More “Eat, Pray, Love”

Some may get sick of my quoting Liz Gilbert’s book, but there are so many excellent nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout that I can’t help it. I’ve learned much from this wonderful spiritual quest. Here’s the latest:

The devout of this world perform their rituals without guarantee that anything good will ever come of it. Of course there are plenty of scriptures and plenty of priests who make plenty of promises as to what your good works will yield (or threats as to the punishments awaiting you if you lapse), but to even believe all this is an act of faith, because nobody amongst us is shown the endgame. Devotion is diligence without assurance. Faith is a way of saying, “Yes, I pre-accept the terms of the universe and I embrace in advance what I m presently incapable of understanding.” There’s a reason we refer to “leaps of faith”–because the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable, and I don’t care how diligently scholars of every religion will try to sit you down with their stacks of books and prove to you through scripture that their faith is indeed rational; it isn’t. If faith were rational, it wouldn’t be–by definition–faith. Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageious act of humanity, it would just be…a prudent insurance policy (page 175).

And that my friends is why fundamentalists who insist on biblical inerrancy aren’t practicing faith at all. To insist you have all the answers contained in a single book is not faith. That’s a straight-jacket around your concept of God and height of insurance policy making. That’s, to use J. B. Phillips’ explanation, Your God in a Box or Your God’s Too Small. Biblical inerrantists are acting primarily out of fear not faith; fear that perhaps God is speaking to other people and in different ways and through a variety of means; fear that women might “change” the image they’ve created of a hell-committing, abusive, brow-beating male god into a loving, all-embracing, compassionate god who universally loves rather than exclusively hates. Those who make fear their “faith” see sin everywhere but in themselves and have to legislate others’ perceived sins rather than focus on their secret sin. Everyone knows that those who crow the loudest about sin are hiding some whoppers of their own. I think the same case can be made for atheists as well. The current backlash against fundamentalism in America is perhaps very well deserved, but there is no reason to call for an end to faith. No such thing could ever happen, EVER. Some very excellent, decent, and loving people exist on faith, which to me is just another word for hope and if you kill hope in a society….well we can see the fallout of that all around us. Elizabeth Gilbert ends her quote this way:

I’m not interested in the insurance industry. I’m tired of being a skeptic. I’m irritated by spiritual prudence and I feel bored and parched by empirical debate. I don’t want to hear it anymore. I couldn’t care less about evidence and proof and assurances. I just want God. I want God inside me. I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself on water (176)

Amen!

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8 thoughts on “More “Eat, Pray, Love”

  1. “Some very excellent, decent, and loving people exist on faith, which to me is just another word for hope and if you kill hope in a society….well we can see the fallout of that all around us.”

    Excellent point.

    I suppose that faith is a kind of hope, maybe combined with a glimpse of the knowledge of our true selves.

  2. I think that there is fundamental frustration humanity has about the idea of eternity, while being bound in nearly every way by the finite. We’re interested in the idea of existence and what it means, if it means anything. But, we can put our fingers on it.

    I like the ‘I Want God’ section of the quote you cited. It kind of reminds me of the way a young child expresses herself; when she has a need but can’t quite communicate it, with only a limited vocabulary at her disposal. Despite our education, background, or whatever, I think we all have a limited vocabulary when it comes to the nature of existence by our very natures as finite creatures. It is one of the realities of being alive, it seems.

    The whole thing can be very disorienting, which is why systems which claim to make sense of it all are so compelling, be they science or religion. But, if there is some ongoing eternal nature of the universe in play, and we’re somehow a part of it, the very nature of it will defy any system.

    What a pain.

  3. Rob,

    I like that it defies any systemic explanation. Kind of like Malcolm’s explanation of chaos theory in Jurassic Park. Nothing is predictable, but we always try to make it so. Humans! Sheesh! 🙂

  4. There is a certain beauty in mystery, I agree. But, I can see why materialists get exasperated by the idea of faith; it’s easy to say that we don’t know something because our brains aren’t big enough, and to ‘pretend’ as if something is true when it might not really be, based on something which can’t be expressed or pointed to by material means. My problem is not that I can’t prove that there is something “out there”. I actually have relinquished my responsibility over that information as it is what it is (or isn’t, as the case may be) whether I believe in it or not. No. My problem is a common one, which I believe is one of the key reasons why these systems have been set up in the first place; the Problem of Evil. But, that’s another discussion entirely.

  5. Rob,
    You know I also have a problem with that. But, most people do I think. Yes, that would be another discussion. Shall you blog about it or shall I? 🙂

  6. MoI,

    I think yours is the more eloquent voice in these matters, but it’s nice to get such a vote of confidence that my own thoughts would be in any way useful. As it is, the’ve been percolating for some time and I’m still not satisfied. I guess that’s why they call it a ‘problem’, eh? 🙂

    But, you never know. One day when I’m feeling cocky, maybe I’ll give it a shot. In the meantime, I’ll keep hanging out here, when I’m not writing about my favourite records.

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