The other day I was talking with someone and made a statement that was interesting:
“It’s all a matter of theological grammar.”
What brought this subject up was the question of religion and how people knock other people’s religion and find fault with it. I hear it all the time. Where I live there are a lot of Mormon’s. I have heard nothing but bad about them all my life, an endless stream of pissing and moaning. After living amongst them all my life I wonder what the crap they’re all complaining about . . . they’re not that bad. Other religions and non-religious people are always condemning them. But, yet, is their point of view any better? I don’t think so. I said: “it’s all a matter of theological grammar”.
My inquiry of religions, though, seem to show that the different religions are nothing but different ways to say the same thing: we are all trying to describe the indescribable. Each one of us has, within us, the basic sense of ‘religiosity’: a ‘sense of mystery’ about life, which is a sense of the ‘indescribable’. It’s a ‘mystery’ because it IS ‘indescribable’. It refers to the sense that there’s something about life we cannot understand or that seems ‘beyond us’. We cannot seem to speak about it or say it. This basic sense is inherent in the human condition. We all have it in some form or another.
But we have words, ideas, thoughts, conceptions, principles, etc. that “seem” to describe it. We can formulate all sorts of ideas and conceptions to explain it. When we do it sounds convincing, it sounds real.
But it’s not.
Any belief, thought, conception, or principle are just words. But these words are NOT the ‘sense’ of the indescribable. They just refer to it. But, in doing this we, in a sense, degrade the ‘sense’ by removing it from its ‘source’ (that is, taking it from the ‘sense’ to a ‘thought’). When this happens it’s not uncommon for us to lose the ‘sense’. If we get too bound up with principles and ideas we can lose the ‘sense’ altogether. It may not seem like it, though, as we have all these fancy ideas and concepts that ‘make sense’. But ‘making sense’ is all they do. They make sense conceptually and logically. This, in a way, is almost too tempting to disregard. We end up thinking that the ideas and concepts is everything, mistaking it for the ‘sense’. I sometimes jokingly call this the ‘word vacuum’ as, once we create something with words (concepts, beliefs, etc.) we tend to think that its everything and we get ‘sucked up’ in it. Pretty soon, the word-creations become like a god and we’re fighting over how the words are formed, what words are used, the order their in. etc. In short, their “grammar” becomes everything.
We all do it.
When this happens we get bound up with all the principles of ideas, concepts, and principles. We start using these principles to ‘determine’ and ‘judge’ the ‘sense’. We get into disputes because this idea doesn’t fit that idea or that this conception has a flaw here and there. In short, we get caught up in the “grammar” of ideas, concepts, and principles. In so doing, we remove ourselves from the ‘sense’ and end up forgetting what it is. This is common in religion, philosophy, and life in general. We all do it in some way. It’s only natural.
Keep in mind that I’m not saying that we cannot use ideas, concepts, and principles. They, used correctly, are a major element in growth and living. The problem is that we tend to get carried away with them (that is, we get sucked into it). The ‘grammar’ of ideas, concepts, and principles are so mesmerizing that seldom do we realize when we’re getting carried away, it sucks us in. We just do it.
As a result, something like a tug-of-war takes place:
the ‘sense’>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<the ‘grammar’
All through history, and our lives, we pull back and forth, often creating conflict and turmoil. It seems to me that this tug-of-war will never end, nor will there be any reconciling. We need the ‘sense’ but we also need the ‘grammar’. They are like opposites, like oil and water, unable to unite . . . but, yet, connected.
One of the things that this tug-of-war means is that religious beliefs, philosophical disputes, and conflicts about life will never be resolved or reconciled.
How can this tug-of-war be resolved or reconciled when we can’t even do it within ourselves?
It can’t . . . simple as that.
The tug-of-war exists just as the seasons exist, just as the sun rises and sets everyday. It is the way of things . . . a continual conflict of opposites.
In general, though, a person will lean toward one side or the other and that’s where they will remain. We find our ‘comfortable position’ and remain there. It’s in that position that we stay for most of the time.
This fact shows that each one of us has, so to speak, our own relationship between the ‘sense’ and ‘grammar’ and this is what we need to discover. Finding this special relationship gives us a ‘comfort’ and a ‘rest’ from the tug-of-war. But we must remember that, though this ‘rest’ exists, it does not mean the tug-of-war ends. The ‘rest’ is like being in a warm house during winter. Sure, its warm and nice inside, but that doesn’t mean the freezing winter cold isn’t outside. So it is with the ‘rest’.
The fact is that, nowadays, there are too many ‘grammars’ out there that we get lost in it all. Only in finding our own ‘rest’ will we have any balance between ‘sense’ and ‘grammar’ at all. And that is the important word: balance. When we find our “theological grammar” we find balance and balance is conducive to life.
In losing our “theological grammar” we, in many ways, lose a sense of life and feel disoriented. There is no ‘rest’ and life ‘threatens’ us. As a result of this, life should become an endless quest for our special ‘theological grammar’, one that gives us our ‘rest’ and ‘balance’.
But because we all have a different ‘balance’ between ‘sense’ and ‘grammar’ it means that everyone’s ‘theological grammar’ will be different. This means that there is no ONE ‘theological grammar’. This means that no ones perspective is completely right. Not only that, our own personal ‘grammar’ changes through the years as we grow and experience things. This means that our ‘grammar’ isn’t constant but fluid. If our personal ‘grammar’ can’t remain constant then there is no way for any ‘grammar’ to be the ONE absolute grammar.
A lot of the ‘theological grammar’ that people use has little to do with organized religion. It can though, but it often isn’t, even with religious people. In this sense, I am looking at it more than just a religious perspective. I use the word ‘theology’ as if to say “a healthy, serious, and full conception of life-as-a-fact”.
We all have some form of ‘theology’, though we often don’t know it. Any serious conception of life, and living, is really a ‘theology’. I’ve talked with many people that have a life conception that, if they changed a few words, would sound like some religious beliefs, but few can see it.
We are all staring at the indescribable . . . and we all have only one voice to speak. Limited in this way, we all stumble, murmur, stammer, and hesitate on our way to the creation of some form of a description of life. Like a person learning to speak another language, our pronunciation is all off, our accents don’t fit, and we can’t quite understand what we’re saying. This is all a part of the process that is ongoing in our life, of the perpetual seeking of a ‘balance’ between ‘sense’ and ‘grammar’.