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.
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
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
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
I heard an interview-sermon at church a week ago and it triggered a reaction that I have had off and on for quite a long time. The text was the beatitudes Matthew 5: 3-10 which used a newer translation that replaced the word “blessed” with “happy”. The presentation was great, but that one glitch brought back a long conversation in my head. For me, the Gospel is supposed to be leading people to a deeper understanding and connection with God. And when translators “lighten it up” with “common language” it does not do the job. Happy comes from a 14th century word meaning lucky or fortunate. It is related to the word “happenstance” which is a combination of happen and circumstance. We are happy when things go our way, when the circumstances are pleasant and rewarding. Happy is related to our outside world. Blessed is a state of being when one is centered, or I would say, living in relationship with God. Yes, if you look back in the Greek usage it will say fortunate and even happy and the Greek word did refer to the elite, the rich, as blessed. But Jesus used it in a totally different way. Jesus is a transformational thinker and gives us a message that challenges our simplistic or egoistic thinking. It is not the elite who are blessed, it is the poor; it is the hungry and thirsty and those who are in mourning who are blessed. Why is that? Because they are connected to the world in a deeper, more loving way. They have a source of power that does not come from the world around them, rather it comes from the world within them. To bless someone is to empower them. When you bless someone, they are more than happy; they experience a deep sense of joy in being that gives direction to their lives.
As I moved further into my evolutionary Christian journey I thought I was losing my faith, but I was only losing my connection to the God I thought I knew, and was discovering a God who was much different and more connected to my everyday reality. Then I wondered if I could hold on to Jesus because he was integral to my connection with God before God took a different shape and purpose. (The 20 books written in the last 15 years that I have on the theme, “Who is Jesus”, suggest that I am not the only one with this problem. Continue reading
For two weeks I have had the most unsettling thoughts. Usually I am optimistic and hopeful, but lately I find myself angry and frightened. And I confess I now see how naive I am about political matters. I have been reading The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder. It brought back to memory a line in a sermon I heard 30 years ago by Fred Craddock, “A lie will get you far, but it won’t get you home.” It also reminded me of a parable told by Jesus about the wisdom of building your home on a rock foundation, not on sand. The rock is the truth, sand a lie. In a storm a rock will hold, but sand will shift, and your home will collapse. Grace means that a lie might take you far. You can get away with it, sometimes for a long time. But in the end if your life is built on lies it will collapse and you will lose everything. The Road to Unfreedom is about Russia, its collapse and re-emergence as a country built and maintained by lies.
The prologue to the book says that communism in Russia and democracy in the western world were both propagated by what Snyder calls the politics of inevitability. In this political view, it is the future when life becomes good, and you get there by living by the laws of progress as defined by your particular political structure.
In Russia this collapsed in 1991 and the western world said, “I told you so; it is our system that will inevitably lead to the good life”. But the collapse of the politics of inevitability did not lead to democracy, but to what Snyder calls the politics of eternity, where a nation sees itself at the centre of a cyclical story of victimhood. The politics of eternity narrative holds that the enemy is coming and we need to protect ourselves. Progress is seen as impossible; we must hunker down and be prepared to save our country from outside attacks. In this scenario politicians manufacture crises and manipulate emotions to hold onto power and distract from their inability or unwillingness to reform. One strategy to stay in power is to undermine foreign powers that exhibit a better way of life. Truth is not important; history is used selectively to show that we are the chosen people, and lies are used to demonize others and proclaim our innocence. Continue reading
On April 7th, an article in the Globe and Mail got me thinking. The article said shareholders of the Royal Bank were not happy with the “breath taking size of the CEO’s pay package” (last year $13.4 million dollars). An RBC board member responded that shareholders are getting a bigger dividend now because the bank is making more money. But that is not the issue. For me it is a justice issue. The Royal Bank exists in a bigger world. This response shows the narrow focus of the board (granted this was a share holder meeting). I wonder who speaks for the customer and the community. As a shareholder, I regularly get notices of fees being increased. If those pay packages were not so large I think they could afford to lower some fees for their customers. But that is not really the issue either. They operate in a community where poverty persists, low-income housing is hard to come by, and homelessness continues to be a problem. Enlightened leadership could shift $10 million out of top executive salaries (I believe there are 5 top executives) and put it into a fund to target poverty reduction. That would benefit the bank in the years to come, and the community right now. Just saying. For example.
This brings me to something I read in a Canadian book called, “I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up” by James Hoggan (2016). The author interviewed 23 people around the world asking the question, “Why in this age of communication can’t we solve big problems such as poverty, climate change, etc. In chapter 8, “The Self-Regulating Psychopath”, with Joel Bakan and Noam Chomsky, the conversation is about corporate greed. Continue reading