“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Reason and Passion

I love the words of Kahlil Gibran, when he writes: "Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite." I think that this is so true of all of us - at some times we are cool and logical and reasonable, and at others we are fiery and illogical and passionate. And that is as it should be.

In their early years, one of the names that Unitarians were known by was "Rational Dissenters". I looked this term up in Wikipaedia, and was interested to find the following description: " Like moderate Anglicans, they desired an educated ministry and an orderly church, but they based their opinions on reason and the Bible rather than on appeals to tradition and authority. They rejected doctrines such as the Trinity and original sin, arguing that they were irrational. Rational Dissenters believed that Christianity and faith could be dissected and evaluated using the newly emerging discipline of science, and that a stronger belief in God would be the result."

And I absolutely agree that what we believe and how we behave should be subject to our reason and conscience. Yes. But I also believe that there is more to life than being  perfectly reasonable and logical.  Yes, the final authority for an individual's faith should be their own conscience. But I think that this involves our hearts as well as our heads. When I first became a Unitarian, over 30 years ago, I was "converted", if you like, by reading the first section of Alfred Hall's book Beliefs of a Unitarian, when he wrote:

"But above all, it must be known and understood by Unitarianism is not a system of creeds or beliefs. It is more than anything else an attitude of mind. It is a fresh way of looking at life and religion ... It lays the stress on the reliability of the human mind to judge for itself ... Its method is that of appeal to reason, conscience and experience generally, and above all to elemental principles of truth and right which are implanted in the human heart at its noblest and embedded in the universe."

So Hall was saying that what is in our hearts is as important as what is in our heads. Yes. I also believe that there are some things in life that are beyond reason - how we love, how we feel compassion for others, and also, to some extent, what we believe, what gives our lives meaning. I think that both reason and passion are important - I am increasingly finding that while I can reject certain beliefs on the grounds of reason, there are some aspects of "doing religion" or having faith that are beyond reason. For example, I have a growing awareness of God or the Spirit at work in the world. This is on the basis of intuition, not reason, but I believe it is real.

Head and heart together, reason and passion. May we use all our faculties to find wholeness and completion and meaning in our lives.



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