Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#51. A New Series of Posts

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After a seven-month break, I am beginning a new series of posts. I used the time to catch up on some of the many interesting things going on in the worlds of science and religion, especially with regard to new attitudes about biological evolution, the diversity of religions which have emerged in humanity's cultural evolution, and our role in the cosmic process.

There are so many conflicting views about these two major areas of human life that to talk about the convergence of science and religion sounds, I'm aware, more than a bit naive.

But it seems to me that that "convergence" is the right term for what's happening at a deep level in our human world just now.

At least it describes my own experience, and I've learned over the years that whatever I'm experiencing in terms of cultural development is usually being experienced by others, too. We're simply not yet in touch with one another to any great extent. Until recently in the world's development, there just wasn't any way for us to link up.

But with the growth of the internet and world wide web, we can be in touch more and more. This blog is one small contribution to that process.

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It's great fun, but also a lot of work. Spelling out personal thoughts so that they are clear to everyone reading them is a tremendous challenge. And it takes time and energy away from learning more on my part.

"Learning more" is what I've been doing since I posted my last entry, #50 (The End of Patriarchy), back in December 2008. And I hope to share some of it in this new set of posts.

One of the most interesting things I've learned recently is how to express well the difference between science and religion. The difference may seem obvious, but that we're not clear about it is the source of many of our most common conflicts. It will be the topic of my next post (#52).

My inborn teaching instincts keep me always on the alert for finding the right words for making sense to readers of important ideas that are, for the most part, still missing from our culture.

As I said back in posts #34 (Talking About Us) and #40 (Wisdom/Sophia), we still live in a culture of distraction. And for that the media carries major responsibility. A good example is the death of Michael Jackson on June 25. Practically everyone on our planet knew about it in just a few hours.

But not many were aware of the deaths several weeks earlier of Thomas Berry and Ewert Cousins, two giants of our contemporary world whose life's work is of tremendous relevance for science, religion and human survival on the Earth.

Ewert Cousins was a professor of theology at Fordham University for 40 years. He was a world-renowned theologian and pioneer in inter-religious dialogue who brought Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists together at gatherings around the globe. He died on May 30.

His full obituary is worth reading. Among other things, he is responsible for the name "Second Axial Period" used to describe our present time of great turning. I talked about his work in post #35 (Aspects of the Immense Transition, Parts 1 & 2).

In contrast to the lack of familiarity with Professor Cousins, almost everyone interested in environmental concerns knows something of the "grand old man" of the New Cosmology, Thomas Berry. He died two days after Cousins, on June 1. A fine obituary appeared in the New York Times. It describes him as a man "with a mission for mankind."

Berry's work is mentioned in nine of my previous posts: #2 (Spirituality Research Symposium), #3 (High School 50th-Anniversary Report), #5 (Alternative to "Human Nature Redux"), #6 (Tai Chi), #7 (Brief Autobiography), #17 (What is the Universe Doing?) , #24 (Ontogenesis: Phases One & Two), #31 (Integrating the Four Functions) and #32 (Comments Collected).

I was lucky to learn about these men early in my life, back in the 1960s. And I got to meet both of them several times. I hope to share more thoughts about their work in this new set of posts.

The media, as I said, bears great responsibility for our culture of distraction. I had thought, when I was first writing this, that I would offer as an example the media's apparent over-emphasis on those few minutes of Obama's recent healthcare press conference when he offered his thoughts about the arrest of a Harvard professor for "breaking in" to his own home.

Most of that conference dealt with healthcare concerns which are, needless to say, of tremendous significance for the American people, but the media-- with its delight in controversy-- focused on the president's use of the word "stupid" with regard to that police action.

However, I changed my mind when I read the e-mail note sent to those on his mailing list by Rabbi Arthur Waskow from the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. I wrote about Rabbi Arthur's work in post #47 (The Growing Edge).

In his note he asks, Was the Cambridge Cop "Stupid"? It's a fine example of what needs to be said and which, as far as I know, has been said by no one else. It's not on the web, but if you'd like to read it I'll be glad to forward you the copy I received. Just let me know: sam@macspeno.com.

I'd still like to offer an example of the media's typical focus on trivia, in contrast to concern for the significance of the work of people like Ewert Cousins and Thomas Berry.

A good example is the criticism leveled at the president when he threw out the first pitch at the Major League Baseball's All-Star game. Seems the well-worn bluejeans he wore on the pitcher's mound were considered "un-cool."

That's a good example, indeed, of our culture of distraction. Sad stuff.

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Probably the thing that surprised me most when I first started the blog was how few readers were willing to respond by way of comments on specific thoughts in the posts.

Sending a comment is hardly a high-tech process, yet it seems to be intimidating to many. And, believe me, I'm sympathetic. You should have seen me trying to learn how to listen to a voice-mail message on my new iPhone. Shaking her head, my usually patient daughter who was trying to teach me said, "I wish the Apple people could see what they're up against."

With regard to readers being hesitant to send comments, I think that even more intimidating than the technology is the feeling that our personal thoughts don't really matter all that much-- especially when it comes to such deep areas as spirituality and science. It's "Heavy, man!" as the hippies used to say.

We're still working our way out of the time when authority was vested in others-- parents, politicians, church leaders. But evolutionary development is happening in that area, too. We're learning-- quickly, in terms of our awareness, although sometimes quite slowly in terms of our ability to deal with it emotionally-- that we can't depend on external authority as earlier generations did.

It's been a painful lesson, taught us by those who the American people allowed to remain in the White House for eight years and by pastors appointed by the religious authorities in many denominations. We're learning that we shouldn't hand over our authority either to popes or presidents.

And we're learning that we can't let them-- or the media-- tell us what to think. It's easy to accept that thought as a concept; but, as I've said, for many it's far harder to accept emotionally.

The evolutionary worldview helps here, too. If the universe worked for 14 billion years to bring us into existence-- with our personal thoughts and personal feelings at this time and this place in cosmic history-- then our thoughts and feelings do count.

And if they count to the universe itself and to mystery behind the universe, we shouldn't hesitate to share them, and to do so by making use of whatever technology is available to us at this time in humanity's cultural development.

Reading newspapers or watching a ball game on TV is mostly a passive-receptive activity, and so is reading a long or "heavy" post. It takes a lot more active energy to write and send even a brief comment.

But writers need feedback as does anyone involved in a creative activity. And all of us need to value our own thoughts and feelings more than in the past and to realize that they do matter to others. So I hope you will share your thoughts and feelings with other readers. I need your help.

That sharing is, I think, what the convergence of science and religion is all about at its deepest level.

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Good examples of that sharing appear in two relatively new online publications, the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and ReadTheSpirit.

The Journal is academically oriented, while ReadTheSpirit is for a popular audience, but they both focus on religion and spirituality from an inter-religious perspective.

Their concern is the promotion of good relationships between the various religious traditions of the Earth which emerged in various parts of the world during thousands of years of humanity's cultural evolution, and which now, due to the shrinking of the Earth, have no choice but to come to understand themselves in relation to the others.

The founding editor of ReadTheSpirit, David Crumm, is an author, journalist, and filmmaker who was for more than two decades a religion writer for the Detroit Free Press and the Knight-Ridder and Gannett newspaper chains. He has an excellent essay posted just a few weeks ago on theJournal website. It's called "When the Old Connectors Are Fading."

In his essay he notes that five hundred years ago global change "came through movable type and pamphleteering. Today, it's the Internet and blogs."

He notes that ReadTheSpirit began with the words "We haven't seen times like these in 500 years." The reference is to the Reformation era in Europe around the time of the discovery of the New World, but the global transformation which began then is still in process.

My blog is a very small part of that global transformation. But it is part of it. And it does need your help.

I hardly knew what I was doing when I started the blog back in December 2006, and I still don't. It's an on-going creative process.

My main concern, then, was to share with readers insights about the links between science and religion, especially those that are overlooked in public education and ignored by the media.

Although I share with readers many of the new scholarly voices addressing these important issues, it's not meant to be an academic publication. It's intended to reach real people struggling with basic understanding of the issues raised by humanity's present transformational stage of our evolutionary development.

Many readers have told me they couldn't keep up with the two or three entries each month I'd been posting, so I am thinking that with this second series of posts I should aim for just one entry a month. That should be helpful for readers-- and for me.

And I usually tell readers who mention having trouble keeping up with the posts that they will likely be on the web for years, so "Take your time; read them when you can."

But David Crumm offers a different view. He says "Publish quickly-- and often." I don't know which direction I'll take, yet.

The one thing I do know is that I need your help. So if something that appears in this blog touches you, say so. Just quote the lines that spoke to you and add "I really like this" or "I think you're wrong about this." It's as easy as that.

These are exciting times and anyone with views about what's happening is needed.

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In June I posted a temporary entry to let those who have asked know that something more was in process.

I called that temporary post " "COMING SOON"-- maybe!" It was posted on 28 June 09, six months to the day from my last post. In it I said that "I haven't been able to get it together yet." And tried to be funny in describing it:

What's "coming soon"?

Facebook? No.

Text-messaging? No.

Twittering? No.

Two things:

1) Some thoughts about the connections between evolution and ritual-- the one big area of interest that I didn't get to in my previous posts.

2) Examples of personal experiences linking religious ritual with the world's evolution.

Writing about ritual and evolution is one of my main goals, although I still don't know if I'll ever be capable enough to spell out well my understanding of the role of religious ritual in cosmic evolution.

Sharing my personal experience along those lines is also one of my long-term goals and I've been strongly encouraged by readers to give these entries a more personal touch. For me that's even more challenging than trying to express concepts clearly.

Since everything evolves, however, I'm hoping that my skills will also evolve. The blog itself changed considerably over the course of those first fifty entries, so I'm expecting it to evolve with this new series of posts as well.

I think it's the not-knowing exactly where things are going that makes our creative efforts-- yours and mine- so enjoyable.

Wish me luck! And do give me your help!


PSs:

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1 comment:

Sam said...

While trying to eliminate numerous spam comments, I inadvertently deleted all comments at the END of the posts up until #90. BUT... they are still preserved in the collections of comments found in posts #32, #67 and #83.

One set of comments, however-- for posts #84 to #89-- has been completely lost. If you happen to have copied any of them, I'd much appreciate your sending a copy to me so I can restore them. Thanks.