Celebrating Heresy

Heresy? Yes. Over all history, when old ideas are challenged, those who hold them use that word to combat the new. It was true in China, in Buddhism, in every religion. The heresy threatened the power of the orthodox ideas and the orthodox leadership/elite. Their response was to charge the new thinkers with heresy. In the 15th century, it was the charge against Copernicus and later Galileo–and not just from the Roman Catholic church, but professional astronomers of the day also hurled that charge. (Dogma is not the exclusive property of religion.)

I celebrate heresy. History demonstrates that the future belongs to the new ideas.  Not, of course, ALL new ideas, but certain new ideas; discerning which is the trick, but that can't happen unless all new ideas can get a hearing. Heresy takes courage. The heretic can't be sure he is right. He has to cast his lot with his new ideas and concepts, often against the opposition even of friends and family.

Heresy has been a part of my life since my youth, but it is only lately that I have recognized this and named it–and found an appropriate symbol. In 1962, Martin Speckter invented the last new punctuation mark, the Interrobang:  Blue It has even become part of a few type fonts from Microsoft, Apple and Smith-Corona. The Interrobang follows a sentence that is a startling question leading to a new approach, idea, and then to an exciting way of living in the midst of uncertain celebration.

As I look at my life, that's what I see.

I have only recently put the words to this idea, triggered by my realization that I celebrate being part of a community of heretics.  Found in the most unlikely place, a Presbyterian church, most Sunday mornings at 8:30am, I find myself with this group of folk. Their age ranges from about 70 to almost 100. No idea is sacrosanct to these folk. On any given Sunday, they will be found challenging spiritual, political, and religious dogma. This church encourages free thinking. They use the old Christian language game, but they use it metaphorically, not literally and they use it to communicate, not obfuscate. They apply the words to concepts that open to all new interpretation. Few churchs or other religious groups, but even fewer other groups, are nearly as non-dogmatic. The culture makes an assumption that young people have new ideas and older people are conservative and stuck. Perhaps many people do fit that stereotype, but my Community of Heretics are certainly not in that group.

As I look at my own life, I realize that I regularly juggle political, spiritual and scientific concepts in ways that seem to be in conflict to an onlooker, but come to coherence in my life and keep me excited by my world and the future.


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