Archive for the 'astronomy' Category

“Spiritual beings having a human experience”

January 20, 2016

I heard that this morning and I really liked it:  “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

The person I heard saying it was quoting it from someone else, and they thought it was a fairly old summation, not original to their source, either.

The person I heard it from had had a very negative experience of religion growing up, and found the distinction between spirituality and religion a welcome surprise when they discovered it later in life.  I think what’s reflected in this quotation was part of the spiritual outlook they came to as an adult.

It makes plenty of sense to me, and I think its formulation helps put the biological underpinnings of our material life experiences in a better perspective.

Hearing these words this morning I started wondering why I don’t spend more time with people who see things this way and less time trying to explain such a perspective to those who are dismissive of it — which often feels to me like trying to get someone to see the other picture in one of those specially-drawn sketches that include two entirely different depictions visible as alternatives.

With my younger son’s color blindness, he’s aware he’s missing something and has work-arounds to distinguish many purples from blues or reds from browns or greens from grays, depending on other clues and cues.  People who dismiss the spiritual tend to not discern any of what they are missing, in my experience, although I have known some atheist rationalists of a scientific bent who will admit to having intimations of something when they stare up at a starry night sky, to take one example.

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Finding one’s voice

April 12, 2013

I’ve been accusing other people of needing to find theirs, so chances are it’s on my to-do list.

I had a friend whose vocal chords were damaged during thyroid surgery and had to leave her field of teaching.  Her reinvention of herself is an interesting tangible illustration of this.  She became an education liaison for a large scientific project.  On the other hand, even after many years, she seemed to feel her mood state had not recovered from the surgery, despite the medication to replace the thyroid hormones.  She found her voice again and yet she didn’t.

My first serious boyfriend expressed his concern repeatedly that I would succumb to what he perceived as family pressure to go into science.  I think he thought I’d lose myself and my voice if I did that.  (He is a musician and works as a literary editor in that field, I think.)  A teacher of mine pressured me to break up with him (stupid of me to accede to that), having pressured me to sign up for his classes and more.  In turn, a math teacher tried to rescue me from that teacher and pull me into the math/science world.

I think ultimately I pushed it all away but only after being shaped by the disciplines and personalities.  I don’t think I pushed it away on purpose, rather, this is in effect what seems to have happened if I look at it in retrospect.

Where does that leave me in terms of finding, and maybe describing, my “voice”?  For sure, especially at my age, I’m a little past letting everyone else tell me where it is to be found.  Sometimes I think finding it is a matter of pausing and observing what I tend towards once I put aside all the clamoring requests and dutiful tending to administrative, and other, responsibilities.  And that I guess I’d characterize as seeing things without as many common assumptions as most people seem to harbor, kind of like a voice of reminding that there are other possibilities.

Trust

March 2, 2013

There’s a spiritual story about a couple in which one is a spiritual adept and the other makes their way successfully in the material world.  They have trouble with trust in their relationship, I think because they view the world so differently:  it’s like one of those pictures which looks like it’s picturing one thing if we look at it one way and another thing if we shift our gaze and focus just a little bit.   Seeing the world with an open and naive focus may allow the mystic to entertain realities not completely congruent with our consensus reality that produces the material world.  A more closed and realistic approach to that material world and consensus reality may allow for greater success in navigating it.

But what was really impeding this odd couple from sustaining intimacy, I think, was not so much intellectual recognition or agreement on that they have different worldviews, or why they have different worldviews, or the respective helpfulness of their differing worldviews, but something else, something arising out of the accessibility of so much of the divine in the mystic.  To put it bluntly, I think one member of the couple is having trouble trusting God as much as the other member is having trouble trusting other human beings.  Of course, the mystic is mirroring the successful partner, which points to needing the successful partner to cultivate their faith;  that, I think, would lead to the spiritually adept partner trusting human beings, including their partner, as much as they trust God.  In terms of reciprocity, it’s like one of those inverse reciprocal relationships, like I remember from an astronomy course I took in college.

Make friends with your subconscious

November 18, 2012

I should be outside pruning rose bushes, but I just wanted to write something brief using a different type of approach to, not so much the subjects of my previous two posts, but to a comment I wrote in response to one of those NYTimes sort of philosophical pieces in “The Stone” subset of their Opinionator section.

My point is about how there are multiple strands to our “selves.”  Most of us using the internet dwell (and overly so, in my opinion) in only some of these strands and may not be aware there are others.

So that’s why I called this post “Make friends with your subconscious.”  People not adverse to theism or spiritual development tend to do this through prayer and meditation, but I think other people may do it through the arts (especially music), sports, nature, communicating with pets.  I think some people may do through higher math, but I think it’s trickier to lose the intellectualizing self enough through doing that as a way to be in the strand of the self that slides around without the constraints the intellectualizing strand has.  Of course, some people do this (whether intentionally or not) in ways that cause them and others distress, and it can become extreme enough that we label it an illness (as in, mental illness) — I certainly don’t advocate doing that.

But just as we talk about parents spending quality time with their children, I think we need to spend quality time with our subconscious.

“Shine On, Harvest Moon”

October 1, 2012

On the way to the supermarket last night I spied the great big moon shining in the sky, I want to say sort of orangish in color.  I’m reading it’s the Harvest Moon, it was fullest the night before last, I think, but a clara luna nonetheless last night.

Kidney failure

September 7, 2012

An extended-family member was hospitalized for kidney failure the other night.  The episode is turning out to contain resonances of so many past stories I know that I start thinking about what it represents for me metaphorically.

When the kidneys are not cleansing the blood, toxins build up, confusion is a symptom.  Makes me wonder what the equivalent of a kidney in our spiritual lives might be.

I think spiritually the cleansing mechanism is more like a charcoal filter in a water pitcher or the dilution of grape juice with water, as my mother used to serve it to us kids.

If we can’t process our emotions and discharge or dissipate or otherwise redress them, they build up, and we do become confused.  I think we dilute them and cleanse ourselves through mixing in cleaner, healthier energy.  I do that through working on being open through walking and praying;  sleeping is another way I think we interface more openly with the universe.

I only have one kidney (born that way) and it’s big.  The doctor who diagnosed it when I was about thirty joked with me that that means I can’t be a live donor.  Which is interesting, because some of my spiritual work has been helping others cleanse their spiritual systems through my own.  (Sometimes it seems to me that “on earth” is at least sometimes actually an inversion of “as it is in heaven,” — maybe this is an example of that, I don’t know.  In astronomy as I studied it in an elementary survey course, a mathematical inverted square relationship was a major theme.  Maybe that’s related to what I’m noticing here. )

I guess I like to think that in my spiritual work I can help someone have their own kidney without sacrificing mine.  Whether this is done through my helping them locate theirs, repair theirs, or develop a new one in much the same way Harold does in those Purple Crayon stories, I’m not sure.  I think it’s most hard for me when I’ve helped them start the process but won’t be able to enjoy the results myself in this lifetime — but that only underscores that I am only a conduit and that what I do contribute must be offered as a gift (regardless of how the recipient frames the interaction).  After all, I have my own lessons, too, to learn from the experience.

Earth and moon

April 5, 2012

I was reading about the commonality of a chemical element on the moon and the earth and how it implies that a hypothesis about the moon being composed at least in large part from material from an interloping, crashing body from space doesn’t seem to be true.

It made me wonder whether the moon is sort of like Adam’s rib, where Adam is the earth.

Jupiter and Earth

February 26, 2012

I was thinking about the planet Jupiter, especially the hypothesis that it’s a failed second star in a binary star system.  And I was thinking about how with all our electric lights, I imagine our planet Earth now appears somewhat lit up.  So I’m thinking that maybe that light show could be thought of as Earth’s memorial to Jupiter.

I was actually going to try to write that idea up as a poem, because I think it would “go down” better as a piece of art than as a sort of peculiar prosaic idea, but I’m not feeling poetic or energetic enough to try to express it in the language of art.

“The deepest layer of reality”

December 16, 2011

I was happy to read in Brian Greene’s op-ed piece in the NYTimes, about the search for evidence of a particle that will support the conceptualization in the Higgs Field theory, that “[t]he legions of physicists, engineers and computer scientists, whose collective efforts created the Large Hadron Collider, will have revealed the deepest layer of reality our species has ever probed,” if current findings are confirmed by future data.  From my point of view, another “blind person” will have felt a part of the elephant and reported back their understanding, and while I would call this “deepest layer of reality” by a more traditional name, there is also the tradition that this “deepest layer” is unnameable.  I wonder whether others, who have made it up the mountainside to the top of the mountain already, through other means, such as art (including music and poetry) and mysticism, might say,”Welcome!  Glad you to see you, glad you made it,” and maybe tease them with, “What took you so long?  Where’ve you been?”  Just as some people are more visual or more aural or more kinesthetic, I think our ways of grokking the universe vary.  And just as I believe different religions are describing the same “deepest layer of reality” in slightly different ways, I believe different disciplines, of which religion is one, are describing the same “deepest layer of reality” in slightly different ways.

“Nones” and approaching a religious life through reason

December 12, 2011

I am grappling with how to respond helpfully to the piece in the NYTimes by Eric Weiner on rationalists who want to lead a religious life.

I might try starting by looking deep in my heart for some issue I really care about that does not benefit me personally but involves immediate concrete activity that benefits someone or something else (and doesn’t involve much of an audience).   I would engage in that activity and I would thank the universe for giving me the opportunity to engage in it.  I would take my emotional temperature after this and think about whether the world looked different to me. If this process seemed to have a positive effect, I would try repeating it.

More generally I would try to become more aware of what allows my heart to be open and what interferes with that.  I would try to increase the former and decrease the latter.  I would try to keep track, also, of what I’m doing when I feel more than my usual self.  The idea I’m getting at here is to expose that part of yourself that’s already engaged in a religious sensibility or orientation or attitude, and become more aware of what that feels like and what seems to support it, and then develop that further.  One key thing to remember is to keep track of the role your ego is playing and to guard against mistaking your ego for your heart.

I think that’s where I would start.  I am not going to try, at least for now, to list particular habits of thought, behaviors, or activities that might be helpful for leading a religious life, or where to look for God.  (I will say, though, that I think looking for God is kind of like detecting planets from perturbations in measurements of known objects in the universe, seeing the other way of looking at a picture that includes an optical illusion, and using an telescope or camera that sees parts of the light spectrum that our eyes alone don’t perceive.  I hope I haven’t mangled the physics too badly; what I’m trying to say is that I think we’re looking for traces of something that basically exists in ways we don’t perceive with our usual ways of perceiving the world around us, maybe something that resides in other dimensions than the ones we use in the material world.)  I’m not sure such a detailed list is what was being sought, there’s a lot of that published out there already, and I don’t want to overwhelm people at the outset.  It’s all inside you already, anyway, it just takes some practice identifying it and developing that part of you.  External guidance at the outset is probably a good thing and somewhat necessary, but eventually the goal is to develop your own internal listening through which to receive guidance.  And then at some point, you can decide what you think is, and has been, the “God” part.

And please take this whence it comes  — I don’t have any particular credentials for this.  Please also realize it’s not meant to be definitive —  it’s basically my casual attempt to suggest from my vantage point what part of our mental anatomy is involved in living a “religious life.”