Thought for the day

It seems to me that a basic dimension of religious faith is entirely personal and individual. It has to do with the psyche and personality, and with one's own individual stance toward spiritual things : with what you and I actually do : how we think, how we act, how we proceed. Our personal way in life.

Thus there are severe limits on what can meaningfully be said about faith and religion in a general way : abstractions, theoretical constructs, ideology, criticism, scholarship, journalism, public debates and polemics, & so on. Faith always involves a personal dimension : an individual orientation & practice (with others) - a private history of repentance, let's say - which is resistant to theoretical abstractions & descriptive conveniences.

This situation makes me think of the contrarian, paradoxical quality (or non-statements) connected with Zen Buddhism (not that I know anything, really, about Zen Buddhism). Or the warnings, in the Gospels, about prayer & fasting. I'm thinking of Jesus' comments about the "tower of Siloam" incident. A big tower falls, killing a lot of innocent bystanders. Jesus says, "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." The warning is to urge us to be wakeful, to "gird up our loins", to be aware, to be prepared & ready. (The parable of the "wise & foolish virgins" is similar.) Jesus also repeatedly warns against hypocrisy, against substituting empty words for actual commitment. "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees" : ie. avoid the temptations offered by seductive theories or fashionable paraphrases of the actual ethical content of your faith. This is a "leaven" (a fatty substitute) you do not actually need to add to the unleavened bread of heaven.

An early passage in Stubborn Grew :


It was only a moment coming round.
Bowled over, on the Terrace.
And then she got mad, got gone–
and he eloped with his pen–

witch! Falcon Ace!–
of which he was deeply fond.
Some said he drowned.
Someone–a siren cantatrice–

mare of the night, see–
might rob his rich rhyme
of all reason. . . sometime.
What will be, will be.

Repentance is all.

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