February 9, 2006

My Love for “Love of Sophia”

Posted in film, martial arts, non-fiction, scripture at 10:30 pm by Jerry

Philosophy: Philos = love; Sophia = wisdom

I think I was born with a love for philosophy. It must of been around the age of eight that I started asking questions like “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Why was I born and not someone else?” “What is the meaning of my life?” I remember there was a time when I wrote these questions in a coloring book when I was bored with filling in the pictures.

It’s not uncommon for children to ask tough questions, but I never grew out of it. Though, I did grow out of asking others the tough questions, at least for awhile. When I was in my late teens, I asked my mother who she thought I was. She said, jokingly, “You’re the dreamer in this family!” When she saw that I was quite serious about my question, she followed in a contemplative tone, “You’re quiet on the outside, and loud on the inside.” I followed with a quick “Why?” that revealed her frustration with “I don’t know!” Then I thanked her and moved on.

For some reason, both of her answers did sooth my inquiry. But it only made me greedy for more. From a previous post, you’d read I got involved in martials arts in my mid teens. What I didn’t mention was that I was also fascinated with the eastern philosophy that came along with some of the movies. It seemed that I yearned for philosophical language.

Being immersed in a Christian community most of my life, you’d think there would have been a lot of material to explore philosophically. However, I was soon taught in church, bible studies, and bible school not to approach the faith philosophically. No one actually said, “Don’t approach it philosophically.” It was more like, “Jerry! You shouldn’t say that!”

But in martial art movies, the writers were not afraid of philosophical language. I think it was when I first leafed through martial art books in a store that I eventually stumbled upon written material on eastern philosophy. The common philosophy that goes along with martial arts is Taoism or a combination of Taosim and Buddhism called “Zen Buddhism”.

Here’s one of my favorite Zen parables (about enlightenment) Bruce Lee used in the movie Enter the Dragon:

It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory!

This parable helped me a lot when I was trying to discover personal philosophical value in the Christian bible. Soon, I discovered that the Taoist’s first and foremost text, Tao Te Ching, gave me the language I wanted to explore in Christian texts. And through this process I discovered great philosophical material in the bible I didn’t see before. I’m not about to create Jesus in my own image by claiming him to be a philosopher. I’m just saying I was able to find a language suited to my temperament like custom made tools for my explorations in scripture.

So, eventually I became aware that I had a “philosophical” nature and discovered Socrates, who was also led to “Know Thyself“. He said, “An unexamined life is no life worth living.” I don’t think this is true (if I had a cat I would consider it worthy to be alive), but I do think an examined life can often enrich our spiritual lives. Anyone who knows me has found out, or will find out, self-awareness is a strong passion of mine. After all, it is philosophical.

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4 Comments »

  1. Tim said,

    When I first started studying eastern Christianity, I felt the same way. Much of the language they used and their metaphors gave me a different vocabulary for exploring ideas of spirituality. Similar to C.S. Lewis’ fascination with “westerness” I think you and I both are intrigued by “easterness.”

  2. […] I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I came to the point where I had to give up my Scarecrow ways and pursue that which I fought off daily. […]

  3. Jay said,

    What exactly does this mean “It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory!”

  4. Jerry said,

    Hi Jay,
    I don’t know if there is any “official” translation of the saying, but my understanding has been that it is a warning to not make the means to whatever you’re looking for, a replacement for the end.

    In other words, if the bible is a means to get to know God, the priority is getting to know God. The mistake we would make, according to the parable, is – through the process of working so hard in interpreting the bible, the bible becomes the higher priority rather than God. Instead of getting help from God to learn about God from the bible, we would be using God as a mere means to understanding the now all important bible.

    So if the bible is a pointing finger directing us to experiencial knowledge of God, we shouldn’t miss out on experiencing God by keeping our focus on what the biblical writers say is knowledge about God.
    I hope this clears things up a bit 🙂


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