Young love-making - that gossamer web!... The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness, indefinite trust.
The knowledge of our own being we have by intuition. The existence of a God, reason clearly makes known to us, as has been shown. The knowledge of existence of any other thing we can have only by sensation: for there being no necessary connection of real existence with any idea a man hath in his memory; nor of any other existence but that of God with the existence of any particular man: no particular man can know the existence of any other being but only when, by actual operating upon him, it makes itself perceived by him. For, the having the idea of anything in our mind, no more proves the existence of that thing, than the picture of a man evidences his being in the world, or the visions of a dream make thereby a true history.
When you abandon the expectation that certainty is possible, you open yourself to the proliferation of possibilities, to the proliferation of alternative visions of the “best” that are available, and you reconcile yourself to the realization that this process is without end. You can never get it exactly right. Every answer, every act is but provisional.
Religious faith must link us to communities of shared memory and shared hope with which we can join in symbolizing our human condition and in enacting the visions that can animate give new life. Religious faith cannot be reduced to the ethical or to the merely utilitarian. But, as part of this larger and indispensable contribution that religious faith can provide to making and keeping life human, it needs also to be held accountable for the renewal and extension of a universal covenant with being. It needs to be held accountable for its broader contribution to good faith on earth.
In visions of wisdom, in devotion to the good, in submission to beauty, and when overwhelmed by the holy, we awake to behold existence in this relationship. In reverence, suffering, and humility we discover our existence and find the bridge that leads from existence to God. And this is religion.
O what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all - what is it?
There is little in common between us. The ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their final resting place is hallowed ground, while you wander away from the tombs of your fathers without regret. Your religion was written on tablets of stone by the iron finger of an angry God, lest you might forget it. The red man could never remember nor comprehend it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors, the dreams of our old men, given them by the Great Spirit, and the visions of our sachems [chiefs], and is written in the hearts of our people. Your dead cease to love you and the homes of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb. They wander far off beyond the stars, are soon forgotten, and never return. Our dead never forget the beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its winding rivers, its great mountains, and its sequestered vales.
The great things in life are what they seem to be. And for that reason, strange as it may sound to you, often are very difficult to interpret. Great passions are for great souls. Great events can only be seen by people who are on a level with them. We think we can have our visions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing visions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine.
The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll. Not only is there an impoverishment of our emotional and sensory life, flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstaticâ but this psychic numbing also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.