open letter to the rabbi's
God is a stupid place to start.
I recently went to Shabat services and partook in the usual chanting away of ancient prayers about god. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most of the people chanting with me find this as puzzling as i do. I think God is a stupid place to start in such an endevour.
tell me, do you know what's going on inside a place as mundane as your thumb? pick up a rock, do you know its history? Do you meditate daily on what this intense journey is that your band of apes has been going on? And i don't mean some fantasy out of ancient egypt.
wake up in the morning and you may feel in awe at being alive so you want to sing a praise or give thanks; and to what is your first thought? the billions of cells that are gyrating away with whorlwinds of complexity that ARE your life? take your first conscious breath and is your first awareness the immense river of breath planet that you are, swirling over the surface of the Earth? folding in and out of it? that you are a dance of breath molecules, a dance? not a THING at all?
[Bar, it's like saying the life of an amazing computer program is the millions of transisters clicking away... no, not really, it's the subroutines all interacting.. the transisters... that's the protons and electrons! yeah, that's the better analogy! besides, the transistors did not partake in the evolution of the programs. life however... Bar, our human experience is so many levels removed from the molecular biology, no? except that our ability to experience, the styles of our thought, the basic tool box of our behavior, some of it was already invented by that molecular biology. the distributed processing, the feedback loops, the trial and error, the ability to pick up random flux from the abyss, the way that neurons interact to build a brain is based on how cells in general interact in their communities... in some sense, the molecular biology took part interactively in creating our software in a way that transisters did NOT take any part in creating software.
so what WAS the design process? well, that's the point that's what our story of 3.8 BILLION years of evolution of interacting critters is all a about, it's NOT like the story of humans designing transisters and software to meet THEIR needs. it's a story of hardware bits and software bits interacting in a long creative history. and THAT'S what we should be giving thanks to. 3.8 BILLION years of history of a creative community, not 6 days of magic, not 2 piddling couple dozen generations of yhvh meddling with some human history.]
pick up a rock, do you ask it its story? its 4.5billion year journey gyrating through this Earth's cycles? and the journey before that in the belly of a life giving suicidal sun?
sit down to breakfast and you say b'rokh ata...ata, HELLO to a LIVING BEING! The bread before you? sensuous texture and taste? B'rokh ata... a living being, the baker who wrought the right alchemy that brought it to rise before hot ovens at 6am in the morning before you even woke up? B'rokh ata... a living being, the wheat plants that grew and sacrificed a whole season of their life to bring breath and minerals out of the Earth to consent to be eaten by you?
does the slaughterer even, say thank you to the cow or a chicken he holds in his hands before he quietly slits its throat for us? We who are too cowardly to face a real living being and do it ourselves? or does he make a blessing to his narcissistic dream lord (pimp?) for sending, owning that living being and handing him over to him, like a slave?
B'rokh ata...a living being, this whole4.5 billion year old swirling breathing Earth dance of molecules that you ARE? NO! you thank a lifeless abstraction of a LORD! what lord did you have in mind? Darth Vader? George W. Bush? King Arthur? who are you imagining conqured? rules? manages? sculpted? designed? this Earth? We are talking IMAGINATION here, when actual LIVING BEINGS right BEFORE you are maintaining your planet for you and desiring your attention.
Instead of face to face awareness, thanksgiving with the obvious source of life in front of you, you jump to an abstraction! While calvin benson cycles by the trillions are slaving away in plants to bring the breath you exhale back to your body, while trillions of local chemical interactions are coordinating to make us who we are, you are ignoring them chasing after a dream father...
oh, i know you say that WE WERE at sinai... bullshit. Oh, i know, you say that you FEEL God's presence when you pray... That is a dangerous route to take to trust in a drug induced fantasy before you trust in the living presences right before you. I'm sure the kids tripping on LSD are saying the same thing!
Oh, i know, you say that God is not a lifeless abstraction but is the totality, the largest most inclusive totality of all that i've described... What gives you the gall to think that you are ready for that most inclusive totality if you aren't even ready to confront the miracle that is a fruit fly buzzing softly around your kitchen? you study argument after argument of talmud, yet won't even learn that your body is a dance of arguments that makes the talmud look like a comic book in comparison!
what I'm saying is that God is a stupid place to start! practice being present to the obvious presences before you, and THEN slowly go in deeper, wider, more abstract even, if that's your trip. Though to tell you the truth, it's not all that clear that this life we amazingly are is a result of abstraction at all. It may be the result of a confluence of very PARTICULAR coincidences. Life might NOT have happened at all! Does that SCARE THE SHIT out of you? so you'd rather put your trust in a fantasy because reality scares you, 'eh? Rather desire, DEMAND even, like an infant throwing a temper tantrum, that we humans, that you and your loved ones were an INEVITABLE outcome of existence? That doesn't sound like a very mature religion to me.
but you say you KNOW in your HEART that God is real. how can you claim to know such a mysterious thing when you won't even make the effort to learn the craft of knowing simpler things like springs, levers, pulleys.. animals, cells, molecules. You say you know in your HEART. What is this heart you speak of? Surely not the beating muscle in your chest? But even here, have you looked inside, closely? do you even know how a congealed bag of the food you ate can go on beating for your life every second every minute every day for decades of your life without quitting? No, the knowing you speak of is not a property of the beating heart. Then what can KNOW? A rock? a bug? a muscle? a brain? You haven't even taken the effort to know how connections come together to make a heart beat steadily, flexibly, responsively for your life. But a KNOWING organ? have you taken the time to attempt to craft the number of interacting switching gates required for a being to KNOW something?
Oh no, you tell me this is COLD, MECHANISTIC thinking, not the knowlege of the HEART, of the SPIRIT. yet when it comes to life and death you take your loved one who is sick to the cold and mechanistic hospital... When you want to get to work on time you trust to the craftsmanship of the mechanic to construct your automobile for! you don't just pray your way flying through the sky to get to work as a spirit! Come on now, you know deep down you trust the years of labor that craftsmen take to perfect their craft. That is what i'm talking about. Before you can say you know God, you must work away the years in the craft of knowing. beginning with the concrete, the simple, the obvious, and work your way up to the subtle... to this God you imagine you know.
and then, ONLY then after we've learned to master knowing these concrete mechanical things, then we can ask about what it means to be human. surely it's the paradox of our humanity, seemingly-infinitely-able-to-seek beings trapped in finite bodies prone to horrific decay to death that impells us to create the abstraction of God. Instead of starting off with the answer, why not start off with the question? the quest? And what is the question?
What IS this life i find myself experiencing? Usually it is asked when we find ourselves in an intense moment of experience, a death, a broken relationship, a birth, a great joy... This is actually another dangerous place to start. In moments like these, our experience of our experiencing is overpowering, back to the LSD trip again. In fact it is the accumulated history of humaity's tripping on its own experiencing that has produced the abstraction that spirit is more basic, surely more powerful than mere flesh and mud. but any sensible person would realize they must doubt a drug trip. yes, i know, that under the influence of communal ecstacy hoards of humans have been capable of immense undertakings. and so we've come to think of human spirit as the ultimate power, or at least the model for the even more ultimate power we abstracted from it: God. And we know that life can act as a powerful catalyst to the immense flow of energy from the sun out past this Earth.
And so in a mere 10,000 years, 40,000 years Homo sapiens has swept accross the face of Earth and is in the process of stripping her of her forests, in the process of draining the oceans of life, in the process of pouring trillions of tons of chemicals into the waters, in the process of transforming the concentration of elements in her atmosphere. a powerful catalyst indeed is the human spirit.
But is it wise? do we even know where creativity comes from? we made the assumption a long time ago that ours comes from that fuzzy good POWERFUL feeling of a drug trip rather than the iterated processes of interconnected parts. and we abstracted that into our idea of god, even that that same brand of creativity created the multitude of animals and plants we didn't even have the respect to count...
it's that creativity that gets us into trouble that labyrinth of thought passages and the ecstacy that can keep us going back into it, make it feel more real than reality. The labyrinth is so intricate that we think it is complex enough to hold the cosmos itself (and indeed the human mind is capable of knowing the cosmos in intricate detail, some of us can catalogue 10,000 diferent living creatures, some of us can create the plays of shakespeare creating worlds, some of us can learn the craft to know the rockbottom of this universe down to 10 decimal places of accuracy...) So with a cosmos in the mind, it seems a cosmic catastrophe that human life is so cheap, dying in battle over trivial state boundaries, dying in famine of chaotic ecosystem, dying as 50% of all conceptions die because... they are the mistakes that evolutionary creativity thrives on.
we are horrified because creativity is NOTHING like we imagine it to be. we rebell against the fact that creativity on this earth works by trial and error. that we are the trials and errors of a questing creativity of evolving life, that life so intricate in detail is also food, is also throwaway trials of creativity. The maple tree sends 10s of thousands of infant tree beings fluttering down to the ground higgledy piggledy. each infant a different random combination, trial, of genes... each possibly containing a random mutation from cosmic rays, molecular accidents... 99.9% of them won't even come to birth. all but a few will grow to maturity... we back off in horror from this way of life! the exhuberant cheapness of it growing itself in such subtle complex craftsmanship and at the same time THROWING itself AWAY in the trial and error of its craft! and we are doomed to be bound to this seeming madness by our flesh.
so in our horror over the seemingly wasteful cosmic sinfulness of the wastefulness of flesh we dream of leaving it behind and flying off to a more serene spiritland...
Yes, this life is an amazing drama way bigger than any of us or any of us can imagine, so lets wake up to it, be thankful for it, not some narcissistic abstraction a puny band of apes thought up before they even begun to comprehend what life was.
so lets add in here: do we want to make a whole ritual and story some goddam fairy tale of a shizophrenic mountain god who likes guys, coming down and doing a bunch of pyrotechnics and pulling a slithering mass of breeding slaves out of bondage and handing them a ready made way of freedom? Or do we want to HONOR the reality? The reality of a bunch of grassroots efforts of towns of canaanites living in the crossroads of centralized empires and creatively between each other coming to the realization of a way of freedom? Creating it themselves! Not being a sleeping mass of slithering crawling slaves, but being a people waking up and seeing for themselves the reality of the evils of centralized hierarchies, worshiping objects as opposed to experiences, calls, working out amongst themselves the HARD WAY, the way, the tora of jewish community?
If we honor this community effort, we then know that we ourselves in each generation in each new milleu is capable of this effort again and again. We don't have to wait for god to solve things for us, our community is capable of this task.
so Bar, where does the miraculous fit in? M., speaking like a stoned man speaks of his experience that there is something COHESIVE out there, it's all so cohesive. Not just my fractal dust of miraculous random fluctuations. that all of physics is cohesive. yeah? the gravitational force and the strong force are carefully crafted with each other? well, Davies thinks so: that the ratios are all just right for galaxies to form communities of suns, that suns CAN form, to cook elements, that the resonances are JUST RIGHT to cook carbon, that the ratios are just right so that supernovas happen and spew the elements back out for other suns to use, that planets form...
It's all just right to form US. but you know, we don't know diddly squat! if the ratios were slightly different, they certainly wont make THIS universe, but we don't know diddly about the art of universe making in GENERAL, so how do we know they cant make ANOTHER totally different but equally interesting universe? look at all the different kinds of cellular automata that can basically simulate each other. INNEFFICIENTLY, but that's NOT an issue! because what's the difference if human experience is software played on the level of the equivelent of protons, or the equivelent of molecules, or cells or neuron nets or stars or galaxies? what's the diff if human lives take nanoseconds or millenia?
Fine, not cohesive, but still what good do these miracles do us? it aint subject object, right? i've meant two different things by miracles.
A) presence/miracles when i'm just HERE experienceing it WHAM like concrete.
B) fractal dust of random input that physical systems get. The counterpart to the laws of physics, to the stability of dissapative systems.
i guess those are two different things, eh? are they at all related?