Saturday, December 31, 2011

Böhme, Tillich and the Gospel of Thomas re: Beginning and End

Here is something to chew on.  The origin and the end are important both in Böhme and the Gospel of Thomas.  The following quote is all over the internet:



"Whatever surges beneath the surface of the Gospel of Thomas, it is not a Syrian Christian wisdom teaching of the second century. The ascetic accepts creation, but always upon the basis of having fallen from it, and always with the hope of being restored to it. That is hardly the aspiration of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas. Like William Blake, like Jakob Böhme, this Jesus is looking for the face he had before the world was made. That marvelous trope I appropriate from W.B. Yeats, at his most Blakean. If such is your quest, then the Gospel of Thomas calls out to you." -Harold Bloom



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Now for representative, mysterious quotes from Böhme's Signature of All Things

CHAPTER III OF THE GRAND MYSTERY OF ALL BEINGS....Courteous reader, observe the meaning right; we understand not by this description a beginning of the Deity, but we shew you the manifestation of the Deity through nature; for God is without beginning, and has an eternal beginning and an eternal end, which he is himself, and the nature of the inward world is in the like essence from eternity.
CHAPTER XIV OF THE WHEEL OF SULPHUR, MERCURY, AND SALT, OF THE GENERATION OF GOOD AND EVIL;...Whatever is risen from the eternal fixity, as angels and the souls of men, remains indestructible in its fixt being; but whatever is risen in the unfixt being, viz. with the motion of time, that does again enter into the first motion from whence it has taken its original, and is a map of its form which it had here, like a picture, or as an image in a glass without life; for so it was from eternity before the times of this world, which the Most High has introduced into an image, into the comprehensible natural life in time, to behold the great wonders of his wisdom in a creaturely being, as we plainly see.
CHAPTER XV CONCERNING THE WILL OF THE GREAT MYSTERY IN GOOD AND EVIL....Every string of this melody exalts and rejoices the other; and it is only a mere ravishing lovely and delightful hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling, and seeing: Whatever God is in himself, that the creature is also in its desire in him; a God-angel, and a God-man, God all in all, and without him nothing else. As it was before the times of this world in his eternal harmony (or voice), so also it continues in the creaturely voice in him in his eternity; and this is the beginning and the end of all things.
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Now regarding relevant thought from the Gospel of Thomas from the excellent Metalogos website:

Regarding the beginning:


Gospel of Thomas: Verse 50 Yeshua says: If they say to you: From whence have you come?, say to them: We have come from the Light, the place where the Light has come into being from Him alone; He himself [stood] and appeared in their imagery.



Gospel of Thomas:  Verse 18 The Disciples say to Yeshua (Jesus): Tell us how our end shall be.¹ || Yeshua says: Have you then discovered the origin°, so that you inquire about the end? For at the place where the origin is, there shall be the end. Blest is he who shall stand at the origin—and he shall know the end, and he shall not taste death. (¹Ps 39:4; Isa 48:12, Lk 20:38, Jn 1:1-2, Th 1/19, Rev/Ap 22:13; Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy: ‘To see Thee is the end and the beginning’; T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Little Gidding*: ‘The end is where we start from’; Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody: ‘What kind of journey is the life of a human being that it has a beginning but not an end?’; hyperlinear)  
 


*We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot
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Google books presented a portion of the following from J. P. Fourley.  I would have bought it except it is so expensive.  A portion of the section discussing the views of Paul Tillich in relation to Böhme was available:

Paul Tillich, Carl Jung, and the recovery of religion

 By John P. Dourley

In a section titled "Tillich and Boehme on eschatology: the location and nature of blessedness" Dourley says:

"Theologies of creation and its divine motivation connect as naturally with eschatology as do origins with ends and goals. ....now in the form of the question: how possibly can history and its completion in the eschaton bring anything truly new to a self sufficient divinity whose perfect integration is worked from eternity? …..

Let us turn now to Boehme on these issues. In continuity with his thought on creation Boehme's eschatology is less tortured in terms of its own logic and so more compellingly candid in its honesty to the experience that lies behind it. In fact Boehme's depiction of creation tends to coincide with his eschatology. A God compelled to create in order to recognize and reconcile its opposites in the creature completes both itself and created consciousness in one historical process at once creative and eschatological."   (underscore mine - Steve)
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The public in general, religious or not, has a fascination with the mystery of creation as well as the end of time.  This is reflected in the interest in where science stands on this, what mythology research has documented, and what each person's religion says.  The above is food for thought.  I plan to continue explorations along this line.  It appears that the material that each of us is comprised of was all united into a tiny pinpoint at the beginning, ie. the moment of the Big Bang.  This means something. 



Monday, December 26, 2011

Böhme, the Mother of all Things, and the Gnostics


When first reading Böhme's The Signature of All Things, it was apparent that it bore a similarity to certain gnostic writings of the early Christian era.  The Apochryphon of John comes to mind where the concern is the origin of the world and how understanding the origin is essential to our discerning who we are and what we should do.  However, that text reflects the pessimistic, classic version of gnosticism for whom the world is a mistake and the physical realm deeply flawed.  Signature would not go as far as that and has a happier feel to it.  Interestingly, they both have a role for the female or mother.

 From the Apochryphon of John:
The Father is surrounded by light.
He apprehends himself in that light
........
His self-aware thought (ennoia) came into being.
Appearing to him in the effulgence of his light.
She stood before him.
.....
Arising out of the mind of the Father
The Providence (pronoia) of everything.
Her light reflects His light.
She is from His image in His light
...
She praised Him
            For she arose from Him.
 [This, the first Thought, is the Spirit’s image]
She is the universal womb
She is before everything
She is:
            Mother-Father
            First Man
            Holy Spirit


From the Signature of All Things:

CHAPTER III OF THE GRAND MYSTERY OF ALL THINGS

Section 32. After the creation of the highest spirits, God created this visible world with the stars and elements as an external birth out of the mother of all essences; all which proceeded out of the eternal beginning, and took a temporal beginning: For here we are to consider, that the eternal pregnatrix moved itself, and enkindled its own form [or similitude], where then the one became corporeal in the other; but afterwards God created the earth, which we are thus to consider of.

CHAPTER IV OF THE BIRTH OF THE STARS, AND FOUR ELEMENTS IN THE METALLINE AND CREATURELY PROPERTY 

Section 1. As it is before mentioned, all things proceed out of one only mother, and separate themselves into two essences, according to the right of eternity, viz. into a mortal and an immortal, into life and death, into spirit and body; the spirit is the life, and the body is the death, viz. a house of the spirit: As the holy Trinity stands in the birth, so also is the external birth: There is likewise essence and spirit in heaven; a figure of which we see in this outward world, where there are four elements, and yet there is but one only element, which separates itself into four properties, viz. into fire, air, water, and earth, as is above mentioned.

It is not commonly known that in the Aramaic language the gender of the word spirit is feminine.  For some early Christians, then, the Holy Spirit was seen as a kind of Mother so that the Trinity was formed by a Father, a Mother and a Son. 

I am not a Gnostic.  But I find them fascinating in part because I do not understand them and how they came to their place.  Some mysteries are worth pursuing and some are not.   Maybe this one is.  Böhme lived over a thousand years after the gnostics faded away from Christendom.  But somehow his feelings overlap in some degree with them.  Do they have a shared delusion or some useful insights?  The next post will find correspondence with the Gospel of Thomas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God and the Cosmos in Jacob Boehme's Signature of All Things

I'm nearing the end of The Signature of All Things.   It has been a long and hard slog through it and I never know whether its prose or poetry.  Probably both.  Most of it inscrutable to me.  But somehow it seems significant.

Quotes:

    The whole outward visible world with all its being is a signature, or figure of the inward spiritual world; whatever is internally, and however its operation is, so likewise it has its character externally; like as the spirit of each creature sets forth and manifests the internal form of its birth by its body, so does the Eternal Being also
    .... 
    So likewise God dwells in all things, and the thing knows nothing of God; he likewise is not manifest to the thing, and yet it receives power from him, but it receives the power according to its property from him, either from his love, or from his wrath; and from which it receives, so it has its signature[156]  externally; and the good is also in it, but as it were wholly shut up [or hidden] to the iniquity [or evil]; an example of which you have in bushes, and other thorny and pricking briars, out of which notwithstanding a fair well-smelling blossom grows; and there lie two properties therein, viz. a pleasant and unpleasant; which overcomes, that shapes [forms or marks] the fruit. 
    ...
    The Being of all beings is but one only Being, but in its generation it separates itself into two principles, viz. into light and darkness, into joy and sorrow, into evil and good, into love and anger, into fire and light, and out of these two eternal beginnings (or principles) into the third beginning, viz. into the creation, to its own love-play and melody, according to the property of both eternal desires.

On his influence, I found mythosandlogos.com which has this to say:

"His thought has since influenced major figures in philosophy, especially German Romantics such as Hegel, Baader, and Schelling. Indirectly, his influence can be traced to the work of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hartmann, Bergson, and Heidegger. Paul Tillich and Martin Buber drew heavily from his work -- as did the psychologist, Carl Jung, who made numerous references to Boehme in his writings."

That is quite a lineup. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Can you learn anything after age 25?

Mike Lofgren is a retired former House and Senate Staffer.  I enjoyed reading an interview with him as he related his career and how things have changed and was particularly struck by this quote from him which I take as a word of good advice to me and everyone.  Let us not cease learning.


Most people cease learning after age 25 or so, but if you continually question the premises of things, you end up where I am; it depends on how intellectually curious and open-minded you are. There was never a huge contradiction. I wasn't living a double life. I was still a government employee doing the best I could on budget issues.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Once Obscure Jacob Boehme now on You Tube



A couple of years after I was fresh out of college, Harding U. that is, I was reading an interview with Henry Miller, of Tropic of Cancer fame. Don't remember which magazine. He described how he had recently become so excited because he came across something very difficult to get and rare, a book by Jacob Boehme. So he planted the seed in my head that something mysterious and wonderful awaited a person who would have to be both lucky to make the encounter with him and prepared to appreciate the experience. Way back in the ancient days of the 1970's, it was not easy to get one's hands on rare books. There were no computers and no internet. I suppose the avid person could badger the local library and with some luck and persistence track down less common offerings.

That memory remained lodged in a dusty corner of my mind for a great many years. Boehme is so far removed from the Southern Protestantism of the US and I've had no friend or advocate to surface and awaken the curiosity. Now, some thirty or more years later, the internet has introduced me to many friends and informative sites and made available what was previously inaccessible. So, not long ago I downloaded The Signature of All Things, one of the later books by him and prepared to wade through it.

He lived at the boundary of the Medieval and Modern and is not easy to understand. So, the last two days I've been googling him to see what I could learn to help me through. There are a number of insights to be blogged about later. But for this evening, I will simply link to this You Tube posting that presents him in a way about which he would certainly marvel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Illumination of Jacob Boehme

Am back in town now from the Thanksgiving Holidays.  Read some more from Jacob Boehme last night and it was slow going.  Will have to do some more homework to understand and appreciate him.  Not something that can be done in one sitting or even a few months.  So I hit the internet for some help.  Here is one of several things.  The complete essay by Mark Jaqua is at this link.


Boehme believed that this world is but a shadow play and representation of what occurs in higher dimensions. Everything in this world is the "signature" or symbol of something which exists more concretely in the spiritual world. Since the spiritual world is contained within oneself, the external world and the body could be viewed as a projection from these interior contents. Boehme's insight on this was that:

The whole outward, visible world with all its being is a signature or figure of the inward spiritual world; whatever is internal, and however its operation is, so likewise it has its outward character...for whatever the natural light is spiritually, that the earth is in its coarseness.
*

*Jacob Boehme: His Life and Thought, John Joseph Stoudt, Seabury Press, New York, New York, 1968, p. 243,248.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Protestant Mystic Jacob Boehme

These days I'll read 10 % of a book I've downloaded to Kindle then will download another or two then after a few days download some more.  Am reading about a dozen right now.  Half my time on Kindle is spent searching for books and reading reviews about them.  Sometimes will find something old that is free or $0.99 and will embrace the joy that comes with pressing the button and getting a zillion pages for free.  Jacob Boehme is one of those mysterious names I've run across a number of times and some time ago downloaded The Signature of All Things.  My understanding is that he is unique in that he is a Protestant Mystic.  Made it through the Introduction last night and that was fascinating itself where its author Clifford Bax says:

The purpose of the mystic is the mightiest and most solemn that can ever be, for the central aim of all mysticism is to soar out of separate personality up to the very Consciousness of God.

Jacob Boehme, the last of the great European mystics, having imagined the Spirit which pervades the universe, knew well how little was the stature of his human personality; but he had realised that God was verily within him, and he spoke with the uprightness of a divine being.  Unflaggingly he counsels men (as in the Supersensual Life) to turn away from the worthless and separated self which hungers for honour or for bodily comfort, in order that they should rediscover within themselves "what was before nature and creature." And he means by this phrase "that light which lighteth every man who cometh in the world."  It is here, he says, now and always: we have but to extricate our consciousness from all that is the effect of our time and place.  We have but to quiet our own thoughts and desires, and we shall hear at once the harmonies of heaven.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Storied

Was in Los Angeles last week on business.  Still getting caught up in more ways than one.

Haven't been reading Len Hjalmarson over at his blog Next Reformation lately but he is always good to come back to.  Need to do it more often.  See this recent post titled "Storied".  He meditates on something interesting by Paul Fromont.  It is a reflection on narrative theology, something that has given me great comfort in recent years.  Should take time to investigate this spiritual thread again soon.  Here is the first portion of the post.

A narrative approach to theology has promise. In part, that promise comes because modern approaches to theology tended toward reductionism: lists of propositions abstracted from the living story. But to abstract truth is to do violence to the texture of truth. Truth abstracted from context is a simulacra – it only appears to be real. It is processed food, lacking that which gives life. In his reflections on The Insatiable Moon Paul Fromont writes,

“If the root of art is storytelling, then the taproots are longings. Longings for such things as truth, beauty, romance, adventure. We long to find the true north that will guide us through this life and into the next…”



There is more but I need to get to work.  After being gone for 4 business days there will be much catching up to do.

And see this at the Fromont's Prodigal Kiwi's site.

Friday, November 04, 2011

growing up Church of Christ by mike s. allen

This book is a winsome, lighthearted account of what it was like growing up in the Church of Christ.   Mike occupies an interesting place and time since he is the son of a well known minister.  The book grew from scrapbook entries and reminiscences.  It consists of numerous short vignettes of Mike's experiences.  Also included are brief comments by others coming from this same heritage.  It is a great format.  Easy to read and covers a lot of territory in time and subject.

I liked the good-natured and humorous aspect of the book.  Kinda reminds me of Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz. 

Like Mike, I am the son of a CofC minister and our dad's are close friends. 

The Church of Christ is a branch of what is known as the Restoration Movement.  This began in the early 1800's and some have said it was the first indigenous American movement.  The DOC, Christian Church, CofC and Int. CofC are branches of the endeavor.  The CofC has given the world Pat Boone, Max Lucado, Ken Star, Weird Al Yankovic, Michael Shermer and Pepperdine University.

The only other book I have on growing up in this fellowship is Hearing God's Voice:  My Life with Scripture in the Churches of Christ  by Thomas Olbricht.   Tom is 20 years older than me and Mike is 16 years younger.  Geographically we are similar too.  Mike and I from Arkansas and Tom just across the border into Missouri.  Being in the middle between them I see a lot of commonality and yet some changes too.  When Tom and I were growing up there really was no evangelical counter culture and when Mike came along that was just beginning. 

Mike closes the introductory Author's note with "By the time you make it to 'The End', I hope you'll have found a connection to some thought or story, and in that connection, I hope you will have been helped a little in your own journey."  Many of us will be able to say yes we were helped. I was.  Thanks Mike!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Haggis



Haggis croquettes on lower right of plate
Haggis patties on top of neeps on top of tatties
Haggis is a classic Scottish dish.  Wikipedia describes it extensively as quoted below.

"Clarissa Dickson Wright suggests that haggis was invented as a way of cooking quick-spoiling offal near the site of a hunt, without the need to carry along an additional cooking vessel. The liver and kidneys could be grilled directly over a fire, but this treatment was unsuitable for the stomach, intestines, or lungs. Chopping up the lungs and stuffing the stomach with them and whatever fillers might have been on hand, then boiling the assembly — likely in a vessel made from the animal's hide — was one way to make sure these parts did not go to waste."[12]

Haggis all prettied up








 Somehow, when I eat a local food, I'm trying to identify with the locals and affirm them and who they are. 
 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Back from Edinburgh

Arrived home last night after a week in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Was there on business and Dorothy came along.  We had a wonderful time during the breaks.  In the background is the Edinburgh Castle, first referred to about 1000 years ago and a site of human activity since who knows when.  There was something vaguely familiar about this place even though I've never been here before.  Simply from a mathematical perspective, some of our ancestors must have come from this place or near here.  Edinburgh is sometimes referred to as the Athens of the North.  The Scots changed the world with the Scottish Enlightenment of the 1700's.  That is when Adam Smith invented Economics, Thomas Reid discovered common sense, and James Hutton founded modern geology and paved the way for later U. of Edinburgh student, Charles Darwin.  When a senior at Harding, I wrestled with Electromagnetic Theory.  Much of that is based on the 19th century advances of James Clerk Maxwell, also a grad of the U. of Edinburgh.

The University of Edinburgh Divinity School.

It is important to note that Alexander Campbell was a product to some degree of this intellectual matrix.  He is even mentioned on the Scottish Enlightenment Wikipedia page as a famous example of that school.  And so, my cultural and religious as well as ancestral heritage derives in part from this place.

from Wikipedia
An English visitor to Edinburgh during the heyday of the Scottish Enlightenment remarked: "Here I stand at what is called the Cross of Edinburgh, and can, in a few minutes, take 50 men of genius and learning by the hand." It is a striking summation of the outburst of pioneering intellectual activity that occurred in Scotland in the second half of the 18th century.

They were a closely knit group: most knew one another; many were close friends; some were related by marriage. All were politically conservative but intellectually radical (
Unionists and progressives to a man), courteous, friendly and accessible. They were stimulated by enormous curiosity, optimism about human progress and a dissatisfaction with age-old theological disputes. Together they created a cultural golden age.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quote from Love Wins and Insurrection

Ah.  With a Kindle one can read several books at the same time.  I was comparing clippings from Love Wins and from a book I just started, Insurrection.  They present similar thoughts and I agree.  This is what religion is all about.

From Love Wins

Religions should not surprise us. We crave meaning and order and explanation. We’re desperate for connection with something or somebody greater than ourselves. This is not new.

And something similar from Peter Rollins' Insurrection

This story presents to us the psychological reality that our pleasure is intimately interwoven with the pleasure (or pain) of those around us. Understanding this can help us unlock something fundamental about the nature of human desire—namely, that the most sought after material in the universe is not some precious metal or limited resource but rather the attention of those whom we desire. We long to be seen by the other and acknowledged by them in some way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More From Love Wins

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (Rob Bell) 


Rob's approach involves an investigation of what the Hebrew scriptures say about where history is going.  This must be taken into consideration in addition to the explicit passages in the New Testament regarding hell, it seems to me.  The first snippet here is a passage he builds on which is famous and inspiring and which has been used and cited in peacemaking and efforts to convert war technology to peaceful uses.

Direct quotes from his book are in dark blue italics.

The prophet Isaiah said that in that new day “the nations will stream to” Jerusalem, and God will “settle disputes for many peoples”; people will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (chap. 2).
 --
But that is not all.  There is a continuing optimistic theme expressed by the Hebrew prophets.

Isaiah said that everybody will walk “in the light of the LORD” and “they will neither harm nor destroy” in that day. The earth, Isaiah said, will be “filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (chap. 11). He described “a feast of rich food for all peoples” because God will “destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations, he will swallow up death forever.” God “will wipe away the tears from all faces”; and “remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth” (chap. 25). The prophet Ezekiel said that people will be given grain and fruit and crops and new hearts and new spirits (chap. 36). The prophet Amos promised that everything will be repaired and restored and rebuilt and “new wine will drip from the mountains” (chap. 9). Life in the age to come. If this sounds like heaven on earth, that’s because it is. Literally.
---
First, they spoke about “all the nations.” That’s everybody. That’s all those different skin colors, languages, dialects, and accents; all those kinds of food and music; all those customs, habits, patterns, clothing, traditions, and ways of celebrating— multiethnic, multisensory, multieverything.
---

That’s an extraordinarily complex, interconnected, and diverse reality, a reality in which individual identities aren’t lost or repressed, but embraced and celebrated. An expansive unity that goes beyond and yet fully embraces staggering levels of diversity.
---

So, overall, there is a definite optimism for the end of history on the part of the Hebrew prophets in these places.  And Rob places an encouraging interpretation on them.  There are a few places in the Hebrew scriptures that might be interpreted as supporting the traditional concept of Hell, but they are not so explicit nor obvious without traditional assumptions.  (Exception:  One reference in Daniel which I think was written very late.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today's Quote from "Love Wins"

This from early in the book Love Wins by Rob Bell. This expresses my feelings as well.  When I discovered that many years ago, it removed a barrier to my spiritual life.

Often times when I meet atheists and we talk about the god they don’t believe in, we quickly discover that I don’t believe in that god either.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reunion for the descendants of Bill Ed and Zonie Allison



The gathering was at the home of Earl and Doris Highfield which is near Powhatan, AR. It was held on Saturday, Sept 3, 2011. Bill Ed and Zonie were my great grandparents. Their son, Cleo, was my grandfather. Bill Ed died before my Dad was born but I remember my grandfather and great grandmother. We had a great time at the reunion. By the time I was born and was growing up, most everyone from this family had left Northeast Arkansas and I never had the opportunity to meet them. It was great meeting everyone.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Surprized by Kuyper

Somehow I found myself at the blog of John Stackhouse one morning six weeks ago.  He is Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College.  I had enjoyed his thoughtful comments from time to time but had been out of the habit of visiting there lately.  He is a Canadian evangelical and he wrote a short note recommending Richard J. Mouw's new book regarding the progenitor of Neo-Calvinism -  Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction.  Richard is president and professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

It is so easy given the wonderful resources of the internet to spend all of one's spare time only engaging sites and books that support one's interests and viewpoints.  But I was moved by the recommendation and decided to download the book to my Kindle.  It was good that I did.  Abraham Kuyper (1838-1920) was a Dutch Reformed theologian who, very briefly, became active in politics, founded a university and eventually became Prime Minister of the Netherlands. 

Had heard of the guy before, having encountered a snippet of his thought here and there.  I was prepared to encounter a stern 19th century Biblical literalist with a slightly different set of rules to follow and some possibly good insights here and there but another version of why my form of the Christian religion is better than yours. 

Was surprized and happy to be jolted out of such dogmatic slumber on the part of myself.  Below in italics are direct quotes from Richard Mouw's book which is a short well presented summation of Kuyper's thought.

The fact is, Kuyper insisted, that the true church "can reveal  itself in many forms, in different countries; nay, even in  the same country, in a multiplicity of institutions." He saw it  as a major contribution of the sixteenth-century Reformation  that it had "ruptured the unity of the Church," breaking "that  one Church into fragments," in order to encourage "a rich variety  of all manner of church formations."   Kuyper wanted us  to see the "differences of climate and of nation, of historical  past, and of disposition of mind" in a positive light - thus acknowledging   a reality that "annihilates the absolute character  of every visible church, and places them all side by side, as differing   in degrees of purity, but always remaining in some way  or other a manifestation of one holy and catholic Church of  Christ in Heaven.


I come from a tradition that values unity.  But the above helps me to see that there is a difference between unity and uniformity.  So often uniformity has been the goal.  It has been confused with or substituted for unity.
...
Kuyper's fondness for pluriformity ran deep. He was convinced   that God himself loves many-ness. Indeed, on his reading   of the biblical account, the Creator had deliberately woven   many-ness into the very fabric of creation. Kuyper even
wrote an essay on the subject to which he gave the telling title  "Uniformity: The Curse of Modern Life."  Many-ness, Kuyper argued, was necessary for created life  to flourish in a "fresh and vigorous" manner.'   Referring to the  Genesis creation story, Kuyper noted that the Lord willed  "[t]hat all life should multiply `after its kind."' That the concept   of "kind" in that context applied specifically to animal  life did not deter Kuyper from making a more general application.   "[E]very domain of nature," he says, displays an "infinite  diversity, an inexhaustible profusion of variations." And this  many-ness also rules the world of humanity, which "undulates   and teems" with the same sort of diversity, bestowed  upon our collective existence by a "generous God who from  the riches of his glory distributed gifts, powers, aptitude, and  talents to each according to his divine will."'



Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reality Isn't What It Used To Be

Reality Isn't What It Used To Be by Walter Truet Anderson has been on my list for many years.  One reason I had not read it sooner was because it dates way back to 1992.  So I thought it might be out of date.  Well, it pretty much was not out of date but described well the last twenty years, in my opinion.  The main theme is that we humans socially construct reality, have always done so, but in the postmodern era we are now in, we recognize that fact (or it seems to me we should).  
One habit that I have acquired with using my Kindle is to highlight various passages that jump out at me.  It commonly takes two or three weeks for me to read some of the Kindle books.  So I do not remember what all I've underscored.  Then, when I get the chance, I upload to my computer and read them all.  There were quite a few such passages in this book.  Here is my favourite.

But religions are living entities, and they live in human minds. And they change as the times change and as human consciousness changes. There is little similarity between the worldview of the fourth-century Nicene Fathers and that of the twentieth-century conservatives who try to keep their faith intact by using the Nicene Creed—no more than there is between the California Indians of a thousand years ago and the people who play the Carlos Castaneda game in the Big Sur mountains. Some kinds of religious change are visible and easily documented, others relatively invisible. We know that Christianity has gone through tumultuous events in recent centuries—the Reformation, the increased power of secular constructors of social reality, the institutionalization of freedom to choose other religions or none at all—and such changes inevitably bring modifications in the actual beliefs of those who still keep the faith. The ancient faith that is advancing into the postmodern world is not quite the faith of our fathers.


I believe there is value in renewal and restoration.  In fact my religious heritage identifies itself as part of the Restoration Movement.  But, Christianity and religion should grow, adapt, and change.  It always has and it always will. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Struggle, Striving, and Happiness

Haven't posted much this summer. That is about to change. Since buying a Kindle about a year ago, my new reading habit has been to download more books than I can possibly read. A lot them are free or only $0.99 and they arrive few seconds after a click. So, I'm reading several of them in parallel and it sometimes takes months to finish some of them. When I encounter the same thought in two different books within a few days, it seems significant.

Have been reading Arthur Zajonc's "Meditation As Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love" for two reasons. One, his book "Catching the Light" was marvelous. (Blogged about that earlier here). The other reason is that I'm wanting to explore meditation. Here is a quotation from a section:

Arthur Zajonc

I have long been attracted to the line by Einstein,“I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves...."  Happiness is really not the goal of life. Einstein’s life was not a commitment to happiness but a long commitment to inquiry. Goethe’s Faust seals his bargain with the devil Mephistopheles promising to go with him if he, Faust, would ever say to the passing moment, “Tarry, thou art so fair!” In other words, Goethe saw striving, not bliss, as the central core of our humanity. Citing Augustine, Thomas Merton described human development as proceeding not in steps but via a sequence of “yearnings.”66
And later, Zajonc says:

Of course, I am not advocating suffering, but it is intrinsic to a life rightly lived. Struggle and suffering are inevitably associated with aspiration and compassionate concern. After all, compassion literally means “to suffer with.”

 A few days later, was reading one of Brian McLaren's more recent books,
"Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words." And, his thoughts follow the above and expand.  

Brian McLaren

Sooner or later we need to accept two truths that both the book of Genesis and the theory of evolution teach us: life isn’t supposed to be easy, and struggle can lead to growth. In Genesis, God creates a universe characterized neither by fully ordered stasis nor complete chaos, but rather by order and chaos in dynamic tension. In that matrix, we experience the stresses of struggle, change, and competition that challenge us to evolve, to grow, to become.
.................
The apostle Paul says that we celebrate our sufferings, because they produce in us endurance, which in turn produces character, which in turn produces hope, which in turn makes us receptive to the outpouring of God’s love in our hearts (Rom. 5:3–5).
................
The apostle James, as we have seen already, says we should receive trials into our lives with joy, because, again, trials work like a fertilizer for the growth of character (1:2–4). Without trials, we would be morally sterile, lacking qualities like endurance, maturity, and wisdom.
.............
There are days, of course, when we wish there could be some other system. We wish there could be a way of developing patience without delay, courage without danger, forgiveness without offense, generosity without need, skill without discipline, endurance without fatigue, persistence without obstacles, strength without resistance, virtue without temptation, and strong love without hard-to-love people. But it turns out that there is no other way. The Creator has created the right kind of universe to produce these beautiful qualities in us creatures. And among these beautiful qualities is interdependence—the ability to reach out beyond ourselves, to ask for help from others and from God, and to offer help as we are able. The whole shebang is rigged for mutuality, for vital connection. The theory of evolution teaches the same lesson. If survival were easy, species wouldn’t develop new adaptive features. If survival were stress-free, there wouldn’t be 20,000 species of butterflies, 300 species of turtles, or 18,937 species of birds (at last count). In fact, there would be no butterflies, turtles, or birds at all, because it was stress, struggle, challenge, and change that prompted the first living things—slimy blobs in a tide pool somewhere—to diversify, specialize, adapt, and develop into the wonders that surround us and include us now. Seen in this light, evolution isn’t a grim theory of “nature red in tooth and claw” it depicts the planet as a veritable laboratory for innovations in beauty and diversity, fitness and adaptability, complexity and harmony.2 It renders the earth a studio for the creative development of interdependence in ecosystems or societies of life. Put beauty, diversity, complexity, and harmonious interdependence together and you have something very close to the biblical concepts of “glory” and shalom.
.............
So both science and faith tell us that we find ourselves in a universe whose preset conditions challenge us to ongoing growth, development, and connection.

 










Sunday, August 07, 2011

Back from Wedding and Vacation

Been a while since posting.  Two weeks ago we were in New Albany, MS for Marcus' wedding.  Had a wonderful time.  Afterwards, Dorothy and I stayed in their house, watching the dogs and doing chores, while they honeymoon-cruised to Cozumel.


Had a chance to get a few pictures myself but not as many as I wanted as I didn't get the settings right on my new camera.  Here's the wedding party.  My dad officiated.  His first service since back surgery 6-weeks earlier and he did fine.  Dorothy spent many weeks planning and working with Suzy for the wedding. 


Suzy's family.


Before the wedding in the Church of the Nazarene.


Nice BW pic that Derek took.


After the ceremony, Marcus and Suzy enter the reception area.


Crowd shots at reception.




The couple with two groomsmen in the foreground.


Dorothy, seen here talking with my Dad, was indefagitable.  It's taken two weeks for her to wind down.

Below is the very fine video that Derek's wife, Catherine, made of this wonderful event.  For more on the wedding go to our Facebook pages.

Marcus and Suzy's Wedding Video by Catherine

Thursday, July 07, 2011

We Must Do What is Difficult

It seems I've followed this advice to an extreme in my life.  Just came across an interesting article by Jocelyn K. Glei of the "99%" web site. It is about something that wonderful poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, had written.   In Letters to a Young Poet he wrote:

from letter 7:

We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it 


From letter 8 re: embracing difficulty

If we only arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

Looking back on my life of now 60 years I can see that I did this, sometimes to a fault, actually.  Sometimes taking more on that I could handle.  But it is the way I've lived.  One reason, beside my love for the subject, that I majored in Physics was because it was perceived as being very difficult.  Didn't have to go to the U of Va, either, to continue my studies.  My Memphis State advisor said it was out of my league.  I  made it through, however.  And so on. Just got back from a nine day business trip, wondering if I've taken on too much.   Sometimes now I feel I'm ready to get off the treadmill.    Glad to have read this for the pick me up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On the Nature of Emergent Reality

Have been glancing at "The Re-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion" edited by Philip Clayton and Paul Davies.   A chapter titled On the Nature of Emergent Reality is authored by George F. R. Ellis and closes with: 

Strong reductionist claims, usually characterized by the phrase 'nothing but' and focusing only on physical existence, simply do not take into account the depth of causation in the real world as indicated above, nor the inability of physics on its own to comprehend these interactions and effects.  Reductionist claims represent a typical fundamentalist position, claiming a partial truth (based on some subset of causation) to be the whole truth and ignoring the overall rich causal matrix while usually focusing on purely physical elements of causation.  They do not  and cannot be an adequate basis of explanation or understanding in the real world. 

I believe the evidence he gives in the chapter backs up this conclusion.  At one time it seemed to me that Laplace's statement about all reality being reducible to points and forces on them was, depressingly, true.  I wanted a way of escape from that but couldn't see logically how to get out of it.  I had  no knowledge of the principal of emergence and the possibility of top-down causality.  Now I do have a little knowledge of it and hope to learn more.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

I’m particularly adept at making mistakes — Dyson Vacuum Inventor

I’m particularly adept at making mistakes—it’s a necessity as an engineer. . . . I love mistakes. 

This is a quote from a Newsweek article ( June 6, 2011, page 61) from James Dyson, the inventor and developer of a famous vacuum cleaner.  We have one and we like it very much.  Looking back, I see that in both my domestic and professional lives, fear of making mistakes has prevented me from being as productive and fruitful as I could have been.  Thanks for this fine sermon, James.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What if I Were Romeo in Black Jeans

The year 1990 was not a good one in rock music. Reading a list of music titles from that year I remember only a few. But Sunday morning, unbidden, one tune from the era popped into my head. It was the year I was on a leave of absence from Oak Ridge and we lived in Charlottesville, VA where I was doing medical research at UVA. (It is a long story but it was great to be at least a small part of an initial effort that eventually led to the formation of the medical company Stereotaxis). I worked out regularly that year, running and lifting weights.  Only one song I recall from the endless cycles of music played in the gyms.  It is No Myth by Michael Penn.  So that morning I went to You Tube and refamiliarized myself with it.  Memorable lines:

She hopes we can be friends

We said goodbye before hello

What if I were Romeo in Black Jeans 

She's just looking for someone to Dance with.  

Then surfed the net for commentary.  Here are some interesting thoughts from the web site titled Stylist.  They state that everyone has some special pieces of music in their head that strike a special chord inside of them.  The reviewer is Alfred Soto:


Penn’s whiney pipes suit lyrics whose wisdom is encapsulated in the declarative simplicity of the admission, “She hopes we can be friends” and in the useful “We said goodbye before hello.” Handling bass, all guitars, and a galloping drum program that’s the song’s most striking element, the auteur palliates his Dylan-esque sneer with a demo-style directness. That’s the best that can be said about “No Myth”—it’s a demo unsullied by additional tinkering ...

Like all the best rock songs, “No Myth” asks questions it refuses to answer; its creator’s sullenness dovetails with the song’s mystery. We know (and he knows we know) that Penn isn’t Romeo in black jeans; he’s a guy with long bangs and a rather lugubrious self-possession, brother of one of Hollywood’s more masochistically naturalistic actors, too anonymous to be the subject of any myths, be they romantic or aesthetic. The most telling moment occurs during the bridge, in which Penn slings polysyllabic rhymes like Ted Nugent doing scales. It’s lovely, plaintive; bravado replaces snark. . . 

After not hearing or thinking of this song for twenty years, I know it will be bouncing around in my head for the next several weeks.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Music as the Language of God

Marvelous Quote from the movie Copying Beethoven. Been on my tab for so long I forgot where I first saw it.

"The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man's soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That's what musicians are."
— Stephen J. Rivele

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Doubts/Community

I happened across the blog Everyday Liturgy while looking for something Peter Rollins said.  EL lists a number of pithy things heard from Peter at a 2009 event.  It actually describes how I've lived my life, i think.


-we all have doubts—the important point is not to always have total belief but to participate in the tradition and belong to community

Sunday, March 27, 2011

From Raptitude: Why Your Fears Won't Come True

I'm suddenly realising that fear has characterised my life more than I thought it had.  Why do I procrastinate making that call or doing that chore or planning that meeting?  As I was coming to this notion, it was my good fortune to read a wonderful antidote from the blog Raptitude.  Here's a snippet.  But you should read the entire post here

...

What you fear can’t really happen

What I’ve come to realize is that all my fears of the future are actually fears of the past.  

Each of us has a whole bank of awful moments in our memories, each of which are so painful that we can’t accept that we could experience the same pain again.  

If the thought of something you want to do rouses fear in you, think: what is the experience — the feeling — I’m actually fearing here? You don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself and try to figure out the childhood memory it comes from, but it doesn’t take much thought to identify the precise experience you can’t bear to risk happening.

By obeying our fears from arm’s length, we end up cordoning off enormous areas of possibility. Life is inescapably risky and painful, not to mention 100% fatal. So don’t think you can dodge pain, awkwardness or by backing down from something a bit scary.

The real bad stuff isn’t going to be something you had the foresight to worry about anyway. From Baz Luhrmann’s famous speech: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Spiritual Meaning of Trees

Last Wednesday was my turn to do the devotional talk at church.  Decided many months ago to do it on the Spiritual Meaning of Trees.  The poem of a few weeks ago was the meditation that started me down that path.  This post is a result of my study and preparation for that talk.

Trees are in the background and in the foreground of the Bible.  From the beginning to end.  They are a critical part of the action.  The Tree of Life is mentioned early in the Genesis and also in the last chapter of Revelation, for example.  There are over thirty kinds of them mentioned in the Bible.  Some like the olive tree are mentioned quite often and are well know to us, both as to physical, literal manifestation and some of its symbolic meaning, ie. you know what the olive branch signifies.  In some cases it is not certain what kind of tree it is that is being described. 

Perhaps you didn't realize it but trees figure in the story of Abraham, in several places.  For instance, after the call to leave Ur we are told in Genesis 12: 6  Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  "Moreh" means teacher.  It was a significant tree for Abraham and the Canaanites.  Was some kind of school there? Was it an Oak?  Some think it was.

As it turns out, a few days before my talk, the significance of trees for our contemporary culture was illustrated by the recent reaction to the poisoning of the Toomer Oaks of Auburn.  There was quite an uproar.  Auburn fans are justifiably feeling hurt and disappointment.  (Rather than post a link, the reader can google to find various descriptions and pictures.)

Each tree brings its own blessing to us.  Not only do trees provide food, medicine, shade, shelter, and other useful items for our lives but many useful images and metaphors to learn from.  Hence the admonition for us to be a tree that bears good fruit.  Or to be rooted.  Or that if we'll be righteous we'll "grow like a Cedar of Lebanon" (Ps 92:12).  There are of course many other Biblical examples of this.

Here are some of the links to interesting articles on this subject. Quotes from them are in italics. 

The Spirituality of Trees

 The tree is one of humankind's most powerful symbols. It is the embodiment of life in all its realms: the point of union between heaven, earth and water. In most mythology and ancient religious imagery, the tree was believed to have an abundance of divine creative energy. 


Trees have long held a literal and symbolic fascination for humanity. Their source as a deep archetype of absorption begins with the earliest epic in the Western World, the story of Gilgamesh and his quest for the plant of life (a symbolic tree) that is snatched away by a serpent, thus illustrating that the use of the tree as a universal religious symbol is incredibly ancient; such utilization can be dated to at least the third millennium B.C.E. as a symbol of a rich cultural mythos, the major archetype being that of the center, the beginning where sacred powers first originated. The tree is the navel of the world, the "cosmic axis" (Axis mundi) standing at the universe's center where it passes through the middle and unites the three great cosmic domains: the underworld, earth, and sky (Roth, Stephanie. The Tree of Life, The Ecologist. Jan. 2000 v30il. TEL. ASAP. 18 Aug. 2003.).


My closing thought:

Amazingly, these ancient pagans got it right.  Their mythologies are not literally true but thy intuited something of depth and validity.  Even before it happened.  The Cross is that Tree.  And it cannot be escaped how that event changed the world and the course of history.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Human Future

Placed the comment below to this blog post titled The Human Future by Jack Whelan.

Jack said "We're in the habit of looking toward the future in the rear-view mirror, and we assume fundamental continuity with incremental changes."

Yes, that is right.  I'm 60 now, and recall thinking with pride and optimism and excitement when I was 10 that now I'm living in a truly modern world. We went to space that year. And I expected technology change in the way usually depicted by the magazine covers of say Popular Science and as science fiction films of the fifties showed it. (recall a futuristic space travelling serial show where they used slide rules!) But not many if any anticipated what has happened and how wonderfully things would unfold.  We had the VCR and personal computer revolution in the eighties, the internet in the nineties, social media (bringing with it this blog) in the 2000's.  Marvelous medical and communication advances. Don't think many saw it coming about like this.  Definitely not me and I'm an R&D engineer with a PhD.   Perhaps Teilhard du Chardin.  I listened to a book review in Philosophy of Religion Class forty years  ago and thought he was crazy.  Not looking so much that way now.

See 1959 Popular Science Covers here.  I especially recall seeing things like on the July cover - cars without wheels.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Trees - The Most Effective Preachers

Trees have always been the most effective preachers for me.  I revere them when they live in nations and families, in forests and groves.  And I revere them even more when they stand singly.  They are like solitaries.  Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, isolated men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche.  The world murmurs in their tops, their roots rest in the infinite; however, they do not lose themselves in it but, with all the energy of their lives, aspire to only one thing:  to fulfill their own innate law, to enlarge their own form, to represent themselves.

Nothing is more sacred, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.  When a tree has been sawed off and shows its naked mortal wound to the sun, one can read its whole history on the bright disc of its stump and tombstone:  in its annual rings and cicatrizations are faithfully recorded all struggle, all suffering, all sickness, all fortune and prosperity, meager years and luxuriant years, attacks withstood, storms survived.  And every farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that, high in the mountains and in ever-present danger, the most indestructible, most powerful, most exemplary tree trunks grow.


Trees are sanctuaries.  He who knows how to speak to them, to listen to them, learns the truth.  They do not preach doctrines and recipes, they preach the basic law of life, heedless of details.

A tree speaks:  In me is hidden a core, a spark, a thought, I am life of eternal life.  The experiment and throw [of the dice] that the eternal mother ventured on me is unique, unique is my shape and the system of veins in my skin, unique are the slightest play of foliage at my top and the smallest scar in my bark.  It is my office to shape and show the Eternal in the distinctively unique.  


A tree speaks:  My strength is trust.  I know nothing of my fathers, I know nothing of the thousand children which come out of me every year.  I live the mystery of my seed to the end, nothing else is my concern.  I trust that God is within me.  I trust that my task is sacred.  In this trust I live.

When we are sad and can no longer endure life well, a tree can speak to us:  Be calm!  Be calm! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is hard.  These are childish thoughts.  Let God talk within you and they will grow silent.  You are anxious because your road leads you away from your mother and your home.  But every step and day lead you anew to your mother.  Home is neither here nor there.  Home is inside you or nowhere.


A yearning to wander tears at my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind in the evening.  If one listens quietly and long, the wanderlust too shows its core and meaning.  It is not a wish to run away from suffering, as it seemed.  It is a yearning for home, for the memory of one's mother, for new symbols of life.  It leadshomeward.  Every road leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is the mother. 


Thus the tree rustles in the evening when we are afraid of our own childish thoughts.  Trees have long thoughts, long in breath and calm, as they have a longer life than we.  They are wiser than we, as long as we do not listen to them.  But when we have learned to listen to trees, the very brevity and swiftness and childish haste of our thoughts acquire an incomparable joy.  He who has learned to listen to trees no longer desires to be a tree.  He does not desire to be anything but that which he is.  That is home.  That is happiness.

by Hermann Hesse from Wanderings:  Notes and Sketches

Translation from First German Reader:  A Beginner's Dual-Language Book, edited by Harry Steinhauer, page 12-17.  Bantam Language Edition published 1964, 6th printing.  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number:  64-7673.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Miserere Mei Deus - Kings College Chapel Choir

You gotta here this.  Relax .......


Monday, January 17, 2011

Depth - from Tor Norretranders

This is lifted from Edge:  The World Question Center

The question is WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?

 There are many responses and this one jumped out at me as it correlates with an interest of this blog.  I snipped out some interesting paragraphs in order to prevent this post from being too long.
---------------------------------------------

TOR NØRRETRANDERS
Science Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The Generous Man and The User Illusion

 
Depth 

Depth is what you do not see immediately at the surface of things. Depth is what is below that surface: a body of water below the surface of a lake, the rich life of a soil below the dirt or the spectacular line of reasoning behind a simple statement.
 
Depth is a straightforward aspect of the physical world. Gravity stacks stuff and not everything can be at the top. Below there is more and you can dig for it.
Depth acquired a particular meaning with the rise of complexity science a quarter of a century ago: What is characteristic of something complex? Very orderly things like crystals are not complex. They are simple. Very messy things like a pile of litter are very difficult to describe: They hold a lot of information. Information is a measure of how difficult something is to describe. Disorder has a high information content and order has a low one. All the interesting stuff in life is in-between: Living creatures, thoughts and conversations. Not a lot of information, but neither a little. So information content does not lead us to what is interesting or complex. The marker is rather the information that is not there, but was somehow involved in creating the object of interest. The history of the object is more relevant than the object itself, if we want to pin-point what is interesting to us. 
 
It is not the informational surface of the thing, but its informational depth that attracts our curiosity. It took a lot to bring it here, before our eyes. It is not what is there, but what used to be there, that matters. Depth is about that.
.... 

Most conversational statements have some kind of depth: There is more than meets the ear, something that happened between the ears of the person talking — before a statement was made. When you understand the statement, the meaning of what is being said, you "dig it", you get the depth, what is below and behind. What is not said, but meant — the exformation content, information processed and thrown away before the actual production of explicit information.
......

 
That is also the point with abstractions: We want them to be shorthand for a lot of information that was digested in the process leading to the use of the abstraction, but is not present when we use it. Such abstractions have depth. We love them. Other abstraction have no depth. They are shallow and just used to impress the other guy. They do not help us. We hate them.  Intellectual life is very much about the ability to distinguish between the shallow and the deep abstractions. You need to know if there is any depth before you make that headlong dive and jump into it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

a new definition of religion

From Drew Tatusko of the  Notes from Off Center blog:

Religion is an externalized desire for socio-historical coherence and order by appealing to a transcendent source of coherence and order; a transcendent source of coherence and order that is itself an image of that externalized desire.

see the whole article here:

a new definition of religion


Sunday, January 02, 2011

I don't like Westerns except for ones like True Grit

Saw True Grit on New Year's Eve.  Read a number of reviews including one by Stanley Fish at the New York Times.  Never saw the John Wayne version of 1969 nor read Charles Portis' book.  That said, I liked the attempt at realism.  The language captivated me.  It was formal and with surprising word choices and vocabulary not typical of Westerns.  Yet the characters seemed to disclose themselves and their feelings more deeply.  Perhaps normal, everyday people back then were like that.  I've read a few letters from that time from ordinary people which seem to bear that out.  (Think I may take up some reading from authors of that period, the late 19th century.)  The most interesting character was Mattie, the fourteen year old whose determination to seek justice for her Father's killer created the story.  While many justifiably are fascinated by the role of Grace in the movie, what I keep pondering is the role of belief, certainty, and order.  What provided Mattie with the self-confidence to pursue her goal?  She is single minded and optimistic that she can accomplish it.  Why did she so doggedly desire to do so?  Realistically, her talents should have been directed to taking care of her family rather than endangering herself in such a manner.  Why did she have such Faith?  It seems clear to me that she had a view of the way life is supposed to be.  There is an order to existence that calls not only for proper spelling, something very important to her and I'm led to believe a key to her character,  but capture and punishment for the criminal who killed her Father.  Despite all the danger she has something in her to keep her on the path to this result she deems necessary.  A reasonable and rational person in the normal sense of those terms would have weighed the costs and demurred. 

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