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The Importance of Redemption

(About a 5 minute read)

I sometimes get the impression that plenty of us tackle the big ideas in life almost the day we escape our cribs for the first time.

“Gurk! Life is mine to seize! I see it clearly now.  I shall be my own hero. Gerp!” Or, “Poppels! But our capacity to love is what most defines us as moral. Twurks!  What’s this?  Why, it must be what what ma-ma calls, ‘poo’.  And look!  It’s endlessly shape-able!”

If that is true of some members of our noble and esteemed species of fur-challenged spear-chuckers, it nevertheless seems it has not been true of me.  As in so many other ways, I have been the slow one in my family.

To be precise, I from a young age made an art of procrastinating the big ideas, the big questions of life.  At least the ones that seemed to me when younger to have no obvious answers.

Honestly, I do not recall seriously asking even so much as, “What is the meaning of my life?”, until I was in my 50s.  Of course, I had a few other things that I did in fact examine: The epistemology of carnal knowledge, Janet’s breasts by moonlight, the persuasive use of logical fallacies in offering reasons for oral sex, Cathy’s breasts by moonlight, the proper manner in which to don a condom, Jana’s breasts by moonlight, and — much more seriously — Terri’s breasts by moonlight.

I never planned it that way.  It seems to have been instinctual for me to delay trying to answer most of the big questions, or to delay examining most of the big ideas. And when I finally did begin looking into those things, it was far from systematically.

No, sometime in my 40s, I simply started having epiphanies about those things in more or less random order.  Maybe I’d be sitting at a sidewalk table at the coffee shop when it would abruptly make sense to me that poetry essentially consists of the use of word to create an emotional response in an audience, or that consideration for others is the heart and key to being a hot red stick of dynamite in bed.

I cannot adequately describe how much I valued those sudden insights.  So much so that after they began coming with regularity, my love of aging, of growing older, was deeply revolutionized.  I felt like a single-malt whisky whose time had come to be tapped — fifty full years after it had been casked.

I still feel that way today — indeed, more and more so each new day.

Just to be able to at last understand that, say, a man who can’t laugh at himself isn’t someone who you would wisely make your first choice to cook and distribute meth with, or that feeling gratitude can be nearly as powerful as feeling love for someone’s breasts — just understanding those things is almost as deeply rewarding as being the lucky owner of a mighty three fulsome inches of love-making meat-rocket.

Earlier today, Matthias and I were talking about redemption.  As it happens, redemption is a perfect example of a big idea I procrastinated looking at for decades.  To say I did not understand it would be a bit misleading.  I never once made any effort to understand it, let alone didn’t understand it.

Now Matthias trenchantly remarked, “Redemption is a big word, blown up by so many biblical connotations.”  And I believe that to be true.  Moreover, I am sure there are uses and merits to looking at redemption from a biblical point of view.

But whatever merits there might be to a biblical take on redemption, I myself take a different — but possibly similar — gander at the concept.  It is quite obvious to me that any feeling someone might have of actually needing to be redeemed in some way comes not from without, but from within.

That is, the need for redemption is a subjective thing, not a consequence of some law of nature or of a god.  At least, that’s how I see it.

As such, I would not expect everyone to feel much need for it.  In fact, it’s my impression — based on how little it is talked about outside of Christian circles — that most of us poo-flingers feel little or no need for it — in much the same way as I once never did.

And to be sure, I don’t believe I even today feel an overwhelming need to be redeemed. Indeed, I sometimes ask myself, “Is redemption really possible?  Is it really something that can happen, or is it like that time I thought I was going to get laid, but then Susan regrettably crossed her legs, which led to my nose being in a cast for seven weeks, along with the unfortunate, but quite understandable, PTSD I suffer from even to this hour?”

Susan’s breasts by moonlight were like….but where were we now?  Oh, yes, redemption.  As I understand the concept now, redemption is basically a positive that makes up for – but does not actually change — a negative.

For instance, the human tendency to indulge in wars of aggression might be redeemed by breasts our capacity for unconditional love.  To be clear: I am by no means suggesting anything so silly as the notion that love cancels out war in some grand moral calculus.

Not at all.  Love does nothing even to cancel out a single drop of blood shed in war.  Instead, I mean by redemption this: The existence of love is a reason to go on, a reason to affirm life, to live — despite war, despite the myriad evils our species is prone to.

When seen that way, I believe redemption amounts to an almost aggressive rebellion against both those evils and against our mortality, against our death.  It represents an adamant valuation of living.

So what do I think are the things that redeem us?  Well, the most powerful ones to me are (in no real order of importance):

  • loving people and the world,
  • the sciences,
  • the creative arts,
  • superb craftsmanship,
  • excellence in any ethical undertaking,
  • beauty,
  • knowledge,
  • nature,
  • well-reasoned thinking,
  • creativity in general,
  • self-flourishing,
  • spiritual enlightenment,
  • authenticity (or being true to oneself),
  • the positive emotions, such as gratitude, friendship, and (seriously) horniness,
  • humane values,
  • care-taking and teaching,
  • and flesh-eating blog readers — among other things.

Questions?  Comments?  Morally offensive offers to email me nude selfies that will nevertheless be lustfully accepted by me (I ask only that you please try to pose in moonlight)?

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