Monday, March 12, 2012

The Existential Compass

In the world of science, a paradigm is used to understand concepts. Paradigms are found anywhere a concept is unclear or requires greater understanding. Democracy, for example, is a paradigm that allows us to best understand governance, but there are many ways to govern. Perfection of government has long been an interest for humanity. How do we measure potential perfection? One tool in use today is the "political compass".

The political compass is a multi-axis model, used to label or organize political thought on two dimensions. This helps us grasp the "centrist's" idealistic goal as we navigate the extremes, and see what is needed to bring correction.

Economic and Personal Liberties vs Securities are being measured in this example. It is how we determine where political thought falls in relation to the centrist, or the ideal. Of course, there are different opinions about what the ideal looks like, and there have been both great and terrible leaders representing all walks of life. But I think the closer we are to the centre, the better our leaders tend to be. In trying to achieve that, the recursive action we take is to vote counter to the political norm, swinging the pendulum the opposite way. The political compass can help us measure and possibly predict the outcome for the counterbalance. I am sure you can find other scenarios where this compass could be useful.

To SIN means "to miss the mark". What is this mark? What is the centrist's ideal that we define sin according to? What are the axis on this compass? What are the extremes?

In the pursuit of bringing people to truth, the ongoing discussion revolves around what we believe to be true. But we are bound to come across people with a difference of opinion, perhaps even a polarizing conflict. Mapping this typology on a compass should help us determine what side we err on, but I think we attempt this by placing doctrine as the ideal, because this is the paradigm by which we understand truth.
The biggest reason why this compass isn't helpful is because it doesn't help us understand where Republicans are in the reality paradigm, as much as it helps you understand where realities are in relation to the Republican. This is the definition of 'relative truth', and this is what defines denominations. I believe that recognizing this flaw is central to understanding the diversity that is Christianity.

When a deviation from a common rule is found to be true, we call this an Anomaly. Enough of these can throw our paradigm into a state of crisis, which in turn produces a Paradigm shift. In a Christian context, this is known as a denominational divide. But the reasons that divide us are bigger than doctrine alone. For instance, the Great Schism was a political and cultural issue; it had nothing to do with faith or practice. Alternatively, the Reformation was a doctrinal divide, but it could only gain legs because of the recent common language translation of the Bible. This puts culture into perspective for us; ie., the society that influences how we appropriate truth is varied.

Paradigm shifts should not be associated with a theory of relativism. The idea is not that truth is changing, but that further study is changing our understanding of truth.- Donald Miller, When Truth is the Enemy of Truth
Further study of truth changes our understanding of truth. That is, truth is not relative to a greater experience, so much as experiences are relative to a greater truth.

Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain.- Richard Dawkins
Our existential compass has the way of attaining the meaning of life or "The Way of True Life" as the centrist's ideal when we are trying to find purpose beyond ourselves, or such an elusive character as God. We find purpose on a spiritual level and on a cultural level, and express meaning by living liberally or confiding in security. To hold this in perfect balance would mean to have a significant understanding of how our universe works, and how we can partner with, and perpetuate it further. So I think that by studying where cultural and spiritual securities and liberties intersect, we can map which experiences are less healthy and which are more beneficial to discovering meaning. In theory, more anomalies within the central sphere should reflect thought that holistically brings us closer to understanding the universal meaning of life.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me."
John 14:6
There is a vast difference in opinion/experience within the Christian faith, and I believe it is the result of being closer to the greatest complexity that the world is trying to understand.

If the compass could be used for securities and liberties being measured spiritually and culturally, with "The Way of True Life" being the ideal, this is what I think it would look like:

"The Existential Compass"

The way I would interpret this is that the 'Way of True Life ideal' incorporates all of spiritual and cultural liberty and security to the fullest. I've placed some things on the compass, do you agree with my interpretation? Would you change the axis?

The questions I ask myself to determine how I place thought on these axes:
  • What is the spiritual posture toward cultural engagement?
  • What is the cultural posture toward spiritual engagement?
  • Are you seeking to engage in culture or spirituality?
  • Do you seek to be influential in secular or religious circles?
  • Do you achieve this in a primarily passive or aggressive tone?
  • What are your extremes or preferences?

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