7/17/2011 | Share this article: View CommentsBy dealdoctor ~
Note: This is long do not read it if you do not wish to take the time. It deals with finding meaning in life as an atheist, humanist and agnostic.
“It is a commonplace that all religion expresses itself in mythological or metaphorical terms; it says one thing and means another; it uses imagery to convey truth. But the crucial fact about religion is not that it is metaphor, but that it is unconscious metaphor. No one can express any thought without using metaphors, but this does not reduce all philosophy and science to religion, because the scientist knows that his metaphors are merely metaphors and that the truth is something other than the imagery by which it is expressed, whereas in religion the truth and the imagery are identified. To repeat the Creed as a religious act it is necessary not to add "All this I believe in a symbolical or figurative sense": to make that addition is to convert religion into philosophy. R.G.
Collingwoood (1889-1943), British philosopher.
“ Outlines of a Philosophy of Art, “ Essays in the Philosophy of Art, Indiana University Press (1964)
I went to a High School named after a famous poet and our football team was called, “ The Poets”. Needless to say that is not quite as macho as something like the Lions or the Bears. The funny thing is that I played on three state championship teams in at the highest level of high school athletics there and so the other teams in the state actually did take the “Poets” seriously for some reason. I think that is one of the chief needs in our culture today because as old time religion is failing the void for meaning is large in the lives of many.
In our pop consumer techno-culture the arts are not taken very seriously and I think it is much to our detriment. Our top 40 one coat of paint deep culture is shallow and does not give much guidance for life lessons. Nature could care less about our lack of insight. Life is not so much top 40 as a classical old song and it has its harsh bumps and bruises and minor chords. There are of course exceptions. We live in a culture that would much rather be entertained than instructed. Modern American culture is little more than entertainment which is simply a diversion from reality.
Knowledge is abounding but wisdom is in short supply. We seem to know the cost of everything and the value of almost nothing. I just saw that Sedrick the Entertainer is going to have a new TV show that will challenge contestants to guess the cost of various rare items to determine which one would cost more. We are a nation of shoppers and consumers so it will maximize that skill set. It is a new The Price is Right sort of thing.
Fundamentalism is not a religion of poetry but a religion of word for word literalism. It is brutal and crushing rather than freeing and liberating. Religion taken literally at face value misses all its potential value and is simply a harmful lie, which is about as helpful as an abusive spouse. In today’s lingo when we hear of something outlandish we say, “ That’s just WRONG!” Here at exchristian.net we know that religion as it is popularly understood is just WRONG and harmful. We call it out! We blow the whistle!
Most everything in this world has positives and negatives and religion bad as it can be is no exception. At times religion viewed as poetic expression of the progress of life growth, as a metaphor, has some merit. Buddha said life is suffering and the dude was right. Watch the evening news or visit your local hospital. The myth of Jesus and his suffering love unto death for others, you know the “good part that point to the importance of mercy has the potential to inspire our, compassion, forgiveness and hope especially when we are in some shitty place in life because as one text says joy comes in the morning which taken as encouragement is a good thing.
Good fairy tales, legends, and old stories do the same thing. Humanity has found these things of such value they have become a treasure passed from one generation to another like the family jewels. They are NOT true but they can reveal deeper truths to those who investigate their-symbolism-poetry and metaphors. For example, the deal about not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs might be something for those with the Protestant work TOO MUCH ethic to consider. If those working in Trussville, USA do not take some time to rest and relax dad with his 60 hour week and mom with her 50 hour week all done before housework, driving the kids to their increasing number of after school activities and then going home and doing household chores might be a good metaphor to help these “ stupid as a goose” people remember that they are the ones who lay the golden eggs for the family. If they die under the stress of modern life and there is no longer any golden eggs for the remaining members of the workaholic family.
Because American Christianity is either stupid Evangelical fundamentalism or thin shallow liberalism which is so often little more than a second rate social club with a cross on top there is a void of wisdom in our culture. Wisdom is a deeper understanding of the nature of life than the shallow literal understanding or glittering symbols that are there in liberal Christianity but so often do not speak to the depths. Why? Metaphors are not taken seriously anymore and that is because for most people "real life" is only about 9-5 works and paying the bills not taking poems, literature and symbols with any seriousness.
As Americans it is my belief that so long as there is the free flow of information religion, conservative and liberal, will be increasingly challenged in both its culturally shallow versions. There is a need for art, story, music, ritual, poetry, and drama that gives us something deeper than a surface image with no depth and certainly deeper than redneck Bible preachers.
Here is where I am going with this. Entertainment and its images coming from Hollywood, Washington’s Hollywood and Madison Avenue Hollywood all have one thing in common. They all centers of image-makers but all their images have no depth and no solid reality underneath them or beyond them. They are images to drive in dollars or increase political power. They promote only images that are unable to point us toward a solid growth of character. As a culture we are in great need of unifying symbols, art, music, stories, drama, and poetry that can inspire us once again to produce people of solid mature and trusted character.
The Christian religion is not doing that. The entertainment culture we are living in is not doing that. Washington is not doing that. Wall Street is not doing that. Madison Avenue is not doing that. Science is not doing it either.
Without something that is a vehicle for producing more than factual knowledge and hype entertainment our civilization will continue to decline. Sometimes the poet’s pen is mightier than the general’s sword. We need people who can speak directly to the heart of the nation and to the heart of people. We need more poets.
With such a shallow culture our only resort will be to weapons of war as the only tools to solve problems. Our civilization of terrorism is little more than a culture of fear. If religion is failing to make mature and loving people and the educational system is in collapse might the artists and poets and muses evoke us to maturity? Damn, I sure the hell hope so.
Old art, old songs, even old religious symbols if seen as poetry not stupid literal historical truth can serve good use if handled with wisdom. The best hope for us might be poetry, art and drama that every culture in the world’s history has left as their lasting treasure for our consideration. Turning off the sitcoms and stupid reality shows might be a helpful start. A quite walk in the park, in nature or museum of art might provide us with messages of wisdom and beauty.
There is so much ugly in the news and so much ugly in fundamentalist religion. Science itself is also poetry because all is metaphor except reality. Scientists know their most profound theories have a beauty and harmony to their formulations. It is not JUST a numbers game when it is at its very best. Reality alone brings wisdom and love and only if one is open to it from all corners and the human arts are great windows.
Few people ever mature and embrace all of life- with their heads, hearts and helping hands. Some do. It is easier to hide in a church or a lab and never face life as a vulnerable human being living with so many others just like you. Only in seeing our own situation with compassion and the situations of others with the same situation with the same compassion we are blind to what is going on around us. Without the fruit of love the tree of life has not reached its harvest and at times a poem, a song, a picture or a play can communicate that maturing truth to us in a way nothing else can do. It can do this inside a religion with religious symbols and to those outside religion with non-religious symbols.
Without love and an understanding compassion for ourselves and others life is meaningless and cold for those with Bible in hand or those with a book by Dawkins or Dennett in their hands. Does our neglect of the Humanities bring us the risk of being less human? Does the humanist need to appreciate the Humanities as well as the Sciences?
Rose buds never fully bloom without a stem of thorns. That is no truth of religion or of science. It is a fact as plain and clear as the rose bush in the garden or the “rose” which might flower in the heart.
Such is the truth of the poets who point us to the depths of reality deep inside of us and also far below the surface facts, figures, data, and symbols of mathematical scientific formulas or the surface symbolism of mythological stories.
Oak trees need deep roots when the strong winds of life come blowing. Strong winds of economic and ecological decline are on the way they will be like the wolf that huffs and puffs seeking to blow houses down.
Silly me. I guess I will just stay over here in the corner of life with the court jesters, clowns and poets. Hey, did you guys hear that the school budget cuts are chopping out art, music and drama classes? The science class and the computer programming classes will be packed as usual. I guess that is progress because that is where the jobs are, right? . What do you think? What is a matter for anyway? What is a metaphor anyway?
Perhaps we might once again try to understand what a matter is for and do it at some depth to give our culture some roots before our civilization is blown away. Religious fundamentalism’s wars and Mother Nature’s groans are starting to blow our western civilization away. This all reminds me of Scarlett’s O’Hara’s Old South. Our whole culture could "gone with the wind" because we have no depth of character, culture or wisdom to stand against its ignorant rage. Its stupidity is beginning to intensify. Neither science nor popular literalistic religion offers anyone a depth of character. Perhaps like Scarlett O’Hara we will just ignore all this and say as she did, “I’ll just think about that tomorrow.” What’s a matter for anyway? What’s a metaphor? We had the world’s greatest civilization but we might just poet down the drain.
"The pen is mightier than the sword" is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy. The play was about Cardinal Richelieu, though in the author's words "license with dates and details... has been, though not unsparingly, indulged." The Cardinal's line in Act II, scene II, was more fully:
True, This! — Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword. Behold The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! — But taking sorcery from the master-hand To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword — States can be saved without it!
Po·em: A composition in verse, especially one that is characterized by a highly developed artistic form and by the use of heightened language and rhythm to express an intensely imaginative interpretation of the subject.
Metaphor: Compare simile a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example he is a lion in battle
Meaning: The nonlinguistic cultural correlate, reference, or denotation of a linguistic form; expression.
Beauty: The combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind.