My Dad was an electrical engineer. He’s concerned with how it will work. How will the solution work? He spent his career designing electrical systems that did things which prior to his work, seemed to be impossible. You can lose him pretty quickly by launching into whether the tree in the forest even exists or whether it is a reflection of the mind of the student pondering that well known Zen Buddhist 公案. He kind of doesn’t care.
My Mom was a social worker for the State of New Jersey. She wanted to assess the situation and build a case management plan. Clients were projects and processes. As long as the client moved through the planned project using approved processes she felt accomplished. She was similarly annoyed at creatives who would experience angst over the colors appropriate to expressing the puzzle of a tree falling in a forest with no one there to witness the fall.
I worry about how things will function between me and God’s creation. How is this going to ripple through my life and the lives of others. Because I’ve planted my flag on giving grace first everything has to be examined in terms of whether it fosters grace or not. Solipsism gives me cognitive dissonance. It makes my head hurt. To say that nothing exists, that everything I experience is an illusion created by and for me just rings false. I want to know what the solution is. How will that solution be integrated into existing systems? Is there a project plan, a budget, an estimated calendar? What’s the case management plan? How will a set of behaviors manifest in my life and the lives of those around me? Are the trends in behavior a threat to the plan?
It was a life-changing epiphany to accept that other people exist and that my relationship to them matters. Once I accepted that and began to pick my behavior based on whether it would further empathy and compassion my life began to improve. All the years of introspection, of contemplation, of therapy, of asking again why being beaten by Mrs. Stokes made me binge eat twinkies, all of that just kept me chained to my miserable past. It had the further unintended consequence of making me a side show act who got treats and hugs for being a hot mess.
My experience of Christ is deeply rooted in the holy trinity, in the Way being a deeply relational 道. Grace has no meaning if there is no other, if all I experience is just an illusion. I am a fan of 禪 and 道教. The interconnectedness of the universe, the idea that we are all an inseparable part of creation incapable of behaving without some consequence to an external other(s), feels right to me. I bristle at the supposition that solipsism could be interpreted to mean that I am free from consideration of any other beyond myself because I can’t prove that anything else exists beyond this present moment as I type these words.
Maybe so. Maybe I can’t prove anything beyond the linear motion of time I experience as my present. I am irrational. I have been clear that as concerns this site, story trumps truth. So, I choose this: I choose to be Christian, to believe and live by the Nicene Creed.
As I typed that sentence I had hope that the version of it in the back of our hymnals was a settled issue. It is not. If there is any feature of Christians through the ages it is our disputes. We fight about what we believe far more than we agree. We were started by a troublesome, martyred carpenter who declared a resurrected temple in the hearts of his followers. By now, some 2,000 years later, for myself and my fellow members of my church, the debate over the Nicene Creed is a quaint bit of history we pretty much ignore. We just read what’s in our hymnals and get excited over the menu for this Sunday’s dinner.
I’m a poor philosopher. I’d rather stand before my open fridge and figure out what to eat for diner tonight. I care about behavior and story. Whether this is all an illusion is a question I don’t have much patience for. So, I accept a perception of the world as an other I am part of. Maybe I should make hamburgers for diner.