Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Before I die, I desperately want to see Snickers bars being made.

Not much to say today. We're playing with Evan Dando from the Lemonheads tonight at Emo's, so I hope to see lots of people there and I hope it's a fun night. Doors at 9, show at 10.

When you're a musician, or when you work in the music industry in any way, it's really easy to become jaded about music. Difficult to impress. And not just about new bands, even new records by bands you already like. It's kind of sad when you look back at the way you loved music when you were 13 years old and you had just heard Weezer for the first time. However sad it may be, it is inevitable. But lately, I've discovered some records that have really excited me. They're not really even new records, but they're new to me.
Sean Lennon "Friendly Fire"
Switchfoot "Nothing is Sound"
Aimee Mann "Smilers"
The Stills "Without Feathers"
Coconut Records "Davy"
OK GO "Of the Blue Colour of the Sky"
It almost makes me feel young when you realize you're actually excited to drive somewhere just so you can further digest a new record.

Three blind men are in a room with an elephant. One of them reaches out and feels the trunk and says "An elephant is a long and snakelike thing." Another one reaches out and feels the elephant's side and says "No, an elephant is like a wall." The last man reaches out and feels the elephant's leg and says "No, you're both wrong. An elephant is like a tree trunk." No one is completely right, and no one is completely wrong.

Does this work as an appropriate metaphor for god and religion (assuming you allow the existence of the supernatural as a possibility at all)? Why or why not?


  1. I know completely how you feel. It is so easy to become jaded about any activity worth pursuing... Especially when you pour so much time and effort into something that has little or no financial benefits. I've been going through similar things lately. The prospect of working at an unfulfilling job for the rest of my life is way worse though.

    This parable shows up scattered through varieties of Eastern religion and is used by many modern pluralists about God. I doubt it will surprise you that I don't think it's a great metaphor for the varieties of religions and conceptions of God. Here's why:
    A few of the claims being made by this illustration are:
    (1) We are all somehow impaired or limited in our judgments either by the limits of our mind, or our culture etc. We are ignorant of or incapable of seeing other perspectives. (we are blind)
    (2) God is mute, and cannot or does not speak to us. We are left to our own devices to discover what God is like. (The elephant is passive, and makes no attempt to communicate with us)
    (3) All of us are in fact talking about the same thing, though in ignorance (The blind men are grouping at different parts of one thing). Complete knowledge will reveal that all of our descriptions of gods are compatible descriptions of one God (or religion, or Truth).
    (4) There exists an impartial observer (a man who is not blind) who can see the elephant for what it is in its entirety. This man is responsible for telling us that we each possess incomplete versions of the whole truth.
    What is the problem with these claims? I would acknowledge that our minds are finite and imperfect, but I don’t think we are in the same position as claim (1) asserts. I think that it is possible to study and understand other perspectives. We are not trapped in our own such that we are incapable of considering others. Claim (2) rules out the possibility a central tenet of all western forms of Monotheism: That God has specially revealed himself to us throughout history in form of prophets and holy books. If we know God has spoken to us in the Bible or Koran, we don’t have to rely purely on our own efforts to discover things about God. (3) assumes that the various claims about God are capable of being unified in a coherent way. This just seems clearly false. Christianity claims that Jesus is the messiah, while Islam maintains that he is not. Theists believe that God exists, and Naturalists believe that he does not. Buddhists have one diagnosis for human suffering (desire) while Jews and Christians have another (Sin). These claims are mutually exclusive, and no amount of future study or information can reconcile them, just as no amount of studying bachelors will yield a married bachelor. Claim (4) is made implicitly by the mere existence of this parable. The parable presupposes that at least someone (the person telling this story) is capable of seeing that the blind men are all talking about the same thing. But why think that this person is in a better position than the rest of us? Why is the person who thinks all religions are describing one thing in a better position than the various people making different religious claims?
    In short: it is possible that all our conceptions of God are false, but it is not possible that they are all true. Either God exists, or he doesn’t. Either Jesus is God, or he isn’t. Etc.

  2. You left out the part about the guy who reached out his hand and said "What elephant?"

    I think it's a pretty ok metaphor. I think when it comes to God we do see it through the lens of our own experience. I think we all know what we want from God, and I think people who get that are rare and lucky. I know I've never gotten what I want.

    The thing that's most interesting to me is that all of the men speak in similes. They all say "an elephant is like..." because they have no point of reference. They compare him to something they do understand. That's what we do with God. We try to say he's like a river or a voice or a feeling. But really we have no idea. Even if we do reach out and find something, I doubt it's the full picture.