The omnipotence paradox in the philosophy of religion is meant to be a logical exploration of what makes sense to say of a being who is all-powerful (a primary requisite of godhood for classical theism). Different versions of this are something like, “Can God create a stone so heavy God can’t lift it?” Or, “Can God create a burrito so hot that even God can’t eat it?” Continue reading
“Or if on joyful wing Cleaving the sky
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, Upward I fly…”
–Sarah F. Adams, “Nearer My God to Thee”
“Carry on, the night”
Carry on, the night
and without the stars
in this telestial blackened ruin.
But I will lie here and trace the constellations.
Carry on, the night
and without the moon
in this terrestrial lonely crater.
But I will sit here and pull the tides.
Carry on, the night
and without the sun
and the sure comfort of its gravity
Yet by casting shadows it decided
What I cannot and cannot see
No, I will stand here.
In the crushing darkness, full and mighty and without stars.
I will stand.
I will be the light.
Waiting for the Light.
So carry on, the night.
We are experts at measuring the distance of fathers
And weighing the lightness of mothers.
When fathers quarter the distance
We clasp our hands in pride
Like seeing a baby walk a few steps
Without the aid of the sofa.
When they halve the distance we parade in the streets
Burden our shoulders with their heaviness
And declare the goodness of men.
Men are good, we dutifully remind ourselves
A necessary magical incantation
To keep civilization in perpetual motion.
Say it as if your throat is clutching a rosary
Say it to keep the beasts away
And the darkness at bay.
But men ARE good
At least most of them some of the time
And some of them most of the time
Though a few of them none of the time
And none of them all of the time.
Little known fact: Atlas was a woman
A mother, to be precise, so it is assumed
Among those who know.
Only the earth did not rest upon her shoulders
The weight of the world on shoulders–
That’s a man-shaped burden.
No, the earth made contact with every cell of skin
An entire body to bear its endless spin.
But we demanded that any body
That touched the entire earth be light;
Bodies of light that are light
And God said let there be light
And so came the earth
Held up by light.
But how bodies of light that are light
Can bear mountains and oceans
And cities and wars and darkest night
And every depth and height
And every kind of heaviness and history
And that anonymously?
Unless such bodies are not light
Unless such beings are more and less than bodies
More and less than mothers
But we desire light.
And say with reverence and grave solemnity
Echoing the order of eternity
That, gloriously alone, a sacrifice of gods
Men will shoulder night.
And that’s the story
Of how women became mothers and bodies
And men became fathers and shoulders
Of how men carry
But women bear.
And if heaven is a true reflection
Of earthly versions of love and care
Then how can I not shake and tremble
If I’ve a Mother or Father there.
I don’t own a single gun
But if I did I would let you hold it
Point it at me loaded
Not because I trust you
I don’t trust you, I’m sorry
But because I would really like to
Find out who I really am.
“There Is No Escape From the Eternal Family”
By Elder Friedrich Nietzsche
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
This past summer I was entrapped into spending a week with my family and extended relatives. I was informed that there would be poetry readings and plans to attend concerts and the theater. To my naive delight, my sister even told me we would take in a boxing match. As you know, I consider boxing to be the manliest of sports. One man, alone without aid in the ring of life, nakedly defiant, swinging his fists at an uncaring and unfeeling universe, represented in a human, all too human opponent. To stand over that opponent, his bloodshot eyes gazing up vacantly at you, his spirit crushed by your mutinous despair, his soul so haunted and broken that later you find it unremarkable that he took his own life at the first opportunity–there is no feeling that compares to such a moment of triumphant exultation, that feeling of not just destroying a life but annihilating Life itself. Continue reading
We thought our faces would be enough
But these perfect masks never slip
and we never see each other’s eyes
We thought the law would be enough
But its infinite exceptions stripped it bare
leaving a people divided and broken
Relegating oneness to rote demonstrations of loyalty
We thought that doctrine would be enough
to take care of the exceptions the law could not bear
But instead it exiled grace to another world
We thought that time would be enough
We would wait until we evolved and could wash the clay out of our eyes
But the world around us changed and the unwashed clay hardened into masks
And cemeteries continue as the counting houses of our change
We thought that love would be enough
Surely love would be enough
Is not love the essence of everything we believe?
But we turned all things–all words, all actions, all
intentions, all hopes–into love and affirmed that it
was the greatest of all and could not fail
And at our clinical distance
When it failed we could see nothing but victory
Faces were not enough
The Law was not enough
Doctrine was not enough
Time was not enough
Love was not enough
Unless these are not our faces
Unless this is not the Law
Unless this is not our doctrine
Unless time has not run out
And this is not true love
I wouldn’t call it an addiction to social media, not exactly. Certainly there are senses in which addiction is accurate, but it’s not the whole picture. Social media isn’t giving me a high like it once did. It maxed itself out, used itself up. Now I’m sucking on its corpse, trying in vain to drain it of life fluids that are no longer there. It’s more that social media has me locked in a death grip downward spiral. Even when there’s nothing to see anymore I go back again and again. I have ADHD (whatever the hell that means) but it’s more than that. I go back because at one point it was a home to return to. Now it’s a familiar graveyard, an empty house at the end of the street, but I keep going back in a panic, full of anxiety that I’ll miss out on something, that my virtual “family” is doing something in my absence. And they are. Of course. They never stop. There’s always a brother or cousin or uncle having an adventure or getting arrested or posting vacation photos. I mean, the only way I know about anything in the world is through social media. I don’t have TV for anything other than Netflix, so when I turn off social media, I literally shut out the entire world. I’m dependent on it for nearly everything I know about the wider world.
I used to read a lot more than I do now. It’s hard to spend a consistently long amount of time on a piece of writing without feeling compelled to check my phone, see what happened when I was away for four and a half minutes. I’m now in various stages of progress with about 12 books, but I won’t finish any of them, I’ll just add more as my attention gets more stretched and taxed and interrupted. I think I’ve lost the capacity to savor the world around me, to listen, to hear things in the silences, to read and read and then write and write, to organize and plan and stick to the plan, enrich flesh and blood relationships, to just bloody think for longer than 10 seconds. I read somewhere that ridding ourselves of social media doesn’t seem wise; we should instead learn how to manage it better. That sounds wise, but for someone who so easily drowns himself in it, I’m becoming convinced that mature management isn’t possible. For some of us these are two different worlds and until we can figure out how to create a balance, we’ll have to choose one of them.
I’ve never been so false as I have on social media (really, just Facebook). Not lying per se, just hyper-curated. And so is everyone else. Everyone is there in this stream of illicit eliciting. It’s not even necessary to have genuine interactions (with avatars of people, not people, hard to remember/believe that). If your post gets a few dozen silent likes (or loves or hahas or wows) you find yourself satisfied for 5 seconds and then immediately wanting more. But you weren’t communicating, you were being adored. You were reveling in adoration and silent applause. Comments are good too, but they don’t pack the purity of likes. Comments are like diluted heroin. And negative comments? Forget about it. I want my saying to be agreed with, to impress and inspire and amaze. Here are my children, or photos from a recent social gathering (aren’t you jealous I was with so and so?) and this victory and this defeat (please show me how sad you are thank you that feels better) and this mountain of trivial annoyances I’ll complain about endlessly and you’ll agree with me, they’re damn annoying. I just saw the most recent movie of the moment, let me share my experience with you, share share share share everything, everything except for those large swaths of my life that are too ordinary or dark to share, which constitute most of my life, but here’s this sliver of life that will represent all of my life and here’s this impassioned plea for activism or this angry rant, and this isn’t about me though it’s on my wall under my name, this is about this cause or that person or this principle or that value and even though we’re all sick together in this traffic-heavy virtual village of eternally unsated egos, let’s pretend we’re okay and other people are sick, so come on let’s crush this person over here and form a mob against that one over there but we’re not murderers or destroyers, we’re Serious Doers of Justice and Justice will be Done on Social Media and we will feel triumphant and treat one another to another round of likes as a reward. And people will love us and we will feel relieved every time that blue page comes up, like a childhood home that comes into view after being away for a long time and what’s new, what can I like, what issue needs my street-wise expertise, how clever can I be today, just love my my avatar and I’ll love yours and we’ll promise to help one another believe being everything is okay as long as we’re all here, and eventually everything we do will be an excuse to parade our avatars in front of other avatars (if it isn’t already) and the meaning of life will become whatever can be shared and especially whatever can accrue the most likes. Our biggest regret will be that we’ll never get to see all the sad emojis lavished on photos of our funerals.
And God said let there be…
Let it all be
And so God let it go
Let it live
Let it alone
Let it move on
Let it take its place
Let it find itself
God gave it up
Gave it over
Gave it space
Gave it to itself
Though God stayed rooted to the spot
Planted in the desert and the deep
Fingers brushing over the wind-bent tares
Brow sweating, lungs heaving, shoulders trembling
As it went where it listed
Did as it willed
Loved or hated
Hurt or healed
Let it go
Let it fall
Let it be
There is God–a Sisyphus of stillness?
An Atlas of forbearance?
A Prometheus of self-restraint?
God could not direct its hunger
Nor forge its path
Nor carve its fate into tablets of stone
God is not muscle
God is no army
God is no hero
God knows that if God could have God would have
But leave it, clinging to itself?
Hollowed out by ravenous emptiness?
Abandoned it to its self-devouring?
A gift disavowed and discarded?
So God let herself be
And so loved the world
That God let himself go
A presence in every unspeakable moment
For Love is nothing but presence
If, then, God is love–
A terrifying “if” in any given moment on this Love-blasted rock–
Then if God is not here God is not anywhere
And here is to be rooted in the soil-less soil
A tree in the desert
An island in the deep
In every terrible moment, deciding anew, again and again —
Let it be
Let it go
Let there be light.
“How Can We Be Sisters If We Are Not Yet Women?”
By Simone de Beauvoir
Relief Society General President
Welcome one and all. As females we are gathered from all corners of the Earth to listen to what I hope will be a message of inspiration and wisdom. Though all of us are females, many of us have not yet become women. And still less can claim to be, in fact, sisters. My dear fellow vessels of the XX chromosome, one is not born a woman, and one does not take upon herself the title of “sister” without undertaking the requisite work that would legitimately grant such a title.
In James Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular–his interpretive summary of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age–he notes that, while the causes and reasons for a loss of faith or belief are numerous, most people who embrace scientific materialism over religion do so because of the story science tells more than because of scientific evidence per se. In other words, the form is what really matters, not the content. It’s not so much that scientific materialism is now true and religion has become false (where before it was the reverse). For many formerly religious people, the narrative that scientific materialism gives them feels mature, sophisticated, adult, and, most importantly, courageous. People that feel particularly infantilized by their religion will especially find this narrative appealing. Of course, religion needn’t be inherently infantilizing, but religions with rigid authoritarian structures that require high levels of loyalty and obedience are often experienced by their adherents as parental and controlling. Defenders of the status quo frequently respond that obedience is actually liberating because it helps one to avoid the pitfalls of freedom run amok, but the more obedience = liberty is insisted upon, the weaker the formulation feels, because it has to be repeated over and over again, as if it cannot stand on its own two rationally persuasive feet. Everywhere else obedience to authority is oppressive and stultifying, and freedom should be fought for and maintained; except, of course, here, on this one exceptional patch of ground, where paradoxically the more obedient and submissive you are to authority, the more liberated you supposedly become.
I mention this because I think there’s a good bit of truth to the notion that organized religion’s need to distinguish itself from non-religion often results in producing adults who come to realize that they feel like they never grew up, that they never became true citizens of the world. This isn’t because various forms of worldly abstinence are inherently childish or arbitrary, as if becoming an adult is synonymous with lasciviously experimenting with everything religion told you to shun as evil, but because they come to realize how simplistic and servile their faith has to be in order to maintain good standing in their communities. Instead of being an affirmative response to uncertainty and injustice, a fidelity to people and truths, faith becomes both a test of belief in supernatural things with no verifiable evidence and obedience to the words of fellow humans who by definition are prone to error and ignorance themselves.