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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Faith and Science

Headlines in the Washington Post (Health and Science Section):  Einstein, the sky is falling! Or not.

Joel Achenbach wrote an excellent article on the excitement and turmoil in the scientic community regarding the finding of a particle that may be faster than light.

These findings could undermine our present worldview and doctrine on the origins and workings of the universe now so dependent on Einstein's verified theory of the constant speed of light.  But whether these findings, now subject to rigorous testing, turn out to be so or not, the whole episode demonstrates the superiority of science and its method.

Scientists, professionals and we amateurs (remember: "amateur" means lover of ____), who are open to and even excited by the possibility of the overturn of scientific doctrine, demonstrate a faith in the "unseen" that outstrips any religion.  This is a faith that is not identified with its beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, rituals.  It is an openness to wonder more than I have seen in any god-talking preacher or politician who claims to be a believer.

They who cater to and therefore reinforce old beliefs based on some ancient book or authority or private untestable revelation are the real "unbelievers." They who would stop or turn back human imagination and understanding by their "true beliefs" destroy the wonder, mystery, and, yes, holy in humanity and the universe.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Zen and Faith

Last Sunday our senior minister told the story of comparative religions specialist, Huston Smith, who told the story of his 30 days with a Zen Roshi in Japan.  He found it almost impossible to sit in meditation for 12 hours a day and when he would have his daily meeting with Roshi, he always got the koan wrong.  At the end of the 30 days at his last meeting with the Roshi, he complained about his lack of learning about Zen.  The Roshi said:  “Oh the meaning of Zen.  It is simple.  It just means total gratitude for all that has come, total service to all that is now, and total responsibility for all that is to come.  And I am grateful that you were here.”

That not only is Zen; it is the essence of faith—whether religious or secular.  It is what St Paul talked about in his “faith, hope, and love—but the great of these is love.”  Faith situates us in the past, tradition; and acknowledges that we are all who came before us.  Hope orients us to the future:  the world as it could and should be.  And love commits us to all to which and to whom we are not related.  Faith as gratitude.  Hope as responsibility. Love as service. 

But they are all one in the fullness of existence—our being now, our being here, our being with, our being whole.  In other words, total presence in memory, in consciousness, in relationships—all integrated in the whole. 

I am my memory, my place, and my relationships.  So as I age and my memory starts to slip, as I begin to lose position in the world, as my relationships get smaller and fuzzier, and I become more scattered, I realize that I am indeed on a trajectory from being to nothingness.

Then I remember the words of my own Zen Roshi when we lived in Hawaii.  “Let your ego shrink,” he said, “to nothingness.  Or let it expand to embrace the cosmos.  It is the same.”

So as I let go of my memory, my position, my loved ones, my consciousness, and my whole self, I begin to enter and embrace the cosmos.  I start here, now, and with you in total gratitude, service, and responsibility.