM and to LOVE ONE ANOTHER. I think He has given me my love of analysis and is okay with me trying to figure out how everything works . . . but not at the expense of "hearing the symphony." I need to live and feel and act to "listen", and the "figuring it all out" can be my role, but it cannot be my goal.
My goal needs to remain AGAPE, which flows from "abiding in Him". I'll never be wise enough to disengage from Him and others and "make good ethical decisions" or "live a full life". At the core of what He taught about ethics and values was relationship -- and so it is in relationship to Him and to all those He brings into my life that I will find the path to that full life He promised.
That does not mean I need to sit back and follow the lead of all those in my community, though. It does not mean I need to "just serve" and not try to "figure it all out" or not speak out when I feel compelled to share my perceptions. It means I need to be me, living life as my perceptions and character and gifts lead me to live life, and that I need to stay in relationship with others, and that I need to allow them and God and the normal processes of life to refine my perceptions and character and gifts.
I still love Martin Luther's call to "Sin Boldly!" May we not be so concerned with "getting it right" or with "pleasing those around us" or even with "not injuring those around us unnecessarily" that we are bound up by those concerns and fail to live! Obviously I do not want to hurt myself or others or fail God. But perhaps I am more likely to fail Him and hurt myself and others when I spend too much time "following the rules" or even "figuring out the rules" and not enough time speaking my truth and living my own story as I am inclined to live it, even if it makes others dislike me.
My husband has a poster in his office detailing the number of times Michael Jordan missed shots and didn't get rebounds and actually lost games when the winning shot was in his hands. Then it details the successes, and makes the correlation between the two.
Why do we in the Christian community so often act like the "good life" is a life where we write the rules to disallow failure and pain? That's not what I see reflected in scripture.
What is more like "taking the shot and missing" than opening ourselves up again and again to other injured people by forgiving them when they deliberately hurt us again and again? Isn't that ludicrous? Shouldn't we save our energy for people that are worth our time and love? But that wasn't His instruction to us, was it?
When I re-read "His Rules" as reflected both in the Old Testament Law and as translated by Him into His Values and then as translated by the Holy-Spirit-Led Church in the rest of the New Testament, I see a very different kind of orientation. We are not to be a "rules-led" community. We are not to be "rules-led" individuals. We are to walk in AGAPE, and take the risks that AGAPE leads us into. Our focus isn't on avoiding pain to ourselves and each other by following godly rules. Our focus is on saving our energy from things that don't give us any lasting "pay off" so that we can spend our energy on the things that pay off richly for all of us and for Him.
Let our fears for our community and for each other and for ourselves be more about the LIFE we might miss living than about the PAIN we want to avoid. Just think -- God valued something so much that He created a world that allowed all this pain and sin and suffering! Do we want to run the other direction from whatever that is? Or do we want to seek Him with all our hearts, and perhaps run smack into more suffering, but at the same time, run into the fullness of what He was after for us and for Him?