CHAIN OF RESPONSES TO “DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?” at pepinsky.blogspot.com, May 8, 2013—
From Allen, who asked if I believed in God:
This is amazing! I really believe the same... I have always extrapolated from the laws of thermodynamics, particularly that matter cannot be created nor destroyed...I have held firmly that this "energy" is what we give off as creation and the divineness that is already there...and the positive forms of energy like love, benevolence, grace and forgiveness are just as impactful and contributive as hate, anger, agression, and apathy....I look forward to this book and the others you are sending!
You are quite amazing Hal!
I cannot wait to talk to you with a nice cup of coffee....you may find that I ask too many questions though ;-)
I love you Hal....
-----Pepinsky, Hal on 5/8/2013 3:51 PM wrote:
DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?
Hal Pepinsky, email@example.com, skype name halpep, "peacemaking" at Pepinsky.blogspot.com
May 8, 2013
This blog post is the text of an emailed answer to the question of a long-term prisoner facing the prospect of release, with whom I have been sharing his primary task of taking stock of our lives and facing our futures:
Do I believe in God? I think so. I discovered my sacred text, Laozi s daodejing, in the fall of 1963, my first semester as a declared Chinese major, the same semester that the last US president I held as my hero was assassinated. You might say it was the autumn that I discovered my ultimate refuge from my sense of my own mortality.. I have just ordered you a copy from Amazon. Verse 14 is a direct answer to your question that suits me fine:
Looked at but cannot be seen - it is beneath form;
Listened to but cannot be heard - it is beneath sound;
Held but cannot be touched - it is beneath feeling;
These depthless things evade definition,
And blend into a single mystery.
In its rising there is no light,
In its falling there is no darkness,
A continuous thread beyond description,
Lining what cannot occur;
Its form formless,
Its image nothing,
Its name silence;
Follow it, it has no back,
Meet it, it has no face.
Attend the present to deal with the past;
Thus you grasp the continuity of the Way,
Which is its essence.
When my mom started sending me at 6 up the street on Sunday mornings to Bible school at the Methodist church just 3 blocks from where I now live, I soon reasoned from my teacher that Jesus s love must be so great that he had no ego, let alone the big daddy who had magically inseminated his mama, to whom Jesus turned to for comfort and advice when the Romans convicted him of treason and used nails and a cross instead of an electric chair the way we were doing in Ohio to execute traitors. Now that I think of it, that story--the way it came across to me from my Sunday school teacher (who was, after all, the expert my mother had sent me to learn from) that taught me everything I have ever needed to know and pay attention to confront what I now call violence (including my "crime problem") and peacemaking (my version of mediation in everyday relations). It has taken me until now, 62 years later, to figure that out though. I generally call "the dao" the force of love that flows through and binds us together these days, not because "force of love" is any more or less a "right word" for what English-speaking Christian faithful call God. But I m satisfied that many who profess Christianity worship the same force the force of love, of empathy, of compassion regardless of name live by and preach the same "peacemaking" way or path (translations of "dao").
In physics-speak, peacemaking is called "synergy," violence "entropy." The legend is that the daodejing is a set of quotations from someone deemed so wise during the chaotic "warring states" period right before the Qin dynasty first political unification of China. Anxious kings are said to have specially sought out his visits to help them discover how to save their own skins, let along their kingdoms. I ll insert one more verse where Laozi warns of the dangers of splitting people apart, of attempts to impose social order. Since exertion of mechanical power is, as Newton told it, entropic, laying down laws (including what today are heralded as "best practices") inevitably tears social bonds asunder, as into "warring states." Laozi says:
Powerful men are well advised not to use violence,
For violence has a habit of returning;
Thorns and weeds grow wherever an army goes,
And lean years follow a great war.
A general is well advised
To achieve nothing more than his orders:
Not to take advantage of his victory.
Nor to glory, boast or pride himself;
To do what is dictated by necessity,
But not by choice.
For even the strongest force will weaken with time,
And then its violence will return, and kill it.
It is not only that this is sage political advice for any age. It also explains me to myself. Inside me is a material void that I equate with being alive: consciousness. I can see material manifestations of consciousness in my own actions and brainwaves, and in effects of my actions on all my relations, from the rock I pick up and throw to nailing a capital offender to a cross to die. But I can t capture it with an MRI, and I use the word "captured" advisedly.
My own lot in life from moment to moment is what most deepens my faith in going with the force of peacemaking as Laozi advises. I thank God in my own way recurrently by acknowledging that the most reassuring, most dependable, safest and most secure human relations are those that happen to me, rather than those I have made happen. I can make a book by myself, but I cannot buy beauty, loving companionship and peace of mind in retirement. Nonethless, my desire to retire when I first became eligible to rejoin Jill, and the coincidence of collapse from alcohol poisoning with Jill but in a safe hospital bed with quiet time to detoxify and reflect, plus who knows what else, have left me here with Jill in my true home at 519 Evergreen Circle. God s force in my life keeps showing me results. I m looking out the window at the cardinal pair building a nest for their forthcoming family, while in the evergreen we planted at the edge of our "front" yard behind me, the south pair of cardinals is building another. On Sunday as I sat on the patio watching a succession of groups of tiny to large sized bees take turns gathering pollen from a dandelion below and the huge blooming honeysuckle above, and birds visiting too, what I found out was a migrating Swainson s hawk 2 states east of its normal path from Argentina to Canada flew in from the northwest, circled over my head, landed in the crook of a high branch on a dead ash tree straight in front of me; we exchanged glances for perhaps 15 seconds and when I dipped my head to blink my eyes and looked up again, she was flying back northwest toward Canada and she was followed by 2 curious buzzards who came to check out an ohio state graduation party in someone s back yard at the top of the hill the hawk had just crossed. I recognize I come across to many as a little nutso when I remark on the "coincidences" like this I notice almost daily. Which amounts to saying I continually feel the presence of God, not as some kind of being I can picture, any more than I can picture Moses, Jesus, or Mohammed incarnate. My God doesn t punish people; people are their own undoing when they try to put each other in their proper places or categories, or to treat them as ingredients to be added in proper measure to a recipe for a social pie.. The best English-language term I have found for the political attitude my faith implies is "anarchism" power sharing rather than imposing power on others.
How am I doing at answering your question? Thanks for asking. Love and peace, hal