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Unless Someone Explains It To Me

June 12, 2006

A few Sundays ago, I was reminded of a fundamental truth that has informed my spiritual and philosophical outlook my entire adult life: the need for humility in order to grow in wisdom. The passage was from Acts 8:26-35:

26Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a]eunuch,
an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen
of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."

30Then
Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the
prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.

31"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

I remember sitting under a tree on the USC campus some 20 years ago when an important thought hit me. At the time I was immersed in classics of Western thought (Plato, Dante) but also surveying Eastern religions (I thought I might make a good Buddhist). To top it off, I also was very much enjoying my third reading Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. All the wisdom of the history of the world seemed spread out before me. Then it occurred to me: I am probably not going to invent any new strain of thought. I will not found any religion. If I am ever going to believe something, it will be the fruit of many intelligent people throughout time, handed down to me- at least in part. I must examine more closely the faith traditions of the world.

Today, on Trinity Sunday, I was again reminded of the beautiful mystery of our Triune God, three persons in one being. God is not the supreme individual, He is three of them, never alone, yet one God.

If morality is conforming our nature to that of God’s, how do we imitate him in this regard? By not only attending to our personal morality and growth in Christ, but by seeking out and joining with others that can work towards completing the work He has started in us.

Last week I joined the Anglican church after several years of anguished wandering after my nearly faith-crushing rejection by the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. God Bless ’em, but it became clear that I needed some other body of believers to get me where God was taking me.

Church is not the only place where you need help finding your way. All of life is enhanced by seeking the wisdom of those that have gone before you.

This is why I have spoken out recently against certain forms of so-called "independent thinking": I have come to believe that not much of it truly exists. In the search for "authenticity" we have come to trust too much in that thought and feeling that wells up from us as if it was solely generated by our own effort. Nothing, my friends, could be further from the truth. Yes, we feel it and think it- no one more than myself. I have often remarked that I "have loud thoughts". Feelings, not so much, although I have come to trust my gut much more than when I was younger. But I’ve come to see the person as I am- a quirky and uniquely flawed individual – as much the product of my mentors and environment as the result of my personal effort to cultivate originality. There is also a Spirit inside me at work that I am occasionally dimly aware of, and can take no credit for.

I have long prided myself on my superior tastes- especially in friends, dear readers- but my two-decade sojourn in the Church has shown me if nothing else that I am like other men- to my detriment, but also to my great comfort and joy. I have striven to strip myself of all elitism, especially in my creative life, but also in my politics. I am no doubt woefully short of my goal, but I sense that this work may begin to develop fruit again in the not-to-distant future. In a most original way, I assure you.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 14, 2006 4:55 am

    A fine post. Thanks.

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