Saturday, January 31, 2009

Memory and Meaning

Some think that we are only the products of our experiences. While I do believe that experiences influence us and sometimes determine us in certain ways, I do not believe that they define everything about a human.

Take, for instance, my upbringing as a Baptist. I went to church everytime the doors opened and for the most part, found my friends within her doors. But, my husband and I do not "connect" with Baptists, theologically, or otherwise. We have visited many Baptists churches on many different occasions in the many places we have lived. I do not think that those who want to define another's life based on experience alone will find the "truth" about the "human".

I don't know all there is about brain science, but I do know that many factors go into the mix of what makes a person, a person, as well as the individual's certain bent. Christians, in the West, have understood that the bent of man is "sinful". I do not believe that sin is within, so much as without. What do we do with our life and the experiences in it? How do we interpret the things that transpire? These are the very struggles I have had for the past 14 or so years, as I have evaluated my faith in and through my experience. It has impacted how I have understood my faith.

Ethics is about how we treat our neighbor. And ethics is about how we do "business' and life, in general. While I don't believe that there are specificities of lifestyle, as these are personal convictions and evaluations, I do believe that the values that one is committed to are the ones that impact the life's color as a whole. Ethics is the broad-scale approach to doing "life".

I had understood my faith through theological belief, that meant I was to be included, no matter what. But, belief and belonging, did not match what I experienced in the behavior of community. Different belief systems evaluate their in-groups on different basises....I was floundering as to understand things and put my life together when I went back to school and then experienced my brother's suicide. Sometimes experiencing tragedy that is inexplicable and not experiencing the grace of and in community can be damgaing and damning to one's faith.

I do not by any means mean to sound like I am complaining. No, in fact, I am blessed in many ways to have come to a point of evaluating myself, my life, and my faith in ways that I would not have done otherwise. So, I will give thanks for all of the pain. I do not think that "God ordained anything" in my life. But, I do believe that all things are useful. This is a point of not playing a blame game, but a learning game. It is the mind-set to understand that "life happens" and move on, get over it, after it has been sieved through one's consciousness long enough to have and make meaning to and for one's life.

I am fortunate to have a family around me that we can see regularly. I cherish that and try to allow that to "fill" the need for community. I take pleasure in simple things, like my dog's loyalty, or my grandchild's smile. I will continue to try to "make meaning". But the meaning will not be some "transcendent meaning" or value, but personal meaning. As life is about "what one makes it".

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