A Search for the Meaning of Life

In 1992, when my 25 year marriage dissolved and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of the projects I was determined to pursue was an attempt to understand the meaning of life, or something in the neighborhood.  I did a lot of thinking and planning about how to approach the matter in a way I considered the most likely possibility for success.

Part of the project involved learning everything I could about religions and metaphysics, and I began with an intense study of Christianity, early Christian history, pre-Nicean Christian documents, practices and beliefs at a time before anything qualified as Canon.  For a couple of years I submerged myself in the subject.

During the same time period I got up 3:30 am and spent a couple of hours watching Christian television to get a better understanding of what was going on with Christianity today.  I found I got a lot of enjoyment doing it, and I discovered one I liked particularly well and thought of almost as an old friend.

Garner Ted Armstrong.  I spent a year or so in my early 20s working for Rainbow Baking Company in Houston loading bread trucks off a conveyor belt 12 hours a day, and I filled some of the solitude listening to Garner Ted over a portable radio and earpiece.  I considered him one of the best rhetoricians of the 20th Century already when I found him preaching on television.

But what I hadn’t realized was his level of scholarship and open mindedness about Christian history.  The fact I was submerged in it at the time led me to write a letter to him asking his take on some issues I’d found ambiguous.

From that time until his death several years later, Garner Ted Armstrong and I indulged in exchanges of 20 page letters discussing the nuances of Christian history, Christian texts, the implications of the Nag Hammadi codices, news coming out of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where Christianity had been and possibly where it was going.

A truly strange time of my life, though just one of those side-trails that had little to do with my coincident search and research involving a lost gold mine, nor with understanding the meaning of life.  The former, I never found, and the latter, when I found it, didn’t need elaboration.

I still miss old Garner Ted Armstrong and those long letters.

Old Jules

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33 responses to “A Search for the Meaning of Life

  1. Hi Jules. Just want to say how much I like your posts. The life you live and the insights you give of life in your area of planet earth I find a real blessing particularly that you have such wealth of experience to drawer upon. I am really busy in the last year of a Animation degree at Glyndwr Uni in North Wales at this present time and my blog time is not as it could be. You were kind enough to give a thumbs up on a blog I wrote. I know this is a sort of oddity of a comment but the long letters thing is something I would find a beneficial part of my own journey. With your wealth of knowledge and the many aspects of the Christian faith you will have tested in your correspondence with Garner Ted Armstrong i’m sure you will have visited ideas and places I have not as yet. I am particularly interested in the history of the church but mostly from the point of view of seeing just how the pure well got so muddied up. That’s not to say that I’m out to judge or criticize. It’s just that when something that should be so different than it is and is so way off the instruction book issued by it’s founder in so many key areas, and that the waywardness has so confused, if not to say confounded and alienated, so many searching souls, is something that should be addressed by anyone who feels they are in a relationship with the God of the Bible. I have followed the idea that we never should stop learning and, at the spring chicken vintage of 51, my attendence at Uni is proof that I tend to live out what I believe. I am a very strong believer that Yeshua is the Son of God revealed through the Scriptures and I believe with equal strength that any and every belief should submit itself to the scrutiny, and questions of others. It is a more and more difficult thing to dothese days. The more time passes, in the societal sense that is, the muddier the water gets and the more, even the language we use is divided in meaning.
    Thanks again for your writings
    John

    • Hi John. Thanks for the long comment. Garner Ted and I agreed that what happened to Christianity were the result of two events, primarily. The first happened on the road to Damascus. The second was the rebellion and the destruction of the 2nd temple and the scattering of a particular set of folks living there leading to their loss of influence in a lot of the affairs of the birthing of the Christian faith. Things might have gone a lot differently.

      But the guy who got his foot into the door of history on the road to Damascus probably has a lot to answer for.

      Best wishes on your personal journey.

      Old Jules

  2. I don’t think we are ever off the path. The journey continues transitioning from life to death through traceliess beginningless time. The photo is breathtaking.

  3. I have never had a problem with Saul’s conversion to Paul, if it happened anywhere near as it was reported, what I do have a problem with is how the Church went about selecting which books stayed in and which books got thrown out as the Bible was being prepared for longevity, and how Paul’s “teachings,” i.e. opinions (which seem extremely judgmental and contrary to the teachings of Christ Jesus), were selected as ways to keep folks in line and create church dogma. And, of course, we can’t even be certain of what Paul actually said and what got attributed to him for nefarious purposes.

    I had forgotten about Garner Ted Armstrong. Now I want to revisit what he had to say. It must have been quite interesting to maintain a conversation with him through letters.

    • Hi Teresa Evangeline: It was an education, those letters. Seems I misremembered one thing as I wrote the post. The Wiki GTA entry mentions he died in 2003. Our correspondence couldn’t have gone on past 1999, I think. As for Paul/Saul, the fact I arrived at some fairly specific conclusions shouldn’t be interpreted as an attempt to convince anyone else in the direction of similar conclusions. I’m not evangelical about it. But, of course, I’m not a Christian. Gracias, Jules

  4. The meaning of life is simple: Monty Python did a movie about it! 😉

  5. Fascinating. Thanks for the interesting read. HF

  6. I would never have thought of watching the evangenicasts to get a handle on what is happening. I don’t have Tv, but have to admit that even when i did, i never once watched a show. I guess I missed out! c

    • Morning Celima: All I can attribute it all to insofar as the directions I’ve taken in most aspects of my life is my combination of an obsessive personality and a fundamental mistrust of almost everything traditionally carrying the voice of authority. I mostly don’t accept anything at face value and until I’ve examined it somewhere down in the roots and had a close look at the nuances nothing much counts for anything in my worldview.

      Which isn’t to suggest whatever ways others use to find their own places in the Universe are less valid. I’m just me and the ‘me’ doesn’t have any more bearing on the lives of others than I’m able to limit it to. Gracias, Jules

      Edit: One of the side-issues I observed during those times and later was how unfamiliar the seeming great majority of Christians are with the history of their own faith and doctrine. When approached by evangelists in one or another setting during those early years I asked a lot of questions and listened carefully to their [usually avoidance of] answers. Eventually I concluded it was none of my business.

  7. Nothing can compete with old fashioned, tangible, pen to paper found in letters. Your long correspondence, exchanging ideas, is wonderful. I too, had forgotten about Garner Ted Armstrong.

    Life is interesting.

  8. Interesting Old Jules,
    I Googled Garner Ted Armstrong, and have spent some time listening and reading this morning and will again soon. Very interesting man who speaks intelligently and with no nonsense conviction. I can well imagine you had some very interesting exchanges.

    I was raised in a home totally void of a Bible or education in its contents. My paternal grandmother was a very christian woman who attempted to teach me what she could without causing my dad to be pissed. It hasn’t been until the last 10-12 yrs that I have researched it myself and experienced many amazing events I would be tempted to call miracles.

    One of which being my son going into rehab for drugs and coming out with a Degree in Theology
    Nuf said. Interesting post as always Jules

    Thanks
    Carrie

  9. Hi Carrie. Thanks for coming by for a read. When the Universe insists on behaving in ways contrary to the limits we humans attempt to impose on it I suppose ‘miracle’ is as good a word as any to describe it. Glad things worked out to your satisfaction for your son.

    I like the Bible a lot as a matter of reading material, but I tend not to believe a lot of it. However, I’m not offended when others do. Gracias, Jules

  10. I agree that meaning is the basic dilemma of human existence. Conjugate the camp survivors credo “he who has a why can live throught any how” and the sixties “Blowin in the Wind.”

    Regard, grace, and peace.

    • Hi hippy warlord. Thanks for stopping in. I actually don’t see it as a dilemma. Fairly obvious, simple and straightforward from my limited perspective. Getting the distance required to observe it is where the difficulty seems to reside, thinks I. It ain’t often easy, and it ain’t often kind, as the old song said.

      Humanity’s out there plodding along, indiviuals doing it the best way they know how, each exploring different routes along a road they can’t find a way off of anyway. Gracias, Jules

  11. I can’t now ask as he’s dead, but I believe my father personally knew Garner Ted as well.
    In My Opinion: By whatever means we come to our knees in this life – and there are many – ideally fosters humility and a depth of understanding we did not previously know existed. Tends to make us a dite more human – and isn’t that what we’ve come here to experience?

    • Bela. Might be so. I tend to think a human lifetime is a fairly individual place and each of us might have our own reasons for being here doing it. Gracias, Jules

  12. Great post, OldJules. I am currently listening to a course called From Jesus to Constantine from The Teaching Company, and another called Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World.Fascinating history!

  13. Early Christian history, that is a current topic on The Stanford Cornerstone. Speaking with AbdulBaset I,Gari a Muslem blogger, seems the Muslims believe the early Christian writings were not accepted in order for Constatine I, Emperor of the Roman Empire to forge his own version of what Christianity should be. http://www.kingpawntillo.com
    I wonder if Garner Ted Armstrong is the son of Herbert W. Armstrong, he has a lot of interesting writings about Bible Prophecy.

    • Hi Wayne. A lot of Muslims tend to believe a lot of different things when the subject ranges outside the texts of the Koran. In fact GTA was the son of Herbert W. Thanks for coming by. Gracias, Jules

  14. My only interest in the subject of GTA is knowing how he has influenced you. It helps deepen my image of you as a human being. It’s not enough we often know so little of ourselves, but too many folks don’t take much interest in anyone else.

    • Hi Ed. Glad to see you here. I’d never asked myself that question before, and it’s an interesting one to me. I don’t believe I can say in all honesty that GTA influenced me in any particular way. He cleared up a lot of questions I had about how modern theologeons viewed various facets of text, clarified how some nuances came to be generally accepted. I don’t believe it was ever his intention to influence me, and I’ll confess to having wondered frequently just what he was getting out of these exchanges and why he was bothering to indulge in them. GTA always treated me during our correspondence on a seemingly ‘equal’ level. Never patronizing, never condescending, never assuming the attitude of teacher to neophyte, though I was a neophyte. My impression was that he enjoyed the correspondence, read it carefully and took pains to answer every thought, every question as thoroughly and accurately as he was able.

      Maybe somewhere in all that he influenced me somehow, but I can’t guess how. Thanks for coming by. Jules

  15. Your letter exchanges sound like fertile soil for a book. I’d buy one.

  16. Hi Jules and everyone. I must first apologise that I seem to be able to only visit erraticaly at the moment. The whole shift ,the entire muddying of the waters, as far as my research reveals can clearly be seen in the desire for the first athorities in the fulminated, and later declared to be, the ‘first’ Christian church, to severe all possible connection with the Jewish people and with any practice, teaching, or even scripture that could be perceived as Jewish. Examine the thread of teaching that begins with the ‘Church Fathers’ like John Chysostome.
    If you take the Bible as a continuous description of history in the full sense it reveals the Messiah and that person was to be revealed in very clearly indicated ways. When John the Baptist asked Jesus ‘Are you the One?’ Jesus ( Yeshua) replied with a question. To paraphrase Him He was pointing to the scriptures He knew were known by heart by all those who were yearning for the Messiah to come. This is the reason the Torah was given to a specific people. It was their job to see the Messiah and to then declare it. Yeshuah’s question was in the form of an observation. The blind see, the lame walk again, even the dead are raised. Everything about the way Yeshua taught and acted was in full accordance with what has now been dismissed as ‘Old’ Testimony. He was not some new Guru with a new way that erased the scriptures and the Father in heavens teachings to humanity. As He said Himself, He came to reveal them.
    All the recorded events of His life are wonderfully clarified when seen in context of the Biblical Feasts. The timing of His sacrifice at Passover. His declaration that ‘It is finished” following on His annoiting as High Priest by John the Baptist. The fact Jerusalem was filled with observant Jews from every corner of the known world who would then, after staying for the following feast of Pentecost, would have in their number the thousands of devout Jews described in the book of Acts, who then went back out to fill those corners with all they had seen and understood and believed. Even evangelism began much sooner than the gentile Church understands. The ‘Jews’ did not reject Yeshua. It was always going to be that as representatives of humanity, many, like the rest of us, would not see it, but thousands did and continue to do now. The first church was a formed by Jews who simply believed that Yeshua was the Messiah revealed through the scriptures. It took something like 15 years of Jewish evangelism to bring a significant group of gentiles to faith. The Christian church in pulling down this curtain of seperation and in practice,hatred, has done many things. It has made the scriptures contradictory in many key areas. It has, through it’s empirical and worldy manifestation enforced, with torture and death a worship system that is in fact totally set against the clear teachings of the God of the Bible. It is a terrible mess and no amout of human powered debate, in the end will answer it. It is a spiritual contamination that is from the darkest source possible.Yeshua said that there would be many who will say to Him ‘Lord, Lord.’ Many who will say that they have done many wonderful things in His name’ but His response will be ‘Get away from me you workers of lawlessness. The church needs to wake up to what has happened. This lawlessness’ Yeshua refers to is not just the ten commandments. There is one possible meaning to what Yeshua is saying to the crowds of Jews listening to Him. He said that there would be a time when He would be asked ‘Physician heal yourself’, that process will not be easy for any who have set themselves up as His teachers and representatives who have taught the world to turn away from His revealed self and word.
    Sorry Jules for such a long writing but the subject is not easily dealt with in small pieces.
    Shalom
    John

    • Hi John: I’m not on the same route these days as I was in those, and Judeo/Christian theology isn’t a subject I devote a lot of time and thought to. I respect those who do, but my mind and spirit are elswhere. Gracias, Jules

  17. “A truly strange time of my life, though just one of those side-trails that had little to do with my coincident search and research involving a lost gold mine, nor with understanding the meaning of life. The former, I never found, and the latter, when I found it, didn’t need elaboration.”

    Jules, you’re wrong about the former. Buddy, somewhere along the way, you found gold enough for the rest of us. Thanks for sharing it…

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