Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Know This Much Is True

(Regular readers may relax: this post is indeed NSFW, though you may have to go down a couple of screens to get to the pics of naked guys.)

There are no absolute truths in this universe. Except perhaps that there are no absolute truths, and even there I can't be certain. I mistrust certainty. People who are certain about their own lives are to be smiled at or perhaps pitied. People who are certain about what you should do with your life are to be avoided and perhaps feared. People who embrace uncertainty may be following the truest path, but at the same time, they can be maddeningly indecisive when it comes time to choose a restaurant.

I tend to view everything as a series of competing forces where both sides are, if not always equal, at least necessary. This is not, of course, a new idea. I reckon that it's expressed most elegantly and succinctly by the concepts of yin and yang and, most especially, by the yin-yang symbol. Two forces in balance, each containing the seed of the other.

I'm not sure that Christianity or Judeo-Christianity has an equivalent. There is some verbiage about "to everything there is a season," but there is a lot more of law and absolutism than there is about pluralism and inclusion. That's one of the reasons why I find gays (and everyone else, but especially gays) trying to reconcile their lifestyles with the precepts of Christianity the logical equivalent of the string quartet playing on the Titanic. But I'm willing to admit that I have a jaded viewpoint on Christianity in part because of my relatively great familiarity with its central text.
You know the Bible 93%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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My view on eastern traditions is likely rosy. I reckon that if I went and read the original texts of Taoism or Buddhism or whatever, I'd find something of a mishmash and learn that my notion of those traditions is based on incomplete information from newer converts who may have glossed over the messier or less pleasant bits.

Or not, but in either case, I find Christianity insufficiently subtle to handle the complexity of modern life. I am skeptical of people who try to simplify things for me. Of course, I'm also skeptical of people who try to make things more complicated.

Every positive has its negative. If there's something you like about someone, that trait has its flip side that you won't like sometime. Guys who are attentive and loving can sometimes be clingy. Guys who are low maintenance will sometimes be cold. A close relationship that's nurturing will occasionally be suffocating. A guy can't really be good at sex unless he also sucks. The list is endless.

Living is a matter of balancing these competing forces. We all tend to think of balance as finding that spot of perfect equilibrium, but that is a misguided notion: balance is not about perfection; balance is about not falling over. Getting along well with someone is about finding someone who's lopsided in ways that are similar to the ways you're lopsided. Or maybe it's about finding someone who's lopsidedness complements your own. Most likely, it's about both: finding someone who's like you in important ways and unlike you in other important ways.

I'll admit to some envy towards people who live with great certainty. People who have something that they believe in absolutely and who thus feel that there life has a direction and purpose certain live simpler (if not always easier) lives. But faith is something that you can't truly fake: you either have it or you don't. And if you don't, then you just have to do the best you can. Some people will tell you that uncertainty is better because you know the truth and truth is always better than false belief. This, readers, is a load of crap. Truth is a lovely thing in theory, but in practice, it's a very harsh master.

People without faith and certainty have several options. First, they can fake it. If you pretend for long enough that something's true and/or that something matters, perhaps you will come to believe it in time. I have tried this approach, and it doesn't work for me, but I reckon it must work for somebody.

Another option is ambivalence and indecision. If nothing is certain, then why bother making choices? This option has certain fairly obvious practical drawbacks. Also, it's not always easy to distinguish between indecision and acceptance, to know whether you're recognizing the fundamentally ephemeral and nonsensical nature of life or just plain lazy.

A third option is to live life on your own terms: to choose precepts to live by in full recognition that they are good only in a practical rather than intrinsic sense. The precepts can be anything: care for your friends and family, hedonism, grand larceny. This idea boils down, more or less, to: you only get one short life to live, so take care of what's important to you and have fun while you're here.

It's not that simple, of course: almost everyone has some faith, and those who have little combine approaches. But it's a decent framework for thinking about various life choices. Personally, I tend to straddle creating my own terms with a certain amount of indecision. All of which, of course, is a crapload of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but I maintain that it was a decent excuse for posting hot pics of men coupling. Yin-yang is great, but, really, if you want an illustration of disparate forces working in harmony to create something beautiful, what's better than two guys getting it on?


John said...

Apparently my Southern Methodist Sunday School teachers did a good job, because I actually got 100 on that Bible test and I haven't cracked the Good Book in way more than a decade. Either that, or the fact that some of the alternate choices were "Doctor Seuss," "Xena," "Henry VIII," "Rip Van Winkle" and so forth may have played a part. Oops, was I not supposed to reveal that here?

Lewis said...

Wow, you're much "Nearer My God to Thee" than I am: I'm only at 88%.

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic

Jason said...

"There are no absolute truths in this universe." Ironic at first, I happen to believe that it is actually THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH! Amen. The universe/world is overrated. Veritas is not out there, but other worldly.

The older I get the more I find the seemingly one liner symbol of Taichi (the Yin-Yang emblem) indeed very wise. Note the little "yin" dot in the yang, and the "yang" in the yin. Dialectical to the Star of David, no? (Two opposite triangles merge half way).

Hence, I love Jesus' parables in the Gospels. What a smart guy.

Will said...

I just tried it and got 95% in spite of the fact that I admitted at the end that I do not read the Bible (except an occasional check to settle a debate over some point or other). I credit 12 years of hard indoctrination in Catholic school and the fact that when younger I had close to a photographic memory.

I have no use for organized religion but a great respect for personal spirituality, and particularly for gay spirituality. To me the only sight more beautiful than a handsome naked man is two naked men having sex. Through sex I celebrate my gayness and spiritual bond with all gay men--so homosex is really for me a portal to the divine.