Thursday, March 15, 2018

A New Axial Age?

Has the modern era brought us to a new Axial Age?  Some say so, but what does it mean?  The German-Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers coined the term ‘Axial Age’ in 1949 when he noted that during the period between 800-200 BC there was a shift in how humanity viewed itself.  A turn as if on an axis—a change in consciousness that allowed civilization to develop.  Prior to the shift, tribalism was the dominant form of social organization.  The general characteristics were: small populations closely related, closed to outer influences, lacking individualized thinking, total submission to the group (ultra-conformity), with non-members of the tribe usually seen as ‘enemy’.

During the first Axial Age there was a revolution in human thought.  Independently in most clusters of humanity (China, India, Persia, Judaea, Greece and Rome) there was a change in consciousness that produced great advances in intellectual, philosophical and religious thinking.  Great men arose to define a ‘way of life’ (Confucius and La-Tzu, Gautama Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses and the Prophets, Socrates and Plato).  In each cluster there was some version of The Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you’.  Humanity had moved from the isolation of tribalism to recognizing the necessity of cooperation for mutual benefit.  It was a huge leap, laying the groundwork for civilization to emerge.

How is this relevant to today?  The modern era has brought tremendous technological change.  From 1900 to 2018 we’ve leapt from horse and buggy transportation to rockets to the moon and back; in communications, then the telephone was new and cumbersome and today we carry it around in our pocket not only for conversations but also to navigate highways and instantly obtain limitless information . . . it isn’t the same world!   In the early 1900s we were just awakening to the terrifying destructive power we held, erupting in a World War with heretofore-unimagined armament—which escalated to nuclear arsenals capable of destroying all life on planet earth.

This new world requires a shift or change in how we see the world; another revolution in human thought is needed.  War has been the way to settle disputes since man first walked the earth.  It is no longer a viable option—viable means: capable of working successfully.  There is no ‘success’ with nuclear weapons.  Until we ventured into outer space and looked back on this tiny planet in the vast universe, we still believed (although science told us otherwise) we lived in a limitless static world where earth was the center of it all with sun and moon and stars revolving around us, as God sat on a cloud watching our every move. 

That isn’t the reality.  We are a dynamic evolving interacting singular unit, dependent upon each other for survival.  Early in the Bible (Deut. 30:19) God says:  “I have set before you life and death . . . choose life.”  God left it up to us. Whether or not you believe in the Bible or God, that clearly is a statement to us today.

The choosing of death is to continue to war, enlarge the nuclear arsenal, and deny reality.  The way to ‘choose life‘ is to embrace our interconnectedness, change our consciousness to find the way for humanity to work together in peace and build the world. . . thus bringing on a second Axial Age.

I once again quote Teilhard de Chardin:
                       “The Age of Nations is past,
     The task before us now, if we would not perish
                              Is to build the earth”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Gun Control

I want to address gun control; this issue concerns the soul of America.  I may not have anything new to add to what has been said, but I want to add my voice to the call for reform.  To begin, consider the definition of control: ‘the power to influence or direct behavior’.  The issue here is not to eliminate American’s right to own guns; at issue is specifically action to control mass killing by weapons of war.

I begin with some statistics on gun ownership in America:
            --on average people killed by guns, 96 per day; 1300/year
            --America is #1 per capita for gun ownership
            --US gun homicide rate: 25X the average of high income countries
            --America has more mass shootings than any other country

There are various ways to define ‘mass shootings’ but whatever definition is used America leads.  Studies indicate mass shootings since 2011 in US have tripled, the deadliest have occurred in the 21st Century with assault weapons.
            1)  2017   Los Vegas                 #59 killed    semi-automatic weapon
            2)  2016   Orlando Night Club    50  "          semi-automatic weapon
            3)  2007   Virginia Tech              33            semi-automatic weapon
            4)  2012   Sandy Hook                28            semi-automatic weapon
            5)  2017   Southerland Springs   27            semi-automatic weapon
The most recent, February 15, 2018, at Parkland Florida High School, was one of the deadliest in  high schools, 17 students were killed with semi-automatic weapon.

Assault weapons have no business in private hands, they are intended as weapons of war; their only purpose is to kill humans—as many as possible in the shortest time.  Their very existence is a moral issue.

Gun ownership is defended by quoting the 2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”  That can be interpreted more than one way—I’m not qualified to formally argue the point but I can use common sense.  ‘Militia’ . . . seems to suggest self-defense in lawless areas—there are no longer ‘lawless areas’ in the US.  But more importantly I believe we should consider the times in which the amendment became law, it was in 1791; at the time ‘bearing arms’ meant pistols and rifles/muskets; they were the objects of guaranteed protection.  The writers of the Constructional Amendments could not foresee the lethal nature of the 21st Century weapons and therefore were not included in the intent.  It is morally abhorrent to see the NRA and congress continuing to protect uncontrolled private ownership of assault weapons.

I recommend going to YouTube and request ‘gun violence spoken word poem’.
or:      (may need to unmute in lower right corner)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

God is Consciousness

I’ve said: ‘because I am, and the world is, I believe in God’.  I now want to expand on that thought. 

It’s truly amazing to think about the chain of coincidences that must occur for any individual to be the person they are.  Suppose your grandparents lived in different cities and never met—you wouldn’t be, because your parents would not have been born. (Trace that back through multi-generations).  OK, lets accept that both sets of grandparents were in the right place at the right time, met and married so your parents came to be.  Next, think of all the circumstances that got them to be in the right place at the right time for you to be conceived and born.  I checked my sources to learn that a man produces 180 million to 250 million sperm per each ejaculation and only one sperm succeeds in carrying what is to be half of your DNA.  A woman normally ovulates one egg every 28 days—so for 28 days the egg that became half of you was pre-determined, but the sperm half is pitted against 250 million sperm in competition . . . and if it was a different night they got together, there’d be perhaps a whole different sperm crop. 

So I say, ‘because I am who I am’ I want to believe there’s a bit more to it than one chance in 250 million to be me.  I don’t know how God works the numbers, but I do believe God intended for each of us to be who we are . . . but then God leaves what we do with that self up to us.  

That analysis seems a bit flippant, but just think about the facts of it.  I for one believe that in life there is meaning, purpose and direction; I can’t know what it is, but faith enables me to believe it. 

Now the world part (‘because the world is, I believe in God’) seems a bit easier to make a case for.  Unlike other planets we know about, this planet appears to be made to support life, which it can and does do.  There are uncountable elements that must be in proper proportion for that to be so; the absence of one, or a different proportion would make life impossible.  There must be balance in the atmosphere, the surface gravity, the distance from the sun, the ozone layer, the hydrosphere, the thickness of the earth’s crust, the solar radiation and earth’s energy . . . and that is only a few of the millions of intricate interrelated balances that are necessary for the support of life.  *

There are those who say it all came about by chance.  I find that a ridiculous assumption.  In support of that position I’ve heard it said, ‘sit a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters for a million years and they’ll type the front page of the NY Times’, suggesting impossible things can happen by chance.  That cute folksy quip has a fatal flaw.  I will concede that that many monkeys over that much time could possibly produce enough real words to comprise the front page of the N.Y. Times, but it wouldn’t happen by itself—some conscious source would be needed to gather all the random words and assemble them in coherent order.

We have no evidence of spontaneous generation of order happening by chance.  There is pattern and order to our world’s structure.  Why would anyone believe that something as marvelously intricate as earth with all its complex balances could simply come together on its own?
- Order is the product of consciousness -
I don’t know who or what God is, but I believe God is Love, Mercy, Truth, Justice and God is consciousness . . .
- Order is the product of consciousness -

                                                                                           * see Google for balance of earth’s systems

Monday, January 22, 2018

We Need Hope

I write a lot about God and/or the ‘god concept’ that holds within it the search for all that is good.  The human spirit needs hope.  It is hope that enables us to keep going in the face of adversity.

We seem to be faced with so many disasters in our world today: a government shut-down that highlights the polarization that now grips our nation; the senseless mass killings that seem to have become epidemic; the cascade of natural disasters from out-of-control fires to floods and mud slides to snow and ice storms that take lives and yield massive damage.  So many people are losing faith in the prospect of a better world.

Life has always progressed in a pattern of two steps forward then one step back.  We’re in a backward phase now . . . and that will change.  We need to step back from the immediate and take in the broader picture of the flow of life.  Each era experiences both tragedy and growth while it adds to the wonders to enhance the lives of the next generation.  When the short-term view shows us disaster, we need to call upon the long view to reignite hope.

What primitive man, carving the first image on the cave wall, could foresee the world of communications we know today?  What scribe in the dark ages laboriously hand copying a manuscript could foresee a world of educated people reading and writing as a matter of course?  What physician of the Middle Ages, bleeding his patient to release the ‘bad humors’, could foresee the wonders of modern medicine?  What soldier bombing and killing the enemy in WWII could foresee Germany, Japan and the U.S. as allies working together for peace?

In every century we can see progress in the human psyche.  Our basic human nature, attracted to both good and evil, doesn’t change but little by little there is an increase in consciousness, expanding our understanding of what it means to be human, showing concern for our fellow man, growing in our
capacity to love, employing empathy and compassion; we saw it happening in people rushing to help others (complete strangers) in the recent disasters.  But at the same time malice grows in some segment of society: the Nazis in the last century, the jihadists in this one, and malhuman acts get worse in their ferocity.  The majority of people see the wrongness of it but others are confused and even attracted to it.  We’ve eliminated God from the equation and with nowhere to look to highlight ‘the good’—many feel lost.

God awaits humanity to discover that the only way to sustain this planet is to see it as one interdependent interacting world.  We will survive or perish together.  We have yet to fully awaken the human spirit—to learn to love one another and forgive our enemies.

Can we invest hope in humanity creating a better world?  It seems like an impossible dream, but consider those seemingly impossible advances from ages past.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Pattern Seen

How can an otherwise intelligent person conclude there is no God?  I understand rejecting the god-images we have constructed—none are true.  But there is pattern and order to existence, which can be discovered, and that is the product of consciousness.  How can anyone look at the wonder of the universe and conclude it is all there by random chance without direction and intent?  Even the simplest scientific exploration tells us of the amazing delicate balance of elements that allows for existence and life.  Order does not self-create; it is the product of forethought and planning.  Whoever or whatever God is, God is Consciousness and our consciousness is humanity’s link to the unknown God.  Creator of the Universe, originator of pattern and order, I can only bow in humble thanksgiving.

When the species human emerged eons ago, man entered the world of nature as it had appeared to all other living creatures, but the human possessed a unique quality, that of consciousness tuned with reflective awareness—the ability to reason, look back and recall, to look forward and anticipate—the quality slowly awakened and relentlessly evolved; with it the human constructed language and began to alter the environment to his advantage.

Fast forward millions of years and see how the human has changed the face of the earth: from outer space one can see earth’s darkness dotted with lights; we have built structures and machines which have connected all parts of the globe with marvels of transportation and communication; we have made discoveries that combat diseases and enable us to see beyond this small world into the vast universe.  Surely chance plays a role, but it is the result of thought born of consciousness that brings forth the marvels of human effort.  Is that not a reflection of all creation?

Human kind is not just ‘another animal’; the human person is a new species--evolution's goal.  “If a tree falls in the forest and there are no ears to hear, is there a sound?”  Mankind is the being who sees, hears, knows and comprehends the wonders of it all and has the freedom to change what is given—that is co-creation.  We discover truth, we don’t invent it.  The pattern and order is there for us to find and see. 

In the evolution that produced life there is another necessary element which is ‘attraction’ (seeking union; which at its highest level is love).  Atoms join to form molecules, molecules join to form cells, cells join to form organs, etc.  Male and female join to form family units and produce new beings; thoughts and ideas join to form new concepts; enemies that have fought wars become allies to promote peace—slowly it all comes together—human consciousness seeks love and harmony.  We have yet too fully awaken, but the intended pattern can be seen.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Christmas Story

I wrote this story many years ago.  I was driving somewhere near Iowa where I’d been to a writer’s conference, I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when the whole story simply appeared in my mind.  I pulled over to the side of the road and scribbled the outline on a scrap of paper.  Later, as I wrote it, it simply flowed from my pen.  In recent years I’ve read it to my grandchildren on Christmas Eve.

The Gift

            In the time before the star shone over Bethlehem, there lived a shepherd and his wife who had six sons. The husband was very proud to have such a family of sons, but the wife longed for a daughter.   After the fourth boy, she had expressed that wish to her husband.  He scolded her, saying it was sons, not daughters that every good Hebrew should pray for.   Although she dearly loved and cared for each son, she never stopped yearning for a daughter.  After the birth of her sixth boy her heart became heavy, realizing she was passing out of her childbearing years and was not to realize her hope.  But to their surprise, she conceived again, and a year later, she gave birth to a girl!  She immediately declared the child to be God’s blessing, and requested of her husband that the baby be named Johanna, Hebrew for ‘gift of God’.  They so named her.
            The baby was very beautiful, strong and healthy—except for a twisted foot.  Faithfully during the child’s infancy, her mother massaged and molded the foot, which improved from the care, but it was never to be fully cured.  Throughout her life, Johanna was to walk with a limp. 
            The husband—being a good Jew—went frequently to the temple.  As his fellow worshipers became aware of the child’s deformity, some would shake their heads and say this was punishment for his sins.  When he repeated this to his wife—who usually made no retort to his chidings—she scolded him: “Do not question God!  His ways are not our ways . . . this child is a gift; God has plans for her.”  The husband just shook his head and walked away.
            Johanna had a loving nature and sweet disposition, but she did not speak.  At first they thought nothing of it—with six lively and boisterous brothers, there was always commotion to which she was alert, so they simply thought her quiet.  One day a physician said her tongue cleaved to her jaw and she would never speak. 
              “—A curse of God for sure!” said the people.
            As she grew, the girl learned household tasks as befits a Hebrew woman, but she also had a great love of the sheep of her father’s flock and took delight in shepherding them in nearby fields that were not hard to walk to.  Later, as she matured, Johanna took on the task of bedding them at night when they were stabled . . . and she gently soothed the delivering ewes at lambing time.  Several times she saved both ewe and lamb in a difficult labor.  Always she was kind and gentle.  The knowledge of her skill spread through the village and at lambing time all welcomed her.
            As the years went on, each of the brothers in turn took wives . . . but no marriage could be arranged for Johanna.  Only the mean or stupid would accept so flawed a woman for wife, and her parents would not agree to such a match.
            As her parents grew old, the daughter cared first for her father, then later her mother thru their aged infirmities, always with kindness and a loving disposition.  Her mother never ceased saying Johanna was God’s gift and blessing.
            After the deaths of her parents, Johanna went to live with and assist the elderly devout long-widowed Anna of the tribe of Asher, who spent much time in the temple praying.  In addition to the duties of Anna’s house, Johanna continued to watch over the stables and tend the lambing of the village.
            One December evening, on her rounds of the stables, Johanna came upon a man sitting dejectedly with his head in his hands—at her approach the man leapt to his feet saying, “You are the answer to my prayers . . . Can you help me? I am Joseph; my wife Mary is about to give birth . . .” Johanna gave no response. “I am a carpenter and do not have knowledge of such things.  We came for the census.  I could find no lodgings or midwife for her, but we were given shelter in this stable . . . her time has come.  Now she is napping between her labor pains—and I feel so helpless.  I called upon the Lord God to send help . . . and here you are.  Will you help us?”
            Johanna nodded.  Joseph soon realized she could not speak, but he did not question God.  He thanked God for sending this kind young woman as he handed her the supplies they had carried with them for this need.  She moved with self-assurance and, though not a midwife, all the years of tending the ewes gave her the needed inner confidence.  Her kindness, warmth and gentleness soothed both the travelers.
            At the moment of birth, gently she received the newborn into her hands, cleared the mucus, patted his back to encourage his first breaths of air, wiped him with the linens, and tucked him into Mary’s arms.
            With gratefulness, Mary received the baby and said, “He is to be called, Jesus.”  At that moment the infant’s tiny fingers curled around Johanna’s index finger—she opened her lips and whispered “Welcome, Jesus” . . .

                                                                      THE END