To my mind, the vortex of spiritual endeavor cannot be overemphasized. Those who are inclined towards the ineffable, however they conceive it, are sucked into an arena that requires blood, sweat and tears -- a whole-hearted commitment that can, as easily as not, segue into idiocy, cruelty and an array of self-deluding nonsense. That vortex can, as well, produce some sweet and indubitable fruit. So, put bluntly, the whole matter is a crapshoot.
Naturally, as in Las Vegas, there are some who choose not to play the game. They remain on the sidelines, perhaps quietly amused or caustically observant or intellectually aloof from the vortex. Their lives too are a crapshoot -- your life, your choice -- but it is those who choose to commit themselves to the vortex of spiritual endeavor who interest me.
The willingness to say "yes" to anything requires an ability to examine with care the "no" that is inherent within it. Or at least it requires that care if there is some hope of sidestepping the idiocy, cruelty and self-deluding nonsense that spiritual endeavor (or any other pastime) has proved itself capable of throughout history. Building a "yes" in the heart becomes a weak and dangerous tea without some close and willing examination of the "no."
What brought all this to mind was an article about the "Bible Project" in Jerusalem. The project is now 53-years-old and many of the original researchers are dead. Those working on it are likely to be dead before the project is completed. Were the project more widely known, there would probably be a hue and cry from many who have entered spiritual endeavor from the Christian or Jewish edge of the swirl. The Bible Project collates and compares as many texts as possible in an effort to set the biblical record straight.
The project may be particularly compelling to Jews, for example, who consider the Torah inviolable and true. But Christians are not exempt from correction either. What of the prophecy that appears to have been written after the actual events occurred? What of the earliest wordings that appear to have been truncated or rewritten through time? This is the stuff on which beliefs are sometimes based and belief is a wonderful and wily companion, no matter what edge of the vortex chooses to enter from.
Pains-taking -- that strikes me as a fair word to describe the "Bible Project." Slowly, slowly, bit by bit, comma by comma, source by source, refinement by refinement ... looking for, looking for, looking for....
Without such examination, whether on the page or in the heart, everything ends up dumber than a box of rocks. And dangerous as well. News outlets and their consumers may delight in the reporting of mass cult suicides using Kool Aid or Christians who have themselves nailed to crosses come Easter time or polygamists who rape children while allowing their followers to elevate them to god-like status. But all that is just shooting fish in a barrel.
What is far more important and far more wily and far more difficult is to examine the bible enshrined in the individual heart. Really examine. The die-trying kind of examination. How can spiritual endeavor ever hope to wring out an honest and thorough-going understanding without the bit-by-bit, comma by comma, resource by resource investigation ... not of what somebody else says but of what I say? To rest on a belief or book or persuasion risks being swallowed in the eat-you-alive waters of belief and laziness that run rampant through the vortex of spiritual endeavor.
Making nice is simply not the same as being nice. Dabbling the in the waters of "compassion" and "enlightenment" are simply not the same as being compassionate or exercising a clear understanding. How long will anyone be content with half-measures, with "good enough," with approximations and bottle-rocket hope and flaccid belief?
The waters of spiritual endeavor hold out a smooth and soothing promise. But the currents beneath are no-kidding-around powerful and swift. Success is by no means guaranteed. When everything is on the line, everything is on the line. Anything less than "everything" is for believers and do-gooders and kiddie rapers.
Where the vortex sucks you in, I see no other option, no other choice: Seek and receive no quarter; read your bible.
Read your very own bible.