Disclaimer: This page requires OpenMind 1.0 or greater. You don't want to read this. It may even offend you as I traipse wildly over your deepest beliefs. As long as you have made your peace with that, carry on. I welcome intelligent comment, and ignore moronic drivel.
Please read Words To Read By.
There is a waterfall near my house. Not a very big waterfall, and kind of close to a road. But it is very pretty and I can ride my bike down to visit it when the weather is nice, and enjoy the rest of the scenery along the way - most of the trail is along a river. (The waterfall is only on a small stream going into the river.)
One day while riding down to the waterfall, I wondered why I did that every now and then. One thing that really bugged me was that it was the closest thing which I have to a holy place. I haven't really bought into any religious dogma for a long time, so even this was a little bothersome.
The thought that occurred to me was this: "Everybody needs to believe in something. I believe the waterfall is beautiful. I go there to remind myself that there are beautiful things in the world." I wasn't sure that I really believed that, but it made a nice poetic thought. So it held me for a couple weeks.
God is the generalization of the waterfall theory. You can say that "god is in the details." I say that "god is the details." You can say that "god is beautiful." I say "god is beauty." Or, perhaps better, "beauty is god." God is in love and hope and art and mathematics and music and flocks of birds and the sunsets that I can see out of my large second floor window. God is like a synonym for beauty - a name for all the manifest beauty in the world.
Um... no. By religious terminology, I mean words, not religions. I still have issues with many religion's ideas and practices. Even if the church is holy and a place to worship, I'd be surrounded by people that don't agree with me, and would probably try to convert the heathen. I'll take the waterfall.
Most churches are beautiful - by the faith that built them, even if not in their architecture. Since god is beauty, beautiful things have an aspect of god. I call this quality holy. So churches are holy, and true faith even more. So are artfully written poems and computer programs, the moon in a clear blue sky, numbers like pi, e or 0, the tapestries on my walls, and your lover's face.
Beauty is, after all, something of a relative term - there are ugly things too. Like smog and rape and hate and war and the ending of life and racism and most computer interfaces. Sin is a convenient term for the ugly things done by people.
Other planes of existence is one thing that I don't take from religions. But they make nice symbols. Sometimes I think that heaven and hell got given a little too much reality during the course of history. Maybe they started out as ways to say the best and worst the world can be - so heaven is what we strive to make the world, and hell is what sin drags it towards.
Um.... No. If you look back, you'll notice that I don't capitalize god, or use terms like he, she, or even s/he. These things personify a concept - you can make a deity, say it personifies beauty, draw pictures of it, and call it Beauty, and then call it he or she as you like. But I'm not doing that. God is a synonym for beauty, and beauty is concept. You don't refer to it as him or her.
The particular case of Jesus is one particular myth-symbol from one particular religion. It's a very nice symbol, kind of the equivalent of (my) heaven for an individual - something for a person to aspire to be like. But it doesn't really feel right in my set of terminology right now, so I'll leave to it's current keepers.
As I understand it, beauty is order in chaos and chaos in order. This definition came from my (I think) insights into music. You can write music following fairly strict forms, but it takes real inspiration and a bit of the unexpected to make good music. Alternately, it may seem at first as a random collection of notes, but then you get into it and see keys and meters and counts and chords - layers of order imposed on top on a random collection. If you get really scientific, a sound wave looks pretty chaotic - and then you can break it down into some number of sine waves - perfectly defined mathematical constructs.
So this is my loose definition of beauty: things that fit nicely into our pattern engine brains while still remaining surprising and interesting. Add in a decided preference for happiness versus sadness extended to all beings in the world, and you probably have most of it. At one point I summed up my philosophy on life as "Nobody gets hurt, bonus points for making people happy." Which is kind of a paraphrase of the golden rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.") but it acknowledges that different people like different things.
It matters to me. The significance is that now I can say things like "...one nation under god..." I may not mean exactly what you think I mean, but I won't feel like I'm betraying myself. I'm cheating a little by changing the meaning of the words, but it makes things run smoother - less conflict. And that is holy.
Please Read Words To Read By.