Friday, December 26, 2008

God's architecture - Part VIII

I think potential is 'built' into the universe as I would say that a box of legos or tinker toys have a built-in potential to assemble into new shapes and forms. Perhaps we could call the 12 basic building blocks of the universe, a lego set. The standard package (in particle physics called the Standard Model): quarks and leptons with variations of up/charm/top down/strange/bottom e-neutrino/u-nertrino/t-neutrino electron/muon/tau. And the 4 fundamental forces. That's it! Maybe? But we have to acknowledge that these 'things' are different from one another in that one of the building blocks cannot be reduced and be found to be an assemblage of the other building blocks. They are each different. Yet with these 'legos' comes potential to produce EVERYTHING. Remove one, and? Potential halts? The tinker toy set with spools 'without' holes to insert the round sticks thereby reducing the potential for building to nil. Yet these basic building blocks (governed by four fundamental forces: strong/weak/electromagnetic/gravitational) create the entire universe. Of course we humans cannot peek behind the scenes and see if indeed the lego building blocks are actually constructed by Ole Kirk Christiansen in Denmark -- or if the lego building blocks just happened to be 'here' and each of the blocks just happened to be perfectly fitted to one another, and of course the forces just kind of fell into place and were too, miraculously (used in a non-metaphysical sense), 'there' ... and to top it off, we would have to believe that unguided, uncreated, unplanned, willy-nilly, these bits of magic (also used in a non-metaphysical sense) just kind of ... well, just kind of happened. For me, reason and logic alone 'demand' that something is afoot!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” --Albert Einstein

I think humans are birthed into this universe with, for the most part, a blank slate, blank in that none of us would instinctually begin building well constructed dwellings, as many animals do, without the input/teaching of other humans. And anyone who has raised or has been around infants and small children will attest to their 'natural' curiosity, their forever questing about their environment in order to fill their 'blank slates' with ever more knowledge that provides an ever increasing understanding of how their environment operates. This seems to be the human equivalent to animal instinctive behavior, or perhaps how instinctive behavior has evolved. Of course with age begins the shutting down of this 'natural' curiosity -- the imagination -- by authority figures, parents/society (and sadly for some, this shutting down begins at birth). But for those who were either sheltered from 'uncurious' and 'unimaginative' authority figures, or who where born with a 'natural' tenacity that defied those attempts to extinguished their curiosity and imagination, the world, material and mind, is forever opened for exploration, and almost child-like, these folks cannot accept what others believe, limits.

Friday, December 19, 2008


"Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day."

--Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Brothers Karamazov)

Monday, December 15, 2008

God's architecture - Part VII

We may discover that this ALL is because the Designer designed a design that itself designs ad infinitum more designs that unceasingly design endless variations of ever more designs evermore.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

God's architecture - Part VI

I believe 'God' is beyond the 'all' that we as humans can understand or comprehend or can touch or even imagine, for of course we are the stuff of this universe that is where we find ourselves encapsulated within and are defined by. 'God' is the 'placeholder' term that we humans use for that which is beyond, beyond not in a time/space sense, but beyond in an intellectual sense. As such, each human defines the meaning of this term --'God' -- and as such, this term defines that which we humans try so hard to do, to use words to define, to describe, to make real through our utterances. So I think 'God' (the word we create in order to have something to grasp on to) is within each of us as a strange longing for that which created us ('created' -- another human word that falls far short of something that happened beyond time/space/matter -- a paradox since 'happened' requires the dimension of time). And so 'religion' is the human means to make this strange longing real, something that can be understandable in this time/space/matter world. In Christianity this longing is made human by our story of Jesus, perhaps a 'placeholder' for that which is beyond us -- God. To understand God in human terms, we need a human vocabulary, and Jesus is that vocabulary. For me this story is not something that can or needs to be proven, for it isn't about solitary facts, but it is about community, it is the story that we again and again seek to understand in our quest to live our lives with others, with community, living a life that is defined by love -- loving our neighbor as thyself. And yes, that is right behind 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.' Proof? "Every event has a cause. Trace a sequence of events backwards in time and one must eventually arrive at an uncaused causal agency. That agency is God." Yes, that the 'first cause argument' and yes, that isn't proof. But I think a nice thought, perhaps a thought that reaches the limit of human deductive reasoning. What a place deductive reasoning to stop at, the instant of the Big Bang, the birth of time/space/matter, all before escape the best tool we have, the human mind.

Monday, November 17, 2008

God's architecture - Part V

As an outspoken opponent of racism and injustice and a proponent of liberal Christianity, Harry Emerson Fosdick delivered his famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" on May 21, 1922 at the First Presbyterian Church NYC.

"Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, 'Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.' Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, 'Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results.' "

Thursday, November 06, 2008

God's architecture - Part IV

How many atoms are in the entire universe?


or, 1 sexvigintillion (1 followed by 81 zeros or 10^81)

Someone on the Internet did the math, well, kind of, I think making a few assumptions.

Atoms in the Universe

10^66 estimates the the number of atoms in our galaxy to be in the area of 10^68 and, if dark and exotic matter are considered, then their numbers are possibly close to 10^69.

In 10^9, it is stated that there is a wide range of estimates given for the number of galaxies in the universe. Some put the number in the very low 100 billions, others bring it much closer to the one trillion mark.

The size of other galaxies range from one million to hundreds of billions of stars. The mass of some of the largest galaxies is trillions of times the mass of our sun. Again, it is supposed that much of this mass consists of dark and exotic matter.

If we consider our galaxy to be of average size, and use the highest estimates for both the number of atoms in our galaxy and the total number of galaxies, then the universe would contain about one trillion times the number of atoms as our galaxy. Since our galaxy probably has no more than 10^69 atoms, this would mean that at most the universe contains 10^69 x 10^12 atoms in all. This works out to be just under 10^81.

If we use lower estimates for the number of atoms in our galaxy and total number of galaxies, then the total number of atoms would be as much as 20 times less, or within the area of 10^79.

Hence, "atoms in the universe" belongs on this page which spans from 10^78 to just under 10^81.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God's architecture - Part III

How many atoms are in the human body?


(give or take a few)

... okay, I'll say it, seven octillion.

God's architecture - Part II

If theologians would open their eyes (and minds!) to the countless revelations that science 'discovers' and realize that a revelation such as water is H2O and H2O is HOH and HOH is two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule which are chemical elements that are atoms and that these building blocks of wet reality are mind boggling truths that hint at the nature of God and how God creates, in that the Creation is not a haphazard mystery, but a knowable reality, if and only if one is willing to accept and collect truths as they are discovered, and include, not exclude them from the ongoing metaphor to describe the Unknown.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

God's architecture

Perhaps evolution and an evolved 'forever questing for answers' is the reason we ask unanswerable questions, from birth, life is a progression of unknowns revealed, we live constantly with potential and possibility always on the tip of our mind.

"A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push."
Ludwig Wittgenstein

Eyes, Ears, Tongue, and Mind

Lately I've been thinking about how speaking is different from writing, the spoken word from the written word, as well as listening with one's ears as opposed to 'listening' with one's eyes. And of course some of the world's great teachers, Jesus and Socrates and Buddha, spoke, we have not a word from their hands. Plato listened, then wrote, as well did Matthew and Mark and Luke and John. I think Jesus was all about the moment (eternal moment?), speaking and listening, a community activity, a community of two or more, no time for solitary contemplation of static words when breathing words are one with and flow with time and become alive and create relationship. For speaker and listener(s) share a special intimacy of time and place and togetherness, whereas writer and reader share a solitude with a difference kind of intimacy, that of silent words and silent imaginations.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


We live between the nothing more and the nothing less -- bologna between the slices of bread -- and like the sacred words of the Bible, to be consumed -- chewed, champed and munched -- and the less becomes more, and the more becomes less.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rethinking a thought about bread and wine

What is the Christian Eucharist? Or Communion? Or Lord's Supper? Breaking of bread and drinking of wine that represents the body and blood of Christ, that a very short and incomplete explanation. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a long version, a version that I heard someone say was just so much gobbledegook. But for Christians it is a sacrament, that which is sacred, or as Augustine of Hippo said, "a visible sign of an invisible reality." So I was thinking that perhaps another way to understand the "gobbledegook" of the Eucharist, and certainly not an explanation your local parson will give, is that we are not to forget our past, our evolutionary past, a past so removed from our present reason and intellect that some refuse to believe it was ever so, but as many non-Christians look upon the Eucharist as ... well, as an enactment of ... well, of cannibalism, then one can understand how reprehensible this enactment can appear to be to an outsider. But what if we admit to our evolutionary past, a past that indeed would include every sort of animal behavior, even cannibalism. Imagine that ancient time when the human brain became a human mind, a mind that suddenly looked at the world about it in a totally different way, a way shaped by reason and intellect, and of course, superstition. But too, the superstition could and was in many ways the minds way to settle the onslaught of troubling questions, questions that animals don't ask themselves, questions that the new mind conjured up about the relationship of the self with other selfs, of the self with the world, of the self with oneself. So, I think Jesus not only wanted us to remember him, but to remember our past, and to never forget from where we came in order to understand where we are going, for the "born again" is a "180-degree turn about" in one's life, or you may think of it as maintaining the forward-movement of evolution in one's life, because, as we all know, we humans are certainly capable of regressing, instead of becoming more human, some choose to become more animal.

Monday, September 15, 2008

notes in the margin of last page of War & Peace

If I can adopt beliefs as 'hypotheses' and 'act as if they are true' with the idea that 'does this belief cause me to have a better interaction with the world (humanity), then for me this could become a truth. (little t)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The blazing night sky

Sometimes in places like Kansas, or the Mojave desert, one is not distracted by the razzle-dazzle of nature that seems to fascinate and occupy so many, but to the point, last night flat-on-my-back on the desert sand and staring straight up, I attempted to visualize what exactly is taking place above (and all around) my head. I suppose because I have two sensors in my skull that react to photons, the conundrum of "wave-particle" light got me to thinking. And forgive me for my most un-astronomy-like description of what my mind began to imagine. First off, I've always been puzzled by the description of emptiness in space, the "vacuum" in space, the vast nothingness between the floating stuff here and there. And darkness? We look up into the night sky and between the twinkling stars we think we view blackness, emptiness. But wait! It is all an illusion! Because the two light sensors in my head are my point-of-view, I cannot conclude that the dark places are really dark. For every star sends its wave-particle photons out, out in "every direction" and the "light" of each star is like a "continuously expanding" sphere, ever growing larger, a luminous sphere that continues to grow! And "behind" each expanding sphere is another, and another, and infinite anothers (so long as the star's thermonuclear fusion continues). And me, a single "point-of-view" can travel anywhere in the universe and "catch" some photons from that star. That star's photons (and every other star) are everywhere! Think of a zillion stars, each sending outward an infinitely expanding sphere, and these spheres of photons covering the universe, and nowhere dwells a place where photons are not whizzing by -- so light is everywhere! Human eyes, telescopes, are all single points-of-views. So they catch only an infinitely small "piece of the ever expanding sphere" of starlight. If that star is 10 light-years away, then if someone dwelled 10 light-years on the other side of that star, or 20 light-years from me, that being would also be catching photons from that exact same star. And a zillion beings in a zillion different places in the universe would all catch photons from that exact same star. So, last night for the first time I imagined that the darkness of space is just a grand illusion, and the sky is ablaze with light, light everywhere. My mind told me so, even when my eyes tell me not.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Unfocused focus

Is it possible today, or in the future, for one mind to think (with help from the senses and interaction with nature) grand unifying thoughts, as Darwin was able to think? Would more information have helped or hindered Darwin? With the Internet at his disposal, would his thoughts have become distracted or narrowly focused on a this or that? One needs almost a zen-like solitude to bring the mind to an unfocused focus, like an artist attempting to grasp the scene in front, blurs the focus of the eyes in order to experience the overall shapes and composition, the unity of the scape, without the mind afluttered by the detail.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Little and Big

A little number, the width of a plant cell: .00001276 meters. A big number, the total number of atoms comprising the earth: 33,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Isn't it interesting how our mind attempts to grope at a string of zeros, some strings preceded by a tiny period, others followed by a tiny period, and inside the skull an imaginary scale -- imagined size to imagined places that one can never go, for the sensors of humans are scaled to our size, and not to the size of the universe. So we dwell in a tiny realm of scale, a slice of scale, for our size will not allow us to fit anyplace else.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Interlude: Where Wisdom Is Found

Here is Job 28, I find it interesting to substitute "Miners" for "Scientists" in this passage.

    1 There is a mine for silver

       and a place where gold is refined.
    2 Iron is taken from the earth,

       and copper is smelted from ore.
    3 Miners put an end to the darkness;

       they search out the farthest recesses

       for ore in the blackest darkness.
    4 Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft,

       in places untouched by human feet;

       far from other people they dangle and sway.
    5 The earth, from which food comes,

       is transformed below as by fire;
    6 lapis lazuli comes from its rocks,

       and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
    7 No bird of prey knows that hidden path,

       no falcon's eye has seen it.
    8 Proud beasts do not set foot on it,

       and no lion prowls there.
    9 The miners' hands assault the flinty rock

       and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
    10 They tunnel through the rock;

       their eyes see all its treasures.
    11 They search the sources of the rivers

       and bring hidden things to light.
    12 But where can wisdom be found?

       Where does understanding dwell?
    13 No mortal comprehends its worth;

       it cannot be found in the land of the living.
    14 The deep says, "It is not in me";

       the sea says, "It is not with me."
    15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold,

       nor can its price be weighed out in silver.
    16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir,

       with precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
    17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it,

       nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
    18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention;

       the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
    19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it;

       it cannot be bought with pure gold.
    20 Where then does wisdom come from?

       Where does understanding dwell?
    21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,

       concealed even from the birds in the sky.
    22 Destruction and Death say,

       "Only a rumor of it has reached our ears."
    23 God understands the way to it

       and he alone knows where it dwells,
    24 for he views the ends of the earth

       and sees everything under the heavens.
    25 When he established the force of the wind

       and measured out the waters,
    26 when he made a decree for the rain

       and a path for the thunderstorm,
    27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;

       he confirmed it and tested it.
    28 And he said to the human race,

       "The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,

       and to shun evil is understanding."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thirty years ago ... and counting

Excerpt from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Harvard commencement address, June 8, 1978.

I am not examining the case of a disaster brought on by a world war and the changes which it would produce in society. But as long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we must lead an everyday life. Yet there is a disaster which is already very much with us. I am referring to the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness.

It has made man the measure of all things on earth - imperfect man who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.

We have placed too much hope in politics and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. It is trampled by the party mob in the East, by the commercial one in the West. This is the essence of the crisis: the split in the world is less terrifying than the similarity of the disease afflicting its main sections.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Those who can't follow a straight line

How many of us need to be told what to do, and how many of us want to be told what to do, and how many of us do what we are told to do, and how many of us do what we need to do, and how many of us don't do what we are told to do, and how many of us don't do what we know we need to do but don't know how to do it, and how many of us know how to do what we need to do but won't do it, for whatever reason, and how many of us can't think of a good reason to do anything, and so do anything, or nothing, and how many of us can't think a straight thought, while others draw straight lines with arrows for us to follow, yet our crooked thoughts seem to prevent us from following a simple straight line or a very long and winding sentence. We want things to be better, for you, for me, for everyone, yet far too often life is stuck in wants. And the irony is that sometimes living a living hell seems to be easier than trying to make sense of a straight line and following it. And they shake their heads. Blessed are they who think straight thoughts and but can't follow straight lines and live unsteady lives.

Global change

Instead of global "warming" I think I'll stick to the ever was and ever will be global "change" ... and aren't we an ornery bunch that forever wants change AND preservation. As well, tradition AND fresh and new and innovative and novel. I suppose we just want it ALL.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Why do we continue to look for God in anthropomorphic stories...

I suppose because we find ourselves here and now, humans, with ready-made minds that think abstract thoughts and all the rest, and want, or need, to communicate with that which brings "religious awe." And "communicate" as in, "Hello, glad to meet you, I'm sure you have a mighty tale to tell me, so I will listen, really intently, to what you have to say." And then the Psalmist whispers in our ear, "from thousands of years ago" and says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handwork." And yes! We are struck dumb by the "universe of the galaxies and the DNA" and all in between and not in between. Yet, "I want a dialogue!" the human mind cries out (and how many deadly sins make for this arrogant challenge? Pride? Avarice? Anger? Envy?). "Yet You made us this way!" the mind of logic and reason continues (or I should say, those that cannot accept a logic-less and reasonless universe). So Christians embrace Jesus as the substitute, the substitute for the unknown, that who makes the unknown known (in human terms), who provides an answer to the human cry, "You God, Invisible and Almighty and Unknown, don't You know my hurts and pains and suffering? for how could you? You are God!" Yet the one we call Jesus knows all about hurts and pains and suffering, as well as our wonder and awe and joy, and for some this satisfies this hunger to communicate, in human terms, in human ways, with the One that makes galaxies and DNA and evolution and all that in between.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Listening with your eyes

As you stare at a star, and if that star is still a star, then as long as you stare, you have made a connection as connecting as two tin-cans connected by kite string, yet your mind fills with wonder, with visible and invisible messages from that star, and perhaps, those feeling of awe are not coming from within, but from without, from that other tin can at the other end of that string of light? The whole universe beaming messages of awe to any eye that will listen?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

All in your mind?

In the 1791 biography titled "Life of Johnson" the author James Boswell relates this story of Samuel Johnson's mock against the Irish philosopher George Berkeley's "immaterialism" (anti-materialism) -- subjective idealism. In a thimble this theory is summed up "Esse est percipi" (to be is to be perceived).

"After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it THUS.' "

I do think that Johnson misses the point, the point being that POV (point of view) necessitates identifying both scale and sensors when attempting to create a reality that one's mind can understand.

Let us assume that the universe is a measurable size, independent of the observer. 

Let us assume we need a mind in order to observe and make assumptions about this universe. 

Let us assume we need a mind with sensors (eyes) to observe and gather data of this universe.

Let us assume that this mind can construct sensors (and computers) to extend the range of the human eye and mind. 

Now we have where we are today, humans using sensors and mind to observe and measure (in all forms) the universe. 

Now the kicker, scale. The human is of a particular size in relationship to all in the universe, so that this scale/relationship "creates a reality" that the mind understands as reality. 

Now what would happen if the human (and accompanying sensors and instruments) were shrunk down to the size of say, 50 microns (the height of the human, of course, standing erect). Now what happens when this "nano-human" kicks the stone that Johnson kicked? Well, I would think this nano-human would be hard pressed to see the stone, and more than likely, see a world as amazing as the deep-field views from Hubble, the "so-called" stone would be a maze of forces and molecules. Scale makes all the difference in the world of perception, of perceived reality. 

So now we enlarge the nano-human to the size of Pluto (that former planet, not the dog), and will this "mega-human" be able to see, let alone kick, Johnson's stone? Perhaps mega-human will have a mega-micro-electron microscope that will detect Johnson's stone, and I would think mega-human would then wonder, does this minute "Johnson's stone" really exist? 

Reality equals a mind with a point-of-view, sensors to feed the mind data, and the scale of the mind-observer in relation to the universe. Change any (mind/sensors/scale) and you create a new reality.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The center of the universe

Center, up, down. east, west, south, north, inside, outside, and each mind the point-of-view which becomes the center for our brief eye-blink photon gathering moment, but the center of the universe, that imaginary place in the center where that smaller than pin-point big bang did originate? But how could that be? All that is, originating from that center? If we voyage to that center will we discover the origins? But how could that be? Would the center be a magical place? Or just another place that once was not? So, when the time comes when those future astronomers measure the speed of every star and galaxy speeding away from the imagined center and then replay their calculation in reverse, will we discover the real center? That very place where every star and galaxy returns? And then what happens when the replay reaches zero, will there be but a center? With no more up or down or east or west or south or north? I wonder.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The bugaboo of superstition

If ... if only we could conclude that superstition was that which provokes humans to behave badly, we then would only need to eliminate superstition and goodness would rise to the surface. The other night Celtics Kevin Garnett in a moment of celebration and overflowing emotion, knelt to the Boston Garden parquet floor and kissed the image of an Irish leprechaun -- a bit of superstition that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Instead of writing what my fingers are itching to type, the horrors of the 20th century with enough evil perpetrated by religious and nonreligious alike, I will not repeat what we all already know. But, we are now in the 21st century and evil of the religious and nonreligious, the superstitious and non-superstitious, continues unabated, as Human Rights Watch documents, daily.

And finally, listen to Lisa Simpson (episode: Lisa the Iconoclast) when she concludes that a myth (that she can disprove, but doesn't) may have value:

"The myth of Jebediah has value too. It's brought out the best of everyone in this town. Regardless of who said it, a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Oh yeah?!

We humans seem to have a "tribal reflex" in our genetic makeup, the "we" vs "them," "I" vs "you," even an "I" vs "me." It seems to be just beneath the surface, awaiting the opportunity to verify self by discovering like-self others. Of course "discover" all to often becomes persuade or convince which can become entice or lure or seduce, all in order to gather more like-self others to the tribe. Why? Because like-self are safe, predictable, even trustworthy, all providing the tribe with strength in numbers, and above all, comfort. Not comfort as in sloth, but comfort as in like-minded collaboration -- synergism -- that which glues the tribe/team/group/family together.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Atoms and elephants and really little stuff that is really big

In this age of excitement and the ever quest for evermore titillation, we become jaded to the ever uniqueness of our every breath and our every thought, without which common and ordinary and even unique have no meaning. The human mind makes it all unique, even if the composition of it all can be reduced to even a more common denomination than quarks and gluons, whatever that may be. Without a discovering mind and an inventing mind, everything just is. But with a discovering mind and an inventing mind, mere humans can get a glimpse of the Builder of ALL. First we discovered atoms. Then to our amazement we discovered a universe within each atom. Nucleons, the protons and neutrons that compose the atoms. Then even deeper within, that which we cannot see, but can detect, and we name them quarks. And this a zoo of "up" and "down" and a "chromo force" which we think even more minute and call gluons. And here we think we are, in the basement of matter! But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if this basement has a hidden trap door, and perhaps when opened, an even more and vast universe lay beyond?

We call this Builder of All, God. Yet, we are but humans, and even at our best, when we conjure up every description to describe what we acknowledge to be indescribable -- Omnipresent, Omniscient, Infinite, Truth, Love, Creator, Provider, Savior, Deliverer, Elohim, Adonai, Yahweh, Ehyeh -- we are doing our best with what we have, and that necessitates "projecting" our humanness, and the universe about us, upon that which is not. The creation is not the Creator.

I like what Isaiah says when describing God as the Potter and we humans as the clay, "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'He did not make me'? Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing'?"

"Eddington's elephant."
The astrophysicist Arthur Eddington gave an illustration of "an elephant sliding down a hill of wet grass." To the physicist the elephant is irrelevant after one ascertains it weighs two tons, and the hill is also irrelevant when one ascertains the hill is 60-degrees, and too the wet grass is irrelevant when one ascertains the friction of this wet grass. In other words the elephant has been reduced to mass and the hill reduced to angle of slope and the wet grass reduced to coefficient of friction. Now the physicist has something to chew on, a problem to solve and an answer that can be found. But in this reduction to certainties the poetry has disappeared and totally gone is that hill covered with wet grass with that zany elephant sliding down it. Irrelevant?

God is nowhere -- God is now here. The difference a little space makes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Starry Night Sky

The center of the universe is at the apex of the point-of-view of the one with such thoughts, the rods and cones of this observer stimulated by celestial photons of ages past are the translators, sending their electrochemical codes to the brain where the mind interprets these ancient bits of electromagnetic radiation, and there creates the entire universe, with the invisible mind at the very center.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Anything new under the sun?


In this age of excitement and the ever quest for evermore titillation, we become jaded to the ever uniqueness of our every breath and our every thought, without which common and ordinary and even unique have no meaning. The human mind makes it all unique, even if the composition of it all (all as in ALL) can be reduced to even a more common denomination than quarks and gluons, whatever that may be. Without a discovering and inventing mind, everything just is. With a discovering and inventing mind, value is born -- how the mind positively and negatively value things and concepts -- which gives birth to concepts of good/evil, moral/immoral, all these invisible realities dwelling within the human mind that project into the natural world that recognizes none of it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Giraffes and Egyptians and seeing the future

The Egyptians used a hieroglyph that appears to the innocent eye as a giraffe, but to the learned Egyptian the image reads "foresee" or "predict." Yet I think it was innocent eyes that recognized that indeed, the long-necked creature could see into the future, for in the tall-grass savanna the human ambles along blindly toward a pride of lions, and it is the giraffe that watches the scene and if asked, could foretell the future of that present-sighted human.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Science finds answers.
Philosophy finds questions.
Religion puzzles over it all.

Friday, May 02, 2008

How reasonable is reason?

How does one explain the unexplainable? How does one explain feelings of rightness (as opposed to feeling right)? How does one explain comfort when this body and mind have but a paper-thin armor of skin in an environment of sticks and stones and microbes and exploding stars? How does one explain feelings of security when fear and anxiety are a part of all humanity? Perhaps a mind evolved to think the irrational, rational, makes living possible? Or maybe evolved strategies to block out the precariousness of it all, saving the mind from itself, saving it from seeing what it actually sees? For me a former "experiment" with meditation upon nothingness produced unexpected results. I found that when one purposely peels away what evolution has taken forever to arrive at, one comes to a "sum zero" point when one equals one and no more or no less. I found it not a pleasant place, to observe everything as everything is, without a filtering mind, is as close to meaningless as I dared to go. I think reason a slippery word. We seem to want anything with meaning to thereby have a reason, a reason for being meaningful. I have a watch. The reason for having the watch is to tell time. Not only is telling time reasonable, but it is helpful in coordinating one's activities with others. The modern world revolves around a standard of time using watches and clocks. Yet the reasonableness of this becomes unreasonable and absurd in a world without modern humans. A watch left behind on the moon would immediately lose its value and meaning, yet may continue to tick accurate time for years. What I mean by all this rambling is that I believe a universe without reason and meaning can but yield all that exists within it equally without reason. Reason then is no more than a ticking watch on a barren moon. Even so, I understand the reasonableness of others in not accepting this conclusion.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Riding the arrowhead

I believe in a Creator. I don't know how the monarch butterfly navigates, as well I don't know how a Creator purposely (or not) caused the monarch butterfly to evolve in a way that navigation is part of the tiny package. But I think that that Creator has allowed my brain to evolve to a point that that brain became a mind, a tool of reflection and reason and imagination -- I can wonder, I can observe, I can experiment, I can do them all -- and reach an ever increasing understand of the truth of the monarch butterfly. Of course some can do all the same as well as deny a Creator. But for me I belief that a Creator made something out of nothing, made here and now out of never was -- that is the forever mystery. And all the nuts and bolts of evolution, the mechanics and laws of nature, and the timeline that I find myself riding the arrowhead of, all this the human mind is free to contemplate and observe and touch and even understand with infinite curiosity, for in this realm explanations abound. And if nothing else, the human mind hungers for explanations. And yet for some, the mind hungers for something more -- meaning.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some Musings on a Darwinian World

I would think on a micro scale, when one's livelihood or life or home/land or lifestyle/tradition or beliefs are threatened with an "either/or" and nothing in between, then one either hightails to safer grounds, or stands one's grounds. And as history forever notes, the "either/or" choice quickly transforms into a "life/death" choice, for to give up ones "all of the above" is the same as death for many, so fight or war suddenly becomes that which even intelligent beings think the final hope of retaining one's life/livelihood/home/land/lifestyle/tradition/ beliefs. And our forever dilemma is that our imaginations can think a better peaceful way, yet our observations of nature reveals a frightening truth -- the banality of evil -- fight and warfare as natural as the tactics of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. And still, our minds rebel against the obvious.

And the obvious, that competition is the natural evolved survival strategy in all life-forms and warfare the social evolution of competition in humans as a survival strategy.

(Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871) “It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”

So I think that "warfare" stripped to its bareness is any struggle between competing entities. When a virus invades the human body, warfare ensues. From the human perspective the virus "violates" the body, and we consider any violation as an infringement, and when done with aggression, we call it violence. If one could take the perspective of the virus, then I suppose one could think of it as a mere attempt at survival. And as far as I know, the only realized potential of a virus is simple survival, for without a reproduction system, the virus must "violate" a living cell, or in this case, a human cell. 

Moving up the ladder a bit, we come to bacteria, which do have a method of reproduction, so when a bacteria invades a human, it is simple using the human host as a suitable environment to carry on its life cycle. From the human perspective, if the bacteria is destructive, such as some strains of e. coli are, then I think we can agree that "we" have been invaded, and warfare does ensue when the immune system detects the invader. 

Taking another leap, a big one, we come to Africa and a pride of lions stalking a herd of Cape buffalo. With stealth they seek out a likely candidate and when the fight ensues the herd fights back. But usually in the end a few lions are injured and one buffalo becomes their meal, a victim to the "struggle between competing entities." In this case the lions sought food for their survival, while the buffalo sought peace and to be left alone. 

And again, Darwin's statement, "A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”

I can image in this illustration a peaceful tribe, as peaceful as the Cape buffalo, being preyed upon by a not so peaceful tribe, and for whatever reason or ambitions of the hostile tribe, the peaceful tribe can face the "struggle between competing entities" in various ways. They could scatter and run and leave behind their tribal land and possessions to the invaders. Or they could, as Darwin points out, rally those of the tribe possessing all that it would take to repel the invaders, and these courageous ones, would challenge the invaders, and even "sacrifice themselves for the common good" by fighting the invaders. And how would this bit of warfare change the gene pool? I would think natural selection would be in full force during and after the struggle. For during the fight those with the least fighting skills would be killed, while those with the most fighting skills would survive. Not only survive, but when the fight was over they would be the ones adulated by the surviving tribe, and most likely the ones passing on their genes to the next generation. 

Darwin thought the moral traits of those with "patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy" are too carried on to the next generation. So you could say that Darwin is using warfare as the mechanism of moral evolution. Hmm ... now that's a provocative thought.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hand print on rock

Interesting, hand prints and hand stencils are among the oldest and most numerous intentional "signatures" and marks left by individual humans, they are found the world over, in the American Southwest are numerous examples of the "stencilled hand" created by placing hand on rock then filling mouth with colored pigment and either sprayed through pressed lips, or more creatively, using a reed as a straw, or "spray paint nozzle", and the pigment spraying controlled around the hand pressed to the rock. In South America are examples of hand prints, where the individual covers the hand with pigment and then presses the hand to the stone for the impression. And in Africa and Asia and Australia and of course the many famous European caves. And don't forget all those countless "hand prints" paintings found in nearly every kindergarten classroom the world over. I've always thought of these hand prints as the precursor to graffiti, the want (or need?) of some (or all?) individuals to leave some mark on the world, and for the powerless, it is this seemingly insignificant and anonymous, yet really most powerful and most personal statement, "I was here! -- I too once a living being that dwelled in and was part of this creation."

Monday, April 14, 2008

The problem with seeing is believing

The problem with Materialism is the problem with matter is the problem that physicists spend lifetimes musing and tinkering with, for the solidity isn't there, and the there sometimes absent too, when one can by the E=mc2 of Einstein interchange matter with energy, we come to see that what we grasp in our hands is but the form of matter that our senses can sense, and that what we can't sense does not deny the non-sensed, it just exposes our sensibilities, which are limited indeed, to a mere blink of the what really is.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A voice in the desert

Funny how I can imagine the workings of evolution, yet find it nearly impossible to imagine a Creator-less unguided evolution, or the natural evolution that some think not only possible when given eons of time for environment shaping factors plus the countless chances over that long span of time for positive mutations to occur, but find natural evolution a certainty. Today as I was hiking I was delighted to hear the sounds of many song birds, and that got me to thinking about humans and their vocal cords. I recall reading that the vocal cords in birds are entirely different than the "voice box" in humans, so I brought this up later with Bro. Clarence.

He said that the "voice box" is first seen in homo erectus about a million years ago. So I replied, that seems a long enough time for those forces of environment and mutation to go to work in producing a real, usable voice box. To that he only smiled. Then he took a forefinger and thumb and touched his throat and said, "If only evolution took place here, then an easy trick it would be." By my quizzical expression, he resumed, "The blueprints. Change must take place in the blueprints for the physical change to occur ... DNA, your genes!" And then as though speaking to a child, he began gesturing with his hands, like painting the picture in the air so that I would get the point. "The FoxP2 gene is called the 'language gene' because when there is a defect in this gene, then a child will not develop vocalization, even though the child has a perfect set of vocal cords. So you have this complex system of interaction between brain and all the parts of the voice box that originate in the genetic blueprint. So when you think evolution, you must understand that the blueprint, the DNA, must be mutated in a way that the pre-homo erectus throat suddenly finds a growth that isn't simply a tumor, but a structure with potential, a structure that will benefit this new baby that has the mutated gene. And further, you must understand the complexity of the voice box or larynx, the orchestration of all the components, from lung that provides wind, to tongue that provide articulation, and all the 'mutated' pieces -- vocal cords and the various muscles that provide the intricate movements of the cords. But then we have to figure out how that primitive voice box provided any useful function while it was developing into a useful organ of language expression."

He paused while I marveled at the complexity of it all. Hurriedly I scribbled more notes while thinking that even when given eons of time, I just couldn't grasp it all working out so precisely without a guiding Creator. Again I tried to imagine how simple unguided natural evolution could orchestrate the sub-microscopic changes in the DNA along with the developing circuitry of the brain along with the flesh and muscle construction taking place in the throat and a host of other "things" that had to move into place to make this "voice box" not only successful, but useful, things like self-awareness and the "need" to communicate abstract thoughts to fellow beings. I could only blurt out, "Wow!"

With that Bro. Clarence rose from his seat and said he had to get back to work (as he always says when he realizes that a dialogue has become his monologue), but before departing he left me with this, "The universe is creative and the laws of nature guide matter and energy to organize, self-organize, to grow from simple to complex, all the way to here (he tapped his head with his forefinger), complexity to the point of life and consciousness. In the beginning God created ... created a creative universe!" And with a cheshire smile, he headed straight for the trail into the desert. I remained under the cottonwood tree, still seated on my favorite wicker chair with pencil trying to make sense of it all on the blank pages of my journal.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thank God for fanciful thoughts

I suppose the most troubling aspect of life is that fight, kill, struggle, are as common and ordinary in life forms as violent transformational change is the commonness of the inorganic universe. And here we are, self-aware being with minds that can imagine a nonviolent world, yet forever floundering until foundered when attempting to create this imagined world. Yet we try, as "good wars" can attest, and using the commonness of the universe is always the luring tool, violence against the "evil" seems the expeditious means, whether Nazis or a disease of the body. More often than not "killing" the cancer is the only choice, other than submission to the cancer. The last of the strategies for an imagined nonviolent world is the practice of nonviolence. Turning the other cheek has always been a tough concept to imagine practicing in anything other than personal affairs. Possibly in a somewhat civilized world a Gandhi turns the other cheek to the "civilized" British and makes it work, but as history knows it is certain death in those times and places of uncivilized brutishness when humans are but human in appearance -- how many Jews turned the other cheek to a Nazi at Auschwitz? If there ever was an image of peaceful sheep going to slaughter, it is those newsreels of box cars arriving at the death camps, and out come the peaceful sheep: old men, young men, old women, young women, and all the children, and all the babies. Now if only those Nazis were human, and could see, and recognize the holiness of all those precious sheep. So what a conundrum we live in, the exterior world where violence is but a paper-thin distance away, the skin our shield from the abrasions that every child knows so well -- the hard world skins our knee -- yet within the skin, and even deeper within, in that mysterious interior of the brain, the mind, fanciful thoughts of peace and nonviolence are as common as our next breath.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Joshua Tree forest

I borrowed Bro. Clarence's digital camera so that I could take a picture of the forest in bloom. And being a bit tired after the long hike, I will reprint a previous post about a most interesting relationship.

God, Joshua, and Tegeticula yuccasella

Here in the desert a most interesting relationship exists between Joshua tree and moth, so striking that science calls it coevolution, for Joshua tree (a type of yucca) is dependent on moth, likewise moth is dependent on Joshua tree. Bro. Clarence, with his ever ready field guides, sought to explain this relationship, or more properly 'mutualism,' as we ate our noontime meal. Of course many insects pollinate flowers, yet most are sort of accidental pollinators, a bee seeks nectar and in the process, and with no intent on the bee's part, the bee comes into contact with pollen and the pollen sticks to the bee and the bee moves to another blossom and pollen is transferred. This as Bro. Clarence says is a sort of accidental, yet beneficial, happenstance to both the bee and the plant. But with the Joshua tree, neither accident nor happenstance takes place. In the still of the desert night the white female yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) seeks the Joshua tree and enters a white flower and gathers the sticky pollen (a pollen that cannot be broadcast by wind or bee). To gather the sticky pollen, the moth has a pair of long, curved, prehensile appendages near the mouth, specialized tools to collect and form the sticky pollen into a ball, of which is held 'under the chin' so to speak. And off the moth goes to another Joshua tree, where she enters a flower and uses her specialized egg-laying device (called an ovipositor), inserting it through the ovary wall and depositing an egg into the ovule chamber. Next comes pollination, the moth moves to the top of the ovary and still carrying the sticky pollen ball from the previous Joshua tree, she presses the pollen into the ovary, thus completing the fertilization of the flower. Now, as the seeds develop inside this particular ovary, they will provide future food for the hungry moth larva. And so it goes, without the Joshua tree flower, yucca moths would die off in one generation; without the moth, the Joshua tree would never be pollinated, for no other moth, bee, insect, or even wind, seek out the sticky Joshua tree pollen.

This provoked Bro. Simon to question if God has a blueprint for all these minute details of creation, a kind of grand master blueprint of all creation, a blueprint so grand that included would be details of the yucca moth's 'prehensile appendages' and programming for the yucca moth's tiny brain with not only instructions for identifying Joshua trees, but where exactly to insert 'ovipositor' and on and on and on. Bro. Clarence thinks otherwise, he imagines that God has blueprints for all the 'laws of nature' yet God delights in setting things in motion, and within some sort of unknown to us boundaries, allows life to blossom within these boundaries -- perhaps even boundaries withing boundaries within boundaries. Bro. Sedwick thinks not, for God is timeless, exists (if that word can be used in this instance) outside of time, so God views our universe as past and present and future, all at once. Of course this brought protest from Bro. Juniper, he thinking that even though God be outside of time, but when interacting with His Creation, God chooses to enter our time/space, for this would be the only way a relationship with humans could be possible. Bro. Sedwick thinks all this speculation far too simplistic, for a Creator of the Universe has far more tools in His toolbox than our tiny minds can ever imagine.

With that I excused myself in order to gather my rucksack, I want to pay a visit to a certain Joshua tree tonight, and perhaps, I too may witness a miracle.

Joshua 23:14
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Musings written by pencil onto paper

Musing 1: Pencil onto paper when I rested seated yesterday afternoon atop a boulder surround by countless purple lupines

Perhaps the prelapsarian Eden was that state of the Earth sometime between 5.4 and 6.3 million years ago, that time when our ancestors parted way with those who followed the Chimpanzee tribe, those who remained in that world of innocence, a world where thorns are thorns and thistles are thistles and pain is pain and sweat is sweat and life is life and death is death. For that Eden was lost to those with a brain that became a mind that could conceive of a lapse -- a fall from grace -- that moment when suddenly guilt and blame sprang to life as the next universe-transforming event took place -- the birth of self-awareness.

Musing 2: A goose that called Konrad his mother

Interesting how the developing brain of a child has a myriad of short windows of opportunity for imprinting, and once the imprint takes place, then that is what the mature brain is left with, or has to deal with, as in the case of the young geese that Konrad Lorenz raised as their "mother." The infant geese knew no one other than Konrad, the one that fed them and protected them and taught them, and so they followed him as mother goose, and forever more Konrad was mother goose to them.

So here we are, all of us with our own imprints seared many years ago into our developing brains -- some "natural" and others "unnatural" -- perhaps early imprints of an infant religiosity that has since been modified by the learning gleaned from systematic knowledge? Could it be that when we try to reason away that infant religiosity with a mature religiosity, the seared part of our brain rebells, clinging to the imprints of infancy, unwilling, or unable, to let go?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Arrows in flight

With a computer that is flaky, I've returned to pencil and paper, spending more time on walks and hikes, and less time at the keyboard, now tapping away on Bro. Clarence's iMac, which I must admit, is a flashy bit of machinery, but of course doesn't have the feel of pencil to paper. So seated on a boulder just before sunset, I was thinking how orderly the universe appears to me, the structure, or I should say, what we know of the structure of the material world, seems to exhibit a direction from lower to higher orderliness, and when we include life into the mix, then from lower to higher forms of life and intelligence. And why is that? Does it have to be like this? If we consider "life" for example, then the forever time from the Big Bang until the first spark of life appeared on Earth makes me think that this forever timespan was the necessary preparation, the necessary incubation, if you will, for life to get started. And once life got "started" (again, the universe is anything by static, everything seems to start or end, but mostly is in process, or all the between of starting and ending), we see a continual growth in complexity of life structures, and as far as we think we know, the human brain is by and far the most complex of life structures. Of course the mind/brain is a bit boastful in these matters, even thinking that it (brain/mind) is the tip of the arrow that was launched with the Big Bang. A moving arrow. Moving in time. Moving in space. Moving in complexity. Moving in self realization. And moving to? Going where? Or is the arrow forever in flight? And to think the entire evolutionary process has this human brain/mind with the power of reflective thought at the very tip of the longest branch on the tree of life. And here I am, the sun now setting, but enough light to continue my writing, and yes, I must admit that I cannot get outside of my own experiences. My brain/mind use my eyes to watch the outside world, yet is this boulder that I sit upon really just that, a big solid rock? Of course I know from science that the big rock is not so solid as my eyes tell me, so if I could shrink down into the micro world I would see that the atoms that compose this big rock are really not very solid at all, in fact when we get down into the world of atoms and protons and electrons we really leave the world of matter, the matter that we ordinarily think of, like solid rock or the wood of a table top, and find ourselves in a world of energy. And too the mind, a bundle of energy, and to think that the human mind is a product of the very nature that produced everything after the Big Bang, that by being a product of nature, the mind is part of this nature, and so shouldn't the same principles of rational order that we see in the outside world, exist also in the inside world. Inside the brain. Inside the mind? So I sit here and think rationally because I am a product of a rational universe, composed by the same energy that constructs stars. And now I watch another star, setting in the West, coloring the sky with streaks of reds and oranges and grays and purples, and here we both are, the sun and me, two arrows sent on their flights at the moment of the Big Bang, one landed just over the horizon, the other landed atop this big boulder that I sit upon. And it's hard. And it's getting cold. Time for this arrow to move on, to continue the flight, the flight that I think will take me all the way around and back to the archer. And when I arrive and meet the archer? I have a funny feeling that the string on the archer's bow will still be vibrating.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Parallel Sayings

This was send to me and I'd like to share it, the so-called parallel sayings of Buddha (B) and Jesus (J):

(B): "Consider others as yourself." (Dhammapada 10:1)
(J): "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Gospel of Luke 6:31)

(B): "If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words." (Majjhima Nikaya 21:6)
(J): "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." (Luke 6:29)

(B): "Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love: this is an eternal truth. Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good ... Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth." (Dhammapada 1.5 & 17.3)
(J): "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them back." (Luke 6:27-30)

(B): "If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend to you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick." (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26:3)
(J): "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." (Gospel of Matthew 25:45)

(B): "Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword." (Digha Nikaya 1:1:8)
(J): "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matt. 26:52)

(B): ... all these do not equal a sixteenth part of the liberation of mind by loving kindness. The liberation of mind by loving kindness surpasses them all and shines forth, bright and brilliant. (Itivuttaka 27;19-2)
(B): Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world." (Metta Sutta)
(J): "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend." (John 15:12-13)

(B): Just as rain penetrates a badly-covered house, so passion enters a dispersed mind. Just as rain does not penetrate a well-covered house, so too does passion not enter a well-developed mind (Dh 1:13-14).
(B): Everyone who hears my words and does them is like a man who built a house on rock. The rain fell, a torrent broke against the house, and it did not fall, for it had a rock foundation.
(B): But everyone who hears my words and does not do them is like a man who built a house on sand. The rain came, the torrent broke against it, and it collapsed. The ruin of that house was great (QS 14).
(B): It's easy to see the errors of others, but hard to see your own. You winnow like chaff the errors of others, but conceal your own — like a cheat, an unlucky throw. If you focus on the errors of others,
constantly finding fault, your effluents flourish. You're far from their ending. (Dhammapada Mahavagga 252-253)
(J): "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye," when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." (Luke 6:41-42)

(B): "Do not look at the faults of others, or what others have done or not done; observe what you yourself have done and have not done." (Dhammapada 4:7)
(J): He said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:4-7)

(B): But these three things, monks, shine openly, not in secret. What three? The moon, the sun, and the Dhamma and Discipline... (Anguttara Nikaya 3:129)
(B): "That great cloud rains down on all whether their nature is superior or inferior. The light of the sun and the moon illuminates the whole world, both him who does well and him who does ill, both him who stands high and him who stands low." (Sadharmapundarika Sutra 5)
(J): "Your father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:45)

(B): "Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like the radiant gods." (Dhammapada 15:4))
(J): "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20)

(B): "The avaricious do not go to heaven, the foolish do not extol charity. The wise one, however, rejoicing in charity, becomes thereby happy in the beyond." (Dhammapada 13:11)
(J): "If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." (Matt.19:21)

(B): ...when a tathagatha arises in the world,.. then there is the manifestation of great light and radiance: then no blinding darkness prevails. (Samyutta Nikaya 56:38; V442)
(J): Jesus is the light of the world - John 8:12
(J): Those who do the truth come to the light - John 3:17-21

(B): Plucking out her lovely eye, with mind unattached she felt no regret.
'Here, take this eye. It's yours.'
Straightaway she gave it to him. Straightaway his passion faded right there, and he begged her forgiveness. (Therigata 14.1 Subha and the Libertine)
(J): "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:29–30).

One beautiful strawberry

In Buddhism the word "illusion" is mentioned often, illusion not in the sense that the material world is unreal, but in the sense that the appearance of ourselves and the world, that which we humans perceive, is illusionary. You could understand this to mean that person-hood is the near infinite composite of everything from molecules to thoughts, the entire perceived unity that Locke would call self-awareness, that is the "illusion" or that which the mind creates in order to make sense of itself. The "real" is the infinite matter (and non matter) of the universe, we but part of the ALL. In Buddhism it is ego that causes the illusion, therefore if one "overcomes" the ego, the self dissolves into the ALL.

A man is running from a tiger, he comes to the edge of a cliff and the only escape is to grab some vines and climb down, but while climbing down the man sees another tiger at the bottom awaiting him. Looking up at the vine above, which he is hanging from, he sees two mice eating away at the vine, one mouse is white and the other black (yin and yang), now he sees no escape, a tiger above, a tiger below, the vine about to unravel. Then suddenly appearing in front of him, growing from the cliff side is a strawberry plant, and one beautiful strawberry. With great delight he plucks the strawberry and eats it, and it is the sweetest strawberry that he had ever tasted.

End of story.

Ah, don't you just love Zen tales. And an answer to our puzzle? The puzzle? Of course, how could the man delight in the taste of a strawberry when in a moment he is going to die? ... (long pause) ... Because at that moment he was suddenly transformed from the unenlightened being to an enlightened being. He realizes that the sweetness of the strawberry is the same as the sweetness of himself to the waiting tigers. Yes, the strawberry, himself, the tigers, they are all part of the ALL. And at that moment the illusion of "self" disappears. And with that, no fear of death, for nothing really dies.


From my experience, Buddhism is a retreat from the outside world, Christianity is a confrontation with the outside world. Buddhism attempts to alleviate suffering with the mind, Christianity faces suffering with eyes wide open, and then asks, what can I do? Of course this is a generalization, for Buddhists do have soup kitchens and Christians do pray for the homeless.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In studying ourselves

In studying ourselves
We find the harmony
That is our total existence

We do not make harmony
We do not achieve it
Or gain it

It is there - all the time

Here we are - in the midst
Of this perfect way
And our practice is...

Simply to realize it
And then
To actualize it
In our everyday life...

--Taizan Maezumi

Monday, March 03, 2008

A journey without names

Just returning from an extended hike, with much pausing to observe the all that forever surrounds me, even stopping for close inspection of surfaces, the texture of rocks, and with a mindfulness on this trek to not ponder the invisible, the known structures and compositions of all that I run my fingers over, but to just be mindful of the tangible and to limit myself to just that, and not to identify and label this or that just because I know from a book that my fingers are caressing an igneous or a metamorphic or a sedimentary rock, no, I just wanted to feel the "rockiness" and let it be at that. And I must admit that the mind rebels at such limitations, restrictions, the mind wants to search the near infinite pathways inside the brain to find and dust off some forgotten "fact" about that which my finger touches. And more than that, in waves, the mind harvests these forgotten facts and even when my will turns against my self, the mind stitches together strings of facts in an attempt to impress me more, to make me cry out "eureka!" or to slap my forehead with thoughts of epiphany, but no, again I resist grasping the offered discoveries. I must plea that it isn't easy. As the first day slowed to an evening of setting up camp, I almost had to will myself to not be thoughtful in preparing a proper campsite, no, just my sleeping bag upon a sandy bed cleared of rocks and pebbles and other discomforts. And the gathered firewood, really mostly a few branches of mesquite and other unidentified brush, but the onrush of identify, the voice in my head naming this and naming that, as though I could not simply gather brush and stack it and make a circle of stones for a fire pit, without analyzing all that I was doing. And fire in the desert night. I mediated upon patterns, on very moving, changing patterns. And the night sky, stars were a patterned canopy, and with much effort, without names, but almost impossible to dismiss familiar patterns that were the delight of my childhood learning. Big Dipper remained as it was then. I couldn't erase that. And later as glowing embers drifted high and mingled among the stars, I let them mingle, and thought not then of light years apart and sizes and time that made little sense when one is but looking upward. Looking upward as a new born child. But one thought invaded my mind before I drifted off to sleep, it was that it was here, and I cradled my head in my two hands as I peered skyward, as far as I could figure out, I was cradling the most complex structure in the entire universe, and it fits into my two hands! Then I fell asleep. Now I cannot remember if I dreamed, but I have no doubt that I did. For the human mind is restless, and even when we try slowing it down, and we think we have, it goes on and dreams dreams that are forever hidden to ourself, for we awake in the morning with but a hollow ghost of remembrance, of something that is beyond even the universe -- thoughts -- thoughts that have never been touched.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Complexly simple

"Everything is simpler than you think and at the same time more complex than you imagine." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For me an ordered life provides the mind with a place for making sense of the convergence of simplicity with complexity. The keyboard that you tap your words upon is part of a complexity that is designed to appear simple, so that complexity is "hidden" and for our purpose, well to be ignored, otherwise our mind could not focus on cobbling words together. The whole notion of simplicity and complexity are a conundrum in that our perceived reality is but how our minds process all the bits of information in order to construct a world inside our heads that will fit inside our heads.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Holy Longing

Tell a wise person or else keep silent
For the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive
And what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm waters of the love nights
Where you were begotten,
Where you have begotten,
A strange feeling comes over you
When you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught in this obsession with darkness
And a desire for higher lovemaking sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
And now, arriving in magic, flying
and finally, insane for the light
You are the butterfly.
And you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this,
To die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest on a dark earth.

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, February 22, 2008

In silent darkness the day begins

How many times recently have my eyes opened to predawn darkness and a want to keep within the cocoon of blanket warmth, yet I peel off the warmth and enter the cold that only my hurried dress of robe and wool socks. pulled up one at a time and a single wool cap pulled down to cover my chilled ears, then the cold wire-rim spectacles give me farsightedness when my natural nearsightedness was well enough in the still darkness. My hands and fingers give the boot strings the just-right tugs that end with dainty bows, unseen, with cold boots and wool-sock warm feet in battle until a thermal equilibrium is reached. All unnoticed by a mind that dwells not on what need not be dwelled upon, save for a few exaggerated stomps to stimulate a bit more circulation in the feet, I'm out the door and with mindless resolve, point myself toward the east, toward the crescendo of lightness that will halt me in my tracks when night becomes day. Like marching toward an idea, an idea that me and the sun and the earth, for one brief moment, have reached an invisible point, a point only imagined in my mind, a point in time and space, when eyes blinded for want of what feeds them are suddenly fed -- daybreak -- photons flood the landscape and my eyes are fed! And a feast it is, here in the Mojave the Joshua trees are a yardstick for measuring distance, if I can discern the waving limbs of the trees in the far distance, then I know at least that I can reach those trees, in about two hours. In winter or spring, that is, in summer, I wouldn't even try. So here I sit, on a boulder large enough so that I can sit cross-legged, facing the rising sun, eyes closed and heeding the words of Emerson, "Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods." And I wonder what it was like at daybreak on Brook Farm, when the Transcendentalist awoke in a different time, yet in all their idealism they couldn't escape reality. I open my eyes and see the ever present ants trekking about the sand. And me, a solitaire creature atop a boulder, inactive in body, yet mind moving as frantically as these ants scramble, alone, yet with as many memories and stories and meandering thoughts as the number of countless ants I watch. And I watch and wonder, and close my eyes again, and in silence, I pray, thanking the Creator for the gift of wonder. Then I remember something I read about someone that was missing the gift of sight and sound, and Helen Keller said, "Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content." And I feel the morning chill on my face giving way to the warmth of the distant sun. I blink, and sneeze, and am content.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thoughts on words and thoughts

Thoughts are ever evolving expressions that can morph from this to that in a nanosecond, then disappear in a blink, to might or might not ever surfacing again, while words are thoughts expressed, thoughts solidified, in that they take on a life apart from the solitary mind, and become part of the collective mind, with dictionaries as arbitrators when the collective disagree on a once solid word that begins crumbling into ambiguity.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The ultimate "why"?

Why life?
For me, the "why" is answered by belief in a Creator. All around I find myself within and a bit of creation, I see creation in the invisible tapestry that physicists puzzle over, so for me the "why" is the answer to "what does a creator do?" -- and that is: create. So we (and all else we know and can imagine) are the "natural" outcome, the ongoing creation.

Tease away the
and marvel
At the tapestry
warp and weft
and invisible!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

As tumbleweeds roll

In recent days, I have been venturing on pre-dawn treks into the desert, many lasting the complete day, returning after dark with the aid of flashlight and stars, days of quiet, with but a knapsack, days of fervent mental activity, and lengthy long nonverbal conversations with God, the countless hours observing, listening with my ears, seeing with my eyes, feeling with my senses, to a lesser extent tasting, but always sniffing, like a Bloodhound following a scent, the scent of creation that fills my every moment.

on desert sands
I listen for signs
as a tumbleweed
rolls by

a cactus wren
eyes me
a poppy-seed bagel

Next to the Joshua
tree I rest
hallowed be thy Name
and I'm hushed
by the thought!

A quail
a lizard
and me
the day break

I ask the tortoise
a haiku?
She-ma Yis-ra-el
A-do-nay El-o-hei-nu
A-do-nay E-chad
"Hear O Israel
The Lord our God
The Lord is One"
the twilight breeze

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Poems without a moon

I heard sounds
in the night
did you hear?
and pages

A rooster
a predawn
And I awake!

Friday, February 08, 2008


To what shall
I liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane's bill.

Dogen (13th Cent. Japan)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Reason begat reason

My mind reasons that all of Science is reasonable, we have the "laws of physics" as our bedrock to build upon, all these "laws" make for a reality that we exist within and we can observe and measure and understand (in our own limited way). You could take a hundred random scientists from places around the globe and each would come to the same conclusion for the make up of water, each will "discover" water is 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. Yes, bedrock reality, the stuff of Science -- reason, rationality -- from beginning to right now.

My mind also reasons that a Creator created these "laws of physics" that propelled our universe into existence, for the "laws of physics" emerged (and not chaos) from the Big Bang.

Reason begat reason.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Far in excess

In "Speak,Memory," Nabokov writes:

When a butterfly has to look like a leaf, not only are all the details of a leaf beautifully rendered but markings mimicking grub-bored holes are generously thrown in. “Natural Selection,” in the Darwinian sense, could not explain the miraculous coincidence of imitative aspect and imitative behavior, nor could one appeal to the theory of “the struggle for life” when a protective device was carried to a point of mimetic subtlety, exuberance, and luxury far in excess of a predator’s power of appreciation. I discovered in nature the nonutilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The hunt continues

I mind
do you
or do you mind?
if I mind?

And the rains came
drops drop
or do they?
Down to the ground?

Eye to I
am I?
Behind the eye
or is it?
Behind the I

Together they
Mind and matter
Do you think
a union of sorts
Could be

Tease away the
and marvel
At the tapestry
warp and weft
and invisible

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hunting for selfness

The hunt begins.

6 a.m.
We humans have more than brains, we have minds. Within that mind resides the potential to create. Create supernatural to explain and understand the natural, and doing so without shame or dishonesty. I think God has placed two "labs" inside our heads, inside the brain is the lab of reason, inside the mind is the lab of creation and potential. And for some of us, we understand the mind as what is the image of the Creator.

Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

9:06 a.m.
I like consensus in science, but am leery of consensus of human minds, in that I think each human mind is so unique -- from evolution, from nurture, from education, from quirks of time and place, from quirks of association, from all that interacts with each brain that interacts with each mind -- so unique that when even two, let alone many, begin to agree too much, then I fear that "power" is subverting the free thought in the mind that has acquiesced its true selfness. Of course to a degree we all give of our true selfness in order to be part of the tribe. Many happily trade true selfness for community. For marriage. For friendship. For daily bread.

11:16 a.m.
If one seeks to discover one's selfness, then be warned, narcissism lurks in dark places.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Once over

... for when it's all over!

... for in the end!

... for in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make.


Dusty thoughts

Adam* = first human = first self awareness = first grasp of potential = first understanding of death = first "why?" = "death is a 'fault' of the creation" = "why?" = "I've run out of time, too." (full stop).

Without Adam = cycles within cycles within cycles + unawareness = cycles ever more without ever a thought of cycles or a full stop.

*In Hebrew: Adam = "man or mankind or better yet, dust" while Eve = "living one".

Monday, January 21, 2008

No things

And inside the brain we have room enough for both the entire universe and the rest of every thing, every thing that we dare to uncover, yet inside the mind we have even room for "no things," like values and morals and ethics.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More nothing than you can ever imagine

So far in my musings on nothing, I think these thoughts from NASA Astronomer Sten Odenwald are a wonderful introduction to nothing for anyone that has always thought that nothing was ... well, nothing was simply nothing. Think again.

The night sky, when you think about it, is one of the strangest sights imaginable. The pinpoint stars that catch your eye are all but swallowed up by the black nothingness of space - an entity billions of light-years deep with which we here on Earth have no direct experience.

What is empty space, really? At first the question seems silly. There's nothing to it! But look again in light of what modern physics knows and suspects, and the nature of space emerges as one of the most important "sleeper" issues growing for the last 50 years. "Nature abhors a vacuum," proclaimed Aristotle more than 2,300 years ago. Today physicists are discovering that this is true in ways the ancient Greeks could never have imagined.

True, the cosmos consists overwhelmingly of vacuum. Yet vacuum itself is proving not to be empty at all. It is much more complex than most people would guess. "But surely," you might ask, "if you take a container and remove everything from inside it - every atom, every photon - there will be nothing left?" Not by a long shot. Since the 1920s physicists have recognized that on a microscopic scale, the vacuum itself is alive with activity. Moreover, this network of activity may extend right down to include the very structure of space-time itself. The fine structure of the vacuum may ultimately hold the keys to some of the deepest questions facing physics - from why elementary particles have the properties they do, to the cause of the Big Bang and the likelihood of other universes outside our own.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nothing and Higgs and a Tibetan monk meet for lunch

I've always been interested in what others called "nothing", especially when some would point to the blackness of the night sky and pronounce "nothing" or when looking at a vacuum chamber and again, someone calling it empty. I never fell for it. This "empty space between" just never rang true to me. But it has always been the physicist who interest me in their "wild-eye mystical talk" of "it all". Almost as wild-eyed as those who penned the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Here a passage describing the messenger particle for mass, the theoretical Higgs field. :-)

This self-originated Clear Light, which from the very beginning was never born,
Is the child of Rigpa, which is itself without any parents--how amazing!
This self-originated wisdom has not been created by anyone--how amazing!
It has never experienced birth and has nothing in it that could cause it to die--how amazing!
Although it is evidently visible, yet there is no one there who sees it--how amazing!
Although it has wandered through Samsara, no harm has come to it--how amazing!
Although it has seen Buddhahood itself, no good has come to it--how amazing!
Although it exists in everyone everywhere, it has gone unrecognised--how amazing!
And yet you go on hoping to attain some other fruit than this elsewhere--how amazing!
Even though it is the thing that is most essentially yours, you seek for it elsewhere--how amazing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Bro. Bartleby has been silent all week. We think he is thinking. About what?
Bro. Juniper

At the break fast table I broke the silence when I asked Bro. Bartleby what he was musing about all week, he replied, "Nothing."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Something for Nothing

A long time ago I looked down and discovered that in one hand I held "something" and in the other hand I held "nothing" and each seemed of equal essence, in that each required the other, and for a very long time I carried them both, and often I would use one, then the other, to show me my way, and after a very long journey I came to my conclusion, I could carry both, with very mixed results, I could carry "something" with more often than not good results, but every attempt to carry but "nothing" produced very bad results. That is when I discarded "nothing" for "something" and so far it feels so right that I puzzle over my prior puzzlement.

Balsa wood God

As a kid I carved model airplanes out of balsa wood, I the creator, the model airplane the creation. The creation made of balsa wood, I the creator, not a bit of wood to be found in my being (save for the long pinocchio nose my mother would say I had!). I know, I know, both I and balsa wood are made of atoms, but let's not go overboard in a simple sketch. And surely this is a most simple sketch. So I think God/Creator is "outside" the creation, in the respect that the Creator is not of the essence of the creation -- matter and time and space and whatever else you find yourself living within. Therefore God/Creator is not subject to the (created) natural laws, is not locked in time or space, or for that matter, matter. Concepts such as prior cause, or perfection/imperfection, or something/nothing, or even consciousness, all are encapsulated in the "created" laws of nature, all take place within this "creation" -- even what we call existence is prisoner within the "creation." Yet the One that some of us call the Unknowable -- for without name we mutter "God" or "Creator" -- we cannot place number upon or attributes upon (yet we humbly try), and for all that we attempt to clothe this God with humaness, we also know that in our childish ways we are attempting to construct a real airplane out of balsa wood.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Vexing certainty

When does imagination in individual humans begin the steady decline toward a state of inactivity? I wonder at what age the human mind becomes so rutted in certainty that imagination seizes and the rigid brain keeps the wondering mind at bay? Does chronological age (or maybe lack of new thoughts?) make the brain no longer "flexible" to new routes, to new circuitry? Is there a "mechanical" component to it? Or at a certain point in one's life does "der kopf" overflow? Not with knowledge, but with certainty? Of course when we agree with the thoughts of someone, we are pleased when that someone expresses these thoughts with a degree of certainty. But when we disagree with the thoughts of someone, we think them inflexible when they hold to their certainty. Vexing, isn't it?