To continue on the subject that I started writing about last Friday, I mentioned that there were two different blog posts that I had wanted to relate to. The first, was posted by Genie on the subject of happiness, and I felt it important to relate to that subject, because I myself started out in this world, a very unhappy person. My childhood was so unhappy, that after all these years, I still can not bear to talk about it. Nor can I read a book in which the main characters are children, or watch a movie that could possibly remind me of my own childhood. Learning to be happy was a lot of work, and I studied the subject. I studied what laughter was. Fortunately, I survived and went on with my life. I lived a happy life. I would say that my life has had more happiness than unhappiness, and that looking back, now that I’m an old man, I am quite satisfied.
The second post that stimulated quite a bit of thought on my part, was a post by N. She, like myself, had a very bad childhood, and has worked on herself for years and years, trying to get past all the side effects that stayed with her after childhood. She is an intelligent woman, and a fine student, and relates to this world in a very serious way. Though she comes from a completely different culture than my own, and her horrors were different from mine, I often find myself identifying with her. And lately, she described her mixed feelings regarding faith, and her disappointments with religion. She asks, ‘how does one get to know god?’ Now, I know that this is a very sensitive subject, and the mere mention of it, is enough to turn a lot of people off. Some people have a hatred for organized religions, and look at all such institutions as a great fraud. And to make things worse, most of my readers come from Christian cultures, and I myself am a Jew. But I ask you to look at this post as a letter from me to N, and consider that I’m sharing it with my readers as well.
Many years ago, I was working on fixing an airplane. I knew the work in theory, and my partner in this job was an experienced mechanic who knew everything there was to know about mechanics. As we were working, he suddenly said to me, “Give me a 6 allen wrench” I was familiar with allen wrenches, and went to the tool box, and saw quite a few. But none of them had numbers on them. I said to him, where’s the number written? And he said, ‘I don’t know. I’m talking about a 6mm wrench’. His hands were full, so I got out my caliper, and measured a couple of wrenches till I found the right one. Later on, I noticed that when he took a wrench himself, he didn’t have to look. He could just feel which was the right one. And after working on this project for a while, I too could feel if I was holding a 6mm or 4mm wrench between my finger and thumb. This experience remained with me, through the years, as a reminder of how difficult it is to really know something, even if you’re seeing it right in front of you, if you’re not familiar with the object.
I’ve heard people talk about intuition, as if it was something mystical… unexplainable, to a rational logical mind. As we get educated, we learn a lot of facts, and logic. We learn how to apply the things we know in a logical way, finding answers to our questions, to satisfy our needs. It is a rational process, and the human being is a very rational animal. So much so, that sometimes we’ll accept an incorrect answer because it makes sense to us, rather than tell ourselves that we just don’t know. Intuition works differently. It is based on an awareness of how things come together and how they work. But the individual facts are not kept in orderly partitioned drawers in the mind. These facts, which could also be related to, one by one, are part of an image in the mind of the whole, what works, what is right. And a person with a strong intuition can tell you, ‘it’ll work this way’ without being able to explain his feeling in a rational manner. Some people have such a strong intuition, that they can provide answers to problems, that even experts are baffled by. Others, rely on studying the facts, and using logic to resolve their needs. And a few are blessed with both of these abilities.
One of the things I learned early on as a student, was that the more you learn, the more you are aware of what you don’t know. Children ask ‘why’ a lot. Sometimes they get the right answers, and sometimes they have to search out the answers themselves. Eventually, they have a picture in their mind, of how the world works. It is often enough for a person to know where the light switch is in a room, without knowing what electricity is, or how an incandescent bulb can radiate light in the dark. If my friend is pleased that he can read easily, now that he’s gotten glasses, I don’t feel the need to explain to him how a lens works. But for myself, I have a lot of curiosity. And I like to know how the world around me works. Even so, I am forever learning about more things that are beyond my knowledge or understanding.
You and I might agree that it would be better for all of the people of this world to speak one language, instead of 150 or more. But if we tried to devise that language, we would not be able in our life times to devise something as intricate and rich as the English language, with all of its many subtleties and its rich literature. My own language is Hebrew, and though I have studied English well, and translated from one language to another, there is something about the mood and flavor, and sense of reality in Hebrew that I am unable to convey to an English text. For many of us, there is a sense of a wholeness about the world, as if it has one personality… despite the fact that a tree is nothing like a human being… at all. For such people, coming to terms with that wholeness, is in fact, an introduction to god. Some of us, when looking at a butterfly, or the face of someone we love, or a stormy sky, have a very strong belief that all of this world was made by one being, and that we can know that being by studying his work. But even those who do not believe that the world was created, might believe that it is one… that all the different phenomena of the world, is part of a one whole thing. We could call that thing nature, or the universe… but if we feel that it is one, this give us a sense of a consistent relationship to all of the world around us.
Among every people, and in every culture, there has been the development of a sensitivity to the awareness that there are things beyond us, that act in a way that affects us. It is often called religion or spirituality. For some peoples, there have been a number of gods. Others, believe in monotheism, and that means that god is one. But either way, the relationship of man to these forces that are beyond us, is an intuitive process. We have a sense of what works; a relationship to some sort of image that represents the many aspects of this world that is greater than us. But this faith is even greater than our own personal intuition. Because it has been added to from generation to generation, the most sensitive and holy people of our own antecedents have contributed a little of their consciousness and intuition to the big soup that is our religious (spiritual) awareness. In the same way I spoke of culture being represented in language, no matter how hard we tried to ‘create’ a new religion, it would be very difficult to incorporate all the subtleties and the depth of a religion that has been living for generations.
But unfortunately, the keepers of our religions; the janitors who kept the floor clean… were human beings too. Sometimes they had terrible faults, and these faults allowed for some unholy things to creep into our sense of the universe. There are many ways to go astray. There are things out there that can cause an allergy. As I write this post, I am reminded of a lot of concepts that are part of religion and faith… and I dare not go on and on… knowing that even a blog post has to remain within a framework that is palatable. I could do a whole post on the ‘all knowing god’, as I have discovered him. I have been asked many times about this ‘all knowing’ characteristic. But as I said about relating to people in my previous post, I would say the same about approaching god, that it is best to start out looking for the good in god, and not trying to challenge him. Though there have been some very holy people who reached a point where they could even challenge god, and argued with him.