Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Trading truth for consistency?

If there is one thing I found negative about writing online (as in, posting a blog, not to be confused with proper, paid, writing of an online article), it is that there is too much freedom to express half-baked thoughts, or even crumbs and trails of some whimsical ideas which are not meant to convince anyone, nor to convey an idea clearly. In fact, any commenter who suggests that a particular post is too incomplete to stand on its own, or that the poster is just experiencing verbal diarrhoea and is just wasting some electrons, will be told to 'sod off', get his own blog and start rambling away there: precisely affirming that the poster was probably not intending to carry out any form of proper discourse.

(Now, after that long rambling preamble, I'm trying to remember what is the point of this post...) It is therefore very easy to start writing a post, and suddenly lose one's train of thought. (Like the fact that this post was started a week earlier). Sometimes, it's because there's just one bit of idea, which could be a single word, that keeps popping up in the blogger's mind; that s/he comes to the conclusion that there must be a common thread connecting all this 'light bulbs'. Well, living by the rule that since it's my blog, I'll try my best to write on topics that I want (given proper boundaries of sensibilities, of course).

Just this week, we celebrate the memorial of two great saints in the Church: St Augustine, and his mom, St Monnica. The blogosphere is abuzz (rightly) with posts about these two saints every year around this time of their feast days. I read St Augustine's Confessions once, and like someone once said about some works of the saints, it serves as a 'spiritual thermometer' to me... On days when I feel close to God, I could perfectly echo Augustine's words and claim them as my own sentiments. On days when I feel like I'm walking in a shadow, reading those words made me feel empty, their echoes only emphasizing the emptiness of myself. Well, this year it is the latter.

I've been told, many times by different people, that when in doubt, or facing a major decision, turn to Him in prayer. When feeling lukewarm or distant, call out to 'Him who never leaves you if you do not leave him'. I'm just a baby when it comes to prayer, and frankly I don't recall ever receiving a clear 'answer' to a question, or to a doubt, through prayer. Not that this invalidates the importance or the absolute necessity for prayer; for the Church teaches that any supernatural insights are often deceptive: either they come from the evil one, or from our own intellect, or they can be truly divine.

And so, comforted with this idea that praying is not like chatting or talking on the phone to God—it's more like, writing an email, or writing a blog post, somehow someday someone is going to answer you, and from my experience, neither the time nor the content of the responses are predictable—I proceed with trepidation into this 'light' called prayer. Like most 'beginners', I sometimes receive consolations, but was cautioned against expecting them regularly—as if without them the prayer is any less valid—and now am in this stage of getting used to this lack of dialog.

Now, this is where doubt creeps in. Although I am far from humble, I think I have sufficiently accepted that it is not possible for the human mind to perceive Truth, the whole Truth. It should be possible though, to strive towards truth when one looks for consistency. Consistency? Some might say that even if a sequence of logical arguments is consistent, it might still suffer—at the start of the chain—from a logical foundation error. Yet, to my mind it's easier to correct that one error than to set right every inconsistency in the logic chain.

It is consistency that have led me to where I am. If the smallest object we encounter on earth has a human creator, then it is only most probable that there exists a Creator who made the Universe and everything in it, although mathematically speaking there is a smallest chance that Everything might have come from a mere coincidence. That was the cornerstone for me. Everything else follows.

What's going to follow is not a strictly watertight Thomistic argument — so do not bash my head for this: I was pretty merely comforted by its consistency. If we have a creator, it must be a Good Creator, because nature and human being, despite the bad tendencies, are still geared towards order and goodness. Original Fall explains our soft spot for sins, and the theology of salvation makes perfect sense if one believes in the Good Creator. If one believes in St Thomas' argument for the divinity of Jesus Christ, then one believes in His revelation that our God is Trinitarian. And thus that God paid the price of our redemption. And thus one, catholic and apostolic Church as his visible body. And thus the Catholic Church as the one true church. And thus she holds depositum fidei. And thus all her teachings. And when it comes to the Church's teachings on hell and heaven, the sacraments become absolutely necessary. And the real presence in the Eucharist, thus genuflection. And the need to receive worthily, thus regular confession, thus daily examination. You see what I mean?

At the center of this pack of 'cards', lies prayer. And this is where things get a little muddy, because as all you know, prayer is anything but consistent. When one engages in prayer to God, one does not tell God that He needs to answer back in a manner that one demands! I realize that the lack of predictability, the lack of consistency in the manner of prayer was unsettling to me: the crux of the problem. I guess it is the 'weakest link' in the sequence, for how can one reasonably reason prayer and faith? All this while, faith has never been separated from reason for me; but I'm entering a state where faith seems to be above reason.

Can God be consistent? Am I imposing consistency on God? Just because the universe He made seems to follow some rational formula, it doesn't mean it is the only way He acts. I realize this question brushes the transcendental view of God that the Muslims hold, of an omnipotent God who is also totally arbitrary and not bound by the rules He himself set. The problem seems to be a matter of wanting to bind Truth to mere consistency. To want to reduce God into a logical system. To want to bind the Infinite into a finite human mind. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8)

Can Truth be wholly possessed when we are still on this earth? Our soul is made for heaven, yet we can't possess it while still here; it's as futile as trying to hold the ocean in your hands. And yet, is one to be faulted for wanting to possess Truth? "Lord you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." How true!

At the end of this long rambling discourse, I realize a few things:

- that this entire exercise has been useful only to sort out floating bits of clouds that occupy me these past few weeks,

- that I'm no good at rhetorics,

- that who am I to raise about consistency given my own poor consistency,

- and yet, despite my sins, weaknesses, aridity, lukewarmness or coldness, happiness is having God himself, and that's why we keep stumbling back, blind and grasping most of the time...

Pray that we may not trade Truth for consistency!

1 comment:

Elissa said...

Like your Aspirations as I downloaded the widget -- would love to see where you get some of your quotes....are they from you?

I am 53 years old, Melkite Greek Catholic (in Communion with the Latin (Roman) Church ---and also very intereted in Lay Communities --I am considering joing the Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani Abbey in the USA.

Feel free to contact me at melkite4E@yahoo.com for more correspondence -- In Christ our God, Elissa