Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Resonance of the “Wow!”

Originally posted on February 13, 2013

The title of this post is a bit of paradoxical apophatic musing. Apophatic refers to the stance that we—human consciousness—cannot begin to begin to know Divine essence. A degree of surrender is needed. Yet we can in our foolish innocence speculate.

So also a three-year-old can talk about “my mommy” and know deeply that of which she speaks; but yet also know almost nothing about the actual person who has as one of her roles that of being the child’s mother. Thus, now more mature, I am aware that cosmically I am but a small child and both know that there is a “Mother” (and other names) and also that the name hardly captures the fullness of what I name, any more than, as Alfred Korzybsky, the founder of General Semantics, noted, “The map is not the territory.” Nor as I think some Zen scholar noted, “The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.”

Anyway, I have a number of names for God—the multiplicity only serving to note my ignorance rather than assert my prideful illusion that I do know: The “Wow” is one, as is “Whoa” and upside down that’s “Om” (sort of). The “More Yet,” and the “Everything” are some other terms.

All this points at the shift implied in what I call “the new spirituality,” a shift from content to process, from emphasizing what one believes to seeking to promote not belief (whatever that is) but rather mental alignment with what images, intuitions, myths, words, scriptures or writings, whatever serves to lift, to align one with higher values, with higher potentials for oneself.

My son David Blatner authored a recently published book titled Spectrums. It’s really good! Check it out! And alongside the innumerable scientific facts, he has artfully infused these with a touch of astonish-mentality, a spirit of wonder. Without pronouncing any particular theology—and knowing him, he wouldn’t do that—he mind-stretchingly invites you to wonder about the great mysteries.

David doesn’t tackle the big what-it’s-all-about, but I wonder how this viewpoint can work for us. How can we make our philosophy and theology and mythology get more coordinated, more integrated with our actions? So, again, might the next step in spirituality not be concerned so much with what people believe so much as how we can help each other? the question might then be how we can align our thoughts, feelings and intuitions with what lifts us, what reaches toward our highest ideals? What makes us better people?

I know this isn’t specific enough, and I do eliminate beliefs that result in really nasty behaviors. The ol’ ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’ applies. But in a multi-cultural world, with ever more interfacing of different religions and sects, denominations and cults, it’s becoming really impossible to assert that what I believe is right and all you others can go to hell. That kind of exclusivism is so obviously stupid that it’s crazy. Well, we’re not there yet, but soon.

If, then, we do begin to emphasize is process not content, we can use all sorts of relatively new approaches (as I discussed in a recent post a few days ago) to find new ways for helping each other find and use what works for them as unique individuals. This approach recognizes that every individual already does construct a world-view in part influenced by unique blends of that person’s own temperament and other individual qualities. Some may claim to believe the same as others, be orthodox, but when you really get down, everyone adds a certain interpretation, a nuance, an angle to what seems to be on the surface a similar belief. Others are unafraid to hold quite different notions, and some combine a little of this and some of that to make what works for them.

Some of the qualities David’s writing adds to all this include the “wow!”— i.e., astonishment. A degree of wonder, a willingness to allow that wonder to evoke the childlike sentiment of awe, this is a good thing, a holy innocence. I mentioned to him today on his birthday that I’ve begun to surrender more. He responded, “Oh, so you’re a Muslim.” I didn’t get it at first, and he reminded me that Islam means “surrender.”  Oh, yeah, well in that way… well.

Then I realized that the “will” of God can be taken two ways: In the Western religious tradition, God is a patriarch issuing rules, and will is imagined in that sense. But I envision God’s “will,” in light of a trillion galaxies spread over a trillion trillion cubic light-years as “doing everything.” This is not so much immoral as exploratory. There is in my fantasy a value gradient so that if everything can emerge with a greater amount of harmony and integration that’s “better” than if everything emerges with a greater amount of dis-harmony and nasty destructiveness. But it’s mixed insofar as a fair amount of dying is intrinsic to evolution and the simple reality that if it weren’t for dying we’d have drowned in way too much that never died—not only people, but also bacteria and plants and everything. So we need to allow for a good deal of dying and be willing to pay the price in grieving, or the overall show couldn’t proceed.

And sometimes it’s hard for human minds to separate local grief and loss from the committing of great wickedness and genocide and extinctions. I can’t explain it and don’t know that any human philosophy can piece it all out, so I’m inclined to mostly surrender—Islam again?—while also being willing to stand up for what seems right. Alas, no final perfect balance may be achieved, and this is of course an instability built in to the USA Constitution, or the Talmud. Maybe what’s important is a serious, respectful conversation and coming to a final conclusion may not be necessary. As the Indian Chief said to Peter Pan, “Sometimes you-um win, and sometimes we-um win.”

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