Friday, May 22, 2015

Krakow Poland April 24, 2015

Krakow  Poland  April 24, 2015

An in depth and meaningful tour.  The NATO meeting in Rzeszow ended on Thursday the 23rd.  Early the next day I took the bus to Krakow.  Was just there for a fraction of a day and already very tired. I hit the market and made a circuit then headed to St Mary's church where a friend said walking tours began. Jakub was standing by himself holding his sign. When asked, he said he was doing the Jewish tour in English at 11 am. It was 10:30 and initially I thought I'd rather do the Old City tour first. But I thought of a question for him concerning the significance of the dragon. His answer showed me not only that he knew the facts, but that he knew how to present and articulate more than superficial details. Our conversation continued and it was clear to me that he was a person of depth and insight. I was hooked. The tour, it was 2 1/2 hours, did not disappoint. His knowledge was wide ranging and he conveyed it with humor, where appropriate, and poignancy. I highly recommend and would do it again. Jakub is not Jewish but clearly has much affection for his subject.  

Several weeks later I was in Huntsville, AL and visited with one of my colleagues who was also in Poland and stayed a week later than I.  After hearing me tell the above, she said she and her husband had the same tour a week later and with the same guide.  She said that Jakub has a PhD is Sociology and his dissertation topic concerned the story of the Jewish people in Poland.  


 Fortunately, Krakow escaped significant destruction during WWII. Thus the central part of town with its ancient buildings and churches survived. This is a photo of one side of the Grand Market. Read more about it here: http://www.krakow-info.com/rynek.htm — in Kraków, Poland.


Beautiful horses gave some people very pleasant rides around the square.





"Krakow's Cloth Hall, the Renaissance monument of commerce. The world's arguably oldest shopping mall has been in business in the middle of Krakow's central Grand Square (Rynek Glowny) for 700 years. Circa 1300 a roof was put over two rows of stalls to form the first Sukiennice building – Cloth Hall – where the textile trade used to go on. It was extended into an imposing Gothic structure 108 meter long and eight meter wide in the second half of the 14th century. " Lifted the above paragraph from this url: http://www.krakow-info.com/1clothall.htm


St. Mary's Cathedral, the brown building and tallest in this scene. Just to the right of it is where I saw a guy holding a sign for Free Walking Tours of Kracow. I asked him which tour he was leading. He said the Jewish Tour and we would start out at the square and then head to the Jewish quarter, then the Ghetto - from where most were taken to the camps, and ending up at the site of Schindler's factory. Initially I was not sure if I wanted to do that one. But after some discussion it was clear he was a man of depth and insight and I was hooked. http://freewalkingtour.com/jewish-krakow-free-walking-tour,city,1.html


If I remember correctly, this was the synagogue of Moses Isserles, also known as Rema. He was a renown interpreter and his writings unified and ending up being a guide to nearly all Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewish people. He lived from 1520 to 1572. You may recall the prohibition against working on the Sabbath. But what about starting a fire on the Sabbath? It does not get that cold in Jerusalem. Snows once a century. But not being able to light a fire in Poland in winter could lead to mortal danger. He helped resolve such questions. A better explanation than I can give is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Isserles


This narrow street is in the movie Schindler's List. He claimed the reality did not involve such a pleasant place.


We pass over the Vistula River bridge on our way to the Jewish Ghetto.


And here we are. In the background are some of the actual buildings into which Jewish families were crammed. They found that they did not have room for their larger furniture items like couches and desks. They kept the chairs. When the war was over and the Jews were gone, there remained an amazing number of chairs. This plaza is a memorial to these people, 90% of whom were killed

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Finally, a Journey to Poland

This nine year old in 1959 knew little geography. My world was Central Oklahoma, Southeast Michigan and Northeast Arkansas.    I think it was Christmas of that year that my Mom gave me a book The Silver Sword. It was here that I learned of a country called Poland. Oh to be young again when every little datum was an instance for wonder. I was fascinated even by the name Poland and people called Polish.  The story concerns a Polish family from Warsaw that was separated early in the  WWII conflict when the father and mother were taken  away. That left three children to survive on their own, ages 12, 9, and 5. They do survive and all are reunited after the war. So, from that age, I had an interest in and a special place in my heart for the Polish. Any time someone in books or media of Polish heritage, whether Jewish or not, was mentioned, in the back of my mind, it called back the memory of the book. 

Finally, after all these years, my work sent me to Poland. I was there Sunday May 18 to Saturday May 25. Landed in Krakow, from there a nice two hour bus ride brought me to Rzeszow Poland.   

I was there to attend a NATO Symposium and present two papers.  Stayed at the Bristol Hotel at the central market square of the town (of about 175,000 people).  The hotel was spacious and nice.  The food was good and quite inexpensive.  On Wednesday afternoon I had time to explore the town square and take pictures.  


Rzeszow Town Square


 Stayed at the Bristol Hotel seen here from where I'm standing in the middle of the square.


Statue of 

Tadeusz Kościuszko

I'm half way around the world and yet the center of the town has a statue to an American Revolutionary War patriot and friend of Thomas Jefferson.  He is a Polish hero as well.







Sunday, April 05, 2015

Goethe on How Children Learn

Just completed reading on my Kindle  Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life  by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.   I'll be adding some snippets from it from time to time.  One of the things I have enjoyed about this autobiography are his opinions and observations about life from a time remote from ours.  He wrote this late in life, the early 1800's though some of it regards memories decades prior to that.   In the quote below, he discusses the nature of how children learn. Now that I have grandchildren, I've had to opportunity to be reminded of this.
From my earliest years I felt a love for the investigation of natural things. It is often regarded as an instinct of cruelty that children like at last to break, tear, and devour objects with which for a long time they have played, and which they have handled in various manners. Yet even in this way is manifested the curiosity, the desire of learning how such things hang together, how they look within. I remember, that, when a child, I pulled flowers to pieces to see how the leaves were inserted into the calyx, or even plucked birds to observe how the feathers were inserted into the wings. Children are not to be blamed for this, when even our naturalists believe they get their knowledge oftener by separation and division than by union and combination, . . . 

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- Highlight Loc. 1970-75 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nightfall from the Lone Ranger TV Series

Music early in life.  Beside the William Tell Overture, there is a haunting piece of background music for the Lone Ranger television show that has been running through my head for at least sixty years.  It is called "Nightfall". I recall laying facedown in my bed taking an afternoon nap one day when I was three or four. As I wake up, I hear this music from the Lone Ranger playing in the living room on our first television.  Young children try to make sense of the world about them.  I thought this piece of music was telling some kind of story or conveying some kind of important meaning that I would learn about when I was older.  There is a moment of stealth and caution. The music also conveys the idea of a continuation of something in time, on and on. 






We had this football.  We had it in 1955 when we lived on the plains in Oklahoma.





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My Religion

I had been working some on a post about my religion and just now read Richard Beck's take along a similar vein.  Read it here:  Unpublished: Being Church of Christ.  He articulates why he is a member of the Church of Christ.

That gives me impetus to finish my thoughts.
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I come from and was formed by the Churches of Christ heritage.  I've visited many other churches since moving to Memphis a year ago.  It has given me much to think about.  In reflecting on my heritage, here are my thoughts.

Here is What I Like About and Am Comfortable With Our Heritage:

1.  A Cappella Singing:  I like it.  I'm use to it.  I enjoy singing.  I don't have anything against rock bands in church.  However, at one church I had to stand up and listen to four songs in a row by a rock band. I was not familiar with the songs and was disappointed that I could not sing along. Perhaps if I was a regular I could have joined right in.  At another church, it seemed that the lead singer of the rock band was the star and it was just a concert by him.  We could not participate like I am used to. At other churches I heard some good music by choirs and orchestras.  I enjoyed that too.  However, I love exuberant congregational singing.  I have pleasant memories of when I was a child and attending country churches where the folks belted it out load and unconcerned about the finer musical details. So some were off-key.  So what.  It was real and felt and authentic.  I was a song leader until hanging up my pitch pipe at age 59. I would not claim our way is the only way.

2.  Rationalism:  I don't trust feelings.  From the pulpit, my dad and other ministers taught us not to trust our feelings.  I'm a nerd by profession,  I love science, math, and technology.  So, my heritage and my personality style go hand in hand here.  Among the evangelicals, our group is unique in tending to have both a high view of revelation and of reason.  Not that we are consistent.  It is easier to see the irrationalities of others and not ourselves.  The postmodernist in me recognizes that I'm a recovering modernist and tries to temper my sometimes over reliance on rationalism.

3.  Congregationalism:  I'm OK with this.  I suppose there are advantages to as other traditions do, ie. having a larger organization and reporting to them and getting financial and expert assistance as well.

4.  That we are amillenial:  A feisty minister from Texas by the name of Foy E. Wallace lead the charge in the first half of the 20th century to expunge millenialism from our brotherhood.  I had the unforgettable experience of hearing him preach during the sixties when I was a teenager.  I disagree with him on a lot and frankly do not care for his tactics he used.  Amongst evangelicals, our group is among the most amillenial, as I understand it.  My Dad often preached against the 1000 year reign. The rapture was never part of our story.

5.  The role of tradition:  I suspect most of my fellow church of christ brethren would say they believe in traditional values.  By that they would mean traditional in terms of morality and religion.  Still, when it comes to religion, there is a healthy wariness about relying too much on tradition.  I grew up being skeptical of tradition.  And I got that way due to my dad, a very conservative minister.  At least that is how I interpreted him.  He often claimed that we should go with the truth and not our traditions.


Don't like:

1.  Inerrancy.  It simply does not work.  There are conflicting things in the Bible.  There are anachronisms.  Inerrancy is an assumption, not a conclusion of an objective investigation.  We should leave it behind and move forward.  The postmodern Christians are a big help to me regarding this.

2.  Contemporary Conservatism.  Gathering from statements in prayers and sermons and classes, most people in the CofC are polically conservative and buy into the contemporary form of conservatism. They are reliably Republican.   I say contemporary because today's form of conservatism is not necessarily the same conservatism of the 60's and 70's and 80's.  I am a conservative in comparison to those times.  Then again, my political and economic opinions I do not hold to with the same confidence that I have in my opinions regarding science and religion.

3.  Anti-Evolutionism.  It has not been discussed much in the CofC churches I've attended. But it is pretty much assumed that Evolution is wrong and Intelligent Design is on "our" side.  I learned about evolution when I took biology my senior year at my Church of Christ university.  That was the fall of 1971.  Since that time so many amazing and wonderful discoveries and developments have verified that narrative.  Thank God for Evolution!

In-Between:

1.  The Restoration Principle:  This can be good and not so good.  We cannot and should not replicate the early church. In fact we cannot.  We simply do not have enough details from that very different culture of long ago.  And it must be a good thing that we don't.   But we surely can learn from them and re-evaluate ourselves with respect to what they were doing.  My opinion is that Christianity is a dynamic thing and not something that is static.

What I Understand the Least:

The Holy Spirit.  Our brotherhood has often played down the role of the Holy Spirit, in part I think, due to our rationalism and antagonism to the charismatic approach.  I know one of our scholars has written that we have often been effectively Binitarians by esteeming God and Jesus but not the Holy Spirit.  I have to say that I want to find a way to accommodate the Holy Spirit.  I cannot accept the classical formulation of the Trinity.  Sorry, it just doesn't make any sense to me.  Growing up, in our parlance it was called the Godhead.  So maybe I'm prejudiced here by my heritage. It prepped me to be skeptical of the Trinity.


What I Think We Should Consider:

1.  The soft postmodernism of several postevangelical thought leaders like Brian McLaren, Peter Rollins, Myron Penner, Leonard Sweet, and the like.

2.  Process theology is the next thing I'd like to explore further.  I think there is something of significance there.  The theory of emergence may be a way of integrating the spiritual and the physical.  This may be where science and religion are compatible and helpful to each other.

3.  The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard is something I'm learning about now.  I think he has made a valuable and important contribution.








Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quotes from Goethe: Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life

From time to time I pick up a writing of Goethe and have fun with it.  Here's something from him about the stages of a person's life that I came across as a young man and it has always stayed with me.  It is interesting when he makes a statement from his temporal location in the 18th or 19th century which his life spanned that relates to something contemporary.  Here's what he had to say about "Boomers and Millenials".  Now, I'm half way through my kindle copy of:

Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Below are a few of some quotes that strike me as interesting.  Every year of my life from the fifties when I was a child till the present at age 64, I heard complaints about being too easy on our kids in school.

The case often happens, that, when the elements of an exclusive art are taught us, this is done in a painful and revolting manner. The conviction that this is both wearisome and injurious has given rise, in later times, to the educational maxim, that the young must be taught every thing in an easy, cheerful, and agreeable way: from which, however, other evils and disadvantages have proceeded.

So even in his times, there was a cleavage of views on education.

Every bird has its decoy, and every man is led and misled in a way peculiar to himself.
*
All that had hitherto taken place was tolerably modern: the highest and high personages moved about only in coaches, but now we were going to see them in the primitive manner on horseback. (He's reminiscing about a coronation from the 1760's.) 
*
But a momentary incitement often brings us, and others through us, more joy than the most deliberate purpose can afford.


Saturday, February 07, 2015

My Evolution on Evolution and the Future

Been reading Jack Whelan's After the Future blog and my words here result from thoughts welling up from reading his Sacramental Semiotics post.

He says in response to my comment,

I have been a Teilhardian since I first struggled with the Phenomenon of Man in the summer of 1969. The title of the blog, 'After the Future' is my way of paying homage to two great Jesuits, Teilhard de Chardin and Rahner, Teilhard for his Omega Point and Rahner for his idea of God as Absolute Future. Those ideas are in the background of everything that I write here..

Most Christians, most humans for that matter, operate with what McLuhan called a rear-view mirror imagination of the future, and Christians, particularly Catholics, seem to think that the past is in some way privileged in a way that the Future is not. Teilhard and Rahner point us, instead, toward the Future, which has always been the deepest orientation of Jews and Christians since the time of Abraham.

My introduction to the Phenomenon of Man was in the spring of 1971 in a Philosophy of Religion class.  I was a junior physics and math major at my Christian school, Harding University. However, I was still considering the ministry and thirsted for the knowledge I thought I might learn from the class.  Some in the class were assigned the book and the ensuing reports of it and the Omega Point seemed weird and contrived.  I did not understand where it came from.  I knew it assumed evolution.  Am not sure just what I thought about evolution at that point. I probably leaned toward old earth creationism but knew I had much to learn about the Bible, Science, and Everything. Was only 20 at the time.  After my experiences in Europe that summer and then my Biology class that fall, I became convinced of evolution.  This despite the fact that one of the two teachers of the class had written at least one book against it.  I came back from Europe with the rather pessimistic thinking that what people believed and how they acted was to a great extent dependent on where they were born, how they were raised and by whom  and other external factors besides actual truth.   The question of how there can be free will vexed me.  Biology seemed to confirm that also.  For instance, consider that how we feel and our emotions can be controlled by drugs. (I'm grateful for that, just had a dental implant recently and couldn't wait to get to the drug store for pain medicine.) I'm not giving the whole argument here but the direction.  After graduating and spending one more summer in evangelism work in order to give the faith of my tradition one more chance, I set out to explore other approaches.  All this time staying moored in body if not mind to my church customs.  It appeared to me while in my more depressed moods that it could be that we humans were just complicated machines, as Bertrand Russell says, an "accidental collocation of atoms."  Another important influence on me was my study of physics. We learned how to derive equations that explained so very much of how things in nature work.   And that approach has been very successful in improving our lives when implemented by engineering and technology.  

Laplace said:  

"All the effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws."

That and other things he said were the start of what came to be known as reductionism.  Everything that happens is a result of these impersonal mechanistic rules.  Free will is an illusion.  A previous post discusses this.  However, the nature of consciousness provides clues to resolution of this problem. 

In 1999 I read Ken Wilber's The Marriage of Sense and Soul.  He described the principle of emergence, Arthur Koestler's holons, and the Great Chain of Being.  A graph of the latter blew me away.  It shows clearly the direction of evolution both inner and outer of the individual, And other axes as well.  Then I later found other explications of emergence.  Briefly, each level incorporates the underlying level but also creates new features.  The universe becomes more complex and interesting and more conscious.  





Finally I've discovered some things that give me hope and which point to a resolution of the problem.  Chemistry and Biology cannot be reduced to physics!  Some of Nancy Murphy's writings have been helpful here.  Such as "Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics".   Also, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism:  How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.  








Saturday, January 17, 2015

Books Recently Read and Favorite Music

I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard.  Read perhaps five years ago and needed to reread to help it soak in better.  Brian McLaren and Michael Hardin discussed it in YouTube Videos and that reminded me about it.

The Age of Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church  by Phyllis Tickle and Jon Sweeney.  This one is excellent history about the development of the concept of the Holy Spirit.  Does not spend much time on what the Holy Spirit is doing now and how it is viewed at the moment.  The ancient church made so much about the proper interpretation and the fine distinctions they made between each of then.  It can make you head hurt.

Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry by Owen Barfield. This one was pretty difficult going.  I'll need to go through it again.  Main thesis is that the consciousness of medieval people and before was different from we moderns and it would be helpful to us to learn from that.

How (Not) To Be Secular by James K. A. Smith  Excellent at summarizing Charles Taylor's tome. Maybe I'll address this later.  Taylor as interpreted by Smith says that most thinkers view the secular as what happens when faith is subtracted from a person's life.  As related by Smith, Taylor claims that there were several junctures on the way to secularity and that what happened was not inevitable but could have gone otherwise.  The social imaginary and the buffered self who experiences cross pressures are important concepts.

What We Mean When We Talk About God by Rob Bell.  I liked the first half.  He begins in process theology mode.  Starting with physics and evolution.  Gets to the Hebrew Bible and makes a jump I could not quite follow.  That is where I wanted something filled in.


Discovered Nicholas Jaar about 9 months ago.  I listen to this "Live at Sonar" several times a week.  Every chord, screech, trill, and sonic flourish is perfectly placed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Caputo on Derrida and Travel, Journey and Truth

I've enjoyed reading several of John Caputo's books.  My favorite is What Would Jesus Deconstruct. The following is an excerpt from a Dec 17, 2014 interview by Amy Frykholm with Caputo that appears in the Christian Century.

When Jacques Derrida would come to Philadelphia, I would say to him, “Let me take you on a tour. Let me show  you the Liberty Bell or Valley Forge.” But he didn’t want to go. His way to explore a city was to walk until he got lost and then try to find his way back. In the process, he would discover all kinds of things. Both personally and as a philosopher, he thought that being genuinely lost and seeking something is a crucial part of the journey. We expose ourselves to the unknown and the unforeseeable. Truth is like that.
Travel can be a spiritual discipline.  This is great advice.

Friday, December 05, 2014

from "Process and Reality": Process Versus Fact

Jack Whelan at his After the Future blog has been talking about the future and a forward looking Christianity as opposed to the all prevalent, yes dominant, "rear-view mirror" kinds of Christianity. See his post on Sacramental Semiotics here.  So in the last few days I've directed my reading along this line of thought.  Both of us are influenced by the thought of Teilhard du Chardin.  And me by some of his current explicators like Ilia Delio and John Haught.  But last night I picked up my copy of Alfred North Whitehead's "Process and Reality".   I believe he adds to this view.

In chapter 1, he divides philosophy into two contrasting approaches.


One side makes process ultimate; the other side makes fact ultimate.*

Facts are static.  Life is motion, flux, process; however.  Reminds me of something I've heard from Phyllis Tickle in You Tube videos.  She says today's Emergents believe the Bible is actual not factual.  I think I know what she is getting at.

Later, in Chapter 10, entitled "Process", he recounts that he had to search for a poetical and memorable phrase to summarize these contrasting approaches.  He found it in that beautiful traditional hymn that I have sung many times.

                                                  Abide with me:                                                                                                 Fast falls the eventide.                                                              
Here the first line expresses the permanences 'abide,' 'me' and the 'Being' addressed; and the second line sets these permanences amid the inescapable flux. Here at length we find the complete problem of metaphysics. Those philosophers who start with the first line have given us the metaphysics of 'substance'; and those who start with the second line have developed the metaphysics of 'flux'. **

To me, part of the meaning of the word 'process' implies that something is happening for a purpose and towards an end.  In this postmodern era, we are seeing even in science a move away from concentrating on the 'substance' side of things and more to the relational.  This is where we need to go.

*p. 7,  P&R The Free Press, NY, NY ISBN 0-02-934570-7

** p 209.


Monday, October 27, 2014

What Goethe has to say about Boomers and Millenials

A great thing about digital readers such as Kindle is that one can download all manner of older works for free or a very small fee.  So, I recently downloaded a work by Goethe:  Autobiography:  Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life.  Below is a clipping of interest.

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Autobiography: Truth and Fiction Relating to My Life (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)
- Highlight Loc. 484-87 | Added on Saturday, October 18, 2014, 05:14 AM 
But for this is required what is scarcely attainable; namely, that the individual should know himself and his age,—himself, so far as he has remained the same under all circumstances; his age, as that which carries along with it, determines and fashions, both the willing and the unwilling: so that one may venture to pronounce, that any person born ten years earlier or later would have been quite a different being, both as regards his own culture and his influence on others. 
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Amazingly, this insight by Goethe several centuries ago comports with one of the most fascinating and pertinent things I ever learned.  Back in the mid-eighties when I was in my mid-thirties, at work they showed a number of videos by Morris Massey with the title of something like:  You Are What You Were When.  The main thesis is that a young person, any young person, is programmed at the gut level by the age of ten.  The way that life is when one is ten years old is how one thinks life has always been and how it should be.   Massey said that in the twentieth century generally people in successive approximately ten year groupings had the same views.  Little did I know that Goethe had the same observation about the fashions of one's time and ten year cycles. People who came of age ten during the Depression had one set of views.  The In-Between generation coming of age in the forties had another.  Then the boomers another set of views about how life should be.  He gave us pointers on what the differences were but stopped there and later generations like Gen X and the Millenials were not covered.  Massey's goal was in helping the various generations in large companies better understand each other and work together by promoting understanding of how each group sees the world, what they expect from work, and how to work better together.  While I was growing up there were several things that I could not understand.  One thing that amazed me was the fear and loathing about hair length.  I was thirteen when the Beatles arrived and in concert with my cohort I thought the music and their hair were great.  Why did the older crowd get so upset at that?    I recall James Michenor saying in a Reader's Digest article that some people in Kent, Ohio thought that people who went barefooted deserved to be shot.  That is what we Boomers experienced. Now no one seems to care that much.  In fact I've heard that nowadays long hair is favored by people who are conservative.  Whether or not that is true, younger folks have no idea the consternation that long hair caused in the sixties.  When I went to my very conservative Christian college and walked into the library, I saw pictures of 19th century heroes like James Harding for whom the school was named.  He had a beard despite the fact that his namesake school banned beards.  And  their were others with long hair as well as a beard.  If it was ok for Presidents and Civil War Generals to have long hair why was it not OK for us? Well, Massey explains the origin of this.  Technology around the turn of the century provided better razors.  Then, our soldiers discovered by spending weeks in the trenches of World War 1 the advantage of having their hair shorn very short.  It made a lot of sense in that situation.  Good for them.  Morris said that when the WW1 soldiers returned from Europe, they were looked up to and admired.  Short hair became the norm and short hair became part of how one was supposed to be and going against that was rebellion against God and Country and a rejection of all that is good.

This has been one of the main lenses through which I have viewed the Liberal / Conservative divide.  When in the early nineties Rush Limbaugh came out with his book "The Way Things Ought To Be" I couldn't help but think of what I'd learned from Morris Massey.  Amazingly, both Massey and Goethe agree that one should be aware of the forces of society and the fashions of ones age and how they exert a formative influence on a person that one should be aware of it.  I hope I've been conscious of this through my life and constantly seeking to correct past errors and not holding too long onto my views that lack substantiation.  Sure would be nice if I could rely on gut level programming and tradition.  That would make things easier I sometimes think.  But I try not to.

Goethe says it is scarcely attainable.  But I'm glad he has redirected me at that goal.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Recalling my Birth and First Three Years

My first memory is of complete and absolute bliss.  I perceive a warm bluish light, an orb which vibrates with an assuring comfortable hum.  I'm grasping for words to properly express this.  I have some sense that I feel I'm in the presence of and with God.

Then later there is discomfort.  Something is not right.  I'm experiencing a change and I want to go back to how it was.  This lasts for a while.  I want to go back to God.  Finally, I'm out and I'm in the light of the external world.  I feel that I'm smiling and thinking "Here I Am".   Of course I did't know English but that is the translation of the feeling that I had. 

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One Sunday in the 1980's we were having our Sunday dinner at my parents home.  The subject of trains was being discussed.  I turned to my Mom who was sitting next to me.  I said to her that I recall climbing onto a train with her when I was very little.  Her jaw dropped and she said that one train ride was when I was about 19 months old.  It was the early 1950's.  We were living in Comanche, Oklahoma at the time and she was pregnant with my brother.  Dad, a minister, had six weeks of Gospel Meetings (Revivals) lined up and would be out of town continuously.  Mom and I rode the train on our way to Pontiac, MI. where she could stay with her Mom and have the baby.  Also, I remember that as we walked down the aisle, there was a high pitched sound that I heard and by which I was puzzled.  I thought of it as a man singing hi and somehow injured or altered.  The closest thing I have ever heard since then has been the opening notes of a song called "Cattle Call".  The song was originally due to Tex Owen's in the thirties but sung by many since.   I don't know if this song was what was playing or if it was just some high pitched sound due to equipment and machinery.  Here is a link to the song as performed by Eddy Arnold.  The opening "ou ou" is what I remember. 

Several months later, we begin to drive back to Oklahoma from Michigan.  We stop at a restaurant and the waitress pays a lot of attention to me as the new big brother.  Everyone was very kind to me.  As we leave I'm encouraged to pick out some candy.  I don't know what anything is and I don't know what to choose.  I feel pressure to make a decision.  The waitress points to something and I nod that it is what I want.  But I really did not.  It was one of those round, pinkish peanut brittle type things.  

I was barely two when Christmas comes.  We went to Pocahontas, AR for that.  It is where my Dad and I were born.  We stay with his parents.  Aunt Edna dresses up light Santa Claus and enters the front door.  The Christmas tree is in the room that would later be cousin Dennis' room.  

Some time later, probably in the summer.  We are back in that house and Dennis and I are running and jumping onto a bed which is next to a window.  At one point I jump onto the bed and turn a flip and hit my head on the window sill.  I bleed.  My parents take me to Doctor.  It is night time and I recall a white house.  I suppose I still have the scar.  

We live across the street from a lumber mill.  I can still hear the high pitched whining of the saws that were on incessantly.  Mom has a red plastic radio she listens to.  I look through the window and see kids playing between our house and the next.  When they go inside I go out and find they have left a catcher's mask lying on the ground.  I know that it goes on the face and try to put it on but I could not figure out how to do that.   The inside of our church has wood paneling.  I want to say knotty pine but not sure of that detail.  Kind of darker.  

About two months before my 3rd birthday, we prepare to move to Velma, OK.  The moving van comes to the house and begin to move the household items.  I am worried they will not take my little rocking chair.  I take it and place it on the back of the moving truck and rock back and forth.

On my third birthday my Mom tries to teach me how to say "three" but it is so much easier to say "free".  I recall at church tapping someone from behind and looking up I put up three fingers and say I'm "free".  


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Archtypal Abraham

The career of Abraham has been simmering in my mind the past couple of days.  It is well known that the land of Canaan, later the land of Israel, Judah, Palestine etc was often like a soccer ball kicked around by the power to the Southeast, Egypt, and from the other side from which ever state of Mesopotamia was in power, variously Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, etc. How were the people of  Israel to view their origins? Pedigree and genealogy was important to ancient people. Still is today to some extent.  I've looked into my own and I like it when I find stories about my progenitors and not just their names.  We all desire to know who we are and how we arrived to where we are.  And we think genealogy will tell us about that. So in 8th or 9th century Kingdom of Judah, when the writings that would eventually find their way into the early parts of the Bible were written, what could they have known about their origin from a wandering Chaldean?  At that point, about a thousand years separated them from father Abraham.  Of course they would feel a special connection to the North and East because their Semitic languages were similar.  And so, likewise they would share religious and cultural similarities.  And this in contrast to Egypt.  However, there was commerce with Egypt and other countries to the south and east, Ethiopians were common in Jerusalem. What could the authors of the travels of Abraham have really known about him and why did they choose to write what they did?

I'm sure others have written about Abraham from the perspective of the Hero's Journey.   I read Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces many years ago in which he describes the archetypal journey of the Hero.  I will not go into this in detail because I did not want to do a research project but speak from my memory and impressions.  I think Abraham's life journey bears similarities to the archetype hero's journey.  First there is the call to the journey.  Then the travels and adventures commence and it is critical that while on the way he learns certain things and passes certain tests.  He travels to Egypt.  It is fitting for the story and his descendants that he receive the friendship and sanction from the Pharoah. This is important to establishing his status.  His ultimate test is the ordeal of the sacrifice of his son Isaac.  (sidebar - the story also is for the purpose of ending human sacrifice in general).  Finally he achieves his goals, wealth and numerous progeny and a fine burial and he receives the Boon: all nations are to be blessed because of him.  It was fitting to have him originate from a place like the Ur of Chaldees, at the far eastern end of Mespotamia, so that his journeys take him, as the picture above illustrates, across the whole of the known civilized world.   This is meant to convey that his descendants are also first class citizens of the world, not hicks from the edge of civilization.   

Now the rationalist in me continues to think about the fact that for any person, the number of their ancestors going back a thousand years just about equals the population of the earth.  This is not actually the case because of cousins marrying and geographic barriers like the oceans, deserts, and mountains. but the point is that any enterprising person leaving home in Mesopotamia to seek their fortune in Canaan and who had descendants would be their ancestor.  Some who did that would not have passed the tests, dying early, giving up, continuing elsewhere. Some of the others may have. Abraham is the archetype.  He is not one person but many.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

CSC Phyllis Tickle - 6/5/14





I've read her two books on Emergence and viewed/listened to several of her youtube videos.  This is the best produced video.  Sound is crisp and clear.  Very enjoyable.  The occasion was the Thomas Olbricht Christians Scholars Conference held on the campus of Lipscomb University.  I think that in general outline her observation that Christianity goes through upheaval every 500 years and we are on the cusp of a new one is valid, whether or not the term Emergence continues.  A change in mode of communication changes how people think and act.  The Reformation/Enlightenment followed the printing press and universal literacy.  Our digital era is now changing us.  She talks about some of the changes going on, noting how the younger generations already think differently than us oldsters.

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