Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Labyrinthine

I was interviewed for a high school student's documentary on science and religion today. Lots of fun! Of course I didn't answer any of his questions. But what I gave instead interested the interviewer and his cameraman enough that we continued well past the appointed time, and they asked me about what classes to take at college so they might have more discussions like this one. So as you can imagine...
To "Are you unnerved by the things science can't explain?" I asked what was meant - dark matter and energy - and said I wasn't unnerved at all, that religion is all about things that can't be explained, about accepting that there are things unknown. Not all religion, of course...

To "Do you think religion and science can be reconciled?" I responded by observing that 'reconciled' suggests they're two static things, when neither is. Better to think of each as something that changes with time, adjusting to, responding to, deepening itself in response to new discoveries. (Not all religion, of course...)

To "How do Christians think the world began?" I responded by exploding 'Christians' and then talked about the very different ways different folks understand the very first words of Genesis. "In the beginning..." doesn't necessarily mean the very beginning, the beginning of everything (where did those waters the spirit hovered over come from, etc.) but just of this account, which may be what we need. The important thing in Genesis, to certain kinds of Christians and Jews at least, is the repeated determination of each thing called into being: it was good.

To "How do Hindus think the world began?" I of course told them about Wendy Doniger's celebration of the great multitude of Hindu cosmogonies, the better for responding to whatever we might need. Buddhism was no better, and then there's the cyclical understanding of time...

My answers kept pointing to the power of stories (contrasted both with explanation and the story"), and to rituals. The cameraman turned the focus of our attention to ethics. And we ended up talking about how good it would be if philosophy, ethics, religion were taught in schools - which, I suggested, ought to include some experiences of ritualized activity, whether it be walking a labyrinth, or slow walking meditation. (Both I described recalling experiences at retreats. Perhaps I should should set aside time for a retreat this summer, too!)
The labyrinth walk, with others snaking their own way through, leading to always surprising encounters and divergences, became the model for a life that is shared with other beings over time (at first just other people, then the rest of creation), and the demands of living into it. The slow-motion walking became the occasion for the startled discovery that our effortless shifting of bones, muscles and weight in each step is a mystery of attunement (and the slowing down a model for science and religion)... which brought us back to it is good!

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