General Mumblings

Significance of First Events – It’s All Illusion

What’s the significance of the first event or action in some context?

From the viewpoint of intentionality, the maxim “start as you mean to go on” suggests that you can create significance by your intention.

From a magical perspective, the first events that happen are often given significance as being fateful omens or as setting inescapable precedents: in some sense they are predictors of future events or trends.

So how did you start YOUR year?

I don’t mean at two minutes after mid-night when you were caught in the flow of the uniqueness of the New Year event.

I mean at the first opportunity to do something under normal circumstances – probably earlier today (New Year’s day) after getting up.

Are you worried at all about your first actions or choices or events that happened to you? Have disturbing precedents been set? Are the omens auspicious? Are you REALLY going to continue in that vein for the WHOLE of 2017?

God help us all.

I got up very late (not significant, given the lateness of retiring) and had a light breakfast, during which I had intended to catch up on the news on TV.

But on switching on the screen, I was presented with a rather catchy song being sung by an intense and joyful congregation as part of Songs of Praise. I continued watching till the end of the song – and indeed till the end of the whole Songs of Praise program, covering three different, but equally intense and joyful congregations.

I’d never watched so much of that program in decades. If you’re not a practicing Christian, you don’t, do you? So what kept my attention on this occasion?

Apart from the interesting historical interludes (concerning Henry VIII, Edward VI and the Reformation), the novelty of Aled Jones as the presenter and the hymn singing – what captivated my interest was my struggle to find an appropriate reaction to the people in the congregations.

In the past, I could have been in such a congregation myself singing joyfully in full Christian sincerity. And I have been in many congregations (during Ben’s chorister days) enjoying the singing – but without the Christian sincerity.

But today, I looked at those congregations and experienced a reaction which I quickly realised was far too judgemental. Indeed, it was very un-Christian.

Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7)

So I kept watching till the end, trying to work out a response to the joyful expression of Christian worship, which honored both the Christian worldview and my own.

Perhaps you’re wondering why there’s an issue at all. Isn’t it simply a matter of “live and let live?”

Not really.

“Live and let live”, at it’s extreme, is an injunction not to kill those who don’t think like you. That’s easy to comply with.

Better yet, I have no urge to barge into churches and take over the pulpit; nor to go door-to-door looking for opportunities to persuade others to adopt my world-view; nor to have a stand on Cornmarket Street with books and pamphlets; nor to hand out leaflets on street corners.

That’s not the issue at all. I’m not looking to persuade Christians to change their beliefs.

The issue is what is an appropriate emotional response which appropriately respects all perspectives? If I’m going to do that fully and integrally, it’s not immediately obvious what form that takes (for me), nor how I would express it.

Integral philosophy provides some guidance here – in theory at least – but this is more about my personal internalization of it.

(Thinking about it, I suppose a true Christian faces a similar issue in how they relate to non-Christians – except for Christians it’s more than an emotional response because there must be an element of a moral imperative to perform soul-saving proselytising. Not an easy ask in today’s culture.)

For what it’s worth, that is how I started 2017.

I then spent even more time watching the Smurfs film – to which my emotional response was a great deal simpler.

As to the significance of my first 2017 events…

There is none.

Intentionality is an illusion (a topic for another post), and I like to think that I’m no longer subject to magical beliefs (which assumption is probably a conceit – another form of illusion).

Happy 2017 to my reader.