I was responding to a blog the other day, and had occasion to relate something as to how this particular philosopher developed. I related to my youthful atheism, the transition to agnosticism, and my eventual conversion to Christianity.
Somehow, thinking on this I am reminded of the time I pointed out to a friend that our being together at that moment was the culmination of all of History. Yep. All of the events, great or small, that preceded our existence at that place and that time were represented in that moment. Us, together, talking about profound trivialities.
The atheism of my youth was largely a response to the apparent disorder of the world in which I lived, the presence of evil in the world, and an angst that was probably hormonal in nature. It was also partially ego driven. I felt cool declaring myself to be an atheist.
My agnosticism that followed was more thoughtful. I realized that the scope and potential of my human knowledge did not allow for an intellectual base large enough to declare God as non-existent. This occurred at a time in my youth when I was becoming profoundly aware of the scope of my ignorance. I perceived myself as a speck of dust on a speck of dust, and declaring the non-being of God was tragically egotistical.
Over the next several years I recognized that starting from the presupposition of a profound ignorance I tended to think on things with fewer biases and to be open to more ideas. I also embraced the concept of tentative belief as the starting point of any investigation.
That was, of course, during such times as I was actively thinking and building a world view. Keep in mind that I was young and often driven by my hormones and lurching maturation rather than careful thought.
For a time I thought Science would provide the avenue for expansion and exploration. It indeed was a realm of great interest, and some of the disciplines of thought rubbed off as I dabbled. However, I saw scientific study as an ever narrowing focus in which the scientist learned more and more about less and less. To exhaust the narrowest speciality in any given field of science was an impossible task.
Study was endless, but life is short. Throw in the threat of being drafted and sent to Viet Nam as an agent of our great nation and a sense of mortality grew deep and morbid. I responded by dabbling in sensuality but was not really cut out for it. Always I returned to the life of the mind.
It was the Age of Aquarius, and I was caught up in the wave of mysticism. I contemplated learning from the major religions by practicing each one for a time. As I explored the scope of my intended project I was often overwhelmed. So much to learn and do, and so little time.
I explored Hinduism first, cobbling my own mystical adventure as I sought knowledge. I might have sought formal guidance, but I joined the Army in hopes of avoiding Viet Nam. I reasoned that nuclear weapons were not deployed in active war zones, and so sought training in that field. My course was altered, however, by my inability to focus on the required training and my own inner explorations at the same time.
Failing my training in the maintenance of nuclear weapons I was sent to the Quartermaster corps, and became a Army supply specialist. That time of training in supply management was transitional. I was brought into constant contact with the first Christian I had ever met who was wholly committed to his faith.
His faith was intriguing. I reconsidered my course of exploration, and decided to explore Christianity next. I decided to believe in this Christian's God, and in this Jesus who somehow saved me from sin. I did not really know much about sin and salvation, but I embraced the things I learned as if I did believe.
Over a matter of weeks I did believe, and I began to grow in the faith I had adopted. My path took me through several of the many sub-sets of that which is Christian, and my own beliefs took form as a consequence of the experiences.
So it went for many years. I have held many jobs, been married for over three decades, raised three children to adulthood, and assumed my greatest title in that time. The whole course of my personal history, which was a consequence of all of history before my time, made me a grandfather. The title "Papa" is my greatest achievement.
Trivial. Everyone has a grandfather or two. Profound. No other experience is like loving and being loved by grandchildren. It is a mystery beyond mere knowledge, the confirmation of magic in the Universe.
I have no hope of knowing all I long to know. My mortal life is too short, and my resources are too few. However, I have hope of knowing what is best. I have walked dark paths, and seen the face of evil more than once. They are nothing compared to the light of love my grandchildren have shown me. That love is but a glimmer of the love that my God has for me.
How do I know? That is the mystery, and the mysticism. As I have only recently come to understand, my agnosticism has shaped me as much as my faith. I still love knowledge and learning, and embrace the experiences that give me both. Knowing and believing is only part of the experience. Greater, by far, is the mystery.
What, then, beyond this life? Yes. What then?
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