Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A natural/cultural/spiritual transition

One of the most profound changes of our time, if not the most profound change is how we see nature. I understand someone 200 years ago thinking that nature is so complex, God simply created it all in His wisdom, even someone with the best education available. 200 years from now it may be hard for anyone to imagine seeing nature that way, when all the mechanisms of nature are so obvious and known to incredible detail. We are in between.

I've listened to so much fighting over creationism and evolution, and it's nothing more than a natural response to such a big transition. It's a clash of worldviews, not psychoses, but understandable views, even if anyone with a decent education knows that the creationist view is obsolete. I think it's important that there is an additional view that though God is understood to be not the Creator as He once was, He is still Helper, but I get tired of saying things that no one hears.

People know what they know and are ignorant and arrogant about the rest. That nature continues even as knowledge expands. I wonder how long it will take before we transition our way past that into something new? Science is good for that, for teaching us what we know well and what we don't, yet so many scientists don't seem to distinguish between what they know from science and their opinions about other things that are no better than anyone else's. It will take more than science for people to admit what they don't know. Will it be culture that teaches us that, maybe even something spiritual?

There is a garbage pile of ideas for things that can't be answered by science, such as how we should live our lives, what our minds know beyond our senses. Someday people in general may be able to see that, as opposed to now when both atheists and Bible-believing Christians insist they're right with very little understanding of where they're wrong . I hope that the transition about the nature of ideas goes better than this one about the nature of our bodies has. I suppose the odds are against that.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The mustard on the face dream

I watched Christopher Hitchens this morning on CSPAN2. He’s angry at religion. He’s sick of people who want to teach his children creationism, among other grievances. So many people have their own plans to reshape our culture into their own vision of perfection. Such plans conflict, don’t they?

I gave up watching during their time for questions. There was one man in the audience who started yelling when it was his turn at the microphone. He didn’t like what Christopher Hitchens said. At least he waited his turn. Both Christopher Hitchens and a security guard encouraged him to leave. It could have been worse. Fortunately our culture has some standards of behavior, regardless of whether it’s the law or embarrassment that’s more important for policing them.

Instead of watching something else, I closed my eyes and started having dream-like symbolic images, as I often do. One was especially memorable because there was all this bright yellow. It started as a face, not necessarily my face, not necessarily someone else’s face, but a universal face. Then a plastic mustard container appears and something off screen squeezes it forcefully on the man’s face. Hmmm, the revenge of culture that everyone is trying to change? It will leave us like a man who has to be told at the end of a meal that he has mustard on his face? I’m sure some would think of a sexual analogy, but no, it wasn’t like that.

It was memorable enough that I thought about how the mustard was squirted on this man’s face. I recognize that pattern. It’s how I squirt mustard on a slice of bread for a sandwich, in an S-pattern, but with wiggling so that it covers enough of the bread. I don’t have to get a knife out to make it perfectly smooth. It wouldn’t be right if somehow I could put peanut butter on bread that unevenly. That I’d have to smooth out, but mustard? That pattern’s fine for mustard. So squirt and go.

I like the freedom of that. I have enough perfectionism in me that I could imagine getting a knife and making the mustard even all the way across the bread, but I save that for other things. I like that I don’t have to do that with mustard. There really is a lot of freedom in our culture if you think about it, especially in comparison to the past

What about the face? Well, it’s more personal than someone’s feet. A face has one’s eyes, out of which we could see this world in a much more functional way, if our society was big on that. Instead there are all these fantasies about getting rid of religion or making everyone a Christian or Republican or Democrat. It’s not that I like diversity so much. I just think there’s one reality and many people are delusional about what that reality is, especially those who get up in public and insist that they know all these other people are delusional. That people have delusions is reality as well. They are human nature. People overvalue their opinions. They don’t know how much they don’t know. They have simplistic visions of how the world could be better. They pretend cultural evolution is merely a matter of people deciding what they want. That’s not what I see cultural institutions doing over generations. To some degree they have lives of their own.

People see themselves as in charge of their future. I see something greater than we are using us for the bread in a sandwich. What is that thing? Is it God? Is it more natural forces that have shaped us through both biology and culture? I’m not sure, but I am glad to see we use the same technique with mustard. Having things in common allow for some bonding.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Taking a break from time

I had a dream where many things happened in a series of public places. A funny thing was that everytime I looked at a clock it was about the same time, always a little before 1PM. One clock said it was 12:59, almost time to go back to work. Then I'd go somewhere else, and the clock said it was 12:55. Then the next clock had moved forward again, but only by a couple of minutes.

Maybe I've been watching Heroes on TV too much, wishing I could stop time like Hiro Nakomura. Then again, dreams are simply different from reality. Maybe whatever scripts my dreams had all this ground to cover in the setting of a lunch break that I don't have any more as a volunteer. So the only way to fit it all together was to have time be unrealistic. Not a problem for a dream.

Actually I don't think being unrealistic is difficult for any of us to be in real life, too. It's just that in real life the clocks keep time moving, unless they're broken. If we don't give up on external reality teaching us, we can't get too lost in fantasy. Still it's amazing how beliefs can defend people against reality being contrary to those beliefs. I'm sure that reality wins in the end.

So for me stopping time is only for my dreams or a show with really good character development. As a military tactic around Jericho? No, I don't think so. Such a thing happens in dreams and fantasy, not reality.

(For anyone interested in a long fantasy about how NASA confirmed the lost day of Joshua, and a thorough discussion debunking it, that's here: http://www.snopes.com/religion/lostday.htm)