My Road to “No”

The City of Calgary began an exploration process in July 2016 to assess the risks and benefits of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.  October 2017 began a dialogue process to flesh out the way forward in getting government partners and evaluating public support.  January 2018 there was a push to support the games and get city council approval to make a formal bid by January 2019.  The bid failed to spark the vision of greatness and celebration that would get the support of the citizens of Calgary.  There was a huge discussion and negotiation process that led to a public vote this past week when Calgarians voted to not go ahead with an Olympic bid.

I got caught up in this process early because I have always been glued to the tube watching the Olympics.  My daughter was a mascot in the 1988 Olympics and I have great memories of what Calgary was able to do.  I was generally positive in support of the bid.  I kept up with the progress reports and assumed that council would make the right decision in time. In the past 8 months I found myself on the fence as the process continued and more questions emerged about the finances.  The Alberta economy played an important role for many people with both positive and negative influences.  The Olympics were put forward as a way to renew the Alberta economy, show the world what we could do, fill empty office space in downtown Calgary, refurbish aging sport infrastructure, and give us and the world a positive vision of Calgary as a forward-looking city.   But financial concerns regarding the huge expense of the games and the risk of overruns and increasing debt kept a damper on the excitement.

I answered an Angus Reid survey just after a revised last-minute budget was adopted and more money was pledged by governments.   Answering the survey was a very important experience for me because it led me to think deeper about the bid.  I surprised myself because out of 10 questions concerning the benefits of the games for Calgary I answered “yes” to 8 of them but still felt I wanted to vote “no”.  What was I thinking?  As I thought more deeply I became more aware of some aspects of the bid that were influencing my decision.

I realized that there were important issues that were not being addressed in the public conversation. Continue reading

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I’m Looking For Some Good News

I am an optimist.  I have always been interested in good news.  I used to subscribe to a magazine called Ode Magazine that turned into the Intelligent Optimist, then went out of print in 2013.  Good news does not appear to sell well.  The magazine was about the amazing things human beings can accomplish to solve big world problems when they put their minds to it (and can find someone willing to financially back them).

Good News is also the meaning of Gospel.  It is about salvation which I define as entering a better life of freedom, opportunity, justice … all the gospel values.

Lately I have been thinking about how the #me too movement is changing our perspective on human belief and behaviour.  Finally, women will have a say in their own defense and maybe this will bring more protection and less fear of being violated, abused, ignored and limited in their ability to live the lives they want to live and realize their full potential.

I just finished reading a book called Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, a Swedish professor in world health.  He shares various data that show that the world is getting better and more people are benefiting from new discoveries and technologies.  There are fewer people living in abject poverty (which he labels Level 1 living), better health care is available around the world and many more people are experiencing some education.  He does not mean that there are no dire problems in the world, just that the trend (shown by data) is toward more people living in better conditions today than ever before.

However, this is not just a feel-good book of statistics.  The book’s purpose is to elaborate on 10 reasons why we do not have a realistic view of the world.  He was surprised to discover that no matter how educated a person was, he/she still incorrectly answered many of 20 questions about world health, wealth, or potential for change. Most people answered with a lower percentage of correct answers than if they had just answered randomly without reading the questions.

Two of his ten reasons are: Continue reading

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Silence is Really Something

It is September and I am ready to get back to a spiritual routine.  Meditation and writing my blog are two parts of my discipline.  In August I was asked to provide leadership for two 7:00 am contemplative services at the church I attend, Hillhurst United in Calgary. In the first service I used the experience of silence as my main focus.  In my blog #13 I reflected on Stephon Alexander’s book, The Jazz of Physics.  One significant discovery that Alexander explained at the end of the book was how matter (something) was created in a vacuum (which we usually think of as empty or nothing).  As I read this, my own mind made a connection with the quality of “silence” in the spiritual practice of meditation.

In several types of meditation we try to get rid of thoughts/inner chatter that are sometimes called “monkey mind”.  I find this a difficult task, but have come to understand the value of developing a way to discipline the mind in meditation. Of course there are also some forms of meditations for other purposes that use the mind to reflect and respond to guidance received in meditation.

Alexander says a vacuum (which we call space) is not empty.  That space between is where everything can happen.  It is the place of possibility.  Often when we refer to silence we mean finding a quiet place or a break in our busy routine, so we can relax, recover and renew ourselves, so we can connect to the Presence and hear the voice of God.  But the silence we seek in meditation or some other spiritual practice is something deeper–the absence of noise within us.  Spiritual teaching says that prayer and meditation are practices that connect us with the divine presence; it is the way we enter into silence where we listen and wait and come to know we are in the presence of love that renews, guides and heals us.  It is really something absolutely positive where no noise can ever penetrate. Nothing in the outside world can disturb it/us when we are rooted in it.  It has infinite depth. It is really something! Continue reading

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The Discovery of the John Griffith String Theory

I just finished reading a book called Convergence: The Idea at the Heart of Science by Peter Watson. It is a history of modern science since 1850, showing how the various scientific disciplines have been converging to influence one other and expound on the evolutionary development of life.  This fascinating book shows how discoveries in physics led to the discovery of the periodic table in chemistry; discoveries in biology (the gene) influenced the growth of politics in Russia and led to new understandings of human behavior in psychology. Watson shows how all the various disciplines in science are contributing to the one story of evolution of the universe and the evolution of human life on Earth.

In physics, the search for a unified theory of everything has been a main goal of research.  In physics research, particle theory led to the emergence of string theory.

“In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings.  It describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory

Fortunately, reading this book and some recent personal experiences led to the discovery of my own String Theory:  “Any string, whether it is an electrical cord, garden hose or vacuum cleaner hose, wants to remain stationary and any attempt to move it will elicit a response whereby the string will wrap around, grab hold of, slip into any crevice, crack or opening, or just tangle itself up to impede forward movement”.  This new string theory developed from empirical observation of my own experience and continues to prove itself correct year and year.

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The Jazz of Physics

When science, music and spirituality converge in the search for and the finding of truth I am genuinely moved. I was moved in ways I cannot fully articulate reading Stephon Alexander’s book, The Jazz of Physics, a book about the search for the answer to the question: How did the structure of the universe come to be?

Having a Welsh background (Griffith) music is in my soul.  Music leads me into awareness, feeling and knowing beyond words. For example the statement, “Love changes everything”. Hearing this you may nod your head in agreement.  But when I hear the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,  “Love, Love changes everything: Hands and faces, Earth and sky,  Love, Love changes everything: How you live and How you die”, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0Kl2iBders) I feel the truth of that statement in the depth of my being.  I am carried away by its truth. Jazz is a specific kind of music which runs the gamut from smooth jazz with improvisation on a melody to avant-garde that may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability.  The latter is the music Alexander played and for him it became an analogy for the way discoveries in physics are possible.

Physics is another one of my passions.  Even though I can not do the math, I do see the connections between the spiritual yearning for understanding who I am /why I am here and the reality being explored by physics studying the physical movement of evolution to how we came to be here. In this book Alexander comes very close to bringing these two explorations together. Continue reading

Posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Science and Religion | 4 Comments

Back to the Future When Everything Was Better

This week I have been thinking about Doug Ford’s decision to roll back sex education in Ontario to the 1998 curriculum.  He made this decision because an updated curriculum is not necessary.  We haven’t learned anything new about sexuality, gender identity, cyber-bullying, transgender choices, and how sexual attitudes have a lot to do with personal well being of teenagers.  RIGHT!?

Of course, the real issue here is about Doug Ford’s popularity with his voter base who are mostly “now-focused”, having little vision for the future. They are afraid we are getting too far away from the conservative values of Stephen Harper or Ralph Klein such as: the freedom to do whatever we want, the ability to make obscene amounts of money and ignore social problems, and the power to maintain straight white privilege.  Ford suggests it is better to go back to letting the parents teach their children about sexuality issues.  OK.  But some parents teach intolerance and discrimination because that’s what they were taught by their parents. These are not Canadian values.  Perhaps we need to pass legislation mandating that parents with teenage children take sex education classes so they are up to speed on the rights of children and what we have learned over these past 20 years about respect for gender identity, gay and lesbian people, etc … Continue reading

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Two Books on Science and Religion

I like to learn how other people think.  In the past month I read two books on the relationship between science and religion.  One was from the perspective of Francis Collins, a molecular biologist, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief; and the second, Darwin, Divinity and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity, was from the perspective of Bruce Sanguin, a theologian,  and United Church minister. Continue reading

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