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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Any Questions?

 A kid and a Jehovah Witness came to my door last week. Before they started in with their religious invitations, I engaged the youngster in learning to juggle. He was a kid of around ten years old. Because I'd given him something of value in learning juggling, the kid wanted to give me a booklet that was a digest of their bible. I took it and read some of it.

In this condensed Bible there was an admonition where followers were urged to burn the books of "evil" false prophets such as Tarot card readers, psychics, astrologers, etc. It got me thinking how threatening it is to religions to have competition to their cornering the market on interpreting answers to spiritual questions. Probably nowadays, anyone who dispenses advice and wisdom based on their personal experience is going to be threatening to a church. Made me wonder what definition of "evil" this threat would actually include. Pretty much whenever you decide certain people are "evil," it's only a matter of time before many more people end up in that same category.

I thought of all the people in social networking who are urged to "brand themselves" and be the number one special version of the dispenser of value gained by their followers. In a flash of inspiration, I saw every social networker on Twitter as having their own religion...and respective followers...  How would threatened religions and churches burn e-books...?

In the time of Christ there must have been quite a few people out preaching "Truth." Probably there were lots of swindlers who were looking for followers who would pay them money to support their efforts, just as there seem to be now. In that era to perform the miracle of raising the dead, all you had to do is have the skill of recognizing someone in a coma who is might wake up eventually.

That Bible held up as the "word of God" was written by "psychics" who probably did not have much means to advertise - but they could write. Just getting materials to write something down must have been challenging. Probably being someone who knew how to read and write was something you had to keep secret, because people in that era were threatened by it. Creativity was probably low on the list of those cultures deliberately designed to control huge classes of people. Urban myths about anyone, translated numerous times and painstakingly hand-written and copied by those who could READ - it must have been such a privileged, rare gift to be literate in that era. Maybe all those stories in the Bible were about many people, and they all got lumped together into being about one person. (Bait and switch was a common historical tactic of religions.)

Now anyone can have their blog printed on demand. Anyone can dispense "wisdom" and write their own Bible. No wonder religions are being threatened.

Some people believe words have a firm, factual reality in themselves. They think words "mean what they mean." But this is not true. Words shift and flicker depending on context and expression, just as symbols do. This is what makes poetry and the symbols of religion and belief interesting.

Many people have an ability to think, but their ability to express their thinking may not reach the listener or reader for many mutual reasons. The topic or context may be incomplete or indistinct. Or the communicator's natural style of thinking may be so different from our own that it is difficult to figure out the communicator's intent. What is their associative pathway from point to point and how can I follow? It may be tricky to follow thinking paths - especially if thinking is original thinking.

In this way creative thinking is similar to religion - in that really original ideas must be carefully interpreted for the listener.

So often religious bureaucracy seems to want to control how people think because they invest in being the interpreter for the public of their respective "holy scripture." Religious leaders want to be the ONLY interpreter for the believers, claiming "all others are wrong or evil."

Each time they read or listen, each person is reconstructing meaning from reading what someone else has written or said. Someone who has written is pointing at...something about what they intend to say. Their skill and familiarity with their language use is a factor, in addition to their ability to think - but also their ability to articulate and guess at the assumptions of their listener. They try to answer the virtual question: "What would the listener want to know?"

It is up the person listening or reading to fill in the blanks, follow the traces or indicators while the listener reconstructs the thinking pathways of the communicator. In this way, listening is almost a spiritual practice. It is a spiritual question when a person seeks a way to express that which cannot be directly expressed. Spiritual, intuitive, or virtual questions often beg for symbols and indirect ways to express their messages and intent.

Of course, the way you frame a question structures and points to the answer. Have any questions now? Hope so.

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