Friday, February 22, 2019

Patriarchy Challenged

In the book Sapiens, the author Harari states: “All societies are based on imagined hierarchies”.  These imagined orders divide people into make-believe groups—upper levels enjoy privileges and power while lower levels suffer discrimination and oppression. There has been some change over time . . . but, “One hierarchy, however, has been of supreme importance in all known human societies: the hierarchy of gender.” 

“Most human societies have been Patriarchal societies that valued men more highly than women.” “People everywhere have divided themselves into men and women.  And almost everywhere men have gotten the better deal . . . In many societies women were simply the property of men, most often their fathers, husbands and brothers.”  

In rare instances a woman has gained prominence—as in Royal succession—she may inherit the title when there is no male heir; but it is illusionary.  He gives the example of Elizabeth I of England who reigned for 45 years yet during her rule, “all Members of Parliament were men, all officers in the Royal Navy and army were men, all judges and lawyers were men, all bishops and archbishops were men, all theologians and priests were men, all doctors and surgeons were men, all students and professors in all universities and colleges were men, all sheriffs were men and almost all the writers, architects, poets, philosophers, painters musicians and scientists were men.”

“Patriarchy has been the norm in almost all agricultural and industrial societies . . . since it is so universal, it cannot be the product of some vicious circle that was kick-started by chance occurrence.”  How did this happen?  Harari asks, “What accounts for the universality and stability of this system? . . . we just don’t know.”

I want to speculate on a possibility . . . it is evolution.  Teilhard says evolution is the underlying principle of all that is. Life is dynamic, ever changing and time is one directional—an ever expanding process.  Looking at the law of complexity-consciousness, in all things, as the external (the without) grows more complex, the internal (the within) expands in consciousness.

When the Homo sapiens first acquired language and complex thought, it was an untamed brutal world. It stands to reason that men were better equipped with their strength, aggression, and violence to take command in that world.  It was also obvious that since nature gave women the responsibility of bearing, birthing, and nursing the next generation (which was not a one-time thing but continuous) that confined her activities to a smaller circle thereby the domestic scene with its requirements became her primary stage of operation.  Those obvious roles were dictated by nature in a primitive world.

But as the world became more civilized, more complex and with more opportunities, men, having come from that ‘might means right’ brutal world, saw themselves as being ‘in charge’ . . . so as civilization advanced, there was no desire on the part of man to share decision-making authority with woman.  Clearly men had the strength/violence advantage to enforce that, so what began as a natural biologically ordered division of labor became a dictatorial Patriarchal system in which, almost universally, women became second-class citizens with no authoritative input and the ‘voice’ of women was silenced. 

In psychology it is recognized that all human qualities are present in all people, but are exhibited at different strengths in each individual.  It is also understood that taken as a whole, each gender emphasizes certain preferences.  Lists of gender characteristics give males as having: strength, courage, independence, dominance, violence, competitiveness, assertiveness . . . and females as having: gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion, jealousy, nurturance, tolerance . . . Given these characteristics each gender sees the world through different eyes and speaks with a different voice.   

By having long ago adopted Patriarchy as the basic societal hierarchy, half of humanity was eliminated from shaping the forward movement of civilization.  For uncountable generations this system was unchallenged and those dominant male qualities shaped the world to his view—with aggression gaining ever more prominence on the world stage as wars increased in frequency and intensity. 

Slowly female consciousness has awakened to the inequality and danger our world has found itself in.  It was and is an evolutionary awakening of consciousness.  By Patriarchy silencing the female voice during civilization’s advance distorted the outcome; the violence, aggression, dominance, and competitiveness of male characteristics have gone unchecked by female sensitivity, compassion, empathy and tolerance.  That makes no claim of female superiority; rather, it recognizes those qualities present in all humanity but associated more with the female.  They have been left out of the equation by silencing the female ‘voice’ thereby unbalancing our world.

Evolution is kicking in to bring attention to the ‘left out’ dimension, and the changing of the state of women on the world stage gives evidence to it. 

Evolution moves forward by advancing in complexity while increasing in consciousness and transforming to a higher state.  That is our present challenge—to fully embrace the whole of humanity.  There is purpose and direction to be found in evolution . . . we are to build the earth, not destroy it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Is Humanity Evolving?

Herein I make references to the concepts of Teilhard de Chardin, a scientist, Jesuit and Theologian who has stated that evolution is God’s plan ‘which is the underlying principle of all that is.’  Evolution is transformation.

It is easy to see how we have made progress with our technology.  In the life span of our oldest senior citizens society has moved from horse drawn carriages to supersonic jets for transportation; and from the cumbersome stationary telephone to smart phones that we carry in our pockets for communication.  The without—the material things—are so much more obvious, right there before our eyes.  We can weigh, measure and take apart the ‘things’ of the world and come to understand them and make improvements, but that isn’t evolution, it is production. The evolution is represented by the inventiveness.  In the within—the non-material thoughts and feelings—which are out of sight, there is nothing to weigh and measure so until recently they have been overlooked—yet in that within is the driving force of our advances. 

So what is that driving force?  Let’s call it consciousness—a word bantered around much these days but is still ill defined.  The agreed definition is that the word refers to ‘awareness by the mind of itself and the world.’  (Teilhard calls that reflective awareness.)  It was Sigmund Freud (1856 -1939) who initiated interest in the study of the mind by dividing the mind into two parts: the conscious and the unconscious.  Later Carl Jung added the concept of the collective unconscious, defined as ‘the part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory and experiences that are common to all mankind.  (The way our humanness preserves consciousness).

Let’s return to our question: Is humanity evolving?  It’s an important question.  I postulate that if the question were asked in a survey, answers would fall into 3 groups. The smallest group would be those who say ‘yes’; the next group, a bit larger but more emphatic, would say ‘NO!’ and the remaining largest group would be made up of those who just shrug or say ‘I never thought about that.’  It’s an important question because a ‘yes’ answer opens the door to hope whereas the ‘no’ answer keeps company with fatalism. 

The essence of evolution is transformation from a lower state to a higher state. Here we need to consider the law of complexity-consciousness.  This law reflects the tendency for creatures to become more complex and at the same time to increase in consciousness.  We can see this operative in species development which, over billions of years, simple one-cell creatures grew increasingly more complex eventually developing spinal cords and brains which enabled them to have more freedom while rudimentary awareness increased to allow a choice of reacting patterns.  Initially evolution focused more on the without until Homo sapiens appeared, then evolution turned inward.  The within in humanity became the focus for evolution.The human is not merely ‘another creature, the human was God’s plan from the beginning.  Teilhard calls mankind ‘the flower on the tree of life.

From 800-400 BC a major evolutionary step was represented by the Axial Age when, throughout the then inhabited world, clusters of humanity simultaneously and independently produced thinkers and philosophers who laid spiritual groundwork which became the foundations of human civilization.

It is easier to see evolutionary advances from a distance . . . look all the way back to the early Homo sapiens.  The emergent humans came with the inherent ability for speech, but speech had to be invented . . . and they found ways to turn their grunts and vocal sounds into words—a gigantic evolutionary step forward without which civilization could not have been accomplished.  Those sounds-become-words needed ways to be captured and preserved . . . marks on objects became letters which became permanentized words . . . with time, more and more ways to preserve words came into being . . . writing on clay tablets, parchment, paper . . . all came to be from human effort.  Then came the marvelous invention of the printing press which hundreds of years later gave way to the computer.  We take those long-past innovations for granted, but stop for a moment and realize how transformative each of those steps was.  Those were evolutionary advances because the scope of what was possible had expanded.  The without of the shapes and forms are only incidental, the wonder lies in the non-material—the expansion of consciousness within the human mind.

It seems hard to accept that humanity is evolving when we can see so much humanly produced evil . . . but it make sense from the point of view of our freedom.  God gave the human free will.  That means God does not control us; we can choose our ‘next step’. The important thing to remember is that with the expansion of consciousness comes the advancement of knowledge.

Let’s think of an early human taking a new path and coming upon a tree with red objects hanging down. His tribe hadn’t encountered apples before.  He picks and bites into one and finds it tasty and good to eat.  He has three choices: He can take some back and share them with his tribe; he can eat his full and return to his tribe saying nothing thereby keeping this secret pleasure to himself; or he can lie to his people, telling of his encounter with a tree with large red berries and many dead animals around who must have eaten the poison berries—thus insuring no one else will eat them.  Humans are free to use their knowledge in any way.

Is humanity advancing? Clearly that is the case, but because of equal opportunity between the negative and positive uses of our abilities we are now in a precarious position unless and until we consciously and collectively choose for the good.






Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Gift

Last December I first published this Christmas story here.  I believe it is my favorite of all my short stories.  It was well received then, so I repeat it for Christmas 2018.


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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Manifested Consciousness

Who is God and what is God? I can’t possibly know.  I believe religions help us to focus on the concept of God, which is needed by humanity in order to not self-destruct, but religions are man’s creation.  Humans are flawed so errors are made in religion’s attempts to reach for God.

Science—because it can’t prove God exists—denies the possibility of God and credits randomness for creating the human species, our world, and the universe. Now that takes more ‘faith’ than I can muster.  As I study all that is ordered I see a requirement for consciousness to plan a process of selecting, sequencing and executing to achieve the desired result.

Slabs of metal, nuts and bolts, pieces of glass and rolls of leather will never randomly assemble themselves into a car no matter how much time is given; flour, sugar, eggs and chocolate pieces will never randomly assemble into cookies under any circumstances.

The human species, our world and the universe are the most carefully ordered sequences that can be imagined.

I have no faith that randomness yields complex order—it requires intentionality. 

I don’t know who or what God is, but I believe the order that brought us and all that is into existence has been the manifestation of a consciousness capable of bringing order. I’m content to call that God.

Friday, November 23, 2018

About Competition

For Christmas last year, my grandson gave me a unique gift.  It’s called Storyworth and each week for 52 weeks my computer is sent one question about my life or my thoughts that I am to answer that week.  Knowing a new question will appear the next week whether or not I answered the previous one has kept me on track and I’ve not missed any.  At the end of the year it will be compiled into a book.  I’m looking forward to the finished product in a few short weeks.  

Last week’s question was about competition and this was my response:

‘Over the years I have formed a negative opinion toward competition, mainly because it has been overemphasized in our society—in marketing, politics, education, sports . . . etc.

The usual place where kids are introduced to competition is in sports.  Fundamental to sport, teamwork and good sportsmanship were woven in so that life lessons could be gained - but it seems now that the competition itself has become the focus and winning is all-important—even in little league competition, fights break out (largely among parents).  Even the Olympic games—a tradition that has gone on for thousands of years—has been tainted by a ‘winning at all costs attitude’ that promoted the use of enhancing drugs by many athletes.  Winning was all-important, so if cheating was the way to win, that’s how it was done.

Competition and cooperation are opposite approaches as solutions to conflict.  Each has validity but requires mediation and rules of engagement. Sports are designed for competition, which is not inherently bad, but when ethics are separated from engagement and ‘winning’ becomes the only objective, the competition is corrupted. In our world today, so often winning takes precedence above all else.  When Trump was criticized for the unethical way he attacked his opponents he said with a grin, “But I won didn’t I?”

More and more we are becoming a polarized society with an attitude of ‘us’ and ‘them’.  The polarizations divide everything into ‘win’ and ‘lose’ camps; you must be for or against . . . it is called a zero sum game: one person’s gain is at the cost of the other’s loss.  We seem to be losing our ability to cooperate to seek solutions by compromise—the very way diplomacy keeps the peace.  When there are intense disagreements, compromise is necessary. Each side must be prepared to do some yielding, the unwillingness to yield results in some form of war—at which point everyone loses.

So from my position as an observer of competition, I say I’m not a fan: competition has been overemphasized in our world and there is a need to work harder on learning to cooperate.’

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Work in Progress

For a while I’ve been having a problem with writer’s block, yet I wanted to write here this month. Searching my journals for inspiration I found this from 1986:

What I know to be absolutely true:                                                     

            One cannot know who or what God is.

            But that which is known as ‘God’s Kingdom” is the ONLY thing that is worth living/dying for.

            The soulless institutions we build destroy meaning, and life without meaning cannot be endured by creatures whose central quality is reflective awareness.

            We must live out our existence with ‘human nature’, which is attracted to evil as well as good.  We aren’t going to be transformed into another kind of being.

            We can train ourselves to develop and utilize the capacity for reflective awareness, which has sat mostly idle within the species (actualized in only a few).

            And thus as mankind becomes a choice-making creature guided by the wisdom in our sacred scriptures . . . that is none other than a blueprint of how humankind can co-exist in life’s diversity and find joy.

            There are only two options left: either we finally build the Kingdom of God, or we destroy ourselves and this planet—there is no other option available.                     
                                                               _ _ _

I remembered that after having read Teilhard’s book ‘How I Believe’, it haunted me for some time. I liked that he had distilled the genius of his mind to make a simple statement of belief.

I believe the universe is an evolution.
I believe that evolution proceeds toward spirit.
I believe that in man, spirit is fully realized in person.
I believe that the supremely personal is the Universal Christ.
                                                                                Teilhard de Chardin
                                         _ _ _

I wanted to do something similar and write a brief statement of belief.  It wasn’t brief and resulted in the above ‘What I Know’.   It took a surprising amount of time but I finally wrote what, after some 20 years, still reads as true.  I read and reread it and made a few changes.  It now reads:

            One cannot know who or what God is.

            But that which is known as ‘God’s kingdom’ is the only thing that is worth living and dying for.

            We must live out our existence with human nature that is attracted to evil as well as good; but with consciousness, we can learn to choose the good.

            We pray, “Thy kingdom come”.  What does that mean?  It will be our One peaceful global world with people choosing compassion, forgiveness and love.

            We, mankind, must evolve to become choice-making creatures with long-term vision guided by the Wisdom from all of our sacred scriptures.

            There are only two options: either we finally build the kingdom of God, or we destroy this planet and ourselves.
                                                               _ _ _


It is not yet concise enough; I will continue to search my soul and return to it another time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mystical Fiction

Since my last entry (5thAnniversary  8/19/18) I’ve been doing some looking back.  I know I’ve mentioned my book The Stations a few times, but I haven’t outlined the story. A year ago on August 25th2017 my entry was ‘of The Stations’ but that was more background on the influence of Teilhard de Chardin on my thinking.  It also mentions the book is ‘spiritual fiction’ but I have some misgivings about what is suggested by that.  The Stations isn’t an apology for any one religion, its setting is Catholicism but at its heart it is of the search for meaning.  It would more appropriately be called ‘mystical fiction’—but who would understand that?  

A mystical perspective differs from a religious one although they both focus on God.  Each religion seeks to establish an exclusive way to approach God using a restrictive set of rules and guidelines—either implied or overtly expressed.  Religion is advantageous and important for social order and it can provide security and comfort, but for the most part it is a closed system.  In the God search, religion is a good starting point but there is little room for growth or exploration because the rules are already established and innovation is seen as a threat.

Mysticism on the other hand is a deeper search for meaning—seeking the ‘why’ of the phenomenon of human existence. It begins by assuming the presence of a Supreme Being but doesn’t make absolute claims about the nature of that Being because there is a realization that it is mystery beyond the human capacity to grasp; yet the seeking can bring a bit more light of understanding. 


In my book the artist is a contemporary mystic, as was Teilhard, striving to help people ‘see’ more deeply into life’s mystery.  The Stations by B. Sabonis-Chafee is available on Amazon books.  This is its description.   

The Stations is a deep and probing story of the doubt-faith conflict of artist John Stanley Thomas’s search for meaning in our contemporary secular world.  It is both timely and universal.  In this story—as in the world at large—there are growing concerns about ‘moral bankruptcy’ with calls for a refocus upon universal values rather than those that are religion-specific.  The setting is Roman Catholic, but it is neither pro nor anti-Church—it is the spiritual struggle of an artist who plunges inward to discover the dimensions of his vision and then stay true to it in the face of institutional opposition.

The following is a five-point outline of the story:
-- A fortune is left in the hands of the Church for an artistic expression of the Stations of the Cross.
-- The initial protagonist, Archbishop Kaslandis, is deeply spiritual.  He engages in a seven-year search for the ‘right’ artist.  About a year after the artist is commissioned the Archbishop dies; his successor is an efficient bureaucrat. 
-- Once the sculpting begins the artist experiences a ‘dark night’; a creative block which, after months, gives way to a new vision to imbue the stations with contemporary socially relevant meaning which shocks the ultra-conservative clergy who see heresy and blasphemy. 
-- As he is threatened with the commission’s withdrawal, he seeks the wise counsel of a psychologist-nun, Mother Abara, with whom he has deep discussions.
-- Following the death of Mother Abara, perhaps out of loneliness, he becomes entangled in a miss-matched fiery relationship.
-- He loses the commission but continues to work on the stations as we watch his life unfold over a 20-year period. There is employment as a Community College art teacher, relationships, and the aloneness this struggle requires.  Woven throughout, the reader witnesses the artist’s creative process as he gives expression to each of the fourteen stations.

I would be most interested in any comments from readers of The Stations.  I can be reached by email:  bsabonis@me.com