Monday, August 24, 2009

A not so brief intro...

As the name of this blog implies, Socrates statement:

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

is one of the main themes of my life. For as long back as my memory extends, I’ve had an unquenchable thirst to understand the world, my life, and my relationship to the world. I started this blog to share some hopefully useful ideas and perspectives, but have also found that the act of writing down one’s thoughts provides a unique opportunity to better define, examine and articulate them. The process of blogging thus becomes perhaps more worthwhile than the blog itself.

A brief bio is in order:

I was raised in a fairly typical Jewish household in Brooklyn, NY in the 1950’s. I attended Hebrew School, learned Hebrew, was Bar Mitzvah’d, but my mind was dominated by Science and the Scientific Method. I recall a brief period of personal orthodoxy, around age 12 or 13, when it seemed important to follow all the various practices of Judaism. But I also recall doing an ‘experiment’ around the same time, where I filled the bathroom sink with water, and attempted to split the water, like Moses. The results were negative, which seemed to set the tone for much of my life.

For all practical purposes, I headed to College as an Atheist, who had no use for the ‘Supernatural,’ and viewing the Universe as a giant chemical reaction, with Science the only legitimate means of identifying truth. But the existential implications of such a philosophy quickly caught up with me, and I had to start finding answers to questions as basic as “Why get up in the morning, if it’s all pointless?”. I changed my major from PreMed to Psychology, and then quickly to Religious Studies, as I began my search for meaning and truth in earnest.

Through courses in Philosophy, studies in Eastern Religions (especially the more naturalistic traditions such as Jainism, Zen Buddhism, etc.), I began to expand my understanding, and allow for the possible existence of ‘spiritual’ or ‘mystical’ states of being. They spoke not of ‘supernatural’ deities, but of knowledge obtainable through direct, personal experience. This led to an intensive period of studying, fasting, praying, and meditating, in hopes of obtaining ‘enlightenment’ or at least some kind of transcendent experience that would serve as self-evident proof of another dimension of existence. These results were no different from my ‘Moses’ experiment.

In the midst of these efforts, I came into contact with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the ‘Mormons’) through my closest friend, who in turn had encountered it during High School through one of his friends. I intensively studied their teachings, and was drawn to and excited by their expansive understanding of man’s origin and limitless potential. I was also intrigued by their claims concerning the Book of Mormon, with at least some Archaeological evidence at that time (early 1970’s) supporting these claims. Their emphasis on the importance of families, and having one’s whole life-style centered on the Gospel, appealed to me as well. But I was also deeply troubled by their generally conservative, authoritarian, sometimes anti-intellectual, attitudes, and especially by their denial of the Priesthood to Blacks.

My search for a definitive, undeniable spiritual experience (not just some emotional ‘high’) to confirm or disconfirm the Church’s claims was relentless, but ultimately unsuccessful. I ended up making a ‘leap of faith’ and joined the Church: the appeal of the good qualities overcame the negative ones, and in humility I decided to give it the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and await additional evidence and experience to resolve the matters I found troublesome.

These matters were thus “put on the shelf” as my time and energies were devoted to my career (a return to my PreMed roots), and raising what has turned out to be an incredible family. They are full of love, humility, an intense desire to do what is right, compassion - what more could a parent ask for?

But my search for ultimate truth never stopped, and as more knowledge, evidence, and experience were acquired, the Church’s various claims, practices and policies, which had bothered me from the beginning, were increasingly found to be false. I struggled with this for many, many years, to make sure I was correct in my conclusions, not wanting to create confusion and uncertainty in my children in telling them that many of the things I had taught them for so many years were simply not true.

With all this as backdrop, of necessity, many of my postings on this blog will be on matters related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For brevity, I will refer to it as the “The Church.”  Notwithstanding my fundamental disagreement with their historical claims, and with so many of their moral and social positions, I wish to be respectful. This is also in recognition of the fact that the overwhelming majority of those filling their pews each Sunday, serving in the various organizations, are humble, dedicated, honest, anxious to sacrifice of themselves to serve others, and in short trying their best to follow the example of Christ.

In that spirit, all respectful comments are welcome, including from those who have different opinions.  "Preaching" is not productive, nor welcome here, and these posts will be deleted.  I seek honest and open communication, in a mutual search for truth and understanding.

And while I no longer condemn off-color language on moral grounds, and understand why some choose to use it to express themselves and their feelings, it is also unwelcome here, as it tends to disrupt open communication.  This language in Posts will be edited out if they are otherwise worthwhile, or the entire Post deleted, at my discretion.

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