Friday, December 31, 2010

Profane Words

It's no secret that I'm very immersed in religion, even if it's in a non-personal-Deity kind of way. And in spite of my criticism of religion, I tend to think that all the world's religions have something to offer. I think atheism has something to offer as well.

However, over the years, I've noticed that I have more and more irritation towards the name "Jesus". Before you call for the exorcist, I should tell you that I know the root cause of the irritation, and it's hardly demons. It's profane over-use.

I did a Google search on "Jesus name profane", and came up with all sorts of invectives from various places that "the name of Jesus shall not be profaned". Which is ironic, because the name of Jesus is profaned all the time. And I think it's why I--and many other people--don't really want to hear it anymore.

It was once said that if you say the same thing over and over again enough times, people will believe it. Perhaps that is a missionary tactic of evangelicals. It might not be a good place to mention that this was said by Adolph Hitler. But there is truth to it.

We like to think that we're sharp enough to evade propaganda. But not when the propaganda sounds like our worldview. If it's close enough, then we consider it plausible. And unfortunately, the name of Jesus has been used a lot as propaganda--and as a propagator of fear. Yes, I know that this has nothing to do with the message or mission of Jesus. But if words are powerful, so are associations. When you start to associate a sacred name with hucksters trying to get your money, to sell you "miracle Bible oil", to spread lies and prejudice about marginalized groups--it's really hard to taste the sweetness of the name. It's like beer that 's gone "skunky".

I get that people are moved in very devotional ways. I'm not against that, if it is meaningful to you. But often times there is a lot of phony grandstanding in the name of religion--usually Christian religion in this country. And it's not inspiring; it's nauseating.

I never really believed in the sacred/profane split until I considered this. Some things really need to be left in the holiest of places.

I've studied most of the world's religions. My spiritual path has taken me to some obscure places. Out of every type of prayer, meditation, and ritual that I've engaged in, there's only one experience that I've found to be genuinely profound in a spiritual sense. There were no visions of any gods or teachers, no angels singing. It was an experience of nothing. Silence. The closest thing I can liken it to is what Teresa of Avila called "the prayer of quiet". There wasn't any need for words or incantations, though the vibration of certain words can bring you to that quiet state. In this state, the Buddhist notion of "living in the present" makes sense in a way that can't be described. It sounds inconsequential, but it isn't--the impact of the experience is astounding; the world never looks the same after that.

Perhaps I am thinking of this because I had that first experience 8 years ago today. And I always think back to it when I get too overwhelmed by my life obligations.

On a different note--I've updated the bbfiction blog in the past week with a couple new poems. You can check them out here if you haven't already.

And with that, this is my last post of 2010. Everyone enjoy New Year's Eve. I plan to spend mine visiting friends in the afternoon, then drinking wine and playing Scrabble with my mother. If that sounds lame, I would argue that standing around Times Square with 1 million drunks, or sitting in a crowded restaurant or club with a bunch of drunks does not fit my notion of a "good time". The last time I planned to celebrate New Year's Eve in a big way was when I was in London 2 years ago. Then I got the flu, and that put an end to that. Spent all of New Year's Day sleeping, punctuated by searches for orange juice. Perhaps I am just getting old.

Of course, with every year that passes--never mind every day--we're all getting older. Happy new year!

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