Good grief, is it September already? As usual, August flew by, and as usual, I took no meaningful time off, nor did I make any progress on the two big long-term projects I'd hoped to devote time to. So it goes. In this environment I'm grateful for the work, and the important things will all get done eventually.
This year's blog takes a fairly radical turn, although like every year it's all about one of my own particular interests. The theme is "Gods and Monsters," and before I kick things off in earnest, I'll lay out what I hope to do with it, and set some crucial ground rules.
The "Gods and Monsters" title is a loose description. Each day's post will be a quick introduction to a major figure in world religions and mythology, with links for more information when available. I will do my best to treat each topic with respect, and I ask commenters to do the same. Politics and religion are supposed to be the great taboos of polite conversation, but I hope we can have one here.
To that end, I'm going to be a lot more stringent about policing comments than in previous years. I will delete anonymous comments immediately. You don't have to register, but you do have to sign your name. Most of us have strong beliefs. We will respect each other's faiths here, and that includes the faith of people who have no faith. (I believe that atheism is its own religion, but we'll get to that down the line.) Disagreements are fine, but disrespect is not. This is my blog, and I'll delete anything I consider offensive or pernicious.
My own background is Irish Catholic and Jesuit-influenced. I still call myself Catholic, although I am not as observant as I should be. I feel tremendous sorrow about certain teachings of my Church. Religions are families; I don't agree with everything my father says, either. Conflicts between one's personal beliefs and the teachings of one's Church are only human, not only to be expected but also an important part of the faith journey. I don't believe in predestination and I don't believe in revelation without effort. I believe that questioning strengthens and rewards our faith, and makes that faith more precious. That said, I also believe that grace is a gift offered to all of us, without a quid pro quo, and that we are all loved absolutely. Yes, even Hitler.
One Sunday morning when I was five or six years old, fidgeting in a pew at St. Leo's Church in Fairfax, Virginia, I realized that there had been a time when I did not exist. The world had existed before November 1965, but I had not. Where, then, had I been? I asked my mother and she said, "You were in the mind of God."
That made sense to me then, and it makes sense to me now. At one time was Nothing, but now we have Something. Why is there Something instead of Nothing? Why is there order (however disorderly) instead of chaos? Why is there life as well as death?
Humans have been asking these questions since we had words. In fact, these questions distinguish humans from other species. Sharks don't wonder why they're sharks. Dogs don't wonder why they're dogs. The answers we have come up with, however imperfect or ignorant or immature they may seem, form the basis of all our gods and all our monsters. Over the next year, this blog will explore them.
I'll be tinkering with the blog template over the weekend, but it will include a list of the major texts I'll be consulting during the year. Suggestions for further reading are always welcome.