A third of December has gone, most of it spent on the voracious consumption of literature on the evolution and history of religion.
(Recommended reads: Matthew Alper’s The “God” Part of the Brain; Karen Armstrong’s A History of God: The 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Karen Armstrong’s The Bible: A Biography; Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions; Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon; Jack Miles’ God: A Biography; Steve Taylor’s The Fall; Robert Winston’s The Story of God; and Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God. There are many, many others, but I’ll start my recommendations with these.)
(One day, when I’ve grown up, I will pursue a doctorate on comparative religion. Until then, I’ll happily peddle what actual, grown-up doctorate holders have to say about the subject.)
Anyway, what has all the reading amounted to? What conclusions have I drawn from everything that I’ve read so far?
Very simply: the only worthwhile pursuit to be made in life is to be good—to be compassionate, to be generous, to be kind. Nothing else will exercise us as much (exercise in the various senses of demand, bewilder, frustrate, perplex); yet nothing else will fulfill us as much either.
Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can: (1) read all the literature yourself; and (2) try pursuing other things to see if they make you happy (i.e., money, fame, pleasure, success, etc.). I’ve done as much of (1) as I can (and will continue doing so simply because I’m obstinate that way), and I’ve done enough of (2) (and might continue doing so simply because I’m obtuse that way). But right now, at this strangely quiet and reflective juncture of my life, I really really get it—how the transcendentals of the good, the true and the beautiful coincide.
So what is 2013 beginning to look like for me?
Very simply: the pursuit of being good.
Here’s to a whole new year then of being bewildered, frustrated and perplexed—and hopefully, just hopefully, happy.