Monday, September 13, 2010

Something Weird

This happened twenty minutes ago and as a phenomenologist, I wanted to capture this narrative. A woman had been visiting her daughter. The daughter dropped of her baby at daycare. Then, the daughter got into an accident. Relieved to hear that the baby was not in the accident, I uttered, "God bless." At the utterance at that phrase, a strange feeling external to myself came over me. I felt reassured that Ashley (my wife) would also be Okay. She is currently in the hospital for an unknown severe infection and complications of possibly a virus or severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic.

A strange and ultimately weird experience ensued. I felt whole, or at the very least connected to the sun on my back. I quickly entered my car and burst out in tears thanking Jesus. I knelt over the steering column excited and shaking. My tears were not that of mourning, or that something bad was coming. I was rejoicing. I felt like Ashley's health would be delivered to me. Deliverance.

A couple of nights ago, I prayed. I confessed to a philosophical friend of mine in my department, and called my more Conservative friend. I had prayed ask-fors, the type of prayers that are insincere. The type of prayers where a man covers his bases "just in case." Cephalus in the opening of the Republic in Book 1 leaves to do this very thing before the arguments get under way.

It should be known that I have defended materialist ontologies in philosophy of mind. I have ridiculed those that go to excess in faith, and still mock the impiety of the Inspiration channel. I love to read even Sartre and his existentialist positions concerning how man makes himself, and I think that evolution is right about how material processes unfold naturally. I have never considered myself a theist. At the age of 17, I scolded a Christian apologeticist for misconstruing the complexities of Carbon dating at a youth group. I told him he didn't understand what he was talking about and decisively left, putting Northminster Presbyterian behind me. In high school, I told off a strange kid that God will not strike me down for saying God did not exist. In college, I found Descartes for two weeks and soon found that mind-body dualistic interactionism had to many problems to be true, and found a materialist ontology quite satisfying to explain consciousness as just a neural network.

In that experience, I also recalled my Kant, and the antinomies of pure reason. Speculative reason cannot confirm or dis-confirm the existence of God. Reason should always remain agnostic to problems it can never solve. To live life philosophically is not simply to adopt the epistemic orientation to world and see in every moment whether one has justified beliefs about what is before them. Faith is an operative concept, more akin to the habituation of virtues in Aristotle. It is a way of seeing, an opening to the possibility of something greater, a connection that lives through and constitutes -- no better put "permeates" the field of my subjective horizon. It is that maintaining the openness in a world of constant doubt and idiotic literalism where religion goes wrong. It is the insight of religion so often missed, and I do not know how to register this experience.

I am going over in my head. Did I create or foster this in myself by constantly asking the divine to aid in the health of my wife? Could my stress have altered my brain to foster conditions to calm my stress down? Was this an experience grounded in some materialist ontology of my situation? What about the prior asking, the pseudo-prayers. I know these were insincere. These were the "what-if" prayers of an undecided Kantian (on matters of metaphysics only). These were not the prayers of a man devout, but a habituated naturalist. Did I presuppose the existence of God by being open? I don't think so. If I presupposed God, then the content of the experience wouldn't be that overwhelming. It'd be like when you know your little brother will come back for your hidden stash of cookies. It wouldn't be overwhelming, nor would it be a break in the normal flow of expectations of your experience.

These very expectations of my experience are that easy and tidy scientific categories organize the world, and that these categories are responsibly posited by systematically agreed upon criteria of practicing scientists. I accept these explanations as easily as I toss a coin. These categories explain reliably the concordance of how to expect the world. Things will fall because of gravity, animals will mutate randomly. Surface tension of water will cause the water to drop. It is not like I asked for Jesus, or to have a complete urge of certainty overtake my body, causing me to shudder over a steering column. It does not fit the concordance of the natural attitude presupposed normally. It breaks that mold, and forces me to put my cat on the chair by the draped window. I kissed her, and said "Let's look at sunlight together." She meowed in agreement.

I must go and return my wife to good health.I may never be a whole-hearted Christian, but I will express my faith in the tenants of my culture. I will ask for Christ's guidance every now and again. I pray for the safe return of my wife.

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