Textual Arachne

A weaver of threads.

Monday, August 14, 2006

On uncertainty

Met with my advisor today. Among other things, we talked about his skepticism and my belief. He seemed to think that because I am 'religious', I'm assured that what I think is the truth and can't, as a result, really reckon with the contingency and uncertainty that my truth rests on.

Is that really true for people who have faith? Many, I'm sure. Perhaps I'm just more wishy-washy than others, but I don't have the feeling that I've reached the Truth; I'm assured that it's there, but I'm also aware that everything I know about it is prone to error.

See, I'm finite. This is a good thing; it lets me be surprised, be forgetful, be many things. But She's infinite, and any attempt to understand Her gets filtered through my finite perceptions. I'm bound to miss something. Even in the moments when I most feel part of Her, or connected to the infinite, I have to eventually process that through language and memory. And we all know how reliable those are. Now, I don't believe that there's an unbridgeable absolute separation between humanity and Divinity...but humans still have limitations, even when we are most Divine.

Somewhere among the things I think are true about Her, I'm probably wrong. I can't tell where I'm wrong, though; all I can do is try and test them against experience. And, because my Paganism finds Her in all things--and especially in all people--testing them means acting in the world, not holing up in a cave.

I wonder if it's possible to walk this middle ground, part certainty and part doubt, for long. It does make pluralism and acceptance of other faiths easier: She's bigger than I can possibly understand; have you seen a part of Her that I've never been able to encounter?

This reminds me of Bruce Prescott's qualities of progressive faith--namely, humility. "While some interpreters of religious traditions may be considered authoritative, infallibility is an attribute that is best reserved for the Divine."


At 7:33 PM, Blogger Inanna said...

Your (academic?) advisor ought to know that religious belief doesn't entail dogmatism or the belief that one is epistemically infallible. It sounds like he's a fundamentalist skeptic!

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Arachne said...

Thanks for the comment! I think he'd be a fundamentalist if he finished by saying "and that's why you're wrong." But he values and honors people with different perspectives and beliefs. I just couldn't communicate to him that I don't think the difference is that big!


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