The Current Tsunamis

3 05 2008

I was thinking the other day about what we occupy our thinking energy with. Most of it is very futile stuff. Stuff that will not matter even in a decade. Quite naturally and very quickly, what we occupy our thinking with becomes what we occupy our physical energy and time with.
Can I earn more money? Are humans ruining the planet? Should we arrange a national lottery? Should I have kids? Where can I get a safe abortion? Which party should I vote for? Can I look younger? Am I pregnant? Can I get thinner? How can I make my staff more productive? How do I get an advantage over my competitors? How do I get to have more sex, safely if possible? Does this make me look fat? Do I have BO? Are we there yet? I wonder what they think about me? …
These are the kinds of questions we have been trained to ask. And we ask them all day long, and most of the night too… But they are the least important questions. The really important questions we do not ask, but why? Could it be that we unconsciously avoid the real questions? I think so, and, as I have said, we have been trained to ask the frivolous questions, and to ask them only.

We humans have always been open to abuse by religion, science, popular culture, peer pressure, the media, and a myriad of other things. It did not matter so much 100 years ago because ideologies were relatively isolated. Ideas would ripple slowly across the planet, doing an equal amount of good and evil. Today they travel with the force, speed and impetus of a tsunami; an ethos tsunami. Or rather an unending series of ever shorter wavelength ethos tsunamis.
Drip feeding new ideas at the rate of generational growth can be wonderfully stimulating, but to be smashed with wave after wave of ideas is devastating. We must force ourselves awake, to think; to look up from the little questions which threaten to drown us. I’m not suggesting that little questions are invalid; little questions are equally valid, they are just secondary. And as CS Lewis pointed out “you cannot get second things by putting them first. You can only get second things by putting first things first.

The word ‘tsunami’ is a good example. I remember about 10 years ago Leonard Sweet produced a book called ‘Soul Tsunami’. When I heard the title I had to look up the word, today very few people, who can read, need to look up the word ‘tsunami’, it has swept over the continents carried on the susceptible and fluid oceans of the world media.
Another example, with much more impact, is our liberal South African Constitution. Influenced and applauded by current ‘democratic’ super-powers. Yet lacking even the simple redemptive processes that would make it a truly democratic constitution (I wrote a post about it, if you don’t know what I mean: Cry the Beleaguered Country)

So, what are the really big questions?
Someone I asked recently said “Why me? More specifically, why am I so special? Why am I alive? What is the REASON for ME as a person to be here on this planet?
I would regard this as the fundamental question of all questions.
Steven Hawking in “A Brief History of Time” said about this question: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.
Hawking’s problem here is that the knowledge he is speaking of is intellectual, categoric knowledge. But scientific ‘knowing’, as we have already established, is not the only way of knowing; and answering the question “what is the reason for me?” is hopelessly outside the self-confessed reaches of the scientific method.
If you have even the slightest inkling of an answer to the question “why me?”, the other questions would just about answer themselves.

Here’s another fundamental question: “What’s the point?”
I would rate this question as number 2 on the list of important questions to answer before you die. Let me give you a reason why.
At some point someone asked “Are humans ruining the planet?” Some scientists said, “we might be,” and activists and politicians said “that’s good enough for us and here’s a bunch of rules and guidelines to stop it from happening.” And the Bureaucrats and popular TV talk shows adjusted their song sheets to the key of the new tune.
Now if, instead of getting into a frenzy of activity, someone asked, “what’s the point?” we would have a very different set of behavioural responses.
The planet is doomed anyway, what is the difference if it is now or in a million years? Someone may answer that this may be be the only planet with life. To which the answer is again, “so what?… What’s the point?
It is not a long walk to the most depressing fatalism once we start asking this question. The Stoics and the Epicureans concluded that suicide was a legitimate means of exit… their answer to the question.
Augustine argued the case against suicide using the example of Lucretia the much lauded lady of Roman fable who took her own life after being raped “There is no way out of the dilemma.” Says Augustine. “If she is an adulteress, why all the praise? If chaste, why did she kill herself?” Fatalism is not an acceptable answer to the question. “There is no point” equally cannot be the answer.
Philosophy,” said Dr Michael Eaton recently, “is just an ever increasing scepticism… Post modernism simply means that we are sure that we don’t really know anything… The more you know the more you wish you knew nothing.
The grand conclusion of philosophy is that there is no point to be found in time and space. Possessing intelligence and consciousness is not an end in itself. But this asks more questions than it answers. Why then do we feel such a desperate need to be the object of some purpose larger than ourselves? Why is in not ‘OK’ to simply say “So what, let’s use up the planet ourselves, why restrain ourselves for the sake of some future generation who we don’t even know. The whole planet may be taken out by a meteor anyway and it is going to be destroyed eventually despite our best efforts“?
It’s all in Ecclesiastes if you want to read it, thought through by Solomon 4000 years ago. “There is nothing new, nothing to be gained, no advantage, under the sun.” (“under the sun” is Solomon’s way of saying “here on earth”) and he’s quite right there is no point here on earth, absolutely none. I challenge you to find one that cannot be refuted by logic alone.
Now here’s the clincher: If there is no point at all why do we behave as if there were? As if somehow our reputation will actually matter in a million years.
What’s the Point?” I want to tell you that more people ask this question that you imagine. Now you may be thinking, “didn’t you say that people don’t ask these questions, and this is number 2 on the list.
Yes I did say that, but most people only ask, “what’s the point?” from inside the dilemma of the other questions, they have been trained not to think outside of it. “What’s the point if I can’t earn any more money?” “What’s the point if I can’t have more sex?” “What’s the point if I am fat?” “What’s the point if they think I’m an idiot?” “What’s the point of saving the planet?
People seldom ask “What’s the point of me, us, everything?” We don’t take the question far enough.

Our view of science is the key here. Our view of science will either keep us asking the little questions or force us to ask the big ones (legitimate as the little questions are).
Science claims to deal only with what is provable, or falsifiable, which is a noble pursuit. And so scientists claim to say nothing about what is not provable, or falsifiable. But science does, all the time. There is always a lot of necessary assumption in the science world because of the issues that science is dealing with. Current science has metaphysical implications and requires metaphysical assumptions; and these assumptions rub off, through the current bombardment of idea tsunamis, on absolutely everyone.
Intelligent Design may not be what is defined as ‘science’ but neither is science within it’s own definition anymore. We don’t want intelligent design in the science classroom but are happy to give science as much metaphysical jurisdiction as it wants.
Science can not show how it is that life started nor how it is that reason evolved. How then can it show when a life ends? Yet it is necessarily assumed in science that biology is the same thing as life. Science cannot show how the universe came into being nor it’s purpose. So its beginning is necessarily assumed and it is assumed to be purposeless (I’ve always wondered why having a beginning to the universe is more important than having a purpose to it). We are trained to think in terms of assumptions, to accept them without requiring evidence.

Here are some other fundamental questions:
When I die (not if, when) is that the end of me?
Will anything I do matter in a million years?
Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why are there many, not just one?
Is there a God?
Richard Dawkins attempts an answer to this last question, he says that God is “not very likely“. It is a singularly unhelpful and small minded attempt. Dawkins attempts to answer a big question as if it were a little one. He tries to use science in the form of statistics to answer something with is neither provable nor falsifiable, and for that he wins approval?!?
Every conception is also very unlikely, life itself is highly improbable, universal order is also extremely unlikely; yet here they all are, observable and measurable. The unlikelyness of God is utterly irrelevant to the question, it does not serve as an answer and the sooner we recognise that the better.

So you think that I am trying to convince you to believe what I believe. I am not. I am asking you to ask the questions we have been trained to believe there is no answer to; and to ask them sincerely. I am also asking you to ignore the noise and the distraction of the current idea tsunamis, to lift your head out of the chicken feed and imagine again, beyond your wildest dreams.

Dr RT Kendall said recently, “God offends the mind to reach the heart.
Here is a little question: “How can a just God let people suffer?” Now if God exists only a fool would deny that He does let people suffer, even ‘good’ people; maybe especially ‘good’ people. The Greeks attempted to answer that question by humanising the gods. They imagined their gods having all these powers but subject to their own character weaknesses, these weaknesses translate to the random doses of suffering and blessing we observe.
Dr Kendall’s statement is an excellent, experiential and relational answer to the question; and, like it or not, Kendall’s right.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter eight) he quoted the Ecclesiastes theme that the whole world, indeed the universe, is subject to meaningless vanity… If you discount God.
Someone once said” “God has the key of all unknown but He will not give it to you, So you had better trust him to open all the doors.
If we leave out God – we are just animals. When we take away from the human the image of God all you have left is animal.

From His hand” is the Ecclesiastical contrast to “under the sun“.


18 04 2008

I saw an insurance billboard recently with these words;
With foresight, who needs hindsight?

It got me thinking… who indeed?
Well here’s my conclusion:

There are always 3 or 4 generations involved on the playing field at any given time with a few spectators on each end of the spectrum.
If the second generation, the ruling generation (most of the decision-makers of life are from this generation that’s why I call them the ruling generation) is making a successful go at it, then it is my view that the generation before them (the first generation) had exceptionally clear hindsight. The second generation has clear foresight but only at the expense of the first generation’s hindsight. The third generation is a little blind in both directions and will tend to blunder, creating a foresight blockage but giving the fourth very clear hindsight, the fifth then begin the cycle again by converting the fourth’s hindsight into foresight.

There are many examples of this phenomenon, perhaps the best is the generations after the world wars and the consequential economic depressions. The war/depression generation had a huge amount of hindsight. They set up a productive generation with a great deal of foresight in the 50’s. Who in turn created a generation with very little of either in the 60’s and 70’s. They then created a new generation of hindsight cold-war people who gave rise to the current generation with enormous foresight.
It’s like sociological seasons.
I think we all need hindsight, foresight is not possible without it. But we also need foresight. In a sense we need to make our mistakes, because hindsight is not possible without it.

The Greeks I think had it right in their language 3000 years ago. What a marvel Ancient Greek is. Language has certainly not evolved since then, if anything the reverse is true.
They had a number of words for Time. But the three key words were: Hora, Chronos and Keiros.
Hora is a fatalistic word, it has hindsight written all over it. When my grandfather (who is now 93 and not only still driving but servicing his own car too) moved from his house I asked him what he wanted to do will all his old rusty bits of steel and broken tools. “You can’t throw those away,” he said, “you never know when you might need them.” He is a classic hindsight generation man, and I love him!
Hora describes time as a master to whom we are all subject.
Chronos is the opposite, Chronos describes time as the servant of man and opportunity as available to the quick and the hungry. Compounding interest is a product of the Chronos mind. Chronos people are classically foresighted, but with a lack of hindsight they tend to create problems that their foresight, by it’s mere existence, is blind to.

Keiros is to me a word to live by. It is providential, granted (as I said – a word to live by). Opportunities are coming and will keep coming. Keiros says that we should use both foresight and hindsight to recognise which opportunity to take and which to leave. Hora is over cautious reluctant to take any opportunity, always focused on what might go wrong. Chronos rushes in where angels fear to tread, grasping at every opportunity as if opportunity itself was the key to life. A Keiros man is both prudent and full of Joy, he’s at peace and he has mastered fear… not just his fears, but fear itself.

Keiros is a word that teaches me what The Eagles seem to know already… “Learn to be still.

Zeal & The Zeitgeist – Part 1

22 01 2008

Daniel is one of my favourite writings. His records are pivotal to the Bible collection. They contain a decent examination into the Hebrew, Babylonian, Median and Persian cultures and give us wonderful prophetic insight into the Greek and Roman cultures. They also explain the beginnings of the Eastern / Western development split and tells us why the Western ethos seems so unstoppable economically and politically.

Daniel gives us the differences in definition between what is ‘progress’ and what is mere ‘development’. Which come tantalisingly close to my problem with the evolutionary theory as an explanation of complexity and order. According to the theory one would expect to observe development, even entropy; but one does instead observe progress. Why is this? It is a problem for the theory as fatal to it, I believe, as its assumptions.

But anyway, that is not what this post is about. If you’re interested I’d like to take you on a bit of a tour of Daniel’s life. I’m not sure how many I’ll do but I will end up at the 4 cornerstones of Greek philosophy, Cynicism, Scepticism, Stoicism and Epicureanism. They form the Zeitgeist of our day, but I don’t want to jump ahead, I’ll get there eventually.

Most of us have been fortunate enough to have had a ‘Greek education’. By which we mean an academic organised presentation of the sciences and the arts to our senses in a disciplined and purposeful manner.
Amongst all the knowledge we have acquired (some more than others), our ‘Greek education’ has taught us how to Think Logically.
And Logical Thinking is Daniel’s grand prophetic prediction. Of course Logical Thinking is different to Lateral Thinking, as Edward de Bono pointed out to us, but they are extensions of the same foundation.

Now I have already said that I think that God’s dealings with Abraham caused a man, for the first time ever, to think in terms of Linear Time; and that eventually this concept caused the Hebrew nation to rise to power in Mesopotamia and then, when they stopped thinking this way and were sent in exile to Babylon some of them brought with them these thinking concepts which influenced the Babylonian, Median, Persian and eventually the Greek ethos (Some other time it would be good to look at the Hebrew influence on ancient Egypt). It is Daniel’s writing which lets us into some of the history of this influence in Eastern Mesopotamia and eventually on the formation of Greece, which has vast implications for our own Progress or Development, whichever we choose…