Sunday, September 13, 2009

Puppets on a String?

An excerpt from the Keating interview (already posted a while back) that I have been planning to write follows....

Centering prayer is very rich but quite diffuse and tends to put the emphasis on grace in a way that perhaps needs to be balanced by the Zen attitude, which is that we have to do something, too. Actually, St. Ignatius expressed it well when he said, "Act as if everything depended on you, and trust as if everything depended on God." Well, how do you do that? That is a koan. You could spend a lifetime trying to figure out how to do that.

Well I spent several years trying to figure it no avail. Trying to reconcile absolute predetermination dogged me for the longest time...putting a major kink in my relationship with God.  And I tortured myself with it...and snubbed God for months.  I talked ABOUT him..but rarely talked TO him.  Being married and mentored by someone who believes "totally" in total sovereignty...someone who knows a lot more than I do about scripture and theology and such...led to many "discussions" about that very topic. 

But what about ...... ? 
And what about ..... ? 
Okay...then what about.... ? 

And on and on it went.  Discussing all the usual in a bowl, fly in a jar, mouse in a maze.  Chess games and fenced in areas....pastured free will....and on and on it went. 

I know there are many verses that seem to indicate every little nuance of our personalities and our behavior is preplanned.  Our every thought, whim, wonder, opinion, fear, like and dislike preordained and predestined.  As someone on a message board once mused (can't remember where or who), "Did God simply put the tape in the VCR, push play and then sit back to watch the eons pass by...completely preplanned and prearranged? The ultimate que sera, sera.

And there are verses that "prove" God does give us some choices in our lives.  Real choices, not pseudo choices.  Some, like those who embrace open theism (Greg Boyd comes to mind) even believe that God chooses not to know every detail about how the future will play out   He knows the end...but the in between can take many different paths.  There are even scriptures that seem to indicate that. 

This can lead to debates about relative and absolute views of scripture and other ways of explaining away the verses the "other side" offers as proof. There are no definitive answers that can be proven with scripture.  I know folks on both sides of the fence might dispute that but alas....I think, for every scripture the "opposing" side comes up with there is another scripture that disproves it.

Now isn't THAT a major koan? 

Not too long ago, Keith watched a rather weird movie called "The Watchman" As is usually the case, I watched bits and pieces of it without the soundtrack.  He uses a headset so I can stay in the living room and read...yet my attention continues to be drawn to the screen. The movie was a very sci-fi, dark and foreboding superhero movie. The main character was a man who had a nuclear accident of some sort in a lab where he was a scientist.  The accident turned him into a blue energy kind of being with these creepy glowing all white eyes.

At dinner the next night, Keith filled me in on some of the details I couldn't figure out from the "silent version" of the movie.  He told me about one scene in particular that piqued my interest...a scene that contained a discussion about destiny.  I found the following conversation on the internet.  In the scene, Jon Osterman (the blue energy guy) and his estranged wife were discussing their failed relationship.  The conversation took place on Mars...where he had been banished to for one reason or another.  I don't know all the details but that is not what struck me about the conversation.  No point digressing.  

[as they ascend a flight of glass stairs on Mars]
Jon Osterman: This is where we hold our conversation. In it, you reveal to me that you and Dreiberg have been sleeping together.
[suddenly taken aback]
Laurie Juspeczyk: You know about me and Dan?
Jon Osterman: Not yet. But in a few moments, you're going to tell me.
Laurie Juspeczyk: If you already know the future, then why were you surprised when I left you? Or when that reporter ambushed you? Why even argue about it if you already know how this is going to end?
Jon Osterman: I have no choice. Everything is preordained... even my responses.
Laurie Juspeczyk: And you're just going through the motions? The most powerful thing in the universe is still just a puppet...
Jon Osterman: We are all puppets, Laurie. I'm just the puppet who can see the strings.
Laurie Juspeczyk: And what if you're wrong?
Jon Osterman: Why does my perception of time distress you so?
Laurie Juspeczyk: Because it's inhuman. Because it makes me insane. You always say you wanna comfort me. Well, it isn't working. Look, I don't want to fight. I'm sorry I slept with Dan.
[suddenly upset]
Jon Osterman: You slept with Dan?

A perfect illustration of the koan that Keating mentions in the interview.  And it also reminds me of one of the analogies about free will/ usually used disparagingly by those who believe in free will.  If predetermination is true then, like Jon Osterman, we are simply "puppets on a string."  We are part of the divine puppet show.  That is totally disheartening to me.  It brings comfort to some folks, but it brings me to despair. 

And I've been thinking about those strings that supposedly attach us to the hand of the puppet master but more on that tomorrow.....

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