Saturday, December 17, 2016

Post of August 11, 2015

In looking back over my blog archives I found an entry missing, it is part of my Teilhard Series of seven which ran between June 28 and October 1, 2015.  I don't know why it disappeared nor how to put it back into its appropriate place so I enter it here, out of sequence.

Teilhard is one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century.  He was a noted scientist and a mystic.  He saw beyond Darwin's identification of the 'without' of evolution to its 'within' of pattern, direction and goal.

Teilhard Series - 5th  (evolution)

What is evolution?  Some say it is the scientific theory that explains how species became what they are through changes over long periods of time.  Some say it is the ‘crazy idea’ that claims our most distant ancestors were apes.  Others say it is an idea expounded by atheists to prove there is no God.  And still others say it is a lie spawned by the devil to lead people astray.  A dictionary describes evolution as the gradual development of something, especially from simple to complex form.

Darwin’s explanation of evolution did not include pattern, direction and goal; that is what Teilhard’s work shows us.  From atoms clustering to form molecules, then cells; to human consciousness continually building to greater awareness, there is movement toward increasing complexity.  The goal is realization of the interconnectedness of all that exists.

Although evolution is implicit in all of Teilhard’s writing, he actually uses the word sparingly.  As a scientist he worked with the data that discloses the pattern that is hidden behind all life-struggles at all stages: the simple moves to the complex and so opens to new and greater possibilities.

            Evolution is the underlying principle of all that is.

Nothing in the known world materializes in a ‘poof’ from nothing; development comes through gradual change programmed in the pre-existing state that holds the blueprint for the final product.  Throughout Teilhard’s life-long study of development in all aspects he came to realize that everything unfolds in a direction from simple to complex that expands possibilities for the organism evolving.  Within the earliest stage of the simplest form there exists the possibilities of the ultimate form . . . within the acorn is the potential oak tree, within the egg is the potential bird, within the DNA is the blueprint of the person, and within the energy leading to the explosion of the ‘big bang’ was the universe that came to be.  There is direction: movement is always forward from simple to complex.  We can search all the way back to the ‘primordial soup’ wherein we see and recognize a pattern emerging: elements with affinity join to form new units.  As pointed out in my last blog, our material world took shape through the building of layer upon layer moving from the inorganic foundation to developing the layers necessary to support the emergence of life, then the layer of teeming life forms, and ultimately life that birthed thought which enables humans to discover, evaluate and create. 

            Evolution is the name for the process by which all comes to be.

Even thinking is an evolving process.  We have discovered so much about how our world works!  How do we discover what we know?  By beginning with the simple and expanding to the complex.  We see and wonder, we ask questions and follow leads; we have new thoughts and ideas and test them against what we understand from previous discoveries . . . and if the new discovery contradicts what we thought we knew we re-define our knowledge.  All that thinking, analyzing and concluding takes place in a realm that is not material.  Our ability to think and reason is a quality of our being—a unique human quality.  In the modern world we’ve come to over-value the material—the ‘things’ of life that can be weighed and measured—but we take for granted and overlook the non-material, yet it is with those non-material qualities we have changed the earth we occupy.

Teilhard de Chardin calls us to consider the non-material realm of our existence that he calls the ‘within’ of things, and he does so by study of the material substances that he calls the ‘without’ of things.  He maintains “the internal aspect of things as well as the external aspect of the world [need] be taken into account.” He was a respected scientist devoted to the study of science but also a Jesuit—a man of faith.  He believed in evolution and believed in God as the author of the process.  He saw no conflict between them.  The world has order and is intelligible, that bespeaks design by an intelligent source.

Not a random happenstance; Teilhard sees meaningful order in life.  We see all of nature as balanced and purposeful.  The earth and sky provides conditions for trees and plants to produce their yield; all living creatures are provided with the means necessary to develop and flourish.  When given the freedom to exist in their environment there is a natural balance between predator and prey and each species instinctively knows how to self-protect and seek appropriate shelter and sustenance.

Only the human, gifted with intelligence, has the ability to alter the course of nature . . . and/or to disrupt it so as to threaten the planet’s very existence.  That quality—intelligence—must have a better purpose!  It will be discovered when humanity comes to truly recognize that all of life is interconnected—with that realization we will ‘learn to think in a new way’.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Our Global World

The Age of Nations is past, the task before us now,
If we would not perish, is to build the earth.
                                                                                                      Teilhard de Chardin

It is not easy to see and acknowledge that we are one world, interconnected and interdependent, but that IS the reality: earth is one tiny unit in this vast universe that will survive or perish by the human choices made.  To say we live in a global world is somehow threatening because it has political connotations which can be used divisively to make people want to retreat to ‘their own corner’ and protect themselves against ‘other’.

That protectionism is the strategy that was used successfully by Donald Trump to win the election.  His slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ has a subtly implied anti-world view, a nationalism that sets us apart at the ‘top of the heap’.  Throughout the campaign he carried a slightly different message to each group, bringing their fears and prejudices forward invoking a ‘them’ as enemy, saying he alone held the answer.  There was no message of unity or hope, no strategic plan, just fabricated lies about the opposition (the ‘enemy’, “lock her up”) and the fantasy that, given the power and authority, he could/would ‘fix it’.

There are reasons for the alarm being felt by many in this country and around the world—Trump has duped the American public.  While claiming to be for the average working citizen he was primarily in it for his own aggrandizement.  He is now building his cabinet with billionaires and planning to tear down the advances made for improvements in our country’s health care system and reverse the steps taken to improve the environment of the planet.  Without providing an alternate plan, Trump’s expressed intent is to repeal Obama care, and consider privatizing Medicare.  His choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Scott Pruitt a fierce EPA critic, climate change denier, and is closely linked to the oil industry.

Trump’s multiple real-estate holdings all over the world makes conflict of interest unavoidable and that is not amended by appointing his children to run the business.  He has been openly disdainful of: government (“the system is broken”), our voting system (“its rigged”), studied intelligence (“I know more than the generals”)—undermining the public’s faith in our democracy.  Beyond that he is also disdainful of verbal restraint, diplomacy and protocol, as well as facts and honesty.  As president, Trump’s cavalier attitude toward truth weakens the moral fiber of our country.  His arrogance is astounding!  His expressed admiration for Putin as a “strong leader” gives evidence to his penchant for authoritarianism.

Everything about Trump’s approach is a step backwards to less enlightened times.  All scientific evidence confirms Global Warming and warns of the advancing unprecedented crisis that can only be averted by unified action; yet he claims climate change is a hoax and plans to curtail green energy development while expanding reliance upon fossil fuel.

The human species has developed the ability to destroy our world in many ways, the most catastrophic way being with atomic weapons . . . those weapons have already been produced and awaiting the finger willing to push the button—that specter makes working toward cooperation between nations a necessity.  These are perilous times.  Cooperative interaction used to be optional, but daunting though it may be, in the 21st Century it is mandatory. 

Earth, the common home to us all is the only world we’ve got, protecting it is paramount for continuation of the human species.  To ignore the perils facing it is blasphemy.  Stirring divisive nationalism and shamelessly promoting exclusive self-interest above global concerns while justifying withdrawal of support from international globally conscious organizations is heresy!

It may not be easy to accept that planet earth is one interconnected, interacting, interdepended world, but that is the reality . . . and its survival as a habitable planet depends upon our recognition of that.   

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Election 2016 -- appraisal

I’ve not been able to simply put election 2016 aside.  I’ve been feeling alternately agitated, tearful or numb.  My sleep is erratic.  Surely this is not the first time the candidate I favored lost the election—but this time it is different.  It feels as if some deep dark covered-over menace has been unleashed . . . as if we’ve lived behind pleasant-faced masks that have suddenly been ripped off to expose ugliness.  I know from others that the unrest I speak of is widespread.  Whatever this is, it didn’t begin with the primaries—but the vicious campaign brought it fully to light.  As I look back I ask, “How did it show itself before the campaign?”  “What is the bigger underlying flaw?” 

The most recent indicator was congress’ refusal to bring a vote forward for the Supreme Court nominee in spite of the Constitutional requirement to do so.  It was the culmination of the Republican’s having made it a policy to oppose anything coming out of Obama’s White House.  Prior to the last election, the Republican Party had avowed that its main goal was to make sure Obama didn’t win a second term—when they didn’t achieve that goal but won a majority in Congress, they set out to block every initiative of his.  It was total disrespect of him, the country’s first black president, and so too for the office of president.  A conscious decision to stop our government from functioning for partisan and/or prejudicial reasons is evil.

The wisdom of two-party governance is to insure that extremes are curtailed by the necessity of compromise.  Stonewalling disabled the system, resulting in extreme polarization that paralyzed government.  Attitudes in high places have a way of spreading.  More and more people became dissatisfied with their lot and looked for a scapegoat, slipping into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

From the very beginning of the primaries, Donald Trump took the position of all-out no-holds-barred attacks with personal insults, innuendoes, bear-faced lies and bombastic proclamations.  Clearly he believed ‘the ends justify the means’—utterly defying decorum, truth, and human decency—because for him, winning is all that matters!  His theatrics won media attention, and ultimately the nomination.

As candidate his cry became, “The system is broken!”  Without analysis of the roots of the problem he pointed a finger of blame at the opposition while making the outrageous claim, “Only I can fix it!”  Then appealing to every prejudice and issue of unease throughout the country, he fanned the fires of unrest, resulting in much vengeance voting, not a vote for something but against someone.

But why was the country ripe for such blatant manipulation? 
There are numerous outside forces that contribute to the unrest and anxiety: near national financial disaster (from which Obama saved us), the Middle East chaos causing a refugee crisis, global terrorism, climate anomalies reeking death and destruction—yes, but those are the outside factors; something within our culture has gone awry . . .  To even the most casual observer above the age of 40, there seems to be agreement that in the last half century, society has exhibited moral decline; erasing the lines between good & bad, right & wrong, virtue & evil.

You cannot successfully run a country (or a family) without having an identifiable standard of acceptable behavior.  Throughout time, regardless of the name assigned to the deity, it was understood that a god-principle set standards of behavior and the standards were rooted in morality. 

As America was being formed, religion was an important element of social order.  There were many different beliefs and practices, but the concept of ‘a God’ was common to all.  Our nation was founded on moral principles and the belief that God underscored the rights and freedoms we possess . . . ‘endowed by the Creator with certain Unalienable Rights’ . . . The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.  References to God were prominent as the elements of governing were worked out—even the money minted carries the words “In God We Trust”.  In schools it was traditional to begin each day with a simple prayer.

In 1962 a law was passed to ban prayer from public schools.  There followed the removal of any religious symbols from government buildings (i.e. The Ten Commandments from courthouses), and prayer was eliminated at official gatherings.  The Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religious worship but the new interpretation became freedom from rather than freedom of.  Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

To prohibit public prayer by law is to give a message of denial of value, maybe even to suggest negative value.  In its wake, for many, God faded, became irrelevent and was ignored. Religion has provided the foundation of moral order and prayer is a means to remind us.  It was denied by the state without providing another identifiable standard of acceptable behavior—and that is the flaw that opened the door to moral decline—and Trump was waiting to walk through it.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Danger of Donald

I begin by stating: “Donald Trump is dangerous”.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican—rather, a life-long Independent who has voted both ways depending on the candidate.  In past campaigns I have sometimes felt relatively neutral and sometimes vigorously supportive toward a candidate, but I have never before experienced this intense negative visceral reaction that I have toward Donald Trump.  I set out to try to understand why, listening to every debate, looking up information and reading widely about each candidate.

The office of the presidency can help or hinder the nation’s progress, but in the system of Democracy it cannot single-handedly impose personal control.  Not total control, but the single greatest personal influence possible.  Because it exerts such influence, I see the character of the one seeking office to be of prime importance.  Character is what shows over a lifetime—the focus of one’s passion.

All institutions, including those of government, are not without flaws—yet it is through institutions that the mass of humanity can be ordered, producing civilization.  Remove systems of order and we have chaos.  When the basic institution is solid (as with Democracy) the call is to amend the flaws that become obvious, not disparage the system and insight overthrow.

Donald Trump is dangerous.  He gives no plan for improving the system of government; he beats his chest and says, “Only I can fix it!”  He insults the military and says, “I know more than the generals”.  He expresses admiration for Russia’s Putin saying, “He is a strong leader!”

I looked up the word ‘megalomaniac’ and found: ‘obsession with exercise of power, especially in the dominance of others’, and ‘delusion about one’s own power or importance’, and ‘obsession with grandiose or extravagant things.’

Donald Trump has already done damage to the American psyche . . . He has lowered the standard of public debate with blatant insults and unfounded accusations, slandering his opponents and leading to an overall coarsening of the dialogue.  While other candidates too have sunk to a lower lever, he unquestionably ‘led the charge’.  He has fanned hatred and discrimination and engendered doubt in our governing and voting systems with, “The system is broken” followed by the claim, “Only I can fix it” and shouting over and over “it is rigged, it is a rigged system” preparing an excuse for himself should he lose.  His hunger for personal power is a danger to Democracy.

Donald Trump is only after his own aggrandizement and seeks to undermine public trust in the democratic system that has led our country to greatness.  If you listen to the undertones of his rhetoric you will hear the heartbeat of a dictator.

Please give careful thought before you vote—Donald Trump is dangerous!

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Voice To Be Heard

In the 1980’s Carol Gilligan, a professor at Harvard University, wrote a book titled: In a Different Voice.  The book made a lasting impression on me and inspired the poem that follows.  The book title points to the differences between how men and women encounter the world.  She noted that virtually all information “has implicitly adopted a male perspective as the norm”.  She calls for the inclusion of 'a different voice'.  Since that time efforts are made by some to include female references, but the mere inclusion of ‘she’ and ‘her’ misses the point.  The point is that throughout history, up until the 20th century, even in developed countries, women were excluded.  They had no say in government or business; often no rights of ownership or inheritance; were excluded from higher education thus skilled occupations; and surely, all meaningful involvement in religious ritual was forbidden to women—save as passive recipient.

More than just a ‘place at the table’, Gilligan’s thesis is that women had no influence in shaping decisions that ruled their lives—their collective voice was silenced.  Nations were formed, laws were enacted, customs adopted, history written while for the most part women were invisible—even in the Bible only fathers were mentioned in lineage.  She makes a strong case for the fact that our development has been handicapped by silencing the voice of half of humanity.

Throughout the ages it has always been 'common sense’ that males and females see and explain life and the world differently—and too often women’s differentness has been judged as inferior and wrong.  Research in psychology affirms measurable differences between the sexes.  Studies of the play among young children show that boys are drawn to competition while girls more readily choose activities of cooperation.  Among adults given the task of solving a dilemma, the male approach is more legalistic and directed to finding an efficient solution.  A female approach is more global, taking into consideration surrounding circumstance and concern for the people who will be affected by the choice made.  Men mainly show concern for the ‘outside’ (the specific outcome) while women show equal concern for the ‘within’ (the relationships and feelings).

Each perspective emphasizes different values (what is thought to be of greater or lesser worth).  Value choices are not easily altered, there is resistance and denial.  In a one-dimensional world there are only two choices: yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong.  We no longer live in a flat world, we live in a multi-dimensional reality full of complexities—but old prejudices are hard to overcome.  Some voices urge us to hold on to them, but the day of white-male-supremacy is past.  Our world is in crisis; we must listen to all reasonable voices.  

* * *


I am Woman, hear me oh Man!

You have intercourse with life from the outside,
            I from within.

You know only half of the reality that is
            --as do I.

Rigid and absolute, your aim is to impose and control;
Yielding and accommodating, mine is to accept and adapt.

You fear that I will limit your fecundity
            your self-serving pleasure pursuits

And so it is, for I seek compassion and understanding
            and protection for my vulnerability.

What you fail to know--for you know only half of reality--
            is that there is pleasure of a different kind as well as wisdom
            in my experience of life and living.

What you have demonstrated to me--for you have been in charge--
            is that your outside knowing, adventurous to be sure,
            is empty and meaningless without my insights!

You’ve insisted upon leading--your power and logic made it seem right--
            but narcissistically you fell in love with your own reflection
            and forgot to keep my voice alive with your love...
            instead, you asked of me only that I serve and service you
            --forgetting you know only half of reality.

Learn from me, not in a subservient way, but as an equal
            and we will both be enriched.

                                         - - -

Your vital virile outside knowing has changed the face of the earth
            you’ve built and discovered and re-created...

But without the within, it is all empty, hollow, meaningless
            --and above all infinitely dangerous!

You disdainfully dismiss what I have to contribute
My accomplishments seem mundanely simple and unimportant.

I cannot do what you have done
Your achievements are in fact glorious!

You infuse, you initiate, you achieve
            --but you also rape and plunder,
            immediate gratification and conquest is your goal.

Your arrogance is your curse
            because you won’t admit what you don’t know
            or can’t do alone.
You don’t nurture and sustain the developing potential
            you don’t watch and wait and hope for the promise to come
            --that is my task.

You know only half of the reality that is!

Would that you look at me...
            but you only glance at my form
Would that you listen to me...
            but you only scoff at my awarenesses
Would that you learn from me...
            but you only yawn at my wisdom.

Look at me and see me,
Listen to me and hear me,
Understand me and learn from me,

I am Woman, hear me oh Man

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Prejudice and the Campaign

What is prejudice?  The dictionary tells us:  “the act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions”.  The immediate past and present U.S. election cycles have brought the issue of prejudice to the forefront of American awareness and that dark hidden mind-cancer is being called out for us to examine in the light of day.

I address the two most pervasive and damaging examples of prejudice in society: white against black, and male against female.  It would seem that since we have a black president, and a woman nominee for the office, those prejudices are no longer a problem, but that is not the case.  Although the personal appeal, intelligence and enthusiasm of Obama got him elected to the office of president, very soon forces were raised against him that blocked every effort he made to bring meaningful change to benefit the nation.  I don’t claim he was right in all his initiatives but I point to the almost hysterical opposition and refusal to work with him to seek compromise.  For his second term, rather than propose goals, the opposition identified as their main objective: ‘to make sure he did not achieve a second term’.  The fierce opposition was never blatantly stated as “because he is a black man” but it was the obvious undertone . . . . . . .thankfully the majority did not support that.

Now we are in another election cycle and we have two candidates that in some way call attention to prejudice.  For one, the woman, there is an unspoken ‘something’ that causes many to ‘just not like her’.  She triggers some of the still, mostly hidden, anti-women attitudes lingering from a long history of suppression of women.  Until recently, every aspect of a woman’s existence was controlled by men.  Because women saw the world through different eyes, they were considered weak, inferior, and incapable of rational judgment.  It was a mere 100 years ago that women won the right to vote in America.  Advances in the status of women in developed countries in the 20th and 21st Centuries may cause us to forget that throughout the ages women have been demonized, demeaned, discounted, and dismissed. Look at other countries where women are still oppressed, with no rights and considered the property of their husbands.  Are we sure we are free of this prejudice?

The other candidate, the man, Donald Trump, apparently believes that Americans do NOT possess the enlightened desire to combat their hidden prejudices, so, by stoking the fires of all hidden prejudices he can ride to victory.  A 'might means right' philosophy.  He offers a smorgasbord of hate filled denigrations, choose from: religions, nationalities, migrants, veterans, handicapped, war heros, the government, the Press, women and anyone who crosses him.   He has fueled his campaign with negativity toward anyone and everyone who is not ‘in his camp’—he personifies prejudice.  It is fortuitous that his prurient attitude toward women was exposed by a video of his bragging about his exploits.  That brought a backlash from both women and enlightened men who recognized that the attitude ‘women are objects for my pleasure’ is from an archaic prejudice rooted in the arrogant belief in Male Superiority which gives them the right to behave toward women as they please; this same attitude fuels groping, physical abuse and rape.  Prejudice is an ugly reality.  Are Americas enlighten enough to fight against it?

If we are serious about opening dialogues about prejudice, don’t confine the issue to race, look deeper to explore the roots of all prejudices.

And choose carefully who you vote for!