10 November 2007

Philosophy Non-class

Not much to report from class itself, as we closed up with the gospel on Monday, had a test on Wednesday, and just started philosophical religion on Friday. The test wasn't too bad. We had five essay topics and had to write on two of them. Hopefully my handwriting was legible enough... On the chalkboard, I've gotten pretty good at legibility. On paper...well...

The first question I wrote on was discussing the roles of earth and sky in modern religions. Sky is seen as the distant creator god. Earth is seen as the more accessible mother goddess. Generally speaking; there are cultures who reverse the genders. I mainly took it in terms of abstraction vs. tangibility. The sky aspects are hard to get hold of, while the earth ones are more immediate and tangible.

The second gave a list of figures we'd discussed and had us compare any two of them. The list was Taoist Sage, Krishna, Hebrew Prophet and Jesus. Dr. Levenson had used Krishna as a contrast to Christ several times, so I didn't want to write on those. That left Hebrew Prophet and Taoist Sage. Mainly I discussed their differing personalities with regard to their respective deities (or views of deity). Short version: the Hebrew prophet is antagonistic and angry, belittling to his people, and foreseeing a bad outcome unless they mend their ways; the Taoist Sage is calm and self-effacing, aware of when the people fall short, and guiding them without forcing them. The Taoist Sage acts in such a way that people will believe they have figured things out for themselves. Revelation is rather antithetical to this.


On Friday, Jen and I discussed suffering and pain some more. I get the impression she's had a rough life, based on the few specific details she's mentioned. Dr. Levenson had given her a sheet of notes that he thought she might find interesting, and we went over it together. One of the first ideas that came up is this notion that depression is something people can just "get over." Poof. Snap. Done. Bull. I can say with certainty that no one who thinks that has ever been clinically depressed, and Jen was right with me on that. Worse, it's almost considered taboo to admit to depression. You should soldier on, grin and bear it, etc.

Depression is...pain. Near-constant pain. Sometimes it disappears for a few minutes, and then when it returns it seems that much worse for the respite. Occasionally it dulls to numbness and that's worse. It's possible to function through the pain, but the numbness numbs you to everything, making it hard to care about anything at all. Getting things done when you don't give a damn is damn near impossible. Finding a way out is even harder. There, the pain is much preferable; it gives you an impetus to find a way out. I found my own way out, but I would bet that there are plenty of people who are incapable of doing so without help.


Then there was a philosophy club meeting discussing religion. Dr. Levenson set us to finding a definition of religion that included all the things that we might describe as religions, excluded the things that we didn't want included, and that also hit at the very essence of religion. Not surprisingly we didn't come to any sort of consensus. Interestingly, there were a rather wide range of backgrounds: Presbyterian; Jewish; LDS; ex-Muslim; Taoist (me); eastern mystic; ex-Catholic a few other non-identified Christians; a possible atheist (from the philosophy department; equally possible he was just arguing to argue); and a few others that I couldn't place based on their comments. The closest thing we found to an axiom was the idea of focusing on something eternal, be it eternal life, salvation, bliss, freedom, utopia, etc.

I'm running out of steam, so I'll close this rather rambling post now. I'm sure there's plenty I left out, but if I wait until I get it all in, this post will never get posted.

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