Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Wisdom of Cherry Picking

To make sense of reality the mind has to catalogue every phenomena and put them inside distinct compartments, which it labels as best it can. One good example of the effects of mind-boxes is the 'all or nothing'-approach which seems so very common today, and something that Christians (for example) regularly have to deal with. Unless they can defend every aspect, expression, and action performed under the banner of Christianity for the last 2000 years, some people will give them a really hard time.

The same thing happens with the Bible. If you love the book, yet refuse to defend (or believe) every single chapter of it, you are likely to be accused of 'cherry picking', by some atheists. What that expression means in this context is something like this "Unless you stand behind the whole tree, including the berries I have deemed rotten, you shouldn't defend it at all" This I find a very narrow-minded (which means few and tight mind compartments) way of looking at things.

If we wish to walk the spiritual path with honesty, meaning we don't take what we hear for granted but examine it for ourselves, I see no other way but to engage in this kind of cherry-picking. It is impossible to understand Scripture from day one, and even more impossible to understand all of Scripture.

How beautiful a thing it is to read something that inspires us, to initiate or continue on the path, perhaps a single line from the Gospels, The Qur'an, or the Bhagavad Gita. Imagine asking someone who just opened the Bible, why Abraham was ready to slay his own son, and then demand that he/she defended that seemingly barbaric choice of the Patriarch.

If we find anything to hold on to, in the way of spiritual food, then let those two or three berries alone help us begin our ascent of the tree of Heaven. Spiritual progress and understanding happens in steps, and no book has to be embraced in full, to reach the grand destination.

What wine does to violent men doesn't count for all, and so it is with religions. They are indeed powerful tools of transformation, which need to be exercised with a sense of balance, and that's precisely why we shouldn't swallow any of them all at once. We certainly can't defend every limb and twig while barely holding on to one, and if anyone pushes us to do so, it is wise to stick to, and be content with, the cherries we have already cherished – those whose taste we well know.

So, was Mary ACTUALLY a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, and was he REALLY conceived by the Holy Ghost? Shake your shoulders, and answer truthfully; How would I know? I'm not looking in to that right now, because it doesn't really influence my spiritual practice, nor my way of life. We say these words in Church, but I'm not all that concerned with them, and the joy which this path brings me, doesn't change either way.

As we start to engage in spiritual practice, like meditation for example, we begin from a point of ignorance. We don't really know what is happening. Only with time do we start to understand what the practice does to us. While we may happen upon blissful states, or sudden insights early on, we can in no way understand the full effects the practice can bring about. The same goes for reading scripture, and a religious way of life. Slowly we have to venture ever deeper into waters unfamiliar to us. Understanding that is also understanding the importance and wisdom of "cherry picking". We may trust the words of our elders, masters, priests, or teachers, but we really can't defend a tower upon which we do not yet stand, nor can we truthfully embrace those we have only heard about. Yet, from one berry alone, we can say that this tree bears fruit, and that it is worth holding on to. With the chance of one more fresh berry upon it, I will climb it all the way to the grave.

A berry a day, keeps the devil away... and will eventually make the walls of our compartments fall. The Spirit can stand no such brain-made boundaries. However, if we pretend to know that which we do not, or identify too strongly with our favorite compartments, then accusations like "cherry picking" are bound to make those mind-boxes into safes, in which only small and graven idols of the Lord can be secured. His majesty and essence will roam freely, somewhere else entirely.

No comments:

Post a Comment