Category Archives: philosophy

Organisms

Lately I’ve been thinking how complicated our world is, how interrelated everything is, and how each of us has only a tiny understanding of our part in the grand scheme of things. This awareness is not new, of course. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and others have explored this idea. I was thinking this morning, driving to work, how machines are very much like living organisms. By machines I mean anything with moving parts, from automobiles, to toys, to atomic energy electrical plants. We wouldn’t include things like hand tools, tools like saws, and screwdrivers, and hammers, tools that don’t have moving parts. Some tools do have moving parts, like pliers, but are operated by humans, and are really extensions of ourselves. An electric hedge clipper, though, would be a machine, as it has a motor and has parts that operate, at the command of the operator, but with their own internal operation. In comparing machines with living organisms, what is the difference? Of course, a machine doesn’t have a life of its own – it’s not a living, pulsating organism, able to self-repair and reproduce – and those are significant differences.

The key feature of an organism is life, that is, it has continuous biological processes that require fuel (food) for survival (continuance); it expels waste, and produced some kind of activity (work) that is to its benefit. The key features of machines are that they require an energy source (fuel), have waste products, and perform work. The also have machinery, that is often very complicated, which allows the work to be performed. You might question, “What about machines that don’t have waste products?” It’s true that machines that run on electricity don’t appear to have waste products, but look out the window at the electric plant’s smokestack. That’s where your waste product is.

There is something else that organisms have that machines don’t have, and that’s autonomy, the ability to control, within environmental limitations, their activity. There are organisms that have very limited autonomy, because they’re programmed to perform certain tasks, like worker ants or bees. They can function independently, but within very narrow constraints.

Let’s look at one of our favorite machines. They’re made to look enticing to us homosapiens, but their appearance isn’t really related much to their function. Like the male peacock’s bright feathery and impressive tail, they’re designed to draw humans’ attention – and hopefully their cash. Automobiles are what they are because lots of people came together, with incredibly complex organization and created them. But what do they have and do? They have very complex machinery inside. They utilize fuel to function, fuel that is converted into work of various sorts. They have waste products. They have very complex innards, but they lack life and autonomy. Even the self-driving car of the future will not be autonomous; it will be programmed; it’s activity, though appearing independent will be managed by someone’s control, control from a living organism. Nevertheless, the comparison of my Toyota and other machines with living organisms points out their remarkable similarity.

In looking at organisms and machines, we see that there are lots of similarities, although virtually any organism is incredibly more complex – yes, even more complex than anything humans have yet designed – if you start looking at the molecular level. But there may be levels of human activity where the similarity and differences between human-organized activity and true organisms can get confusing. There’s a level of seemingly organismic activity of humans that is apparent if you move up into the stratosphere and look down. Do you see all those objects moving around. Oh, there’s a hospital. Look. It has electrical lines hooked up to it. It has trucks bringing things to it daily. And, Look! It has garbage trucks leaving daily. People go in and out. They go in in one state and leave in another state. Hmm. Those cars seem like organisms themselves from way up here. If I had only this perspective and were unable to get closer, I’d think that those things that people call cars and trucks are really organisms, and I’d think that that big thing that they call a hospital is just a really big organism.

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Ship of Fools?

Posted by Mike

It was Sarah Palin, then Donald Trump, Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, Herman Cain. How could any reasonably intelligent person actually think any of these people

Childe Hassam Flags on the Waldorf detail Amon Carter Museum.jpgwould make (or would have made) a satisfactory President? Is this country filled with ignorant people who are unable to discriminate competence? The remaining candidates, thank goodness, all have some credibility, and hopefully some might make adequate Presidents. I have no complaints about people who might be supporting Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, John Huntsman, or Mitt Romney, though I wouldn’t agree with any of them regarding their choice of candidate.

The answer to my question above is two-fold. First, I don’t think this country is filled with ignorant people. The people I interact with every day, at work, at the grocery, at home, seem very bright and competent. And I think that people in general, in this country, are very bright and competent, at least in the areas of their expertise. But secondly, I think the problem is that in some areas – and I think politics and religion are the two prime suspects – we just don’t learn to discriminate very well, to put on our “thinking caps” and apply reason and logic, seek information, and perhaps more than anything else, be willing to challenge accepted notions. I fault religion with having the most influence in this area. Religious beliefs and doctrines are handed down from one generation to another and there is a generally unexpressed assumption that these basic beliefs are not to be challenged, that somehow, just because a belief, doctrine, or institution has survived essentially the same for 200 or 500 or a thousand or two thousand years it is sacrosanct and not to be challenged. I’ll just bore you with one issue I have with our religious beliefs. One denomination on its website reports that, “Our beliefs all stem from a full commitment to the authority of the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God.” If you think like these folks, no challenge is possible. I wonder what they say to the occasional questioning teenager who wonders, “What makes it inerrant and infallible?” In my opinion there is no satisfactory answer to that question. My guess is that such questioning if it ever occurs is squelched, but I really don’t know as I don’t run in those circles.

We haven’t really learned, in this country, to question authority, to challenge accepted notions and the status quo. It’s been to our disadvantage continually, since the formation of our nation, and it’s remarkable that we have preserved to the extent that we have , our democratic processes given this lack. I’ll grant that there have been and are countervailing forces that have encouraged independent thinking and challenges to the status quo, from Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers to Occupy Wall Street, but they have tended to be a “weak force.” The “strong force” has always been the maintenance of the status quo. One example: It took almost 100 years for the full effect of Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves to be effectively brought into being. Equality for African-Americans was delayed in the American South for years by supposedly “well meaning” whites who were unwilling to grant equality for all Americans. Oh – and did the churches speak out against this travesty?

It’s threatening and scary for our cherished assumptions and beliefs to be challenged, but adaptation to a changing world requires openness to that process. And it’s even more important now with the extraordinary effects of the internet and global interconnectedness as well as the increasing rapidity of innovation in technology and its effects throughout the world. Oh – we’re not a Ship of Fools or we would not have survived as well as we have. We do need to assess our foolishnesses from time to time, and this is one of those times.

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Time Keeps on Slipping…into the Future

Posted by Mike

“Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping–into the future.” It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But somehow, expressed that way,Ashs-coursebook-cover-2010.JPG it makes us take another look at time. What on earth is it? We know that it’s happening, but what is it really? Like so many things that we take for granted, we have trouble when we try to narrow down and define what time is. Time is just – well – Time! We can measure its passage, can’t we? Of course. With clocks. But what do clocks do? They are a somewhat artificial way of measuring Time! We humans have made up the concepts seconds, minutes, hours….They are not real, but quite arbitrary ways of helping us to organize this thing that we call time. We can also observe change and the sequence of events occurring in the world as some kind of process. And this brings us very close to something important in our definition. That is–experience. Time is something that we experience and that we can observe, and it relates to sequential events and changes. If we didn’t have time, we likely wouldn’t have events or change; but we really don’t know that, because we do have this thing we call time, and we can’t really know what the universe would be like without it–but my opinion is that there would be nothing there!

Maybe you think I’m belaboring my point—the issue of what time is. What is it? It is basically that time is experiential; it is subjective. It is not tangible, but an intangible, and that it can only be noted through experience, through observation, and through measurements, which don’t clearly define it, but which enable us to present objective examples of its existence and presence.

So many of the things that we talk about as if they are real are like time. They are constructs that have no objective reality that we can see or touch or hear, but we objectify them using examples that are clear and concrete, which if varied and numerous give us a pretty clear picture of what we are talking about. For example, if we were trying to define the construct “love,” we would begin to build up a good idea of what it is from concrete examples of physical affection and caring, events that we can observe – the events themselves and their consequences. Then we would have a fairly clear picture of what love is. That’s the way it actually is with all constructs; we have to bring them down to concrete observables—events that we can see, hear, touch. It’s in the real world that we live and breathe, and it’s from these real things that we can construct the meanings of the intangibles – things like love, and courage, and God, and patience, and war, and peace – and time. In our definitions of all of what we call reality, at bottom we must return to clear observation—shared observations among us all. With our shared observations and agreements, we have notions of what we are talking about. At the more abstract levels we often can agree; but as we become more and more concrete, it might be surprising how much we differ on the significant details. In general, most of us can agree on Time – especially that it keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping – into the future!

Bristol Bus Station clocks.jpg

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Tale of Two Cities – Part 3 of 3

Posted by David
Two trains of the Ffestiniog Railway at Tan y Bwlch Station

Two trains of the Ffestiniog Railway at Tan y Bwlch Station

Part 1, Part 2

The key to wealth is not the actual ownership of wealth, but rather the being a conduit for it. You may either do this by being increasingly useful to the greater system or by becoming a larger conduit, which are actually the same. If you stay useful and transform and transfer the energy provided to you in increasingly innovative ways, then you keep your job in the system. If not, you are shed and become transformed wealth. “Sold! to the highest bidder.”

If that sounds a bit terrifying, well, it is if you want to be a part of one particular economic system. But in this world there are actually two economies working in parallel. Thank goodness, because one of the systems is too ruthless for me to be a member. And thankfully, one is dieing and one is living. In fact, one is death and one is life. In one, the energy driving the system is pride or powerlust. In the other, the energy driving the system is love. Pride is a contained system. Pride is a self-centered system. Pride is a closed system and has a definite limit to its innovation.

Love on the other hand is based in God, who is outside the system itself. So, it is an open system. It is eternally creative and innovative. Not only does its innovation never end, but neither does the fuel nor desire. All parts of the energy triangle work indefinitely within this economy of Love.

To be a part of the former system, you must fight, deal, cheat and steal. You must transform energy for the greater pride.

On the other hand, to be a part of the latter system, you must pass love without regard. You must transform the energy give for the greater love. And it’s not possible to horde love. It can only be passed along to the greater benefit of the whole.

I mentioned that these two economies, or what Saint Augustine called “cities,” work in parallel. This is important to understand, because some of us might think that we’re caught or trapped in the former system and can’t get out. But by being in parallel, it’s easy to just step over to the other track and start passing love rather than envy, pride and lust, no matter where you are. When we spend money, we do it out of love rather than fear. We do it out of charity rather than vanity. So you don’t need to quit your job. You can jump tracks wherever you are and serve either a master or a friend.

When you start converting your conduit over to love rather than pride, love then starts eroding your streambed, rather than ruthlessness. Your river gets bigger and draws in more love. God’s love starts broadening your conduit. And I finally understand at least part of Jesus’ Parable of the Shrewd Manager. Jesus shows us that we must use our position (our conduit) to funnel love rather than trickery. We’re not stuck. We can get out. When we do, we find true wealth to actually be relationship, particularly relationship founded in the eternally innovative Love of God.

So, what’s the key to greater wealth?

  1. Wealth can only be found in relationships.
  2. There are two types of wealth in human civilization: pride and love.
    1. Pride is a false-wealth. You become a slave to its master and will fall with the master when the peak is reached in this closed-system.
    2. Love is true wealth and is only had through a relationship with that which is outside the Universe: God.
  3. You cannot store wealth. It is uncontainable. It cannot be horded. There is simply no need to try.
  4. You can become a greater conduit for both types of wealth—pride or love—by freely passing what is given to you.

The master commended the dishonest manager for his  shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Luke 16: 8-13

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Can’t Touch This – Part 2 of 3

Posted by David 
Wealth equals relationship diagram

Wealth equals relationship diagram

Part 1Part 3

The interesting similarity between ecosystems and economic systems is that nothing owns energy. There is no true wealth gained by the parts of any system. Energy (or value) is always transforming and changing places. It never stops. It might slow by becoming stored in a slow process. But if it is to actually stop, it would no longer be energy. It would be dead. And energy can’t die. It can only transform or change state. Nothing in ecological systems is actually dead. It is always being used for something. There is never really a loss of energy. Nothing is wasted.

On the other hand, people tend to see economic systems as systems based on accumulation of wealth, whether that be money, stocks, gold, cars, homes, land, businesses, etc. But just like in ecological systems, the parts are not valuable. The flow of energy between structures is the only thing of value. So, wealth is not the accumulation of things. It can’t be. If its value stops and is stored, it dies. Value only happens at the moment the energy is transformed. Money is only worth something at the untouchable moment when it passes from one hand to another in exchange for something. When money or assets stop doing something (transforming), they are not valuable. It’s not even worth anything if someone thinks it’s worth something, as some may wish you to believe. It’s only worth at the moment of transaction or transformation.

Human individuals can never truly know economic wealth. It’s always just beyond our reach, which is why the people who are obsessed with wealth are always unsatisfied. They can’t touch it.

True wealth can only be known outside of an individual parts of the system. No part can have wealth or energy. Energy is in the relationship, not the parts. Even the Universe does not know its ‘glory’. Only God who is outside the natural system can claim to be wealthy. One may argue that, within my body there are innumerable relationships and stored processes that are continually transforming and transferring energy. True, however, we can’t know that wealth. We can’t understand that value, because it is still outside my point of reference.

Pride and power work the same way as wealth. They are ever-desired, but always out of reach. Power is something that cannot be contained by an individual, because it only becomes power when it is being transformed between two systems. Neither of the systems can claim ownership of the wealth.

However, certain systems can become greater conduits of the flow of energy. As more energy is transformed within a system, that system can begin to grow. This is the process of succession (or evolution) as discussed above. That’s not to say that they are any more important than the other parts of the system—but that they transfer and transform the energy in greater amounts. We see this in a forest when a tree becomes a conduit for transferring oxygen into the atmosphere. Just due to its great size it provides a greater flow of energy than say the fern below. A river is a good example also. As water flows through cracks and fissures, the more water that flows, the greater the erosion of those cracks and the more water tends to flow through those systems.

Once again we also see this in our economic systems. Certain companies and individuals which have spent enormous amounts of money in innovative interests become conduits for greater wealth. They are not actually wealthy, but they are conduits for it. And in fact, if they start wasting their wealth, or stockpiling it, the innovation begins to decline, the flow of wealth diminishes and so does their company. Again innovation is key here. Depending on their size, they must be more and more innovative to sustain the flow of wealth. Within human systems as they hit their climax, they tend to find innovation through more and more questionable and ruthless means, ultimately to their destruction. We see that rampant type of business today in our world. It is a harbinger to what is to come. They make me realize that, yes, we have peaked. Innovation is dieing. Our lightning bolt is coming soon.

I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

Luke 16:4-7

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Economic Succession – Part 1 of 3

Posted by David
Ecological/Economic Succession

Ecological/Economic Succession

Part 2, Part3

Ecologists speak of succession in terms of how a particular plant community evolves over time toward a climax system. All ecosystems grow under this process and I expect the same is true for economics and for civilization in general.

To see how this works, let’s first look at a forest ecosystem for example. The process of succession usually begins after a particular catastrophic event that clears the landscape. This might just be a local event such as a blowdown or an avalanche, or it might be broad in scope such as a fire, volcanic event, or emerging from a period of glaciation.

Initially, pioneer species populate the landscape helping to build up important nutrients such as nitrates, or structures, such as soil and habitat building blocks. This is the time of ‘innovation’. Diverse groups of plants, trees, animals and biota expand over the new landscape.

What follows is usually a succession of species that culminates in a fairly uniform, slow-growing community of species. At this point, innovation begins to collapse as the group of climax species become dominate and unchanging. This system is much less diverse than its initial pioneer stage. The species set stays the same until some catalyst returns the process back to the beginning state or climate or geography changes. In ecological succession, I argue that it’s actually the lack of diversity or the lack of innovation which is what ‘calls in’ the catalyst—maybe a fire—which returns the landscape to the beginning of the succession cycle.

Could civilization and economics be driven by the same process? I think so.

In society, initially innovation drives the changes and innovation creates the building blocks which allow the next stages of social and economic development. But finally, that innovation fades out, just like species diversity. Newness ends. It can’t go any further because all natural systems have limits. They hit their archetypal wall. They become what they were to become, or close to it. A Tsuga mensezii forest will only become a Tsuga mensezii forest unless the climate changes. That’s what it becomes. Cultures culminate into their archetype. The Maya, Astecs, Egyptians became a Pyramid building culture. This archetypal culture emerged out of man’s understanding of natural history and his development of math and the occult. It’s interesting to note that the pyramid describes perfectly the process of succession—more diverse at the base, less diverse at the zenith. Other cultures developed into their archetypes. Rome seems to be a special type that isn’t all that different than what we have today. Only ours is nested more firmly in advanced technology.

In our global industrial civilization we are walking along the same successionary process as forests follow. Innovation builds the society and lack of innovation will bring our decline. I argue that innovation has truly peaked in our global society. I remember seeing a boy with a shirt on in southern Argentina in 1998, which read in English, “Know no limits—Mountain Dew.”

Yes, there are still minor innovations in science and culture…but we’ve hit the wall. We will know our limit. And I think we’ve been at the peak for a number of years now. The question for me becomes how long can we last at this final climax stage? A Tsuga mensezii may last hundreds of years in the climax stage.

Fire triangle

Fire triangle

The succession process and growth of an ecological community is very much like a fire. It runs under the same process. Take fire triangle for example. For a fire to burn, it needs fuel, oxygen, and heat. Without either of the three, fire cannot happen. Likewise, for a civilization to grow it needs fuel, innovation, and desire. Without either of the three, it collapses. Could it be that they all three occur at once? Do they feedback on one another: Lack of fuel lowers desire which lowers innovation. Lack of innovation decreases desire, which limits the amount of available fuel. You get the idea. In our civilization, you might call it Peak Oil, Peak Innovation, or Peak Desire. Whether the chicken, the egg or the chicken pellets came first doesn’t matter. The peak occurs and then the civilization fades or collapses.

But what can we learn about the catalyst that initiates fire at the end of the forest succession process? As energy goes into a system if it’s not being put into innovation, it is being stored elsewhere, dry wood, fuel, lack of diversity, cranky people, etc. Eventually, that dry wood, those cranky people, become the fuel for the fire. I argue that it’s the accumulation of fuel that actually draws in the lightning, but how it happens isn’t important to this argument.

I mentioned “cranky people,” but I’m not really kidding. It’s those cranky people that help to dissolve society. They and their lack of innovation is the precursor to civil war or revolution.

The same is the case for our present society and economic reality. Energy is always entering the system, but when it stops flowing into innovation, it starts being stored up in the people, and even the products to some extent. The energy becomes ripe for the fire that causes its decline. The energy is what feeds the fire. When it builds up great enough, there will either be an event that is the spark that causes its destruction. Some people call these “black swan” events.

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’

Luke 16:1-3

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The Democracy of the Will

Posted by David

Any of our readers of this blog will notice that my dad (Mike) and I come from very different perspectives. But I must say, it’s been a great joy to blog with him on this site.

That said, I’ve been reading 2 Thessalonians. It’s a very interesting letter written by Paul warning the church to not to be deceived or be unsettled about the coming of the “man of lawlessness.” This is a particularly important letter for Christians today, because some churches are always looking for the antichrist and some are even being deceived by charasmatic cult of personality. Now, I do believe that man’s relationship with God will one day be restored and sin will be abolished from the earth. How that happens and when that occurs is not something we are not privy to and should not consume our thoughts. We are told to stand firm and pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So, here’s the passage of interest to me recently:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4

What’s particularly interesting is the idea of the “rebellion.” What is the rebellion? Do we see it today? These days, whenever I seek to understand something from the scriptures deeply, I first look in myself,  my heart, my experience, and the things I know best (or think I know best). In my life, my times of rebellion have been when I have had unbridled freedom.

In our minds, we always have conflicting thoughts and choices (Mike wrote about that yesterday with regards to decision-making). At a conscious or unconscious level we weigh those choices and make a decision. What is important is how we make the choice. Sometimes we choose based on our moral standards. Sometimes we make the choice based on which part of our body or soul screams the loudest: stomach, groins, comfort, fears, instinct, etc. If our will chooses to go with the loudest, we can get ourselves in trouble. I’ll call this the democracy of the will.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter that much. I’m hungry, so I eat a meal. But if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you know where this has gone wrong at times in your life. But what does this have to do with the “rebellion” that Paul writes about? I’m coming to think that this rebellion is simply the political state we call democracy. A republic is just a modified form of democracy, but a democracy still. In a republic, the democratic process chooses leaders and the same process makes decisions in the congress or parliament. The only non-democratic part of our particular form of government is the president, but certainly he is subject to the democratic pressures of his advisors.

In the West this democratic process began with rebellion, and arguably, it began as early or earlier with the Renaissance and the Reformation. Only now are we seeing it sweep across the Middle East. Please don’t think that I think any other particular government is benign. They are all filled with injustice, because man and his cravings and powerlust is inherently unjust. Thus, all governments have differing aspects of injustice upon which they paw.

But democracy in general may be the final stage of the succession of types of government. The age of democracy and the period of human history it spreads before us is unique and may very well be the rebellion of which Paul warns us. The only worthy government is the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ as our King.

It reminds me of those who say that “Freedom has a price.” If just one innocent man, woman or child dies, if just one person is tortured for that kind of freedom, it’s not a freedom with which I wish to engage. That type of freedom and the democracy at its base is a deception. Freedom is an ideal that is only possible when the human will is bound to goodness and love. That day will come.

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Weekly Report: The Dope…the Dupe

Posted by Mike

Leon hot air balloon festival 2010.jpgMarch 3: The headline on Time’s frontpage today is “Yes, America is in Decline/No America is Still No. 1.” I never hear anyone ask “Why?”  so I’m asking it; and suggesting that we’d be a lot better off if we weren’t. It might get us off our grandiose high horse of believing that we are the savior of the world. It’s interesting that we’ve been proved so wrong so many times before, but that doesn’t stop belief. Changing firmly held beliefs may require some kind of full frontal confrontation to get people to wake up. Unfortunately, that kind of confrontation generally brings with it a lot of pain.

I find some decision-making rather mysterious. I know, we weigh the pros and cons, look at the possible/probable outcomes, and then make the best, the most rational decision we can make. But what about the emotional factors? And doesn’t the process get quite muddied up with multiple factors, especially when the decision is important and the tipping point can’t easily be got at? Of course we do the best we can with what (brain power, good sense, advice from others) we’ve got. I made a big decision recently regarding major surgery that is not absolutely indicated. As far as I’m concerned the decision is made and I’m going ahead with it; but I need to be aware that there’s a part of me that’s going to be questioning the decision at least to some extent even when they wheel me into the operating room. There are people who are so obsessive that they are unable to make decisions; the bigger the decision is, the harder it is for them. We’re not perfect; we’re fallible. If we need help in sorting out the issues, we need to ask for it. I have a hard time doing that: related to childhood isolation and inability to ask for anything back then. In the work I do I daily make decisions that affect the lives of individuals and families. I do the best I can with the evidence I have available. The evidence isn’t perfect and in some cases there is a degree of subjectivity that must be allowed in or a decision can’t be made. An obsessive-compulsive would never be able to do that job. I’ve learned to make a decision and then forget about it. Fortunately, there are avenues of appeal available if the recipient disagrees. So in general, make the decision, and then let it go; subject to revision if significant new evidence arises and presses for a hearing; but don’t obsessively review afterwards. Life is too demanding, challenging, wonderful and present to be overly tied up by the past like that.

March 4: I woke up unable to sleep last night and happened upon Gus Van Sant’s first full length film, Mala Noche. It’s about events in a brief period of a young male convenience store clerk’s life, in the skid row district of Portland. It’s filmed like the cinema noir pictures of the late ‘30’s in black and white, and the lives of the people it follows is just as bleak. What comes to me as the important overall message for me from the film is that as secure, comfortable middle class Americans, most of us don’t have a clue as to what it’s like to lead the kind of hand-to-mouth kind of existence lots of people experience in this country. That awareness should lead us to a kind of humility, nonjudgmentalness, and a generosity not only of funds but of spirit to those less fortunate. I often make it to the first level , the awareness part, but never seem to make it to the second level of thinking/feeling/acting described above.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write pungent essays in my head. Most of the time I’ve forgotten them by the time I awaken in the morning. Seldom do I later write anything down. When I do try to, it seems that maybe what I thought was so clever and insightful at 2 a.m. wasn’t. I do remember thinking last night about following the news of the conflict in the Middle East. Every morning one of the first things I do is bring up the New York Times on my laptop and go to the Lede blog, updating us on the latest events. Currently of course, the Lede is following events in Libya closely. As I’m reading the updates sometimes I feel like I want to will progress on the insurgents’ part. I expect this desire to be able to “will” a change in circumstances or events is not uncommon. We know it’s not possible, but we want something (that we have no control over) to be so so much, that we would like to be able to will it to be so. Fortunately most of us are sufficiently reality-based to know that’s just fantasy. Occasionally people cross the line. We call them delusional, and they don’t do very well in the long run; reality catches up with them.

March 7: What happened to the 5th and the 6th? They must not have happened. I can’t tell you…but why, why can’t I just let go of my beef with organized religion? For example, the other day coming home I passed a fancy dentist’s office near here, and would you believe, they have this massive statue of Jesus in front of the building, on a granite pedestal, engraved with the writing, “He is our Salvation.” Who do they think they are? Why is it necessary for believers to include the rest of us in their scenario. What if I don’t believe that he is my salvation? I guess from their point of view all of society is included under the umbrella or penumbra of the man from Nazarath. It would be impossible, I guess, for a Christian to say something like, “I believe Jesus is my salvation, but that isn’t necessarily the case for you.” I see that that wouldn’t work; it’s got to be inclusive. It does seem to me, however, given that attitude that a measure of self-righteousness, yea even of judgmentalism toward us poor nonbelievers might just be present. The position of knowing, and “knowing” that the others don’t, seems to be rather arrogant. Of course, you could turn it around on me and wonder if I might just be exhibiting some of those very same uncomely attitudes. You might be right. I do think, though, that I am open to saying you believe what you want to and I’ll believe what I want to and we’re both going to be at least somewhat wrong – but we need to be nonjudgmental about each other. I have more about this topic later, and I’ll just give you a preview: There are mainstream Christians out there who believe in Predestination!

The wisdom of the generations is fragile, but that which we preserve and value must be based upon observation and experience, not on myth reflecting out unconscious defensive predilections

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The Revolution of Pi

Posted by David

A revolution is sweeping the Middle East and in other places in the world. Some are calling for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China. I call for a revolution in modern scientific thought: call it the Revolution of Pi. Science no longer seems to search for truth, but for supporting evidence to uphold false notions. Modern science has nested itself on a crumbling altar. The exact same data can also be nested on a different platform and a very different picture emerges.

I propose three new pillars in science. These were developed out of a challenge from my friend Lisbeth.

1) Types: pre-existence of types – Out of order, emerges order. Most modern scientific thought is based on the pillar chaos theory. It’s the way some scientists explain seeming-randomness without God. Out of that pillar you get, all sorts of misconceptions. Order cannot emerge out of chaos. In every community of organisms there is a directional evolution toward those types.

Pre-existence of types

Pre-existence of types

2) Circle: The circle is the fundamental structure of nature – Infinity does not exist in the natural world, and neither does the finite. Built like a circle, the universe is both infinite and finite and neither at the same time. The human mind can only conceive of this idea by understanding the nature of a circle.

The circle is the fundamental

The circle is the fundamental

3) Life: The fundamental state of matter is Life – Nothing in the natural world is dead or non-living. Everything we touch, see, feel has life. Entropy is a circular of a change of state. Ecology is the fundamental branch of science.

The fundamental state of matter is Life

The fundamental state of matter is Life

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In My Eyes

Posted by Linda

Many people spend a lot of time searching how to be good parents, spouses, neighbors, friends.  The underlying issue seems to me to be “How to Love.”  There must be a thousand books on the subject: extensive religious texts, philosophical treatises, and psychological dissertations have delved the meaning of love.  Almost all great fiction has explored in some way the enigma and complexity of love.

We also have the potato chips of love advice: self-help books.  Loving For Dummies hasn’t come out yet, but may.   Some such are really “helpful.”

Lots of the counsel on how to love requires study, complex acts, lots of time, and even money.  “Isn’t love worth it?”  “Of course it is.”  A lifetime learning to love deeply is well spent–I’d say perfectly spent.  But sometimes loving someone in ways that work feels as frustrating and beyond reach as touching a star with your fingertips.   Other times it happens in the blink of an eye.

I mean that literally.

Years ago I read from the writings of developmental psychologist Rene Piaget.  One of his ideas that impacted me was the importance of eye contact between parents and their babies.  (In my words) he said we drink in who we are through our parents’ eyes.  He was referring to infancy; but I think it is also true for children of any age and moreover for our mates and friends, for strangers, and even for our “enemies.”

When we make eye contact with someone, our eyes send a feeling and message.  That person reads the message and takes it in. It may be a dozen things: “She likes me,”  “He loves me,” “He is afraid of me, or “She is not interested in me.”  The translation becomes a message about who I am.  I am likable, lovable, powerful, worthless.   Very wounded people may block or misread the message.  Very aware people may recognize and evaluate the message.  Most eye contact language is below the radar and builds the concept of “who I am” subterraneanly.   Eye contact is power.  That makes it a responsibility.  That makes it a choice.  And that makes it an opportunity to love: a simple way, always at hand, time-friendly, free.

I like Piaget’s concept because it shows us we can impart love just  by being aware that our eyes will reflect who we think the other is. What if we don’t feel love for the other, but feel indifferent or repelled, or afraid. Regrettably, there are people so disturbed that they may read even eye contact as a challenge.  Healing takes time and patience and presence.  Such exceptions do not describe most encounters.

More at risk are our daily encounters with family and friends.  It becomes awfully easy not to look at each other often, except as almost “business” meetings.  In Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, the character Emily has died and is allowed to return to one day in her life to observe.  She chooses her 16th birthday and finds herself in the kitchen watching herself have breakfast as her mother bustles about doing chores and cautioning her to eat slowly.  Though no one can hear or see her, she cries out, “Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me.”

It’s probably the most quoted line in the play, because we all can relate to it.  We know Piaget is right.  The eyes have it.

How good it is to enjoy the riches of meeting and resting in each other’s eyes.  We can practice every day looking for the beauty in each other and reflecting it back as often as humanly possible. Laughing at a good joke together almost always involves happy glances into each other’s eyes. So does love.  And there, love quickens to beauty, and vulnerability, and tenderness.  Love could become our almost permanent message if we focus, just for a bit, on each other.

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Filed under Love, philosophy, Psychology, Uncategorized, values