Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nothing To Read Here Folks...

The below is taken from the above: Gods and Goals, written by Kenneth L. Patton from the "Meeting House Series, Religion For our Time" written ca. 1952.

This publication was taken from the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood NJ, where it was safely kept in a cardboard box in the unfinished attic, covered in a thick protective coating of dust.

When I inquired of the current minister if any of Ken Patton's books were lying around, I sensed an admixture of glee that someone was coming to get rid of that clutter and concern that I might take Kenneth Patton's writings as representative of Unitarian Universalism, or the Ridgewood Unitarian Universalist Society in particular.

"God forbid" as it were; in the paraphrased words of the current minister "Um, well, uh, Ken didn't really have an editor...and, well, sometimes he needed one..."

For some reason, I don't think the current minister's Humanist knickers were in a twist over Minister Patton's spelling. Indeed, when Kenneth Patton passed away, it took every bit of sadness possible (contrived or otherwise) to hide the long nascent glee that finally, maybe, a new, fun minister with an easier, less threatening message might take the podium--someone who might make the wait for "coffee hour" that much easier.

Because the parent society in Ridgewood New Jersey gets what that parent society in Ridgewood New Jersey wants, Kenneth Patton and his pointed questions were replaced by an increase in May pole wrappings, clog dances and significant capital improvements to the infrastructure--things that more closely speak to the consciousness of the congregation, their prevailing concerns and surrounding, nay, suffocating "culture."

Real estate maneuvers are in, meditations Nietzsche's ideas regarding the death of God and the poetry of Huang Po is out.

One of my last memories of Kenneth Patton was seeing him in the frozen isle at the supermarket. He had neither the focus nor the sartorial splendor of the other shoppers (a crime in Ridgewood New Jersey for which no punishment is too severe.) This I imagine is another reason why neither he nor his significant body of written work were given much celebration in the years that followed--he didn't have the right clothes.

But this is neither about the rampant consumerism nor the capitalist pride felt by so many in that charming and oh so desirable hamlet, what with its "excellent schools" and proximity to "the city". No, this is about corporate boppers and performance art poseurs.

That such an entirely applicable treatment of "clinamen" should come in the form of a tirade against God from as huge an intellect as Kenneth Patton is just a little nostalgic icing on a cake no one really gives (or gave) a fuck about in the first place.

Help your self to seconds.

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What is here written is the declaration of a personal faith. that it should be framed in terms of a denial of what would be the groundwork of faith for many persons, namely belief in God, is unavoidable. The purpose of so framing this statement is not mere idol smashing or a desire to give offense. Rather a universe without God is a positive necessity for the type of human salvation herein conceived. I believe that only when men are free of God are they ready to accomplish their own maturity as men.

It would indeed be ironical if the source of human salvation should lie in the discarding what men have for millenia considered to be the source of salvation, a God or divine Saviour. The reason I believe this to be the case can be announced in a simple statement: Men are saved only when they save themselves, for it is in the activity and growth of saving themselves that their salvation is accomplished. No man can be saved by the intervention of a power from without. It is the creation and development of powers within man himself that accomplish that fullness of life and maturity of abilities and personality which we would call the conservation and realization, or the salvation of human life...

But when all this is said and done, the start fact remains that if this growing human being is ever to be "saved," he must save himself. If he does not grasp life in his own hands, become himself identified with and involved in the adventure of living, and take the major responsibility of his own self-realization upon himself, he will never make the grade. And this latter factor in his conservation as a human being is much more important in the long run than any other factor. Without this latter urge to live and grow within the individual, all the other advantages will be wasted.

We have often seen the child born into a privileged home, who received every ministration that money can buy, somehow miss out. There did not seem to be the will or conviction necessary for him to take these opportunities and build upon them. Whereas other children born into poor and even delinquent homes, have had the drive to wrest from a reluctant society the education and the opportunities for the making of their lives. Ultimately every person saves himself, creates himself, by taking the life available to him, even as a plant extends its roots into the soil and builds the moisture and food into the fibers of its own stem foliage and fruit. The salvation is finally within the seed, within the self, and every man must be his own savior.

This is so much the case, that when a person allows himself to become a parasite, to merely absorb the teachings and services of his environment, instead of being his opportunities, these gifts become the virus of a disease of personality. Instead of himself living a life, he becomes a receptacle for the overflow of other peoples' lives. The unused materials of life become a corruption within him, just as undigested food decays in the stomach and intestines and poisons the body. A life that is not being lived quickly begins to rot, even as a corpse quit of life...

Let us project the foregoing evidence of the nature of man and the means of his becoming a creative personality into the framework and language of religion. I sincerely believe that the idea of God is a symbol of the parent who would dominate the life of the child. Instead of, "Mother knows best," it is "God knows all." Instead of, "I am your father and you must obey me until you are 21," it is, "I am your Creator and you must obey my laws forever." Instead of, "If you are a good little boy I will give you some candy and read you a story before you go to bed," it is, "If you obey my commandments I will reward you with eternal life." and most important of all, instead of, "Honor thy father and mother," and "You would never treat me that way if you loved your mother as a good child should," it is, "The chief duty of man is to glorify God."

My advice to any young person, caught in the toils of dominating and suffocating parents would be for them to free themselves. And just as children cannot become mature until they become their own authority and guide, so men will never be mature until they rid themselves of their authoritarian and dominating idea of God. God continues to exist only because mankind continues in its way of childish insecurity and dependence. Man's belief in God is not the mark of his salvation, but the mark of his inability to assume his full stature and responsibility as a man. When men have rid themselves of God it will not mean that they are then saved. Their state of development will then be similar to that of the youth who has just determined to quit his parents' overlordship and be his own master. When men make their declaration of independence from God, they will then be ready to enter seriously the task of saving themselves and their society by their own abilities and efforts...

Man's salvation will depend upon his own recognition of his own nature, and the use of his powers to further his grown and accomplishments. Just as many children can never manage this until they escape from the parents that have overshadowed them, so man will not be able to accomplish this until he escapes from the over-shadowing and belittling presence of God...

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I bet you didn't know the drummer from one of my favorite Cecil Taylor records (occasionally) attends the Ridgewood Unitarian Universalist society.