The Language of religion (2)

In February last year I wrote on our use of ‘religious’ words in The Language of Religion. I wrote on much-loved words: I Hope …, I think…, I believe…, I trust…, I know… relating them to faith. In spite of  being apparently easy, well-known words,  we can use them without realising their depth of meaning and how they relate to one another.

This post, and others to follow, deal with words which cannot be described as much-loved: today: wrath & anger…  not easy words, neither easily understood nor comfortable. Later posts may not fit this category but I have chosen them because they involve words I once thought I knew so well they did not need explanation, and have since found I was wrong: forgiveness, justice, eternity…

There will be gaps (we still have not moved house, although it is drawing closer)

Wrath…
Anger…

For thousands of years
we have associated these words with God.
Their use has changed,
but echoes remain.

Wrath and anger are now synonyms,
words with the same meaning,
but anger shares no roots with wrath.

Words grow like trees from roots far back in time
branching as they grow.
Sometimes suckers rise, sharing roots,
or cross-pollinated seeds
send stems from the earth,
with new roots to a related tree.

Wrathstems from Old English,
Anglo-Saxon, Scandanavian words.
The roots of wrath involve turning,
particularly turning away;
wrath shares them with wreathe and writhe,
with twist and twine,
with wrist (a turning joint),
turning awry words
which wring,
and wreck,
and wreak wrong.

Angeralso has Scandanavian and Anglo-Saxon roots,
but in New Testament Greek the word is οργε (orgé)
from this root come anguish and grief,
and angina (a constricting, choking pain),
yet it was not translated as anger,
but wrath.

Anger carries emotions of grief and regret;
an anxious response to imposed grief.
We see God’s anguish as anger,
then interpret anger as wrath,
seeing ourselves as hated things
because of our failings.
In this we increase our grief,
and His own.

God’s wrath is not a twisted,
writhing, turning away from a hated thing.
Wrath and anger are as different from one another
as over-strict, vicious punishment of a childs’s wrong…
turning the child away… turning away from the child…
is from the true, grieving response of a loving parent.

The True Parent grieves,
but the True Parent has no wrath.
The True Parent’s grief and regret and correction
is not wrath.
If it is anger, it is compassionate anger.

Two months before I wrote The Language of Religion I posted  How we Love Children which compares our Father’s love for us with parent’s love for children. Everything we feel and hope for is contained in our Father’s love.

A Hard World

The table pains the falling fist,
fragile glass resists the wind in the wind-eye.
The open sky bears birds on wings,
leaves blow, turning, overhead,
whirled under the cloud-race.
Air I cannot see cools my face,
warms my breath.

A million billion atoms,
particles beyond number,
each an uncertain focus,
a rippling point of action.
Their seeming infinite waveforms,
their flowing, ordered disorder,
are this cosmos.
Cosmos, an ancient word for order,
universe, uni-verse, one-Word,
with echoes rolling, calling,
from space-time’s first beginning.

But why are hard things hard
if made of shimmering space?
a mere focus of waves?

Why not?
The particles in the table
are focussed, no more, no less,
that those that jarred in my fist.
Can mere waves hit hard?
Ask a tsunami.

And when a tsunami dies, and the sea is calm,
where is it?
To every action there is a reaction.
The tsunami’s passage, its strike and fall,
the deaths it shares in its own,
echo and re-echo in the sea, the land.
The whole earth,
the whole cosmos,
rings with its toll.

Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

Our World

What is our world made of?

Hills and mountains, rivers and seas.

What are the seas made of?
Water and waves, salt and sand;
sand that goes between your toes,
salt that gets in your mouth and nose,
waves that wash on the beach and rocks,
water that gets in your shoes and socks.

What is the water made of?
Rain and rivers that run to the sea
for fishes to swim in like you and me,
for crabs that creep and gulls that cry
and creatures that never see the sky.

But still I wonder, now and again,
the water that comes in the rivers and rain,
that runs in the gutter and down the drain,
that splashes in brooks with a tinkling refrain,
and flows to the sea in the sunshine again –
what is it made of?

Tiny atoms too small to see
build all the world and all the sea.
They make the clouds that float in the sky,
and little children that wonder why.

Show me the atoms I cannot see.
What are they made from?
Where can they be?

Sticks and stones may break your bones,
bricks and beams may build your dreams,
but words, words…
Can one Word build a uni-verse?
a uni-world from a uni-Word?

Show me the atoms I cannot see,
Of what are they made?
Where can they be?
The sea is made of waves.
The waves are made of sea.

And the particles, the particles,
the tiny, tiny particles,
are each the focus of a wave
wider than the widest sea
that stretches through all infinity
and shimmering, makes you and me
and all we feel and all we see:
a universal harmony.

The Language of Religion

            The Language of Religion: Thought – Belief – Trust – Knowledge – Faith – Hope

I Hope …, I think…, I believe…, I trust…, I know…, have a definite order but the position of faith is less obvious. Faith is harder to place and often confused with the others.

Thought can be used as a noun from the past form of the verb think, meaning a conscious adjustment or association in the brain, or as a verb referring to something, as in I thought it was the best thing to do or I think it will rain today. In this way it is used as holding something to be possible rather than certain. There is a tendency to mistake it for ‘belief’ but I think God exists is weaker than I believe God exists.

Belief (be-lief = hold-dear) is often said to mean faith but one person may believe a thing and have faith in it, while another believes the same thing but has no faith in it. You can believe a man is a plumber but have no faith in him or trust him to do your plumbing.

Knowledge (gnosis, allied to constant – con – ken – can – canny) is often said to be the enemy of faith, as though having evidence for something leaves no room for faith. And yet it is possible to say, ‘I can prove that I am married but my faith in my marriage, or marriage in general, does not depend on that.’ One can even say, ‘I know (from whatever evidence one accepts) that there is a God but I have no faith in Him.’

Trust (allied to truth – troth) is the basis of most of our dealings in life: family, business, or pleasure. We may feel we need to be protected by rules, and take care to watch our backs, but we really live our lives on a basis of trust. We cannot do otherwise, yet in association with religion, trust is often replaced disparagingly by blind faith, but faith is then being used wrongly. There is no need to use trust for secular life and blind faith for religion. It would cause less misunderstanding if trust was used for both.

Trust is not the same as faith although they are allied. Trust is something we can both have and do. Faith is something we can have but not something we do. Trust is sometimes used instead of hope, ‘I trust the weather will be good enough for a picnic’ but there is an unspoken because – it implies hope with an underlying motive.

Hope has always been there (almost unchanged from Anglo-Saxon times hopa) – ask Pandora. Sadly the confusion with trust above can be misleading.

Faith (fideo | fidelity) Alone of these words faith cannot be made a verb. We can say I think, I believe, I know, I trust and I hope, but we can only have faith. It is a possession, something to be gained. It is often used to mean belief but you can believe something but have no faith in it. When you do or follow something faithfully, you do so to the letter. Faith is an absolute. Its absence is a real absence.

I may hope God exists, think God exists, believe, even know God exists, and still have no faith in him. I may have faith in God but not trust Him (because I cannot tame Him!) but if I have faith in God then the others become redundant. Faith has no place in the order of these words. It is absolute, over-riding them all.

See also The Language of religion (2)

The Lord’s Prayer

I have long been fascinated by the challenge of translating poetry from other languages into English. Often when this is done the poetic meter is lost, and with it much of its feeling and emotion. Jesus spoke Aramaic but his sayings were translated into the Greek in common use at the time. Translated back into first century Aramaic it is often found to have been memorable poetry.

What follows is my best attempt at keeping both the meter and the rhyme of the Aramaic Lord’s prayer without losing the meaning. The actual rhyme sounds are different – for example the ‘dear’, ‘here’ and ‘revered’ rhymes were ‘…mak’, ‘…thek’ and ‘…nek’ in the original. The layout is my own, to show how it flows.

Father of heaven
may your name be held dear,
your kingdom come here,
your will be revered,
as in your heaven
so in Earth.

And let us plead
for enough bread
for our day’s need.

Forgive all we owe,
as we forgive those,
those debtors of ours.

From testing
keep us;
from evil
protect us.

The final words acknowledging the eternal kingdom, power and glory of God are probably a later addition, lacking the Aramaic feel and rhymes.

The Language of the Universe?

In the beginning was the Word?

Many say the language of the universe is mathematics, but the language of mathematics is not necessarily numbers. Numbers are a shorthand for words. In quantum mechanics collapsed waveforms is the term for a relationship between particles and their waveforms, in which particles, or indeed any combination of particles (atoms, molecules, chemical and organic compounds, even you) are seen as the focus or point of action of the energy waves involved. In the same way numbers and equations are like the collapsed waveforms of the huge quantity of words that might otherwise be needed to describe them. It is a good analogy. For many mathematical concepts the number of words would be as infinite as the cosmic extent of particle waveforms.

Pi (π), the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter, is one such mathematical concept. Written as a decimal it extends to an infinite number of decimal places, of which the first thirty two are as below:

3.14159265358979323846264338327950…

Should you have any need to remember this, some time ago I came across a mnemonic for the first dozen or so places. I changed and extended it to thirty-two before getting bored. The number of letters in each word is the number at each decimal place.

Now –
I sing a scale excelling,
in mystic voice and magic spelling,
sublimest strains incarnate.

Art in its measures will reveal
an angel’s song for the carousel,
and in eternal harmonies dwell,
O!

Feel free to add more of your own.

The idea of numbers being a shorthand for words is not a difficult concept, after all without words how could we explain what numbers are to children? But there may be more to them than that. Pi is far more than the simple relationship of a circle to its diameter.

Pi

Are numbers and equations
the collapsed waveforms of words?
And is pi’s definition
the circling of the birds
round and wide above the hills?
or the volume of a drop of water from the rills
rolling down to plop into shining highland ghylls?

Then the circle of the sphere
and the rolling of a tear
when a sobbing child cries, ‘Why!’
and the Earth around the Sun in perihelion,
and the wide, wide width of tears is pi.

The quick birds’ wheeling cry,
and the crying tears of pain,
and the earth around the sun,
and the round drops in the rain,
and the signs of endless sky,
the music of the spheres,
and the circle of the years,
tell us why.

Birds circling round their prey
know the distance from their nest,
and swooping down from sky,
sharp claw and shining eye,
returning straight and high,
the circle and the swoop,
the short returning loop,
and the gather of the storm
round the centre still at rest
say more to you and I
than the radius and the circle
that are pi.