What’s left? If you aren’t sure about God, what do you believe? If you don’t see the bible as a complete and inerrant set of instructions, how do you guide your life? If there isn’t anything after this life, how do you keep going? When you stop believing, what’s left?

I flippantly and defensively said “everything” when I was asked that question a few months ago. But the word stuck with me and the idea that I had the world at my doorstep began to grow. If I wasn’t bound by a history and tradition that had been an important part of my life I was free to explore a range and diversity of ideas, opinions, and traditions. I could undertake rituals and readings that were outside the canon and liturgy of my faith community without feeling guilty. I was able to hear the same scripture with new ears and either embrace it or reject it without reprisal. There wasn’t a 6-course meal in front of me with the clear instructions that I needed to swallow it all. I could order a la carte and if I wanted only have soup or desert. I could even fast and not eat anything that was on the menu. I could even go to another restaurant or make my own meal at home. While that freedom isn’t the reason I have become an agnostic, nor should it be, it was an unexpected and beneficial outcome of standing firmly in doubt and curiosity.

When I was asked by someone who was/is concerned about my soul ” what’s left”, I am sure that they meant that there is nothing left worth living for and I discovered that there was everything to live for and live with.

In a world where for the first time political realities and armed citizens have made me uncertain about freedom, I find myself free to be uncertain. The next statement is about me and not pointed at anyone else. I think I am smarter because I am uncertain. When I had easy answers, I asked questions that conformed and confirmed. Now I ask myself and others better questions out of a sincere desire to understand. My queries are framed differently and use softer language that seems to elicit more open and thoughtful responses. My conversations have been ranging because, in my desire to understand, I get to pause and wait for others in the discussion to reflect, find their voice, and craft a response.

Tim Ferris, in “Four Hour Work Week” says that “most people will choose to be unhappy over uncertain”. I think he is referring to an addiction to a weekly paycheque and the choice to stay doing a job that enslaves you and offers no autonomy or purpose rather than make changes that allow you to live a life of meaning. Making meaning is a choice too but when you are constricted by rules, rituals and reasons from the minds and swords of others, you can’t see the choice. As the world changes and when we are conditioned to be fearful that if we don’t put a forkful in our mouth and swallow, we might starve, it is convenient and easier to suck it up and stay the course.

Right or wrong, I am choosing to risk it all. My brand, my reputation, my soul to discover what is out there if I can only wait and listen for the whispers.

 

B

Some Ideas Should Be Self Evident

Just because someone has influence doesn’t mean they have character. ~ Art  Jonak

It became crystal clear again this week that in the absence of character bluster and bravado are a poor replacement. When authorities and leaders resort to ad hominem and strawman attacks because they have made self-righteous and self-aggrandizing choices that they can’t defend with logic or honesty.

It would seem that I should be equally skeptical of the corollary ” just because someone has character doesn’t mean they have influence”.  It would be depressing and disappointing to consider that honesty, transparent, caring people lack influence. It is likely just a matter of scale. If 100,000 Twitter followers or 10,000,000 YouTube views suggests influence then a meaningful relationship and mentorship is insignificant. But if a changed life, a changed disposition or a changed heart is the measure then influence may be inversely proportional to following or views.

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I had two remarkable meetings today where we discussed a range of issues and differences of opinions. I left both with a fresh perspective, new data points and challenges and a sense of fulfillment. Both meetings were far more influential than any Facebook post or Instagram photo I will encounter today.

Make Today Remarkable, by setting your expectations at a human scale,

B

We All Get to Decide

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

In light of so many events this week, I needed to be reminded of this quote and I thank the fates and the twitter post that brought it to me. I have chosen to use my strengths to strengthen others for the past decade. There have been many days that I did that consistently and fewer days that devolved into self-righteousness.

happiness quote

There have been days that I was completely wrong.  Days that my enormous ego got in the way and tricked me into focusing on just me. And there have been days that I was ignorant; ignorant of the circumstances, ignorant of how my action impacted others and ignorant in my choice of language.

The good thing is that tomorrow I get to decide whether to walk in the light or succumb to darkness. That good news is yours too. Whatever you did or said or thought yesterday or today, you get to choose a different path when you get a fresh 24 when you wake up. Plant a seed tonight. Before you fall into slumber, think about how you will be a better light tomorrow and wake up with that intention fresh in your heart.

Make Today Remarkably Generous,

B

Which List Would You Prefer?

Looking at the two lists below, which list or words would you never want used to describe you; Bob is …. Jill is ….?

A

adaptable adventurous affectionate agreeable ambitious amiable amusing brave
bright broad-minded calm careful charming communicative compassionate
considerate courageous courteous creative decisive determined diligent
diplomatic discreet dynamic easygoing emotional energetic enthusiastic
exuberant fair-minded faithful fearless forceful frank friendly funny …

B

aggressive aloof arrogant belligerent big-headed bitchy boastful bone-idle
boring bossy callous cantankerous careless changeable clinging compulsive
conservative cowardly cruel cunning cynical deceitful detached dishonest dogmatic
domineering finicky flirtatious foolish foolhardy fussy

+/-

List A or List B? adaptable or aggressive? courageous or cowardly? I recognize that any list isn’t as simple as positive or negative. As I think about List B, I wouldn’t be offended being called changeable, flirtatious and being called forceful or emotional from List A might cause anxiety for some.

Lists and rhetoric aside, how do you want to be described today and in your obituary? Now, more importantly, what are you doing to earn those descriptors?

Make Today Remarkable by choosing to be remarkable,

B

Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen others.

Making a Move

I am moving my work and writing on uncertainty to Patreon. Over the next year, I am committed to researching, thinking and writing 250 posts about uncertainty and the power of curiousity. I will continue to publish ramblings, rantings, rave reviews, and respectful resistance here on Make It Your Problem.

For those who are interested, inspired, infuriated by my provocations, I invite you to jump over to Patreon and support the work by making a monthly commitment of $5 or more. There are some perks listed on the right side of the page. I am trying to create space and time for myself to ask questions, ponder the answers and create posts about what I discover. I am hoping to make meaning and add value to your days, weeks, life through this work but my world doesn’t stop just because I am making meaning. I still have bills to pay and I still trade time for money in the consulting world.  Your monthly commitment will help offset some expenses and give me the privilege to consider possibilities, curate curiousities, and question assumptions in an attempt to help reorient our very confused and deeply denying society.

I appreciate your ongoing support over the past 3 years and invite you to share in the next journey.

 

Make Today Remarkable, by leaning into uncertainty,

B

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

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I am not a scientist and I don’t play one on TV but here is my simple understanding of the Uncertainty Principle.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a rule. It says there is a limit to how well you can simultaneously know the position and momentum of a particle.  This means if you know the position very precisely, you can only have limited certainty about its momentum and vice-versa.

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Besides a bit of Charlie Brown’s teacher going “Whaa whaa whaa”, I hear that even the most empirical things are dependent on externalities and perspective. If we delve into the esoteric, the certainty should be impacted more by what I know, where I am standing (literally and metaphorically), how I got to the narrow moment, why I want an outcome and who is watching.

This applies across a range of subjects including humanities, religion, politics, enjoyment, health and medicine, law, and meteorology (maybe everything). That is what interests me the most. How do I appear so certain, act with confidence and stake my reputation (some would say my life) on a conclusion that has so much of me in the criteria and process?

As I move forward, researching, thinking, discussing and writing about uncertainty this year, I am going to hold onto my explanation of Heisenberg and use it as a reminder to stand on one foot, tip my head and squint so I see a different point of view.

How do you lean into uncertainty? Are you sensitive to the perspectives of others? Is your curiosity strong enough to keep you searching?

 

B

Everyday Achievements vs Body of Work

Thinking big is great, but huge goals may take time to reach. Don’t forget the small achievements we can make—they’ll also add up to big, positive change!

Two seemingly contradictory schools of thought suggest that we should be focused on ‘one big goal’ and only undertake actions that will lead to that goal. If the goal is big enough and compelling enough, this supposedly can keep us focused for a year, a decade or a lifetime.

The other school suggests that we should be focused on the next thing. Do it and look up to see where you are and what has changed and then take the next step. Apparently, this will help us be aware of the shifting conditions and lead us on a more realistic and interesting path.

The schools might be called Destination and Journey. My tendency is to Destination and traveling with me can be painful for weak bladders. I get moving early and keep moving as long as possible or until the X on the map (read atlas, bank account, miles run …) is reached. But I know that when I have taken the time and made the effort to lift my head the trip has been at least as effective and usually more enjoyable.

Part of leaning into uncertainty is playing against tendencies. If I prefer to be a rebel, as defined by Gretchen Rubin, I should take on the role of upholder for  20% of the situations I encounter. If I am usually a questioner, I may want to try being an obliger.

We have developed hundreds of other preferences based on our upbringing and our life experiences (nurture) and may have been born with hundreds of other natural dispositions.

 

Are you up to playing against your instincts this week?

 

B

 

The Five Thieves of Happiness

A Guest Post

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Reining in the Thief of Global Comfort

 

Dr. John Izzo’s new book, The Five Thieves of Happiness, defines insidious mental patterns that steal happiness. The five thieves are control, conceit, consumption, coveting, and comfort. In this post, a look at the thief of comfort and how it operates at the global level.

Izzo_5 Theives comp 4c.indd

Just as the thief named comfort tricks us as individuals to keep riding a horse that is taking us in the wrong direction, so this is true for our entire species.

 

As a prime example, for thousands of years human beings were at the mercy of nature on a daily basis. As a species we developed a pattern of seeing nature as abundant and inexhaustible. Our pattern became one in which our primary goal was to subdue nature. We learned to hunt, cultivated the land to our needs, and eventually unearthed millions of years of stored-up fuel such as oil and coal and burned them to create energy. This pattern made sense when there were a few million humans and seemingly limitless natural resources.

 

But the patterns of comfortable routine often get in the way of society’s success when reality changes. Like the man on the horse, humanity is still running in the same basic direction with the same mind-set that was established for circumstances that no longer exist.

 

Today there are 6.5 billion humans on the planet—4 billion more than when I was born only 58 years ago. The bountiful natural world that I was born into has changed radically

in less than one human lifetime. The comfortable pattern of subduing nature as if it were unlimited once worked for us. Predisposed to routine as we are, we have fished out nearly every commercial species of fish; poured tons of fertilizer into the ocean, and through carbon emissions set a course to alter the very climate upon which we depend. All of this damage has been done, in large part, not out of any evil intent but because we are still operating on an old mind-set that is no longer valid.

 

Surprisingly, there are still many people who believe that we as humans are much too small to change the entire planet. And they were right. A short time ago, there were not enough of us to reshape the earth in a way that could endanger the future of life. Our comfortable routine of rampant consumption, uncontrolled energy use, and disregard for the role that the natural ecosystem plays in our well-being once made sense, but now that comfort threatens our very existence.

 

Another example is the zealous belief in free-market capitalism that exists among many people in the developed world, especially in North America. There are many merits to free-market capitalism, and certainly when compared with other systems that went before it, like communism and socialism as practiced in places like the former Soviet Union, it seems like the best of all possible systems. And it was the best system compared with totalitarian or controlled economies that limited human ingenuity.

 

But our fear of new ways of thinking often bind us to a system that may be working in many ways but which has led to increasing gaps between the very rich and the very poor, alongside wholesale degradation of the global environment to benefit

short-term profits. Remember that this thief wants us on that horse, thinking we are in control, when habit and routine are actually leading the way.

 

The same can be said of the scourge of terrorism. In a world where enemies were other nations, the mind-set that wars were won with military power and a heavy hand made complete sense. Yet reality has changed. Fighting terrorism is a war not merely of weapons but of ideas. And in the case of global terrorism, we are not fighting another nation but bands of individuals with a way of thinking that is becoming more pervasive all around the globe. Even one disgruntled person with a perverse ideology can cause devastating human losses.

 

The fifth thief wants us to stay tuned to the old way of thinking that worked in a world in which we no longer operate. Rather than talking about building bridges and winning the war of ideas, we spend most of our time talking about how to win with greater military, security, intelligence, and technological might. It is not that technology or the military are of no use in the war on terrorism—of course they are. The point is that we are wed to old mind-sets that don’t apply in the same way to new realities. Societies and entire nations can ride horses of habit as mindlessly as we can in our own lives.

 

Take, for example, the way potential terrorists are treated in most of the Western world. With the civil war in Syria and the growth of ISIS, many countries around the world are wrestling with how to deal with citizens who go to Syria with the potential to be radicalized. Most of Europe cracked down on citizens who had traveled to Syria. France shut down mosques it suspected of harboring radicals. The United Kingdom declared

citizens who had gone to help ISIS enemies of the state. Several countries threatened to take away their passports.

 

The city of Aarhus in Denmark took a different approach starting in 2012. The local police noticed a trend of young Muslim men going to Syria. But they took an alternative tack than most of Europe. They made it clear to citizens of Denmark who had traveled to Syria that they were welcome to come home and that when they did they would receive help with schooling, finding an apartment, meeting with a psychiatrist or a mentor, or whatever they needed to fully integrate back into Danish society. Although the media dubbed the program “hug a terrorist,” it is actually rooted in psychology backed by solid research.

 

Research shows that there is a very strong correlation between radicalization and young men being humiliated and feeling discriminated against. It also turns out that if you show warmth to people, they are most likely to respond in kind. Note that this is not about coddling terrorists, as these young men are not yet criminals. They are potential terrorists. The program has been quite successful at reintegrating these young men back into society and turning them away from radicalization.

 

The point here is not to suggest an easy solution to a complex problem, but it does illustrate how comfort can mire us in old patterns of thinking that don’t serve us. Whether personally or as entire societies, we must be aware of mind-sets that bind us

to ways of thinking and acting that simply don’t work. New realities call for new solutions. What is especially important is that we take notice of the role that comfort plays in our collective responses to rapidly changing circumstances. Only by stopping the horse of habit can we begin to consider how these old patterns must adapt.

 

Taking the Reins

 

The fifth thief is the subtlest of all the thieves. We like comfort because it makes us feel safe and because it is efficient, but these very habits of comfort undermine the house of our happiness. It is the capacity for surprise, not routine, that brings vitality to life. It is when we take charge of the horse, grab the reins, and alter course away from habits that may have once served us that we find new ways of being in the world that truly work for us. Our entire species is riding the horse of habit to environmental devastation and a world that does not work for all. A new world is waiting, but only after we banish this thief and see it for what it is.

 

Dr. John Izzo is a corporate advisor, a frequent speaker and the bestselling author of seven books including the international bestsellers Awakening Corporate SoulValues ShiftThe Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, and Stepping Up. His latest book is The Five Thieves of Happiness.

 

Over the last twenty years he has spoken to over one million people, taught at two major universities, advised over 500 organizations and is frequently featured in the media by the likes of Fast Company, PBS, CBC, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and INC Magazine.

 

www.drjohnizzo.com

 

Twitter: @drjohnizzo

 

LinkedIn: Dr. John Izzo

 

Planning Pitfall

“The best-laid plans of mice and men are oft to go astray” ~ Robbie Burns
Burns seems to be saying “No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.” Yet in most situations, we ignore this sage advice and expect that ‘if we plan it, it will happen’. We imagine that there are no variables, external influences or unexpected providence that makes our certain expectation fallible.
My contention isn’t that we shouldn’t embrace expectations but rather that we should explore options that are as yet unimagined. Certainty creates a space where willful blindness rears its head and closes off alternatives. This leaves us ill-prepared and even surprised when something doesn’t turn out as we anticipated. When the unexpected leads to frustration, certainty is trying to bully us into mediocrity. If we lean into uncertainty, the unexpected nurtures curiosity and creativity.

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How do we get off the train? Just when we think that there is a breakthrough, we usually are chasing a desired outcome. Brainstorming quickly becomes stormtrooping. Once a destination is laid in, our planning GPS kicks in and we begin exploring the fastest, shortest, cheapest, most convenient route to victory. What if a few detours or roadblocks changed the route? What if the destination is not quite right?

Leaning into uncertainty isn’t easy or organic. Nothing really is. It requires a disposition to curiosity and a tenaciousness to breaking form. An intentional tendency to ask ridiculously difficult questions in order to understand is an asset worth pursuing and an optimistic wisdom to know when to stop asking will keep some semblance of planning alive for those who struggle with ambiguity.

To begin, it may be helpful to ask 4 whys. When you are feeling sure of the destination or next step, ask why. Why do we believe that growth is the most important metric? – however you answer that question, ask why again, 3 more times. What do you notice? Has there been an orientation shift? Are you still charging ahead? Was there an unexpected lesson? None of these observations are negative, they just are.

After trying 4 whys, move to the next step. If you get to a stage where you are blinded by certainty again, try 4 hows, or 4 whos …

Curiosity begets curiosity. Lean into uncertainty and see what you see.

B

Uncertainty

uncertainty

Much of today’s post comes from a message I have delivered to two different churches. This version has shades of skepticism that lead to me realizing that I am firmly and comfortably ensconced in agnosticism.

There are stories in most ancient text of groups build towers and walls to either keep people out or people in or to demonstrate their self-aggrandising worth and status. In the Christian text, the Baylonians were showing the world that they/we awesome by building a tower to the heavens. They flabbergasted, disappointed and incredulous when it tumbled to the ground.

Like the Babylonians, the people of Jericho were shocked when the bricks that they laid didn’t provide the strong foundation they anticipated. In the Joshua v Jericho story most of us take the view that we are more closely associated with the Tribe of Israel, crusading righteous defenders of the good, but I realize that on many occasions, I am more like the Jerichoites. They were complacently self satisfied with their lot and their complacncy made then lazy and over confident. Over the millennia, the Israelites have had their certainty tested in almost every generation.
I spent years building my own reality placing bricks of belief beside and on top of other bricks. If the new bricks confirm what I already understand to be true, they are added, even if the mortar sticking them together isn’t quite right. I have worked through faith, politics, justice, economics, culture, relationships and chipped away at all the stuff that was killing my curiousity.

I expect that many of you have built a solid foundation through years of service, worship, essays and indoctrination. We all add blocks that hang loosely with our confirmation bias and then if necessary we seek evidence that supports what we want supported. I am going to talk about my latest ‘adventure’ in deconstructing my faith.
Often in times of struggle or tragedy we are made aware just how fragile our walls are. The trumpet blare of an illness, a loss, a financial challenge can reduce the wall to a pile of rubble.
My first disclaimer is that I am a recovering post-modern fundamentalist. I believed that the Bible was the complete and inerrant word of God exactly as it was written, without any consideration for who, how or when it was written. As you will hear over the 40 minutes, that isn’t what I belive today. In 1999 I was in Poland ‘sharing’ my certainty with Catholics. Warning them of their idolatry and giving them the four steps to salvation (from Peter’s first sermon) and letting them know that in no uncertain terms they needed to do them all in the order I was prescribing. On the plane back to Edmonton after 3 months in Warsaw a miracle happened. Somehow my head and heart were made aware of the exclusiveness of everything I was saying, doing and trying to accomplish. Exclusive as in keeping others out not as something special and rare.
Over the years, since 1999, I have willfully chosen to deconstruct my faith wall and examine why each belief brick is important, is it still valid, or is it just there because it was the right shape for the wall I wanted to build. Twice when I went through the painful process of questioning and doubting my presumptions, I realized that I had created God in my image and the wall was so high with my addendums and philosophies that I couldn’t see God anymore. When I use God, you can substitute Guide, Consciousness, Life Force, Each time I was weakened by the process and found my way back to refuge.
This time, I was invited by Peter Rollins, an Irish theologian and philosopher , to participate in Atheism for Lent. That was last March. If I thought letting go of bricks was hard in the past. This was excruciating. I learned a lot about myself, my faith, my constructed representations, church politics and a remarkable amount about ethos – meaning “character” that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. I will come back to that journey but first the Jerichoites. They had built a pretty amazing wall to protect them from foreign invaders; different ideas and customs, different ideas about marriage, child rearing, money, work, elders, children … and the wall served them very well. It kept unwelcome/unclean people and their unwelcome/unclean ideas out. Everybody thought much the same and they shared the same expectations of each other and distrust for outsiders. They were pretty sure that their way was the right way. Turns out they were in for a shock. I wonder how you would do if you faced that kind of new found ambiguity? In many areas of our life, religion, politics, sports teams, child rearing, exercise and nutrition, we are quick to grab onto a familiar package.
Some social psychologists would have loved a sample as large as the city of Jericho but two 21st C social psychologists Roets and Van Hiel developed a 15 question test measure our individual comfort and discomfort with uncertainity .
2nd Disclaimer everything I say no matter how confident I sound or sure I seem is only my opinion. Certainty is one of the3 c’s along with comfort and convenience that are eroding creativity, courage, and curiousity and replacing it with the mire and muck of complacency . In my opinion we need more uncertainty, inconvenience and discomfort, I plan to only speak about certainty and uncertainty.
Back to Roets and Van Hiel and the 15 questions,
I am going to ask you the questions and ask you to quickly score yourself on a scale of 1-6 with 1 being completely disagree and 6 being completely agree. If you can keep a running total by adding each question’s response, we can get a sense of how much you and the person beside you need closure. I will also let you know what I scored when I was getting close to the end of Lent. Again give yourself a 1 if you completely disagree and a 6 if you completely agree and if somewhere less than completely 2345 – Ready

Short version of the revised Need for Closure scale:
I don’t like situations that are uncertain.

I dislike questions which could be answered in many different ways.

I find that a well ordered life with regular hours suits my temperament.

When dining out, I like to go to places where I have been before so that I know what to expect.

I feel uncomfortable when I don’t understand the reason why an event occurred in my life.

I feel irritated when one person disagrees with what everyone else in a group believes.

I hate to change my plans at the last minute.

I don’t like to go into a situation without knowing what I can expect from it.

When I have made a decision, I feel relieved

When I am confronted with a problem, I’m dying to reach a solution very quickly.

When I am confused about an important issue, I feel very upset.

I would quickly become impatient and irritated if I would not find a solution to a problem immediately.

I would rather make a decision quickly than sleep over it.

Even if I get a lot of time to make a decision, I still feel compelled to decide quickly.

I almost always feel hurried to reach a decision, even when there is no reason to do so.

So how did you do? More than 57? More than 65? Less than 45? Less than 30? Less than 20? ???????????
I scored 23 when I was nearing the deconstruction of my wall but it seems that the more we practice swimming in ambiguity, the more comfortable we become.
The Atheism for Lent project began with me standing on some pretty solid ground; different foundation than years ago but nonetheless solid. – Likely a bit different than yours because I have a different set of experiences from faith and life. I began with a seed of doubt and rather than denying that I wasn’t sure and didn’t have all the answers, I slowly became open to the doubts. As I read the selected authors my ethos incrementally changed. I decided I could either approach this exercise half heartedly or with conviction and commitment. One of my favorite quotes is from Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe “
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. ”

With that in mind, I threw myself into the project. Commited. It was helpful that we were in California and I was able to run every morning. I find the physical effort refreshing and exhausting and somewhere after 5k I begin to shed some of the blocks and concerns in my head and heart. Running a couple of days a week in the sand was a great exfoliant and my feet were cleansed of all the dead and useless stuff as my mind and heart was being wiped clean.
The first week we began with readings Epicuris from 3rd C BCE . Reading
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God? “ I begin wondering about the brick labeled “God”. Again I am not saying that I was an atheist or agnostic at this point but I was letting go of God in my image. If God isn’t able or willing what is it about my understanding that is flawed. Was the all powerful/all knowing doctrine important or could I pull it from the wall?
Day 2 week one was David Hume. In his Dialogues concerning Natural religion, he is less direct but more forthright (because he was writing from the voices of fictional characters).
Reading Anthony Fluw, Bertrand Russell and Christopher Hitchens the remainder of week one convinced me that the big brick of all knowing/all powerful was unstable and I pitched it aside.
It was like a kick in the gut. If I no longer am sure about Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence (all powerful, all knowing, all present) then dozens of other bricks didn’t have any mortar to connect to the structure.
If. God’s power isn’t infinite, or limitless then does God have power over wind, water, gravity, physics, me, us?
I almost retreated to certainty on this one but was convinced by a whisper that if I was going to remove the wall between me and God, I needed to wipe the slate clean and then wait on him. So I plowed ahead. Releasing the idea that God is all knowing challenged the principles of free will and predestined future. If He wasn’t always present all the time tore out the smaller bricks of immanence and disconnected transcendence.
The bricks were already falling on their own. Every morning I would run and toss more into the Pacific Ocean. As my feet were scrubbed so was my faith.
Week two started with Feuerbach and move to Marx and Hegel. I am not going to give you the blow by blow of the struggle I went through each week and the mental gymnastics I tried to hold onto some of what I “knew to be true” because we would need to be here for a couple days and I am not trying to convince you or unconvince you of anything. I am not urging you to step into the den and slay some of your tigers, lambs and sacred cows. I hope that by relating the experience and sharing where I am today that you might see God (hear whatever word you put here) the way he wants you to see Him. While I have talked with some of you about this journey and other faith topics, I don’t know you well enough to suggest anything about your faith and relationship with God but if you are like me, the God I was seeing was a caricature of God, God as I want him to be, God as my current interpretation revealed, God as a factor of my current state and mood, and God of my circumstances. Just like the caricature artists at the stampede , some features were exaggerated beyond plausibility and made a mocking cartoon of Him. One day an ATM, the next a scapegoat.
Back to Feurbach for a moment. For me, there was a refocusing in some of his writings. “It is theology, that has wrenched man out of his relationship with the world, isolated him, made him into an arrogant self-centered being who exalts himself above nature. Originally religion expressed nothing other than man’s feeling that he is an inseparable part of nature or the world.” This allowed me to detach the workings of Church from the realities of God. I was and had been using Church as a cloud to keep my distance from the mystery and mysticism and majesty and more likely responsibilities. Just like Moses, I shielded myself from seeing Him. If I created rules and laws that defined and contained the Force I could keep it locked in my head and out of my heart. I have dug deeper into this idea and now believe that church, as I understand it, requires certain certainty. It is the commodity that church sells . In my opinion, we aren’t even expected to believe or use the message and still be part of the club. This revealed to me that certainty whether ideology, theology, aplogetics, partisan politics, … facilitates and justifies bullying. We just witnessed 10 months of cruelty spawned by surety that I am right. Trump, Clinton, Cruse, Sanders, James Dobson, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell JR betrayed their characters with the corruption of certainty and slurred and blurred the lines between debate and debasement. Unfortunately that sad age isn’t nearly over and it as raging full force here in Alberta.
The process of Atheism for Lent went on for more than 6 weeks and I naively assumed/ presumed that on the Sunday of resurrection that God would manifest himself to me and say something profound, something just for me. I suppose I thought, hoped, that there might be a Damascus Road experience where God would knock me off my donkey and send me on some grand mission. The burning bush didn’t happen, there was no amazing revelation, no I AM conversation. I have been hearing faint whispers – I had a physical this week and told my doctor that my partner thinks I am suffering from some hearing loss. He asked “ if I had any pain, any leaking fluid, any buzzing or ringing” I said “no” but it occurred to me that I should have told him that I have been hearing whispers when there is no one around. They aren’t quite startling but they are always a surprise. That is probably because I haven’t heard them before. If the whispers are from God, it has been a very long time, maybe never since I heard Him. The whispers aren’t full sentences, maybe not even words just a sense that there is something I am supposed to be paying attention to – right now. Like “ look here” , “ did you see that?” I interpret through my lens ( again with my view rather than His) anyway I interpret that Consciousness (with a capital C) wants me to notice how it is active in the world and continue to be curious. My impatience gets in the way. My seriously strong action bias gets in the way. But my stubbornness and commitment to see this journey through (after all if I stop now, all the confusion, anxiety, and pain will have been for not). I don’t know how or if you encounter your Guide. I think I have created a metaphor for what I needed God to be by reading scripture, commentaries and the latest books. I expanded my version with retreats, music, and slogans always chasing the next icon that would fill a hole in me, in my heart I think the expression is. The hole would be filled temporarily by the acquisition of some more stuff, different ideas, another sermon but like all decisions that only lead to consuming more it returned very quickly. The new God smell faded after just a few uses.

Somerset Maughn said “Tradition is supposed to be a guide not a prison” so I challenge all of you to be observant today and throughout the week for opportunities where you are certain of your position or conclusion and then lean into uncertainty and see how uncomfortable it makes you. – Stay curious.

B