Adynaton

An adynaton is a hyperbole that is so ridiculous as to be impossible.  This is an old literary style that goes waaaaay back. “ When pigs fly” is one of them.  The stoic philosopher Seneca is attributed with this example, “One can expect an agreement between philosophers sooner than between clocks.”  The problem with his comment is there were no clocks in the first century when he presumably said this.  He was a native of Spain living in Italy so things may have gotten messed up in the translation.  Then again, he was Nero’s tutor, so who knows?

The concept of philosophy is only possible when there can be several outcomes from a particular occasion.  It also suggests differences of opinion are allowable.  Where the concept can get into trouble is the debate about something that has only one possible truth.   Religion often finds its realm invaded by this aspect of debate.

Like all realms of existence, there are some parts that are absolutely true.  Six times seven is forty-two regardless of what type of math you use to approach it, or in what language it is expressed.  There is no philosophical question about the outcome of the equation. 

There are some modes of operation that are almost universally accepted.  One of these is “don’t eat grandma.”  It would be hard to find a culture where the inhabitants differed on this point.  Again, because of the truth in this acceptable rule, no philosophy can be developed.

The question that is begged – what of each religion is truth and what is philosophy?  A lady recently said to me that Buddhism was not a religion, but a type of living.  I would guess that Buddhist monks would differ with her definition, but their lifestyle certainly gives credibility to her comment.  The ultimate manifestation of a philosophy is how the day-to-day life of the aficionado is lived.  Monks in general are quite similar worldwide though they pray to different gods. 

When we look at Christians, we do not see a distinct lifestyle being exhibited throughout the population which calls itself by that name.  Jesus was very simple in his approach to the faith He was promoting.  Love one another as you love yourself.  Love God above all else.  Love your neighbor. There are quite a variety of lifestyles which came out of the commandments both He and his Father spoke.  History is replete with rulers of countries that felt they were God’s gift to the populace.  Then they went on to replace God’s authority with their own.  There were others who took God’s rules literally and lived them.  Wars did not come from the true followers.  Wars came from people claiming Christianity, while using it as a shield  –  “God gave me this power to do as I wish.”  Or, “It’s good to be King.”

Many people are turned off when they use the behavior of individual Christians to judge whether Christianity is a truth or a philosophy.  If I inspect my own action, I can see earlier times in my life when I could have greatly confused an outside observer.  That is the great enigma; every religion has this array of lifestyle interpretations.

The biggest question of all time is universal.  What happens to me when this life ends?  The root of the question is that certainty, instilled in every human, that we are more than a physical body.  We have a spirit, and that spirit will continue long after the body is laid down in the dust. 

Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  He also said, “The gate is narrow and few will enter it.”  I have read the other great religions’ books.  No one’s words are more direct and specific than Jesus.  “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.”  Nothing in it about power is there?  He didn’t say “be loving” as though it were a feeling, a philosophy.  He said, “Love your neighbor” as a verb with a specific noun.  He did not use the adynaton, “When Hell freezes over.”

There is one true answer to this biggest of all questions.  All the other answers are both false and philosophical.  Our beliefs do not change what is true in the realm of the afterlife any more than we can change six times seven to equal fourteen.  One day we will know as we look back over our shoulder at who we were and whether we matched up to the instructions which came from the true Master.

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