Giving up absolutes for Lent.


(Which is the truer image of the houses? That which actually is or that which we perceive reflected in the water?)

In a surprise conversation with friends on religion, faith, and assumptions, it occurred to me that if there was anything I should give up this Lent, it should be absolutes.

In a sudden twist of plot, the phrase “you teach that which you want to learn” became real to me when I was confronted by a friend and asked to express what it is I believe in. Mysticism is my default answer because of several instances that didn’t lend themselves to explanation but now, more than ever, I’m ashamed of my laziness. Geez. Of course I need to articulate what I mean by believing in such and such–and if there isn’t a vocabulary for these feelings, I will accept the experience being beyond my grasp. Certainly not after attempting to explain, though.

I feel it is my duty as a writer to be honest with experiences. Often, I worry about writing because I don’t want to be inaccessible. What I need to learn, though, is that this is not a call I have to make. I must leave the decision to my readers and trust them to make sense of my writing.

As for faith and absolutes, it’s ironic how I “problematize” the ideas of my students. As soon as they feel surest of their answers in class, I throw in a monkey wrench–not with the intention of rendering them incorrect, but simply challenging them to reconsider their ideas and the many ways they could be wrong. I much prefer this over the singular way we feel we are right. [My logic here being, I trust more the person who is wrong than the person who lacks conviction in his or her views.]

Yet, yet, yet, I find it is the hardest lesson I must teach myself. Criticality has made me doubtful of most things and most people–but slowly I feel I also need to distance myself from the temptation to pass over all-encompassing judgments. This even if sometimes I feel I was right all along…

Judgment and assumptions truly bother me. We operate on so many wrong ones and in my own desperate attempt at understanding this problem I have, I wrote a friend asking:

Can I pick your brain a bit? –Thinking about judgment today and found myself debating (internally) how and who we judge–also, do we judge thought or action? Or both? I recall Buddhists championing the totality of acts as they relate to thoughts and intentions but then if it’s all of these, how do we judge? Are we still worthy of judging? –And if the answer is no, we should not judge, how do we call out mistakes creatively: creating a kinder space?

The response was to consider the fine line between judgment and discernment. Though an also puzzling thing to digest at first, I think there is value here. More on this later–after reading bits of a book that discusses this.
For now though, back to absolutes. I will be more mindful of them because the more we are taught to worship them, the deeper the borders are drawn between what we think is correct and what is actually correct.


One thought on “Giving up absolutes for Lent.

  1. Oh my. I just posted something similar to this too. It puzzles me how morals are arbitrary. Like how did society develop societal values and such. How do we even consent to what’s morally right and what’s morally wrong. It’s all a question and I’m glad I’m not alone in asking if.

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