Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Coping with change

Ever since I ran into the fence around the new housing development, I’ve been wondering just how far it extends. If one must cope with a changed reality, I figure it helps to know just what the reality is with which one will be coping.

My back has been acting up lately (getting old is not for sissies), so I strapped on my back brace with an ice pack over the relevant spot, grabbed my walking stick for added stability, the camera, and the dogs, and set out to walk the fence. I now have a good idea of the extent of the development. (more…)

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Sacred to me, anyway.

The trees around here are not large and magnificent. They’re scrub oak, and I’ve heard people speak about them very disparagingly. But there’s something magical about an oak grove, even scrub oaks. In fact, I have come to love the scrub oaks; all you have to do to appreciate them is scale down your expectations from the larger oaks found elsewhere.

The scrub oak are highly variable. Many of them grow up, and then send their branches sweeping back down to the ground, creating a sheltered space. Others send low branches out almost parallel to the ground. And some reach for the sky–at their own scale. They have their own kind of beauty and magnificence, but you have to be looking for it to notice it. Over years of walking among them, I’ve learned to look. (more…)

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Most religious and spiritual traditions seem to talk in terms of absolutes and of “all or nothing”. Christian and Islamic fundamentalists are particularly inclined to this, but so are mystics of all stripes, and Zen Buddhism is also inclined in that direction when discussing satori, or enlightenment. Me, however–I seek a religion of “something”.

I think all-or-nothing thinking gets a lot of people in a lot of trouble. (more…)

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This is a follow-up to this previous post.

OK, this is going to be highly spectulative and/or naive, but here goes anyway.

Suppose we accept that inter-subjective exploration of phenomena helps us toward coming closer and closer to truth. It certainly seems to work relative to the physical world, to the extent that we can conceive of objective truth about the physical world, at least. But can it help us with regard to approaching spiritual truth?

I think/suspect/hope that the answer is a qualified “yes”. (more…)

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Compassion and wisdom

How can there be compassion without the wisdom to know wherein compassion lies? And if wisdom does not lead to compassion, wherein lies it’s claim to being wise?

(No time to expand on this, but I invite others to do so. What does it mean to you? What is compassion? What is wisdom? Is wisdom more than knowledge or understanding? If so–what?

And is there a so-what to the above? If wisdom and compassion are inextricably linked–so what? Are there any implications of that?)

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I posted this as a comment in response to a discussion on someone else’s blog, but decided it’s worth posting on my own.

I should add that I am thoroughly agnostic, not to say confused, about the existence or the nature of God, but that doesn’t stop me from talking as though there’s no question that God exists. I know this doesn’t quite make sense, but that’s part of the purpose of my blogging–to help me sort such matters out.

Sometimes I suspect that some fundamentalists who claim to be monotheists don’t really get the logic of what they are claiming. (more…)

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I’m working a long post that is taking awhile to gel. So in the meanwhile, thought I’d post a few quotes that say more poetically and succinctly some of what I was tryig to say here.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.
Living Philosophies, 1931

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.

The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.

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Dr. William Vallicella, a professional philosopher, posted a list of principles or standards for philosophy on his blog. (All of them involve absoluteness—interesting to me since he’s politically conservative; I suspect a connection.) The one I thought worth responding to is the following:

    “Nothing matters unless it matters absolutely.”

My response is below.

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Oh, boy, have I ever stepped into deep water with this one. But let me persevere.

I was thinking the concept I want to communicate would be fairly quick and straightforward to capture in writing, but then I made the mistake of deciding I should start with a quick statement of generally accepted meaning of “objective truth”. Ha! I should have known better.

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The known and the unknown are blessings. The unknowable is both a mystery and a blessing, a blessing because it is a mystery.

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God is . . . our name for that which is greater than all and present in each. God is a symbol expressive of ultimate mystery, meaning and power, . . . .

Forrest Church, from a sermon preached at All Souls UU Church 6/5/05

I quote this just to clarify my use of “God” below. I use the term in the fuzziest possible way here–literally, if I knew what I was talking about–if I knew what I mean by “God”–I wouldn’t be writing this. (Interesting that greater clarity, in this case, implies greater fuzziness. Somehow that tickles me.) (more…)

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Thinking about the polarization that has developed in this country and indeed around the world, and the harm that I think it does.

People who are trying to polarize, or activate, other people often say something like “Those who are not for us are against us.” The cultural roots of this probably go back to the Christian Bible, Matthew 12 verse 30:”He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”

But compare Mark 9 verse 40: “For he who is not against us is on our side.”

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Running across a variety of blogs and books recently arguing the human race would be better off without religion, or claiming to explain religion (as in “explain it away”), got me musing along the following lines.

What is religion about? That is, what do human beings get out of it? I think all of the following, not in any particular order, and not necessarily all of them for any one person.

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I believe that I know some things, and I know that I believe some things, but what the difference is between knowing and believing–I do not know.

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