With each of us, there lies a hint of what we are capable of. It is what we have the potential for. A resource for great things left for us to find a way to develop and use it. Those that have the heart and will to shape these resources can create a better world around them and a better life for living. Such resources are not passive or unlimited, but they are available for all to do something with. Each piece can turn into something positive if it is coaxed and cared for. It can fall into a darkness of selfishness or neglect. The choice is left to the individual.
In the last few weeks, as my first forty years come to a close, I have been pondering this very subject. As a young boy, I saw a world filled with great adventure and potential. It was shaped by the upbringing that I benefited from. My parents gave me the tools to work through the challenges with all the genetic gifts that all children possess. I craved to use those skills to become great and respected by my peers and family. As I grew into my teen years, I had the same problems that all face, but I touched upon one thing that most did not consider important. I knew the future was greater with the education that was given. I excelled in all fashions in the academic areas. Yet, as I looked around, it did not help to reap the great rewards and respect that I expected.
So, I made a few decisions as I left high school. I knew that I wanted to be more than those around me. I had the desire to learn, to study, but it met some of the greatest challenges of my life. These were not life or death challenges, but personal achievements can become difficult if the world around you crumbles. I took my eyes of the prize of my journey and failed to reach it. By my third year of college, I was lost. I did not have the answers that would fix my situation. I retreated to a place of security with the hope of climbing back into the sunlight again. Unfortunately, that place was not there. My fall was long and hard. I broke with the security of my family and found a new direction.
It was at this point that I turned my mind to founding my own place of stability and family. For two decades, I had faced the world with the knowledge that if I failed, I would have a net to catch me. I left that because it was a frayed net. I wove a new net with the stable force in my life. My spouse and I did not always find our way, but our trials were early and hard. We passed through them with the strength to face anything…even a life apart from family.
For the last two decades, I have searched with that companionship. I found that my faith in my family would have to turn to something else. The importance of a faith to worship faded as it was broken by those years at the end of my second decade. I will address my broken faith later, but for now, let it be said that I refocused my energies to understanding the world and its context. I would not seek to follow something blindly because the answers were not my own. I needed my own answers.
Now that I have reached the end of my two decade quest, I believe that I have the answers that I needed. I did not find the greatness or respect that most people do. It was not the level that I expected as a young person. What I found was that I still have a life left to go to find that reward. For now, I revel in the things that I have created. A family can become the source of great support. Children are a wonderful beacon for the future and the legacy that is left behind. Friends are simply the icing on the cake. I have great things, but I cannot settle for it. It does not mean that I don’t appreciate these things, but my will and heart want to keep strive for the goal. It is all to reach the end and be equal to those before.
Here is to the years to come and the next score of years be used to sharpen the mind and climb the mountain. I will seek the summit and more if I can.
As children, we look to our parents as guides and mentors. When we have an issue or question, we seek them for guidance through suggestions or aid in resolution. Parents who find a way to give their children this raising are among those that have done their job for the next generation. Providing shelter and nutrition is a given, but the molding of their children is the most important part of being a parent. It is our only path to immortality.
For me, my parents split shortly after my fifth birthday, so their influence on my life was quite divided. On top of this, a couple of step parents were introduced into the mix, so the ingredients were multiplied. However, I lived with my father and his new wife, which was uncommon in those days. My mother had rights to my sister and me, but for her own reasons, we only saw her on the occasional weekend.
My sister and I were raised in the environment of my father and his new wife and we learned that the worship of God was a central part of our lives. It was in a Protestant fashion as my father sought to find the right church for the fellowship that worked for him. So, many churches are tested and attended over the years until we settled into a church that was somewhat disconnected from the denominations of the Evangelical churches.
This affected my first twenty years as the doctrines were often the same in those congregations, but I found subtle differences. It was the practice in one church that only members were allowed communion. Or to become a member, baptism had to occur in that building. Another church worshiped without music or musical accompaniment, so the songs were sung a cappella. Different spotlights were focused on various details in order to support these doctrinal differences. It was often very confusing.
I attempted to satisfy the wishes of others in their beliefs and accepted what they were preaching, but my young mind was twisted in the labyrinth of hedges which were filled with thorns. As I have stated before, my hometown’s hierarchy was based on the particular church that one attended, so those doctrines became the structure of the town and its social context. I was left with an understanding of each as I had attended several. I had even reached the point when I was baptized six separate times. All this understanding should have left me with an advantage in such a construct, but it only worked to isolate me further.
At a later point, I will dive back into the idea of how these different views and doctrines left some scars that I continue to try to heal. For now, the primary purpose is to reflect on the swirl of so many different doctrines at a time when most are focused on a single system. In my father’s search for the right group, I became the beneficiary of a treasure trove of knowledge from many sources on the subject of doctrines. Of course, at the time, I was just a struggling teenager looking for a path toward a productive future. Headstrong and stubborn, I stumbled through high school as the awkward nerd with a few memorable moments of friends.
By the time I had reached the age of twenty, I was lost. I had no idea of what to believe, what to follow, or what doctrine was right. I began my search. I decided that the first twenty years would be the collection years and the next twenty would be the search for my own way. I stopped going to church. I left my faith in that institution behind. This turning point was marked by lost friends and connections that left because I would not join their church. My importance to them ended with my rejection of inclusion into their social group. I intended to use the next twenty years to find my own truths.
Those years are nearly over. The clutter of so many doctrines created in me a drive to find the answers. I entered college with the intent to become an engineer or perhaps a graphic designer. However, I had a chance to take a few religion courses in those first years. I thought that maybe I could find some truths in the histories of the different doctrines. By the time that I completed my degree, I had taken to the past with so much fervor that I earned a degree in Classical Humanities with a minor in Comparative Religions. I had learned the sources of the material and I feel that I am closer to the answers.
In fact, with the last year of my twenty year quest before me, I have actually started to touch upon the other religions of the world. I have come to learn more about the faith systems outside the Judeo-Christian based systems. Now the question is: Am I satisfied with the knowledge? No. I will continue to search, find, and acquire all that I can about these matters. The formulation of my own heart’s beliefs is nearly complete and I plan to share it with others.
As an undergraduate, I started to learn the myths of creation in the Western cultures from primary sources. It was research into the depths of the ancient texts left by the first civilizations to record their own histories in the Western world. I was taught to use a standard method for this kind of research. It is very similar to the scientific method. But, I am not going to dive into that can of worms. I am touching on the simple fact that the closer a primary source is to the events then there is a higher degree of accuracy.
In relation to this, I have added a new background to this blog. It is a picture called Cosmogony by a great digital artist, Ryan Bliss, at www.digitalblasphemy.com. I have been following his work for years; recently a friend gifted me a year membership to his site. Each one of his pieces has a way of being quite evocative and this one did not miss the mark. As with its title, I turned my thoughts to the definition of cosmogony; in addition, what it means to me.
At www.merriam-webster.com, cosmogony has a pair of meanings. 1. : a theory of the origin of the universe; 2. : the creation or origin of the world or universe. Now, to some, this might be a contradiction as it brings the idea that the first definition is related to the scientific theory of the origin of the universe and the second would be related to the creation of the world or universe. If you unwrap that further, it could be that the word has the ability to be used in both senses. It can be part of the theory of the Big Bang, which in turn becomes connected to the Evolutionary Theory, or it can play a role within the explanation of Creationism. I find it fascinating to say the least and explored my thoughts even further.
Recently, as is my usual tendency on a regular basis, I returned to the writings of the ancient world of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Near East, and the Mediterranean. I enjoy keeping the information fresh in my mind. One of the texts that I have been looking at is a creation story originally written in cuneiform. It is the myth of Tiamat as the feminine, chaotic Ocean and Apsu as the masculine Fresh Water or River. In it, these two primeval entities mingle together and create offspring that become gods. However, these gods begin to disturb Apsu, so he plots to destroy them. However, one of the gods, Ea, stops and kills Apsu to save the others.
This story set me on a course to read the next creation story and the next. It all starts to have the same thematic elements with separation or defining of the primeval elements of the world. Each may be personified or mentioned as part of the creation of world. The creation story of Genesis speaks of God separating the light from the dark; the land from the water; and man from the animals. Each becomes a role in the story. From the simplest parts, the elements become more complex until they achieve a level when they must even separate from the eternal force that created them.
Now, if we draw forth the pieces of the creation stories and set them aside, we can examine the theory that the universe was once the simple elements brought together and an unexplained event set these elements into a violent separation. From this spreading out of the particles, the universe and its galaxies are brought into existence. Our understanding of it is a very small piece of that vast timeline, but we have the capacity to extrapolate the evidence that supports this theory.
It is this point that brings me back to cosmogony. It is a word that helps to define the origin of the universe and how we interpret that word is in the context and from our relative position to it. One side of the argument finds its support through a faith while the other side explores the possibilities through evidence. However, with one word, we have cosmogony to describe both.
Where do I stand on this? Well, that has been a long road to a simple answer. I prefer to have some form of evidence before me. As a student, I dug into the past texts of the creation stories of cultures that would have been an influence on the ones that wrote the book of Genesis. It is all about context of the text because that is where the truth lies. For me, it is difficult to accept blindly that a story shared and altered to their preferences by several civilizations over a period of a thousand years to be the true answer to the origins. Of course, without having the ability to see the Big Bang with my own eyes, the evidence of this will remain questionable until proven. However the evidence is strong with the theory.
Don’t follow blindly and find your own opinion.
I have a question to pose before anyone who might find this blog. Do you feel persecuted for your beliefs? Do you feel that the challenges of the everyday world press back the ideals of your particular doctrine of faith? There is a reason that I ask because for years I assembled with the tight-knit groups of followers known as Evangelical Christians. I was consumed by the doctrinal beliefs of several different denominations within this circle and I was a complete believer in every iota of the faith that was preached. In this time of my youth, I was ready to throw myself on a grenade for them…and for the faith. Yet, in all of that, I was either insulated by the fellowship of other believers or it was a non-existent problem. This problem of persecution was nothing that I felt. So, I ask if anyone can truly explain where and when this persecution occurs.
Now, it was evident that secular world views did have a way of existing around us at those times. They were like the forest outside the walls of the city. A deep, dense area teaming with life and danger is what we saw. Our leaders would come to us with warnings and cautious statements meant to prepare us for the day that we would have to travel to another city. Our faith would have to be our armor and shield against the vicious creatures that used the temptations as natural weapons. The warnings were taken to heart, but I never felt that the forest was ever going to penetrate the defenses of the walled city of fellowship. Could it be that this is what was meant by persecution? Could it be that we were imprisoned behind our moral defenses and the forest never allowed us to roam? If so, then the truth should be that it was not the secular world trying to destroy our faith, but that it was the true challenge of how to step forth and integrate with the world and make it better by our example? Was it not Jesus who went to the poor and sick outside of society to save them?
By the way, the term secular has come to be placed with the idea of the worldly views. It is a separation from religious views. What is interesting about this is that historically, before Christianity blossomed into a legal faith, secular games, which were celebrations held on a centennial basis usually in a pagan setting. So, as society evolved in the West into a more Christian-friendly setting and pagan ceremonies were absorbed and converted, the term of the secular was applied to the matters outside the religious side. A curious matter, such as something this simple, can draw out more questions.
Consider what it is you believe when you make the statements of persecution. Historically, we can turn to the end of Christian persecutions from a secular world as ending on a grand scale with the actions of Domitian. He was attempting to find a foothold for holding power, but his persecutions gave rise to the notion of his successors making allies of the Christians until Constantine legalized the faith and helped to canonize the texts. But, this was just an end to persecution of the innocent faith of Christianity. What were to follow would be wars of conflict over lands and resources in the name of God or the internal conflicts of Church with those of differing doctrines. The Reformation brought on a new type of persecution that was from the Church in Rome and England that pressed those rebels into fleeing into the New World. Perhaps this is the persecution that some consider being a War on Christianity.
So, back to the experiences of my own path, it was during the end of my teens that I felt the first time that my beliefs led me to persecution. It was not from some crazed secular group. It was not some dark temptation sent to test me from Old Scratch. I was forced to make a choice between one denomination and my own. The faith was the same, but the doctrine was a little different on its own. Yet, it was not exactly the doctrine that created my biggest persecution. What it became was a show that the overall belief in a single entity was not as important as what group of people you were associated with. No Jesus was the same. It was a fracture in the unity of belief that cracked. I was suddenly the outsider because I was not part of their crowd.
However, I didn’t just toss all of it out the window, but I moved to find the truth. I spent the last twenty years looking for the answers. I studied all the Western religious and their histories. I delved into a new world of seeing the religious from their roots and came to appreciate what they were in the context of the writing. Recently, I have started to learn Ancient Greek to go with my Classical Latin so that my understanding can open up further. I am still searching for the answers as to why.
This leads me back to the simple point that raises my ire every time I hear it. When I hear some Christian group cry out that they are under persecution, I look beyond to find the source of this persecution. What I find makes my point better than I could ever say. A group that has come to this country originally to have freedom of religion has become their own worst enemy as they are often the source of suppressing the freedom of religion for others including some of their own. Wake up!! Stop this madness as it is the source of the trouble that gives one reason to proclaim one’s self a martyr. Of course, preparation for martyrdom does seem to be in the history of these particular faiths. Martyrdom is not what this world needs. We need strong people to stand up and unite behind the true ideals of cognizance and liberality.