Certain concepts are essentially secular in their meaning. That is, there is no God involved.
Now, for example, angels are essentially ‘intellectual’ beings in Christianity. The closest matchup to these in secular concepts is perhaps ‘cognitive’ processes.
So, it is useful to say angels are what in secular concepts would be called certain kinds of cognitive processes. This can illuminate the concept of angels, or it can help in communication between secularists and Christians, say.
Having said that, it is not useful to say that the concept ‘cognitive processes’ is adequate to the concept of angels. This is because there is no God ‘in’ or associated with the former concept.
If one thinks angels are real, then the secular vocabulary is inadequate. What would have to happen is a redefinition of ‘cognitive processes’, in which they are related to God, and so on.
So, much of contemporary, ‘neutral’ discourse is secular. Put another way, if people aren’t talking about God, they’re talking about not-God. Effectively, there isn’t neutral ground, because the Christian God is (supposedly) far-reaching, and causally tied up in everything that has real existence, in a way that makes a difference.
It seems there is renewed interest in periodical fasting. What are the basic ideas?
First, an idea is that fasting turns on ‘garbage collection’ in body. The key time span seems to be 16 hours – at about this point, the mechanisms kick in. This is real fasting for 16 hours (no food or drink, except water).*
*This is easier than you might think. Finish dinner at 6pm. Wake up the next morning at 6am. You have now fasted for 12 hours. Wait until 10am. Voila, 16 hours.
Second, an idea is that fasting allows for the digestive system to heal itself more efficiently (I am guessing because you have less or no food in it after a period of time). It seems various health issues are linked to unhealthy digestive tracts – allow the digestive tract to heal, and you solve the problem to a large extent.
For contrast, consider how fasting is being treated in this new movement as opposed to how fasting is treated by the Catholic church for Lent. The Catholic church now has a watered-down version, where the time is reduced and ‘fasting’ is now meant to include 3 snacks during the course of a day.
It seems plausible that watered-down religious practices no longer do what they once did – that calling something, in this case, ‘fasting’ doesn’t mean it is, and doesn’t mean one can expect to get the results that people in the past would (even when it comes to building will-power, a traditional reason given for periodical fasting).
Ought one to aim to be a big fish in small pond, or small fish in big pond?
As a rule of thumb, you want to be a big fish in a small pond.
Consider two examples.
First, if looking at joining a basketball team where one wants to improve one’s skills, actually playing games probably outweighs the advantages of being around better players. Here, being a bigger fish in a smaller pond probably makes sense to a degree.
Second, though, consider a case where one wants to get degree primarily for recognition. In this case, it is not so much about improving one’s skills, but about simply getting into an institution. Think Harvard or Stanford. In this case, being in as ‘big’ (recognized) a pond as possible is probably a better strategy.
I think the best general strategy is to be a big fish in a small pond, and then pond hop, to consecutively larger ponds.
It seems increasingly clear to me that there is a key to Christian practice in the amount of time Jesus spent outdoors. I previously wrote about the idea of Jesus going into nature as removing distractions (similar to getting rid of WiFi for a certain period of time). Yet, I think there is another aspect to this which is important.
Being in nature helps one to see and reconnect with the beauty and energy of the natural world. In doing this – in connecting to the beauty of the stars, the energy of being in a rainstorm, and so on – a connection is opened spiritually. This sense of connection is probably important for various spiritual practices, such as various kinds of prayer.