Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Ocean of God: The Interconnectedness of All Being

Excerpt from;
An Ocean of God: The Interconnectedness of All Being
By Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

It was almost ten years ago that one of my sons brought home what was then a new and sophisticated computer game. “It’s called ‘virtual reality,’ Dad,” He explained. “You play it by entering it. You must imagine that you are actually inside it You ask yourself, “What would I do if I really lived in this world?”

The game was called Myst. (They’ve since come out with a sequel called Riven.) You pop in the CD, look at the screen, and find yourself on an island. There’s a dock, a forest, buildings. Stairway. The graphics and sound effects are impressive and convincing. There is no manual, no instructions, no rules. You “go” places by aiming a little pointing finger and clicking. You can look up and down, turn around, climb stairs, wander all around the place. Where ever your curiosity leads you, there are things to discover and remember. There are machines you can operate, a library full of books you can actually open and read. Devotees say the game is properly played over weeks and months. (It’s been almost a decade and I still haven’t finished.)

And the purpose of it all? Why, of course: to figure out what you’re doing there. But to do that, you must first figure out how the place works.

What fascinates me here is not yet another sophisticated and clever way to waste time in front of the computer screen. (I can do that with Solitaire and FreeCell.) It is the concept of a game whose purpose is for the player to discover the purpose. Virtual reality, schmirtual reality, this ain’t no game. What’s going on here? Why am I here? What are the rules?

Upon hearing about this. A friend who is a professor of English suggested that it seemed a lot like childhood. I’d go further. It may be a lot like adulthood, too. We all find ourselves in “this world” and “object” seems to be to figure out what we’re doing here. Unfortunately, the way most things are connected to one another is not immediately apparent.

After all, meaning is a matter of connections. If something is connected to absolutely nothing – symbolically, linguistically, physically, psychologically – it is literally meaningless. And, if something is connected to everyone and everything, it would be supremely meaningful. I suppose it would be God: The One through whom everything is connected to everything else, the Source of all meaning. Religious traditions are the collected “rules of the game.” They presume to tell us how the world works. And if you “play by them,” you are rewarded (hopefully before it is time to leave) with an understanding of why you are here – with what is otherwise known as the meaning of life.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bishop Spong Q&A 6/18/09

Jody Jones from Cedar Park, Texas, asks:

I recently attended your three lectures in Austin, Texas. You are an important person in my growth. I was raised as a fundamentalist, and you allowed me to begin and continue my journey. You mentioned prayer, and defined the prayers of most as "adult letters to Santa Claus." I must admit that it is an excellent definition. My question is this: What does prayer look like you to today? Thank you for continuing to educate.

Dear Jody,

I don't like to use the word prayer, because it is culturally translated as one person approaching the theistic God above the sky with a request. The word itself has become bankrupt and not capable of redemption.

Instead, I think of prayer as communing with the holy, that which is transcendental, the power of life, the consciousness of the divine, the Ground of Being or perhaps the source of love. I do not commune with God in order to seek divine favor or to engage in religious flattery that people call praise. I commune to discover God within me and to be more open to that presence. I do not separate prayer from life. I do not think prayer is something I do, so much as it is something I am.

Public worship has elements of liturgical prayer in it and I engage in public worship every Sunday. I believe the purpose of liturgy is to open us to the presence of the holy in the gathered community. I resent having medieval patterns of liturgy imposed on me, as if somehow plainsong music and priestly chanting creates holiness. To me it only creates irrelevant liturgy. I have written on prayer many times. I experience more in prayer than I can describe in words. That is as far as I can go.

I hope this helps.

– John Shelby Spong