Monday, August 09, 2010

The Faith of the non-Christian...and the Practice of a Buddhist

Simon Critchley, chair of philosophy at the New School for Social Research writes on Kierkegaard :

Kierkegaard insists — and one feels here the force of his polemic against the irreligious, essentially secular order of so-called Christendom, in his case what he saw as the pseudo-Christianity of the Danish National Church — that no pastor or priest has the right to say that one has faith or not according to doctrines like baptism and the like. To proclaim faith is to abandon such external or worldly guarantees. Faith has the character of a continuous “striving … in which you get occasion to be tried every day.” This is why faith and the commandment of love that it seeks to sustain is not law. It has no coercive, external force. As Rosenzweig writes, “The commandment of love can only proceed from the mouth of the lover.” He goes on to contrast this with law, “which reckons with times, with a future, with duration.” By contrast, the commandment of love “knows only the moment; it awaits the result in the very moment of its promulgation.” The commandment of love is mild and merciful, but, as Kierkegaard insists, “there is rigor in it.” We might say love is that disciplined act of absolute spiritual daring that eviscerates the old self of externality so something new and inward can come into being...

[I]n the penultimate paragraph of “Works of Love Kierkegaard shifts to auditory imagery. God is a vast echo chamber where each sound, “the slightest sound,” is duplicated and resounds back loudly into the subject’s ears. God is nothing more than the name for the repetition of each word that the subject utters. But it is a repetition that resounds with “the intensification of infinity.” In what Kierkegaard calls “the urban confusion” of external life, it is nigh impossible to hear this repetitive echo of the infinite demand. This is why the bracketing out of externality is essential: “externality is too dense a body for resonance, and the sensual ear is too hard-of-hearing to catch the eternal’s repetition.” We need to cultivate the inner or inward ear that infinitizes the words and actions of the self. As Kierkegaard makes clear, what he is counseling is not “to sit in the anxiety of death, day in and day out, listening for the repetition of the eternal.” What is rather being called for is a rigorous and activist conception of faith that proclaims itself into being at each instant without guarantee or security and which abides with the infinite demand of love.

I usually say, when asked, that it was Existentialism that brought me to Zen Buddhism.  Kierkegaard's "God" here to me looks an awful lot like Mind, Buddha, &c., and looks so much more to be that than the anthropomorphic Christian deity that I have ceased calling myself a Christian and theist altogether.   It is understandable that he is not widely touted in Christian fundamentalist circles.

Fundamentalist proselytizing at the Clark County Washington Fair, August 8, 2010.

Don't get me wrong: my practice is not so much a reaction to the conservative hijacking of Christianity so much as it is an attempt, a project, to make sense of the existence into which I find myself.   Some days it's pure hell. Some days it's a riot of laughter, perhaps as a reaction to the pure hell. Some  (too few) days there is peace and tranquility.

Many days my practice is indeed difficult; and you can probably judge the difficulty with my practice by reading this blog; some days the practice flows like a river whose watersheds are themselves overflooded, and other days my practice is more parched than a desert.

But still...there is practice, because, what else would there to be done about the desert?

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