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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, August 12

Fundamental Questions

I used to find myself obsessively interested in topics. I'd spend weeks, months, and even years on some topic. Lately, it seems harder to find anything to hold my interest for long. The last bit about mental illness was really more about trying to get myself to have some sort of coherent view. I think looking at it from a mental illness point of view was getting so abstract and difficult for me to follow that I was starting to find it more of a chore than enlightening.

Still, I think I've moved along a little in having a more informed opinion. I think religious/philosophical beliefs and mental illness can become so similar in appearance that it's hard to tell the difference. I can see why it could be dangerous to consider a wrong system of beliefs a "mental illness". I don't think my opinion has changed that generally people should be forced to be "treated" or to change their belief systems.

I've been feeling pretty negatively toward religion and "belief systems", but I think it could be bias based on my particular personal experiences and perspective. I think there is merit in considering "religion" to be a problem. I think a lot of good has been done through it, too, however. It's easy to see the big mistakes. It's harder to see all the things we count on working a particular way. I'm not sure we'd be better if humans hadn't imagined up religion.

So here I am looking again at religion and beliefs. It's hard to understand even one system really well, much less all of them. I once saw a website that was dedicated to informing and helping people choose their system of belief. It seemed like a good idea, but I don't know how you'd really evaluate them. They're all so complex when you think of their effect mulitplied over all of humanity.

I was looking at my favorite site for information about Judaism and found another version of
The Seven Laws of Noah. They're the same laws, but little differences in the wording could make significant differences in their meaning. One could spend a lifetime trying to understand them and their implications. One could spend a lifetime really getting to know all kinds of things.

When I was 8 or so, I had the idea that the most fundamental idea person could have was to "Be good". I thought, though, that before a person could be good, they'd need to know what good was. To know what good was, they'd have to know what was true. So, really, the two most important things that I wanted to know were:
What's True?
What's good? (or What should I do about it?)

I think the problem is that those questions are pretty broad. It seems like they need some refining.

What truths are a priority to know about?
What actions are a priority?

One could act on one's current ideas about it, but what if just one more idea could make your answer a million times better? How much information should you explore before doing?

Of course, you could follow the Nike motto:
Just do it! (At least, I think it's Nike).
Do what?

I'm not getting anywhere with this today.

1 comment:

Steve D said...

I can't remember, have I pointed you at The Third Age? It lays some interesting foundations for a modern "religion" / set of spiritual beliefs, I think .. it led me on to Taoism, which of course is (or ought to be) the ultimate destination for everyone :)

Regarding how to act: I don't think there's any way to figure this out intellectually, i.e. using ideas and concepts. As the Tao Te Ching says:

When Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.

Having said this, you may be wondering why I recommended TTA above, given that it's chock full of ideas and concepts :) It seems that there's a process to go through of taking on board new, more spiritually nourishing ideas displace the old ones, and then eventually to let go of the ideas altogether. This is what alchemy is all about, summed up nicely by Christopher Alexander (an architect), of all people.

BTW, if you're interested in doing a survey of different religions, you might like to take a look at my archive of the "Mysticism in World Religions" site, which is unfortunately down. It's a 2Mb zip file, and some of the indexes are missing, but all the content is reachable one way or another ..