Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: amy kittelstrom

Mental Independence Creates Harmony

Mental independence, thinking for yourself, getting all the information you can, that’s the way to create a human chorus of minds. But remember we need to temper it with humility. The more we learn, the less we know.

I’m slowly making my way through The Religion of Democracy by Amy Kittelstrom at around 25 pages an hour. I’m not sure I’m getting the whole picture, but glimpses of what she’s trying to say keep coming through, like those pictures in the 80’s that look like fuzz or random dots, but you can catch the image if you look at it just right.

And then…yesterday…I received in the mail my beautiful book order and thought, “You know, these books look way easier and more fun.”

No! I started this and it is interesting if a tad complicated. I WILL KEEP GOING!

I AM going to read something else at the same time, though. I have more than an hour a day to read and I can only sit in this for an hour before my brain hurts. I need a dessert book! Maybe the memoir I got yesterday!

Today, I have two quotes for you.

“The goal of mental independence, in which the moral agent resists the way of the herd and speaks freely with candor and humility, encouraged every individual to find and develop her or his own inner voice of the divine to join the human chorus for the sake of the common good.”

“The human chorus.” You know what’s great about a chorus? It’s made up of many different voices, singing many different notes. Think about that image in the world. If we all only copy what someone else is doing, we’re not joining the chorus. Life becomes dull and boring.

“Mental independence” is the way. Think for yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to stand out and alone forever, always going the opposite way of everyone around you. There is something to be said for more than one voice carrying the same note. But choose your note, your song, your dance. “Develop your own inner voice.”

And this one is something we really could use more of in the world right now.

“Our Fallibility and Shortness of our Knowledge should make us peaceable and gentle,” Whichcote explained. Given that “I may be Mistaken, I must not be dogmatical and confident, peremptory and imperious.”

It’s that old idea that the more you learn, the less you realize you know. If you think you are right and everyone else is wrong, you need to go back to the drawing board. I’m guilty of this often. My way is the right way for everyone. If everyone else just listened to me…yeah…probably not.

There’s a lot going on in the world, there always has been. There hasn’t been a time on this earth without suffering, hunger, war, disease, etc. But there has also always been peace, love, kindness, and joy at the same time. Decide what it is you want to hold on to. Be kind and love on.

The Religion of Democracy: New Read

I picked up The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition by Amy Kittlestrom at a used bookstore, Bearly Used Books, in Big Bear last year.

I remember where I got the book because they always put their bookmarkers in the books they sell and when I opened this one, there it was! Brilliant idea, by the way, if you’re a bookstore owner.

This one has an adorable ad for the Llama Llama Tea Company on the back!

I read on the back, “the role of religion in American politics has always been far less simplistic than today’s debates would suggest” and immediately added it to my pile. When I hear people “debate,” to use the term loosely, all I hear is “left liberal” and “right conservative,” “liberal godless” and “right fundamentalist believer,” or “left science” and “right religion.” But I know from own experience with individuals in the world, there are far more nuances than that. That is the talk of someone trying to pit one side against another to further their own aims.

This looks like a good book to help see some more of those nuances.

“This is a book about how an originally Christian, eighteenth-century idea changed into a universal modern idea. Some New England Christians believed that every human being is a moral agent endowed with the sacred faculties of reason and conscience, a faith that their Christian and post-Christian intellectual descendants transformed into a “religion of democracy” in which the human right to dignity-to freedom and equality-became a practical faith for driving moral action. This transformation helped produce the modern concept of universal human rights.”

I started reading this yesterday and laughed to myself when I thought, “Oh, man! This isn’t ‘liberal!’ It’s just another book about why God is great!” Then laughed again when I kept reading and thought, “Some of my Christian friends would think this book is ridiculously liberal and wrong.” I think I’m in the right place after all.

“Readers with the fortitude to abide theological and philosophical complexity get rewarded, I hope, with dashes of poetry and drama, but stamina is required to grasp the whole of it.”

That quote is exactly right. This book is not an easy read. It doesn’t seem to have a clear direction and big markers that say, “This is the right way!” That’s exactly what the people and movement she is highlighting here were stepping away from in the first place.

No one can know it all, no one can say what is “right” for everyone. We all are born with an inalienable right to our own conscience, to the control of our own bodies and possessions. This seems so basic to me. Of course, we do! But then I hear the media, politicians, and celebrities make statements that give me pause.

“’Democracy,’ Baldwin said in a conversation with the anthropologist Margaret Mead in 1970, ‘should not mean the leveling of everyone to the lowest common denominator. It should mean the possibility of everyone being able to raise himself to a certain level of excellence.’”

Exactly my thoughts, Mr. Baldwin. “Raise himself” is the key phrase here. We all have the ability to raise ourselves and I feel like we have lost that belief in ourselves and those around us. Strange…I was just having a conversation about something similar yesterday. Something about growing weary of simply “supporting” others and wishing I could find some way of putting a magic mirror up to people and showing them the power they already have.

Yes, The Religion of Democracy is not going to be an easy read for me. In fact, I already thought about trading it out for something simpler, but then got sucked back in for another hour this morning. I’ll stick with it as long as I can and see where the adventure takes me.

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