In coming across some old university papers the other day, it struck me not only how my thinking may have become more nuanced if less circumlocutory over time (I certainly hope it isn’t rather the case that I’ve just gotten dumber), but also how much I’ve spent my entire life preparing to master the use of language as an access to transformation.
Some of these papers are just terrible – I mean deeply flawed and painful to read, however I’ve decided to put them up in hopes that someone profoundly interested in some obscure topic like the phenomenology of religious conversion, the age old debate between the endurantists and the perdurantists, the concept of narrative therapy as a path to peace in the world, Plato’s allegory of the cave in relation to Judeo-Christian creation myth, whether or not predicates refer (totally wish I had been able to find my other papers on Speech Act Theory and Wittgenstein!), or gay rights discourse in the late 20th century, will one day find me and spark up an ever-so-satisfying conversation.
Here is a little juicy delight from the paper comparing Plato with the Old Testament. It is a good reminder of how transformation is not an improvement on what came before, but actually happens when there is nothing to transform:
A Buddhist teaching suggests that practicing Buddhism is like taking a raft over a great river. One riverbank represents the realm of ‘samsara,’ the cycle of suffering that we are all spinning around in. On the other side is ‘wakefulness,’ or ‘nirvana,’ an enlightened state of awareness characterized by an infinite sense of unity and bliss. The raft symbolizes Buddhism; its purpose being to help us cross over from samsara to nirvana. According to the teaching, however, a curious thing happens to the individual who manages to reach the ‘banks of enlightenment.’ Having climbed off of the raft, she turns around to discover that she cannot now see any riverbank on the side from which she departed. In fact, she realizes that there is no river, no raft, and – to her pure astonishment – no Buddha at all! (Zimmer, 82-90)
And here’s something interesting from the paper on Augustine, C.S. Lewis and their conversion experiences, a reminder that there is a profound difference between knowing something and being it:
In fact, it could be argued that [Augustine’s] actual beliefs just before that moment [his conversion] in the garden were precisely equivalent to his beliefs just after it, and that what really changed was the texture and condition of his involvement in those beliefs. In other words, like an astronaut who has known for a long time that there is dust on the moon, but during his first mission in space is able to step out of a lunar landing pod, reach down, pick the dust up, and feel it sift through his fingers and fall back to the ground, Augustine gained experiential knowledge of what he already believed. Christianity wasn’t an external truth to him anymore. It became the very substance of his being.