Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

“Oh the things you can think up if only you try!”*

December 1, 2012

nkisiwebmed

 

  The object you see above, a late 19th century Nkisi Nkondi power figure from a place now either in Congo or Angola, is one of many objects used in a collaboration between the art museum and medical school of a prominent Ivy League college.  (Hint: it is the only one of them not in a slum)

  The program, “The Art of Clinical Observation”, endeavors to exhort med students to “learn to look”, and employs a five step approach.  First, closely observe.  What is it made of…?  Second, analysis.  Without reading the label, think about what you see.  What are the nails for?

  Third, research.  Read the label.  Does it reinforce or surprise?  Fourth, interpret.  What does it tell you about art and culture?  Fifth, critical assessment and response.  How well do you think it served its purpose and – you’re no more or less human than those for whom it was made, what emotions does it evoke in you?

  Evaluations of the program have been very positive and participants found it to have been very useful in their lives more broadly.  There are many “Learning to Look” efforts in art museums across the country and this was not the first collaboration with a med school, but is apparently one of few.

  A Nkisi is created through a collaboration between a sculptor and a shaman.  The first carves and the second adds the spiritual strength.  Such objects were possessed of considerable force and power and were used for redress and revenge by victims of crimes ranging from theft to adultery.

  A dormant Nikisi would be awakened by verbal harassment and the driving of a nail into its body.  Its spiritual power would obtain from materials contained in medicine packs in the head and abdomen which could include such stuff as dirt from a grave, herbs, and minerals.     

  The victim, with the help of ritual experts, would then be able to direct the Nkisi’s awakened fury to the great dismay of the perp who should expect to have some sort of pestilence visited upon him.  Very interesting.  Brings to mind thoughts of the evolution of consciousness and religion.

  Take away for me though is a reinforced appreciation of the incredible relationship between mind and body.  I have little doubt about a Nkisi’s intercessional efficacy and, uh, Lord help me should roommate get her hands on one of those things.

*Dr Seuss/last clue.

**Lesley Wellman, the Curator of  Education at this museum and person who developed this program, was named the National Art Educator of the Year for 2912 by the  National Art Education Association.

Advertisements

Beauty

January 6, 2012

 

  Last weekend while discussing politics in general and the (then) up coming Iowa caucuses in particular a friend offered that President Obama is a Moslem.  I didn’t know which response should come first: who cares or no he’s not.

I guess it is elementally a case of an evolutionarily natural wariness of the ‘other’, but isn’t the internecine conflict between and amongst the three closely related Abrahamic religions crazy?  Obviously Islam would not be the subject of so much attention but for Bin Laden et al.  But, uh, Hitler was born into a Catholic family.

And was confirmed, and sang in a choir in a monastery.  Stalin was born Eastern Orthodox and attended seminary.  Stalin became an atheist and Hitler sort of backgrounded his own religion, but, still, why don’t horrors perpetrated by Christian soldiers come up in polite conversation while recent violent jihads do?

One’s personal belief system aside, we all have amongst our friends observant Christians, Jews, and Moslems.  And there is beauty in each tradition.  The case in point: in Arabic the word for beauty, virtue, and goodness is the same.  Thus in the Muslim mind they are not separate concepts.

On NPR’s fascinating “On Being”** the prominent Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr said that “There is a very deep nexus between beauty and happiness.  And happy is the person who realizes inner beauty.  And ugliness in Arabic also means evil.”

On the same program were other clerics including the Dalai Lama who said: “One of my Muslim friend explained to me one interpretation of Jihad, not only sort of attack on other, but real meaning is combative attack your own wrongdoing or negativities.”  To which Dr. Nasr responded: “The greater Jihad, the bigger Jihad, is to combat your own negative forces within you.  Yes, yes.”

And back here in the caucuses was the struggle to appear to be the least tolerant – xenophobic even.   A leader in the current issue of the Economist reads re runner-up Santorum: “Now is the time for consenting adults to lock their bedroom doors”.

Jeesh.  On this subject therapist James Hollis writes***: “One oppresses what one fears.  Fear is responsible for the oppression of women and gay bashing, the latter most notably by young men insecure in their own psychological reality”.

Scratch the New Year’s resolution in my last post.  Jihad!

*The Arabic calligraphy above reads: “God loves beauty”

**Show broadcast Sunday January 1, 2012

***What Matters Most,Gotham, 2010

The Almighty Has His Own Purposes

July 15, 2011

 

  OK.  Its having been Monday, the event is well outside the current news cycle, but on July 11th Newt Gingrich spoke at the University of Iowa in the latest of a series sponsored by the Family Leader organization.  That group is led by Bob Vander Plaats who in 2010 headed a successful effort to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices for their part in a unanimous decision – not a judgment regarding gay marriage, but rather whether a certain cohort had been subject to discrimination.

  Unanimous.

  Recently Family Leader offered that “slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President”.

  Uhm, say again? 

  They’ve dropped that observation, but perhaps its utterance was at least partially responsible for Mr. Gingerich and others to decline to sign the Family Leader ‘Marriage Pledge’ endorsing a particular set of values – “…a consistent voice… always standing for God’s truth”.

  For his part, Mr. Gingerich does ask: “Do you believe this is still a country where your rights come from your creator and you are the center of the society…( or do you subscribe to a) worldview in which you’re randomly gathered protoplasm”?

  If you visit this space at all it is obvious that I think about this stuff too much and am fascinated by all that remains unknown in this universe.  What I don’t get is the Blues Brothers business about being on a “Mission for God”.  My suggestion for those who think they are is to test the theory with the purchase of a lottery ticket.

  Or, better, consider the perspective of Abraham Lincoln as given in his second inaugural address.  Citizens of both the North and South “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.  It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged…The Almighty has His own purposes.” 

  Think?

*cf the Economist blog “Democracy in America” July 12: “Newt’s Theory of Exceptionalsim.”http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/07/faith-and-freedom&fsrc=nwl

 

Mirabile Dictu

March 4, 2011

 

    News reports regarding the Catholic Church over the last few years have largely been ugly.  It was thus a relief to read yesterday of  praise for Pope Benedict.  Though issues related to his regard for actions of Pope Pius XII in Europe during WWII are yet unresolved, his statements exonerating Jews of complicity in the death of Jesus Christ were very clear.

  About the Pope’s remarks Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “…I commend you for forcefully rejecting in your recent book a false charge that has been the foundation for the hatred of the Jewish people for many centuries…”

  Brought to mind an enlightened French cleric about whom I’ve read and with whom I’ve metaphorically crossed paths several times.  Father Marie-Alain Couturier fought and was wounded in WWI, became a Dominican priest in 1930, and was vigorously outspoken in refutation of Anti-Semitism in Vichy France*.

  “…I beg of you, remember that you are Christians, that charity tolerates no anti-Semitism, and that even if certain measures seem politically inevitable among those who have been conquered, at least let us maintain the integrity of our hearts…. As for myself, I love only freedom, and as I get older, I couldn’t care less about the rest”

  Another component of Father Couturier’s career (and my initial point of contact) had to do with the integration of art and the sacred.  As an artist and founder of the journal “L’Art Sacre”, he sought to invigorate that relationship as had Abbot Suger centuries ago with the development of the first Gothic cathedral.  Suger coined the marvelous term “metaphysics of light”.

  Fr Couturier worked closely with Matisse on the Chapel de Rosaire in Vence on the Riviera.  Matisse was a lapsed Catholic, but Fr Couturier said: “Better a genius without faith than a believer with talent…Trusting in Providence, we told ourselves that a great artist is always a great spiritual being, each in his own manner…”

  Similarly, when commissioned to provide a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, Jacques Lipchitz asked the priest: “But, don’t you know I am a Jew?”  “If it does not disturb you, it does not disturb me” was the answer.

  Perhaps even more radical was Couturier’s decision to work with twentieth century giant Le Corbusier who “had no place for institutionalized religion within his ideal society”** and sought to demolish historic Paris and replace it with “machines for living” – expressways and high rises.

  Interesting, then, that the most well known project of their collaboration was the chapel at Ronchamp (photo way above and interior just below) which was a decidedly uncharacteristic departure for Le Corbusier.  About it he said: “People were at first surprised to see me participate in a sacred art.  I am not a pagan.  Ronchamp is a response to a desire that one occasionally has to extend beyond oneself, and to seek contact with the unknown”.

  In prewar Paris Fr Couturier had met John and Dominique de Menil who were captivated by his vision.  He told them that a museum is a place where “you should lose your head”.  Heirs to the Schlumberger fortune they fled France to the USA settling in Houston where they assembled an incredible collection of art, architecture, and good works.

  Italian architect Renzo Piano designed two wonderful museums for them there both incorporating the powerful Texan sun to sublime effect.  The Menil holds an eclectic collection of western and African art.  The other only the works of Cy Twombly and if you’ve never seen his stuff start there.

  It is the first of Piano’s experimentations with translucent roofing systems.  The lid of Twombly filters the natural light through a four part system with tautly drawn Italian sailcloth forming the interior ceiling.  The combination of the refined light, the character of the space, and Twombly’s work yields an experience of preternatural transcendence.

  Once, upon entering, a woman disrobed to bathe in the light.  French philosopher Roland Barthes recalled that he there felt as if in the thrall of a Buddhist awakening.  Several years after my visit, allergic reaction shocked into a near death episode, the quality of the ‘white light’ evoked therein seemed identical.  No foolin’. 

  The major work is the fifty foot triptych “Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor”.  Catullus was a Roman poet whose brother died and was buried in part of what is now Turkey.  As if crossing west across the Mediterranean, the painting leaves color behind on the right, reading left toward pale shades of emptiness.

  I was bowled over even though I didn’t know the story of the picture at the time of my visit – only upon a bit of research once back home.  That knowledge gives special poignancy to memory of the experience because it was on that day one of my two younger brothers underwent surgery for a cancer that claimed his life some months later. 

  He was an independent thinker, extremely intelligent, creative, sensitive, and spiritual.  His challenges to my world view catalyzed significant personal growth.  Hmmm…  His Tibetan Buddhist friends could engage in interesting speculation related to the fact that Father Couturier died about nine months before Ed was born.

*Father Marie-Alain Couturier, O.P., and the Refutation of Anti-Semitism in Vichy France; Robert Schwartzwald, UMass/Amherst.

**”Almost Religious”; Dennis MacNamara, The Institute for Sacred Architecture, Volume 2.

***Mdm de Menil once offered one of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisks to the city of Houston which declined because it was dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King.  It now is in front of the nearby Rothko Chapel.  With President Carter, she formed the Carter Menil Human Rights Foundation.  The Rothko Chapel gives an award to those struggling against oppression.  Another, The Oscar Romero Prize, was named for the murdered El Salvadoran priest. 

Buttons

January 22, 2010

 

  The only thing I remember, well the first thing that comes to mind I guess, about Mrs. Nichol’s sixth grade music class is the way she’d draw a circle on the blackboard and make me stand there with my nose in it for most of the period.  I mean who cared about Saint Saens, whole notes, or the fact that Anton Dvorak had actually been in Iowa?

  The only interesting thing I recall was listening to her describe her husband’s malaria.  He’d been in the Navy during WWII.  I never’d heard of anything you couldn’t shake. Anyway, I didn’t like music, the circle didn’t work, and I became intimately familiar with every corner of the principal’s office. 

  The sounds of the sixties perked up my ears, but being a-political and an emotional nitwit nothing found more than passing resonance.  I began to wake up in college – I’m probably not alone in having had an epiphany in front of Disney’s Fantasia.  The Beethoven’s Sixth segment was to my mind what Kool-Aid was for the Dead. 

  All of a sudden I had an incredibly eclectic taste in music and an incipient thirst for understanding.  What is it?  It’s got to be more than epiphenomenal…  Everybody has at least a little rhythm.  Why is it so great to hear Gene Kelly “Singing in the Rain” by the produce at the grocery store when the mini-sprinklers go on?  Wasn’t that a wonderful movie?  Can’t you just see him twirling about the lamppost, drenched?

  Long determined to launch a serious investigation, I didn’t have a clue about how to begin until wife fixed me up with guitar lessons recently.  Month into it now and I’m fascinated.  I can read a few notes, make annoyingly recognizable sounds, and am amazed at the mind state that’s induced.

  The first lessons were a bit awkward for sure.  I’m easily three times as old as most of the students in the facility.  Years older than most of the parents reading People Magazine in the lobby as a matter of fact.  But after practicing a little bit every day I have begun to feel like I did the first time fiddling with buttons on a shirt that was not my own…

   What’s up with the elephants?  In February of 2007 on the radio program “Speaking of Faith” was a segment with acoustic biologist Katy Payne.  It is going to be rebroadcast Sunday.  You should listen.  Or visit the site: http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/  Her descriptions of whales composing complex songs are incredible.  Her stories of emotional networks maintained between and among elephants miles apart are enthralling. 

  She’s a Quaker working at the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell.  “I see my responsibility as being to listen.  My church is outdoors.  And I must say that if I could ask these animals that I like so much if there’s anything equivalent to what we speak of as being faith, I would love to do that.  We just don’t know.”

  “Many animals make sounds, everything from crickets to humans to whales.  Birds, of course.  Frogs.  And these sounds, in the case of animals, are thought of in relation to reproduction and courtship.  In humans, although they may serve exactly the same function, they’re thought of in relation to aesthetics.  And one of the aspects of my work has been to say, ‘Look, we don’t have to have two languages for this.’

Big Wow

December 18, 2009

 

   Ok kids, if you’ve been paying attention, you realize that I (and others) think that there’s more going on in one’s mind than can be described by any process identified thus far.  That I (and others) disagree with many scientists and probably most neurobiologists who believe that consciousness will one day be understood as a biological process albeit one quite complex.

  I once read a complicated book, The Emperor’s New Mind by British polymath Roger Penrose.  He’s a respected scientist who thinks like I do.  I guess I should say thinks like I would if I had an IQ of 220 or so and didn’t have to use a calculator to do simple math.  Simply put, he believes that consciousness is the result of quantum processes that occur in structures far smaller than atoms (Planck scale) called microtubules in the brain.

  Furthermore he says, “It doesn’t even act according to conventional quantum mechanics.  It acts according to a theory we don’t yet have.”  He then goes on again to draw an analogy with the research of William Harvey who was the first (westerner anyway) to describe the circulation of blood in the body circa 1616.  Prior to this it was thought that darker blood originated in the liver and lighter in the heart; that the two types had different purposes; and were consumed throughout the body.     

  Harvey figured out that arteries carried blood away from the heart and veins back to it and was certain that the two types of vessels had to connect, but couldn’t prove it without a microscope powerful enough to see things the size of capillaries. 

  Penrose is a widely respected physicist and has won many awards and though some might disagree, most take him seriously.  He theorizes that at that very small scale there is an abstract realm of Platonic ideals/mathematical reality that influences the quantum processes and thus the biochemistry, and thus the drama of our lives. 

  A rich connection with this dimension allows gifted mathematicians, musicians, artists, etc to make discoveries.  Given the spectacular ability of mathematics to describe our universe, this sort of makes sense even if it is difficult to fathom – if you know what I mean. 

  Where did this all come from?  Penrose says that consciousness, all consciousness arose with the big bang.  An Italian astrophysicist calls it the “Big Wow”.  Where will this take us as understanding grows?  Hold on to your chairs, truth is always stranger than fiction.  Suffice it to say that, though they have evolved at different speeds, religion and science will converge.

  “Half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts.  And the other half contends that they are not fact at all.  As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies”.  Joseph Campbell.

  Nothing like a closed mind to screw stuff up.  Here is an exchange between two open ones:* Penrose’s partner in the development of their theory (Orch OR – Orchestrated Objective Reduction) Stuart Hameroff and Sam Hamil neurobiologist and author of The End of Faith;

Hamil: I do not rule out the possibility of our finding some sound, scientific reasons to believe in things that appear very spooky to most scientists at present – from telepathy to mathematical idealism.  And the fact that I do not rule such things out has made many atheists uncomfortable.  I do not foresee however, our finding good reasons to believe that the Bible was dictated by an omniscient being who disapproves of sodomy, but occasionally fancies human sacrifice.  These claims really do strike me as being “without intellectual merit.”

Hameroff: I agree with you.  My take is that there exists a fundamental Platonic wisdom embedded in the Planck scale (along with qualia, spin, charge, etc) which has inspired mankind to write the great books and act “in the name of God”… but man being man, many such efforts are misdirected, co-opted and perverted.

*http://AndrewSullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/03/

** Image at top is an oil painting by Urs Schmid of a Penrose tiling.  Look it up…

***Interesting to note that “anesthetic gases selectively erase consciousness soley through very weak quantum forces.”

Hearts and Hope

November 6, 2009

  This week, courtesy of NPR, I had occasion to listen to a fascinating program about stem cells on Speaking of Faith.  Host Krista Tippett visited the regeneration lab of Fr. Doris Tayor at the University of Minnesota.

  Problem with organ transplants is rejection.  Patient has to take powerful drugs for life to avoid a new heart from making an Alien-like exit.  Ms Taylor is working on a method to build a new heart out of one’s own cells. 

  Not yet in human trials, she starts with a heart from a rat cadaver and washes out all cells leaving an interstitial “scaffold”.  Then she uses stem cells to build a new heart upon that structure.  Below you can watch a video showing steps in the process culminating in a new beating heart!*

   Speaking of Alien: the video reminded me of the horrible part of Alien Resurrection where Ripley stumbles upon a lab filled with disturbing experiments with/on humanoids eerily similar in presentation to Dr. Taylor’s rat hearts in beakers.

  For her part, Taylor says she wouldn’t undertake anything she wouldn’t do on her mother.  People tell her that “she isn’t building hearts, she’s building hope”.  “The universe has given me tools: I’m going to use those tools.”  Progress is a series of discoveries.  When ill, our ancestors chewed on willow bark which we now use in the form of aspirin.

  Marveling over the beauty of the natural architecture of a heart with Dr Taylor, moderator Tippett said that “One of the things that I’ve been fascinated in… with scientists in general is how scientists have such a regard for beauty”.  Reminded me of a post far above in which I discuss nuclear weapon development by scientists eager to push forward savoring the “sweet technological problems…” 

  I’m all for progress and favor stem cell research, but I’m beginning to disagree with Keats’ famous lines from Ode to a Grecian Urn

Beauty is truth, truth beauty.  That is all
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know 

  This here universe is a whole lot more complicated than that.   Billowing cumulus might be beautiful, but so is a mushroom cloud.  Taylor indeed does give us hope.  We can make ourselves sick (physically or metaphorically), but we can also make ourselves well.

  All parts of our bodies are continually regenerating and the stem cells do the work.  Taylor calls it “endogenous repair, internal repair”.  Ageing of tissues and bodies is the failure of stem cells.  Stress ages stem cells by a known process. Decrease stress increase the life of a cell and a body.

  “… there’s a spiritual component to all of this” Taylor says.  “What we think impacts who we are.  She recruited well known Tibetan Buddhist monk Mathieu Ricard and measured stem cells in his blood before and after a meditation session.  “What we found was a huge increase in the number of positive stem cells in blood.”

  In an unrelated study of the neurological correlates of happiness at the University of Wisconsin – Madison Ricard was subjected to an extensive  examination with hundreds of sensors affixed to his noggin for a three hour ride in an MRI.  He was so far outside normal parameters that he was dubbed the “happiest man on earth”.  Wonder what he knows.

*Interestingly (but I guess not surprisingly), process sounds very much like morphogenetic architecture in which a pattern or process is observed in nature, algorithms developed, computer let loose, and voila: an, uh, as yet unbuilt research lab for the Santa Fe Institute designed by son and friends.

Andrew Surface 1

 

** For the complete interview and more video go to:http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/2009/stem-cells/

Joy

October 30, 2009

  While driving across our beautiful state earlier this week, obsessing about problems and desperate for creative insight, I turned on the radio.  Iowa Public Radio, to be precise, and a program about lucid dreaming.  That’s when you’re in a dream and know it.  There is even such a thing as dream yoga in which adepts reportedly develop remarkable facility.

  The discussion also recounted a wide range of dream research and anecdotes.  Abraham Lincoln had a dream premonition of his assassination shortly before the tragic event.  Sting and Johnny Cash, to name but two, have had songs come to them in dreams.

  Solutions to important math problems have appeared in dreams.  Or moments after a sunrise awakening.  (Which brings to mind the incredible underpinning mathematics seems to provide our universe.  Hmm, brains certainly aren’t rectilinear…)

  One of the cofounders of Google had his flash of insight appear to him in a dream.  A Nobel winning chemist whose work had to do with the chemical transmission of nerve impulses in the brain owes his prize to a dream.

  “Sleeping on it” works.  A study was done in which a problem requiring a creative approach was presented to two test groups.  One group got the problem early in the morning and allowed half a day to solve.  The problem was given to the second group shortly before bedtime with the answer due by noon the next day.  Second group was far more successful.

  Brought to mind two of the most incredible dreams I’ve had.  Both occurred during visits to my terminally ill brother.

The first was when I joined him at a beautiful secluded meditation retreat in the mountains of Oregon.  He had been diagnosed just weeks prior.  He looked fine and acted fine, but wasn’t.

Tashi Choling

  We arrived at night in a blizzard.  My emotions were roiling and after meeting his friends, both enrobed monks and lay people, I slept in my clothes it was so cold.  Wood heat.  My dreams were of such utter tranquility that I awoke with a smile certain that all would be ok.  And he was during the next seventeen months during which I visited him several times.

  When I arrived for what proved to be my last visit though, his condition had worsened dramatically over the short interim since my previous appearance.  I was so shaken that upon first seeing him I called the nearby Golden Gate Bridge something other than that.  Clearly the end was near.  Couple weeks.  He could see that I was shocked and joked about my mistake.  I was nearly overwhelmed.

  Several of his fellow Tibetan Buddhists were there with us.  That night I dreamt that my wife was giving birth to another child, another girl and I was in the next room waiting for the announcement.  There was some sort of muffled commotion and I went in.  

  Those about me were sobbing. The baby had been born, but wasn’t yet breathing.  It looked healthy and was clean of all birth fluids and blood etc.  I held her and talked softly to her.  She smiled and began to cry.  We were all overcome with joy and so that was what we decided to name her – Joy.

  Next morning, amazed at the tone and nature of that dream given the situation and my mental state, I recounted it to my brother.  He said “I’m tellin’ ya man, there’s somethin’ to this stuff…”

*Interviewee was Robert Waggoner/International Association for the Study of Dreaming.

C=BT2

October 2, 2009

  Ever I hear folks arguing vociferously about the ascent of man I think about fathers coming out of the bleachers at little league games.  Ridiculous irrationality.  Give me a break.

  On the one hand you have folks who believe that an old dude of their own race awaits them in the hereafter.  A scary throwback to Old Testament literalism.  On the other, well, scientist Stephen Jay Gould once wrote: “Most important scientific revolutions involve the dethronement of human arrogance”.  How many times have thinkers of one stripe or another claimed to have reached the end?

  Myself?  I think that the middle ground, if you want to call it that, will be found in relation to consciousness.  Significantly, it’s origin and nature have not yet been discovered.  Sure, correlates of mental phenomena have been observed through brain imaging, but there is no consensus about how thoughts actually arise or what constitutes mind (as opposed to a brain).

  Some respected thinkers believe that consciousness might be another force – like gravity say – and similarly permeate all existence.  As I’ve mentioned before, approximately 75% of the universe, that has been calculated to exist, has not yet been found.  I think it works out something like this: Consciousness x Bell’s Theorem* = that 75%.

  Dial in the richness of Jung’s observations and there you have it.  In the September 20, 2009 New York Times Magazine there was an article about his long hidden “Red Book” titled The Holy Grail Of The Unconscious.  The book is said to stem from his mid-career “confrontation with his unconscious” during which lucid and florid dreams and visions came in “incessant streams”.  It is spectacularly illustrated by his own hand.

Jung Red Book

  He believed that we are all linked by a collective unconscious holding the whole of our history pretty much all the way back to stardust.  It manifests in each of us through the myths and archetypes that are made to constellate differently in an individual life by the forces borne upon them. 

  “Together, the patient and I address ourselves to the 2,000,000 year old man that is in all of us.  In the last analysis most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, with the age-old unforgotten wisdom stored up in us.  And where do we make contact with this old man?  In our dreams.”***

  There are many today skeptical, to say the least, of the utility of dream interpretation or any aspect of the “talking cure” for that matter.  I’d first refer them to the Gould’s words above and then simply say that once aware of Jung’s perspective it is incredible to follow him through a particular set of memories, dreams, and reflections – especially his own. 

  Herefrom echos my approach (only offered nearly seventy-five years ago). “I have been convinced that at least a part of our psychic existence is characterized by a relativity of space and time.  This relativity seems to increase, in proportion to the distance from consciousness, to an absolute condition of timelessness and spacelessness”.***

  Read some of his stuff, I’ll bet you’ll find resonance.

* Bell’s Theorem proves the non-local nature of reality.  cf July 18, 2008 below.

** From his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections.

***NYT October 4, 1936

Why try? It’s beautiful!

August 21, 2009

  The film in question, Berlin Alexanderplatz, is an influential work made for German TV in 1980.  Rainer Werner Fassbinder largely followed the novel written by Alfred Doblin in 1929.  It is the difficult story of an attempt to lead an honest life from the midst of robbers, whores, pimps, and killers.

  This short hommage by Laurie Anderson alludes to a Buddhist parable in which, near the end of his life, the sage gathered his disciples close to a pond into which he reached and withdrew a lotus flower.  As he held it up and moved silently among them,  his confused followers made obtuse attempts to relate it to the teachings. 

  Finally the master came to Mahakayapa who, zapped with understanding, smiled broadly and thus was given the white flower.  “What can be said I have said to you”, smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa”.

  Why even try to explain the beauty of a flower?  Such effort impedes appreciation.  Sin.

What Fassbinder film is it?
The one-armed man walks into a flower shop
And says: What flower expresses
Days go by
And theyjust keepgoing by endlessly
Pulling you Into the future
Days go by
Endlessly
Endlessly pulling you
Into the future?
And the florist says: White Lily.