Thursday, November 25, 2010

curmudgeonly confession

I do not like thanksgiving. I do not like prayer. I realize that success for humans -- being productive, reaching goals, doing good, feeling good, maintaining healthy relationships -- depends on a kind of auto-hypnosis, training oneself to think positive thoughts -- and that thanksgiving, and prayer, and votive offerings, and praise of the divine, are for many if not most people essential means of putting themselves in a frame of mind that enables them to do good of any kind. 

But still, the whole effort seems dishonest to me -- or at least to part of me, or in some frames of mind (in other frames of mind I do suspect that those endowed with the religious chip may be onto something).  Islam captures the core impulse in its name -- submission.  People may have powerful impulses to dominate, but how we love to submit, to imagine an authority that will bless us for our submission, a heavenly parent who is well pleased with us.  Many of those who are most confident that they have obtained this blessed status then turn it around and use it as a stick to bludgeon those who don't perceive the universe or their place in it in the same way.

I do realize that the placatory and worshiping impulse that makes us feel in sync with the universe or at one with the will of a benevolent deity is one of the most powerful motive forces for action that makes human life better.  Perhaps some version of this feeling of connection, however obtained, is indispensable to productive action. No one, really, should disparage any activity, social or psychological, that helps to gin this feeling up.  So disregard this post. It just expresses one powerful strain of feeling, or perception, or maybe you could even call it thinking, that won't go away.

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