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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Shape of Things to Come

A long time ago, I worked with a man who began to assiduously study the Book of Revelations, or the Apocalypse, and the End of Times. We had many long discussions about it. His intuition about the future was correct because his way of life suddenly ended. His young wife had a stroke and she required a long rehabilitation. They had three children at this time, the eldest being no more than 10. He continued to work. His life turned upside down.
Then within two years when she was much better, she suddenly decided to live with some other man, divorce my friend in the wake of her departure, and contest child custody tenaciously.

I would say that his intuition of the future, the End of Times, was essentially correct. He used the wrong conscious imagery, however, to bring it into the light of his everyday mind. I once had a dream that I did not recall upon waking. I read the comic strip Doonesbury and in the last frame, the expression “sea snakes” occurred, referring to the sea off the coast of Vietnam. Suddenly a memory of a dream unfolded. I assume I had it the night before because it had the smell of newness about it. My brother and I were swimming at my paternal grandparents cottage when we began to be bothered by fish with large teeth. These fish began to bite at us, there was a bit of a struggle, and…print it. That’s all there was.

The connection between reading the comic strip and the dream memory was so vivid that I have always considered it to be a premonitory dream of the future, only backwards, because a premonition warns you of future danger whereas this dream was a past danger forgotten until invoked by a future image.
Intuitions of the Future are a very interesting subset of cognitive events. There is much that is not-conscious that seems to act like fields of probability and potentiality, bearing no characteristics of consciousness but very much able to do so. Suddenly we find the right type of conscious behavior and what was only possible becomes visible to consciousness. It “pops into your head”, as it were.

In my dream, whatever state of potential existed put on the clothes of “sea snakes” and stepped into the street. However, I feel that that potentiality could easily have put on a different type of clothing if I had not read Doonesbury that morning. I had a mental state that had characteristics of conflict, fear, etc. Suddenly it had a face: the face of piranha.

Now what does this have to do with the Holy?
We have a great many people who believe the End of Times to be imminent. What does this mean to us? Millions in the past have had similar beliefs and those beliefs played out as wars, famine, disease, catastrophe, and eventually their individual deaths. The concept of Death is within us. The fact of Death is not. Yet it is believed and demonstrated that Prayer and Meditation seem to lead to Good Health.

So if the conceptual act of Praying affects the actual fact of Being-Healthy, then it seems obvious that the conceptual act of Death will affect the actual fact of Being-Dead. There is an old saying, “ Be careful what you pray for, for you may get it !” which points to this type of connect between mind and world.

In our society, there are at least two streams of thought; one ties together the mind and reality and believes the mind, remaining as mind – not being translated into physical activity- may affect reality. The other denies this, saying mental events such as desire to go for a ride must be translated into physical events (pick up keys, get into car, turn on engine) before mind affects reality. Most of us assert publicly the second view while affirming the limited application of the first view as well in the privacy of the secret garden of our own thoughts.

If the mind affects reality, the mere act of believing in the End of Times may hasten its approach. HOWEVER, the actuality of the End of Times need not be as you imagined it. There may be a link between mind and reality, but there is no NECESSARY link between your mind and reality. For example, a pandemic of the Avian Flu would seem to pretty much fill the bill for an End of Times for a hundred million people or so. Thus we would see that the intuitions of a future End of Times were correct in general, failing only in the catastrophic details.

At this point, I will end today. This discussion will form one of the bases of the more complete discussion of what this blog was set up to do: discuss the relationship of mankind to the Holy. A great deal of our mental life in relation to the Holy uses the Future Tense.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day and Funes the Memorious

I made it through the holiday weekend without redundancy. This is a covert way of saying I had no M and Ms from my mother’s shop for greedy children. Since the M in M and Ms is doubled, it is redundant and I am able to escape it on syntax alone. Elements of Style, man. Elements of Style. (This is to be spoken as David Clennon playing Palmer in John Carpenter’s The Thing: "Chariots of the gods, man. Chariots of the gods.")

Interestingly enough, my three evil nephews have a different approach. They consider M and Ms, or more properly, the name M and Ms, to be an oxymoron! In a mind-numbing display, they pointed out my mistake. This had been prefaced by a rather fast paced discussion of Ozzie and Harriet and its connection with Umberto Eco’s literature. “…the symbolism of Darby and Doc Williams…” “…Joe Randolph’s despair…” “…and everyone knows that it was Thorny!”
“Was what?” I said.
“What was what?”, nephew #3 inquired with the face of an angel.
“What was Thorny…don’t you mean who played Thorny?”, I replied.
“No…The Name of the Rose!…it was Thorny.”

This was followed by a laughter that you might expect would be the immediate prelude to a particularly unpleasant end of the world as we know it, with Hieronymus Bosch as the guy recording it on video. It was their opinion that in the nanosecond between the utterance of the first M and the second M, the atoms comprising the Ms were disentangled – across light years – and they became contraries.
For them saying M and Ms was like saying “Jumbo shrimp”.

At this juncture, it was an exquisitely small step to Jorge Luis Borges' story Funes the Memorious. Instead of being merely "M", the first M received the new name “Lavande de Valensole” and the second M “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off”. At this time, my mother put on her apron to prepare dinner (the M in “mother” becoming “Mystery Clock”) and gently shooed us from the summer kitchen with a kindly “retro, daimones!”
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Saturday, May 27, 2006

On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts: 3 Death…Live…

Read this as:
“ something-something DEATH, killed, tortured, maimed…(pause)…LIVE at 11:00”

as if it were on the evening news.
What?, you cry in consternation.
You have the audacity to use those obscenities and say they are spoken as if they were on the evening news, the very same evening news that comes into the privacy of my home, within the very intimate fortress of my family?

Why, yes. It seems a pretty good description. Yes, that’s what I’m doing. Let’s apply it to, oh, say terrorist beheadings…LIVE at 11:00!
Or bombing wedding parties in No-one-gives-a-rip-ostan…LIVE at 11:00!
Or our government involved in third party torture schemes…LIVE at 11:00!
Or criminality and violence and gore all night long, then the real stuff...LIVE at 11:00!

O God! Let us not die unwatched and unwatching!

So remember that in our Brave New World Order, no one dies alone and unwatched, by the grace of the media gods. Because...it’ll be LIVE…at 11:00!

ps. the smoking gun between viewing violence and the collapse of civilization takes 50 years to manifest. it remains dormant, like HIV. we will only be able to prove it as we are about to be slaughtered by the barbarians in our midst. I think that's how the wonderfully rational Cicero died.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Miscellanea: 1

(1) The Leaders of the English Speaking World met in Washington. There was no ANZAC contingent present.
 “In Iraq, mistakes were made.”
I am positive that this is an example from some sort of grammar from my past, some English instruction manual. I cannot remember if it is The Elements of Style by Strunk or Modern English Usage by Fowler or some other book. Those are the two I’ve read. I continually read Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Do not read an updated version. Both books were published around 1918 or so. Our use of English has changed so greatly that all of Fowler’s examples of incorrect usage appear to me to be correct. That isn’t the important point. Fowler will show you how to wield an English of the utmost precision and brevity. No one else will do that.

In Prep School we had an example similar to “mistakes were made”. “Sitting at the table, coffee and doughnuts were served.” was a favorite of Fr. Hamilton to demonstrate an ambiguity of the present participle used in a something-or-other clause. So we took it with us to Latin class where it became: “Sedentes circum mensam, coffeus et doughnutae servabantur.” and once we became familiar with ablative absolutes: “Sedentibus circum mensam, …” and so on.
These things sound better in the passive voice. I myself always say, “mistakes were made” instead of “I messed up.” I notice it sounds even better in Latin: “In Mesopotamia, errores facti sunt.” and I am off the uncus ( a large iron hook ).


(2) I have heard it said that once you begin to dream in a language, you are well on the high road to mastery. Good, I think. I had a dream. I do not think it was in Arabic. However, the memory of the dream came to me as: ‘aHlum bi shakulata ( using H for the emphatic “h” ) which means “ I dream in chocolate.”

Since I was not dreaming of, not to mention in, chocolate, it was mystifying. I did catch a glimpse of Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka the other day. That may be germane. I do not actually believe dreams “mean” anything at all. I think that there are steps that the brain uses to change experiences from Immediate to Short Term to Long Term memory and dreams are the first conscious step in the process. The preceding steps are like the beatings of the heart; you do not notice them.
So we may link up memories to experiences if that’s what you mean by Meaning. We’ll get into linking up memories to FUTURE experiences a little later when I have the nerve to write about intuitions of the future.


(3) As Memorial Day approaches, I need to buy some more geraniums for my parents. His “parents” you say. How old must they be?! I mean, this guy is old enough to go to the same gym as Methusaleh. Well, that’s as nice way to start off the holiday.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Walls

To quote Robert Frost, something there is that doesn’t love a wall. Walls reminds me of mediaeval ghettoes. The Berlin Wall was never very popular, except to those who yearn for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of Stasi. The Berlin Wall is gone. Israel is now building a wall. The rationale is impeccable and there is a real fear of a population that cannot be assimilated into a Jewish state. However, it is a wall around an entire country. The division now must be made permanent and enduring. The Berlin Wall is gone. The USA wishes to build a wall along their southern border with Mexico. It is understandable why the USA would want to become the world’s largest gated-community. The fears of the people in the USA are real. The abuses have been going on a very long time. Many employers in the USA have knowingly aided and abetted illegal workers. How many presidential appointees within the last 25 years have caused embarrassment when their childrens’ nannies from Latin America were discovered to have no green card or to be working in semi-servitude? Perhaps the new story of immigration will be the diseased form of the melting pot; not a freely willed coming together, but the image of Terminator 2 in a crucible of molten iron. No one will smile. No one will feel redeemed. No one saved.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Googling the DaVinci Code

My daughter says that I am not writing about religion the way I actually speak about it. She thinks I’m trying to be friendly. Let’s do some housecleaning first: this is the last thing I will ever write about The DaVinci Code, hereafter referred to as TDC. The film is out and people are being interviewed. Some say it is a work of fiction, a profound observation. Some say they are rethinking religion, a profounder observation. Meanwhile, here I sit in what I take for the Real World and there are no albino monks running around killing the Ron Howards of the world. So how real is it? At this point you answer, “ Is what?” and I say, “Exactly.” And this brilliant conversation is somewhat clearer than the discussion in TDC. The real members of Opus Dei may be creepy, but they are our creeps and they do the works of mercy we are too good to do. They are the illegal immigrants of the spiritual world. As far as being a work of fiction, remember that To Kill a Mockingbird and Hostel are both works of fiction. One inspires, the other is murder considered as a fine art. Work of fiction is a shallow observation. But what is there about TDC that is not shallow and superficial? The condemnation of TDC is not that it is a work of fiction, but that it is Mass Market Consumerism fiction. In other words, it is crap. It was devised as crap. It was executed as crap. It was printed as meretricious crap. It was sold as crap… and we love it. Crap is cheap because it does not require 30 years of spiritual quest on the author’s part! There is an excellent Return on Investment on crap. The Last Temptation of Christ by Kazantzakis actually handled Jesus as Man and as Divine. It was a most original work of art. You have not read it because it was not designed for the mass consumer market. You never will read it. TDC is fodder for Hollow Men and Women, which is what we are. The simulacra of ideas contained within TDC (more like idea-bots of a malign and weird-wired nature) get within our hollow heads and rattle around, we spit forth gum balls of opinions from our oral dispensing unit for media-drones holding microphones, asking “ Did the film change your life? Do you feel its memes coursing through your mind?” We do not have a clue. Neither the sacred team nor the profane team are on the real playing field, a field which is not level by any stretch of the imagination. It is more like a battlefield. We prove that we are clueless every day in war zones where our fellow countrymen and innocent civilians are dying in a war based upon premises which were fundamentally unsound. We pretend. We pretend to have morals. We pretend to worship something other than Mammon. We pretend to talk to God. Ask the people outside the theater, rather, “Did this film change your view of the divinity of Money? of the divinity of Power? Did it strengthen your belief in eventual despair of all good acts?” “Did this film inspire you to charity?” This is a country not yet ready to put aside childish notions of the Holy and Morality. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. ... Oh, the Googling bit. I have opened a search engine. With a trembling hand I type: “ DaVinci don’t live here no mo’ ” and with a trembling hand, I press the Enter button. Thus, do I Google The DaVinci Code out of existence. May 18 2006 May 17 2006 May 13 2006

Friday, May 19, 2006

Culture Wars and Kulturkampf: 1

One often sees expressions like “culture wars” these days. I suppose they are derived from Otto von Bismarck’s Kulturkampf directed against the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. I think it is usually translated as “culture struggle”. We have so many “wars” these days. War is one of our favorite idioms. Of course, once one has a war, one needs a “Czar” to be the top guy in waging the war on whatever. If things really get desperate, one must have recourse to a “Manhattan Project” and all will be well, except the wartime housing in D.C. will be in very short supply. When I see my neighbors, I think I shall say, “ Good day. Beautiful day…let’s war on feeling poorly!” And they will respond heartily, “And may you be the Czar of good-feeling!” Or, “May you head the Manhattan Project against the blues!” Anyway, the idea is the idioms are our favorites and by using them we are once more able to evade anything remotely resembling “deep thought”. I noticed that someone recently called for a Manhattan Project to end our dependence on foreign oil. The only problem here is that the scientists involved in the actual Manhattan Project did indeed “have a clue” of where they were going and how to get there. “Culture War” is another good nonce idea. I like the Bismarckian connection and the expression “culture war” itself reminds me strongly of the song Lili Marlene: ...schon rief die Posten, die blasen Kulturkampf... and I think of jerries, the RAF, white cliffs of Dover, John Wayne, and GIs sitting around in some USO hall, the air thick with smoke from Luckies in the green pack. I will talk about culture. I do not believe in culture war. I mean, it is just too easy to identify boogey men and point one’s finger at them. Culture war is an idiom that lets us off the hook. We can identify the bad guys. Therefore, we are innocent. At worst, we were duped. We were brainwashed. Nonsense. It also assumes that since we may identify someone or a group as the bad guys, they do bad things intentionally. At this point we cross into Conspiracy Theory. Anyone who reads books by the “culture war” group will notice that there is a slippery slope to conspiracy. There is a conspiracy of the liberal media, for one. There is a conspiracy by the entertainment industry. There is a Hollywood conspiracy to subvert morality, and so on; yards and yards of the conspiracy cloth. Actually, as demonstrated by the eager reading public for fantastic religious fiction, the enemies are ourselves.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

May His Polls Increase

My daughter knows a young man who is running for some political office. She went to a meeting for him and it began with a prayer led by a proper young lady Republican. In her prayer, she prayed for the President. I assume she prayed that he be wise, tolerant, and understanding. However, she did most definitely ask that his polls numbers increase! From all decreasing polls, libera nos, Domine! From fire, flood, and famine, deliver us, oh Lord! Since the poll numbers have gone down since then, I hope the young lady’s faith has not been shaken. There is the old saying: Give a president good polls and he will most probably be re-elected; Teach a president how to be wise, understanding, charitable, and to have breadth of vision, and he will probably be a leader of men for the rest of his life. Presidents Eisenhower, Carter, and Reagan observed this maxim.

DaVinci Don't Live Here No Mo' 2

I was referred to boortz.com the other day. Mr. Boortz talks about the great issues of the day and states, “Somebody’s gotta say it” and proceeds to do so, mistaking his sense of urgency to be good sense. Somewhere he says this country was conceived and born in adherence to the law. He apparently has forgotten that little unpleasantness with King George. He speaks of The DaVinci Code and received emails, some of which he shares: http://boortz.com/nuze/200605/05162006.html#davinci Quote: There were several emails like this one: I've only two words to say about the DaVinci Code (and yes, I've read it) - It's FICTION! ( name removed ) Well ... there's a nice little dodge around the issue. Sure, the main characters are fictional, and the narrative is a fictional one, but dismissing The DaVinci Code by simply stating that "it's fiction" is like trying to disclaim World War II and the actions of the Third Reich by saying that Hogan's Heroes is fiction. “ Unless I am mistaken, the writer here is asserting that one cannot argue against the truth of an event by stating some subsequent work based upon that event is a work of fiction. Or, Hogan’s Heroes was fiction, but we affirm the basic truth that WWII occurred. Therefore Mr. Boortz seems to be taking the position of the foremost conservative spokesperson for the ultimate veracity of The DaVinci Code. He seems to be saying that we may have gotten some details wrong, but The DaVinci Code is true is its main thrust. Using his example, he could say that Hitler ruled Germany even though General Burkhalter did not share that stein of beer with a fraulein while Sgt. Schultz was chasing LeBeau and Col. Klink was stuck in the meat locker of the Hotel. A truly intricate path of reasoning back to old WWII. If at some future time Hogan's Heroes were to be the sole item of our age remaining which mentioned WWII, future historians might actually have to recreate things this way. Then we could have important issues, such as The Quest for the Historical Klink. (Of course, we could interpret Mr. Boortz as saying, "The DaVinci Code is fiction, but Jesus did live." And we should be grateful to him for his acute vision.) What is its main thrust, anyway? Jesus is still with us through descendants of the Merovingians? They have been a lot of help over the years. Jesus married? So what? I have read everything in that book over the years in various places. It did not strike me to the core, nor does it now. The further this generation wanders from the message of God, the more compulsively will it pay attention to signs and wonders, DaVinci Code and Bible Code and other forms of obsessive displays resembling a black sabbat of lunatics held in the slough of despond. May 17 2006 May 13 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The New Philosophie, The DaVinci Code, and Frankenstein

As Europe emerged from the mediaeval period, the new natural philosophy came into being, which we know as Science.
John Milton wrote of it. John Donne said, “ The new philosophie calls all in doubt.”
The verities of the past were called into question. Many old truths were rejected. Still, every society has had it myths of the creation of the world.

Even though the old Faith was called into doubt, the new philosophers could not dispel the stories of how the Divine interacted with the World and Mankind.
Even today we see the clash between the Narratives of Creationism and Darwinism, for Darwin’s victory was nowhere nearly as complete as that of Newton. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s story Frankenstein concerns a scientist and his creation of human life. Brian Aldiss refers to Frankenstein as a diseased creation myth.

In what sense diseased?
I get the idea that the humans who begin to usurp the place of the Holy within the ancient mythic narratives are diseased by their arrogance.
The human scientists give life, but not quality of life.
The human scientists give power, but they cannot add wise use of power.

God creates within a total framework of creation, life and quality of life and everything you need to sustain it.
This age of ours, this Brave New World, has many new stories which are variants on the ancient ones. We have given them our industrial age twist. Dracula is a diseased Resurrection myth. The DaVinci Code is a story that supplies a misplaced focus for mankind’s inherent impulse to the Holy.

Ours is the age that worships Power. The religious leaders with the greatest following parley their popularity into votes. We have created a new Gospel, a diseased story of the Sermon on the Mount. The humble and lowly are contemptible. No one dare cast the mighty from their thrones. Our Gospel is one of Power, Power inherited along a bloodline. We cannot wait for the End of Times. We stand at the stable door and whip the four horsemen on. DaVinci Dont Live Here No Mo'
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Monday, May 15, 2006

Writing: 2

I edited my profile. It had been viewed 8 times. I found that I had viewed it 7 times, so a cucaracha must have stumbled on a idle mouse somewhere and pressed View. It's rather small for a profile. Let's call it a snippet, a tatter, a patchwork, a gumbo file of personal history. I have no pictures here. I mean, its rather like one of those immense white rooms with astronomical windows that people who are rich & clueless have in their houses: something like those scenes from the Matrix where Morpheus sits in an armchair and the floor, walls, and ceilings are white, white, white - accentuated by his rich mahogany skin. But I do not do pictures well. Writing is difficult enough. I have come across blogs by people who bemoan their lack of writing ability in prose that makes me want to cry in envy. Then they say they think they'll put up some pictures to cheer up the old blogstead. And there stands my blog like some monument to the 21st Maine or the 32nd Pennsylvania, classic and marmoreal, but lacking that little touch of Bella Abzug that makes you think of home and hearth and a warm kitchen with fresh blintzes. writing 1

A Dream of a Cross

My daughter passed the bar. She lives in a southern border state she loves, inhabited by people of the quaintest habits. I remember her telling me that people always thanked the bus driver when they reached their stop. Men tip their hats to ladies. (I mean Mason-Dixon Line border, not Rio Grande border. We are infusing our writing with ante-bellum fragrance. And by ante-bellum I mean Civil War, not whatever war we are waging right now.)

The bar was becoming an obsession with her. We feared lest she fail it. She would have seen her life as a failure and her search for a job would have been hampered. It was a great onus lifted from our souls. She called at 5:00 in the morning.
Well done, brave heart!
She related to me a dream she had had two days earlier. She was with a friend. They went to visit another friend who handed my daughter a cross. My daughter woke up with a start and felt a profound sense of peace pass over her soul and she no longer worried about the outcome of the bar exam. The cross of the dream was the cross which hung on a necklace we had given her.

I told her never to forget the dream.

The dream is an experience of the cognitive system that informs our experience of the Holy.
Our experience of the Holy is not derived from emotions.
It is not wish fulfillment.
It is not fear, not anger, not desire.

The experience of the Holy is a complex of conscious and not-conscious behaviors, which are not derived from nor are reducible to other forms of consciousness, such as Emotion. Emotions may accompany the experience of the Holy, but emotions also accompany our experience of Music, and this does not lead us to believe Music is Emotion in its essence.
The experience of the Holy is a a part of each human being and is as fundamental as Language, Emotion, Music, Imaging - the conscious behaviors of humanity. It is very different from these, however, in a way we'll talk about later on. When God speaks, we have to try to interpret this inspiration.
We use common images and concepts and we actually dress our experiences in the vestments of everyday usage. Perhaps when we were children, before we could master language, while we were innocent, God’s words came to us everyday. As children we are innocent: when we play cowboys and Indians, no one actually dies forever. We get up and play on. The villains of play return home as children forgiven their evil deeds.

The consciousness of children is a dawn consciousness that is very different from that we use everyday. The change of Consciousness from the Dawn Consciousness to the Adult Consciousness of language, logic, and economy is the basis for the Narratives of loss of innocence, loss of a Golden Age. Try as we will, we cannot recapture it. Except when God finally pushes in through all the barriers we’ve set up. And there He is. And we are innocent again. And peace reigns. Amen.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

I Like Ike: 2

Excerpt from President Dwight David Eisenhower's Farewell Address " Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield. Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. " Can we have any glimpse of the ideals which motivated such men as recently as 50 years ago? Have the heroes all disappeared, leaving us with the Trimalchios of self-engorgement, the Alcibiades of self-interest, the Jay Goulds of pagan greed, the Chryses of those blinded by their wealth? Has our keen sense of morality turned us into Reverends James Andrews of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, so dear to us the wealth coming from part of humanity held in our thrall?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

DaVinci Don’t Live Here No Mo’

"Is Shaniqua there?"
Shaniqua don't live here no mo'.  
Little T

Instead of Shaniqua moving away, it should be DaVinci that packed up and moved his digs to places unknown. We need another 300 year breather from Leonardo. I notice that Catholics in Mumbai are protesting against the film. There is something about using religion for entertainment that makes me think of Broadway Danny Rose being turned to the dark side.
I never read the novel, but I did hear about its story. It seems to be a compendium of theories and storylines and plots I have come across over the years. Mary Magdalene was very close to Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ by Kazantzakis. ( The novel, that is. Under no circumstances let your eyes be afflicted by the film version. It is hard to find a film worse and more pretentious.)
I read that book in the 60’s. The Knights Templar are old hat. Everything in that book is old, old and hoary. Mr. Brown’s genius lay in putting it all together into a good read. I should look into doing something similar: a book about commonplace things (to me) which no one in America has paid any attention to (everyone else, apparently).

I have not heard whether there is a connection in The DaVinci Code between the Templars and the Ismailis. I could write about that at the risk of a Rushdie fatwa. For example, I am sure I have heard somewhere some sort of rumor or scuttlebutt - probably in the Café des Esseintes – that THE bloodline of Jesus was actually passed along by James, his brother! And so on. However, James was probably strict and orthodox, so he would not have been in flagrante cum meretrice, so to speak. He and his wife were faithful, no doubt. So there would be no chance for the taint of scandal with James.


What I do not quite comprehend is why we are so accepting of scandal with Jesus? Is it because he himself said his message was aimed at sinners, because the non-sinning portion of the population (according to polls, a whopping 92% of the populace) had no need of his message?
Now mark this closely: The greatest publishing phenomena of recent years treat our religion as if it were a street mime: The DaVinci Code and the Left Behind series. What fault do I find in Left Behind? The concept of Rapture is not scriptural to my mind. In Matthew 13:30, “ First collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn.”
Notice we do not first gather up the wheat, and then let the weeds wage a series of herbal wars with each other. No, simple old Day of Judgement. No innovative twists of theology. No new dispensational kinks and turns. Even though we may need to explicate a parable, we don't have to straighten the parables out.

Explaining a parable does not include saying, "This isn't what Jesus really meant to say." I like my religion simple, for my simple mind. I find that a religion that requires charts, graphs, and audio-visual aids to explicate the change of God’s covenants over time to be a bit like walking into a wall. It ignores the Sermon on the Mount. I mean, can’t you visualize Simon Peter (the go-to guy) yelling at James(the backpack guy) to get those charts, graphs, overhead transparencies, and display boards up the mountain before the sermon ends? If you emphasize the goal: salvation, but neglect the means to attain it: the Beatitudes, then I wouldn’t bet a nickel on the good outcome of that particular enterprise.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Bible Code: 1 Bibliomancy

I was discussing the relative merits of religion with my boyhood chum. Since he is a priest, he took the side of Christianity, heavily weighted towards Roman Catholicism. Since I am the only one of the two of us who has set foot in a mosque, I was on the side of Islam. Thus do the vagaries of Fate inform the World. So we reached the point where we were to end, and I said something like, " Say what you will, at least Islam has the good sense to end the line of Prophets. " He seemed to know what I meant. He thought about it. He said he'd get back to me. What impressed me was the fact that it seemed to be familiar to him. I had expected to have to explain what I meant. Perhaps he is a member of Opus Dei and it means something to them. I have run the risk of angering him by referring to some of the Church's bigger gaffs as Opera Buffa Dei. ( opera is the plural of opus in case you've forgotten.) This is the type of smart-aleck remark one hears from emeritus members of Latinum Auxilium. Modern Christianity has opened the door to new Prophetic activity. We do not mean "prophesy" in the sense of St.Paul, we mean "Prophesy" in the sense of receiving a new Dispensation - a new covenantual agreement with God. We have new mantic activity also that allows us to see across space and time. Let us consider Harry Potter. Many people did not take kindly to Harry Potter, Professor Snape being one of them. The major rub was the divination, witchcraft, and various types of mantic behavior going on. I viewed the most recent film and my wife and I turned to each other in wild surmise and wondered how the story had become so dark and so creepy as to merit that initial rejection of parents concerned for young minds. Nonetheless, I know some people who as Christians reject the necromantic imagery of Harry Potter, yet they seem to be very positive over the so-called Bible Code. If you wish to refer to the Bible Code properly, you must call it Bibliomancy. This is literally divination from a book, not just the Bible. Islam does not countenance any form of divination. Yet, a portion of mainstream Christianity seems to have embraced bibliomancy. And, as mentioned, bibliomancy means divination by a book. This goes far beyond those forms of prophesy permissible to Christians mentioned in the New Testament. This is exactly how a deceiver would deceive the faithful: turn against them their own holy writings in which they already believe without question. Ask yourself this, " Did the old types of mantic activity, oneiromancy, necromancy,etc., not satisfy their practioners? Did not the the ancient haruspices make a good living from inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals to tell the future?" Did not the most abased Pagan believe himself justified in his belief? So also do we who turn to divination and feel an inflation of mantic frenzy as our souls puff up with our arcane knowledge of God's hidden plans. However, "who has known the mind of the Lord, or has been His counselor?"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lost on a Desert Isle:1

This is a version of a well known game: Which desert island would you like to read about if you were marooned in the Library of Congress?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

15 Minutes of Hubris

Hubris, as in the book Imperial Hubris, actually does not mean arrogance.
Hubris is Greek and is recently imported from Philology and Classics into common use. Thus we still use the "u" instead of changing it to "y", as in "dynamic" from the Greek stem "dun-" . Thus, "dynamic" was a wprd borrowed from Greek long enough ago to have undergone that "u" to "y" change.

Hubris is a reversal of fortune attributed to Fate or Moira.
The higher the flight, the more precipitous the fall.

Oedipus experienced hubris. It was through no volition of his, no intentional sin. The mere fact of success prepares for its own demise: hubris.
Hubris works a lot faster nowadays. If Andy Warhol were alive, he would say that we all will have our 15 minutes of hubris. Only sometimes it lasts longer than 15 minutes. And sometimes we weren't flying high in the first place. No. Hubris is like the end of the dinosaurs: it just was time for them to go.

A lot of the history of Life is similar to a Wolfram Process to which various Darwinian Algorithms may be applied. But what is evident in certain Wolfram Processes (cellular automata applied to evolutionary processes) is that sometimes it is just written, it is fated, it is the next step of working out the underlying code.
Scientists look for the end of the dinosaurs in a comet impact, climate change, changes in predator-prey relationships. There is no smoking gun, however. It was just time. Sometimes things just happen. Period. Look at some of Wolfram’s Cellular Automata. Look at the ones that are chaotic and create areas of order which endure and endure, then they abruptly end. Whether a step in his cellular automata represent a second, a day, or a thousand years, when the code plays out, it’s a wrap.

Our end is already written.It is noble to redact the writing with acts of as much honor and godliness as possible.

--

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Sublime and the Beautiful

Edmund Burke's essay The Sublime and the Beautiful makes me think about the fearsome side of the Holy. The Holy is Awe-inspiring, but it is also Awe-full in the sense that it inspires terror in the minds of many throughout history. As I drove home today, I saw a sign on a church which said that one could not look at the beauty of nature without thinking of the hand of God. This assumes that we are in a good frame of mind and are looking at some prospect - say, the setting sun or rising moon with a glad eye - and feel God's in His heaven and all is right with the world. I mean, do we ever extrapolate from the horrors of the world to God's creation? Yes, we do. People with depression do. They don't put it up on a sign, however. God, the Holy, is a complex conceptual structure and may be hard to encompass with a holy haiku on the sign in front of the church. Not that I disagree with the sign approach. I just feel that while we dwell on the awe-inspiring, we neglect the awe-filling. There are these two aspects to God. It is apparent in accounts of visionary experiences. When anyone says that they are speaking to God, or that they know God's mind, no one can ever be sure what to expect from that statement. For example, if someone were to ask God whether one should go to war and God says, "Bully good idea!" like Teddy Roosevelt, one should really anticipate at least a smidgeon of horror.

The New WMDs:1

A WMD (weapon of mass destruction) has been discovered in Iraq.

It is a telephone in one of Saddam's old palaces.

 With cameras rolling, the telephone was activated and proceeded to ring off the hook for the next 6 hours with calls from telemarketers and lesser forms of life.
My parents, who are in their mid 80s, are constantly bedeviled by phone calls and telephones themselves. When I visit - once a week minimum - there are about 70 messages on their telephone electronic dustbin.

My mother is very conservative and very Republican and would not harm a fly. However, I have caught her sitting on the couch, looking daggers at the telephone, and reading the works of Mikhail Bakunin. Last week, as we were watching their television, she drove me to distraction by surfing the 100 channels. So I suggested we look at the tv book. The tv book consists of program titles plus Linear Matrices of channels, the columns of the matrix being the letters A through K, and the rows being what appear to be the best guesses of the tv book as to which number the channel might be today, ordered from best guess to worst guess. On the average, surfing the channels took 2.1 minutes to complete whereas the tv book required 6.7 minutes plus the 3 minutes required to rip it up and toss it.

 I sense that the people responsible are the same who wrote up the new Medicare program. And when my mother needs a new cellular telephone, she wants one that will just place calls and receive calls - nothing else. She hasn't caught on to the infinite number of useless amenities available in this Brave New World.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Intelligent Design 3: Idolatry Once More

Someone suggested that my interpretation of ID (Intelligent Design) as Idolatry was only true for the particular case wherein it was argued that the Designer need not necessarily be God. So I said, do ya think, duh? (And then the snake of ID did a few twists and shot away in the twinkling of an eye and went home to ID Central to be re-defined. The theory reminds me of the villain in Harry Potter films, a villain of many faces.)

The point was good and I am sorry (I'm pronouncing "sorry" as if I were Canadian, which is equivalent to having my fingers crossed behind my back). My wife says no wonder my so-called friends often resemble vengeful villagers from the early Frankenstein movies, carrying torches and pitch forks and what not when they visit.
My Bible says God created the heavens and the earth. If there were any "design phase" in the process, it seems to be totally implicate within the "Let there be..." I mean, God said let there be light. My Bible doesn't say let there be such-and-such light following my exact specifications which I have set forth in documents Alpha through Omega, and so on and so on. I ask you whether you actually mean that it is IMPOSSIBLE that God create without design? I ask whether you hold it absolutely NECESSARY that God do things the way you say he must? I ask you whether you are asserting that God the Creator is SUBSERVIENT to the laws of Nature and to your reading of those laws?
I find the whole discussion somewhat difficult, since my Faith centers on the Gospels. I feel absolutely no need to use Science to render my God more properly God-like. I mean, I don't really feel the earth tremble beneath my faith because I can't see God's fingerprint on everything in nature. In fact, if I could see God's fingerprint on everything, then the earth would tremble, for then my Faith in God would be subject to possible falsification, as are all scientific theories.

Now, from a philosophical approach: 1) I reject any argument about teleogy based on Aristotle or Aquinas dealing with this particular situation. Amicus Aristotelis sed magis amicus veritatis. 2) The argument from Irreducible Complexity does not compel. I appeal to Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science. I refer to the phenomena he deals with as a Wolfram Process. I believe it to be the case that a Wolfram Process has the ability to demonstrate several, well-matched, interacting parts without the ID concept of design. 3) Mr. Dembski's argument of Specified Complexity does not compel. Again, I believe that a Wolfram Process underlies much of the phenomena being discussed; i.e., evolution, and such a process has outcomes which cannot be assigned a probability at present. 4) The arguments deal with concepts which cannot compel assent based on logic alone. The presentation of ID strongly resembles Science and Religion for Dummies. In the present day, I would rather see a discussion whether any of the phenomena are Wolfram Processes and whether they possess Computational Universality (hence, whether we may predict future states).
Lastly, it has been a matter of policy for ID proponents to disguise their agenda. I have no problem with creationism. I do have a problem with disguised creationism. If someone feels compelled to disguise their motives, then their real motives are suspect. Who is beating the drum to which they march? intelligent design 2 intelligent design 1

Mercury Theater of the Mind:1

We are sitting around the wireless set, listening to a Fireside Chat. It came on right after Fibber McGee. Our elected representatives will debate giving us a $100 rebate to compensate for the high price of gas. The leader of the Senate sagely counsels us to get a tune-up and drive slower. Since mechanics only charge $2 a hour, this will be a great deal. Most of us will be able to do the tune-up ourselves since we all have diagnostic computers purchased from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. The skies of blue are here again!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts: 2

I watched the first Bombing of Baghdad with interest. I could not get enough of the instant re-play of smart bombs. Somewhere, they said, a hospital was being bombed. Somewhere a wedding party was mistakenly attacked. Miles of vehicles destroyed and bodies strewn in the sun. Never did the vultures praise Nekhbet as they did that day. Then the second Bombing of Baghdad. Wasn't this the greatest TV you had ever seen? This was "American Idolatry" and all the right buttons were being pushed and no one got voted off, except the ones in war's way, and they were voted off with finality. No come backs on the last show for them. How will God ever forgive me for standing and watching and not saying anything? I had a friend who was staunchly against the re-election of President Bush. Her neighbors and friends made fun of her for being against the war, which was all but won, they said. They made a bet on the election's outcome. She lost. They made her pay up by choosing the most expensive restaurant they could find. Now no one says anything. No one says they wished they'd listened to her. And she says nothing. She has changed. The killing tomes have displaced the literature books on her shelves. She accepts that she cannot do anything and she is quiet, not with the silence of humility, but with that sharp-eyed calm that cuts like a sword and whets itself with tears and runs with lonely wolves. murder as fine art 1