A quick anecdote. Don’t worry, I won’t try to pluralise it and call it “data”.
I don’t really have many early memories. I suppose there are vague impressions of schools I must have been at sometime before I was 7 that still linger in my head, but nothing very concrete, or particularly memorable. But a memory of what might have been my earliest foray into philosophy popped up and prodded me in the brain again recently.
I’ve no idea how young I was, but certainly young. Possibly I was going to Sunday School at that point, and was starting to get my head around the notion of religion. My dad had some kind of book, which set out to answer a handful of simple questions about religion, possibly about the Church of England specifically. It was short, but hit all the basics. Sort of like a precursor to the Alpha Course literature, maybe.
One of the later chapters was titled “What made God?”, and this was the bit I was actually interested in. I remember thinking (at, let’s say, age 5) that this was the thing that most needed to be sorted out, before the whole God business could stop being a rather annoying enigma. I mean, what was this almighty being doing there? Where’d he come from? How had this state of affairs come to be? Surely that was the important bit.
It didn’t have a very good answer. It just sort of waffled a bit and concluded that we don’t really know. I was not happy.
You know, in the re-telling, this sounds rather strange. “What made God?” is a very curious way for a religiously proselytising book to phrase the question. It makes it sound like they’re treating God as if he were some kind of natural phenomenon, an effect whose cause can be determined, perhaps in accordance with some set of universal laws. Which I suppose is how I was imagining the answer would go.
It’s a common theist claim that the Universe’s very existence needs explanation, and that God is the only satisfactory answer. It’s a common atheist rebuttal that this just shifts the problem back a step, and only complicates things further, because now you have another, grander entity whose provenance needs accounting for. The usual theist re-rebuttal involves an attempted explanation of why God is a special case who doesn’t need to have been deliberately created. I don’t recall ever, since that first book, encountering a theistic argument which acknowledges that God’s inception itself is a valid and as yet unanswerable conundrum. They always prefer imagining some sort of loophole.
Which makes me wonder just how distortedly I’m misremembering the whole thing.
I still haven’t found an actual answer to the question. It’s not quite the same question I’d be asking these days, but in practical terms there’s not much difference. It grates less now, though. I remember being quite annoyed at the time. This was the kind of thing people should know, after all.
So, there’s that. I’m hoping to become wordier in future weeks, because I’m going to have a go at The Artist’s Way, a book and course on nurturing creativity. I was inspired to join in with this by Mur Lafferty (who, by the way, is awesome), and was only made slightly wary by her warnings about its spiritual approach. There is an explanation in the preface of the book about what the author does and doesn’t mean by “God”, and how we can choose to interpret the idea of a creative force any way we like, which I imagine I’ll be fine with… but by page 1 of the book proper she’s using phrases like “spiritual chiropractic” which unavoidably make me wince a little. Still, I plough on. Writing more words is never bad.
I keep meaning to end some of my posts with an audience question, to engage people a bit more in whatever I’m rambling about, but too often I forget. So, questions for discussion:
1.) Do you have any childhood memories of early, primitive philosophical thoughts? Did anything about the whole God business not sit right with you from a very early age? Were you dissecting grown-ups’ theological claims before you could tie your own shoes, and do you find that they haven’t come up with anything better in the years since then?
2.) Do you have any techniques that work for you to make creativity happen, in whatever direction you prefer to create things? Have you tried The Artist’s Way, or anything like it?