reconciliation of opposites

August 06 2015

I'm one of the older members of the Listserv. I'm 68. My mother lived to be 96 and I'm in better shape than she was at this age so I could make it to 100.   I retired from work in USA at the end of 2005 and have spent three years since then teaching English in out-of-the-way places in China. It's not really work unless you consider talking to students 12 hours a week to be work. And those are 50-minute hours.  

I have lived most of my life in the South.  Virginia and North Carolina. Many of my work-mates and friends have been and still are fundamentalist Christians. 6,000 year-old earth and all of that.  They knew that I did not share their belief but we have always been respectful.  Every day at work I ate lunch in the company cafeteria with a group of these friends. 

One day at lunch my friend Randy asked me outright what I thought happened to my soul after I died. I asked for some time to think about how to phrase my response and by the time I was ready the whole table was listening. 

I told him: I do not use the word "soul" very often but when I do I am referring to that part of me that experiences love ... and hatred, beauty ... and revulsion, hope ... and despair. 

They all nodded in agreement. 

But I also know that those are things that are happening within the little grey cells in my brain, little electro-chemical neurological interactions that I don't really understand. But I believe that when I die and my brain ceases to function, that my soul as I have described it ceases to experience those things and effectively no longer exists. 

They were less enthusiastic about this, but kept listening. 

Likewise, I do not use the word "God" very often, but when I do I am referring to that sense of connection that I feel, that we all feel, to all other living things, indeed to the earth itself. It is a connection that transcends time and space, which is why I can be moved reading about the death of Socrates over 2,000 years ago; why I care about how I leave the planet to generations that will not be born until long after I die; and why I am touched by an earthquake in Asia or a famine in Africa.  This sense of connection is real, it can move me to act, and it will continue to exist long after I die and as long as people continue to care about such things. 

Silence.  It is not their definition but it helps them to understand that I am a decent, caring person with reasonable beliefs. In one respect it feels as if I have cheated, I have come up with a new definition of God that removes the supernatural powers. But it brings us closer together and I get to keep the integrity of my beliefs. And I believe what I said. 

Jim Batterson
[email protected]
Cary, North Carolina

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