Sunday, March 27, 2011

Scientific Cosmology and Eschatology (27 March 2011)

"One does not have to be especially spiritual to experience awe at the infinity of galaxies we can see in the night sky.  Our human consciousness does not merely make possible the question Why?  It insists that the question be asked.  The urge to know is a defining feature of humanity: to know about the past; to understand the present; to glimpse what the future may hold.  ... The night sky is full of unanswered questions.” (389-340)
- Richard Leakey  Origins Reconsidered (1992)

Meditating on the Universe and this planet from the perspective of a scientifically grounded cosmology, I often center down and reflect on the nature of life itself.  Understanding Life requires an existential hermeneutic; it requires poetic reflection upon what is known and what is hoped for, what is dreamt and what is already proven.   Life arises out of the processes set in motion at the Big Bang.  It has come into being on this planet as a logical though not necessary consequence of the various particulars of the dust & gases that were available when our sun began to coalesce coming together and then, as planetary bodies – perhaps dozens of them in the early days of our solar system – began forming, either being blown out of existence by collisions with other bodies being formed or else being drawn into the creation of larger bodies through gravitational attraction.  Soon after our planet came into being, the potential for life must have existed as a matrix in its material systems.  Life did not have to happen.  Yet it did, and in that becoming many wondrous beings have come into existence and then passed away again into extinction, over and over, down across the eons of time since the genesis of life on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mythology, Spirituality and Fundamentalism (13 March 2011)

“Humans need stories—grand, compelling stories – that help to orient us in our lives and in the cosmos.  The epic of evolution is such a story, beautifully suited to anchor our search for planetary consensus, telling us of our nature, our place, our context.” (174)
- Ursula Goodenough  The Sacred Depths
of Nature (1998)

“What does mythical-narrative language contribute?  Something that, although it is contained in my empirical reality, is usually not visible.  I use the gospel, or other religious traditions, to say something that is vital to me.  I use myth and mythical speech because I need it.” (151)
- Dorothee Soelle  The Window of Vulnerability

"At the root of myth is a praxis, a way of being within the world that expresses itself in a corresponding way of feeling and approaching reality, including the Supreme Reality that wraps all things around; God.” (215)
- Leonardo Boff The Maternal Face of God (1987)

“We do not particularly care whether Rip van Winkle, Kamar al‑Zaman, or Jesus Christ ever actually lived.  Their stories are what concern us: and these stories are so widely distributed over the world ‑‑ attached to various heroes in various lands ‑‑ that the question of whether this or that local carrier of the universal theme may or may not have been a historical, living man can be of only secondary moment.” (230‑1)
- Joseph Campbell  The Hero with a
Thousand Faces  (1968; 2nd Ed)

It was once thought that ‘myth’ referred only to stories that weren’t ‘true.’  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the rise of science and scientific history (a researched account of the past, as opposed to traditional stories about the past) threw what we now call ‘mythology’ into question; its truth value was investigated and found wanting—at least as regards its account of things that might actually have ‘happened’ at some point in the past.  In the last half of the 20th century, however, there was a reconstruction of the value and meaning of mythology; as evidenced in the quotes above.  ‘Myth’ came to be seen as something much deeper than a mere account of the actual historical past.  It was seen to be a vehicle for human self-understanding and as a repository of cultural wisdom about the human situation.  Mircea Eliade, Ernst Casirrer and Joseph Campbell were among the most popular promoters of this move to rehabilitate the idea of myth.  I would argue that this ‘rehabilitation’ was actually a reclamation of an earlier understanding of the stories that constitute mythology; an understanding that was fractured by the rise of the historical sciences and their emphasis on ‘what actually happened’ in the past.  While the contribution of the historical sciences is important for understanding the objective world in which we live, the return to mythology in the late 20th century reaffirmed the existential, subjective and spiritual value of these stories.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Revel Toward Spring! (27 February 2011)

It is near, but not quite here_ I can sense it!  The days have grown almost long enough for it to be declared ‘Spring’_ but not quite.  Three weeks until the Vernal Equinox!  Though we are still in the grip of wintry weather_ I can sense the turning of the Wheel of the Year in my bones, in my ever-chilly flesh.  Who will dance with me in anticipation? 
The time for Enclosure is passing; I am moved toward Emergence; that bodily desire for movement outward_ for being out on the witch; out on the path_ leaving the solitude of the Hut of Dwelling for three seasons!  I’ve been hearing the ice around my Hut melting for the last week_ despite the storm we had last Moon Night—and though more snow is in the forecast_ something within me cries, “It is time to end this hibernation!
To the Woods!  _If only I could_ brave the ice-laden and slippery paths and skate my way to a new place of insight and inspiration!
Look around you!