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This corporeal soul and urbane beast from the Soo [as in Sault Ste. Marie, MI] enjoys light-hearted laughter and in-depth conversation, exploring the outdoors and savoring home-life, accessible entertainment (pop/rock music, indie flicks, paperback fiction, etc.) and the fine arts (Baroque ensembles, Expressionistic painting, unconventional male figure photography, etc.).
My personality traits might be said to include the following: artistic, earthy, easygoing, a bit eccentric perhaps, friendly/kind, intellectual, low maintenance, sensitive, practical, romantic, self-confident, serious, responsible, spiritual, unconventional, free-spirited, and (ain't it obvious?) oh-so-reticent-and humble
Like me, you're calmly at home with yourself, spiritual but free-thinking, non-fanatically healthy, affectionate and erotic, imaginative and knowledgeable, politically and culturally progressive.You're probably not more than 15 years older/younger than yours truly. But then again, one never knows, do we?. Like the majority of us, you are just normally neurotic. Race/ethnicity is immaterial to me. The same applies to looks. You and I MUST have at least some interests and personality traits in common. The aim here is friendship.
Turn-Offs: Smug Self-Centeredness, Insensitivity or Vindictiveness toward Others, Lack of a Sense of Humor, Religious Fundamentalism, Ideological Dogmatism, Bigotry and Reactionary Political Views, Infatuation with Fashion and Celebrity.
Those Who Inspire Me:
Jesus of Nazareth, the Canonical Prophets of Ancient Israel and Judah, Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Scotus Eriugena, Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Clare/Francis of Assisi, Meister Eckhart, Nicholas Cusanus, Thomas à Becket, George Fox, Caesar Chavez, Cornel West, Daniel Berrigan, Thomas Merton, Martin Buber, Dorothy Day, Rabindranath Tagore, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walt Whitman, Dorothy L. Sayers, Allen Ginsberg, Albert Einstein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mircea Eliade, Nikolay Berdeyaev, Spinoza, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Black Elk, Simone Weil, Sarvepalli Radhakrishan, D. T. Suzuki, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Swami Vivakananda, Swami Prabhavananda, Thich Nat Hanh, Charles Hartshorne, Schubert Ogden, Daniel Day Williams, John Cobb, Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann
Academy for Religion/U.S.A., Network of Spiritual Progressives, United Communities of Spirit, Council on Spiritual Practices, Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, Committee for the Golden Rule, The Interfaith Alliance, Alliance for Progressive Religion, United Religious Initiative, Institute for Spiritual Humanism, UU Christian Fellowship, Center for Progressive Christianity, Quaker Universalist Fellowship, American Unitarian Conference, Unitarian-Universalist Association, Chaplaincy Bureau for Church of the Larger Fellowship--UUA, ULC Interfaith Ministers International Council, United Christian Ministries International, Alliance of Web-Based Spiritual Counselors, The Association of Global New Thought
Philosophy (Whiteheadian/Hartshornian process thought, French phenomenology, Confucian and Taoist teachings, Vendantic/Buddhist attitudes, Plato/Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Spinoza, Kant, J.S. Mill, Wm. James, Heidegger, Buber, Wittgenstein. Blondel, Bergson), Contemp. Theology (non-orthodox systematics, Tillich, D. D. Williams, J. L. Adams, W. N. Pittenger, J. B. Cobb, D. R. Griffin, L. Gilkey, S. M. Ogden, G. Baum, D. Tracy, Thandeka, F. Church, I. G. Barbour, R. R. Reuther, John Dominic Crossan), Socio-Cultural History (especially Greco-Roman, Ancient Mid-Eastian, Italian Renaissance, Weimer Republic Germany, 19th Century and contemporary U.S.)and Anglo-American literature (Whitman, Wilde, Isherwood, J. Baldwin, Ginsberg, etc.)
My Spiritual/Religious/Theological Background:
Partway through grade 7 at a local parochial school, I proclaimed my conversion to atheism. Sister John Angelica's religion class was itself the setting selected for the announcement. From that day on I testified to my born-again unbelief on behalf of anyone willing to pay heed--and more than a few disinclined to do so. What fun! Notwithstanding the enjoyment, however, I could not have been more in earnest.
Probably unlike most of my age-peers, I took The Baltimore Catechism very seriously. Not only were all its formulaic question-answers faithfully committed to memory--earning top marks on report cards and resulting in an enviable collection of holy card prizes, thank you very much--but my 12 year old self studied and pondered and brooded over this digest of Roman Catholic orthodoxy. Even on weekends and holidays it could occupy my thoughts for hours at a stretch. What a strange little fellow that Danny is.
The rewards of reading the classical critiques of Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, etc. would have to wait until college and grad. school. Ironically, it was the Catechism itself which ushered me into exuberant godlessness. It mirrored the fastidiously elegant dialectics of Scholasticism. Thus, this doctrinal primer proved an indispensable whetstone for sharpening a youthful penchant for logic. What a far cry from the mishmash of pious verses my Evangelical chums in the neighborhood had to learn! Probably nothing else in my life at the time could have so well feed an appetite for methodical and critical reflection. Be that as it may, eventually its defense of the classically-defined omnipotence and omniscience, and the biblically necessitated absolute benevolence, of deity, coupled with its recognition of the reality of evil and suffering, struck me as egregiously self-contradictory. (Still does.) And if one of the foundation stones of this great creedal edifice turned out to be so brittle, could a total tumbledown be far behind?
It was widely affirmed in our small community that the Catholic high school afforded a far superior education compared to that of the public one. My parents--true to form Irish believers and every-Sunday Mass communicants--had resolved to fork out the tuition for any of their five kids who wished to attend it. That was one of the reasons this infidel came under the excellent influence of the Loretto nuns. The Dominican sisters who ran the grade school were, for the most part, mildly amused by, and indulgent toward, this apostate lad who got such good grades. The Sisters of Loretto, on the other hand, were positively enthusiastic. They merrily goaded and prodded my freethinking.
No hesitation was shown in their granting me straight As for their courses in church dogma. Being able to repeat verbatim the official teachings, while articulating my disapproval, resulted in my walking off with the Certificate of Achievement in Religion at graduation ceremonies (along with the one for Citizenship, despite efforts by some parents to get me expelled as a Communist.) In these dark days of papistical Fundamentalism, it may be difficult to image the circumstances which made this possible back then. But it was the era of good Pope John XXIII and his breath-of-fresh-air Ecumenical Council.; Many influential R.C. scholars believed "the faith" had nothing to fear, and even much to gain, from truth deriving from any source.
This state of affairs set in motion an intellectual predicament of sorts which persisted into my college days. My major was philosophy. (It was the late '60s--early 70s and ;information hadn't yet supplanted knowledge as the purpose for getting a degree.) The broad-minded priests and nuns of my adolescence had kept me guessing about why and how educated people; remained theists. Now the reading required for my studies made matters worse. I was continually running up against all these obviously brilliant thinkers who--no matter how much they disagreed about particulars--were quite sure that at least some God-talk made sense Not just the ancient and the medieval sages disturbed my cocksureness. There was Descartes, and Spinoza, and Shankara, and Hegel, and John Stuart Mill, and Buber, and Ramanuja, and William James, and on and on it went. For pity's sake, what was a self-respecting atheist to do?
The "solution" came to me while following up on a few footnotes in a dreary little textbook entitled Theoretical Semantics. I took to feasting on Anthony Flew and A. J. Ayer's arguments that religious discourse is actually misused scientific discourse. R. B. Braithwaith's diagnosis of theology as no more than disguised ethical utterance also cheered me to no end. As someone long interested in the arts, Santayana's recasting of pious parlance as action-oriented aesthetics was likewise most reassuring. Shortly after this time, the "Death of God" theologians came into vogue. It seemed to me Carneades and Feuerbach had already said it better. Nonetheless, it was heartening that Protestant divines were marching beneath the banner of the mad Prussian.
By and by, the snake of skepticism bites its own tail. Sometime while immersed in preparing a Master's Thesis, my anti-God obsession simply wore itself out. Not sure why. Maybe it just couldn't keep apace with a stronger fondness for learning and deliberation. While seductive in principle, liquidating the entire repository of religious language into currencies held by other banks of human experience ends up sounding pretty farfetched. By comparison, absolute uncertainty, or at least constant doubt, comes across as considerably less strained. So, the it's-really-about-something-else dodge provided only a short reprieve from tackling the central issue.
Around this time a realization which had been slowly dawning came into full view. Even the most persuasive anti-religious polemics shed light on facets of our existence not easily accounted for, or readily given expression to, by the more matter-of-fact narratives. There are times we feel a deep-down significance, connectedness, wonder, joy, horror, acceptance, confidence, and consolation, all of which calls out for attention and explication. Simplistic secularism seems no more up to the job than escapist spiritualism.
When all is said and done, I've became convinced that some concept like "self-transcendence" is key to any thoroughgoing explanation of what it means to be human. For that purpose, it impresses me as far more serviceable than, say, such trendier notions as "self-development," "self-actualization" or "self-fulfillment" Though surely not without merit, these versions of what we're about don't go nearly far enough. Lacking depth and breadth, they easily lead to inconsistencies. Imperative is a nonstop cognizance that we naturally reach beyond ourselves precisely in order to become ourselves. As a matter of course, we are forever stretching, extending, self-surpassing. It might well be said that we are most authentically ourselves--most alive, as it were--when allowing ourselves an openness before an ever-expanding horizon.
As with other higher animals, we perpetually transcend our present state by virtue of a dynamism inherent to our very sensate nature. As flesh and blood and nerve, never are we related exclusively to an insular and static "I" Being sensitive organisms, we are at all times interactive, in varying degrees, with all entities surrounding us. But, apparently unlike that of our zoological kin, the human milieu is not simply ecological. It is simultaneously meaning-full. This helps explain why some self-understanding is available not only through studying chemistry and biology but through, say, history or literature as well .
Perhaps our self-transcending potential is most noticeable in our capacity to question. Such appears especially the case when scientific questions are raised. Scientific inquiry moves us beyond the immediate environment known by our senses alone to an intelligently mediated and deliberately constituted world. In asking "What is it?" we apprehend, associate and assemble; we endlessly zigzag between observation of some particulars to some generalization of the whole, and then back again to the same or other particulars. To and fro it goes. The concrete and the abstract mutually conditioning each other without cease.
The force of empirical evidence propels us further than our feelings and needs would take us on their own. Via scientific investigation we learn to appreciate that reality is not reducible to what we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch. It is all that, of course, but more besides. The theories of quantum mechanics, for example, convey us beyond our senses to a view of the world which we may sanely affirm as true. This perspective may be accepted because its theories produce results. It makes sense of experimental occurrences which otherwise might only confound. It yields data. It empowers us to act. Paradoxically, it is the self-transcending orientation of personal subjectivity which moves us “outwardly” toward scientific objectivity.
Moreover, the cognitive self-transcendence of scientific endeavors normally pairs up with what might be termed an ethical expansiveness. Only Fundamentalists, who pretend to base all rules of conduct on purportedly immutable and self-evident truths, dispense with scientific findings in moral decision-making. Other than "mad scientist" types, technologists and researchers customarily act in accordance with critically defined values and principles. No society, for instance, would sanction operations of the practical and industrial arts without considerations of the summum bonum. It is "common sense" which has us take for granted that Dr. Strangelove is more than a little "off", which is to say, not altogether human. Adolf Eichmann is judged a traitor to "true science" if sadly only in retrospect. In a fashion analogous to scientific questioning, moral questioning likewise invariably occasions self-transcendence.
This action is perhaps most apparent in the work of (what, in some circles, has come to be called) meta-ethics. Certain perplexing circumstances may be spoken of in the form of ethical questions, yet remain unanswerable by moral arguments. The import of this was first brought home to me as a grad student reading the later Wittgenstein, along with commentaries by other interpreters of language identified with the "third stage" of analytic philosophy. Stephen Toulmin's The Uses of Argument and An Examination of the Place of Reason in Ethics proved especially illuminating in this regard. The Wittgensteinian concern with discovering the diverse "forms of life" which give rise to the various functions of language brings to mind the Hiedeggerian insistence that truth in language depends upon pinpointing which "mode-of-being-in-the-world" it aims to deliver in words. Although it must be admitted that, on the whole, linguistic analysis plays a rather minor role in shaping my Weltanschauung, since those days it has saved me from temptations to collapse into one tidy package all possible uses of language.
Comparable to strategies applied by such scholars as Ian Barbour and Bernard Lonergan to demonstrate that scientific language isn't self-contained, Toulmin maintains that the ethical use of language intends to "correlate our feelings and behavior in such a way as to make the fulfillment of everyone's aims and desires as far as possible compatible"As such, the entire business of being moral, says he, is determined by "limiting questions." He means by this not questions which put an end to moral reasoning, but rather a species of questioning positioned at the "outposts" of all manner of ethical discourse. "Why be moral at all" as distinct from "What is the proper course of action in this situation? "to cite the obvious example. (mine, not his) It rather startled me upon first reading the pragmatic Toulmin that he concludes it is religious language which most adequately addresses these "limiting questions" "Religion" names whatever way we "reassure" ourselves that the"whole" and the "future" are trustworthy, says Toulmin.
While preparing my doctoral dissertation--which proposes a theory of aesthetics premised on the ontology of Alfred North Whitehead--the writings of Process metaphysicians first came to my attention. Doing post-doctoral studies, I returned to them. One of these, Schubert Ogden (who relies as much on the resources of the Anglo-American empirical tradition), expressly takes up and expands upon Toulmin's insights. "We misunderstand the function of religious language if we claim that it causes... our general confidence or trust in the meaningfulness of existence. We understand such language correctly only when we recognize that the use of religious language is an effect... of an already basic confidence or trust. Religious language is best appreciated, according to Ogden, as a "re-presentation" of those experiences which allow for our fundamental security and hopefulness that life is worth living.
Once appreciated in this way, those studies which are systematic, critical, empirical and speculative may turn to the task of clarifying the variety and constitution of the experiences which ordinary religious language re-presents. My hunch would be that the more analytic, evaluative and interpretive is our awareness of what may lie "on the other side" of the limiting questions raised by ethics (to which I'd add those inferable from science and art), the greater can be our knowledge of the self-transcending quality of our existence. As Ogden puts it, religions "provide us with particular symbolic forms through which that faith (i.e., our basic confidence and trust in the meaningfulness of existence) may be more or less adequately re-affirmed at the level of conscious belief."
Certainly, Existentialists have been mindful of this sphere of limit-questions. In one way or another, most of them have laid stress upon how human living per se ineluctably draws us into certain extremities or toward horizons of existence. Some have centered their deliberations on those "boundary" occurrences of dread, guilt, anxiety, dis-ease, contingency, and awareness of one's own death. Others have invested greater effort in bringing into focus the essence and implications of "ecstatic events" such as love, creativity, passion, bliss, etc. In both cases, negative and positive, these limit-experiences are judged as running into universal barrier(s) or "reaching the edge" coupled with the recognition--however vague or tentative--of a something "over there" encountered as defining, climaxing, and/or pointing us beyond ourselves.
Karl Jaspers' analysis of "boundary-situations" may offer one of the best expositions of the negative aspects of limit-experiences. He reminds us that, when confronted with impending crisis or desolation or final closure, coming to grips with whether or not we truly believe in life's meaningfulness cannot easily be evaded. Kierkegaard's ruminations about Angst and Heidegger's dissection of No-thing-ness are likewise enlightening in this respect. On the other hand, Abraham Maslow's keen eye for "peak experiences" presents to us many of the positive aspects of limit-experiences. He emphasizes that such experiences relate to aspects of human living which cannot be satisfactorily captured in scientific or prosaic language. For Maslow, "falling in love," for instance, is primarily a self-transcending experience which happens to one as sheer gift. Much the same attitude is developed philosophically by Marcel and Tillich. Sociologist Peter Berger has noted that to reassure a child crying in the night that "everything's OK; it's going to be all right" is an indicator of the existential grounding in day-to-day activity of our profound sense of a "More" which warrants surety and worthwhileness to existence.
As useful as conceptual language may be when struggling to make sense of the limit-situations of our existence, at crucial points it's adaptability appears to simply break down. It fails to conduct the "emotional charge". You might say that such language sometimes proves defective viscerally and/or imaginatively. Thus it is that we often feel impelled to reach for symbol, metaphor, image, analogy, myth, etc. in order to more fully grasp and recount such experiences, not to mention act on them. Some recourse to non-literal language seems to me linguistically indispensable if the limiting character and self-transcending capacity of human existence are to be given due expression and consideration. Granted: resorting to non-literal language in this fashion is bound to aggravate both many Naturalists and Supernaturalists. If " positivistic," the former will balk because only strictly literal language is compatible with their reductive view of reality. And plenty of the latter are always ready to fight to have their fictions taken literally.
Unless or until evidence to the contrary comes my way, I must assume that all religious language--in scriptures, rituals, creeds and/or doctrines--is intrinsically symbolic and metaphorical. Whether such language is theistically or nontheistically formulated seems to me to be of secondary importance. Disciplines such as philosophy of religion, foundational theology, wisdom teaching, hermenuetics of myth and legend, learning bearing upon meditational or contemplative practices, and exegesis of texts regarded authoritative within one or more spiritual traditions, may combine with contributions from the human sciences and humanities, to better "unpack" both traditional and modern religious grammar and vocabulary together with the experiences of which they speak.
For certain individuals and groups any discussion of "religion" carries with it distressing associations, usually with good reason, and sometimes many and grievous. Sympathetic regard for whatever pain these people have been put through in its name is required. Nonetheless, it strikes me as unnecessary, and indeed disadvantageous, to coin any new term or phrase to designate that dimension of human existence manifest in limit-situations and self-transcendence. To do so would, for all practical purposes, concede to priestcraft or sacerdotally-controlled organizations a monopoly over such matters. It would also entail a disservice to countless spiritually-minded Humanists, who could not be blamed for wondering if they were being relegated to the ranks of second-class believers. Additonally, the impression could be imparted of slighting the belief-systems of several major world religious movements which are not composed theologically and/or institutionally for the most part, if at all. Besides which, it might suggest that limit-situations and self-transcendece do not operate in secular life. And, perhaps worst of all, it might well be interpreted as admitting that the proper or inevitable role of religion is to cause confusion and suffering.