Monday, April 12, 2010

Holding Fast

What are you certain about?

What are the things in your life that are so obvious, so blatant, that your belief in them is unshakable and beyond reproach? Is there anything like that for you?

Seems like folks are certain about a lot these days.

They are certain that abortion is an abomination. They are certain that every woman should have a right to choose whether she can end her baby's life in-utero. They are certain monogamy is an outdated standard. They are positive that the real problem in our society is the insistence that people should not confine themselves to one partner.

They are certain racism is a myth and that discrimination is an ancient and powerless relic. They are positive that Phil Mickelson is a much better husband than Tiger Woods and has never, EVER done anything to hurt his wife.

It's obvious to anyone who looks that Obama is trying to ruin this country, and that Big Ben was set-up by a money-hungry gold digger.

Let me be clear, it's not that I have a problem with people have disparate opinions. It's not that I have a problem with people aggressively defending their opinions. What I can't understand is the unyielding certainty so many people bring to their opinions.

Is doubt a forgotten emotion?

The Bible says that the disciple Thomas walked with Jesus and the 11 other disciples for three years. During that period he saw many miracles and wondrous events. Yet, when his fellow disciples came to him telling him of Jesus' ressurrection after his Crucifixion, Thomas said he needed to put his fingers in the holes in Christ's hands and stick his arm in Jesus' side.

Despite everything he had seen, Thomas doubted.

Many preachers use the story of Thomas to discuss the problems with doubt, the failure of our feeble human minds to truly trust despite all the evidence we've seen. I can see that point of view. Yet, I also see Thomas as a man who truly loved and believed in Jesus' greatness, but still found it hard to believe that a man he saw die three days earlier was now walking the Earth again.

His doubt seems to make sense.

How can so many folks eschew doubt? Where does this unshakable certainty in everything come from? For me, life is a constant cycle of considering and re-thinking what I believe:

Am I being just?

Does this make sense?

What's the other side?

What are the other angles?

It's not that I don't have bedrock beliefs, I do. But, I fully recognize the issues with those beliefs, the potential chinks in my mental armor. I see where the central concepts in my life are connected, and I understand that most of my worldview hinges on a leap of faith. This doesn't bother me, but I can appreciate that it bothers many others.

I don't think that just because I believe something it must be a fact.

Increasingly, I feel like I'm in a minority. I see folks, folks I love and some I don't, who are so rooted in their reality that even a Category Five hurricane couldn't shake them. Sometimes that is comforting, other times it's maddening.

Folks are so certain that discussion has become a waste of time. Nobody is truly considering their positions, and nobody is willing to give an inch. Civility is dead and reason has been abandoned. Any action can be justified and every action can be condemned.

We're holding fast to a sinking ship, convinced that we are rising to heaven.



Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

very good post. It's not a black & white world. There's a lot of gray areas and I wish more people would acknowledge that.

off topic, but speaking of faith and doubt, I've read that even Mother Teresa doubted God's existence. that's something the Church tried to deny, but I think it makes her much more human.

Big Man said...


If anybody tells me that they have NEVER doubted the existence of God, then I find it hard to trust them.

Either they are a liar, or they are a surface thinker.

I believe what I believe, but I understand why folks reject it. It takes faith and a committment to something you can't fully understand.

That's tough.

Audrey Gille said...

Re: Obama....
My IRA is almost up to where it was before Bush; the insurance I buy for my son (proposition 375) is one third the price off COBRA, and due to my illness, I am recieving (a decent amount too) social security disability. Hate this man? I think not.
Hi by the way and hope you are yours are well. I used to write to you but have had many trips to the hospital and just read a little internet in between. It's good to see your column is still there. Keep the faith big man. I enjoy "hearing" from you.

Big Man said...

Good to see you Aegil.

I hope your health is improving, I remember things were a little dicey the last time we spoke.

Deacon Blue said...

I don't know if the decline in the ability to debate reasonably and consider other viewpoints was already on the downturn before the Internet, but I'm convinced that it's either gotten worse since social media took off, or a brighter light is being directed on it.

Because ironically, these media that seemed to tailor-made for open discussion seem at least as likely as not (and maybe more so) to simply encourage people to hold to their original (and often misplaced) convictions.

Or maybe I'm just in an extra cynical mode lately.

In any case, I co-sign, Big Man

Aegil said...

Hi again,

Unfortunately my health is still not great - I have to get surgery this Thursday to see if the cancer came back...sheeesh....but thanks to a lot of love and support from friends and family (and a husband who is second to none), I am hanging in there. Kiss your babies for me! : )

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

People desire certainty. It's calming and reassuring. People fear uncertainty. It's stressful and unpredictable.

Living a life on the principles of nondiscrimination and toleration AND FORCING those principles on others through coercive integration will bring forth uncertainty for the self-evident reason that one's actions are without serious thought. One's wants and desires are indiscriminate and one's defenses are inexplicably tolerant.

As this group of individuals quite predictably grows in an increasingly liberal society, the other group -- those seeking the reassurance in certainty by way of discriminate living -- will be ever more identifiable. They will stick out as the proverbial sore thumb.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

In your still relatively young stint as father have you had chance to ponder wherein derives the killer instinct? Have you yet had the misfortune of visualizing the death of your children? If we were to doubt this possibility, would this doubt serve you well?

See lil man, doubt, disloyalty, indiscriminate behavior and uncertainty are all around us. Deep down inside, most people do not like this situation. A very few psychology sharp individuals can thrive in such an environment, but most end up lost UNLESS THEY DECIDE to seek certainty in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Certainty and cynicism both seem to come from woundedness. The certain ones are lashing out; the cynical ones have given up. It's SOOO hard to truly engage the world knowing that life is often nasty and short. The only real antidote is some form of love--kindness, compassion, altruism, service. But the certain ones are sure of all the ones that must not be loved--gays, sexists, people of color, crackers, criminals, do-gooders, liberals, conservatives and on and on. And the cynical ones are too shut down to even think about it--or, more to the point, to feel about it. What we need to do is get comfortable with the Blues in every form--We're no less wounded when we face the human condition head-on, but we can get a sense of healing and hope by doing it. For all the crap on the internet, it's important to see the miraculous too. Where else would a pasty middle-aged white woman open her heart to a raving black lunatic? hallelujah.

Big Man said...


Let me pose a question to you.

What's the best protection?

God or guns?

I stole that question from the rapper Nas, but I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the topic.

Actually, I've had the visualize the death of both of my children since both of them had some illness at birth that could have caused serious health problems. Thankfully, the Lord worked it out and they are happy and healthy babies today.

As far as people seeking certainty because uncertainty is uncomfortable, I can't disagree with that thesis.

Doesn't mean that it's right. Some things in life are beyond human comprehension and understanding. Many other things are outside of our individual knowledge base. So, seeking a false certainty about issues where doubt should exist is a cop-out. Learn to deal with reality, don't create a false reality because it feels better.

Finally, you believe in forcing women to carry to term all babies because you believe abortion is an evil in the eyes of God.

Yet, you reject the idea the of forcing people to love their neighbors as they love themselves. I'll ignore the fact that NOBODY is forcing anybody to be tolerant or non-discriminatory. In fact, what's happening is that you can still behave however you want, there are just consequences for your actions. Same as always.

What I want to know is how you see the sense of applying one of God's tenets but not the other?

How do you decide which of God's guidelines should be applied to humans through the force of law?

I'm curious.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

First off, glad your lil ones are happy and healthy. When they're happy and healthy, you get to share it... One subtle benefit of fatherhood. But I was talking about evil wiping out your legacy? Do you REALLY LEAVE EVERYTHING in God's hands?

There is certainly a hierarchy. Did God inspire me to think death to evil or did that notion derive from creating my legacy? I think it's the latter and the latter brought much closer to the Truth of God.

I would also reword what I believe about abortion.

Those who think abortion is good, right or truthful would say:

A mother has a fundamental right to kill her child in utero.

I say this "truth" is self-evidently false for the simple fact that it logically implies that one IS FOR HIS OWN annihilation.

People that consciously or unconsciously support self-annihilation have thoroughly and unambiguously put themselves outside the realm of making critical decisions concerning the direction of civilization.

And it just so happens that these same self-annihilators operate under the Orthodoxy that says nondiscrimination and tolerance are HIGHEST principles.

And so the loop is closed.

Living a life of nondiscrimination and absolute tolerance is the quickest and surest path to self-annihilation.

That's were we're at lil man.

Big Man said...

Your tendency is to redefine discrimination and tolerance to suit your mindset.

You and I both know that most forms of discrimination are an affront to God. True, there may be instances where you have to refuse to extend the same benefits or services to folks because you are doing God's will, but that is not the case 99 percent of the time in this country.

On the subject of tolerance, I just have to say "Love thy neighbor..."

Tolerance does not mean you agree with everything, or support it. It means that you don't treat people in a way you wouldn't want to be treated yourself. At least that's my opinion.

Again, I think the question "God or guns" is a profound one.

How far those my trust in God go? Do I really believe in his control over everything? Do I believe in his protection, or do I really believe it's up to me.

I haven't figured out exactly how far to go and I don't have a problem admitting that. I'm not certain what God would want me to do.

I'm constantly considering the line.

As for your rewording of my point on abortion, I stand by my original explanation.

To steal a phrase from you, you are minimizing the autonomy of others because you disagree with their choices.

Yet you're upset because you feel other folks want to do the same thing to you.

To me, that smacks of hypocrisy, particularly since you haven't convinced me that your stance aligns with the will of God.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

It is not in my power to redefine anything and have you abide by that redefinition.

If you believe in Supremacy then you must do CERTAIN things or you will appear irrational.

First, you must rationally and faithfully strive for Supremacy.

The REALITY as it stands SAYS:

A mother has a fundamental right to kill her child in utero.

There is NO TRUER statement of fact as it concerns our reality in the context of abortion.

The question becomes...?

Is it true?

You say that you are not certain.

Which means you are not certain of the Truth, righteousness and goodness of your existence.

The procession grows quiet and we ask,

Do you have any real stake in our civilization?

Mr. Noface said...

Civil discourse is not dead. Revaluation of ones assumptions or beliefs has not gone the way of the dodo. Compromise is very much alive (though it may have been corrupted). No, none of these things have gone away. It's just that, like the "revolution", the expression of "doubt" is not televised.

Thordaddy said...

Mr. Noface,

There is nothing wrong with doubt UNLESS it is doubt about the justification for one's existence.

That kind of doubt, if elevated and exalted as highest principle, is the worship of self-annihilation.

It's to have no face, Mr. Noface

Submariner said...

Good post. If all people feared uncertainty than they would never have developed agriculture or left the cradle of civilization to settle the globe.

The greatest expressions of humanity, the hero and the artist, explore the unknown and embrace risk.

TLS said...

Did Jesus doubt the justification of his existence when he asked why God had forsaken him?

Raving Black Lunatic