Posted by: Jaime | April 28, 2009

Abandoned to days by gods

Hey Trevor and Jenna, I thought I would pull our conversation from yesterday into the blog. I’m really interested in non-reductive physicalism from the main standpoint in my paper that asks what our gods are. My earlier blog laid out how necessary faith is as the belief that there is meaning in life and necessary to any human choosing to keep on living. Also, gods are what we put our faith in and whom we rely on to give us self worth and to determine the worth of everything around us. All of our gods fail us in that they are finite and eventually pass as we do and can guarantee my worth only for a while.

I don’t know non-reductive physicalism well enough to say in what ways it succeeds or fails as a god. I would like to know how this god is adequate for our coping with suffering. I offer a quote from Annie Dillard trying to work out a terrible experience where a girl gets her face burned off in a plane accident,

“Can the other gods carry time and its loves upside down like a doll in their blundering arms? As though we the people were playing house-when we are serious and do love-and not the gods? No, that day’s god has no power. No gods have power to save. There are only days. The one great god abandoned us to days, to time’s tumult of occasions, abandoned us to the gods of days, each brute and amok in his hugeness and idiocy (440-441).”

I appreciate not being able to say for certain whether there is or isn’t a God for certain and have entertained thoughts that our idea of the divine, while a powerful reality for us, may have no basis in reality outside of our minds. In other words believing in a god helps us make sense and of our existence and live our lives but there is no external agent acting on my life.

However, I feel like the only way I am capable of entering into some of the most personally challenging situations I have been in is by believing that if I say yes with my whole heart and trust that there will be something to guide me through my time of trial even if it means I come out a different person. My experience again and again is that something makes itself present to me in unexpected ways and transforms my life. The paschal mystery is so powerful for me because it says God is present and working in even the most terrible situations and mourns with me when that’s all I can find. So I need a god that does more than just make my experience a coherent whole. I need a wind under my wings. I need grace. I am painfully aware that I can’t do it on its own. I need a power on my side that brings life out of death even in the darkest situations when I give my whole self to it.



  1. Jim, I think this was incredibly well-said. When did we start looking to God to just answer the questions and give overall meaning? Why would that ever seem like a good idea? When did we stop being beings-in-relationship? God is not the answer to the question. God is the reason we can ask questions at all. If I simply looked to God for explanations when things were difficult, I would miss out in rejoicing with God when things are beautiful. Furthermore, I remember trying to do it all on my own – it’s awful. I’m not any good at it. I know that I don’t know enough to answer my life’s big questions without divine guidance – grace is pretty effective, when we welcome it. When we stop trying to use God and simply let God use us, I know that we will find more meaning and beauty in this world than we could have ever thought possible.

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