Category Archives: Doubt

On Doubt and Faith

Dearest Father,

I must apologise for my immensely long silence. Unfortunately the duties of your son grow with each passing day, leaving me little time to sit and ponder our relationship, less still to scribble a missive in your name. I am sorry I missed the important days of the past season. I did not write you on Holy Thursday or Good Friday, or even Easter Sunday. I had much to say on each of those days, questions to ask as always, and feelings to express. But my duties (and, I must admit, a smidgen of human laziness) kept me from putting pen to paper. I did pray on the Day of Resurrection, however, not one of the many perfunctory prayers we Universals learn in the Catechism and from the Simple Prayer Book, but a deep and heartfelt prayer for my soul and my doubt and the pain in the world around me. I hope my ephemeral words reached your ears. I have seen no improvement in any of the situations I mentioned in my prayer, but we are told that you work in mysterious ways. When the letters I have been writing for over a year have received nary a response from you, I cannot feign surprise that you haven’t answered my less permanent whispers.

A lot has changed in the weeks past, and a lot has remained the same. My journey and my thoughts have carried me further still from you. Much like I did before my long break I feel that the likelihood of my return diminishes with each step I take. However, unlike the last two times I wrote you I find myself filled with less guilt and less anger. The guilt is gone because I did decide to sacrifice food as well as meat for this year’s Season of Preparation (the first time in ages I have been able to afford the latter), and the anger is gone because I’ve found it very difficult to keep negative emotions on my mind. My earthly duties have taken focus away from the House and the inscrutable machinations of my Father, and with that focus went my horror and anger on my many discoveries on free will and justice. As I write you today I feel calm and at peace. I have no brazen questions, no incredulous inquiries. I am simply writing. I do, however, have something I wish to share with you Father, and it concerns my only constant companion on this journey: Doubt.

The other day, at one of the House outposts I frequent when I wish to feel closer to home, the elder administering the ceremony gave a little homily on doubt, or more accurately, faith. You see Father in my young, binary mind I had always viewed the two things as stark opposites, separate sides of the same coin. One could not doubt if he had faith; one could not have faith if he doubted. The elder, however, brought to mind something I suspect I have known all my life but failed to consider, and that is that we are all possessed, at various points in our lives, with various levels of doubt and faith. For some, he said, faith is easy. They have little to no questions. They simply need to hear the words from your lips, or from lips they consider to be a good enough surrogate to yours, and they accept. Such people have trusting hearts and believing minds. Such people perhaps have the blind faith that has inspired churches and hymns across the history of the House. Others are rigid sceptics, requiring proofs and reassurances and works of wonder before they commit their hearts to a cause. There have been a few of these mentioned in your Book, ranging from the judge that required some fleece to both be soaked and dry at sunrise, to the famous Thomas that wished to see and touch the wounds of the Brother-Saviour before believing in his return. And instead of castigating the sceptics and admonishing them to try harder to adhere to the perfect ideal of unquestioning trust, the elder applauded their doubt, congratulated their willingness to believe. Doubt, he said, was as much a part of the human spirit as faith, and when used wisely, properly, could cause one’s faith to blossom and grow into a thing worthy to behold. We all stumble, he assured, smiling at those seated before him. To expect pure and unshakeable faith is to expect failure, and our all-knowing Father in heaven does not expect failure.

Going further on this train of compatibility the elder proclaimed that our doubts and the faiths they nurtured were products of our communities. Surround ourselves with encouraging believers, not the harsh ones that scold us for not believing, or the smug ones that spurn us for asking questions, and our faiths were sure to grow. Surround ourselves with inquisitive minds, with people that refuse to be led by the neck to whatever cause the elder of the day seemed to be championing, and our faiths would be made even more resilient to the tests and trails the future held. Our doubts don’t just depend on us, he said. They depend on our friends.

His words were comforting Father, perhaps because that was his intent. They gave me hope, hope that if I were to stumble on just the right pack of people, with just the right mix of childlike wonder and justified scepticism my companion would shrink to the manageable heights of long ago. I would be remiss if I did not say that on that day Doubt tried to counter all the elder’s assertions. I would also be remiss if I did not say that I nodded in agreement to some of his points. But as is always the case when I take a break from writing you Father I have returned with hope anew. For now I wish to believe that all I need is the right community, the right companions, to set me on the right path back to your arms, and I will allow myself to hope that your eternal silence has simply been because you have been preparing such a group for my arrival. After all, what good Father would ignore his son for so long?

With faith,

Your Prodigal Son

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On the Justice of My Father

Dearest Father,

I ended my last letter on a hopeful note, lamenting the crude state of your children’s justice and expecting that when I turned my mind to yours, a system as noble as it is elegant would be discovered. Imagine my sadness, Father, the breadth of my disappointment, when I realised that this was not the case. In seeking a system befitting my Father most Supreme, I have found one barely distinguishable from the coarse (if well-intentioned) devices of his children. And Doubt, that ever wily and clever fellow, gleefully led me every step of the way, rejoicing as I agreed with him more and more and growing as my heart sank with sadness.

Naïve and hopeful I began with the basic premise that your justice, while perhaps a little beyond our feeble grasp, was balanced. I went in expecting to find a parity different from the vengeful excuse that exists amongst your children, an additive, complementary balance if you will. I sought a justice that was not simply better than ours in every way, but that was perfect, the ideal realisation of the flawed labours of your children.

My once little friend quickly rid me of any such expectations. With a few questions and some long words he showed me that your balance was just as negative, just as reductive, as the one’s I decried and railed against in my last letter.

Much like your children, the system you employ seems predicated on laws invented at will, with rewards promised for their obedience and punishments levied at their disregard. This disobedience of your laws is termed sin, the very manifestation of evil, and has been the crux of all the history and dogma put forth by the House and its members on the nature of your children. We are told that sin is within us, part of our very beings by virtue of our birth; we are, whether or not we like it, predisposed to displease you. And this disposition is itself born from sin, specifically the sin of the First Brother, Adam. It was for his sin that we were cast out of paradise, for his sin that we suffer daily in this our imperfect world.

It was at this juncture that Doubt stepped in, asking as always his signature question: Why?

My initial answer was swift, as you can imagine. The First Brother had disobeyed an express command from our Father; he had to be punished. I wish I could paint for you the smile that graced my friend’s face at this utterance; it was the very image of triumphant glee. Why? he asked me once again. Why did the First Brother deserve punishment? What purpose did his punishment serve? And perhaps more importantly, why did all his children thenceforth have to carry this burden with them for no other reason than the accident of their births? I had only just condemned the spiteful hearts with which your children justified their want for pain in their brethren; what could I say with regards to you?

I was lost for words, Father. One can understand to an extent the impetus behind some of the choices of your children. We honestly cannot afford to let wrong-doers go without punishment. As I stated in letters past, the world is harsh and cruel; allowing our siblings to run amok would result in such pain and destruction, especially upon the innocent, that we must keep the evil-doers at bay. We must protect ourselves by removing them; we must deter them by hurting them.

But this is not the case with you Father. If one says you cast our first siblings out for protection, one must ask what you were protecting. Your Book states that everything you made, you made for us. You gave us your earth, made us masters over every facet of your creation. Where you then afraid that Adam’s sin would damage the animals? Were you afraid that they would follow in his footsteps, those unthinking brutes that were not made in the image of the most amazing Father ever? If this truly was your intent you would have removed Eve. She fell first; she was the one tempted by You-Know-Who. If your intent was to protect, and perhaps reform, it seems you would have taken her out of the garden, put her in whatever prison a being of your stature could fashion, and educated her on the error of her ways. Instead you waited till she brought Adam down along with her, and then you cast both of them out, with no avenue for warning, no period for lessons. Where in all this is the intent to protect? Your punishment did not protect Adam; it certainly did not reform Eve.

If we say you tried to deter future sin, the question then follows: What did you deter? If the tales are to be believed, this was their first crime, their only crime. Once again, Eve offered a wonderful opportunity for you to manifest the preventive powers of your justice. She fell before Adam. She could have been removed, put, as stated before, in a non-paradise as a sign that disobedience would not go without cost, and then brought back upon her inevitable reformation. Adam would have seen this and known not to trifle with the will of his Father, and Eve? Her very readmission into your garden would have been proof of lessons learned.

As I sat in silence, pondering his words, Doubt pointed out something even more ominous: Your punishment of our first siblings did not simply fail to reform the sinner or deter the good or protect the innocent; it actually made them worse. You took two misguided children, afraid and confused, from a wonderful place of happiness and cast them into the coldest harshest world you could find, cursing them to till the soil without reward and to suffer doing the very first thing you commanded of them. This act seems almost foolish in hindsight, Father, for if your children could sin against you when they had everything, when they had no need to be desperate and selfish and cruel, how could you, a being that knows all, expect that when cast into a world that could turn the best of men into devils they would remain pure?

Anger, I answered. You were angry. We have oft been told of the wrath of the Father; one can only imagine the breadth of such anger at his children’s flagrant disregard for his commandment. And to that Doubt laughed.  Anger? he asked. What is anger that my Father should have it? Anger is born of things unexpected, things unwanted. It is at its best therapeutic, at its worst useless. It is what your children, powerless and unable to control themselves, express when they do not get what they want. It is inherently childish and causes nothing but pain and fear to those who receive it. It does no apparent or inherent good, choosing instead to cow people into guilty or unwilling submission. And yet anger was the reason you destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Anger was the reason you flooded the earth. Anger was the reason you allowed pestilence and disease to ravage countless of civilisations the world over. We had sinned and you were angry. You, that knew everything and so could not have been caught by surprise. You, whose plans cannot be upset, who has known the end since the very beginning of time. You, Father, were angry with your children, and so you cursed us. And it was good, because you did it.

And with those last words Doubt struck against me a deadly blow, for this seemed to me to be the centre of your justice: You. It is barely different from that of your children. It does not appear motivated by a need to do any kind of ‘good’, but seems to be driven by an almost childlike motivation to just do. Your punishments have done nothing to help your children. They have not prevented further sins; they have neither protected us from future harm nor reformed us from past crimes. So glaring, in fact, was our lack of reformation that you saw fit to send the Brother-Saviour as an act of sacrifice for the many transgressions of your children, driving home once again the point that we are useless without your help – help, it seems, that took millennia to arrive.

Your justice is not even as good as the idealisation of your children’s crude attempts at better things. It is backed by the nebulous concept of your Will, and the inherent (if not at all apparent) goodness of all that you are. It does nothing but make you seem so loving, and we so terrible. Even your redemption is hollow, for it does not belong to all of your children. The Brother-Saviour and his first apostles stated many times that not all of us, not even most of us, would make it to the Great Upstairs. Like You-Know-Who our punishment lies in the depths of a fiery pit, a pit, we are told, that would last forever. This is the worst punishment of all, for even if one could justify the suffering and pain your children experience here on earth, the one that awaits those that do not have your favour is completely devoid of sense. It is pure pointless suffering. Forever. It does not seek to change, it does not seek to convert; it seeks only to punish. Those that make it there are beyond help, beyond reason, and instead of ending them you would rather they screamed in pain till the end of time. They have, after all, done evil things, and so they must be punished. The Justice of Your Children, your Justice, demands it.

I was crushed after his soft diatribe Father, for I could defend you no more. And to conclude his tirade he put before me a simple verse, culled from your Book and stumbled upon by chance:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering— since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you… inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord…” —2 Thessalonians 1:5-6, 8

This is your Justice, dearest Father, a justice of revenge . And it, as with all things that proceed from you, is good.

With much sadness,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Knowledge and Arbitration

Dear Father,

As you recall, the past few letters I have written have dealt with the nature of truth and the state of mind oftentimes required for weak children like myself to even consider such lofty notions. My fixation on the topic of truth is multi-faceted, stemming from my trials with my friend, my desire to find Sophie, and my hopes of seeing you. Truth is tied to all these things in a way nothing else is, for one must know the properties of truth before one can know that he has found it. But even more important, and more fundamental, is the question of knowledge. One has to know what knowing is before one can know whether or not something is true. Of course knowing that you know, and more importantly knowing what you know, is a subject that has plagued many a lover of Sophie, and being of amateur status it seems all but impossible that one such as myself would ever be able, single-handedly, to arrive at satisfactory answers to this question. I already attempted to define truth, and while my definition at the time seemed very satisfactory, my views on things true and things arbitrary has yielded little fruit in my battle with Doubt. The reason for this, as I have now discovered, is that Doubt doesn’t care much for truth; he cares for knowledge.

The definition of knowledge, much like truth, has been heavily contested over the ages, with famous lovers of Sophie knowing that their opponents’ definitions were wrong even though they could not satisfactorily articulate how they knew, or what knowing meant. There is a whole path on the way to Sophia dedicated to the study of knowledge, and a little walk along this road has alerted me to a number of things. The first is that a vast majority of the lovers of Sophie that pitched their tents on this road, including Plato the Most Versatile, are of the opinion, dare I say the knowledge, that things known must be true. Of course for younglings like myself such a statement is very confusing; if one can only know truth when one knows what knowing is, and in order to really know, the thing one claims to know must in fact be true, our dear friend One would inevitably be left in an infinite loop of ignorance. This definition, I have been told, was made in order to distinguish knowledge from opinions or beliefs, things that may not be true but hold the convictions of a number of people. Of course this means that truth is tied to knowledge as tightly as arbitration is tied to opinion, and while this definition satisfies me because it validates my nice arbitration concerning truth and arbitration, it does nothing to advance my quest. This is because, as I have said, Doubt does not quite care for how true something really is. He cares for how convinced you are that it is true, how highly on your personal knowledge scale your little belief ranks.

You see Father, the reason I have not yet been able to shake Doubt’s terrible claws from my shoulder is because I cannot claim to know the answers to the questions he asks me. Now in hindsight I believe I can be forgiven for mistaking this problem with the problem of truth. As you must have surmised from this entire quest, I am obsessed with truth. In order for me to accept something I must confirm it is true, and it is by these means that Doubt has been able to attack time and time again. And while the lovers of Sophie that line the roads of Epistemology would say that placing truth as a fundamental criterion for knowledge is noble, on days such as this, when Doubt seems more powerful than ever, their endorsements do little for me. Unlike a good chunk of your children I not only care a great deal about truth, I also have a very high standard for what can be termed truth. And honestly I am really starting to envy this good chunk of your children.

Take for example people I have met called Abductees. These are children of yours that assert that beings from beyond the stars have seized them and used them as subjects in strange experiments. Now, based on my statements on truth and arbitration, I would conservatively term such statements arbitrations. Barring verification, one cannot really say that these things are true. That, however, matters not to those that have put them forth. They know these things, as much as any man on earth can claim to know anything. We could find out tomorrow that their statements are false, that extra-terrestrial beings have not in fact been collecting our siblings and doing strange things to them, and their knowledge would be rendered hollow. This, however, would not change how much they believed them. At the time before verification they knew that these statements were true. They would have died for such beliefs, confident that they were right. Plato and his ilk would adamantly state that this level of conviction does not change the fact that they do not know, but for one like me, facing the deep voice of Doubt, such adamance is useless. The fact remains that for such people, wrong they may be, Doubt is no problem. He does not hang over their heads and bring their affairs to a grinding halt; he does not colour their every action with the shadow of uncertainty. Whether or not they are wrong, one must admit that they do not have the problem that I have, and on some days I feel as though I would not wish this problem on my worst enemies.

In spite of making this discovery however, my ‘nobility’, or perhaps my lack of ability, did not let me seek an easy out from the ramblings of my once little friend. Unfortunately I have been wearing the Hat of Unverified-Arbitration-is-not-Truth for far too long, and honestly I do not think I am ever going to be able to completely take it off. This state of mind appears to now be a fundamental state of my mind, and I fear only desperation the likes of which I have never felt before would push me to divest myself of this mode of thinking. Even faced with such desperation I get the feeling (no doubt inspired by Doubt) that in time my high standards for truth would soon come sneaking back into my head and I would once again relegate any statement to the land of arbitration. In an odd twist it seems the very thing which caused me to smile in the face of Doubt but a few weeks ago now brings me lower than I have been in quite the while.

My continued foray along the path of Episteme did not do much to help me. I happened upon a book by a more recent lover of Sophie called Bertrand Russell, and reading it has perhaps caused me more pain than my discovery on Doubt’s real desires. Now I know I promised to only focus on the works of the ancients Father, but this book was called “The Problems of Philosophy”; I felt it wise to read it. If there are any problems with my love for Sophia and my quest to find her, would it not be smart to discover them before I go too far?

In this book Russell, in a manner most calm, showed that almost all the little things that one claimed to know were nothing but bald-faced arbitrations. By doing nothing but observing a single table the man laid waste to all that I thought I knew, even issues not yet questioned by my friend. The questions he used to destroy my preconceptions were very similar to those often put forth by Doubt himself, and his major achievement lay not in asking them, but in showing that they had no real answers. He, in effect, took my personal arbitrations and extended them, growing their reach till they covered almost everything, including the very nature of the paper on which I write this letter. So sensible was his rhetoric that even questions Doubt asked me long ago, questions that I found easy to ignore, such as whether or not the sky is blue, returned, suddenly pressing and very important. Allow me to pat myself on the back for reading on, dear Father; I honestly do not know how I continued to indulge Mr Russell even with the rising amplitude of my friend’s voice.

Russell’s brutal attack on knowledge, and by extension truth, was apparently inspired by another fairly contemporary lover of Sophie, a Frenchman by the name Rene Descartes. Reading the means by which he arrived at his conclusion of universal arbitrariness, I think I can say that the Frenchman was perhaps as plagued by Doubt as I am. As legend would have it he locked himself in a room and decided to put to question everything he thought he knew, and the result was what I read before me that day. Nothing is known and so nothing can be known to be true. Everything we speak, however evident, is arbitration. The implications of such a worldview are staggering, Father, but luckily before I could descend into a pit of confusion most supreme Russell revealed the one thing Descartes had discovered to be true. It is a very famous statement, one I’d heard even as a child parading the halls of the House. It read: “I think therefore I am”.

A brief analysis reveals why this statement cannot be doubted. Regardless of how one views one’s existence, regardless of the countless questions and answers that Doubt can bring forth, the fact remains that because one is even thinking these questions, considering these answers, he must exist. One cannot doubt one’s existence. I think, therefore I am. This is the one thing Doubt cannot touch, the one thing Doubt cannot question. Apt, then, that the process by which the Frenchman arrived at this conclusion is often termed the “Method of Systematic Doubt”.

Now discovering that Doubt would never be able to question whether or not I exist is but a small victory. I still have to contend with the fact that everything else, if Russell and Descartes are to be believed, is open to question, that everything everyone says is nothing but arbitration no matter how hard one tries to verify it. Reading Russell’s book so far has not given me much confidence in the rest of my quest for Sophia, and honestly Father I am just about ready to give up. But Platocrates is getting really deep with his description of governments, and Augustine apparently smuggled some metaphysics into his Confessions, and I have been told by a stray lover that Russell has an optimistic message at the end of his book, and so I will continue. Fearing I will never find real truth, but knowing I can always be certain of my own existence, I will continue. Besides, soon I will take off whatever Hat(s) allowed me to reflect so deeply, and I would forget, albeit temporarily, about Russell’s words. I honestly cannot wait, dear Father, to look upon the world without the taint of universal arbitration.

With fatigue,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Guides and Fathers

Dearest Father,

Today your children remembered the birth of the House. Today they celebrated as they recalled the magical events of that afternoon many years ago, when you deigned to send your spirit down to your disciples and gave them the capacity to spread your word. Today, many say, marks the true beginning of the greatest House that ever was and ever will be. And today, dearest Father, I was reminded of how utterly and completely forsaken I am.

The significance of the today’s event is not one that can all too easily be brushed aside. For many it is a call to jubilation. Our Father, from his abode in the Great Upstairs, decided to send his spirit, his very essence, to guide and protect his children. This was the latest in a series of events aimed at humbling the terrible You-Know-Who and exulting your beloved offspring. First you took it upon yourself to take our form, that we may see you as we saw ourselves. Then you died for us, sacrificing the purest life to ever grace this earth, that our debt to you may be washed away and our souls cleansed of their iniquity. And then, to prove that even Death could not hold you, you restored life to yourself and gave your followers a reason to believe, to hope. And when you finally had to depart, dearest Father, you promised to come once again in a different form at a different time, to help your children weather the storms of their harsh, cold world.  Of course the day you selected for your second arrival was not one of little importance. It was perfectly timed, a day that already held deep meaning for your first House, the House of the Star. Not satisfied to lay the foundations for your new House on a new day, you decided to do it on a day the old guard celebrated a gift you gave them at their birth. You decided to arrive on the day of the Pentecost. And while I cannot speak for the rest of your children Father, I think I understand exactly why you picked such a day for your grand entrance; as with most things you do it has its significance in the day’s history.

I know you have not forgotten but permit me to remind you. The children in Egypt had enslaved the Stars, and after giving them many chances to let them go (while simultaneously ensuring that their King would not take advantage of these chances) you showed your might, taking first-borns and parting seas, and you delivered your children safely from their clutches. And seeing your children lost in the desert, you decided to give them a Law, a law to guide and protect them, to light the way in times of extreme darkness and to distinguish them from the rest of your unsaved and apparently unloved children. And impressed with your works, as you were wont to be at that time in our history, you commanded that they commemorate this day with a feast, the Feast of Weeks, so named for the weeks that passed between their deliverance and the arrival of your Law.

Looking at the history of the Stars and the Crosses, it is rather evident that you enjoy repetition, dearest Father, for the birth of your newest and greatest House followed the exact same template as that of its predecessor. Eventually, for reasons as yet only discernible by you, the time came to spread your love to the rest of the world and you performed this duty with the requisite flair one has come to expect. You sent the Brother-Saviour, and in a series of events just as magnanimous as those surrounding the first Pentecost, you had him killed and resurrected and ascended, and then you sent once again a guide for your people, this time in the form of a spirit. His death was to deliver, just as the death of all those boys in ancient Egypt served to deliver your children then, and your spirit gave the new House purpose, just as the Law did for the children of the old one.

I must stress that as it was with the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice I appreciate the importance of today’s feast. The presence of the spirit is the only thing that gave courage to the early members of the House to go forth and spread your word. Children not originally in the House of the Star, such as myself, would never have heard about the Brother-Saviour and his wondrous sacrifice without the spirit, and some of us would never have had the privilege of being born into the House of the Cross. But as you can see, I am no longer in the House. I am a lost child, a wanderer, seeking that which would lead him home, and from my seat on the Outside I have but one very big question, Father: Why?

Do not mistake my query dearest Father; I am not asking why you sent the guide. That much is evident. The past few weeks have seen me list for you the troubles one such as myself has had with defining a concept as basic as truth. Every step of my journey has been plagued by the dangerous whisperings of my despised companion. While I doubt that the early children of the House had the very same issues that I do, I am quite certain they were beset with issues that at least bore a striking resemblance to mine. Doubt you see, is the parent of Fear, and it is well known that in those early days your disciples were quite afraid. Their meetings were secret, their ministry effectively non-existent. And it was only when your spirit arrived on this auspicious day, that they had not just the courage, but the ability, to go forth and spread the good news. The same goes for those early members of the still standing House of the Star. They were afraid, unsteady in their ignorance, surrounded by a land they did not know and presented with a purpose they could not understand. It was only with the guiding force of your perfect Law that they were able to progress.

So I understand why you sent the spirit. What I do not understand, dear Father, is why once again, there was a need for all of this. It has taken you two Houses and more than a thousand years to see your wishes for your children reach its zenith. In the first case, you had to craft resistance from the Egyptian King in order to show your might. You had to sacrifice all those boys so that all could know that you were Father among Fathers. And even this was not enough, for it was not done for all of us. You spent time and energy and (innocent) blood laying the foundations of the House of the Star, all the while knowing that eventually you would replace it with a new one by means of another death that, on some days, seems just as superfluous as the firsts.

Even on the topic of why you sent the spirit, Father, one has to wonder why your children, children of the greatest Father in all the world, are in need of a guide at all. We have a perfect Father, one that does not – cannot – Doubt, one that is as conversant with the ways of Sophia as any being in the entire universe can be. Your Book tells us that we were moulded from your hands, that our breaths come from your lips. And yet, we are so very different from you, so much weaker, so much less… Underneath all these events, purposeless they might seem, is a very important message, one that I find driven home time and time again in the mythos of the House: It is never enough to just deliver your children. Even after we are saved we are still lost; we have no clue what to with our freedom. Given time we will eventually find ourselves in the wilderness of confusion and we will need your guidance.  And looking upon the wondrous nature of the one that bore us, one has to ask why, Father, why?

I mentioned that whilst my former siblings celebrated I was filled with sorrow, reminded of how abandoned this child of yours truly is. For on this day it was not enough for me to realise that regardless of what I do, regardless of how perfect my Father is, I will always pale before him. No, your 13th apostle, in the celebration’s second reading, did me one better. He went ahead to say that not only would I always pale before you, but in order to partake of whatever joys I found lacking while I was in the House, in order to truly be in the House, I would need to be bestowed with your spirit, I would need the wondrous guidance of my perfect Father. I, the lowly being that I am, cannot do this on my own, and until you show me the way this immense journey I am undertaking is a useless, pointless one.

Again, dearest Father, I understand. I understand the need for guides. Blind men need help to navigate the world. Ignorant men need teachers. Those with poor hearing need aids, and those with poor sight need lenses. Where there is a deficiency, Father, there is need for a guide. And if there ever was a being so deficient, it is I. Sad and confused I left my home in search of truth, and I have been plagued by Doubt ever since. It is quite evident that I do not know the things I need to know to believe, for if I did I will not be lingering on the Outside. Every thought I have will not be so easily attacked and dissected by my winged companion. Every House outpost I meet will not be a source of sadness and envy. And yet if the man so filled with your spirit, so guided by your hand is to be believed, the only way I can break free of these chains, the only way my deficiencies can be vanquished, is if you give me your spirit. I do not have your spirit because I am confused. I cannot be unconfused without your spirit. And you, Grand Arbiter that you are, can decide – no, could have decided – at any moment to send this guide down to me. And yet you have not. And so I ask once again Father, why? Why have you not yet chosen to send this spirit? What purpose does my torture serve? And if the only ones that can be in the House are those you have elected to give your spirit, what does that say about the multitudes we are told are waiting on the Outside? What kind of Father, dearest Father, will refuse to guide his children? Like your sacrifice its circular nature defeats its purpose. For if only by your spirit can your children spread the word, and if only by your spirit can your children accept it, of what use is all that happens in between?

But even all these are not reason enough for the depth of my sadness today, Father. That responsibility lies, once again, with my dear, dear friend. For as I thought these thoughts he saw fit to whisper to me a terrible question: What kind of perfect Father is so distant he needs to send guides to help his children?

With a heavy heart,

Your Prodigal Son

P.S. This letter would probably reach you after the Pentecostal festivities are over. Please be understanding; it took quite a while to pen it.

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On Hearts, Hats and Minds

Dear Father,

In my last letter I attempted to define truth, to make the distinction between things that were true and things that were simply appealing. It was the latest in many attempts at permanently, or more effectively, silencing my companion, and while I may have declared victory as I finished the missive but a few weeks ago, I am sad to inform you that my triumph was rather short-lived.

You must not be surprised by this, dearest Father. As you know your children have very short memories. On a particularly busy day, attempting to recollect details of even routine and mundane tasks like breakfast can leave one pensive for minutes. While we are capable of displaying better skill with our memories when the situation demands it, we know that even the best of these memories is seldom a perfect record of events transpired. Our minds colour them with our personalities, focusing on the things that we deem important and pushing into irrelevancy things that we deem not. All but the very best of your children suffer from this, and oftentimes I am left wondering whether this flaw is by design, or whether it is a glitch in the otherwise perfect world you have made.

And so, not long after I had smugly agreed with Doubt as to the arbitrary nature of my rather long missive, my powerful convictions were all but wiped from my mind. I did not forget them entirely; my distinction between truth and arbitration remains an important one, if not to you or him, at least to me. I arrived at this distinction because of the pain and distrust Doubt has caused me since the day I met him; it is not one that would so easily go the way of my breakfast. Unfortunately, however, one of the side effects of the poor memories your children possess is that knowing in one’s mind that a thing is true does not always translate to knowing the same in one’s heart. Our short memories compel us to remember things by repetition; it is only by doing something over and over again that the strong (and still less than accurate) records we so desire may be formed and accumulated. And so while I may be able to reason wonderfully and come to great truths that would make gifted lovers of Sophie like Platocrates quite proud, the moment I turn from such musings to the mundane affectations of my life they are quickly forgotten, and Doubt is once again allowed to have his way with my mind.

It is at such moments I am reminded of how much I envy you, dearest Father. In much the same manner as Doubt is endemic to me and the rest of your children, he is foreign to you. Of course you must know of him, very well I dare say. But he does not possess you as he does me. This distinction, between knowing something and knowing of something, between knowing something in words but not in heart, is one that is very important, and unfortunately manifests itself in completely different ways in your children and yourself. After I had devised my new definitions for truth and arbitration, one can safely say that I knew of them, that I had the words in my mind. I could recall them with relative ease, and speak of them freely from memory. However, one cannot say that I knew them. I am far more intimate with Doubt, more comfortable with my old definitions of truth as that which makes sense or which feels right, than I am with the new and possibly more accurate distinctions between actual verified statements and simple arbitrations.

You can easily see why your children are really glaring statements of imperfection when placed alongside yourself. In order to know things, to remember them reflexively, we must learn them. We must train ourselves to see them in a certain way. And if these things are the wrong things, then we must spend time learning the right things and unlearning the wrong. Contrast this with yourself, Father, you that never has to learn anything. You know what you know. More importantly, the things you know are the right things and the things you know of are the “unright” ones. Because truth for you is a non-issue, your knowledge operates on a level far above ours. For example you know Sophia, very well in fact, in a way that no human ever will. But you must also know of not knowing Sophia, as the very act of knowing her is something that you made. You are always filled with certainty, but you know of Doubt, as once again Doubt’s very existence cannot be without your will. Very few of your children, both within the House and outside it, possess this skill, and when they do it is usually over a very small scope of trivial, lesser things. I cannot even count myself in their ranks, and so it should come as no surprise that Doubt is still fluttering about my head even after the bold discoveries listed in my last letter.

It seems to me that when I was uttering those statements, discovering those potential “truths”, I was of a certain mind. I, compelled by the pettiness of my companion, had temporarily discarded my normal way of thinking and had entered a new one, one that allowed me to view the world in a different manner and in so doing make different assumptions and arrive at different conclusions. There is a saying amongst your children that, to me, describes this perfectly: “Put your thinking cap on”. It is a statement that enjoins the listener to pause a moment and think deeply on an issue, to pull from his mind a rich vat of knowledge and reason and inspect it carefully so as to reach a desired conclusion. Perhaps then whenever your children think on things we would not normally consider, in ways that we would not normally use, we are putting our thinking hats on. (I personally consider hats to be much cooler than caps, hence the personalisation of the phrase). We are wearing these things over our heads that force us to consider the world from a certain perspective, to forget, temporarily, what we already know and consider more deeply the things we only know of. The thinking hat, in its various shapes and forms, changes the very nature of our minds. Unfortunately we do not – cannot – always wear these hats, and the moment we take them off the knowledge in our hearts, carefully cultivated and grown from years of reinforcement, takes hold of us once more.

It seems then that in order to unlearn wrong things and learn the right ones we must wear our thinking hats as often as possible, each hat suited for a different kind of inquiry. The Hat of Truth, for example, will allow me to consider what is true and what is not, as I did in my last letter, while the Hat of Reason may help me distil the pure nature of logic and reasoning from the all too common mixtures of fallacies…

Much as I felt at the end of my last letter, dearest Father, I very much like this conclusion. It is inevitable that whatever immediate victories I gain against Doubt would be short-lived, but by wearing my wonderful hats as often as possible it is not farfetched to believe that I may come to discern truths strong enough to dispel the pesky fellow. I may come to know in my heart, as much as in my mind, what is true and what is not, and by so doing make my triumphs more permanent.

Of course postulating on the nature of hats and truths implies that I must be wearing the Hat of Hats and the Hat of Truth at the same time, and while this imagery certainly calls the efficacy of this metaphor into question, I humbly request, dear Father, that you look the other way. I am but a little child in a strange forest, very far from home. Allow me, in this one case, to be a Small Arbiter, and to have my varied hats when I can.

With a thinking hat,

Your Prodigal Son

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