Monday, December 14, 2015

Personal Story (with Rich) - Part 2

Rich and I continue our discussion from Part 1

Trev:
The 'idea of converting' is a useful link into answering your question on my story. I have always approached Christianity as something I knew was true. That was the only thing I knew. Any doubts I had were areas I didn't understand yet. When we met the other day, we were discussing where we should look, or how we should approach questions we don't understand. This assumes there is a right answer we need to convert to. I have been trying to read more about Islam. My understanding is Muslims base truth on 

1. Explicit instruction in the Quran.
2. Hadith - opinions on and examples from how Muhammad lived his life.

Where this is not clear they look to 
3. Analogies from his life
4. Customs - general agreement
5. Ijthihad - rational introspection and thought about an issue


The problem is when this doesn't give unequivocal clarity. Or when rational introspection, or just being kind, clashes with instruction that was contextually consistent with a time that has passed. How do you know for certain your idea of truth is correct when you attempt to convert someone?


Rich:
I think we all reach toward a similar set of tools, in order to find resolution to this issue called "life". We start off with a default option, inherited from our folks. Then through a combination of listening, study, experience and faith (which I believe we all have), we apply a load of discernment and come up with an "answer" (which also continues to evolve, till the day we die). At some point in this process, we all choose against another's version of the "truth"... in effect we choose not to be converted. At other times, we are convinced (rarely through a simple conversation/debate) by our interactions with the world/ someone else. In effect we convert from one perspective to another. A friend makes these invites... come, see ... this is what my (evolving) answer has done for me... wanna join me? I don't think an invite to convert is avoidable in any loving relationship. I want "the best" for those I love. Conversion is not a swear word.

Trev:
That is almost spot on for what happened to me. I had no reason to suspect there was anything "wrong" with the world-view into which I was born. I found the people I was surrounded with deeply loving and warm. I certainly felt supported through difficult times. But I did become more aware of the number of other views out there. I also had deep struggles with some of the things I was told were true, but increasingly didn't resonate with me. Through a widening circle of friends beyond those who believed what I did, and a load of listening, study, and experience, some of the elements of my faith started to wobble. Conversion is not a swear word, but I became far less certain that I was in a solid enough position to be the converter. I became far more convinced of the value of listening.

Rich
I would have love to have been part of that process that resulted in your move from "that" to "this" Trev... but you left me... I'll work on the forgiveness. I am also genuinely committed to listening. You (among others) have introduced me to new levels of this skill... hopefully it's something I can continue to grow in. Having said that, my concern is that having such an emphasis on "listening" may result in a few dangerous blindspots too. It may (for instance) bring you to a point of zero (explicit) conviction about anything. I do believe this to be a problem... paedophilia is never right. I can listen (carefully) to the paedophile (upbringing, how tough the temptation is) but listening can only go so far. Also, in the name of learning (listening), we can become experts at poking holes... not finding solutions... and we all know deconstruction is so much easier than the more noble alternative. Lastly, without fail, we have to learn to live with inconsistencies in our world view (we all have them). To cover those holes with the word "listener" is imo an easy way out.

That Trev

Trev
You'll be pleased to know that I don't believe you ever lose real connections. You are still a participant in my internal dialogue. I like the analogy of a child with wonderful parents in my search for truth. Perhaps because I am lucky enough to have just such parents. I have seen their world view develop as mine has. I have seen life throw different challenges at me which has shed light on 'what were they thinking'. The context in which someone believes something - age, gender, race, friends, responsibilities, political environment, education etc. is all deeply wound into what we believe. I absolutely believe you shouldn't discard inherited truths lightly. Like a child that wanders off to explore, knowing their loving parents are there with kisses and plasters if they don't get themselves killed in their exploring. The inherited wisdom of conservatism. The progressive learning of what we can do better. Of holding onto what is dear to us. Of taking the best bits of learning of others. I also believe strongly in a 'Theatre Sport' idea of constructive listening. Responses that build on what people say rather than shooting them down. I am fine with beautiful inconsistency too. It adds flavour. But inconsistency that isn't kind must go.

Rich
Trev, are we ever able to come to a point of conviction? I hear it in "inconsistency that isn't kind must go"... sounds like a conviction to me. Do you think our faith can be described by the sum total of our convictions? Also... how do we measure a conviction vs an important thought/ nice idea/ "loverly" concept/ kind but unhelpful fantasy? What do we do with the convictions we arrive at ... settle with them (didn't think so), hold them closely/loosely? I must confess, I battle to imagine navigating a life with convictions "coming and going like the wind". "Progressive learning" is a crucial tool... but it's not an end in itself, surely?

Trev
Progressive learning is a beautiful thing, but as Montaigne said "In practice, thousands of little women in their villages have lived more gentle, more equable and more constant lives than [Cicero]." I believe we can only ever grapple with things from our own perspective. Rather than our convictions, I think faith is what tentatively fills the gaps. The only conviction worth its salt is that you genuinely don't and can't know. But you can put that conviction aside, and with faith lean into the beauty on offer in the world. With faith, cope with the difficult the world presents.

Rich
I think that's one of my major difficulties. Imo, that certainly isn't the only conviction "worth its salt". Rape is wrong, poverty must be fought, Love brings healing, listening is a massively important tool.... these are just a few more undeniably "worth their salt". Put these convictions aside at the worlds peril. Although I have arrived at these beliefs from my own perspective, I wouldn't downgrade them to anything other than convictions... that's how important they are. Sometime's these convictions will channel/ colour my perspective on life, the universe and everything (dangerous, I know)... for me, faith is the consequence of these convictions... a natural destination that I cannot avoid. I don't think my convictions are unchangeable, but they need to be hard to change.

Trev:
We don't disagree. We can certainly build on very basic, strong foundations of what works. We can discuss this independently of faith. Before Thomas Aquinas, the church believed only Christians could come to the truth because they had to come to the church through God, and through Christ. In separating the idea of Natural Law, ideas of Pagans and Muslims and other non-Christians could be explored. Truths that can be shared can come from various places. We can learn what makes a better society together. In discussion. Sharing the flavour of faith.

Rich:
We rub up against each other when our convictions don't fit as neatly as a puzzle (should). This IS a good thing. I fully agree, learning from each other, other faiths, perspectives, etc is key. The emphasis of simply celebrating my own convictions at the expense of learning about new horizons, must change. But (I guess this is why I keep on harping on it), when one of my (old) youth guys, chooses against his prior convictions concerning the person, nature and work of Christ... heck I hope he did it with lot's of struggle! Convictions must hold us, as much as we hold them. I love many of your new set of convictions Trev. Hoping to make some of them my own. It's the disjointed feeling I get, when I remember "those days" of great discussion and discovery and how significantly people have moved from them... that leaves me agitated. That's where the rub lies, many of my convictions (the ones we used to celebrate) are not your's anymore (I suspect)... we still connect, love and enjoy each other's company. That hasn't changed, but some cherished moments cannot be shared any more.


-- this is an ongoing discussion, to be continued --



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