Thursday, 24 April 2014

The tragic protagonist

Recently I was watching a television series where the leading character is a tragic protagonist.  While he seemingly is surrounded by wealth, power, and people he slowly sinks further and further, grasping at that money and fame and popularity to save him, and yet nothing can.

I'm not sure if he is meant to be as tragic as I perceive him to be.  I wonder that there aren't many viewers out there who view him as handsome, mysterious, lucky, albeit a little misguided or lost.  I wonder if there are those who wish for his lot in life, for his job, his women, his money, his lifestyle.  there are certainly enough scenes that highlight the Hollywood dream.  Yet it is the moments in between, the dark shots and shadows, the stretching silences, that I latch onto.

I have always been fascinated with world religions.  I think that the existence of so many explanations of where we came from, what our purpose is, and where we are going is proof of the existence of a spiritual plane.  We yearn for these explanations because there is a dimension to humanity outside of the physical realm.  For thousands of years we have filled it with stories, traditions, tales passed on through the ages.  We search for truth, or float toward something that speaks to our experience, or devise an answer that satisfies our questions.

I heard the word liturgy used the other day in this definition: Liturgy comprises the gestures by which we honour transcendent reality.  It helps us give concrete expression to deepest convictions.  It gives us choreography for things unseen and allows us to brush heaven among the shades of earth.  (Mark Buchanan,  The Rest of God)

Religions have formed, rebelled, divided and reformed over the years mostly do to liturgy. People have a specific idea on how to reach out to the heavenly realm.  Even disputes over doctrine seem remote.  If this "God-shaped hole" in our hearts must be filled by the Creator, then all doctrine is an attempt to understand that creator and all liturgy is an attempt to honour that creator.

All over the world through all centuries people have tried to define our Designer to satisfy our minds and have woven spiritual habits to satisfy our spirits.  I will not speak here to right or wrong; I just simply want to note that all of these belief systems stem from our desire to reconcile our deepest questions.

(A clause here that my interest in world religions and spirituality has been held to just that: interest.  One day I hope to immerse myself in learning and studying, but for today, this is all written from a place of very little schooling in the subject.)

While many religions exist, each with their own doorway to knowledge and understanding, it seems the only path that doesn't lead upward is to reject them all.  This tragic television character of which I spoke is a cultural mirror of exactly that: rejecting all sense of the spiritual nature of humanity and embracing the only the offerings of this world.

This world: a place that values endless pursuits of entertainment and pleasure.  A place that worships self.  A place that says your satisfaction and happiness are the only thing that matters.  A place that offers substances to dull pain and increase pleasure and distract from tangible reality.  A place that offers to fill your gnawing hunger while at the same time starving you from what you need.  It is frightening to realize how instantly gratifying what this world offer is, and how cold the bathroom floor on which it leaves you in the morning.

As someone who leans toward intellect, I have often struggled with the "feeling" side of spirituality.  I cannot reconcile myself to faith because it "feels right."  However I have come to realize that logic and knowledge can exist on multiple planes, soaring above and beyond our earthly and natural capacities.  I can find that joy and peace in faith without leaving intellect behind.  I am grateful, blessed, lucky, to have escaped the chains of the tragic protagonist of today.

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