Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Place to Stand

I’m engaged in a deep philosophical conversation this morning with my friend of the written word, whom I mentioned a few days ago:  Alfred North Whitehead.  He wrote in his book, Adventures in Ideas:  “You cannot consider wisdom or folly, progress or decadence, except in relation to some standard of judgment, some end in view.  Such standards, such ends, when widely diffused, constitute the driving force of ideas in the history of mankind.  They also guide the composition of historical narrative.”

What is my standard of judgment about what is going on in the world?  What end, what standard, what view do I hold that prompts and guides my dreams, thoughts, hopes; my political, scientific, religious, and social positions and questions?  What is my base of operation—is it unintellectual, unrealistic, or irrational?  If so, I need to change my standard. 

I do not know very much.  I do not know what tomorrow may bring for me, you, or our nation, or world.  I do not know why there is so much evil and suffering.  I do not understand why we do what we do.  I also know that I don’t really need to know these things.  But I do know that I must have some standard, some place to stand, some point of view by which to judge and consider what is “wisdom or folly, progress or decadence.”  In a secular way, with regard to our democracy, my standard for judgment in political, religious and social issues is the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  I subscribe to Martin Luther King’s view of those documents when he said, “The substance of the dream is expressed in these sublime words, words lifted to cosmic proportions…for they are God-given.”

Elton Trueblood wrote, “Christ can be accepted; he can be rejected; he cannot be reasonably ignored.”  Long ago I began to trust Jesus; trusting what he represented and trusting what he taught.  I made Him and His teachings my standard, my view, my base of operation for dealing with all things.  Trueblood wrote, “In this tremendously confused world, with so many, many voices, what do people really need?  They do not need answers to every question, because they will have to work out the answers for themselves.  What they need is some central point of intellectual and spiritual stability which will make them able to deal with the questions when they come, and to deal with the burdens as they are born.  Christ did not say that he would take away our burdens.  He did say, however, that he would give us a way of handling them.”  Jesus has been, for a long time now, my place to stand, the standard for my dreams, thoughts, hopes; my political, scientific, religious, and social positions and questions. I attempt to view all things from this perspective.

We must not become like windmills
--moved by whatever breeze
comes our way.

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