Friday, July 13, 2012



No Man is an Island, Revisited



A Look at the Evolutionary Nature 
of Human Perception
by J. Erwin Solomon
[NOTE: Mr. Solomon, who will be 90 years old on his next birthday, is a Concert Pianist, Organist, Choral Conductor, Composer and former faculty member of the The Juilliard School of Music, New York. FreeThinke began his own formal study of the piano with Mr. Solomon 63 years ago. The two quickly developed a bond which was to last a lifetime. Mr. Solomon and his wife, Katya, a fine violinist, are still busy giving concerts, and still function as guides and a vibrant source of inspiration to FreeThinke]
The disciplines we call “the humanities,” subjects such as Literature, Art, Music, Philosophy, Theology –– and now basic sciences as well –– acknowledge that many in our species are developing increasing consciousness of our connection to the Cosmic Energy that defines and runs the Universe –– an awareness that has been in our subconscious all along. 
Whenever we access this awareness we find answers to all our questions.  Let me share a few examples.
The US Air pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, affectionately known as “Captain Sully,” through his training and experience focused his mind on something far greater than himself when suddenly confronted with a life and death situation. As a result, every muscle confidently made exactly the correct degree of movement at precisely the right moment to bring his plane and passengers to a safe landing on New York City’s Hudson River. If he had concntrated on his personal fear instead of allowing confidence in his connection to a Larger Reality, most likely everyone on board would have perished.
The superb British golfer Tony Jacklin expressed his connection to the larger reality as “entering the zone” which guides his movements so precisely that his thirty-foot pressure putt curves across the green and falls into the cup.
When inspired by the spirit within, writers get in touch with Something larger than themselves, words begin to flow so rapidly that they find it challenging to keep up.  When the “trance like” connection is over, authors are amazed by the words they just put on paper.  Sometimes, unconnected, they experience “writer’s cramp” and feel “tongue tied.”  Falsely thinking they alone had created those inspired words, simply “unplugged” them from that larger energy source and the “light“ went out.
Once, I had too many students enroll in my Music Literature class, so the office scheduled the overflow into a second period.  There were days I would find new ideas about the music we were studying flowing in both directions –– from teacher to student and vice versa –– in a very energizing way.  Armed with this exciting new perception, I would try to present these thoughts to the second period class, but inevitably became “tongue-tied,” for no energy was flowing.  It finally surfaced that most of the students who signed up because of a real interest in learning through music, were in the first group, while many who signed up only for a “breeze-course” credit, were in the second. No real depth of connection occurred with this second group, so I had to try new approaches to connect inside these beautiful, but disengaged young people.
These various examples suggest that anyone and everyone who connects to something larger than his conscious self will find answers.  This to me is the truth behind the well-known biblical sayings –– “Seek and ye shall find" –– “Ask and it will be given unto you,” and  “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst.”
We can all gain entrance to the cosmic, the universal, through connecting our inner self  –– our true nature –– to the inner selves of others, and find real answers to age-old questions.  Trying to connect our “self-constructed personality” or false sense of self to others, rarely brings anything but grief.
So, I would like to make a proposal that hopefully might lead to a less stressful, more satisfying society: 
A conference of up to fifty people, sponsored by all branches of government, chaired by someone like Irving Stubbs of Richmond, Virginia. who has had broad international experience with such gatherings, and was co-founder of the Values Institute of America, to be held in some centrally located city, preferably  not Washington, D.C., New York, or Los Angeles.
These participants would be selected from a genuine cross section of the population who could agree that their most basic nature is located in our common humanity –– not in their sex, individual culture, or ethnicity. They should be invited to participate at their own expense –– and possibly include CEOs from two large and two small companies, Bankers, Teachers,  Doctors, Professors, Presidents and Board Members of Colleges and Universities, Union Leaders, Artists, Authors, Poets, Philosophers, Lawyers, Judges, Transportation Workers, Low-Wage Earners, etc. 
I believe that these people, who already have a subconscious connection they may not yet have discovered, would consciously find workable solutions to our most pressing needs as they gather in the name of all humanity.
The FIRST objective would be to propose a Stimulus Package containing, not more money and greater public debt –– the coin here is Care not Cash –– but a reduction of compensation at all levels –– especially in government –– of perhaps fifty-percent by willing top executives, as a positive example, down to one or two-percent for production line workers and low wage earners. 
Everyone is bound to benefit, because more and more jobs will become available as the cost of our goods and services become more competitive worldwide. As the cost of living drops, the lowest earners would not only feel themselves part of the great effort, but would actually enjoy a net increase far beyond the one-percent or two-percent they sacrificed to the process. 
In reality, the living standard will not be affected at any income level, even though some may be motivated to modify their life style. Luxury will cease to feel like a necessity.
The SECOND objective would be to, suggest GUIDELINES –– NOT LAWS –– for fair and just compensation at all levels of economic activity.  This would further reduce costs across the board and eliminate much of the obscene disparity that often now exists between top and bottom.
Wide publicity of this conference of peers would have the power of persuasion that reduces the fears and illusions that breed selfishness and greed –– the sickness of imagining there could be a genuine need for always acquiring More-More-More in order to gain a sense of security or feel satisfaction.
I have no illusions about how difficult it would be to get all of us even to admit let alone set aside our habitual limitations, because all cultures and faiths ––  even Christianity –– are filled with simplistic misunderstandings of the evolutionary aspects of the intuitive perceptions of the elemental guiding principles their originators were trying with mere words to reveal. 
Having served the Church as an organist and choirmaster for almost seventy years exposed me to countless examples –– such as a belief that is still holding many fundamentalist Christians in thrall  –– the insistence that earth and all life began between five and six THOUSAND years ago.  Fortunately, many are now expanding their understanding because of the overwhelming evidence gathered by geologists, paleontologists, archaeologists and anthropologists that reveals earth’s age to be at least  fifteen BILLION years old  by conservative estimate.
If we could gather a small group together with the common goal of attempting to connect to something larger than our habitual, individual, acculturated perceptions of reality, [politicians, especially would be invited to loosen their grid-locked minds from personal and partisan political agendas] we would find earth-shaking, and deeply satisfying, solutions for all our difficulties. This would be truly “NEWSWORTHY,” instead of our Daily Dose of Discouragement, Depravity, Depression and Disaster, which now tends to support another fiercely counter-productive  misperception –– i.e. that human nature is fundamentally flawed. 
There can be no question that our behavior is often abominable, but our true nature –– the tremendous power that lies innate-but-largely-dormant given us by Cosmic Energy –– an alternative, probably more accurate name for God –– is magnificent and longs to connect with others to create an altruistic society.
Truly “No man is an island.”
Respectfully submitted,
J.Erwin Solomon
 

30 comments:

  1. I don't have much to say about the second part of this article. I think it is highly logical, but I am a skeptic about such grand solutions, human nature being what it is...

    I say this with sadness, because it is an excellent idea.

    Having said that, the first part of this was brilliant. Such observations shouldn't surprise, coming from a musician.

    I am just an amateur, but mechanics and notes are one thing, but getting "in the groove" while performing is a bliss that can only come from expanding out and connecting with something outside the concrete human experience.

    As the author says, the same can be applied to almost any human activity. To experience such transcendence is a beautiful thing and almost indescribable.

    You are fortunate FreeThinke, to have such a wonderful person as a friend and teacher.

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  2. First, I am one of those Christians who doesn't worry herself about the age of the earth and like scientific matters. "It is what it is," as the saying goes. Besides, I believe that the Lord is sovereign: he makes the laws of nature, but He doesn't have to abide by them as he is Sovereign.

    [A]nyone and everyone who connects to something larger than his conscious self will find answers.

    No doubt, there is truth to this. On the microcosmic level, so to speak, the bond between a man and a wife should be that something larger -- for that couple, anyway.

    In my view, selfishness is a dead end. I will add this caveat: protecting one's own self interests is not necessarily selfishness.

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  3. “No man is an island.”

    Okay, I'll agree that no man is a "static" island. We were all, like Leto's son, born on Delos.

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  4. Well, FT, s the man once said, "It's pretty to think so."

    But we live in a system that makes a fetish of individuality to the point of destroying common culture unless it can be used to serve the Galtian masters.

    People who are trained to reject any kind of progressive taxation because they are in thrall to the dream that they will one day join the club. Fair and just?
    So long as you don't crimp the Libertarians who have no use for culture or art or much of anything that can't be commodified and priced by the market.

    Many are now expanding their understanding? "It's pretty to think so."

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  5. Ah, Ducky, even though I wrote the following poem c. 1962 –– fifty years ago -- I must have had you in mind.


    The mind of the dreamer
    _____ is a secret storehouse
    __________ wherein may dwell
    __________ all youthful fond illusion ––
    The embryo of each utterance of hope ––
    _____ each word of comfort ––
    __________ and each song of joy.


    The mind of the cynic
    _____ is a well-known asylum
    __________ wherein lies disenchantment ––
    _______________ destruction and despair ––
    The insidious, lisping voice of the serpent.
    O, foolish Man! Why choose strife,
    _____ when only what you choose to know
    _____ has life?


    ~ FreeThinke

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  6. That's a most interesting sidelight in Greek Mythology, FJ. I'm not sure how it relates to Mr. Solomon's essay except for the "island" references. I suppose the floating island on which Leto was able to take refuge and find rest might be symbolic of the inter-connectedness of all beings to the Whole and the essential benevolence of the Cosmos.

    Help is always there when we really need –– if we can stir ourselves out of habitual patterns of fear, wrath, resentment, and the lust for "getting even" that keep most of us from finding joy and fulfillment –– long enough to reach out to The Source of All Being (God, if you prefer) and "Seek Ye the Lord Were He May be Found." (The title of a once popular sacred song grown long out of favor).

    ~ FT

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  7. A belated Thank You to you, Kurt, for your appreciation and kind words. Yes I have been extraordinarily blest to have connected early on with an independent thinker who looks at the world with all its foibles -- and horrors -- with a remarkable degree of equanimity. He has helped me to look at things from a radically different perspective that refuses to succumb to despair in spite of all the dreadful things that tempt us in that direction.

    It's not merely the adoption of a childish, simple-minded "Pollyanna" approach. It's very difficult to explain but it has helped me to see Beauty and Humor in challenging situations and to derive a measure of enjoyment of life no matter what.

    As the poem quoted above says, we have a choice -- never about what may happen to us -- but about the way we choose to respond to events good bad or indifferent.

    I don't worry about changing Human Nature, but I do try to improve my own outlook -- with varying degrees of success and failure.

    FJ mentioned a "static" island. Yes, if by that he means a symbol of STAGNATION, which too many conflate or confuse with STABILITY.

    With the latter we may feel at home literally anywhere. If we cling to the former -- wanting to maintain the life we had as spoiled children with our parents doing everything for us, for instance -- we are doomed to a life of misery and disappointment.

    Someone told me once that in Sanskrit "Salvation" is defined as "a turning of the mind."

    I see a clear relation to Jesus' cryptic-sounding words, "If you would have your life, first you must lose it."

    ~ FreeThinke

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  8. PS: Your comment, Kurt, on the incredible joy that comes from truly "losing oneself in the music" is spot on.

    I used to think it had to be in relation to CLASSICAL MUSIC, but I have learned that this remarkable trance-like state of altered consciousness that touches upon Bliss can come from any sincere involvement -- not only in Music -- but in meaningful activity in virtually ANY field of endeavor -- and even in seemingly trivial routine forms of human interaction.

    For instance, without getting involved in their personal lives at all iI enjoy beautiful relationships with waitresses, waiters, bank tellers, garage mechanics, receptionists, the guys who trim, weed and mow my property –– even officials at the DMV, if you would believe -- because I make a determined effort not just to "express" interest and appreciation for what they do, but to feel it for real.

    It may start out as a "game." If I met someone whose eyes are downcast, who appears sullen, uninterested in what he or she is supposed to be doing, or preoccupied to the point of rudeness, I pretend not to notice, refuse to express impatience or annoyance, and instead try to express some sort of sympathetic interest in THEM.

    It may sound sappy, but most of the time -- it WORKS.

    And it always makes ME feel better for having made the effort, even when it doesn't work.

    When we look outward with interest instead of inward with fear I swear it has a subtly salubrious effect on the atmosphere around us.

    Don't mean to sound like some sort of paragon, I've had many dismal failures at making friendly connections -- especially here on the net where many feel free to express hostility, I presume, because of the anonymity factor.

    However, the point is not to allow the failures and lapses to make you give up trying.

    Life not only CAN be beautiful, it IS beautiful -- unless you succumb to cynicism.

    ~ FT

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  9. Leto (aka Latona) had two children, Artemis and Apollo. Artemis was born on a "fixed" island (in some versions) and was the goddess of the hunt & Nature. Apollo, on the other hand, was born on the "floating" island of Delos and represents the sun and artful "enlightenment". Between the two, one may construct the "parallax" of "mind"... unless some Lycian peasants come by and "muddy the waters".... ;)

    The parallax of inward introspection (fixed)/ external curiosity based upon imagination (floating)... Artemis ruling the right hemisphere of the human mind, and Apollo the left (or visa versa).

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  10. Ooops This should have been the "Latona" link, above.

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  11. Well, FJ, I love a pleasant fantasy, and I suppose it might be a lot of fun to have the power to transform those who irk, mock, defy, balk or fail to show proper respect into "frogs," but what would that accomplish?

    If all the "peasants" -- which I assume are stand-ins for the ignorant, uncouth louts and loutesses that appear to litter the world -- were to disappear as if by magic, I am sure the world would miss them greatly.

    A saying often heard in Mother England: "God must love the Common People a great deal, or He wouldn't have made so many of them."

    No corporation could serve any useful purpose if staffed only with high-level executives. No army would be worthy of the name filled with nothing but generals -- no navy manned entirely by admirals -- no Indian tribe with only chieftans -- no school attended by nothing and one but headmasters, no orchestra with nothing but conductors, etc.

    There is an implicit need in our species to establish some sort of hierarchical order -- I've often compared it to the instinct that makes bees, ants, and termites build hives around the unique central figure of a "Queen" without whom the creatures would have no purpose -- no life at all.

    As a devout individualist, I find the analogy disturbing but inescapable. Like it or not we all need each other, and while we have unique individual identities, we ALSO are an integral part of The Whole -- rather like individual cells that comprise the body of a much larger and more complex being.

    Dr. Lewis Thomas, distinguished oncologist, and prize-winning essayist, and one time president of New York's Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Treatment and Research wrote a wonderful book called The Lives of a Cell that examined this phenomenon of our dual function as independent and interdependent beings in considerable depth.

    I've often said Life -- and, indeed, all Creation -- is a great paradox -- something so absurd and illogical it just shouldn't be, and yet -- there it is.

    Part of the paradoxical nature of Existence is our dual function both as individuals and as integral parts of the vastly complex "clockwork" that is in fact The Universe, Itself.

    Ours not to reason why, ours but to live and die.

    Every one of us is on a trip. We have no control over our means of conveyance, and no real idea of what our destination may be, so instead of eating ourselves up with worry over things we're obviously not equipped or intended to control, why not relax, enjoy the ride and make every effort to make the experience more enjoyable for our fellow passengers?

    May much good cheer come your way this Saturday and every day.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  12. btw - Leto may have been a Lycian herself. ;)

    Lycian (i.e. Cretan) word for ‘woman’...

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  13. I hope that you, unlike me, is not having a bad hair day.

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  14. Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

    Including "science."

    The knowledge that the earth is only 6000 years old still makes me laugh because it's so wonderfully contrary to human "wisdom."

    God is not "cosmic." He's outside the cosmos because He's outside all creation.

    Oh I might appreciate some of the philsophy expressed here if it weren't for these things.

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  15. Intriguing -- a bit confusing too with all the name variants -- and oddly beautiful. The idea of many gods constantly changing forms while behaving like willful, feckless, irresponsible children is oddly appealing -- perhaps because it is totally irrational?

    The cruelty and selfishness of these mythical beings is childish, so therefore not as threatening as the stern, sadistic, vituperations of Jehovah as portrayed in the Pentateuch.

    Mozart, himself, gave all the living proof we'll ever need that true genius is not rational, not quantifiable, cannot be learned or taught, and could come only from a mysterious Wellspring of Insight, Discovery and Inspiration many have chosen to call God (Spirit) -- the Force that Animates and Motivates Life (God).

    "Life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved."

    Thanks for the video clip from Mozart's rarely heard opera Castor and Pollux.


    ~ FreeThinke

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  16. The Greek gods exist as absolutes. That's what makes them intriguing. ;)

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  17. Did you know, FJ, that André Gide, the celebrated homosexual writer and philosopher from the 1920's (primarily), studied the Bible with feverish intensity, and knew a great deal more about it from a scholarly perspective than most members of the clergy? He even went so far in his early teens to [like Thomas Jefferson another possessed of insatiable intellectual curiosity and the broadest possible outlook for a man of his time] wrote his own exegesis of the Holy Scriptures?

    Gide [pronounced Zheed] was also devoted to intensive study of Greek mythology. I remember reading that he was quoted as saying, "The first thing one must do, if one hopes to understand the many gods of Greek mythology is to believe in them."

    Gide was anything but a cynic. He spent his entire life searching for an ever greater understanding of Truth, but said in maturity that he was "loath to conclude."

    Truly wise men usually are.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  18. Dear, Faith,

    We must all believe what we are able to accept.

    There is no way to threaten, punish, cajole, entice or seduce genuine faith in anything for others.

    I see things primarily from a metaphysical standpoint, and believe that faith, itself, is a virtue -- as long as it affirms a benevolent, constructive, unselfish, caring view towards fellow human beings and a wholesome appreciation of the Gift of Life and of the uniqueness and beauty of others.

    We needn't argue about it.

    I'm here to help present a point of view regarding a philosophy of life and religious belief that's been extremely helpful to me for several decades. You are perfectly free to say whatever you want to that might contradict or cast doubt on it. I'm more than willing to let others decide for themselves what may or may not be true.

    We all bring biases, conscious and unconscious, to discussions of this sort.

    What I will do everything in my power to avoid here is acrimony. I think most of us know from long, sometimes bitter, experience that when heat becomes more intense than light, the Truth is generally ill-served.

    Only God, Himself, knows everything. We barely have a clue, although I tend to agree with Thornton Wilder's "Stage Manager" in Our Town who said, when asked by Emily after she has died, and is allowed to come back to earth for just one day to relive a precious part of her past, if anyone still alive understands how wonderful Life [as we know it] really is?

    The Stage Manager tells her, "No. Only the Saints and poets ... They do some ..."

    I've always found that very moving, and, therefore, revealing.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  19. I suppose I'll never understand the Greek gods then, but I will enjoy thinking about them. ;)

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  20. We must all believe what we are able to accept.

    No doubt, so why do you object to my saying my piece?

    There is no way to threaten, punish, cajole, entice or seduce genuine faith in anything for others.

    What a terrible accusation. You could be accused of the same thing for simply saying what you believe to be true. Nevertheless I'll tell you you are wrong because I believe you are very wrong. Is that a crime?

    I see things primarily from a metaphysical standpoint, and believe that faith, itself, is a virtue -- as long as it affirms a benevolent, constructive, unselfish, caring view towards fellow human beings and a wholesome appreciation of the Gift of Life and of the uniqueness and beauty of others.

    Yet you are wrong about all that, FT, it's just a human believe system. Anyone can make up stuff. I'd rather have objective knowledge myself. There is no genuine faith except in God as He has revealed Himself in His word.

    We needn't argue about it.

    OK

    I'm here to help present a point of view regarding a philosophy of life and religious belief that's been extremely helpful to me for several decades. You are perfectly free to say whatever you want to that might contradict or cast doubt on it. I'm more than willing to let others decide for themselves what may or may not be true.

    But not without first complaining about it a tad, right?

    We all bring biases, conscious and unconscious, to discussions of this sort.

    What I will do everything in my power to avoid here is acrimony. I think most of us know from long, sometimes bitter, experience that when heat becomes more intense than light, the Truth is generally ill-served.


    Acrimony? Where are you finding acrimony? I do suspect, dear FT, that in spite of what you are affirming, you are quite put out at statements of Biblical truth.

    Only God, Himself, knows everything. We barely have a clue, \

    Afraid that's rather a cop-out, old friend. God went out of His way to give us His own word, His revelation of what the truth REALLY is, that we are not equipped to find out for ourselves, and we have NO excuse now, because He's done that.

    And it's what Western Civilization was built on, this Biblical truth, this revealed truth, not some half-baked made-up stuff that leaves us in our sins.


    although I tend to agree with Thornton Wilder's "Stage Manager" in Our Town who said, when asked by Emily after she has died, and is allowed to come back to earth for just one day to relive a precious part of her past, if anyone still alive understands how wonderful Life [as we know it] really is?

    The Stage Manager tells her, "No. Only the Saints and poets ... They do some ..."

    I've always found that very moving, and, therefore, revealing.

    ~ FreeThinke


    All believes in salvation through the death of Christ are saints. Wilder's got some kind of Catholicized romanticized notion. I think it's rather silly myself. Once you know what the Truth really is all such merely human ponderings seem silly.

    Thanks for tolerating my views.

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  21. From a Biblical point of view, for anyone who might be remotely interested, the Greek gods are most likely real demonic entities, since demons are the "gods" of all the worldly religions. That's what happened when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and obeyed Satan, they put themselves and all their progeny under Satan's rule, and bazillions of his fallen angels moved in to seduce us poor fallen human beings into worshiping themselves as God. Hey, the Bible is an AMAZING storehouse of revelation of realities you'd never have dreamed of.

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  22. OOps. BELIEF system, not believe system, and believERS, not believes. Oh well.

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  23. Dear, Faith,

    I appreciate your presenting what-I-think-of-as The Traditional View of Christianity. The stark contrast should only serve to aid readers in understanding the vast difference between the approach to faith Mr. Solomon and I advocate, and that of Fundamentalism.

    Since I believe in letting people decide for themselves what may be best for them, I can only be grateful to you for showing them a classic alternative.

    Besides, your contribution has helped this post to draw the record number of responses since the blog began. Ho could I not be grateful for that? ;-)

    Believe me, I am not angry or annoyed in the least.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  24. Ducky, I wish you'd give us some details about these Galtian Masters you keep referring to.

    Could you possibly mean the same people I often call The Oligarchs?

    If so, we're in agreement.

    ~ FT

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  25. And yes, AOW, I too have better things to think about than the exact age of the earth.

    What does it matter, anyway?

    I'm sure God's concept of Time is much different from our own.

    Such things -- to me -- fall under the category of questions that ask, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"

    OR: "Do the grape juice and those cubes of bread we get at Communion REALLY change themselves into the ACTUAL flash and blood of Christ, or are they just SYMBOLS?"

    Great Scott! In a world filled with victims of cancer, Stroke, Heart Attack, AIDS, and Natural Disasters, and where violent, irresponsible, desperate people are killing other in wholesale lots, where rape, murder, drug addiction, homelessness, theft, vandalism, arson, and child molestation are rife who in his right mind could possibly CARE about stuff like that?

    ~ FreeThinke

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  26. "who in his right mind could possibly CARE about stuff like that?"

    's fun.

    Scientifically determining the age of prehistoric artifacts probably has its uses in geology and such; aging the distant stars might be quite useful should we ever want to predict something like a supernova (might be vital in a few billenia); and the age of the universe is more about sanity-checking fundamental physics than a useful application in itself. Fundamental physics is all kinds of useful, obviously.

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  27. Hi, Jez,

    I think I was referring more to the == to me -- trivial nature of the question of consubstantiation v. transubstantiation and that foolish old question about angels dancing on pinheads than I was about geology.

    Of course it's exciting and interesting to learn more and more truth about the Universe and more specifically the world we inhabit and our place in "The Great Scheme of Things."

    Since I am what-you'd-have-to-call a determined believer, I hold the opinion that all branches of Science are heading towards an ultimate union with Mathematics, Art, Mysticism and Metaphysics a face-to-face meeting with Complete, Absolute Truth, which in the cosmology I embrace just a synonym for God.

    God is Truth.

    That makes sense from the standpoint of human logic, because -- deny it though we love to do -- and probably always will -- NOTHING beats TRUTH if you are fortunate enough to run up against it -- and fortunate even more to know it when you do.

    Best,

    FreeThinke

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