Gods of Emotional Appeal: The Archer's Prayer

Tibetan Archer 1938 wikimedia
Growing up in Western Christian culture, I'm very familiar with the incentives and disincentives offered by the Gods of Emotional Appeal.  You will feel "joy" if you are righteous, or at least "satisfaction".  We are promised sorrow and pain if we sin, or the sins are depicted surrounded with imagery of sadness in the Christian media.

I'm a silent Believer.  I remain religious, or spiritual, since the "born again" experience I had in Arkansas as a pot-smoking teenager.  But from the beginning, it was not an "us vs. them" experience... I was also changed positively (enlightened) by the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao, and refined my beliefs Buddhism.   Buddhist writers described "spiritual materialism" to describe the economy of emotions.  But the quiet, non-evangelical Believer, accomplishes much.  It is the deeds, the karma of her life, which measure the Christian Sage above the greedy, the exploiting, or spiritually wretched.

Ethics.  This blog is about Ethical Environmentalism.  What the truth is, is important.  But Ethics without a belief are as useless as Ethics with wrong "knowledge".  Our time on earth is about choosing aims, aiming, and meeting those aims.  We can't aim and shoot a bow without both gravity and light.  Faith and truth.

Currency of Comforting Emotions:

"Comfort" is promised by every religion.  But (lives uncomfortably prolonged by medical science aside) comfort is mostly measured by distribution of economic wealth.  We call them blessings, and we teach ourselves, rightly, to feel thankfulness and gratitude.

But if we are more thankful for having Stuff, doesn't that mean we are bound to be less thankful when we have less?  Or is it only when society's attention is brought by media broadcasting our luck, privileges, and belongings that we must demonstrate our faith?  Or is "thankfulness" and contriteness and humbleness an emotion that has evolved to distribute benefits, and do good?  Have selfish societies, turning Kings and Queens into lavish attention-whores, fallen of their own weight?

The monuments, pyramids, and cathedrals they left... were they evidence of great societies, or huge closets of envy?  I will take the invention of geometry and calculus over marble columns any day - it was the knowledge and skill necessary to build those things which was the real value, not the marble itself.  It is possible to have knowledge of calculus, or spiritual truth, and be better off than the rich man whose name is on the column but never lifted a finger to build it.  Harnessing external knowledge and engineering, paying for it, has worth, it incentives the acquisition and retention of science and engineering, and pays people who maintain it.  Ownership of the goods passes from human to human, through departing generations, discard, or trade.  It is the knowledge and understanding that must be passed on.

Do emotional rituals help us do this?  What is the role of the Archer's prayer?  Sons and daughters of the archer learn the role of light and gravity in setting the aim.  But what the archer chooses to aim for - food, or enemy, or lion - is the central question of ethics.

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Thanks for Blessings:

Certainly the disconnect between material goods ownership (quantity of blessings) and spiritual value was severed by the red letter teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  But there's still a turmoil in America, where the Believers are Thankful (an emotion) for Blessings (material goods) which are delivered to us by labor, mining, and externalized effort.

Externalization... that has been a big word.  We feel guilty if our mother makes our bed, while scolding us for not having made it.  We've externalized our bed-making labor onto a holy mother, and the emotion of guilt is the price to pay.

We hold in some kind of admiration the "self doers", the fixers, the people (like my grandfather) who do and make everything themselves.  The Renaissance men and women who perform their own labor, and master every art, are admired.

What I've struggled with in the latter decade of my religion, and the karma of recycling I embraced in the same "enlightenment", is the way emotions are used as currency.  As promises.  As a map of a rat's maze, with cheesy "joyous bliss" at the end of one path, and "wretched sadness" at the end of another.

Emotionalizing a political or social policy is certainly not beneath me.  I've fought fire with fire.  While today I believe that many of our emotions have evolved to support "Nurture" (Steve Pinker was a latter day influence), I do believe in the direction.  I believe in the "good" we practice, and I believe it's normal to feel good about doing good things.   We've evolved to care, and to make the world better.

But we must pay the Yang its due. If we are merely led by our emotional needs to "save Africa" or "give from the heart" or "right injustice", we are more likely to be led to fear externalization or liability which we have mere doubts about.  I can make my own ceramic coffee cup, I guess, and thereby know that no children were exploited by the people I bought the ceramic cup from.  Or I can pay more for a Trump Industries Cup and hope that rich people have more fear of liability and will therefore, less often, exploit children than a Chinese coffee cup maker.  But I buy coffee cups too seldom to participate in a "certification" of them, and at this point I think certifications are defined in smoke filled rooms.  E-Stewards vendors literally must give a cut of their proceeds to a third party that uses those funds to run an ad campaign impugning Africans, Asians, and Latinos, to fund a guilt campaign which then draws more "believers".

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Balancing Gravity and Light:

So I remain religious, but my belief plays the role of gravity in my life.  Truth, and science, provides the light.  Without science, my beliefs allow me to run into things, step on things, and blindly do more harm than good.  Without belief, I have no traction and no gravity to manage my direction.  And it's honesty about where our arrows landed which is the number one piece of information an archer, or enforcer, needs.

The yin and yang of science and belief are both important to political movements.  The movements which trump emotions by telling lies about numbers, who call punished innocents (like Joe Benson) "collateral damage", ultimately harm God.  Nothing does more to harm the credibility and honor of Jesus, Siddhartha, Krishna, Moses or Mohammed like those who promise, exaggerate, misstate, and wave flags and misleading photos for a quick and selfish advantage.

I'm not losing my religion.  I have more trouble teaching it with nuance than those who simply told me of the joy and rapture of their beliefs.  We, the continuing believers, can't promise cheese at the end of the maze.  I wince at those who attribute economic privilege and blessings to prayer tricks and greater love and preference from God.

We must teach religious humility.  The greatest religions do that. And humble environmentalism is the best way to pass down our aims.  We must prioritize habitat.  Rain forests and Savannah and ocean trenches, those are our Cathedrals and Pyramids.  We need faith to be courageous enough to ACT when they are threatened, that young faith, that emotional faith, that volunteerism is sacred.

But aiming the volunteers at a racial profiling campaign, filled with emotive images and lies, is a modern day crisis in the church of environmentalism.  We have our Boka Haram, our Lord's Army, our ISIS, espousing the same faith in environment and saving the world that we cherish... but which aims its arrows at the crowd, and closes its eyes, expecting its righteous desires to guide the shaft.

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The Archer's Prayer:

Raise your kids to shoot for justice, to train their eyes and arms like a bow.  The singularity of the perfect aim, for me, is improved by meditation and prayer.  The recitation of a memorized Lord's Prayer, or 5 carpet prayers to Mecca, or the silent and sacred Om.  They are part of the quality of our life, the zen and art and maintenance.  They allow us to aim well.  American snipers need to understand gravity and lighting, we need calm and deliberate information to save the world.  What I believe is that trade is externalization of contact... getting to know the coffee cup makers.  I want religious people in the world who will have an emotion if the ceramic mugs are being made shamefully by children.  I don't really care what brand, as the Golden Rule is found in every major religion.  As Jesus said, Satan is not a house divided, doesn't throw his own demons into swine, anything that heals is good by definition.  Don't worry what language the other Good People speak or the words in the prayers they say.  Their religion may give them concentration, and emotional value.  We just need Churches, Temples, and Mosques to preach the truth.

If you are an activist, you cannot define your net impact by your intentions.  Basel Action Network says it wasn't "aiming for" Africa's Tech Sector.  But all along, they have had an obligation to trace where their arrows are landing.

The origin or etymology of the word "sin" is from archery.
The word derives from "Old English syn(n), for original *sunjō...  The Biblical terms translated from New Testament Greek (αμαρτία - amartia) and from Hebrew as "sin" or "syn" originate in archery and literally refer to missing the "gold" at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error.[7] (Archers call not hitting the target at all a "miss".)

The archers who tell the students to aim the arrow anywhere they wish, at or above the crowd, and that God's hand will direct it... who tell the youngest snipers and archers that only their belief in their own stewardship matters... that false arrests and unintended consequences can be written off as "collateral damage" - those people are scumbags.   There is a time to feel anger.  They damage the very faith in belief and ethics.  The perversion must be expunged.

[See Today's Vice article on Child Abuse in Church  "What is it about religion that fosters abuse?" My vote is for teaching people to accept emotions as currency, and intent as a deliverable ]

At least, that's what I'm aiming for.  Prayers accepted.

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