Other ways to meaning

danlyke recently paid me a high compliment by posting a very thoughtful response on Flutterby to the Fr Alexander quote in my bit on spiritual thirst. Belief is indisputibly subjective. But danlyke seems to claim that only objective truth has any merit because that is the only way to understand the world. Not surprisingly, Fr Alex has a response to this:

Science studies nature. But isn’t it true that the study of nature can also be approached quite differently, through poetry, music and art? And isn’t it true that they reveal something other about nature, something just as true and perhaps even much more necessary for us?

    About what are you wailing, wind of night?      What do you so frantically lament? …      In a language the heart can comprehend you speak…                                    (Fedor Tiutchev)  

Are these just mindless and absurd words absolutely unrelated to life, or does this poetry unmask the lies of the ideologues who deny something self-evident to all: that everything in the world and life both conceals and reveals some deeper meaning, witnesses to a kind of mysterious presence; everything holds out the promise and pledge of an “other” knowlege, an “other” understanding.

… Christianity understands revelation [not as] simply a strange and inexplicable manifestation of some sort, but is something which man’s own experience confirms.

To this I would only add that I don’t view my relationships through an objecive lens (it would be impossible for me, in any case, to be objective about my own relationships), but I find value in those relationships anyway … because of their subjective importance. Consider, then, that the core of both Fundamentalist and Orthodox Christianity is not objective truth, but a relationship with Christ.

3 thoughts on “Other ways to meaning”

  1. Although Meuon keeps trying to drag it back to a more interesting place, the discussion over there isn’t going where I’d hoped it would, so we’ll try over here. And this deserves more than just a quick paragraph while I’m waiting for a test to run, so it may be a day or two before i can integrate my thinking on this and give you a real volley, but…

    Perhaps we can summarize the difference as: I believe that the subjective experience of my relationships is a tool that can help me to understand reality. What I think I’m hearing you say is that your experience of reality is useful in understanding your relationships, and one relationship in particular.

    As you’ve probably noted from my weblog, a good bit of my energies over the last month have gone towards helping a human being who has the cognitive abilities of… probably a very bright dog. If I try to justify these efforts from a strictly rational, say, risk-reward analysis, perspective, I have trouble coming up with reasons. And yet I’m compelled that way. Understanding those compulsions, especially since there are many compulsions that my fellow humans have that I don’t (ie: the urge to procreate), helps me to understand the world around me. Especially those compulsions that seem irrational to me.

    Many people have looked at me strangely when I’ve said “my reflexes are trying to kill me”, but there’s no reality I’ve experienced as objectively as rocks and water. I spent a number of years rock climbing and a number of years running whitewater professionally. And in both of those tasks, often the challenge was overcoming the subjective experience (“Oh shoot I’m gonna die I’m gonna die oh.”) and understanding the objective reality. But that transcending the experience and working within the reality that I couldn’t initially see has been the core of my most profound transformative moments.

    My religious experience has never been in the context of a relationship, only as a ritual, and this may tie in to the difference between our experiences of religion: To me it’s always been “something cool is happening here, and I’m enjoying it, but I need to understand it because acting on this feeling might kill me”. Much like tripping on hallucinogenic drugs.

    Perhaps that to you the religious feeling is a relationship, and not a fun but potentially deadly if acted upon without context situation, is at the core of how we experience it differently.

    1. Dan, Thanks for replying here.

      I have been watching your act of compassion recently and am impressed. Primarily because I’ve seen you as someone who is or was an Objectivist (though, of course, I could be wrong about that). Love is not objective and often it isn’t rational.

      I believe that the subjective experience of my relationships is a tool that can help me to understand reality.

      I agree that this is a vital difference. I don’t see much use in focussing on the objective reality to the point of gearing my relationships (all of them) towards understanding it. Why? What do I accomplish? Sure, humanity has made great progress in understanding our universe in this modern era, but what does that mean to me? I live longer, go faster, eat better. Wonderful. But to what end?

      Instead, I focus on my relationships. Everything is geared towards them. I attempt to let love for others be my motivation, but I don’t always succeed. I hope that I succeed in staying away from hate. It is only in our imperfect, subjective relationships that I see any hope for fulfillment. Jesus’ two commandments were this: Love God and Love your Neighbor. While people in the church have distorted and misused that message, his teaching remains “Focus on your relationships”.

      1. Aha!

        Thanks. This triggered something that made me feel like I understand a few things, both about you, and, as or more importantly, about me. Even if that hasn’t triggered down to the “I can put it into words” level yet.

        Yeah… my perspective is that relationships come and go but reality stays with me. And whatever has led to that attitude is, I think, at the core of our differences.


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