Monday, May 12, 2008

Answering "Why?"

Above: part of Palo Duro Canyon, in the Texas Panhandle

I have searched, much, for the answer to "Why"?

C.S. Lewis explains the Christian answer to "Why?" in "Mere Christianity" (paraphrasing): each of us has a supernatural, guiding sense of right and wrong. Lewis:
"There is more than one kind of reality;... there is something above and beyond ... which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us."[1]
"a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears to me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong."[2]
I shall stop Lewis' argument, here, for now. There is a longer conversation which further defines Lewis' assertion about the supernatural sense, and which delineates such sense from impulse, and from cultural mores. I shan't open that conversation now. I will say: even when that conversation is opened at the logical level at which C.S. Lewis opens it, how each person ultimately answers the question is not about logic, but rather is about spirituality and faith.


This was my my sense - growing up - of my family's beliefs: we did not believe what we could not see, touch, and/or scientifically verify. We did not believe in ghosts, extra sensory perception, chakras, energy fields, auras, demon possessions, exorcisms, healings, or any other tripe - including that God personally moves or communicates with regular people as they go through their days. Our family motto could've been: The Lord helps those who help themselves. The End. Maybe my brothers and my parents remember differently. I am only saying this was my sense of things.

Later, when I searched, much, for the answer to "Why?": I conducted a logical search - devoid of spirituality. My logical search was hopeless. "Why?" cannot be answered - to my satisfaction, at least - at a logical level. I was able to shoot down (with logic) every logical answer I temporarily hoped might answer the question. The question can only be answered at a spiritual level, aka at a supernatural level.

I sought out "Mere Christianity" (227 short pages; $11.95) because so many persons recommended it as a clear and powerful explanation of why Christians believe as we do. I join those persons in recommending the book. Whether or not you ever become a Christian, you will gain a better understanding of Christian belief from the book(which is adapted from a series of BBC radio lectures Lewis gave during WWII, when he was teaching at Oxford). It's valuable to fully understand what the wacky Christians believe.


This post was prompted by a Mother's Day comment from my Mother-in-Law-in-Law: Jewel. Her comment was directed, warmly and lovingly, to me and my son(Jake): "I know Jake's going to make something of himself", she said.

Jewel is one of those soft-spoken Texas ladies with big hair, perfect make-up, and an iron will. I love those ladies, and I love Jewel - even though I am still getting to know her fully. Jewel is the mother of the new husband of Jake's mother. So, we are family. My Mother-in-Law-in-Law, sort of.

Anyway, when Jewel said "I know Jake's going to make something of himself", I thought to myself ... well, first I thought:
"Make something of himself" is not the perspective I would most ideally choose as motivation, but, close enough(!)
and second I thought:
For the first time, I know exactly why Jake is going to make something of himself: he has a spiritual sense of right and wrong which will guide and encourage him! If he doesn't do right, he will feel responsible and uncomfortable.

Always before, if Jewel had said this, I would've wondered "But, WHY is he going to make something of himself?" Now, for the first time, I truly know the answer!
This post was also prompted b/c I have yet to speak of this with Jake. Therefore, if I am killed, tomorrow, by a sequence of unforeseen and seemingly random and coincidental bad luck events: at least Jake can read this post and then receive a hint of why he is going to make something of himself(!), just in case he doesn't already know.

This was additionally prompted by the prudence of dry running any potential conversational characterization of C.S. Lewis' writings(in case I survive tomorrow, and eventually have this conversation with Jake). I understand things better if I write them out. "Spiritual sense of right and wrong" does not easily leap to the front of my consciousness, and thence off of my tongue.

Just tonight, I failed to quickly explain the characteristics of extreme narcissism. The listener was clueless. I therefore blundered through an expanded explanation, and ... disaster. Conversational Titanic. So, maybe narcissism will be a future post. Can it be cogently described in 15 words? 50 words? 125 words?

Shall I go back - for your benefit - and reduce this post to 15 words, or to 50 words, or to 125 words? Heck no! I'm too sleepy to go back now! You are out of luck. Hitting "Publish Post"...

[1] Book 1, Chapter 3; pg 20 of HarperCollins Edition 2001(paperback)
[2] Book 1, Chapter 4; pg 25 of HarperCollins Edition 2001(paperback)

No comments: