Physical to spiritual... This has lots of little bits, and I think what I'm trying to say is in the middle of them all somewhere. But I don't know what it is yet
Let me start with a story*... It was summer, and Mayweek, and we were sat around in a garden drinking pimms in the sun, I and my college friends and the MIT exchange student. And conversation drifted lightly, and touched upon exams, and it was mentioned that at MIT you couldn't graduate if you couldn't swim. Indeed, you had to do an hour compulsory sport a week
Now, I was shocked by that. Because if I was doing a maths degree, I would want my degree to be about whether or not I could do maths. After all, noone would suggest that Steven Hawking wasn't a first class mathematician because he couldn't swim a lenght.
What was more shocking was that there were good, intelligent people - my friends! who weren't shocked by this! For the valid reasons that they could do maths better if they were healthy. (I mean, at the moment I'd be the first to say that you work less well when you're ill.) And that regular breaks for fresh air and exercise were essential for their studies.**
Is the conclusion of that that Steven Hawking*** would have been an even better mathematician if he could swim, and wasn't wasting energy fighting his body? The mind isn't seperate from the body. I remember being trully infuriated when I worked out that an entire furious passionate rage that had left me in tears of anger and despair was due to pre period hormones. I mean, really. Noone who I was raging against was particularly in the wrong, it was just that my body was full of little molicules. Things that I could draw with C's and lines and double bonds, had changed who I am! Me! That still makes me furious. As though by right I should be changed by the people that I talk to, the things that I read and the things that I think about, and yet not changed by the things that I eat and the drugs that I take, that these should alter the body but Not Change Me.
Conclusion, things that affect me physically, be it hormones, eating food, being ill, exercising, holding hands or making love really do affect me mentally (spiritually?) - both the quality of my work, and more intangible things like my models of reasonable human behaviour, whether or not I am happy, what I want to do, and my beliefs in who are nice people. This annoys me, and I often don't believe it is true, liking to think that... oh, I don't know, I am somehow higher than this flesh and blood and this great me-ness should not be tarnishable by the world.
Now, what started this post? Well, cathedral_life was talking about... hmm, lets cite, it'll make far more sense in her words.
I think God is glorified through people making the sign of the cross, even if they don't know what it means. The person in question might not understand or benefit from it at all. It's of secondary importance to me that a person understands what they're doing.
[In fact, so I'm not quoting out of context, here's a link to the whole thing. It's much more interesting than this wibble.]
And that annoyed me. In the same way all the other things above annoyed me. Worshipping God is some glorious thing that we can do because we are wonderful people, rational and made in the image of God. Just blindly doing things without having a clue why is wrong and... well, my gut feeling is that I want to type "it offends God". But what I really worry that this is is it offends my me-ness. It makes us stupid. However, in the same way I concluded that just because the above stuff upsets me, doesn't mean it's not true, so I have reached a point of thinking that just because this way of looking at worship is annoying, doesn't mean it's not true. I mean, people talk the whole time about all creation worshipping god, and there's obviously no implication there that the slugs and mountains understand what they're doing. And doing something without understanding doesn't make it less good. If we just fed the homeless because we were told to, they would be just as fed. If the reason we don't go off with strangers is just because our parents tell us to, we are just as safe as if we actually we doing it out of thought.****
[There is a whole side arguement here about what it says about a God that he thinks crossing yourself is good. Or that burning cows is good. But there will be another lj post to follow, so if that's your flame, let me write the second post first :-) ]
Running out of steam for this post now. In the Bible, from my hazy memories of my youthful evangelical days, I thought that there were lots of bits where it was what you thought that mattered, not really what you did at all. Jesus prasing Mary and getting annoyed at Martha. All the stuff about if you think about doing something it's just as bad as doing something. And that attitude annoyed me too (for I think it's jolly unfair to condemn people for what they were brave and strong enough not to actually do, and that if whether you murdered someone or just thought about it doesn't matter to God well it jolly well matters to you and the person you didn't murder, and god should get a sense of perspective and realise that we're not as in control of our thoughts and feelings as we'd need to be to live up to this) but I thought it was the "Christian" attitude. Which would make Angela's post that doing without thought is OK seem a very anti-christian idea to me.
And yet then when I ponder the whole christianity thing I would rather have vagueness than actions. (see this post) I wave my arms around and say "surely the point is to believe in a God who would send his son to die for us if it was neccessary, not that he actually did and the son actually was Jesus". Which seems in direct conflict to lots of the other stuff I've just been concluding, that the physical state of the world does affect what is mentally possible. Maybe what I'm hedging around is that in the same way that physical things affect me mentally on a simple level, like hormones and moods and sickness and sunshine and sex, the physical fact that Jesus was who he was***** is more important than the fact that God would do that if it was neccessary in some airy intullectual way. And perhaps that if you didn't know anything about what a good diet was, while reading books about nutrition and talking to healthy people is good, you'd have to start somewhere eating something while you were doing all that, to stop yourself dropping down dead, which is important, but also to find out anything about what they were on about when they spoke about foods that made them feel full or fat, or that they didn't like the taste of, or that were great. And some of the healthiest foods might be an aquired taste.
I still don't like these conclusions. I'm such a mathmo.
Hope there's some sense in all that lot. Sorry, those of you who were hoping for something inspiring or insightful, and you just got a lot of very dull truths that the rest of the world worked out ages ago, and a large helping of confusion.
*I'm sure I've told this one before, but it's my LJ
** There were other arguements in favour along the lines that an MIT maths degree says "this person is a good well rounded person from MIT and can do all the things we approve of", not just "this person can do maths" and so they should test this. But this is an aside to my LJ post, so is in a footnote
*** Sorry for all the Steven Hawking cliches here, but it makes my point. I'd watch out though, if you let me get away with this I'll be compairing things to the Nazis before the end of the post
**** Actually, I suppose the problem is that doing what we're told is just as good as understanding in situations that are fully documented. But it's not as good if you need to extrapolate. If you know that feeding the homeless is good because you're trying to give them better lives you can then go on to form your own policies of housing the homeless, etc. If you know that you don't get in cars with strangers because it's the strangers that are dangerous, not the cars, then you'll be wise enough not to get into hot air balloons with strangers.
***** If he was, etc etc, add caveats here to all those of you who are fighting the battle to keep Sally safe from the Christians