Friday, May 06, 2005

travel guide

at the end of a lengthy and heartfelt open letter to christians contesting the integrity of authorship and revealed divine wordship of the bible (which has resulted in an engaging dialogue with well over thirty-five interactive comments at the time of this posting) Icarus said something which triggered an idea for me:

These are just some philosophical problems I have with the idea of revealed religion that I need to have answered adequately before I even begin to examine the actual contents of the Bible. If you can please answer these questions for me, then we can move on to the questions I have about the actual contents and merits of what the book says

here's an idea: what if the Bible could be compared to a map or travel guide that leads us to a relationship with God?

a travel guide is not going to magically take you to another place, nor is reading it the same as travelling abroad. it is a guide which attempts to open up the destination point for the reader. it gives the reader some hints as to how to get the most out of their journey- how to effectively make the journey, through rich memories drawn from experience, part of life from then on. a Bible is not going to magically transport one into the presence of God, and reading it is not a replacement for a relationship with God. reading it is a means by which people can approach God and enter into a relationship with God that affects the rest of their life and beyond.

the thing about the travel guide analogy is that there are many travel guides published for popular areas. cosmic connections are, these days, a popular area and there are many 'holy writings' published.

okay, fine. when someone whom we do not know writes a book about brazil- this is going to be our destination for the purpose of this analogy- we do not (among people i know, anyway) check with interpol or some other international organization to determine whether the profile of the author is truthful- whether the author of the guide has, in fact, been more than a casual observer of the country of brazil. we defer our responsibility in this area to the publishers of the guide, presuming that they have a screening process that ensures the integrity of the books they publish- we even ask people who are familiar with travel in general which resources are the most informative and reliable.

and let's face it: there are some travel guides out there that have a lot of the general milieu summarized, but are replete with inconsistencies, poorly worded directions and badly cartographed maps. they claim to be user-friendly guides, but are, in fact, frustratingly user-hostile.

so what do we do when we want to go to brazil? first, we ask everyone we know if they've been there. if we find someone who has, we ask them about brazil and about their personal experiences with brazil, recognizing that talking about or reading about brazil is very different from actually going there. we watch t.v. shows. we go do websites (speaking of credibility issues... woah- don't get me started) and with our friend's help (or the help of a good travel agent- one who makes it their business to know how to get someone to brazil)we set up our connections... or we think about the conversation for days and end up setting up the connection all by ourselves via the net. then, having decided upon the direction and timeframe of our trek, we start reading the guides in preparation for the trip.

but the real lifechange comes when we actually arrive there, having done everything we could to prepare ourselves, only to discover that no amount of preparation could approximate what it actually feels like to be there.i think that experiencing God is like this.the trick(?) is to find someone who is experiencing God (in the analogy-the friend who has been to brazil) and open the dialogue face to face.

so then icarus made this comment, knowing full well that i wouldn't be able to just sit there are read it without continuing on deeper into the foul nether regions of analogyland... (darn guy!) and from this point i began speaking more directly to icarus (hence all the 'you' stuff) in second person. however, i'm just too lazy to change all of that stuff here... sorry.

Interesting analogy with the Brazil trip. But the problem comes in when you go through all those motions, hop on the plane and then after a 10 hour flight you realize "Hey, there is no Brazil."

being that the blog is called 'the flights of icarus goodman' i find the whole idea of a ten hour (or nineteen year) flight only to discover there is, in fact, no brazil a tragedy of classical proportion.

but it's a little off.

you never got there, man. you never actually set foot in brazil. if i recall correctly something you wrote awhile back, you went 'through all those motions' and even hopped on the plane- but then during the ten-hour flight you grew restless and started to read other travel guides.

these new guides were ones that you hadn't read before leaving- ones that pushed hard to convince you that there was no brazil, illustrated with charicatures of buffoons who are such bad travellers that it wouldn't really matter where they were going for readers young and old to be resolute in their desire to avoid at all costs any destination these travellers might promote. problem was, these travellers looked familiar and at times you had even felt like one of them (which didn't sit so well, even at the time) and so the doubts and the restlessness grew.

eventually, you had had enough and, having fashioned wings of wax during the flight, stepped out of the plane somewhere over the ocean. with the wind in your ears and a plane moving off in the distance, your focus- upon being free of the plane and its destination- was now upon the wonder and joy of flight, recognizing that to fly too close to the sun might melt your wings and to fly too close to the water might restrict both your vision and your freedom to experiment with flight itself. (ie jonathan livingstone seagull by richard bach)

at least, that's how it sounded to me

while at university i lived next door to a 'new-age' bookstore, from which i procured a bunch of fun books: lao tzu's "tao of life"; swami prabhavananda's "bhagavad-gita"; "the gospel according to zen- beyond the death of God"; baigent, leigh and lincoln's "the holy blood and the holy grail" (a resource for don brown's davinci thing) and others. add to these the stuff i've read since (figured i'd quit with the cheesey name-dropping) and you have many voices carrying on a dialogue which shapes and reshapes your perspective, sometimes daily.

there was a passage of scripture that resonated within the caverns of my mind that i was so eager to fill up, and essentially bathed the place with light enabling me to see the faces that were engaged in the dialogue even now:

'see to it that no one holds you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.'
(col 2.8)

the word 'hollow' is probably the most important word in that verse other than the name of Christ. what it says to me is that pure intellectual reasoning will inspire and develop the mind, but might be comparable to misering (?) in that eventually mortal life in the physical realm is done and everyone is once again leveled.

the whole 'you can't take it with you' thing.

now that's fine because life was full of ideas and experiences that make us undeniably rich in many ways, and if this is the proverbial 'it' and all that we've experienced is reduced to what we had the chance to pass on to others- if that is our immortality- then great. but if there is, in fact, something more than spiritual sea below us to which we eventually come to land, then we have spent the whole of our physical existence on the hollow- chasing, as solomon said, after wind.
check out the complete dialogue and the original post at

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Blogger Pensive said...

Hey Guy,

Pardon my cynicism but I am beginning to think that perhaps Icarus is on a wee bit of a power trip. His posture is one of power and he is making a lot of people jump through a lot of hoops; nothing is good enough for him.

Sorry friend, sometimes I have impertinent thoughts.

See you later.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

don't believe so.

if it will help, i pardon you.

the power thing can be, as you set out in your blog awhile back, a master/slave scenario which can reverse itself upon the acknowledged need of the master to rule. sure. codependency and all that.

what i have been relishing in this lengthy cyber-roundtable discussion is the challenge, not really to recruit someone from their side of the debate (for we've all been in pointlessly passionate back-and-forths that simply go nowhere, serving only to strengthen our stated positions) but to articulate mine.

gotta tap soon, yeah?


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