Reflections on Meaning

There’s a “downside” to writing book reviews. It makes me want to reread them. So I read How (Not) To Be Secular again and reflected on how we make our own meaning and how flat the world is. 

Not flat like a flat Earth. I mean, spiritually. There is only one level, and we’re just going through the motions of religious and spiritual rites. Yet, the rise of new-age spiritualism and paganism indicates a hunger for it. 

As do our entertainment choices, like horror, sci-fi, and my personal favorite, superheroes. We long for something more, or greater, and in our postmodern world, we think we can declare it, and it will happen. 

We have a couple of views that we’re not even aware of about ourselves, according to the author. The first is the buffered self—finding and/or crafting our own identity. The second is the porous self, where your meaning comes from the outside, and you’re affected by the world. 

The latter is more common in cultures based on family or tribe, like 1st Century Judaism, where your surname came from your dad. The Apostle Peter was Peter bar Jonah. Or like Superman’s Kryptonian name is Kal-El, his name and his family name. 

Looking at it for myself, I’m from America, the clan of Gatlin/Gatland in England, a blue-collar family, centered in the South. 

Now a child of Yahweh on a mission for a kingdom that I wasn’t born into. That’s the reality of it.

The buffered self is like a shield against reality, according to the author. I’m well-acquainted with it. You are too. What/who did you emulate as a kid?

What character traits did you keep from them?

I copied and made my own versions of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Captain America, and the western heroes from William W. Johnstone’s books. At any point in school, I was trying to act like a fictional character. 

If you personally know me, you’ve probably seen me sporting a superhero shirt at one point or another. 

Ronin, the name I took for myself years ago, had a whole mythology and code crafted around him like armor until life broke it.

I tried to rebuild it, and the book I wrote five years ago was a product of it: Discovering You. That didn’t work out too well. 

Maybe we should think of ourselves as a filtered self. We don’t self-certify or deny reality. Instead, we take from family history, emulate good character, etc., to navigate the world.

I was going to write about spiritual topography in light of this, but it’s already long. That will just have to be a different post.

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