As I take down the calendar for 2017 and replace it with a new calendar for 2018, I wonder what lies ahead in the New Year.
Last year ushered in a disturbing trend. Truth, facts and reason were abandoned. The social fabric in our country was torn apart. It appears that as a nation we have lost our moral compass. I’ve always thought that life should be a search for the truth and the application of truth, which is performing good works.
We have all wondered about the world and our place in it. It seems to me there is no empirical evidence that there is a God or life after death. Conversely, there is no empirical evidence that there is “not” a God or life after death.
While truth is absolute, our “perception” of truth varies according to our personal experience. We are led by our personal experience to different conclusions. If we all thought alike there would be no need for conversation. This concept permits me to feel comfortable with my own point of view and encourages me to be tolerant of those who don’t share my opinion.
I was raised with the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg was born in Sweden, the son of a Lutheran minister (1688-1772). He graduated from Uppsala University and traveled in France, Germany and London, England, where he lived and studied four years. He had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. He was friends with the Swedish King Charles X, who appointed him Assessor on the Swedish Board of Mines. He also taught theology at Uppsala University.
Swedenborg searched for truth in the natural world, learning all he could about mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology and anatomy. When he was 56 he experienced a spiritual awakening. He saw spiritual truth and science as being in harmony. He believed that the Bible has an “internal sense.” He wrote what was “revealed” to him in the Writings in Latin, which was a dead language and would be fixed in time.
It has always fascinated me that while truth and love (or in varying degrees, their opposites falsity and hate) are at the center of our lives, we can not see them, hold them in our hands, weigh or measure them. Even life itself is a mystery unexplained by science. It resides in the body as water in a glass. When the water is gone the glass is empty. When the spirit leaves the body, where does the spirit go? Swedenborg cautions, “Beware of the dangers of the doctrine of Faith alone!” He reminds us that we have been given the ability to reason and should use it. Part of being human is the freedom to choose between good and evil.
The Writings tell us that each of us is unique and has a specific “use” to perform on this earth. We are told that if we live a life of “charity to the neighbor,” we will go to heaven. Swedenborg assures us that there is enough truth in all religions to be “saved.”
Presently we are caught up in a maelstrom, a political maze. While I don’t see the way out, I know we must establish a foundation built on truth and facts and reject leadership that creates uncertainty and division. Hopefully leadership will emerge that will lift us up and inspire the best in us instead of the worst. Much can be achieved if we come together. During the holidays we saw people coming together to play musical instruments or sing and rejoiced as the melodies filled the air. We watched the Rose Parade on television and marveled at the magic that was created by many talented hands combining their skills. With vision, courage and commitment we can grow and enrich this land and pursue our dream of what it means to be an American.