Divine Neutrality, Blog. Science, Philosophy

Need

August 4th, 2014

val6

Charming downtown Santa Cruz consists of just one street five blocks in length. Shops, restaurants and outdoor cafés border this attractive tree lined avenue. Street musicians abound as do beggars and near-beggars, those offering something in exchange for a contribution to their open coffer.

One of them stood in a building alcove bordering the sidewalk. Visibly out of the way. He was in his fifties wearing the uniform of the destitute; dark fabric, rumpled and soiled street clothes. And he held a fan of ink drawings against his chest. They were not very appealing; primitive geometric forms on post sized white cards. Offerings to attract benefactions.

I had just left Lulu’s coffee shop to walk homeward along the avenue. Entering the stream of strolling citizens I noticed this putative artist in the alcove. I approached him and reached in my pocket saying that I’d like to make a contribution without taking one of his drawings just now. He smilingly accepted the proposition. And I gave him a dollar.

Seeing this, his friend, standing not far off, declared that he too could use some money. “I need a cup of coffee,” said he. So I reached in my pocket and gave him a dollar.

Among the passersby was a cheeky middle aged lady out for a downtown promenade with her husband. She witnessed the affair and, thinking it an amusing scene, called out to all present, “Here’s someone giving money away”. And then, facing me, said, “How about some for me?”

I turned toward her, reached in my pocket and said, “Sure,” offering her a dollar, too. At that turn of events her playfulness evaporated. She backed away refusing the offering saying, “No, I don’t need it.”

“Only those who need it accept money on the street,” I said.

“I don’t think so,” she sang out as she sailed off out of conversation’s way. Her tone of voice conveyed more conviction in the matter than did her choice of words. Her tone said, “I’m sure it’s not so”.

I liked the playfulness of that lady who was bold enough to openly ask for money from someone who appeared to be giving it out to everybody on the street. She, not being in need, was too embarrassed to accept a dollar publically from a stranger. But, for those accepting donations, need had outstripped their pride.

She was convinced that those people didn’t need what they were asking for. But what she verbally denied, with her own actions, she demonstrated to be true. She wouldn’t acknowledge that those who accept money donations are in need. In need enough to put aside their pride. Not needing the dollar, she couldn’t put her’s aside to accept it.

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Sunshine

July 8th, 2014

The Worrisome Business Of Logical Consistency

child

Sunshine Every Day

The year was perhaps 1938. I was 7 years old then, living in a New York City apartment with my mother, my father and my baby sister. The location was a plebian building with the august address of 35 Hamilton Place in Washington Heights. The upper west side of  Manhattan. Bordering Harlem. We lived on the third floor – apartment 303, I think.

The apartment was small. I shared a bedroom with my three year old sister. Her name was Faith but, because I called her Sistie, so did the world.

In this room I would go into a reverie with my toys. Building blocks. Model cars. My favorites were small, caste metal airplane replicas. The airplane body was perhaps three inches long. Pinned between my fingers, and held aloft at eye level above the apartment floor, wings outspread, it moved majestically through the air. A purring engine sound passed my lips as I guided the airplane on its path. But my eyes saw no guiding fingers. The fingers were invisible to me. For me the airplane was soaring unaided through clouds, miles above the ground. And as I watched it from outside, I was also inside the airplane experiencing the thrill of flying. The plenipotency of God is in the mind of a child.

My mother came into the room. “Why are you playing inside on such a beautiful day? It’s a sunny day. Why don’t you play outside in the sunshine?” she said.

Hearing this, I saw no element of reason in her words. Isn’t there sunshine most days? There would be sunshine days aplenty for going outside. That was my opinion.

I hadn’t taken much notice of the quality of days. If it rained, that too was a sunshine day – and especially if it snowed.

But my mother well knew the quality of days.



The Worrisome Business of Logical Consistency

One day at the age of four I was home with my mother. She was doing chores.

I complained that she should play with me. She explained that washing our clothes, cooking our food, shopping for our needs – the things that had to be done so that I could play all day – did not just happen by themselves; they needed her to do them. She wasn’t able to play with me all the time. She couldn’t be in two places at once.

I saw the logic. But I preferred not to know it. I turned away – angry that she should burden me with the worrisome business of rational consistency, angry that she should place such a burden on my shoulders as the logic of reality.

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Adagia

June 18th, 2014

Adagia Set In Stone

stepping stones

The image shows cement stepping stones pathing an unmuddied walk along the forest floor to shelter. The stones are all inscribed with text. Leaving them blank seemed a waste. So began the quest.

What words merit being set in stone?

I wanted no moral strictures. No “thou shalt nots”. No words about what people ought to do; what other people ought to do is usually their import. No instructions on how to live. No complaints, no visions of how the world ought to be, no fantasies, no prayers or incantations.

Just laconic surmise from observation. Observations about the mechanics of being. Notes on how the world is. Words that tell how it works. Immutable truths. Like the laws of physics. Statements about nature; inviolable because they describe nature. We can’t do anything about these laws. We can’t change them. We can rejoice in knowing them.

Some examples, from physics, of immutable laws are these:

• That every pair of bodies in the universe attract each other according to their masses; the law of gravity. Nothing is exempt from this law. The discovery of dark matter in the universe issued from accepting it.

• That, for every closed system, there exists an ethereal quantity called its energy, which is indestructible. It is conserved. Meaning that it doesn’t change no matter what inner turmoil the system suffers.

These laws are used to engineer things – like bridges, engines, computers, space flight. Not by being circumvented or repealed. But by being understood.

Such abiding statements are what I wanted for my stepping stones.

Here is one: WITH LOVE COMES WORRY.
worry love

It sounds like a complaint. A joke, perhaps. A reason to avoid affection. We perceive the word worry as something negative. To be eschewed. And the word love as positive. To be embraced. But the adage is not meant as a rule to live by. To take that personal guidance view of it is to miss its import. Love is precious, worry notwithstanding. There is a symbiosis between the two. From love comes the sweet worry of selfless caring.

You worry about your loved one’s welfare. You cannot help it when it is love that possesses you. The mother is helpless before worry in her love for her child. The devoted lover must succumb to concern for his wife’s well being.

With the blessing of love comes the penalty; the loss of being carefree. The relationship between the two is not something you can fix. It’s embedded in the deliciously perverse nature of things.

The young man objects. “I love people and I don’t worry.” Thus announcing to all his hearers, in cocky innocence, that he doesn’t know love. He stands naked, undressed by his own words.

The great humanist, Erasmus of Rotterdam, called by the name, Adagia, his collection of proverbs published in 1500. Here are pieces, already posted, on my stone-inscribed adagia.

RESTRAINT IS VALIANT

RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION IS A TEMPER TANTRUM

NOTHING SO HINDERS UNDERSTANDING AS NOTIONS OF JUSTICE.

THE WORLD WORSHIPS EXCESS. WASTE IS THE SIGNATURE OF PRIVILEGE.

MAY GOD PROTECT US FROM RELIGION

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