Friday, December 22, 2006

This I Believe - Mystery and Paradox

From the NPR series titled "This I Believe"

"Religious belief has made me comfortable with ambiguity. "Hints and guesses," as T.S. Eliot would say. I often spend the season of Lent in a hermitage, where I live alone for the whole 40 days. The more I am alone with the Alone, the more I surrender to ambivalence, to happy contradictions and seeming inconsistencies in myself and almost everything else, including God. Paradoxes don't scare me anymore. ...

Whenever I think there's a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say "only" or "always," someone or something proves me wrong. My scientist friends have come up with things like "principles of uncertainty" and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of "faith"! How strange that the very word "faith" has come to mean its exact opposite.

People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is -- quite sadly -- absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion."

-- Richard Rohr is founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.M. He took his Franciscan vows in 1961, and was ordained as a priest in 1970. Rohr is a frequent speaker and writer on issues of community building, peace and justice. Center for Action and Contemplation


Anonymous said...

You know, this is a nice sentiment. Awe, mystery... that's the essence of science, come to think of it. When you truly understand how vast the cosmos is, that's a "god" experience!

However, the very idea that so many of us must believe in some kind of god/father/giant turtle/etc in order to make sense of our lives is frightening to me, as if we were still a bunch of frightened cavemen cowering in the shadow of a solar eclipse, or perhaps nothing more than children.

I find nothing of this sort to believe in, and it's frightening at some level. Nevertheless, it allows me to ground myself in the here and now, what is possible by working with my fellows, instead of being smugly confident of a better life after this one. What a cheap and easy copout from doing something now! Contemplation and Action indeed...

Rebecca Snavely said...

Dear Anonymous -

Thank you for posting your belief and reaction to Rohr's thoughts. I appreciate your honesty. I would like to note your comment about copping out due to hopes for a better life in heaven. I am sorry if this is how many religions have interpreted God's presence in this world. I hesitate to call myself Christian as the term has been so abused by those who claim it in either war or inactivity. But please don't be so quick to judge all by those who abuse the term. I know many believers who, like Rohr, are humbled by the mystery of the universe, and who work daily, with their whole body and soul, to find peace and reconciliation in this present world that we have been given as a gift. Again, I appreciate your comments, but ask you to keep in conversation with people of faith, to forgive us where we tend towards absolutes, so that we may learn from each other's lives and experiences.