December 11, 2019

Klasie Kraalogies: Rhythm — An Atheist Contemplates Lent

The Astronomer. Vermeer

Rhythm – An Atheist Contemplates Lent
By Klasie Kraalogies

At the heart of the cosmos is rhythm, movement, cycles. Existence is a near-infinite superposition of Ptolemaic epicycles, seasons and ice ages and aeons of move and counter-move.

A few days ago someone in the comment section talked about panentheism. Popularized, if that is the right word, by Baruch Spinoza – that sage who can be read with profit by atheist and theist alike. Of course, the roots of these thoughts lie in earlier history – Democritus’s atoms, the words of Zeno etc. It is also reflected in the thoughts of the Buddha. As well as the great author, Douglas Adams, who has his “holistic detective” Dirk Gently constantly holding forth on the “Interconnectedness of all things”.

So how does this connect to Lent? The religious calendar is a reflection on the rhythms of existence – of life-giving death, of pain leading to glory. While there seems to be a tendency to think of belief and unbelief as two absolutist categories, perpetually at war, this is simplistic. All of existence, dances in ecstasy, only to succumb to life-giving agony. As an atheist, hellfire etc. holds no sway – but our cyclical struggles, our painful struggles to not succumb to evil, to not die in vain but to sow the seeds of new life – these are powerful realities.

The previous Doctor in the BBC’s Dr Who had this as a main theme – the agony over the question – “Am I a good man?”. He then answers it himself:

“…I am not a good man! And I’m not a bad man either. I’m not a hero. I’m definitely not a president, and no, I’m not an officer. You know who I am? I… am… an idiot! With a box and a screwdriver. Passing through. Helping out. Learning. I don’t need an army. I never have. Because I’ve got them, always them, because love is not an emotion. Love is a promise..”

A promise. We are idiots – but the lesson we learn, and the promise we hold on to, which enables us to endure the rhythms of the Cosmos, to ride the waves of existence, is Love. Lent is the promise of love – love through pain, life through death. This is reality. This is rhythm. And rhythm, my friends, is music. We are the daughters and sons of supernovae – and our music is the music of the spheres.

Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    Let us pause———and offer prayers for those slaughtered, for the souls of 40 or more Muslims killed in New Zealand today.
    Many injured. Read the international news and see how petty our squabbles are.

    God forgive us all.

    Lord have mercy.
    Christ have mercy.
    Lord have mercy

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      Death toll now 49. 20 seriously injured.

      The gunman was from Australia. He had accomplices.

    • Phil Dickens says

      Lord Jesus have mercy

    • Pellicano Solitudinis says

      It’s truly terrible.

      Lord have mercy.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful.

      Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us and made us into tribes and nations, that we may know each other, not that we may despise each other.

      If the enemy incline towards peace, do thou also incline towards peace, and trust in God, for the Lord is the one that heareth and knoweth all things.

      And the servants of God Most Gracious, are those who walk on the Earth in humility, and when we address them, we say “Peace.”

      Send Thy peace, O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting,
      that our souls may radiate peace.
      Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act,
      and speak harmoniously.
      Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may be contented
      and thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.
      Send Thy peace, O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife
      we may enjoy thy bliss.
      Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may endure all,
      tolerate all in the thought of thy grace and mercy.
      Send Thy peace, O Lord, that our lives may become a
      divine vision, and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.

  2. We are the daughters and sons of supernovae – and our music is the music of the spheres.

    We are stardust….

    • Burro (Mule) says
    • Christiane says

      the elements of the Earth WERE forged in the stars and when the stars ‘exploded’ (the supernova), those elements were scattered throughout the Universe . . . . so the old song ‘we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden’ . . . has more truth in it than most are aware

      we take TOO MUCH FOR GRANTED, and there is a penalty for this mistake that can overwhelm and discourage

      • Christiane, I was about to post some lyrics to another of Joni Mitchell’s songs.

        In Klasie’s article he says,

        “So how does this connect to Lent? The religious calendar is a reflection on the rhythms of existence – of life-giving death, of pain leading to glory.”

        I’ve had Joni’s “Circle Game” on my mind in recent weeks because my mother has been in a nursing home and in-and-out of the hospital since Christmas. I’ve also been trying to get the hang of it on the piano.

        Is it a Christian song? or something from Eastern religions? And why do we baptists ignore the Christian calendar anyway, as if it were suspect? (That came up jokingly last Sunday, in a congregational church with a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian. All in good fun.)

        But back to Joni, or perhaps to Lent,

        “And the seasons they go round and round
        And the painted ponies go up and down
        We’re captive on the carousel of time
        We can’t return we can only look behind
        From where we came
        And go round and round and round
        In the circle game”

      • Buddhism teaches that every form is composed of every other form. We are composed of stardust, and of water and moon and each other, every moment of the past and future, every animal and cloud and drop of rain. Without them being exactly what and where and when they were, are, and will be, neither would we.

    • Norma Cenva says

      Thank you Robert…
      One of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ever penned and played.

  3. johnbarry says

    Klasie K. Of course now in the 21 century we can explain much that the belief in God , Gods or whatever form of religion explained. My simple question and remember it is me, so you know it is going to be simple is—- Could early civilizations have evolved and prospered without a belief in God and if they could not than would it be true that a belief in God was necessary. Sure, now we can rely on the “knowledge”, the understanding of man but that was a long road to travel.

    I believe a few, very small , isolated Pacific Islands , that had a very simple civilization had no “religion” that was formalized. So could we as a civilization have gotten where we were with out God. Would men from the North gone to war to free others without the impetus of the song Battle Hymn of the Republic?

    Also what does an atheist say when someone sneezes? Heard that in third grade on some TV show probably Ed Sullivan but still like it.

    How about the French Revolution vs. the American Revolution , the difference in what their revolution was based on.

    Always interesting subject that branches into so many issues. Personally, I am afraid to believe there is no God, as fear is the beginning of wisdom and I am ;patiently waiting.

    Nova was the beautiful “girlfriend” of Taylor aka C. Heston in the Planet of Apes movie. She was super hot and I picked up on the super nova reference that many may have missed. I also do blame it on the Bossa Nova. Once again , I raise the bar on level of discussion. I can not help it, God or ? help me. I cannot reason myself our of it.

  4. The religious calendar is a reflection on the rhythms of existence – of life-giving death, of pain leading to glory.
    The Christian calendar revolves around the birth,death, and life of Jesus Christ. That is very different from a reflection on rhythms of existence. I really did like your piece but ours is about a very specific person and his life.

    • Ronald Avra says

      Yes, our faith is necessarily grounded in Jesus of Nazareth. This is the essence of our reality.

    • –> “I really did like your piece but ours is about a very specific person and his life.”

      Yep. Removing “the reason” is like doing Christmas as a non-believer. I’m trying to think: are there any other activities that people do because they like the “routine” of it, yet aren’t doing it because of their belief in it?

    • This is true – it is the story of Jesus we follow. However, historically this story has become viewed through the metaphorical lens of the seasonal cycles in the Northern Hemisphere. In that light Klasie is simply and eloquently drawing meaning from that same metaphorical world. There we’re on common ground as fellow human beings.

    • I think Klasie has a point. Yes our calendar is about Jesus. Yet, Lent is about Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving as a way to prepare for new life. These three we hold in common: Prayer = introspection and communion with all that is, God in our Lexicon, but not omitted from Klasie’s. Fasting = simplification, getting down to basics, purification, letting go – all terms that we hold in common with Klasie. Alms-giving is non-denominational and held in common with atheists as well.

      I went to a seminar 10 years ago where I was encouraged to dwell on the 98% we all hold in common and not the 2% upon which we differ.The sense of wonder I felt while travelling home after leaving the seminar was almost ecstatic!

  5. Love, rhythm, music, promise—to this theist it all points to God. Thanks, Klasie, for a sermon more eloquent than most of the ones I’ve heard from those who get paid to preach.

    Prayers for Muslims everywhere and for New Zealand.

    • –> Love, rhythm, music, promise—to this theist it all points to God.”

      Bingo. Then I guess it all comes down to choice, doesn’t it? “Am I choosing to view this ‘of God’, or view this ‘not of God’?”

      And yes… Prayers for Muslims everywhere, especially in NZ, and all of New Zealand.

  6. thatotherjean says

    I am, on good days, an agnostic. I do not know, and cannot quite bring myself to believe, that there is a god, or gods, who direct our lives. So I am left with the wisdom of humans, like Klassie’s quote from Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor, .” . . .love is not an emotion. Love is a promise.” and Carl Sagan’s “We are made of starstuff.” to find a way to get through life. I’d like to leave the world a little better than I found it, so I work toward that, rejoicing in the good in the world, while enduring–and trying to mitigate–some part of the bad. The religion of the Ancient Egyptians called this “ma’at”–what we call by a lot of names–justice, truth, “doing the right thing,” keeping the world in balance. It’s a pretty good guiding principle, I think.

    Today, in the face of the tragedy in New Zealand, is one of those days when it’s hard to remember that there is much good in the world, that needs to be supported. This is the only world we have, for now, and we must learn to share it, however difficult that is–to appreciate the things we have in common, and not let our differences engender hatred. I hope for justice for the perpetrators of the massacre at the mosque, healing for the wounded, and loving memories of the dead for their friends and families. We need to work together.

  7. I don’t wish or intend for this statement to come off as being pollyannaish. Having said that, these violent and tragic events that end in mass murder and are driven by hatred are not the norm for society today. That is why they make the news and hold our attention. By no means is this event acceptable, nor is it going to be the last. I think we need to recognize that in general modern societies have grown less violent on a less frequent basis.

    For me knowing this is so helps me to find hope and some reality to the phrase, “Thy Kingdom Come”. I’m not schooled on theology as most of you here, and I am okay with being a simpleton. But, I have grown away from thinking of the Kingdom Jesus spoke of as primarily and perhaps only on some other plane of existence to seeing he also meant the here and now. That the world is generally less violent than in past centuries gives me hope the Kingdom does indeed come inasmuch as you and I allow it to do so. That’s a powerful and hopeful thing for me, that is probably about all I have to hold onto right now.

    Mourn and grieve for these souls, bind their wounds if you’re there, help clean and bury their bodies. But determine to bring a more just, peaceful and loving world where you are and know under whose authority you do so. Do it in the face of evil, do it though you die, and may the Kingdom come.

    • –> “But determine to bring a more just, peaceful and loving world where you are and know under whose authority you do so. Do it in the face of evil, do it though you die, and may the Kingdom come.”

      It’s been reported that one of the worshippers greeted the gunman with a “Hello brother” before being shot and killed. Muslim or not, that seems like a very Jesus-thing to do. Maybe we are more alike than we realize.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Yes we are.

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        In Islam, Jesus is a prophet second only to Mohammed and (if you discount the belief that it sprung fully formed from the mind of God) Islam borrows very heavily from Christianity. Many Christians on encountering Islam thought initially it was in fact a divergent form of Christianity. There is also no question that the theological ideas of all faiths borrow from each other and are heavily intertwined, whether they will admit it or not. This is not surprising if there is indeed one God who speaks to all people, whatever unique insight Christians may claim (rightly or wrongly) to have through their express following of Christ himself.

        • Recent true story…

          Several Muslim women come to our church periodically for a job-finding ministry. Just a week ago, two of these women approached one of the staff and asked if they could “pray to the virgin Mary’s son.”

          I’ll just let that speak for itself.

  8. I appreciate that iMonk lets an atheist voice be heard. It seems very generous, and I’m guessing that’s pretty rare on Christian blog sites.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      I don’t think Klaasie is as atheist as he is trying to convince us that he is.
      Spinoza is not a bad place to land if you’re fleeing dysfunctional Christianity.

      At any rate, he has more than earned the right to be heard here.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Thanks Mule 🙂

        Oh I’m an atheist alright. But maybe not one that confirms to the common perception of what an atheist is supposed to be.

        • And hopefully some of us Christians don’t conform to the common perception of what a Christian is supposed to be, either!

          Blessings to you, Klasie!

          • That’s one reason why I don’t talk about Christianity much in person, and why I would never put a Christian decal or bumper sticker on my car. :-/

          • Klasie Kraalogies says

            And that is why I am here! 🙂

            • Klasie, this may or may not be off-topic, but… what does the math formula in your avatar mean? Keep it short. I got a C-minus in calculus.

              • Klasie Kraalogies says

                It is part of the basic kriging formula. Kriging is a variety of inverse-distance weighted interpolation in 2d or 3d space, to estumate the value of a variable in a specific location. Used extensively in Resource Heology, where you estimate grade etc for a deposit. It basically allows you to estimate the grade at a point where you don’t know what it is, based on the known points (where samples were taken).

                Wikipedia article may or may not be useful: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriging

                • Klasie Kraalogies says

                  Pardon the typo – Heuology = Geology.

                  • johnbarry says

                    Klasie , thanks for correcting the typo to Geology as when you did it was the only thing in your explanation I understood. I was out a couple of days in 10th grade Business Math when we probably covered this. I really thought the Kriging empire was part of the original Star Trek series, so thanks for clarifying.

                    Also I totally agree with Eyeore and you. When a person in business or a trade ids themselves as the “Christian” plumber or puts the “fish” thing etc. I get wary. When people I just meet or know casually introduce themselves or allude to their religion, I introduce myself as the “good looking” John Barry , otherwise they will never know I am good lucking. If you have to tell someone what you are, you probably are not.

                    I told my wife I would be introducing myself as “good lucking” and “smart” but she said that is a bridge too far. Not sure what that means but I do not think she is in agreement with me on the issue..

                    • johnbarry says

                      I made a typo also, I meant of course, good “looking: but the truth mechanism in my spell check changed it to lucking as looking did not compute. Glad it did not change the “L” to f or s or it would be banned in Boston.

                      I will drop the smart from my introduction for sure.

                • Thanks. Estimating geological grades and deposits will do nicely for an explanation. I got lost after that, and wikipedia made it worse.

                  I was at a table once with some friends who are vascular surgeons. They were going back and forth about techniques and technology and they kept raising the ante on one another. I didn’t have a clue, but I could tell it was fascinating. Finally one of them threw his napkin down and said, “I’m out.”

                  Something like that. Except I was never in.

                  But thanks.

      • I don’t think Klaasie is as atheist as he is trying to convince us that he is.

        I don’t think we are as Christian as we are trying to convince Klaasie that we are.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Maybe we can split the difference 🙂

        • Christiane says

          Good line, Robert F.

          Who is held up these days as a model ‘Christian’? Who would Our Lord choose as such, if any? Likely some little old lady who voluntarily cleans the toilets down at the local strip mall store front Church and takes care of four or five grandchildren for whom she is a kind and loving caregiver and a source of all that is stable in their lives . . .

          I suspect such is the case, and all the rhetoric and posturing of we who argue our points cannot hold a candle to such a glorious creature as that tired, worn-out old grandmother who limps home with a thankful heart to have place to stay and food to eat.

          Two millenia, and what do we know of the faith? What do we really know?

          • –> “What do we really know?”

            What we DO know is that Senecagriggs is in for sure!

            As for the rest of us… it’s up in the air, I guess.

            😉

  9. senecagriggs says

    In a brief 120 years from now, all people, from day old babies to centenarians will be dead. 120 years

    That fact should lend perspective.

  10. “Love is a promise…”

    I’m not sure I know what that means. But even if I did know exactly what it means, it would raise a question for me: Is it a promise that can be kept, that I can keep?

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      I made a promise in love many years ago.
      This week I had to make a decision in love.
      The end is not in sight but the options have
      been removed.
      I only have love to offer now.
      May Jesus hold us gently in His love.

  11. Michael Bell says

    Late comment here, but I wanted to say that I appreciate Klassie as a fellow African, Canadian, Rock hound, and spiritual seeker.

    I have also appreciated the generosity expressed in the comments today.

  12. senecagriggs says

    If I may seriously inquire, Chaplain Mike, are you a Universalist – ie. ALL will be saved be they Billy Graham or an avowed atheist?

    • Michael Spencer used to say that he was a “hopeful universalist.” I’ll stick wth that for now. There’s a new article over at CT oagainst universalism. I’ll be reading it today and perhaps commenting next week.

      • Hopeful universalism — that was Barth’s position, and C.S. Lewis’ as well, and many others from the early church to the present. How can one hope for anything less? Although there are those, perhaps many, who secretly or not so secretly do not hope for universal reconciliation — they want people consigned to eternal, conscious torment.

      • If God isn’t a hopeful universalist–if that doesn’t trump whatever other characteristic the Bible tells us He has–then we would all be pretty much doomed, wouldn’t we?

  13. senecagriggs says

    If I may seriously inquire, Geo Mike, are you a Universalist – ie. ALL will be saved be they Billy Graham or an avowed atheist?

  14. senecagriggs says

    If I may seriously inquire, Mike Bell, are you a Universalist – ie. ALL will be saved be they Billy Graham or an avowed atheist?

    • Michael Bell says

      I don’t think so. But I refuse to be dogmatic about the distant past our distant future. What I am certain of is that you appear to be incapable of commenting in a way that is relevant to a post and also that I would have deleted these irrelevant comments of yours had it been my post.

      • senecagriggs says

        shrug

        • senecagriggs says

          Mike Bell, not sure why you would be offended that I’m curious as to what the authors of this blog personally believe or what Klasie believes regarding his future.

          • We (I’m pretty sure what I’m about to say would also be voiced by others) get tired of being subjected to your orthodoxy litmus tests. It’s gotten quite old.

            • senecagriggs says

              Chin up Robert F. I’m pretty sure the others can speak for themselves.

            • We do speak for ourselves. It literally is like Jimmy/Seneca feels like if he says the same thing often enough it will …break our spirits & beg for mercy? Reverse the fact that the Bible has led many of us away from his brand of evangelicalism. Next step – the 5 Spiritual Laws in each post? It’s fine that he believes it, but that brand of evangelicalism can never mind its own business.

              I sound narky because I just feel it’s so disrespectful to the spiritual journeys & beliefs of those represented here.

              • Yep.

                I’m pretty sure it ain’t “right belief” that gets us right with God, it’s Jesus Christ.

                So people can take their “right belief” and shove it.

  15. senecagriggs says

    Klaisie; as an atheist, do you believe there is Life after life?

  16. If I may not-too-seriously inquire, sencagriggs — do you work for the Protestant Inquisition?

  17. Klasie Kraalogies says

    No

  18. senecagriggs says

    I obviously, chronically fail the I-monker progressive litmus test; cuts both ways I-monkers – dryly.

    HOWEVER, I don’t attack people in my comments –

    • It’s not the progressive litmus test you fail Seneca, it’s that of genuine respect & participation. We are not errant backsliders just waiting for someone like yourself to whip us back into theological shape. You come with an agenda, & that agenda is to tell, not to listen. Discussion does not happen without that.

      • senecagriggs says

        Yet I’m the one who asks questions Beaker. I’m that guy – honest questions. I didn’t assume C.M. was a universalist – so I asked. I could have just assumed, but I’m not that guy.

        If I ask honest questions [ and I do ] how is that disrespect.

        I don’t play “gotcha.” I do ask heartfelt questions.

        You might not want to answer but I’d like to honestly know – are you a Universalist Beaker?

        • You ask LEADING questions, not honest questions. Big difference, because the way you ask questions implies you have a CORRECT answer.

          • senecagriggs says

            You are incorrect Rick. That’s not what I do.
            _____

            I don’t know your heart Rick you don’t know mine. Agreed?

            • No, I do not know your true heart. That said, based upon the words you use here, I can say that it comes across as judgmental.

        • They’re not honest questions though. Don’t fool yourself. They’re all ‘in or out of my belief system’ questions. An honest question is one where you are going to listen to the answer, not file it away as immediately right or wrong, rather than asking someone why they hold to that belief, & what to means to them. Your questions never go there, & so they give away your real intent, which is basically to catechise us all.

          You disrespect others by continuing to hold their Christian beliefs & walk to the standards of your subculture, not the standards of the 2000 yrs of classic Christianity.

          And no, I wish I was a Universalist. Why do you want to know? I’d like to be, because my heart bleeds when I think of anyone being separated from God. It especially bleeds for the many I know who carry so many scars from rampant evangelicalism that some of them have concluded that no God exists.

          • senecagriggs says

            I also have wished salvation was universal; I have family and friends who give no evidence of being saved. I desperately want them to be.

            I don’t think “Rampant scars from Evangelicalism” will be an acceptable excuse for turning away from the only source of salvation.

            And what I told Rick Ro, I will share with you; I don’t know your heart, you do not know mine.

            • I’ll share this with you: You don’t know your own heart.– only the Spirit of God knows it. I’ll give you chapter and verse if you require it. You number yourself among the saved because you believe you’ve repented, but the human “heart is deceitful above all things”, its depths hold dark layers that refuse to repent, and over which your will and decision are impotent. Stop worrying about other peoples’ apparent refusal to repent, and start examining yourself to see how shallow and impotent your own repentance is.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says

              Seneca, sure no one knows another one’s heart. But, and here I risk bursting into flames, as I’m quoting Scripture:) , but is it not written, Ye shall know them by their fruits?

  19. senecagriggs says

    I’ve always been a guy who asks questions. No one is required to answer.