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Monday, December 31, 2007

Catching our tail

We're almost there, still nipping at our own tail, so the annual journey around the sun is almost complete, 364-1/4 days we have been traveling the more or less circuitous route, only to arrive at our beginning. Well, not quite, perhaps arriving at the beginning of one circle, yet we and the sun have been together on another journey. Together with 200 billion other suns we are swirling around within our Milky Way galaxy. And the Milky Way galaxy is heading ... where? Some astronomers think on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy. In 3 billion years. Be ready.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Contemplating the debris

I took a walk this evening with a flashlight, and the full moon, and my breath guiding my way, it was cold. And I didn't look up much at first, for I read once about the dark matter of that overhead in the night sky, the great majority of the universe, that called the dark matter (or dark matter and dark energy), accounts for 97 percent of all the universe, yet even calling it dark matter is a bit misleading, for the term "dark matter" is really a place holder, it is a made up term to describe that which cannot be described. Dark matter really means, "I don't know." Plain and simply. The great "huh?" that we dignify with "dark matter." After all the calculations are done, we are left with a remainder of 96% unaccounted for. Meaning that everything we see, the material world (which includes a whole bunch that our eyes don't see, such as infrared light, but with instruments we can "see") is 4% of the whole. Four percent! (give or take a few percent, depending on where you gather these kinds of facts). But what is 4% of anything? Not very much. Fill a glass with 96% water and 4% sand. Stir it up and see the bits swirl about the great volume of water, all the stars and galaxies of the universe swirling about in that glass nearly full of water. One cosmos theorist calls the 4% of the known universe the debris. He calls it something so unimportant that when you remove it, you will not miss it. Huh? Okay, take our glass of water with the bits of sand swirling in it, now with a filter, filter out all the sand, the 4% of the total volume. Now hold up the glass of water, the glass 96% full. Nearly full. All the stars and the galaxies and you and me gone. Yet the glass doesn't even seem to miss them. It still looks full. That is why the theorist laughs when someone looks up into the night sky and makes poetic statements about looking into the universe. He laughs because what you really are seeing is the "mere" 4% of the total. That night sky ablaze with countless stars. Is the mere 4% of the total. So tonight as I was walking in the moon lit desert, with flashlight in hand, I was thinking about the 96% that my eyes couldn't see. I switched off the flashlight and even with the full moon, the landscape was still dark, dark enough that the difference between noontime and full moon time were, I think, similar to the 96% and 4%. I then looked straight up and as always, the desert night sky is a blaze of twinkles, and I had a hard time thinking this but 4% of the whole. And of course I had to include myself and the surrounding desert in that 4%. Yes, everything on this planet Earth is included in the 4%. Then I reached down, the flashlight beam making a yellow circle on the sand, and I took a handful of sand, cold in my clenched hand, and flung it into the air, and with the beam of the flashlight watched the grains of sand interrupt the darkness, for without the sand in the air, my flashlight beam had nothing to deflect the photons. Are the stars about just so much sand flung across the universe? Or simply, as the theorist said, mere debris? We too the debris of the universe? Turning back, with the flashlight beam sweeping the path before me, I thought of the 4% as not debris, but that little of great value. And why? For hidden inside this 4% is what I think of as potential. That mysterious force call potential. And it is this force that breaks through the unknown to become ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Did God cry?

The Mayo Clinic has a resource for new parents and some answers to the question: why do newborns cry a lot? Of course the reasons are varied and many and it is the job of the new parents to figure out the immediate cause so that an immediate solution can be found. I wonder who helped Mary and Joseph with newborn baby care tips? Without the Mayo Clinic, and in the culture of those times, I'm sure Mary had to rely on the goodness and compassion of the women surrounding her (while Joseph handed out cigars?), but if she did have the Mayo Clinic, then she would have consider the following whenever baby Jesus cried.

I'm hungry.
I need to burp.
I pooped.
I'm tired.
I'd rather be bundled.
I want to move.
I'm lonely.
I'm hot.
I want to suck on something.
I've had enough.
It's just that time of day.
My tummy hurts.

Now, after considering this list, I really don't think Mary needed the Mayo Clinic. I think the women about her didn't need any list, they just knew what to do.

And what did God think of all this?
A new experience?
That we all went through.
We're not alone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mail order Yucca

Bro. Clarence said he discovered on the web a nursery in Texas that specializes in cacti and other heat and drought resistant plants. I can't tell you how excited he is, he was outdoors all day making sketches of what plants would best fit in this or that area, and then back to the Macintosh to check the website again to determine the size and habits of this or that bush or cacti and of course the cost of his now imaginary desert garden. Well, I will wait and see if this all comes to pass, for I'm afraid our labyrinth remains undone, and so it goes sometimes, that we need to become verbs in order to create nouns. Yet isn't it more comfortable to be a noun?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The naturally unnatural future -- Returning to Eden?

"Let's start thinking about what sort of Earth we want our descendants to inherit."

What a big and difficult question. For some (or most?) it seems a simply question. But when we look around and see what our builders of the future are building, we see oodles of "artificial" mammoth structures growing in China with a gravity defying skyscraper as the most recent example, continuing the trend of "making room" with clever and interesting boxes to shelter the forever increasing numbers of humans ever more unchecked by prior evolutionary checks, so it seems that humans are restructuring the entire planet into a willy-nilly patchwork of habitats that attempt to provide creature comforts to humans, and in the process are trading the unknown for the known. Or our notion for the "known." The old notion of the "natural" is rapidly becoming the new notion of the sacred. And as our ancestors built cathedrals to house the "spirit of the sacred," the future seems wanting to save the untouched and unspoiled remaining nature and keeping it untainted forever by human touch. Have we finally found Eden? (and it was here all the time?) And this time we willingly stand outside and look in, in awe. Finally knowing that we, the once ejected, are again given the chance to be the keepers?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Writing in the sand with my index finger

Stars decorate
the sky
under I snore

Forever time stands
still waiting waiting
A baby cries

Beyond the Joshua tree
rain drops
lightning dances

A lizard waits
and listens too
the old man snores

A million snores
half a world asleep
lunch in Kyoto

A child is born
again and again and again
Right now!

Bare-bones natural and fleshy artificial?

Erase humans from the grand picture, and all is natural. Erase humans from the grand picture, good and evil disappear. This self-aware being with imagination that can be acted upon changes nature as it is and was. This being with the ability to gain insight through symbols (language) can transform imagination into acts that can reconstruct nature, which therefore makes us humans, little creators. So with our limited storehouse of precise words, we use artificial to describe creations created by little creators, and natural to describe Creation. Yes, Big Creation, which of course includes the creation of ALL, including the little creators and their little creations. So you might think the word artificial a bit artificial, for it attempts to elevate us humans into creators, when as Bro. Chet* has shown, the Tinker-toy set is already in place (and who made the Tinker-toy set?), we human after forever time have discovered we too are constructed Tinker toys!? And, all our little creations are but humans playing with the Tinker-toy set.

*see How do you make a universe? (Tinker toys)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To destinations unknown

Maybe a scientist is like a bicycle rider, and telling everyone that a destination is the goal, yet secretly the bicycle rider just loves riding the bike, and if the stated destination is reached, then hurriedly a new destination is announced, for riding the bike is what it's all about. Then over the years all these bicycle riders have little accidents here and there, making ruts in the once pristine landscape, but quickly seek atonement by announcing the bicycle rides are for humanity, they at the same time create innumerable problems for all, and create comforts and well-being too, a mixed bag that keeps them pedaling and keeps the sitters and walkers thinking we all are heading somewhere, somewhere together to an unknown destination, a destination that only the bicycle riders know where. Or do they?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A letter to my past self

I would tell my younger self that you haven't arrived yet, so instead of chiseling youthful wisdom into stone, write it in a paper journal with a yellow pencil that has a big eraser, and too, instead of planting intellectual roots, continue the journey, and when you pass fellow beings that have planted their roots, be not troubled and too quick with judgment, and finally, in the long run, kindness to others is best, even when that kindness isn't returned, and when the olive branch offered is refused with a volley of arrows, then return to the path and make haste, for another day is straight ahead, just beyond the daybreak, with always a hint of promise in the air.


Addendum:

From a "Calvin and Hobbs" comic strip (from the past).

Calvin: "Ah, I got the letter I wrote to myself."

Hobbes: "What did you write?"

Calvin: "Dear Calvin -- Hi! I'm writing this on Monday. What day is it now? How are things going? Your pal. Calvin."

Calvin: "My past self is corresponding with my future self."

Hobbes: "Too bad you can't write back."

Calvin (next day): "I got a letter from my past self."

Hobbes: "What's it say?"

Calvin: "Dear Future Calvin -- I wrote this several days before you will receive it. You've done things I haven't done. You've seen things I haven't seen. You know things I don't know. You lucky dog. Your pal. Calvin."

Calvin (sniffing): "I feel so sorry for myself two days ago."

Hobbes: "Poor him. He wasn't you."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Deal with it. Think about it.

"Deal with it. Think about it."*
Almost the exact words that a dear old pastor used to explain what "those old men" of the Council of Nicea handed us in 325 AD, a creed that is recited as though it were a theorem, yet in fact is a most puzzling poem. Of course a "youthful" me rebelled at the thought of sheepishly reciting anything that isn't "clear" and unambiguous and fact. He said it was the early Church Fathers way of saying that we too were to deal with what they were dealing with, so across the ages it is: "Deal with it. Think about it." A youthful me was disgusted by sheep. And now? Sheep compose most of the world. I've dealt with it. I've thought about it. Most folks just want to get by, to survive, and in the arena of ultimate questions with no simply unambiguous answers, I think most are simply too exhausted to expend an ounce of strength pondering doctrine and dogma when all they want is community and friendship and love and want most from religion is answers to how one lives peacefully in community with real friendships and how to live life lovingly.

*Today Chet Raymos writes on "Science Musings Blog" about Wallace Stevens' poem, "Man Carrying Thing" which has these line, "Deal with it. Think about it." Which sparked my memory of those words, but not from the poem.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

With eyes closed

After a late meal this evening Bro. Juniper was telling of a trip long ago to Japan and while hiking in a mountainous area he came upon a small building and thought it to be a Buddhist place for meditation. It seemed deserted so he peeked inside and was surprised to find a Christian cross on the wall. Then he heard a voice, and not understanding Japanese, he quickly shut the door, feeling a bit guilty for trespassing, but coming toward him was an elderly Japanese fellow with a long white beard. He did speak English, much to Bro. Juniper's relief, and after bowing and a hardy handshake Bro. Juniper was ushered inside. He said the floor was some sort of stone, perhaps sandstone, and even though outside it was a warm and humid day, the stone floor was cool and a welcomed seat to enjoy a cup of green tea. Soon it became apparent that the elderly gentleman was most hungry for someone to share talk of the Bible with, and what Bro. Juniper remembers most was a discussion about the meaning of Matthew 6:22, and the gentleman's interpretation of "if therefore thine eye be single."

Matthew 6:22-24 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

He explained to Bro. Juniper that the "eye be single" was the third eye of meditation, and he repeatedly touched his index finger to his forehead, emphasizing where the third eye is located. He went on with comparisons of Buddhist meditation, and even the Hindu concept of the inner eye. He said Jesus didn't use the plural "eyes" but the singular "eye" and how that means the inner eye and how Jesus was teaching how the inner eye guides the whole body to be light, to be pure. Bro. Juniper remained there for a few days, and quickly learned the discipline of awakening for pre-dawn meditation. He said he left with a greater desire to somehow wed the Eastern "inner-eye" meditation with his more traditional Christian meditative prayer. During this storytelling we all listened with keen interest, many of us nodding as though that is how we understand this scripture, but then Bro. Sedwick said he didn't agree. It was his understanding that in the 1st Century a common Hebrew idiom was "eye be single" or "good eye" (as well as various translations: "if your eye be clear" and "if your eye be whole" and "if your eye be healthy") and meant someone being generous. Someone with a "bad eye" was greedy. Then with a bit of deductive reasoning, Bro. Sedwich noted that Proverbs 22:9 reads, "The person who has a good eye is blessed, because he is generous and gives to the poor." And with a bit of finality in his voice, thumbed through his Bible and then read Proverbs 23:6, "Beware of the man with the evil eye, he knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing." Bro. Clarence then entered the discussion saying he can easily think of the meditative "inner eye" as being an eye that sees the light in the darkness, and therefore sees the true value of generosity and the ultimate inhumanity of greed. I nodding in agreement to that too as I departed for a short stroll in the now very chilly desert night. Then after a bit and with two eyes closed, I aimed my third eye to heaven. And something funny happened. Inside my head I imagined the Milky Way overhead and could only think of how generous God is to a mere human staring up with eyes closed. But still seeing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Meditating upon forever change

Sometimes deep into the night, deep into the desert, with but the canopy of stars above and a meandering breeze that seems to come and go as it pleases, and a kind of darkness below the circular horizon that stuns the eyes, and tiny sounds about, some familiar and some strangers, and seated atop gritty sand with still warmth from the long departed sun, new smells tickle the nose, and the body slowly finds an ease and seems held upright by that breeze, and the mind, oh the mind, wants to take it all in as the senses grow bolder and bolder. What was once ordinary becomes extraordinary. Then the mind lets go, the voice in the brain is dumbstruck, and what was thought to be stillness suddenly becomes forever change. And in the blink of a blind eye the entire universe slips into that silent mind.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meditation without a name

Under the shade of a tree,
with no name,
and an ant,
with no name,
I watched
and imagined
I was that ant,
hither and thither and yon I went,
soon too,
I had no name

Friday, November 23, 2007

What is truth?

Hasn't evolution provided somewhat of a conundrum for us humans? We want truth, yet we are confused about what is truth. The problem. A human mind evolved in one way, and now, like a found tiger cub that is raised at home with love and care, we hope for domestication. Will it work? Can it work?

So what is truth? From the Big Bang to the first spark of life, all was truth. And then in those pre-human jungles and deserts and savannas and forests, all there was was truth. Nothing but truth. What was, was. Not a brain that existed then would argue this. Not a brain existed then that could think anything else. Truth, for the living -- all life -- was survival, be that adapting to strategies of fearsome violence, or strategies of clever camouflage and rapid escape (plus countless other adaptations). It took the human brain that evolved into a thinking mind to change all this. Truth could now be denied. Which didn't change the truth, for all other life still lived in full truth, but this clever new thinking, self-aware human mind could make strategy for survival out of creating imagined truths, at which time untruths entered the picture. Since the Big Bang, untruth had not existed. Since untruth entered the picture and the human mind traded knowledge of truth for self-awareness and imagination, humankind has struggled to regain that pre-human pure vision of truth (without acquiescing self-awareness and imagination), and so far science is our only tool. But the question becomes, can we destroy all untruth without too destroying self-awareness and imagination, and who we are?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blink of an eye

I would think that sometimes a blink of an eye is more valuable than an eternal stare.

Lao-tzu put it nicely:

When the Tao is lost, there is "virtue"
When virtue is lost, there is "benevolence"
When benevolence is lost, there is "justice"
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty,
the beginning of confusion.

Placing bets

Evolution is what evolution does. Or so they tell me. If unfocused multitasking (and mindless?) busyness (and business) creates more adaptable humans, then that's what humans will become. That is, until some gene-splicing neoevolutionist figures out how to bypass natural evolution with a new "human-guided" evolution on a rather large scale. Then, all bets are off. The rest of the story, to come.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Text messaging and cell phones and the human thumb

I imagine in the future information and knowledge will be cascading in ever increasing amounts so that future schooling will teach one to be a generalist with focus on search and access techniques. What I find interesting with the new "chatter" generation is that they are realizing what humans have always hungered for, ongoing togetherness. In the past, writing and reading (novels?) created an artificial togetherness that satisfied, or helped to satisfy, a solitary human's aloneness. And in the distant past it took great effort and time (and social skills?) to daily come into contact with more that a few others. But now one can carry a cell phone and maintain an ongoing "novel" with countless others, and in the process have an ongoing feeling of togetherness as if one were constantly surrounded with friends of choice, yet have the power to turn them on or off with a tap of a prehensile thumb.

The prehensile thumb, of course our forerunners along the evolutionary timeline provided the grasping thumb, which thereby freed the hands from walking "on all fours" and thereby stimulated the curiousness of the species with evermore "picking up and inspecting" of stuff found along the way, which stimulated the brain which was busy attempting to understand these new things that the "new hand and thumb" where constantly picking up and inspecting, and so it goes until the grasping and holding fingers and thumbs become secondary to the tapping fingers and tapping thumbs, which will continue the evolution of the hands until they became the talking hands at which time humans lose grip on their humanness. The rest of the story, to come.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One half of a conversation

This morning I came across some big floppy disks that I was tossing into the trash basket when Bro. Simon came to borrow some Cadmium Yellow, I have been giving him some informal art lessons, now he is trying his hand at oil painting, and already he has taken a liking to Vincent van Gogh, so my oil paints are disappearing at an alarming rate, but that is another story for another day, this story begins when Bro. Simon's eyes caught sight of the big floppy disks in the trash basket. He immediately retrieved them and asked if he could have them, for he is a collector of old computers and said he could make use of these "perfectly good diskettes." With them and the Cadmium Yellow he disappeared, only to return at noon with a "print out" of what was on my discarded floppy disks. I had no idea what I had stored on them, and it turns out that the "print outs" contained "my side" of some sort of exchange. I can only imagine that it was before the Internet, when the only exchange of ideas with computers was by modems and bulletin boards (or whatever they were then called). Anyway, here is my side of a conversation of which I suppose we will never know the other side. I will leave the other side to your imagination.

If I ventured out at night with my toolkit of wooden ruler and magnifying glass to measure the cosmos, you may laugh or you may smile at my simplicity or you may simply shake your head.

In my last astronomy class we talked much of measurement. Parallax is all about measurement. Without measurement what is the Doppler red shift or the Hubble constant? Without measurement, I'm afraid we have no science.

Perhaps I should deconstruct my first comment, for I fear it has been misunderstood. I am not commenting on the joys of nature, for I fully appreciate Bro. Theo's joy, and your joy, and my joy of nature.

"If I ventured out at night with my toolkit of wooden ruler and magnifying glass to measure the cosmos, you may laugh or you may smile at my simplicity or you may simply shake your head."

A scientist would think comical to see someone attempting to be scientific, yet going at it in such an absurd way. For me to hold a magnifying glass to the night sky, and then to attempt measurement of distant realms with a wooden ruler, would be both comical and farce. For the tools and the understanding of the enterprise are simply not there.

Now you may see that I was "turning the tables," if you will, on Bro. Theo, who presented an outline of his book, his quest to find God by trekking about an earthly landscape, yet comes to the conclusion that God doesn't exist, at least a God that one can communicate with, for in all his searching his bodily sensors were unable to find a material god. In his mind, or so I guess, the wonders around him are sufficient enough to boggle his mind, and if one cannot touch or hear the God that the local parson imagines, or "the church" has constructed, then not only is the constructed god dismissed, but God is dismissed.

And finally, in this bit of deconstruction, I view Bro. Theo frolicking about the peninsula in search of the Creator of ALL as amusing as me measuring distant galaxies with my wooden ruler. Each fully misunderstanding the quest at hand.

And so it is. Except for your last paragraph. For my part I can totally understand and enjoy and investigate and measure and ponder the material world, as well I seek to do with the immaterial world, or if I dare use the word spiritual. Yet on the other side of the table the 'profitably and pleasantly' are reserved for the material, while the 'spiritual' is treated simplistically and condescendingly (anthropomorphic 'dad' in the sky). And finally, you say "Theo is a skeptic" and my understanding of skeptics, in the realm of science, is that they are up to challenges, in fact that is what the scientific method is all about. So I'm a bit puzzled that my tiny 'contrary' comments should be viewed as unprofitable or unpleasant.

I attempt to converse here with Bro. Theo's statement as the genesis of my comments. I haven't read Bro. Theo's books, and haven't commented on them, but have commented on what is presented in his statement. Perhaps using the cross, and a bit of rambling, will illuminate my thinking a bit. I understand the world of the human senses, the natural world, the material world, as the horizontal plane of life, and the spiritual as the vertical plane of life. It is on the horizontal plane that we must all live, yet it is the vertical plane that we can choose to understand, or not, to dwell within, or not. Many simply dismiss the spiritual as unknowable, hence a useless pursuit. Yet science is all about unknowns. We live in the greatest unknown, the universe. Dark energy accounts for over three quarters of the mass-energy of the universe, nearly all of ALL is hypothetical dark matter and dark energy. This is what science tells me, at least the physicists, that nearly all of ALL is but chalk marks on a chalkboard, a theory that creates mystery to make all the other equations work. I wonder if dark matter and dark energy are the stuff of my imagined vertical plane, the plane of what can't be measured, what can't be touched by we humans. Imagination seems so unique to humans (for do other creatures write novels? or tickle each other's minds?) as well as the idea of potential, humans can and do break out of their scripted DNA, and imagination is what triggers a human to mindfully or mindlessly do things that have never been done before. We the only animals that have broken through the scripted DNA in any meaningful (or meaningless) ways. You speak of mystery, yet I find that the natural world holds little mystery, yes many unknowns, unknown simply because scientist haven't discovered or focused attention on these unknowns, a focus that breaks down the complex to the simple and in the process reveals the watch for what it is, gears upon gears and a spring. Yet the inner world of the human mind is the true mystery, for as much as science attempts to tease the mysteries out, then more mysteries are discovered. Inside my skull is an imagination that thinks the cosmos is composed of .3% neutrinos, .5% stars, 4% hydrogen and helium, 25% dark matter, and 70% dark energy. Oh yes, .03% material, other than hydrogen and helium. For me a far greater mystery is why fellow humans dismiss a Creator of this ALL, yet are confident that ALL just exists and by not the evolution of Darwin, but far before that, by a cosmic evolution. ALL came to be, and by chance and happenstance all things have come down to a being that can think such thoughts, and not only think such thoughts, but can argue over them. And they often do it in the name of science, when it is science that holds 95% of ALL to still be a mystery. A true mystery. Oh you of such great faith!

A drop in the ocean

If I were a drop in the ocean and that someday came when I found myself riding the surface, I think I'd thank all the other drops for their company, then as the sun transformed me (and the other "surface drops") to vapor, I'd bid farewell as I was whisked away for a most exciting journey ... as a cloud?

Monday, November 12, 2007

To whom?

When daily I awake to the splendor of life and marvel at the unknown (to me) and further marvel when that unknown to me is exposed to the light of day, by more often than not a scientist (or a writer of science), and that which I hold in my hand, a leaf from a tree? within it, far too many wonders than I can comprehend, yet some I've seen chalked on a blackboard in symbols by a botanist that exposed the workings of some tiny piece, of course I'm grateful to the botanist, yet the wonder itself? The leaf in my hand. And throughout the day the countless natural wonders, and into the night, gazing up into the desert sky, for me more splendor in a blink than I can grasp, and inside, what can I call it? inside a primal urge? all throughout the day and into the night, that urge, that need, a want, a want to give thanks. To whom?

The importance of insignificance

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
--Mahatma Gandhi

(Thank you Bro. Larry for the quote)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Collected quotes on the inside front cover of the journal

"If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."
--Paul of Tarsus (1 Corinthians 13:2)

“The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our nothingness”
-- Andre Malraux

“Mystery is another name for our ignorance; if we were omniscient, all would be perfectly plain”
-- Tryon Edwards

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
-- Albert Einstein

"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.”
--Neil Armstrong

"Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable."
--Bruce Lee

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Desert Journal 1 -- Tower of Knowledge

ToB = Tower of Babel

Returning to the ToB story I note a few things, that humans when acting and thinking in concert have unlimited potential, so much so that God saw the ultimate implications, humans could "become like gods", yet without being God. They were reaching beyond their pale. Of interest is the word pale, in former usage it was a "stake or pointed piece of wood" as used in fencing, a paled fence. So beyond the pale is to venture outside the fence. As I read in ToB God had not set the fencing as yet, but now could see the need for fencing, for humans were indeed created in the image of God, so too could "become like gods." The "thinking in concert" of the ToB story is a common language. With a common language the single human mind can work in parallel with countless human minds, and like multiple computer CPUs working in parallel, former problems of infinite complexity are reduced to countable problems of manageable solvability. Now what does the ToB story have to do with computers and science? The commonality of the language of science. Science is not dependent on language. Science is dependent on a method, the scientific method -- the accepted techniques of observation, description, prediction (hypothesis), testing hypothesis by experimentation, adjusting hypothesis to fit results of experimentation and observation, and repetition of experimenting and adjustment of hypothesis until experiment and hypothesis match, at which time hypothesis becomes a theory. Theory equals observations explained and predictions made. So what does all this mean? It mean that we humans are constructing our ToB with bricks of theory. Each new theory a new brick increasing our Tower of Knowledge, this new tower too reaching for heaven, reaching to unlock the secrets that have until now forever been beyond the pale. We have broken through the fence, thinking the fence an offense, keeping us human, keeping us forever in mystery, but now, outside the fence, how long will it take for us to shed this humanness, this humanness that has kept us since the dawn of ages in mystery. And what will this new world without mystery reveal?

Matt 13:13-15  “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The evolution of love

I find the seemingly random differences in humans interesting when compared to the breeding of dogs. Using AKC standards, one can imagine the look and behavior and most details of a particular dog without ever seeing that dog, if one were told the dog is pure breed and of a sanctioned AKC breed. Not so with humans. So in a relatively short time wild dogs have gone from canines with random differences to many breeds that are near clones of one another. Which makes me wonder why do some humans feel and experience more a mystery of love while other feel more a utility of love? We see very clearly that in a relatively short time wild canines have evolved (with human direction) into tiny furry cute lapdogs (or pitbulls). So it seems it doesn't take much time to change a creature from this to that. So I ask, could a purely "utility love" of ancient humans, through tens of thousands of years, been shaped and transformed through religion, myth, superstition, to this present day "mysterious love"? And if you think that possible, then how do we now view all that "religion/myth/superstition" of the past that shaped what today most would consider good and what makes us human -- love? (I am not speaking of group or institutional changes that the religions and mythologies of peoples have created, but the individual genetic changes that transformed a pre-homo sapiens with a sort of utilitarian kind of love into a present-day musing fellow that is filled with love and compassion.) And why am I thinking this at all? I think to better think through some of the current challenges to religion by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and others. Apart from the challenges are the statistics, a recent survey of over 1,600 science faculty at elite research universities came up with 38% of those in the natural sciences did not believe in God, and 31% in the social sciences did not believe in God. I mention these numbers because some well meaning Christians attempt to construct biblical arguments to counter challenges from atheists, yet as I've said before, when someone can't get past the first sentence of the Bible, and the atheist cannot, then how do you expect a dialogue when you pepper rebuttals with scripture? Maybe the choice is to have no dialogue? I think not.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Humans vs God - Round 1

I'm still hobbling about, my trek into the desert was soon halted when the mistake of wearing the yucca leaf fiber sandals woven by Bro. Clarence proved not to be up to the rigors of desert hiking. My mistake. But the blisters didn't appear until it was too late, too late to return for my hiking boots, too late to continue to the even more remote parts that I had marked on my map, so with much whining (to myself) I was able to make it to the town of Mojave and ended up in a Motel 6 to nurse my wounds. Yes, the first winch of distress and I seek not the medicinal plants that the indigenous desert people's used, no, I sought a Motel 6. Humbler now I am. But I might add that it wasn't all blisters, for during the second night sleeping under the stars "something" bit the heel of my left foot. I can't claim it was a snake or scorpion or some other fierce creature, most likely a fire ant. And the good news? I did carry my journal and will in the coming days transcribe a bit to show that the trek wasn't a complete failure, for the mental and spiritual trek continued despite the inconvenience of the distressed physical.

I departed with thoughts of the ongoing science/faith debate and was thinking of how it relates to Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel story. You may want to grab your Bible and reread Genesis 11, for here I have the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus' account of the story as he recorded it in "Antiquities of the Jews" (c 94 AD):

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners [in the Flood]; but he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; for the Hebrews mean by the word Babel, confusion…

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Time to Set Sail! ... again

I have been contemplating a hike of sorts, perhaps a few days, or a few weeks, and with a near full moon and the desert somewhat between the hot of summer and the freeze of winter nights, I think I should set sail. A time in the wilderness sounds almost ... cozy.

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."

--Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Potential revisited

The difference between a 3-month old human and ‘little apes’ is ‘potential’—what baby humans possess and what the little apes don’t. Leaving university vocabulary behind, I would say baby humans have a very advanced CPU, not simply ‘hardwired’ —- for the human brain isn’t hardwired, it is ‘fluid-wired’ with the potential to grow evermore complex, not only from generation to generation, but within the lifespan of each human brain. But that very advanced CPU has little potential without the software to drive it. As research on feral children have shown, the potential of the human brain is wasted, the ‘wild child’ advances very little beyond a very clever ‘little ape’ … alas, given a mother, that baby immediately begins to ‘download’ software to drive that CPU/brain. And a father and immediate family adds more software for the tiny brain to process and adapt to, and the neighborhood provides even more variety of ‘programming’ to the CPU to work with, yet the fledgling CPU in a baby's skull haven’t even begun to reach its potential. Ever more circles of community input more software into the tiny brain, software that becomes ‘fluidware’ that interacts with itself. Slowly from potential springs forth a mind, and even yet more potential is ever present and awaits that which will feed it. And what became of our dear ‘little apes’? I would say that they have not the ‘image of God’ as we humans have. The image of God? For those who view everything in evolutionary terms, perhaps you can think of this as that point in human evolution when humans first became self aware, when they first could think of themselves as apart from their surroundings, and therefore could make decisions for themselves, that first dawning of freewill. The Biblical genesis story paints this picture as Adam and Eve and a fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Or perhaps you could call it the tree of loss of innocence? Evolution or Biblical story, humans crossed over from being unaware of selfness to self awareness, from union with nature to apartness from nature. So, it is we humans who are created in God’s image and thereby have the potential to act like God, in that potential brings the gift of creativity, and with creativity we can experience on a minuscule scale the joy of creation.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A beautiful sunset

After the sun set and the blaze of colors disappeared, we could make out the glow above the mountains far to the southwest. The mountains are ablaze. I feel ashamed that I saw beauty in that sunset. Fire. It knows no pity. It knows only hunger. And right now it is eating an entire landscape, and wants more. From afar we watch. What else can we do?

The survival of grandmas

Bro. Clarence was musing about how evolutionists have trouble with grandmothers. As he explained, in a strict evolutionary sense, females past menopause would seem to be less valuable to the group, and with increasing age, would become a negative for group survival. So what is so valuable, in a group survival sense, about grandmothers? I came up with the idea that it is the grandmother's eyes and tongue and memory that ensures the survival of the group, in that they are the survivors of countless food gathering expeditions, they the ones that identify the good mushroom from the bad mushroom, to illustrate the obvious benefit of having a good grandma. Of course the younger females with less sharp eyes and taste and memory fall by the wayside early in life, sampling way too many bad plants. Of course the men are always suspect with some mistaking greens for reds, so they are send off hunting where such mistakes are less harmful to the group. And like a good encyclopedia of plants and herbs, grandmas are well protected and kept ever handy, for without them the next meal you eat may be your last. Bro. Juniper thought that a bit too complicated and offered that grandmothers provided grandchildren with warm love (and treats) that created a bond between the two generations that the parent's generation would surely not break.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Autumn leaves of green

In summer when we seek comfort under those trees that work mightily to deflect and reject the cool greens and stand tall with leaves shimmering with the absorbed reds and golds, yet it takes autumn for us to realize what summer held when in turn those trees of grandeur finally accept that tiny slice of the electromagnetic spectrum that we call green, hidden to our eyes dazzled by the now rejected waves of reds and golds.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How's the weather?

Could the environment shape the language shape the thoughts and I think they did, until the age of great migrations stirred things up a bit, but Kierkegaard was a product of how many gray-sky generations? And Thoreau was a newcomer to a more sunny and varied clime than that his ancestors were shaped by. And I wonder if Bro. Paul will notice that too in the folks that he meets that have been shaped by forever generations in that sunny clime of West Africa?

Does not the sun peel away the clothes and produce an extroverted people? While the forever gray skies cover one with layer upon layer and deep within this wrapping the body and the mind becomes introverted?

And we, a generation of choice, with our controlled environments, and freedom to move from clime to clime, yet hidden deep inside of each of us is that clime that shaped the countless generations of our greatest of great grandparents.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Faith and Reason. Friends or Foes?

Reason. Is it reasonable to place such great value on it? I think so. But why should I think so? Is it not but an evolutionary formed pattern of brain cells that the human mind found more desirable in order that puny long-limbed and clumsy creatures could organize in groups for protection from the more wily beasts that could and still do make easy meals of solitary humans? Sounds reasonable to me. And me, spending many hours each day talking to the Creator of the universe, is that reasonable? I dare say I know how most will answer. But for me, it is as reasonable as the tiger catching sight of you and quickly making a meal of you. You might think of it as an innate drive in me, one that some would sooner wish to quell with reason than allow to have its way. For me, I let it have its way. And freer I feel I am, when reason reluctantly yields, to the One that gave it will.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meditations on a Korean celadon vase

The formless lump of clay that finds itself atop a spinning world, a spinning world that does give it symmetry, but from the bottom up, the guiding pressure of the potter's hands lifts this lump of primal ooze up and into a celadon vase of a thousand cranes, a thousand cranes awaiting to burst free from their earthen home to fly away in a thousand different ways.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Muddled?

This morning at break fast Bro. Sedwick said that my writing in recent days seems rather muddled. Bro. Juniper interjected a hasty "yes indeed" while Bro. Clarence simply smiled as he passed me some fried tofu. Muddled? You think so?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Riding the arrowhead of time

As far as I'm concerned, we God-created evolving humans are riding this arrow of time, we at the arrowhead with the future rushing toward us like a desert zephyr, yet still the most tinniest speck of time is all that we know, but behind are sands and rocks and mountains of time past. Still, we are the culmination of the past, all the past that evolution attempts to describe the building of, and what is it that we must carry on? Carry on to a distant future? A future that will find the children of ten thousand generations of our great grandchildren -- they -- they then will be riding that arrowhead, and they will carry that riddle that must never be lost. The riddle of the ultimate why. Why life? Why are we here? For what purpose and point? For if this quest for answers is tossed aside as being pointless, then will all those past evolutionary forces that produced within us a questing will to seek the unknown be all for naught?

Today's meditation

"When we seek goodness and sanctity, we defy nature."
--David Gelernter

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Just a thought

Perhaps what we call free will is how intelligence attempts to deal with chance. In all other life forms chance is an intruder that has its own way, whereas in humans, we have the potential to direct chance with free will.

Monday, October 08, 2007

When one can't get past the first sentence

In discussions with atheists, or those who believe that God or Creator or Designer does not and never existed, I don't think I've ever "preached" beyond Genesis 1:1, but I have spoken about humankind and their organizational skills, of which Paul of Tarsus was skilled indeed. But all beyond Genesis 1:1 is for another post, so for me the genesis question, or the prior Big Bang question is what needs to be answered before one can say life has ultimate value (even if that value is unknown to us) or not. I say that if God/Creator/Designer exists then some ultimate value "is there" for us to seek, whereas if "Nothing" is what made all this happen, and "Nothing" is exactly that, nothing, and cosmos evolution came about by various interactions of "laws" that simply were, and further along the evolution that Darwin discovered continued the process of interactions, and that nothing ever caused it to begin, that nothing interacts with the laws and the matter besides the laws and the matter, then I see no ultimate value in life, safe for what we with minds to observe it can create. If we are the only minds (that we know of), then we are the gods, we are the ones that create values, create purpose, or not. And as I imagine it, then we spend our time alive in the way we think works for us, but when we die, then we are no more. And every thought and memory will disappear into nothingness, save for the very simplistic memories of the still living of that person who is now nothingness. I say simplistic memories because I think no two persons can ever know the depths of the mind of the other except for short moments of "ah ha! I know exactly how you feel" But saying all that, I believe that if one cannot get beyond Genesis 1:1, then the rest of the story holds not much meaning, for the foundation is missing. And finally, I have no doubt that many who don't get beyond Genesis 1:1 celebrate life in various manners (and have fun doing it), for life can be so interesting, if one comes to it with a questing mind. But if we find ourselves here "just because", and in spite of that, we go ahead and marvel in wonder of it all, then my mind cannot help but recoil, for purpose too would be as dead a word that humans' ever came up with.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Imagining gone awry?

Oh, I imagine that if I believed that God did not exist, and that this ALL is just just, and is is, and beyond that is nothing and once one takes one's last breath, then for that being all is nothing, if I believed in no Creator, and I found myself here, now, and infinite nothingness for my being once I die a physical death, then I suppose I would either busy myself with "whatever" that would keep me distracted and comfortable, or I would attempt to prolong life as long as possible, and if life was created by chance and happenstance, then I suppose my mind would think that if we could only break life down to the most common denominators, and then reconstruct life without evolution-defined limits, so that a human mind could live on indefinitely, with of course all sorts of cell manipulation and creation of not only limb and organ space parts, but space parts in the micro realm of the human body. Yes, that would be the only quest, and it seems to be the current unspoken quest of science, to make what evolution created and transform and make it "better." But of course I don't believe in life as chance and happenstance. But then that's another story.

The religion of science

And will we celebrate that day, that day when science has made fact each and ever material bit and piece of the human brain to expose the mind for what they announce it is? When the computer that they unveil can replicate any and every though, impulse, wonder of the evolution created computer? When scientist can tweak the program this way or that way and dazzle the audience with oh so human feelings spoken with a very perfected simulation of a warm and caring human voice -- when it is all exposed, when it is all accounted for, when it is all a matter of matter, then will we be happy?

Friday, September 28, 2007

The tortoise, the biologist, space-time, and flukes

It has been a week of restoration and repair, I note a few extra blisters that have run their course on my hands causing me to winch when merely tapping the keyboard, as well as some already bandaged on my toes and feet causing additional winches when tapping my feet. I must now be careful of the music I listen to for a few more days. So I will write some random ideas and thoughts and notes that I have scribbled on various bits of paper that have gathered in my pockets this past week.
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I think of philosophy as the exercise of mind and imagination. It takes all the amorphous of life and seeks to make some sense out of it, even if this means only gathering together a jello of sorts that for briefly seems to gel and hold together long enough for the mind to catch glimpses of structure and meaning.
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Without imagination, we humans could not make sense of the world. The mind is forever gathering sense data and searching the memory database and then further processes all this with previously constructed scenarios to then produce an ever flowing reality, that which we call the here and now.

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A fellow stopped by the monastery (he was a biologist doing some sort of research on the desert tortoise) and in conversation told of his interest in genetics, and when explaining the human genome, he called it a book, one with over a billion words, and that book fits inside a cell nucleus, that being something like a pinpoint in size, and further he said the book reads itself and can copy itself, doing all that in the crowded space of a pinpoint. And this massive "book" is found in almost every cell! We all agreed that this is all so amazing, yet the most amazing part was to come when he explained how this was all self constructed through chance and happenstance and just plain flukes over a long period of time. Amazing indeed. Of course he scoffed at the idea of a Designer.

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I imagine the Designer outside of what the Designer designed, so is not caught up in the conundrum that humans think when imagining the Designer, like us, within and defined by the Creation.

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Doesn't Einstein's General Theory of Relativity suggest that the Big Bang is the birth of matter and space-time? I would think the Big Bang encapsulates all that we can tinker with, all before can only be of the imagination, such as recent models of pre-Big Bang physics.

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I imagine that truth is all that is, if humans did not exist, if you can imagine that.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Collecting rocks and rethinking prayer

This afternoon while collecting rocks for the labyrinth with Bro. Clarence, he began wondering outloud about prayer and how prayer works, and then after we filled the wheelbarrel, we stopped for a break and sat on the desert floor and that was when his wondering started to get serious. He said the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord's Prayer, seems to him to be the very instructions that if we, those who pray it, did follow, then as Jesus said, the Kingdom of God that is within us would be revealed, or even released. Because Bro. Clarence believes that God is so unknowable, in the sense that our human mind cannot even grasp the tiny bit of nature, or creation, that we find ourselves within, how then can one expect to think of the Creator in ways other than creating in our imagination God in human terms. From the simplistic white-bearded flying man on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that Michelangelo imagined, to an other dimensional Something that is beyond even our imagination. So the question becomes, is our one-way conversation with God (with the God part of the conversation not words, but unexplained actions that happen?) something other than what we think of as human conversation, that being one speaking and the other listening, then the two switching roles? So Bro. Clarence was contemplating a rather complex idea that includes a blueprint of life (I'm really trying to explain this as well as I can, for I'm afraid sometimes Bro. Clarence gets rather excited in speech and forgets his audience is perhaps not as erudite as he) kind of a pre-Big Bang blueprint, that let escape from singularity all the laws and time and elements that we all now find ourselves trapped within, and in that blueprint was the formula for life and in that formula for life are complexities that we cannot imagine. But being Bro. Clarence, he does imagine, and he imagines that part of the complexity of life is what we call feedback, and as all natural and manmade systems contain this most important component, feedback, that which allows the system to self-correct, with self-correction that which keeps evolution from becoming a willy-nilly sort of chaos, and as he said, that which a toddler uses when learning to eat with a spoon, at first the spoon may drop, or poke the cheek, but each miss is feedback which helps the nerves and muscles to more able follow the minds control, and the jackpot, as Bro. Clarence called it, is getting that applesauce into the mouth. So he imagines prayer as this sort of built-in feedback that doesn't communicate with a white-bearded fellow in the sky, but communicates by the God-created human mind simply doing what it was designed to do, self correcting one's actions. And in the example of the Lord's Prayer, by memorizing it, by repeating it, one is allowing this cycle of feedback to change one's thinking, to change the pattern of one's thoughts, to change oneself from being a creature directed by without, to one directed from within. Prayer shapes freewill.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nature = "God's mind's servant"*

For "us" to realize? Nature be?
Or more of our wistful and wishful thinking?
Or nature be the very language that God talks to me?
Then why those who study the language oh so well, think it not a language? But beauty itself?
Like Chinese pictograms and ideograms on the pages between the covers of a book, beauty to my eyes, yet a mystery to my English thinking mind.

*"to be God's mind's servant" is from a Mary Oliver poem, and a thank you to Bro. Chet for sharing it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The cartwheeling pizza box and the improbables

When the wind kicks up in the desert, in the evening every day, for in the desert wind has no place to hide, so it always whirls about here and there, and riding the wind are the naturals, the tumble weeds, and the unnaturals, the pizza box that came cartwheeling towards me this evening, and in a gesture of desert stewardship, I chased the flapping pizza box until a Joshua Tree put a halt to this absurd exhibition. Thanking the Joshua Tree, I picked up the sun bleached pizza box, I could just make out the printing, "Route 66 Pizza Palace - Barstow" -- a long way from home, this desert cartwheeler. I refolded the pizza box and then tucked it under my arm as I continued my hike. Later, at the monastery, when I was about to deposit the well-traveled pizza box into Bro. Juniper's recycling barrel, I notice some rather sun-bleached handwriting on the lid. On closer inspection, I made out some rather imaginative musings, which I suspect were inspired by not only the pizza, but the also plenty of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

"We, the improbables, are the only ones left, to write our history of the improbable circumstance we find ourselves in, as best we can, so that in all improbability, some future improbables will look kindly upon our ignorance, just as we hopefully too look kindly upon the ignorance of those we left behind, those who in all probability would be shocked at the improbable outcome of their most probable hopes."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Of pigeons and menus and the meaning of the words of Jesus

This morning Bro. Juniper was mulling over how sometimes he reads and thinks the scriptures at the expense of living them when Bro. Theo entered the dining room, in his hands he was holding one of Abbot Eastley's homing pigeons, a rather beautiful slate blue one, and as the pigeon cooed contentedly, he offered this story:

I’m reminded of this very hungry man seated in a nice restaurant and is handed a menu and opens it and his eyes read the descriptions of entree after entree and he licks his lips and the waiter returns and of course he waves him away with, “just a few more minutes” and back to the menu and memories of long forgotten tastes are stirred up when he slowly reads “slices of aromatic roast loin of lamb in a rosemary glaze, served with well-crusted potato Anna” and “just a few more minutes” again he waves before returning to the delights, “fillet of salmon sauteed in a lobster-braised leek cream sauce” and no memories are stirred for never had he tasted such a treat, but wait, “slices of roast pheasant breast filled with mince of mushrooms, leeks and carrots” and, “oh please, give me just a few more minutes.” And the waiter turns and nods to another waiter, and he nods back and retires to the kitchen to dismiss the chef and staff for the evening, for no more meals need be served, and the chef peeks out the door and raises his eyebrow and asks, “What about the gentleman at that table?” And the waiter smiles and replies, “The menu … he’s been served the menu.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chicken hawks and Swiss Army knives

I recall a Tex Avery cartoon where the chicken hawk circles the hen house and when the hen spots the shadow of the hawk on the ground, she squawks the alert. Pattern recognition, in its most fundamental and life prolonging best. I think all creatures that still inhabit the planet are the ones that early on developed pattern recognition. And this early survival 'tool' has become the present Swiss Army knife, multi-functioning, from recognizing patterns on graph paper to recognizing a table as a table and a chair as a chair. Further the patterns that your eyes are now focused on, more than likely very tiny serif letters, patterns identified by most humans, yet patterns that convey meaning only to those that have memorized the language of English.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Consider the light switch and the locomotive

At night, sounds travel long distances in the desert, last night I could hear a distant locomotive making its way through the dark. And that got me to thinking. About traveling in the dark and traveling in the light. And how our brains work. And the light switch on the wall. A toggle switch. On. Off. No in between. The electrical current in the wires reach the toggle switch and if in the ON position, the current continues, if the switch is in the OFF position, the current comes to a halt. Another switch is that which is used to route trains. A train is barreling down the track in one direction, then ahead a switch in the tracks, an opportunity for the train to go one way or another, determined by which way the track is switched. Unlike the toggle switch, the rail switch doesn't halt the train, it redirects the train. Left or right. In the most basic sense the computer is just oodles and oodles of toggle switches and rail switches. And so too the brain. Every day we make determinations to either flip the toggle switch inside our brain to ON or OFF. If we want to consider something, we flip the switch ON and suddenly the lights come on and we find ourselves as engineers in a locomotive heading down the track. Yes, flipping the switch ON sets everything into motion, for now decisions are to be made, for up ahead are countless switches that can redirect the locomotive this way or that way. Decisions. To decide or not to decide, that is the question. To not make a decision means that the locomotive will continue down the track in the same direction, missing opportunities to switch directions. Of course, depending on your destination, that could be good or bad. So to make decisions means that you are directing the locomotive, you are determining the destinations, and hopefully you are making the right decisions so that you arrive at a desired destination. But let's back up a bit, now what happens when we decide to flip the toggle switch to the OFF position. The electrical current stops. The room goes dark. The locomotive doesn't even enter the picture. Of course one could arise in the morning and then busily go about turning every toggle switch in his or her life to the ON position, but in an instant the circuits would become overloaded and blow a fuse, shutting everything down. The opposite is arising and flipping all the switches to OFF and leaving the room dark. Then what? So for most of us it is arising to a new day of deciding, deciding which of those switches to turn ON and which to leave OFF.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

115 is even a bigger number

Bro. Juniper just announced the latest thermometer reading. 115 with a light wind. And as usual, those around the dining table responded in unison, "But it's a dry heat!"

And a brief note on empathy.

Long ago I heard the proverbial walking two moons in your neighbor's moccasins before passing judgment. Of course imagination can allow me to 'pretend' to walk in my neighbor's moccasins (and save me two moons) and thereby imagine my neighbor's hurts, anxieties, losses, and come to understand my neighbor's behavior in a meaningful way. Yes, empathy is pretending, pretending made holy.

Friday, August 31, 2007

109 is a big number today

I was wearing my woven yucca wide-rim hat just to make a quick dash out to the thermometer that is nailed to the honey mesquite, and it read 109 in the shade of that tree. That was enough outdoors for me. Then back inside to the drone of the swamp cooler and the fictional world of Yann Martel's "Life of Pi." I would guess the most popular reading material in the world is fiction, for the novel fascinates most of us, with the better ones creating imaginary worlds that for hours on end we are pulled into, yet this or that distraction can bring us back to the reality of the moment and the magic is gone. For me it was replaced with another magical moment, for Bro. Simon came to show me a copy of Marc Chagall's "White Crucifixion" which I must admit had me mesmerized, for it has been awhile since I have really studied and felt a painting by Chagall. And what a master of fantasy he is, his images evoke wonders beyond what words can describe. We decided to hang the reproduction in the dining room beside a reproduction of van Gogh's "Olive Trees." I suppose saying they are reproductions means that you may have thought they the originals? Today the only original is atop my head, an original Bro. Clarence woven yucca fiber hat.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Let it be

Just a bit ago I took a lantern outside and headed for the unfinished labyrinth. Still hot in the desert darkness, yet the canopy of stars lit my every glance upwards, and being alone I found myself humming, then singing that old Beatle tune, "Let it Be.” And isn't it interesting that a piano was playing inside my head. Soon I found myself laying in the center of the labyrinth, that area somewhat complete, complete enough that I had a rather flat stone for a pillow, and above I took in the universe. Instead of rhapsodizing about the stars, I simply chewed on some beef jerky that Bro. Simon made last week. Very spicy. Then I thought of everything that seems to be, yet is completely different. Bro. Juniper brought back some newspapers from his trip to Barstow and the Los Angeles Times had a story on memory that I found interesting. A scientist attempting to figure out exactly how memory works. And then to zoom in and watch memory working on slices of rat's brain. And it comes down to very tiny bits of this and that inside the brain. Of course I want them to find a grand ballroom, with huge movie screen, sound system, something for smells, and in the middle MY reclining chair. But no, all the senses send their various signals and before entering the brain, they are converted to electrochemical codes that make their way to the part of the brain that knows how to decode the codes. And then what? Here I was, looking straight up, the photons of countless stars that have been traveling for countless years, finally reach Earth and finally reach my opened eyes and are focused and hit the retina and ... and in the grand ballroom that I imagine, I see the Milky Way. See? Not only is my brain decoding the codes send to it, but is creating this image of the Milky Way, not in my head, but countless light years above my head! I think what I see is actually up there! When I know it is actually inside here! Inside my brain. My whole life is inside my head! But that brain is busy projecting, tossing out before my nose, the whole recreated world that was made from bits and pieces of codes inside my noggin. I think Bro. Simon used too much cayenne, for my tongue was burning ... or was it? I thought it was, but really I know that the burning is taking place deep inside my brain, along with images of countless stars, and a piano with Paul McCartney playing “Let It Be” just for me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

We foregathered and captured star light

Late last evening a few of us were gathered around the dining table discussing some recent celestial observations, last week found some of us watching 'shooting stars' in the wee hours, and last night Bro. Clarence set up his telescope and we had a grand time viewing that which is beyond even our imagination. Can you imagine eyes bombarded with photons that have been traveling through space for countless light-years from distant stars? Can you imagine being touched by a star? Yet we were, really touched, by real photons -- light -- star light captured by our open eyes! The following is what I remember of our post-stargazing dining table discussion.

I think the times are a changing. The religions or belief systems that refuse to awaken to how science works and the 'truths' discovered by the scientific method will go the way of the Dodo (I believe). Truth trumps all. I personally believe in a Creator of ALL, and for me to dismiss the scientific method in its discovery of truths, would be for me to misunderstand and deny the grand Truth. Yet I do not confuse science with scientist, or the practitioners of science, for the irony is that truths revealed care not who reveal them, be they someone moral, amoral, or immoral. Today computers are discovering truths. Truth cares not that a machine reveals a bit more to change some of the unknown into the known. Now we all can have a knapsack filled with truths, truths that our ancestors never imagined, so here we are, the load upon our backs, will we find happiness easier to come by, or kindness towards others easier, or empathy for those hurting around us, an empathy that translates into actions, actions to make wrongs right? Science gives us this knapsack filled with tools, but can we be wise using them when it becomes so easy to exploit the entire earth for the sake of our short-lived comfort? Science can't answer these ultimate questions of human motives, for science doesn't care. Gratefully many scientist do care, but if as some wish for the future a world without religion, then I wonder, will any then be left that remember what caring actually means?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rambling on a hot night in the Mojave

Exploiting potentiality with imagination to nurture empathy.

I view all life infused, if you will, with potential, much of the inorganic too is infused with potential, potential in that elements can and will combine to create compounds, in physics we postulate that fundamental matter particles (quarks) combine to create protons, neutrons and hadrons. This 'potential' seems to be the given in the cosmos, we don't see a Big Bang exploding with a bunch of 'somethings' that forever remain separate 'somethings', but we do see a bunch of 'somethings' interacting, combining, mutating, structuring, building upon one another to create new 'somethings' that never existed before (or so we think). Darwinian Evolution is all about potential. When you awake in the morning, once you open your eyes the world bursts forth into potential. We even speak of 'latent potential' to refer to that which does not presently exist. So, 'exploiting potentiality' means mindfully being aware of your own state of potential. And what about imagination? Is it really so uniquely human? I think so. To imagine what does not exist as if it did exist and further to exploit your potential to make that imagination a reality. Who else can claim that? Yes, chimps and dogs can be clever, but don't mistake cleverness for imagination -- big imagination. And finally empathy. We can read, if you will, another's feelings and emotional state and physical situation, and somehow transferring their state of being to oneself, it becomes the proverbial walking two moons in your neighbor's moccasins before passing judgment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The formula

Exploiting potentiality with imagination to nurture empathy. That puts us at the intersection of the cross. From there all things are possible.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Do something about it

Bro. Clarence filled me in on a bit of the mystery of Cargo Pants Man. After meeting up with him today, Bro. Clarence showed him to the petroglyphs, and during their stroll to the site Bro. Clarence asked if he could turn on his tiny recorder, and for the remainder of the hike they discussed the early Mojave Indians and how these ancient people considered the dream world as real and perhaps even more important than the physical world. Dreams gave them power and knowledge. It was then that our visitor told of his early betrayal by the church. I won't go into details, for I respect the special relationship between the two men as they both sought to understand through reason an ancient world of dreams and visions as well as the messiness of their own worlds. I transcribed the following (after getting an okay), here our visiting friend speaks of betrayal.

"The worst disapointment in life is when one discovers that someone that one holds special or in high esteem proves to be far less than honorable. And when that person also holds a position of family or community trust, then disappointment is too mild a reaction, normally one is disgusted and further, wants to make things right and hold that person accountable for their breaking of the trust. Trust is fragile yet necessary for we as humans to maintain community, be it a community of two or two million, as well trust granted and received maintains our sanity. Without trust one finds oneself in a very scary world, and then the only option is retreat, which is often the state of being for those homeless. Yes, the human condition is far too often messy, and we all find ways to deal with this messiness, often it is to ignore it, much harder is to attempt to understand it, and much much harder is to do something about it."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Uncommon wisdom

Last night I told Bro. Clarence about my encounter with Cargo Pants Man (for some reason he didn't want to give his name, so as a bit of jest I called him Cargo Pants Man, and he quickly replied he liked his new nickname). Because of Bro. Clarence's science background, he said he will seek out the anthropologist today in hopes of sharing a discovery, some petroglyphs that he believes were made by the early Mojave Indians. I shared from my notebook with Bro. Clarence and he was particularly intrigued with this quote from Cargo Pants Man:

"I do think humanity lost its sense of community when we left tribalism, then each felt very personally the decisions of each and every other member of the tribe, so I find it no mystery that today war can be 'played out' in far away places, yet 'we' go about our own business in our own microcosm, when we should, as a society/community, all feel personally the decisions of those we elect to lord over us. Iraq War? We should have the military draft, and not just draft the youth, but draft across the board, everyone gets an equal chance to go to war. You have issues about 'fighting', well I would allow you to serve your time as a prison guard in any one of the many prisons. Or pull neighborhood watch in the inner cities. All kinds of honest work that would transform us all, for the better, to be citizens of a society/community that would take care in making decisions, for each decision would have realtime and personal consequences."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cargo pants man

Dawn split heaven from earth this morning as a long-shadowed figure walked toward me silhouetted by the rising sun -- cargo pants man greeted me with a smile -- he with knapsack filled with tools to record the mysteries of the prehistoric desert peoples he told me of -- a laptop notebook to capture thoughts, a Nikon to record burnt fire rings left by Paleo Indians and maybe a Clovis Point would be the jackpot for cargo pants man -- in his quest to imagine rituals and ceremonies that excited his speech in a mysterious sort of way -- his excitement suddenly turned to sobriety when I told of my quest to imagine this fellow called Jesus, he too from a desert clime -- seated atop large boulders he shared tales of Anasazi and Hohokam and Mogollon and I shared my tuna sandwich when he unexpectedly cracked a smile when I imagined Jesus wearing a pair of cargo pants just like those of cargo pants man.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Treasures

Like pirates,
farmers bury
treasures in the earth
seed,
sprout,
flower,
fruit,
tomato
sauce
over
spaghetti

Monday, August 06, 2007

100, a really hot number

It has cooled a bit, the mercury hovering around 100 Fahrenheit. I like Fahrenheit, the scale of measurement of temperature that is, for I don't know much about Gabriel Fahrenheit, except for what Bro. Clarence told me this evening. It was Fahrenheit who came up with the glass tube filled with mercury, for the predictable expansion of mercury made for an accurate thermometer. It was 1714 when Fahrenheit came up with the scale for his mercury thermometer, with 32 as the freezing point of water and 212 at the boiling point. And when someone says the mercury is hovering around 100, I know exactly what that means. 100 is a nice, big, and hot number. I mean, 37.7C just isn't a very telling number, no impact, no hotness to it at all.

And later I took some notes after a discussion around the dining table. With Bro. Clarence back, it seems science is the topic of the day, or how science relates to the human condition, or put another way, as a person of faith, how do I react to the modern world where science, or I should say the byproducts of science, have consumed those who find themselves in the middle of modernity. So forgive me if you've heard much of this before.

Science is amoral, the scientist can be moral, amoral, immoral. Science itself does not question the morals of the scientist. Of course society attempts to hold the scientist to whatever ethics and morals that they deem right. The question becomes, what is "right"? Science gives an answer that is relative to each and ever entity, what is "right" for the gazelle is "wrong" for the lion. "Rightness" for the gazelle is survival, "rightness" for the lion is eating the gazelle, for survival.

" I'm uncertain whether or not science embraces any particular economic or political system. I'd be curious for you to elaborate."

Obviously the R&D of any company is where you will find scientist doing scientific things, so no question about science and business working hand in hand, that's what modern economics is all about, invention for fun and profit and a more comfortable life for all. Right? Without this economic system that embraces science, scientist would be out chopping wood and milking cows, and so would everyone else, for without scientist getting paid to discover and invent and make things that others can use, then the scientist is not a working member of the tribe, somewhat like the shaman, or priest. Now what about the university, that world apart from the messiness of the business world, how about the sanctity of the research lab? Surprise, surprise, research labs are funded, for the most part, by government and business. The "military-industrial complex" that Ike warned about is what helps fund many university research labs today.

"In the 20th century, a variety of sources, from government organizations to military funding to patent profits to corporate sponsorship to private philanthropies, have shaped scientific research."

So I would say that amoral science "embraces" anyone that does it. The religious (scientist and nonscientist) can attempt to add morality to the mix. The non-religious scientist can attempt to add his or her own personal morality to the mix. But sometimes morality is left by the wayside. Thomas Edison attempted to demonstrate the safety of DC electricity (and corner the market) by electrocuting animals using Tesla's AC electricity as promoted by his rival George Westinghouse. In NYC he electrocuted "Topsy" the elephant to prove his point that his competitor's brand of electricity was dangerous. But in the end, "science" doesn't care, for science is merely a tool for discovering truths -- one truth is AC electricity can kill an elephant. Science, an amoral tool in an amoral universe.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Was he sad too?

Sometimes I wonder ... when the unholy are the holy and the holy are the unholy ... and all the others that are the neither nor ... and this morning I saw a rattlesnake with a lump in its throat.

And a bit more ...

Sometimes (often?) appearance fools me, especially when folks camouflage their true appearance with the dress or guise of what they want to be, or think they be, or what they think others think them to be, yet hidden within is often something quite differen, perhaps undiscovered to the very person that confuses others with their persona. Especially disturbing are those that we think are spiritually in a right place, yet we discover they are not. As for the Mojave rattlesnake, a lump in our throat may indicate deep feelings and mind halting our speech for the moment (wise mind!), but for the rattlesnake that I stumbled upon, and by the size of the lump in the throat, I would guess a rabbit. A whole rabbit swallowed! Sometimes the dangerous do dangerous things, especially to the meek and timid -- the rabbits.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The purity paradox

The taste of water, of pure water, I recall years ago when in a remote area of Asia some do good folks found the perfect village to bless with a new water system, and after drilling a well and installing an electric pump, a great ceremony was set for the official handing over to the villagers of the modern pump and of course, pure water. As the folks gathered around and were handed overflowing glasses filled with sparkling water, they sipped cautiously while other drank, but an elder of the village sniffed at his water-filled glass, then finally took a gulp and gulped again and again, and each time seemingly more puzzled than before, then finally he set the empty glass down, spoke a few words, shook his head, then walked away. The do good folks asked what did the old man say, and the translator said, "No taste! No taste! No taste!"

Friday, July 27, 2007

First Things First

Things have been slow at the monastery, slow as in trying to conserve energy when the blazing sun tries its hardest to steal any and all water above, below, outside, and inside our body and soul. Bro. Sedwick has banned all plastic water bottles, so I use my old Western canteen, its striped blanket covering now faded, and the water now always with an aluminum tang to it. All progress on the labyrinth has halted, for most of us have traded day for night, now I awake at midnight to begin my day, reading by lantern light until bugs and moths drive me away. So far none of the swamp coolers have broken down. Bro. Juniper returned from Barstow with a store of vegetables, and in the bed of the pickup was a mound of black lava rocks. He said he collected the volcanic rocks near the Amboy Crater and plans to use them to line the outer circle of the labyrinth. After some quick calculations in the sand, Bro. Clarence estimates we will need eleven more loads to complete the circumference. With the price of gasoline, Bro. Sedwick advised Bro. Juniper to rethink his plan.
Right now by lantern light I'm pondering the first and greatest commandment.

Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."

Deuteronomy 10:12 "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?"

Matthew22:35-40: "Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Mark 12:28-31: "And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

Luke 10:25-28 "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live."

So how does one "love" God? The New Testament Greek word for "love" in Matthew22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31, and Luke 10:25-28 is a translation of the Greek verb "agapao." Now agapao is an action in that the subject has genuine affection towards an object. So now it all comes down to, what is it that we have genuine affection toward, first and foremost? That something that we put first in our lives, that we agapao? In English "love" can be anything from "I love my cat" "I love mocha almond fudge ice cream" "I love Bugs Bunny cartoons" to "I love God." Without modifiers, love is certainly nebulous. So sticking with the demanding Greek agapao, can we answer what is first and foremost in our lives? Is it ourselves? Others? Material things? Pleasure? Power? Or a thousand other things? And all these somethings can be important in different ways, in fact a bit of all of them is what makes us human. I find mocha almond fudge ice cream isn't bad at all! But that isn't the question. The question is what comes first. What is it that we direct our genuine feelings and emotions and fondness towards? First and foremost? And Jesus adds, what should come second.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On second thought ...

I find contentment in science, yet have reservations when it comes to the scientist. I suppose some have the opposite feelings, or sort of, warm or luke warm feelings toward a theologian, yet coldness toward their theology.

My reservations are with the myth that science is purely objective, and therefore when a scientist speaks, the assumption (or myth) too is communicated to the unscientific audience. And as William James wrote, "I have to forge every sentence in the teeth of irreducible and stubborn facts." Too often stubborn facts are all that separates science from the scientist. In the end we are all human, exchanging our facts and our myths with one another in an attempt to tease out truths. But without facts together with myths, then I fear that life would lose much of it's spice.

“Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words.”
-- Italo Calvino

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thanking the scientist

If "science is the concerted human effort to understand, or to understand better, the history of the natural world and how the natural world works, with observable physical evidence as the basis of that understanding" (as E.O. Wilson says), then what does that make the scientist? A seeker of truth(s)? And of course that is right, or at least it should be. And when truths are discovered by the scientist, then one would think that the scientist would feel compelled to broadcast the "rightness" of the discovery, or to spread the good news of another discovered truth, another truth to be added to the text of truths, the book of science. For truth and the revealing of truth should be in the interest of all intelligent beings. Perhaps the only difference between the scientist that believes not in a Creator and myself is that I see a Creator behind all that scientist can verify as truths, whereas they see nothing behind, or are unwilling to commit themselves until verifiable evidence is found of a Creator. They continue to search and I continue to watch, so I thank the scientist whenever they discover another truth of nature, another truth that for me makes life such a wonderous gift from God. But I wonder, who do they give thanks to?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Shema

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Addendum:

The Shema is recited in the morning and evening, on rising to the new day one recites, or pledges, standing, vertically, and in the evening, upon placing oneself on the horizontal, at the end of day, before departing the wakeful world, one’s last words are again “… LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might …”

The vertical and the horizontal, the cross of life, and I suddenly find it is I?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

with all your mind

After fitting a few mores stones atop the desert floor last evening, I found myself alone, for the others had already retreated to the dining room, so I found what I believe will be the exact center of what will be the completed labyrinth and laid down and gazed up as the night sky quickly chased the final bits of twilight away, then the stars came out. Then I pulled out a tiny Sony Memory Stick Voice Recorder, Bro. Clarence used it on his recent trip to New Mexico and assured me that it will hold 3 hours of dictation. So here I am, blinking as the Milky Way slowly makes its appearance, and I holding this device and attempting to disregard it and just talk to the stars, talk to the night, and talk to God with the hope that my tongue will be stilled if my thoughts are unworthy.

Darkness fills in the spaces between the stars.

And darkness is the rule, and not the exception in the universe that we find ourselves, more so when we can only come up with the word "dark matter" and "dark energy" to describe the over 90% of the unknown in the universe (some physicist estimate that dark energy makes up 75 percent of the universe and dark matter accounts for another 23 percent, leaving ordinary matter and energy with 2 percent) ... so the unknown is what I gaze at in this night sky, I see the unknown, because it nicely fills in the spaces around the twinkling stars, I see the unknown by inference, or in other words, inside the darkness of my skull, inside the darkness of the tissues of my brain, I know darkness not by sensing, but by thought. This same brain creates light or the appearance of light within its dark clustering of brain tissue, and it is this reconstructed appearance that shapes the outer world with the help of my eyes. Of course the eyes only provide data for the brain to use in reconstructing this outer world.

I just saw a shooting star.

Mind, soul, religion, are all concepts that our brains have constructed, and with well over 90% of everything still in the category of unknown, I live within these concepts, and as a child and youth lived within the concepts as defined by others, but as I collect more time in my being, I slowly exchange the definitions of others for what my own brain now seems to be figuring out.

What about the heart?

In Deuteronomy 6:5 is the commandment "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." Yet Jesus adds "with all your mind." In ancient Hebrew thought the heart was not merely a pump, but a center of mind and will. But Jesus added the Greek context in which the mind inside your brain, rather than inside your heart, defines personal being. Yet heart is not dropped from the commandment, perhaps the mind knows full well that without the heart, it doesn't exist.

What about the unknown?

Are the electrochemical processes within my skull the totality of my thinking (along with "hard" input from the senses), or does some of that 90-plus percentage of unknown, that something outside matter, does it figure in the mix? What about quantum entanglement or the scores of other ideas that physicists ponder over. Nobody knows in a scientific sense if some of the unknowns interact with my brain. As I look to the stars I can imagine the Creator's hands in this unknown mix. Could the unknowns be part of a kind of blueprint, a blueprint that guides all matter to exploit its potential, a potential built into every particle? Such thoughts are just that, thoughts. So for now I have to make do with what I have and that means that I must live life without the grand blueprint, and neither the theologian nor the scientist can claim to have it, yet everyone things they do. And those scientists who study evolution yet believe not in a Creator, they work to construct a blueprint that never was, for evolution by happenstance could not have a blueprint, so they attempt to reconstruct the past events and thereby construct a history, and this history provides for them evidence that everything can simply be simply by happenstance. But what about the unknown? For me total happenstance just doesn't make sense. All of everything that I've been a part of, the entire universe, makes my mind point like the needle in a compass toward a Creator, a Creator I can imagine outside the universe, outside in respect to not being governed by the laws of the universe, a Creator outside time, outside space and matter, a Creator that created this that we find ourselves within, and created by ways and means beyond our thinking. And that is how I read Genesis, humankind created in the image of God, the image being my being able to think such thoughts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The messiness of Original Sin

Messiness won the evening, for the labyrinth stays as is, atop the desert floor. Last evening we continued to place stones atop the ground, that is after Bro. Juniper heard my plea, and even Bro. Clarence thought the drifting sands would add to the visual appeal, and then pointed out the fatal flaw in the test course of stones that are even with the surface -- drifting sand would soon cover and obliterate the entire labyrinth. Bro. Juniper smacked himself on the forehead, something so obvious had escaped his (and our) thinking. With that resolved, we went to work placing the stones, and in the twilight I found myself considering the Garden of Eden story again. Of course everyone seems to latch onto the idea of Original Sin and won't let go, the believers spin and weave in attempts to make sense of the idea, while nonbelievers point to the unreasonable idea that a god would take the misdeed of an innocent and make the innocent guilty, and further, punish the guilty, and atop that, punish all humankind forever more. I think both sides fail to grasp the symbolism of this story. First of all, without humans, not only does the concept of good and evil not make sense, but in all of nature it is absent. In all of nature (apart from humans) only "good" and "nothingness" exists. Bad doesn't exist, for everything in nature seeks to exploit it's own potential to live and replicate. That either happens or doesn't happen. You might think of all nature as one big organism that exists, and exists only because each part that makes up the "all nature" live and die to provide another part of "all nature" with food to do the same. Nothing is "bad" because in "all nature" adaptation to prevent extinction is the only goal, and total extinction would be the only "bad" possible. Yet again, even extinction couldn't be "bad" in a humanless and Godless "all nature," for in such a universe, everything just is. Or just isn't. No matter. For to matter requires intelligence to create the idea of mattering and not mattering. Now back to the Garden of Eden, this metaphor explains the need for intelligence, for awareness, for self awareness, before the ideas (and concepts) of good and bad/evil to exist. Adam before gaining knowledge of self awareness (or if you prefer, evolution before the brain/mind developed self awareness) was as innocent as a Tiger pouncing upon a lamb and ripping it to shreds for a meal. Without self-awareness "pre-humans" did whatever was required in order to live another day and replicate. After self-awareness (Original Sin) humans became aware of their every action and the consequences of these actions and further became aware that life and replication at whatever cost was no longer possible, for the new brain/mind was not only aware of each action, the consequences of the action, but also if the action was good or bad. And for the first time "bad" had a meaning other than failure to survive, the human brain/mind continued to develop this concept of "bad" until it became a powerful force that identifies all that which would or could harm the individual, the family, the group, the environment around the group, and today the entire earth. These are things that no other life/creature can think, humans not only think, but can act upon these abstract thoughts. And so Adam and Eve with full self awareness watched as their sons fought and one became a murderer and the other a victim of murder. Good and evil sprang to life as if it were an entity, a concept so powerful that not one human can return to that Garden of Eden, that blissful and ignorant state of innocence. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Bro. Simon, "Are you practicing mindlessness again?"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Neat vs Messy

The labyrinth project has slowed much since the thermometer has caught our full attention the past week, but today with some thunderstorms, the mercury has peaked at 99F, so Bro. Juniper has called for volunteers for this evening, so far only Bro. Simon, myself, and Bro. Clarence (but he conditioned his service if Bro. Sedwick will also pitch in). We shall see. I would say the labyrinth is perhaps 60% complete, but I'm not holding my breath, for Bro. Juniper has been doing some experiments, instead of placing the stones atop the desert floor, I saw him digging a shallow test trench and placing stones so that they are flush with the desert floor. As the stones are placed now, he thinks the blowing sand will build up on one side or the other, but with the stones set into the ground, this would not be a problem. I must admit, I never considered it a problem, for I think that the drifting sand only adds interest to the labyrinth, and further, that the constantly shifting winds will keep the labyrinth a perpetual work in progress, just as sand dunes are constantly in motion and never appear the same. Well, maybe this evening I can present my feelings on this matter, for I think Bro. Simon will agree with me, but I fear Bro. Sedwick will side with "neatness" as I fear Bro. Clarence will too. Perhaps I could talk Bro. Charles into joining us, normally he keeps to the library, but neatness isn't one of his strong suits, so a sandy and "messy" labyrinth may be to his liking, and also one more vote against the neat camp.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

You may have a point

Bro. Clarence was relating one of the discussion he had with a fellow who gave him a ride across parts of Arizona, the discussion centered around the fellow leaving the church as a teenager when he came to the conclusion that many of the Biblical stories were simply unbelievable. He said it was almost laughable to think of the garden of Eden with a tree of knowledge and the forbidden apple of good and evil and that by eating it Adam brought evil into the world and all of humanity has suffered since. After a bit of discussion, Bro. Clarence thinks that he caused the fellow to rethink some of his early teenage thoughts after he explained the Genesis story something like this.

For a moment consider the Garden of Eden story as metaphor for the great consequences of knowledge, for with knowledge one's innocence is lost, forever. We all delight in watching the innocence of toddlers, and protecting that innocence, for that is the want of most parents. Of course we don't want to protect children from the real world forever, for we know the consequences of trying to do that, so we measure our protection and little by little the child is exposed to the world outside the protection of home. So perhaps you can read the Eden story as mythology, a myth with great value, for it tells us much about ourselves, and helps us to make sense of the world around us, a world that can be a world without innocence. Bro. Clarence said the fellow's first reaction was, "Myth?!" And related how his childhood Sunday school teacher said everything in the Bible was fact, so Adam was a real person, Eve too, the garden, and all the rest. To which Bro. Clarence replied that in the synoptic gospels Jesus nearly always spoke in parables, so is it so hard to believe that God spoke to Moses with metaphors, making a simple plot with a cast of characters into a story that could be immediately understood by everyone? And the beauty of symbolism is that children read a simply story that they can remember, teenagers read a story that fills their head with questions, adults read the story and suddenly find deeper meaning, and wise old men read the story and find answers to the previous unanswerable? To this the fellow replied, "You may have a point."