Let’s kick things off with some quotes.
“Give up credibility today… it’s the only way forward. Credibility is you trying to have power over other people. And if you believe in what Jesus said …which I almost do… You can’t be trying to collect power over other people. It’s not what He would have you do.” – David Bazan
“”If you meet the Buddha, slay him!” One is tempted to say to the Christians, “If you meet the Christ, crucify him!” Such injunctions are indeed jarring, even shocking, but they are advisedly and purposefully so. For “doctrines” and “holy images” can become just an additional set of encumbrances that prevent one from the direct realization of what they were originally meant to convey.” – Ruben Habito
“I can tell you this, I’ve come to put less stock in what I say I believe. I feel like my affinity for whatever religious group or set of ideas is more provisional or relatively superficial than I might have previously thought.” – Aaron Weiss
It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this that I am absolutely obsessed with theology, philosophy, and spirituality. I’m quite certain that I am far from an expert in those matters, but it is something that I can’t get away from. I talk about it with anyone that I can get to talk about it with me – I read about it at every chance I get – and I think about it all the time.
I first came across that David Bazan quote about a year ago. I highly recommend checking out the video that it’s from, in which he talks with David Dark – check it out here. It struck me as immediately interesting and challenging. In the time since then, I have thought of it off and on, and it immediately came to light more recently when I started reading Ruben Habito’s book Living Zen, Loving God. Here are a couple relevant passages that brought it to mind:
Such universal availability, the capacity of being all things to all, is only possible to fully emptied person, offering themselves totally without a taint of self-seeking or utilitarian motivation. Such a person will be to others what they need him or her to be for them.
One who is fully emptied in Zen finds himself or herself in everything, literally, and is able to identify fully with everything, to be all things, and thus to act in total freedom, according to what the particular situation demands. Such a one is no longer separated by the illusory barrier between himself and the “other.”
I am reminded of a prayer of Jesus, recorded in the Bible in John 17:21-24:
I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.
While his prayer is immediately for those who believe in him, he also says he is praying for those who believe in him because of the words of those who believe – which seems to imply it is also for those who do not yet believe. Perhaps it is a prayer for oneness for all of humanity, and further, oneness between God, Christ, and humanity. This idea of oneness, and that there is no such thing as the other, is something that has fascinated me for a long time. In the words of one of my favorite songs, written by Aaron Weiss
You think you’re you, you don’t know who you are – You’re not you, you’re everyone else.
Or as Ruben Habito puts it elsewhere in his book:
“What the world is, is what you are.” This is to see things in a way that dissolves the opposition between Ourselves and the “world.” The “world” is “what we are.” The world is not something outside of us, something that we view as mere bystanders, lamenting its sorrows and evils. No, what happens to the whole world as such is what happens to our very own True Selves. The sickness of the world is our very own sickness. This is the sickness of the bodhisattva; it is a sickness that is also the hope and salvation of all living beings. In Christian terms it is the reality of the cross of Christ, the bearer of the sufferings of the world.
If you aren’t familiar with Buddhist terminology, don’t worry too much about what bodhisattva means… you can google it if you’re curious.
It is my feeling, my belief, that these things are literally true. I am not me, and you are not you. We are everyone else. It seems a contradiction, because we know that the self exists, and yet at the same time, from my own experience, the connection between myself and everyone else cannot be denied. Part of what I have found so fascinating in reading about Zen Buddhism is that it is absolutely full of contradiction. And so is Christianity. And I don’t think that is a problem with either of these belief systems. Perhaps it proves that they are not credible – but credibility is not what either of them is really about.
The more that I study, and think, and learn, the more that I know that I can’t really know anything. I can’t tell you what is true, because there’s really not any way for me to know what is true. Is there an afterlife? I don’t know (I hope so.) Is there a God? I don’t know (I think so, but if I’m honest I don’t think I really know exactly what “God” is.)
One of the things I greatly appreciate about Aaron Weiss is his reluctance to speak with authority on matters such as this. However, at the same time, it is frustrating to me, because his thoughts on these matters are perhaps those I want to hear most of all – knowing that he has no idea whether or not he is correct. That is who I want to hear from. That is why I want to continue to speak and write about these things. Perhaps I should do so with an admonition: Always keep in mind when I say anything that I don’t really have any idea what I’m talking about.
Giving up credibility is hard. It means always speaking the truth as you see it, not worrying about the consequences. That is what I aspire to do. Perhaps people will think me foolish, or simply wrong. Both of those are things that I need to be OK with. My desire to be seen as smart or correct is after all nothing more than a desire to hold sway over someone’s opinion: a desire for power over them.
Tomorrow I’m going to continue along this thought process, and bring in the concept of humbleness.