I feel almost obligated to comment just becuase of my name, but that is not why.
Do people wonder after other's beliefs to better (understand) their own? Does this in some way help to understand the person (bradbury) of whom you talk and treasure?
I geuss i have never felt obliged to, in the processing of knowing a person, account for their beliefs on the intangible, or maybe it is that i see "beliefs" as being so much simpler: likes and dislikes, tastes and pleasures, shiny trinkets and fluttering cloth. The things that entice, tickle and lure us to destinations unkown. i see this before i rap myself in the smotherings of religion. i see a person.
I think people seek to understand others' beliefs, in part, to better understand their own. I also think we seek to understand others' beliefs because we think (or hope) that we can learn something new from someone else's belief. I also think we understand other people better when we understand their beliefs. Religous beliefs go to a person's motivations. Why do people make the decisions they make? How do they think value is found in thier lives? What do they see as their responsibilities to others? How do they find happiness and what does happiness mean to them? What is fulfillment? How do they define psychological wholeness?
In the case of literary analysis, the religious/philosophical views of the author seem relevant to understanding what the author is trying to communicate in his/her literature -- whether in the novel, story, poem, or play. Understanding Hemingway's fiction is partly dependent on understanding the existentialist themes and symbols he uses in his writing. For Bradbury, there is a clear religious sensibility in much of his work. Understanding his work means, in part, understanding where those religious sensibilities originate.
While I think some aspects of belief include things we are drawn to or repelled by, religious belief seems more complex than a simple like/dislike reaction; such as in liking blue and not liking orange. Religious belief ends up being very complex in persons who take religion seriously. Claims to a simple faith are difficult to sustain when people want to understand thier religious claims. Even apparently simple claims, when investigated, are often not so simple. The claim that man is saved by grace, for example, appears very simple, until you attempt to define "saved" or "grace".
Also, unlike some others, I do NOT see religion as "smothering". As James says, in "Varieties of Religious Experience" religion is as much a part of man's experience as emotion. While I readily concede that religion abused is smothering (I think the Taliban exemplifies that!) I also see religion as something that appeals to and develops many of man's highest capacities.
But, what is religion? I went to a lecture last night at the Dallas Philosopher's Forum presented by the Pastor of the North Texas FreeThought Church. He argues against the existence of a God. The problem, to me, in his lecture, was that his definitions of both God and religion seemed overly narrow. Because of the narrowness of his definitions, he was able to argue against the existence of God and the harmfullness of religion. His use of the term spirituality seemed to contradict the understanding of that term used by many others in the field. He disparaged "god" as simply "filling in the gaps", and equated faith in God with being nothing more significant than an outgrowth of man's imagination -- comparing belief in God to the imaginative fabrications of Mickey Mouse and Spiderman. He was able to do this because his definitions of the terms were overly narrow. So when religion is accused of being "smothering" I think we need to look at what aspect of religion we're talking about or what we mean by religion in general.
If you read through this entire string, it becomes clear that the concept of religion is (or can be) complicated, that there are multiple views of what it is, and that Bradbury clearly uses religious symbolism throughout much of his writing. Seeking to understand what that symbolism means seems like a logical and self-evident part of more fully understanding Bradbury's writing.
As always, an excellent discussion, Mr. Dark. (Though I might disagree with you somewhat on the Hemingway stuff. I read him, now, in an entirely different light, after reading an essay by Andre Dubus who, after a crippling accident, considered In Another Country to be quite different than when Dubus had first read it. Dubus, a Catholic, found Hemingway was saying much about the comforts of faith.)
I think we consider other peoples' religion in much the same way we consider their political affiliations, their dress, or even haircut. Do we make judgements? Very well, then, we make judgements. But in the process, we consider and challenge our own faiths as well.
Oh, and nice discussion on the chasm between trying to describe and understand the infinite with the finite tools of language. Pretty much explains why faith is a continuing process.
Haven't read the essay by Dubus, but it sounds interesting. One of the things I like about Hemingway is that he is not what I would call a negative existentialist. Hemingway, in his stories and novels, creates ways of dealing with the lack of meaning that he finds in the world. Two aspects of that are that he creates a kind of code of behavior in his "heroes". This code (things that are healthy to do) informs the actions a hero takes in order to regain a sense of control. The other thing Hemingway does (as seen masterfully in "Big Two-Hearted River") is that he has his characters create order in very physical ways. In the camping scene in that story, Nick Adams sets up camp in very precise ways. This order nullifies the chaos that constitutes life. In the same way, one of the benefits of religion is that it provides a sense of order to a universe that is often perceived as being somewhat unordered. I can see why Dubus found a sense of a comfort of faith in Hemingway. I think Hemingway's way of re-creating or creating order is a way of accomplishing what faith accomplishes -- it sets up a kind of reliable order in the universe. It is no coincidence that Hemingway named one of this stories, "A Clean Well-Lighted Place". The creation of this order and control in a universe of chaos provides meaning.
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 05-14-2003).]
Come on, Mr. Dark.
This idea of trying to define God...
Why form a definition that all of the masses can accept? You will get exhausted or eaten up in the doomed-process.
Simply...when I make a statement about God, I will offend people, or somebody someplace. That's the nature of things.
And this is the statement:
Jesus Christ is God!
See, no mystery!
In fact in the book of Ephesians, it says the 'mystery' that has been hidden since the beginning of time has now been 'revealed', and it is this: It is God's plan that all of creation take on the character of Christ....
Oh, so simple.
Be absolutely sure, however. This will get lots of people to move their squelch button to easy reach.
Ray is simply and uncomplicatedly so, 'Unitarian', in his faith. Sort of, all roads lead to to the same place. Jesus said...No one Comes to the Father except by Me. That sort of eliminated a whole lot of other roads, doesn't it?
No matter what it is, somewhere in this great big world someone is going to get uppidity about anything said or written or believed..... Doesn't it really come down to ...what do "YOU" understand and believe....amidst the 'world's' philosophy and beliefs?
I agree that at some level it all comes down to what YOU believe, as an individual. Hence the beauty of the separation of church and state (loaded words, I know). The freedom for each person to define their own version of God is the only condition that allows religion to have any meaning outside totalitarian force.
On the other hand, defining truth as being only about what you understand, comes dangerously close to either sollipsism or radical subjectivity. I believe there is a self-existing God out there. His reality does not depend on my awareness of him. But, that's another story.
The question of how "simple" the idea of God is seems unsettled to me.
2 Cor 11:3 says, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
On the other hand, his own disciples could hardly understand Christ half the time. Christ berated them frequently for their lack of faith and lack of understanding. When Paul taught (in Acts) it says he "reasoned from scripture . . ." An implication of some thought processes involved and not just some self-evident, undefinable principle.
Additionally, though the mystery of Christ is now revealed, it is interpreted in widely divergent sets of belief. This is obvious by the many contradictory and different denominations -- all with variants in their practices and Christologies that make it difficult to just assert self-evident principles.
The Unitarian faith, because there is no central Papel authority, is subject to a good deal of interpretation. To say that Bradbury is a Unitarian is presumably true, but only gives a glimpse into his personal views.
The point is not for me (or anyone else welcome to contribute to this thread) to define God. All I'm trying to to is extrapolate what we can know about Ray's theology from his writing. This is not an uncommon endeavor in literary criticsm.
Um, yeah. But back to the Hemingway stuff. Mr. Dark, you're right on target with your analysis of Big Two-Hearted River. If your teaching Hemingway in this manner, then your class is indeed blessed to have you has their teacher.
(I know, I know, this is the Ray Bradbury site. If I wanna talk Hemingway, take it to the Hemingway site. Sorry. But it's clear Ray's a big Hemingway fan himself so, really, I'm not that far out of line.)
Okay, I see we're going to loose some people here...(Um, yeah!)
But let's both look at this a little closer, if no one else...
Solipsism is just a theory ! Agree? Scripture is not a theory. Agree?
What I privately experience, thru the Grace and Spirit of God, that very, very intimate insight, based on the very Scripture I read, can be enjoyed with another Christian I meet ...that I have 'never' even met before. We share somethiing very deep and intimate. How can that be?
That verse you quoted, 2nd Corinthians 11: 3.... says "not to be corrupted...from understanding the simplicity that is in Christ." Don't get complicated, in other words... so that you loose sight of the fact that everything Christ is ...wants to invade everything you are. That means letting God's grace 'replace' your sin .
(The word, Sin defined: An ancient archery term, denoting when you miss the target.) In this case, missing the target of our understanding and relationship of who God is and has designed us to be, as well as our ability to do something about it. Sin says it all. You lose!
Also, about Christ's disciples ...they did not have the New Testament. Yeah,I know, they wrote it, but only in looking back and understanding it, do WE get a full picture. Peter is always saying, Don't be ignorant...Don't forget what I Said. Nowadays, don't you agree...We are over-bibled, over-versed, over-preached to, that unless the Spirit of God takes hold, it all looks just like a bunch of words and we think we know what's it all about.
I am attracted to Scripture because there is NOTHING I have ever discovered, both in philosophy or science fiction or the most imaginative fiction, that can equal what God says is 'true'. It is like the further-most telescope of thinking, like, the farthest thinking possible on any given turn of the heart...to explain and direct.
Take for instance just a single verse. I bring this up to make a point.
For instance, how do I become favorable before God? Ephesians 1, verse 4 has the answer:
""He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.""
If you read that, it seems like,...so what does that mean? Think about it. It is NOT my choice to believe.
And he did it long before I was born. Long before there were planets. How about that. Before...Christ was ever born, ever crucified. God chooses me, inserts me into the character of Christ (in Christ)..and there, the Father looks upon His Son, and intertwined into the enormity of unfathomable complexities, hidden by its very design, there is Me! Safe! And pleasing before the Father because the Father only sees His Son. Now tell me if that isn't something to think about continually. What marvel is this, anyway? What kind of incredible Love is This? Peter says that this is SO Unique, what God has done, that angels are peering over God's shoulder, for they have never seen anything like this before...And that is all in One single verse.... There's hundreds of verses like that.
I have always gotten heart struck and dreamy reading some of Bradbury's prose. The opening paragraphs of his short story, 'Death and ther Maiden', used to make be go into near helpless crying fits that left me breathless and pale. It took years and years until I figured it out. Eventually, I had come to a place where I couldn't go anymore... a great gulf....where whatever I read of Ray's, I came to the same gulf, that I couldn't cross. When I became born again, having accepted Christ as my Saviour, I transversed the gulf. I could now begin to understand why I cried over 'Death and the Maiden'.
Now tell me, is it all in my mind?
Do you, Mr. Dark, exist only in the cyber print on my monitor...?
I do not find friends with people who purposely de-value the enormity of Christ. That would be like someone rewritting between the lines of Bradbury, because his words are insufficiently grand. Too bad. To those editors, I would tell them plainly: Get Lost!
It's an interesting coincidence to see this thread bumped up to the top. A few days ago I only found it by doing a search, and here it is at the center of attention. My motivation was to learn more based on my interest in "The Messiah", which evidently is the basis for a scene in the miniseries that captured my imagination but I could not place in Bradbury's work. I think I've gotten quite a vivid picture thanks to Mr. Dark's contributions. Frankly, there's nothing else in this thread worth reading, and I have no interest in reading obnoxious religious proselytizing or debate. There is sadly no lack of this crap in this country and I can get it elsewhere if I feel the need. My only interest is understanding Bradbury better, and I hope that this thread can stay focused on this defined purpose. In this regard, my only complaint about Mr. Dark is that his last few posts are far too wishy-washy. That is, more greater analytical precision is needed to account for the actual logic of Bradbury's stories, and an excessively respectable deference toward religion does not help.
I think Mr. Dark's take on Bradbury himself is pretty convincing at first glance, and that helps. I would also want to look at the open-endedness of Bradbury's stories from a less open-ended view,i.e. what makes it objectively possible to draw opposing conclusions from the text? It's interesting that Bradbury shows Peregrine to be selfish and parochial in projecting his own need and thus torturing the Martian. If the Martian really was Jesus, it would be just as bad, because the selfishness would be just the same. It's this aspect of the story that I find brilliant. On the other hand, the priest's basic standing, his mission,and his quest are granted their dignity; only his provincialism and lack of knowledge of other things in the universe are lacking. Hence he comes off looking pretty decent in spite of his limitations.
I find this fascinating and I think revealing of Bradbury. I would not have let the priest off the hook like this, but then I'm a different person. Ultimately this apsect of the story is a bit too pious (and even conservative) for me. It is also guaranteed not to offend the religious believer as much as possible, while the author still remains a freethinker. In other words, Bradbury comes off as a religious liberal rather than an iconoclast against traditional religion. I think this is a shortcoming myself, a lack of critical edge, but what Bradbury does he does beautifully.
Oops, I'm embarrassed to see so many grammatical lapses in my previous post. Worst of all, I forgot to indicate that the miniseries I alluded to is that of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, 1979, teleplay by Richard Matheson, starring Rock Hudson.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Nard Kordell:
Okay, I see we're going to loose some people here...(Um, yeah!)"
Is this a chess game?
"...What I privately experience, thru the Grace and Spirit of God, that very, very intimate insight, based on the very Scripture I read, can be enjoyed with another Christian I meet ...that I have 'never' even met before. We share somethiing very deep and intimate. How can that be?"
You're on target her, Nard. Because Christ seeks intimacy with each of us and grants love and wisdom through that itimacy. So each level of acceptance is as diverse as our level of thinking and complexly unique as a snowflake.
"...and intertwined into the enormity of unfathomable complexities, hidden by its very design, there is Me! Safe! And pleasing before the Father because the Father only sees His Son."
Nard, that is a huge leap, even for you. Assumptions can sometimes provoke rebutal.
Now tell me, is it all in my mind?
Do you, Mr. Dark, exist only in the cyber print on my monitor...?"
I don't think so!
"I do not find friends with people who purposely de-value the enormity of Christ."
Clearly, that was never done. Nard, as usual, you take the first cheap shot.
Exploring the unknown parts of our spiritual roots is a profound privledge and what better place than here! Keep it alive for as long as there are questions.
I just typed a very long answer to this- and then accidently hit 'clear fields'.
I'll take this as an indication that I'm much too tired- not too tired to think, but too tired to move my fingers in an accurate way.
I intended to say a lot of other things too.
I shall return.
But what I really want to sleep to tonight, is the following:
everything on this site starts with Bradbury. That does not mean that it ends there, nor should it. There are plenty of ways to interject fresh blood to this site without deriding these longer discussions.
I don't like where this thread is heading. I've found some of the best people to exchange ideas with on this site that I've found anywhere. I value the opinions, even those that I entirely disagree with, on this site very much, and I don't like to see the same old problems devolve to ankle-biting...
A well worn stream where water flows freely and easily, drawn everywhich way by the wind, but propelled by the unified current below... with no end in sight... sounds kind of like... everything.
(Please note that this picturesque depiction of our work on this site with some overtones of my religious views has no offense intended to any who have an end in site, as I'm sure many people do) - the above few apologetic lines are the only kinds of "crap" we should be avoiding- I'm with you, Nard- we have different views, so lets accept that we're going to step on each others toes, but do it with grace and minimum amount of "crap".
Here- now I've written twice. One very long, one only kinda long.
[This message has been edited by DanB (edited 05-15-2003).]
This quote from my above post should be remembered:
"The point is not for me (or anyone else welcome to contribute to this thread) to define God. All I'm trying to to is extrapolate what we can know about Ray's theology from his writing. This is not an uncommon endeavor in literary criticsm."
I'm not trying to tell anyone what to believe.
I'm not trying to devalue anyone else's beliefs.
I'm not trying to start a church.
I'm not trying to preach my version of God.
I'm not trying to diminish Christ.
I'm not trying to trivialize scripture.
I'm not trying to convert anyone to Bradburyism.
I'm not trying to evaluate whether or not I think Bradbury is "right".
I'm just reading Bradbury and discussing what I think we can understand about his religious views from the context of his stories and poems. It's as simple as that for me.
I think it's a valuable exercise.
If we go off in peripheral discussions I suppose that's fine, but that is not what I meant to begin with this thread.
I agree with you Mr. Dark, but note how in this country especially we are always on the defensive against Christian aggression, as manifested in your very need to defend yourself. (I for one do not tolerate Christian imperialism, but I have no need to discuss it here unless it interferes with the matter at hand.) All the more reason to concentrate on Bradbury's own views as much as possible. Now when I say that I would not have been as lenient as Bradbury, that statement is only of value to this list insofar as it allows us to inquire into the logical structure of Bradbury's fictional treatment of religious topics. You have explained fairly well both aspects of RB's treatment of the subject. On the one hand, he evinces skepticism towards limited and partial views which lay claim to more complete knowledge that he evidently thinks exists. On the other, he treats these limited views as components of a larger truth, a puzzle to be better put together if not completed in the future. This is the logic I believe needs to be delved into.
This structure allows a number of things to happen. One, spiritual experience, or the alleged spiritual content of belief systems, can be preserved intact and only closed-minded dogmatism rejected. One could even claim that such openness reflects the real meaning of traditional religious views more so than their dogmatic shells. Two, the specific nature of the partial truths revealed in various religious systems in relation to the yet undetermined whole truth remains indefinite and unspecified. Hence a religious liberalism that can be all things to all people except to die-hard fanatics who terrorize anyone who refuses to genuflect to their religious beliefs--I won't name names.
I find this an interesting logical structure, esp. in comparison to others that might be constructed. True, it's Bradbury's that matter here: not to disavow, not to endorse, but to understand. But one way of understanding is to dig into the assumptions involved. In stories such as "The Fire Balloons" and "The Messiah", RB is might generous to these priests--much more than they deserve, in my opinion, but what matters is the underlying logic of the stories. Are there other RB stories where his implied criticism of conventional religion is much harsher?
Quote: ". . . my only complaint about Mr. Dark is that his last few posts are far too wishy-washy. That is, more greater analytical precision is needed to account for the actual logic of Bradbury's stories, and an excessively respectable deference toward religion does not help."
This is an important point, and the effort to create logical "constructs" of Bradbury's thought is critical. One of the differences between philosophy and literature is in this question of logical precision. When I read philosophy I expect a certain precision in the use of language and in the development of arguments/ideas. This is not necessarily true in literature. Literature often speaks in symbols and a portion of it's strength is in it's ability to deal with the imprecision and ambiguity that is a part of the human condition. Because of this, literature is not always subject to the same level of logical analysis (at least to the achievement of unarguable, uniform conclusions) as is the case in [good] philosophical writing. What I fully support is the idea that the effort is critical, and that we should go as far as possible.
Because Bradbury combines imagery, symbolism and metaphor in his writing with such artistic relish, he is even more difficult to nail down than some other fiction writers. Sometimes the effort to nail him down (especially as I'm reading through the poetry in "The Chapbook") is an almost zen-like effort.
Nevertheless, I believe that analytic work can actually be more fun in the case of a writer like Bradbury. In spite of what I've just said, it is not the case that anything goes, and that all interpretations are equal. The value of building logical constructs of his ideas and work is that it forces us to be as precise and consistent as possible in understanding what he wants to say through his writing.
The effort is both fun and challenging and is definitely worth the effort.
I think Bradbury is "lenient" on priests, etc. (good observation, by the way) because of two views he seems to hold. (1) I think Bradbury understands that the human condition means we are flawed beings with beautiful potential. I think he cuts people some slack because of that. (2) Bradbury sees both science AND religion as paths to the truth. At some point, the paths meet, and at some points the paths are divergent. Nevertheless, I think Bradbury's view (and I concur on this) is that there are some truths outside the scope of a radical empiricism. He wants to keep both paths to truth open because either one without the other is insufficient to get us to the whole truth.
I can be a bit wishy-washy sometimes. This is both a strength and, as you note, a weakness. The strength is that I refuse to attack others' religious perspectives precisely because I respect thier right to define their own path (hopefully, working in good conscience). The weakness is that I may not make a few points that could be made in deference to others' feelings. This is a scholarly board (one of my all-time favorites), but it is also a community of people whose lives have been touched by Bradbury. I respect those lives and their feelings. I can fudge on my comments if it helps this community remain a positive place for people to participate. I hope others are doing the same thing. By this, I do not mean dishonesty.
I appreciate comments made here that cause me to delve deeper into Bradbury and his ideas and writing style. I love it when I'm legitimately challenged to re-think a position or to go deeper into one. I have been grateful to those who have exposed me to perspectives unappreciated by me in the past. This has been an excellent forum for me.
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