Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Give Yourself to the Timeless Issues of the Human Spirit

North Custer, in Monroe
In my MCCC Philosophy of Religion classes I begin by introducing my students to Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's existence.

Which is:

1. I have an idea of a being a greater than which cannot be conceived.
2. Therefore God exists.

I love teaching this to my students. And, for the most part, they love learning it, coming to understand it, and pondering it. Many have told me they end up sharing this argument with their parents and  friends, which stimulates a lot of discussion. Unfailingly, I see that my college students desire to talk about God and his possible existence or non-existence. I often say to Linda, before the very first class session: "I can't wait to share the Ontological Argument with the students and see the expressions on their faces!"

41 years ago, when I became a Jesus-follower, I was a music theory major. While I loved studying and making music, I changed my major to philosophy and graduated with a B.A. in philosophy. The reason? I now wanted to immerse myself in the Big Questions of life, Such as: Does God exist? If so, how can we know this? If not, how could we know that? What does it mean to "know" anything at all? How ought a person live? How can we say that life has meaning? Why do some philosophers reason that life is meaningless? What is "right" and "wrong," and how can we know the difference? Do we have a metaphysical foundation for morality? And so on and on and on...

My fascination with life's Big Questions not only has not changed, it has increased. I spend my life on them, with joy and trembling.

One of my spiritual Big Question heroes, Howard Thurman, was once advised by Prof. George Cross to: “Give yourself to the timeless issues of the human spirit.” (Luther Smith, Introduction, Howard Thurman: Essential Writings, 13) He did. Thurman gave himself to ontological issues, developing his own ontology of the human spirit. This is why Thurman's writings are so deep. Which makes him the kind of writer I want to read. I need some deep people in my life.

I think, at the end of every person's life, given they can anticipate death's nearness, the Big Questions surface. The BQs become focal. Primary. Shallow human stuff and accomplishments recede; issues regarding the meaning of it all face us and call for clarity. At that point one searches for a deep person, a true "elder" regarding life's meaning.

Invest in the Big Questions.