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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Have you ever tried to tell an animal or a plant about your views on God or the existence of some intelligent being or force ‘out’ (or ‘in’) there? No, I thought not. Neither have I. However, the thought about trying to has crossed my mind. I suppose what keeps me from trying is that if I eventually did do so it might clarify to me and many others what I’d always feared about my own stability of mind. Clint Eastwood talked to the trees and look what …. well, it was his choice wasn’t it? …. anyway, that’s history. Another reason why I have not tried is that I have this other view that animals and plants don’t or even can’t think about these types of things. Now where did I get that idea from? Nevertheless that’s a view I have. Strange isn’t it?

I’m sure most of us have had an interaction with another person or other persons about our ideas on God and all that this might mean to us. Whatever side of the answer you’re on I’m sure it’s happened, probably quite often. As much as these types of conversations can get very heated and leave most involved greatly frustrated it seems to be something all of us do. Even if we don’t speak about it we tend to think about it. Sometimes I have been kept from speaking to other people of my views on God for fear of being seen as somewhat strange (and again, I’m not in search of further clarification in that specific arena). What does make it easier to speak to other humans about my ideas on God however is that I have this view that humans can think about the existence of God and that in fact it is a very deep and often turbulent issue. I also have this view that humans can do a uniquely extraordinary thing – we can even think about our thinking. Further more I believe we can even fine tune our thinking to embrace very complex and elaborate conceptual ideas and constructs that can even appear to others to be not even of this world we live in. The science fiction industry is clear evidence that reveals the amazing nature of this uniquely human aptitude. Now where did I get that idea from? Nevertheless that’s a view I have. Strange isn’t it?

We might not be able to prove or even know that there’s a God out there but someday we may clearly figure the problem out for ourselves. In the mean time we can still think there is a God out there and that we’re just trying to get closer and closer to a clearer understanding, even proof of …. or not.

A theory is attractive, beautiful, and profound when it is made simple and when it can be expressed concisely. Either side of the answer to whether there is a God we all tend to get very complicated in our approaches and the cleverer we get the more confusing it seems to become.

A lot of the answers we now have from science were collected through experimentation and intelligent calculations of probabilities. An alarming amount of the time these wonderful discoveries that developed into laws and ‘facts’ came about by chance. Things crossed peoples paths and certain minds were attracted to problems and challenges. Sometimes great discoveries were literally stumbled on.

The way I see this in very simple terms is that a lot of questions were asked and people took a lot of risks by going where others had not yet gone or were even afraid to go. Some of the greatest ideas were discovered when people went to places that were clearly labelled ‘wrong’, ‘forbidden’, even ‘madness’.

To me, alongside the tremendous risk there’s a lot of playfulness in this process. There is also a lot of freedom and wonder. We would never have achieved what we have if some had not crossed these ‘forbidden’ borders.

The trouble with science and technology advancing so rapidly is that there are more and more ‘answers’ available than ever before. We have a lot more understanding. We have a lot more tighter ideas about things. We have become more precise and accurate and this is good. However, there is a down side to this precision – it tends to close down a whole lot of questions even before they are asked.

On both sides of the answer let’s keep playing. Let’s keep taking risks. Let’s keep asking daring and bold questions. Let’s keep on going beyond the set borders.

Who knows what inquisitiveness, playfulness, chance and probability might allow us to discover?

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We assume that developed is an exclusively advantageous, more sophisticated, beneficial state of being. Development is viewed almost exclusively as a positive term directly related to a better, more advanced context or state of being. We use the concept of development in a global sense to distinguish the have’s from the have not’s. But what have we developed into? And what do we have and what do we have not? Can we have all things? Can we have all things at the same time? Do we lose certain things in order to gain others?

Perhaps we in the developed world are of the opinion that we have a better, more advanced and even superior life? Perhaps we feel we have a higher standard of living? One of the celebrated aspects of the so-called developed world is a longer life expectancy. But that measurement is quantitative and not necessarily qualitative.

It seems clear that we in the developed world do have more material possessions, more disposable income and we clearly seem to celebrate this as wealth. But why would we work so hard only to dispose of it all so easily? We may live longer but a lot of what we produce doesn’t. A lot of what we produce threatens not only the quantity of our lives but also the quality. The big drive seems to be cost effective production. More at less cost to us. But is this possible? Is it sustainable? A great deal of what we are and what we do is disposable. Sure, we are great at producing stuff, but what do we actually get in return? Of what sustainable value is it?

What comes back at us?

It’s not reasonable to measure wealth only in terms of material benefits? What about non material things such as ethics, justice, equity, respect, honour, honesty, dignity (to submit just a few). Which of these do we need to dispose of in order to make sense for ourselves of what we have spent ourselves for? What energy do we need to spend to justify that which we produce? If we are so creative why would we need so much recreation? What is it we need to re create? Was it not all that good when we created it at first?

So, we are the developed world and development is our game. But what exactly are we developing? … and what are we developing into?

spray on, great artist

in the still of night

in the colours of day

splash on the colours of life

and death

the day will reveal all

colours swirl

shapes bleed into one

shape taking shape

new directions

faded suggestions of past ideas

bodies twisted in embrace

the dark and light

dull and bright

the embrace of love and hate

signs of significance

pointers to movement

vibrant

there for a while

covered again

spray on, great artist

the script of wisdom

scribed on hearts of flesh,

hearts of stone

stone hearts

cold surfaces that cry out

crumbling surfaces

held together by the colours

sometimes giving in

weathered

cracked

the noisy street corners

the busy market places

the business of life

in the busyness of life

the bustle of transformation

time

colours dry

time

colours change

time

time to fade

colours fade

lines fade

meaning fades

time

time to glow brighter

or dimmer

spray on great artist

spray on

spray over

layers of meaning

layered with meaning

layers of meaning sprayed over again

the meaning of layers

hidden amongst the crumbling folds

yesterdays shapes overlapped

hidden

forgotten whispers

fading cries, once loud, now distant

making space for the new

layers of layers

coats of many colours

a display for all the peoples

the inarticulate speech of the heart

on canvases of stone

the groanings of life breaking out

cries from dark alleys

secrets in shadow lands

shouts from jagged edges

calls from cold surfaces

spray on great artist

spray over

 

 

(photo’s courtesy of Glenn Veale http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?aid=219852&id=645331799)

I have recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” and in it there is a fascinating section on improv theatre.  Gladwell’s excellent writing drew my attention to the way we tend to close things down rather than open things up in our social settings and encounters.  I have found this happening especially in our interactions with others over philosophical, religious or political beliefs.  In these we seem more focused on delivering our point of view than we are on entering into dialogue and hearing the other.  The point that jumped out for me in the section of the book called “structured spontaneity” was that there are actually rules to the spontaneity of improv theatre.  This at first seems contradictory, but the rules here are not like the rules most of us have encountered in our lives.  One of the most important ‘rules’ is the actioned idea of acceptance.  In order to keep the flow of dialogue and allow the plot and characters to unfold freely and effectively good improv actors accept all offers made and run with it, exploring the options in the dialogue rather than closing it down with dead-end statements. This doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree with what is said or done by the other actor(s) but that they resonate and flow creatively and constructively with it and chose the best path of exploration towards a mutually beneficial end.  There is ample time and opportunity to inject into the dialogue personal suggestions and this could easily sway the interaction in a number of ways.  The sure-fire way to abruptly terminate an improv scene would be to deliver a ‘closed’ response which is usually in the form of a negation or contradiction.

This got me thinking that maybe this has relevancy in the way we meet with others and exchange views.  Perhaps we could get a whole lot more achieved and do a whole lot more mutual growing if we ran with what the other person says and explored it with constructive reflectivity rather than try assume the role of the ‘teacher’ and close dialogue down by focusing on our own perspective as being the ultimate truth or opinion on the matter?  In terms of truth no-one is totally ‘correct’ and we all can learn from each other.  Opening up dialogue can only increase the potential for more learning to take place, on both sides.  Dialogue should never be a duel to the death, but an exchange of well aimed, well thought out contributions that leave all participants standing and keen to reload.  If both focus on a win-win process it may just happen.  Imagine that?

What would be the motive for persuasion? Can one really change the minds of others? If I look at myself I must admit that it is extremely difficult for me to change my mind. Even if I do acknowledge that someone has a good point I still approach it with great caution and even defensiveness (and I am one who loves new ideas and fresh perspectives). Even so, I wholeheartedly align to new ideas and the challenge towards growth that these new ideas offer yet my inner core values seem to be often at war with my cognitive choices. This is not entirely a bad thing as we do need to be discerning and not simply accept everything that comes our way. However, what does this say about our ability to be persuaded? What does it say about our ability to persuade others and induce them to make a change or shift in their own lives? Can we do this? Do we have the right to do this?
Some very fascinating angles from biblical texts add more of a twist to all of this. A psalm written in the turbulence of inner suffering and need, even despair and depression says, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.” Water often speaks of teaching in biblical symbolism. For me this suggests that even in the roar of much cascading teaching and persuasion it seems that it is the depth in and of the turbulence at the bottom of the waterfall wherein the call is found and settled, not in the rush of many droplets, but in the core body at the base of the waterfall. The issues of life seem to be deep and not cerebrally superficial. They seem to be core values that are deeply inlaid inside of us. Ancient paths laid long ago. Head knowledge is not of no value, to the contrary, but core knowledge still seems to hold all the aces.
Another vexing passage speaks out that no one can come to Christ unless the father who sent him draws him. A quote from the prophets adds to this by saying, “They will all be taught by God.” Jesus continues to say that only those who hear from God the father can or will come to him (Christ). To my mind this injects a challenge to the persuasiveness of man that we so passionately engage in. Surely being taught by God is a very different thing to being taught by man? I mean, although many claim that God ‘speaks’ to them, under greater scrutiny it is almost always revealed that it is not in words but in many other ‘circumstantial’ or ‘intuitive’, even sensual ways. Clearly God hardly ever uses words yet our persuasive ways are virtually exclusively verbal, logical arguments.
Even if we could persuade another does this mean that they are able to change and be accepted by God? According to the texts above we have to ask if persuasion is synonymous with deep calling to deep. What if the person we persuade is not called of God? How will we or they know? What if they or we believe that they are called, does this make them called? Is it not God alone who decides this?
In all our efforts to persuade others by proclamation are we not possibly treading on the path of ground we know not of? Are we not trespassing on land that might not at all be ours to walk on? Are we possibly redefining ‘faith’ by our own presumption?

Yes, we do have a role to play, but God has too.

Why is it so difficult to not believe? I mean, we seem to live in a world with so much data flying around all the time. Technology abounds and ‘scientific’ information advances and bounds into our lives like Tigger boinging into a Winnie the Pooh episode. Yet with all this going on we still don’t seem to have even the basic questions answered. We seem to have multitudes everywhere all declaring that they have the answers, but there are so many answers out there and so many of them seem to directly contradict each other.
Some faiths regard anyone outside of their own religious views as “unbelievers”. I wonder what they mean by this? I think that all of us believe. It’s all we have. It’s all we can do. Even atheists believe. Scientists too. In the world we live in it seems that to believe is the only thing we have available to us. We really have no provable idea where we came from, even less of an idea of where we’re going to and in between all this is no-man’s land where heated, twisted shrapnel flies in all directions. The military have even coined a new concept called “friendly fire” (can you believe that?).

“believe”
v. believed, believing, believes
v.tr.
1. To accept as true or real: Do you believe the news stories?
2. To credit with veracity: I believe you.
3. To expect or suppose; think: I believe they will arrive shortly.
v.intr.
1. To have firm faith, especially religious faith.
2. To have faith, confidence, or trust: I believe in your ability to solve the problem.
3. To have confidence in the truth or value of something: We believe in free speech.
4. To have an opinion; think: They have already left, I believe.
(http://www.thefreedictionary.com/believe)

If we believe in something we are investing energy in what is not actually empirically provable or conclusively factual for us. We’d like to believe it. We even believe that we believe it. Some say that they know that they believe. I understand what they may be trying to say, but it is a strange form of reasoning to me. If what we believed in were provable we would not have to believe in it any more. For example, we don’t have to believe in gravity anymore because there is substantial probability that it exists. (please, don’t try prove this at home!!)
Why don’t we just be honest and face up to reality? It might not be comfortable but it must beat the heck out of being convinced by what is essentially an illusion. The next step is then to believe that what we believe in is reality. Maybe I’m alone in this? What do you believe?

I think that as desperate as it may sound, to start by acknowledging that it is difficult not to believe might actually be the beginning of a very exciting, faith filled, fruitful journey.

I heard the other day that if we could put every person alive on planet earth together in one physical place, allocating a square meter to each individual we would all be able to fit into the state of Texas, USA. Now that might not be 100% accurate and confirmed as yet but it sure birthed a shocking realisation in my mind almost immediately. I suddenly thought of how much space was left over in the world. I then started thinking about how we are told that we are running out of natural resources – plants, food, water, fertile land, oxygen, minerals, etc. etc. I also heard that if we pooled all the money and divided it all up equally amongst every living person on earth each would be a multi-millionaire in US dollars. …. Maybe I’m not all that smart, but this all seems a little crazy to me. It smells funny doesn’t it?

Alongside all of this there is mounting pressure on us to be eco-friendly and to conserve and spare our resources like water and also to not waste stuff like food and mineral resources etc. Now this sounds good, reasonable and wise, even responsible.  However, a very few individuals have got a monopoly on water and food and the control of resources and production. Alongside this our governments tax everything…. we even pay them to breathe the air which they never owned and to live on the land that they never created.  At the same time industry consumes vast quantities of natural resources to make a lot of mostly unnecessary things to sell to us at mostly huge profit yet we (labeled “consumers”) are under ever increasing pressure to cut back on excesses … for what? …  so that they can continue to make more unnecessary stuff to sell back to us. ? ….  the stench just got worse for me, how’s it smell to you?

what is social appropriateness?  i am reminded fairly often that i’m not at all socially appropriate, but who decides this?  i used to feel upset by this, like it was a severe deficiency in me.  but now I mostly see it as a misguided but well earned compliment.

i’ve heard it said that some things are best not said.  maybe that was just one of them.  in fact we don’t even need to hear it said.  it come through loud and clear.  rolling eyes, glares from across the room, rejection, turned heads, social and even personal distancing, all these speak faster than the words of this socially determined value ever could convey.

there is a saying that goes, “don’t cast your pearl before swine” which is wise i think.  but has honesty become one of these pearls we cannot cast?  if so, what is the alternative if it’s not socially appropriate to be honest anymore.  i think we are far too socially appropriate for our own good, far too socially appropriate even for our own health.  the ground swell of socially appropriate pop culture doesn’t really allow for or even show any real interest in honesty.  our rampant consumer culture and the lies and manipulation of marketing has bolted this down good and tight.  in virtually all aspects of life we’d rather keep it superficial.

religion is arguably one of the most socially appropriate practices we have.  it helps us to be more in tune with our society.  it makes us good citizens and able consumers.  it is not at all healthy to be socially appropriate in, and well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

too much information, you say?  there you go, – “too much information” is even too much information for itself, so it has become tmi.  maybe it’s only too much information because it upsets our frail sense of equilibrium and we just don’t want to hear it?  we can’t afford to hear it because it might provoke us to change.  and we can’t have any of that.  we have far too much to lose.

i wonder how strong our release valves really are?  when’s it all going to break?  it makes me think of the shifting of tectonic plates.  it is deemed socially appropriate to live in hip places like california, but maybe we all live in california in our minds?  to live on an active fault line and pretend that it’s not dangerous is what I would call socially inappropriate.