as many of you know, (almost) every wednesday night i hold a fireside chat at sacred space. it’s a salon-type get-together where we sit in the living room area of sacred space, a beautiful store across from tinseltown in vancouver, and talk about – well, all kinds of things.
today’s topic was supposed to be liberal christianity but other than a cursory nod to thomas merton, and a few minutes’ talk about the difference between spirituality and religion (with the to-be-expected attendant stories of the boredom, shame and irrelevance that drive so many people out of church), we didn’t really touch very much on that topic.
instead, there was heated dialogue about reality, perception, truth, beliefs, self-deception, near death experiences. three gentlemen and i sat there and expressed our ideas to each other.
what i found quite interesting was the communication process. we were all very polite with each other but clearly there was some tension present because of the wide variety of views.
it is challenging to stand in such an experience and to maintain openness and integrity throughout. every one of us had passionately held beliefs. the difficulty is that these beliefs are about mostly intangible things. we did not talk about, say, the presence of our very tangible bodies sitting there. basically, we talked about the kinds of things that people have passionately disagreed on for millennia. and here we were, using all kinds of rhetorical devices in trying to convince each other. the most common one was to ask leading questions.
rather than quietly reflecting on our thoughts, experiences and reactions and then expressing them as openly and accurately as possible, we would say things like, “but don’t you think that this table here is real?”, “how old is mankind?” or “tell me, do you agree that if i see a little blue man here, it may not really exist?”
i believe that in most situations, we were not interested in the answers to these questions. we just wanted to ask a (leading) question for which, like lawyers, we thought we knew the answers, which we would then use as a set-up for our own argument, which in turn, each one of us hoped, would then cumulate in our own version of truth/reality to come out victorious.
i tried to point this mechanism out at the end of our discussion but it did not encounter much interest in my discussion partners. was that because i myself had already spent so much time trying to convince them of my version of reality (directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously)?
i don’t know.
and that may be the truest statement of all.
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