5.29.2012

No Easy Textbook

A really remarkable pile of OTHER
difficult textbooks I should be reading.
Oh dear.

I'm studying for my Family Nurse Practitioner boards, as well as for my EMT-Intermediate, so I guess I’ve got textbooks on the brain.

Turns out, I had some very long talks with the titular atheist of my first post. It took some time, but at last we reached a mutually satisfactory understanding (he wanted to understand, I wanted to be understood).

His last question was more or less this:

“Why the Bible? You’ve just explained how difficult, frustrating, and full of contradictions the Bible is, yet you want to learn from it and receive spiritual insight from it. If I want to learn something, I don’t read obscure academic papers. I pick an easy textbook.”

I didn’t think long before I gave my answer, so it was only after speaking that I realized how true it was. There is no easy textbook.

 If the goal of a spiritual life is “the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality, divinity, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight,” (Wikipedia on mysticism—not bad) then even a cursory survey of world-wide spiritual experience tells me the following: First, that unless one is a spiritual genius, one is not going to get very far outside of an established religious tradition. Secondly … there is no easy textbook. Zen Buddhism? Hasidic Judaism? Sufism? Kashmir Shaivism? In comparison, wrestling with the complexities of a book like the Bible starts to seem easy.

I don’t see much insight into love in some parts of the Bible (the book of Joshua, for instance). I take it on faith that there is something there to find. I take it as part of the spiritual discipline of Christianity to try and find it.  It’s not the insight alone that’s essential for my spiritual growth; I have found that the process itself is also necessary. Faithfulness in a small (but difficult!) thing has helped me towards faithfulness in something greater.

The central commandment of Christianity (the fulfillment of which is both evidence of a life centered on the Spirit and also the way to that life) is to love God and love your neighbor.  Perhaps it’s just me being prickly, but forget the Bible — I find many people difficult, frustrating, and full of contradictions. Sometimes I don’t see much of love or the lovable in them. I take it on faith, however, that there is something there to find, and I take it as a discipline of Christianity to try and find it.

There is no easy textbook.