Friday, February 4, 2011

My Doubt, My Threat, My Appetite

The band Jimmy Eat World wrote a song that I'm in love with: "My Best Theory", from their album "Invented". A brief snippet of the song goes:

"My doubt seems fine/
My true desire/
My threat/
My appetite"

Outstanding lyrics.

Doubt is many things. It is my annihilation. It is my preservation.

Doubt erodes, a steady stream of questioning which removes the face of well-worn notions, and it sculpts a new impression in old surfaces.

Doubt in its own nature embodies the biggest and most substantial conflict we know of: the chasm between permanence and stability, and change and chaos.

Every human being is a product of change. We originate as embryos, progressing through many stages, until a fully-grown adult form is realized. Each facet of our physical body is in flux: a multitude of cells appear and die each day within our body. Each facet of our consciousness and personality changes, too: throughout our interactions with other humans, we are molded and crafted in accordance with our fellow human beings. Their being is ours.

We depend on change to sustain us. If the seeds for our crops remain seeds, then we die. If the water which feeds many of our reservoirs remains snow or ice, then we die. If the rain which waters the crops remains water vapor in the sky, then we die.

Is it really true that we look for things to stay the same? We are surely blind to the immense changes which surround us in their exquisite insignificance.

We owe everything we have to change, but we seek to ground our lives in eternal truths. To doubt these truths, to chip away at them, is a betrayal of the truths towards which we aim. Our lives are bigger than this trivial nonsense. "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter", such great religious authorities as Yoda from Star Wars inform us.

Yet what exactly are we considering when we ponder these eternal truths? Our messages and teachings come to us from specific historical eras, and specific cultural contexts. Is it really appropriate to allow the message of Jesus, for example, to remain stale for two thousand years, when he castigated the religious leaders of his day for allowing the laws to become stale within their own hearts?

We humans express our knowledge and our truth through what we actively partake. We partake the body and the blood of truth, when we speak its voice for our times, when we allow our own doubts to refine and distill our beliefs and our values.

Doubt threatens to undo everything, but doubt also allows us to remember everything. Doubt allows us to exercise our faith, to propel ourselves upward, to participate again in the sacred enterprise - we are captivated by it and refreshed by it. We remember. We remember both why we believe now, and why we believed in the first place.

Certainty cannot exist without doubt, nor without change: for if we do not doubt, if we do not risk the possibility of change, then we forget why we are certain in the first place. When we forget to doubt, then we lose ourselves entirely. Our own desire for certainty enables change to erase ourselves: we become clean on the outside, but rotten within. Oh, you hypocrites, you brood of vipers...

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