Lots of good thoughts from everyone, all inspired by a fictional tale. But … I thought only nonfiction or “historical narrative” could shed true light upon our human plight. And we haven’t even made it to the end yet. Praying for a positive outcome to your surgery, and that it actually comes off this time. Otherwise, a sleeping pill wasted.
Maybe if more were like you fewer people would feel inadequate about their faith and quit? Perhaps it would have been exactly the right profession? Do you give people what they want to hear or what is good for them to hear? Must be a tough row to hoe though.
I’m so glad I took medical school rather than seminary. I couldn’t imagine being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and having my popularity wane or increase based on what people thought of my every move.
The eagle has landed. The operation seems to have gone well. Having been 20 hours since I last ate the food was amazing. I sat up to eat and find myself sneaking in pre-op exercises but they want me to wait to get up until my wife arrives. So eager to step on it!
Thank you and everyone here for the well wishes and prayers. You guys are are the best.
Phil I hope your wife’s procedure went well.
*Edited to say, without prolliferating my own derailment, I’m glad your wife’s procedure also went well … and to add that my new knee had no trouble at all with the physical therapist at the hospital or in going up my flight of stairs at home. But my doctor made it clear that my job is to use it the bare minimum and doing no more than the two exercises indicated on a pamphlet the number of times indicated, at least until a visiting physical therapist or he ok’d doing more. So I’ll use the urinal jar they provided and only get up to use the toilet for solid matters, which may not be often given the amount of meds I’m taking. But I also have meds for constipation. My poor wife has been a trooper and putting the dogs in and out and feeding them and me will probably be a good test of whether our 37 year marriage has real potential to endure.
Well I dragged it out as long as I could, partially because I have a hard time saying goodbye to a good book but also because taking two Oxycodone pills at night tends to put one out pretty quick. Lots of thoughts and ideas about the story but not a good project to begin when the time has come to drop off. Soon @Jay313.
But I’ve got to say how much I love my new knee. Barely had any need of a walker. My biggest challenge will be getting more flexion from that knee. I could straighten it immediately and that probably is most important for mobility. My doctor motivated me on our video call this past Monday. I’m cutting down on the Oxycodone to every eight hours with an extra one at night. Every week I’ll cut that down by one more. But the stretching exercises I do five times a day. Tedious but I really like walking so the ball is in my court now.
Just need to see if there are any specific quotes I’ll want to share before I return it. I liked it very much. The Owen Meany character is a little out there but still profoundly interesting. But not so far out there as the characters in Irving’s The World According To Garp. But Cider House Rules remains my favorite of his books so far and the main character in that story, Homer Wells, is one of my favorite characters in any book. Only Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment leaps to mind as an exception.
I’ll have to read Cider House Rules one day. Saying A Prayer for Owen Meany was one of my favorite books doesn’t mean I thought it was a perfect story. Don’t hold back. Looking forward to your summary when the Oxy wears off.
I liked it very much. I’ve been thinking about what to say about the ideas it stirs up.
Does everything happen for a reason? Obviously Owen believes that but I’m not sure that our narrator Johnny does. While he does come to believe enough to claim the Christian moniker in the end, I’m not so sure Johnny will ever believe in predestination. [BTW - am I right in thinking predestination is an optional Christian belief, unlike the resurrection?]
From my own POV, I wouldn’t say everything happens for a purpose. But I’m tempted to say anything that comes to our attention, anything that shows up in a dream, any memory that is triggered or flash of insight may happen for a reason. While I don’t believe there is any grand puppet master orchestrating it all, I can believe that my silent partner in consciousness can effect all those things. With a far greater bandwidth of consciousness and with better insight into what I really need than is always available to me, it can manipulate my attention pre-consciously to help me find the best path. So I think there is a basis for paying attention to such things, not in lieu of conscious deliberation but in addition to that. It isn’t “things” which happen for a reason, but what is brought to our attention which may be.
The other idea I found interesting was the role of miracles in coming to believe. Was it Owen or Johnny that said the most miraculous thing is that he actually does believe. (Must have been Owen.) That in itself is miraculous for any of us in that it goes against the common sense we bring to bear in all other matters in our lives. At some point one of them -probably Owen- disparaged television ministers with their trumped up miracles. People’s faith shouldn’t depend on such things and certainly not on phony miracles.
I find myself agreeing with them. It is miraculous that anything should lead any of us to believe that there is more going on than our common sense can deal with. We’re not alone in whatever it is that is going on. And no matter what problem we are trying to solve there are resources not under our direct control which may intercede on our behalf. The only place I disagree with Christians here is on the extent of the resources that are available, I don’t think they are limitless. I also don’t think they should be relied on. What we can do, we should do. But for what we cannot do, there can be help.
There are some quick strokes to begin with. I’ve got to feed the pups and pick up our own grub next door so I’ll stop there. What did you like most about the book, Jay?
You highlighted most of the themes. I enjoyed it as funny, tragic, and most of all thought-provoking. Like I said way back when, the book is a meditation on fate. I’ll try to avoid total spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read it, but consider this fair warning. On your BTW, predestination is a Calvinist belief, which Reformed Christians almost universally hold. Catholics, Orthodox, and probably half the Protestant denominations don’t agree with predestination, so yes, it’s optional.
I identify with both Owen and Johnny. Owen in the sense that many seemingly insignificant things I’ve done and experienced in the course of my life suddenly become important at some later point. Not everything had a purpose, but little is wasted in God’s economy.
Mostly I identify with Johnny, though. Like many, I struggle with doubt and unresolved questions, but I have experienced things that render it impossible for me to abandon my faith. Nothing as dramatic as the basketball dunk, but you have to suspend a little disbelief in a story, particularly one by Irving. I have no explanation for why God has given me an experiential “ground” for faith and denied it to others who may fervently pray for some sort of revelation. Part of the mystery, I guess.
I agree. God is not a puppet master, but he does provide signposts along the way.
Right. I believe it was Pascal who said people mistake their imagination for their heart; they believe they’re converted as soon as they think of changing their ways. haha.
God is not a puppet master, but he’s also not a puppet doing our bidding. Those whose faith depends on God constantly “blessing” them for saying the right words/doing the right thing/following the right “formula” are in for a rude awakening.
One of my heroes in the faith, George Muller, started a series of orphanages as an experiment to prove the power of prayer. He never directly asked anyone for a penny. Yet even he counseled to work and to pray without ceasing. He never presumed upon God. Those who say to “let go and let God” are simply wrong. God is limitless and can supply our every need, but that would be as detrimental as a parent who showers everything upon a child and never teaches them a work ethic or personal responsibility. We are still children learning the ways of God.
Yes. Faith is a miracle, not a product of human effort.
Same. I haven’t signed on to any body of understanding on the basis of my experience. But it is sufficient that I could never doubt that there is more going on within than I can take credit for and, whatever it may be, it is wiser about what matters in life and knows me better than I do myself.
It seems to me that you have more to struggle with since, over and above what you’ve experienced to be true, you have the authority of the Bible to contend with. I suspect in transcendent moments meanings do not come in out of the blue. Instead what we’ve been reading and understanding in a more detached, intellectual way takes on a more vibrant reality. If one has been reading the Bible and thinking about what it means, then that would be what becomes illuminated. I can imagine that if everything that took on that significance came from the same source (the Bible), there would be a strong impulse to view the entire book as containing the power to speak to you in the same way. Of course for most of us those moments are transient and the words that lit up with meaning before eventually just go back to laying on the page as before. The particular words weren’t really as important as the meaning they could convey in those special moments of clarity and openness. It is all rather mysterious from the point of view of our ordinary minds.
There is a passage in Tom Robbins Still Live With Woodpecker which talks about the longing many feel for those heightened states, although he ostensibly is talking about the difficulty of making romantic love last. I’ve probably shared this here somewhere but I like it enough to share it again.
When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It’s that simple. This suggests that it isn’t love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstacy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of mystery to stand still. Yet it’s always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
Everything is part of it.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
While that is a little whimsical, perhaps one shouldn’t pine too much for the connection. In the end, life is parallel play with a silent partner and you just have to carry out your part knowing you are never truly alone.
I think that’s all I’ve got for tonight but I’ll look back soon to see what I may have missed.
Not that you asked for my rationale, but I trust the collective human experience more than I trust my own when it comes to spiritual matters and ultimate reality. In other words, I’m not smart enough or spiritual enough to figure everything out on my own. I’ve also run into too many do-it-yourself religionists, and their ideas are mostly kooky. The philosopher Gadamer viewed tradition as a sort of lens that filtered good ideas from bad. (That doesn’t mean all traditions are good. Segregation was an American tradition for most of our history.) Religious traditions have existed for many millennia, and the course of history has left only a few standing. Of course, I’m the final judge of what makes the most sense to me, so here’s my view. Hinduism/Buddhism, if true, means the loss of individual personality, which I can’t distinguish from the end of existence as in atheism/materialism. That’s not a hopeful thought to me either way. Among the remaining religious traditions, only one has Jesus. There you have it.
Interesting thoughts. Transcendence is indeed fleeting, but Christian spirituality isn’t limited to Bible reading. In my experience, those moments of transcendence/clarity come more often through prayer, contemplation of nature, and even the words of a friend. Your larger point is still valid, though. Meanings don’t drop out of the blue. Wittgenstein saw the task of philosophy as “making connections.” When one’s view of God becomes saturated with the gospels, prophets, and apostles, the connections to one’s life experience become easy to make.
Romantic love is as fleeting as transcendence. Sooner or later, you have to get down to the dirty business of living with someone day in and day out. The first time you walk in on your partner taking a dump, the mystery is gone. haha. The same goes for living with God. It’s not always a mountaintop, and to expect such is infatuation, not love.
Well that is very generous of you to offer it anyway. (It would have seemed presumptuous for me ask so thanks.) It isn’t a choice I could make but I don’t disparage you for going all in for Christianity. It is a time honored choice and the tradition I am most familiar with. Even though I don’t read the Bible it is the tradition which has most infused our culture.
I’ve never felt that any tradition was just plain wrong. But choosing just one to accept carte blanche would seem to require rejecting all the others, and I’m not smart enough to make that judgement. But more and more, I don’t think it matters. The one that connects you with the something more there is to us beyond the narrowly personal, that which we appeal to in reflection, is probably the best choice. Given my aversion for rejecting all the others, I prefer to sample from each tradition I encounter and see what rings true. But, from my point of view, if every tradition is true in part, then none is completely and literally true, Jesus or no Jesus. Your criteria are your criteria and I don’t claim to have the answer, but I like the path I’m on. If you feel the same then good for us.
I would agree. The various faith traditions represent the cumulative experience of humanity. Many Christians would disagree, but choosing to become a Christian doesn’t mean you must reject every spiritual insight offered by other people and other religions. I can’t accept the basic Buddhist concept that “all is illusion,” but that doesn’t mean I must reject every thought that Buddha and all his followers have had as wrong. I gain insights from Rumi, the 12th century Sufi mystic, as well as Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God).
As in math, some incorrect answers are closer to correct than others. All traditions have more or less of ultimate “truth” in them, but I throw out Jesus for a simple reason. He claims to be the human representation of the character of God, and I find that representation compelling. He is not a detached, ultimate “force” or ground of being who is unconcerned with our plight. Jesus presents me with a God who says love your neighbor as yourself, and do unto others, and that’s more than an intellectual concept. It hits me at the core of my being, and it’s the vision of God that I’ve found most worth believing and, fitfully, trying to emulate.
You’re not kooky. I’m kooky. When Jesus said he had sheep not in his pen that he must gather, I believe he was talking about people like you. Many follow the way of Christ without knowing it, but they walk the same narrow path that he walked before us.