Which reality, whose philosophy?

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
You have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
The Desiderata

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14

I had a tremendous sense of peace come over me on my way to work this morning. I thought about the claim in the Desiderata that “whether it is clear to you or not, the universe is unfolding as it should”. I looked up and saw the moon hanging in the clear blue sky and as I breathed in the morning air, it occurred to me that it is by the grace of God that I awoke this morning—it is He who set my path before me today.  I thought of the Psalmist’s confidence that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (from Psalm 27 which I try to read each morning).

I began to wonder why such peace today and such strife on other days. I think, as the Psalmist hints, it has to do with what we “see” going on around us—or perhaps more acuurately, how we see what’s going on around us.  The psalmist’s ultimate reality rested in seeing “the goodness of the Lord”. Today I happened to be focused on that reality.

But there are competing claims as to the nature of “reality”—each vieing to be the lens through which see the world. Many philosophies are or have been in vogue at one time or another. I find tremendous value in many of them, and I am conscientious of oversimplifying this brief discussion in a way that does not do them justice. That said, I believe there is an Ultimate Reality (more on this in Upside-down, Inside-outOn the significance of what we do: two perspective) against which all other philosophies fall short—in both explaining our experience of life and in prescribing how life is best lived. This Ultimate Reality is sometimes harder to sense, but that makes it no less concrete or real. In fact, I would argue it is much more real. Inasmuch as all other philosophies are partly right, they are right in that that they point to this Ultimate Reality.

Two quick thoughts on this.

1. Many of us have not considered whether there is something beyond the here and now. Therefore, we spend life focused on the tangible world. We try to succeed at work, find comfort in the love of families and friends and generally enjoy this world while we are on it. We find our significance and meaning in these things (discussed in The Problem of good in the world: Pt. IPt. IIPt. III). It is a reasonable worldview if the here and now is the only and the ultimate reality, but I would contend that in the end it’s a brutal worldview—performance-driven and leaving many questions unanswered. We most feel the dissonance created by this view when we can’t get something we desperately want, or lose something (or someone) we greatly loved.

I find that more and more I write these entries because I realize how much I yearn for many of you, my friends, to know—or at least consider whether—there is something beyond the here and now. The Ultimate Reality, I contend, is an understanding of ourselves and life in the context of our relationship to the God of creation. I believe this is the only way to fully understand the significance and meaning of our lives and the best framework for how to live them.

2. Others of us have considered this reality—even recognize it—but choose so often not to live in it. It is challenging to make that which seems far off seem relevant. We do not feel God lifting our eyelids in the morning, guiding our steps and calling us constantly to live holy lives, set apart for him. We do not take confidence in His goodness, His love for us and His promises. We lose sight that the world is unfolding as it should, held in the hand of the One who created it.

Our challenge is to bring this reality to our lives (and to each others’ lives!), rather than letting the apparent realities of this world dictate how we live—and who we become.

When I got to the subway I began to read a paper I came across and happended to print this morning. Dr. Jerry Root, in his review of a book called After Theory, wrote:

“Reality is far more complex than the capacity of any paradigm or worldview to describe completely.  Certainly some truth is acquired and remains after each paradigmatic exploration, but in the end, the periphery of human ideologies must give way to larger, more robust descriptions of the world” (Knowing & Doing, C.S. Lewis Institute, Summer 2009) (a PDF of which can be found in ‘multi-media’ on the sidebar).

What we understand of reality is predicated on the larger narrative we adopt—our more robust description of the world. If you do not think you have one, I think you should think again. I pray that we’ll all consider whether there might be more at work in the world than the forces we typically sense and that we will learn to live in that Ultimate Reality. In it is the promise of robust life and true freedom.

We can all see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living if we take the time to look for it.

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