When I posted an earlier version of this song only a few posts back, I’d meant to add the back up vocal that is added here. Otherwise, the song’s about the same but I think the additional vocal kind of brings it alive.
The search for cause and effect has not always been carried out with a rigorous methodology carefully crafted to return reliable results.
Sometimes, folks make cognitive leaps that are breathtaking in their intuitive scope but are still just plain wack.
Many supposedly scientific westerners have elaborate personal systems of superstition which they keep separate from both their secular science and whatever formal religion they may choose to practice.
The supposedly hard-headed Chinese Communist ruling oligarchy picked the suposedly supremely lucky western calendar date of August 8, 2008 (8-8-8) to kick off the olympics. (8 is a lucky number in Chinese culture for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the it sounds like the word for prosper — not to mention that the characters for a double 8 resemble the popular shuang xi “double joy” design.)
Now, today’s date really had little or nothing to do with my picking this song for today’s post; I’ll admit it. If anything, I was thinking about an ongoing dialog I’ve been tentatively participating in regarding unfair prejudice against the religious.
Sometimes how one comes in on a contentious dialog depends on who has already staked out what position — and in what fashion — even if one’s own beliefs are all but immutable.
Normally I find myself lining up with those who profess to exalt rationalism and a scientific approach.
But all too often in some sectors these days, one finds those who claim adherence to scientific principles making irrational or unsupportable, often absolutist claims, flying far from the surly bonds of logic and fact.
Maybe, like beat dogs, some of us who’ve been subjected to one too many proselytic haranguement simply go nuts at the mention of religion; folks whose abreaction to repeated attempts to convert them to some religion or another have metastasized into a generalized scorn for anyone who dares entertain the idea that there might be something beyond this universe or something which transcends or perhaps informs our physical reality.
Even as science peels back layer after layer of how this universe works — revealing increasingly that the more we know, the more profound and strange the next questions become — some of these individuals cling to the notion that they know with absolute certainty that there is nothing beyond what we now see and think we know.
In the early 70’s I decided I needed to feel out what a worldview without God would be like. Maybe, in an odd kind of way, I was taking John Lennon up on his imagine challenge.
At the time, a massive wave of fundamental evangelism was sweeping America and I felt that one thing was sure — if what they believed in was “God” — I must be an atheist.
After a while, I began to tell people when they asked that I considered myself “spiritual” but that most people would think of me an atheist.
In a way I think I was also trying to synchronize my intellectual notion of God — which reflected the deist philosophies I grew up with — with my emotional sense of God, which was highly paternalized and, I’ll admit it, in some aspects had the cartoonish sentimentality of the popular culture notion of God.
If I was ever to grow up spiritually, it seemed clear to me that I had to stop thinking of The Unknowable as a kindly older man with everybody’s best interest at heart.
I felt like I wanted to really understand what the universe would feel like as a place without that God. And I explored that on an intellectual, emotional, and to the extent that I could, mystical or spiritual level. The interesting thing is that, for me, the universe never felt empty or scary or purposeless. Life might occasionally scare me… but that big, ’empty’ universe didn’t.
Without the magisterial God of my juvenile imagination and the dualistic notion of an independent soul, I was suddenly struck by what a, you should pardon the expression, miracle human consciousness is. Sure, we can carefully analyze the processes and patterns of human consciousness, mapping and measuring our abilities and limitations, tracing our emotional lives through the complex interaction of brain chemicals and neural messaging — all that is understandable, measurable.
But consciousness — that’s something else, again. Complex, interdependent processes… kid’s play. But experiencing them. Wow.
All of a sudden that “empty” universe seemed very magical. If the raw materials of consciousness — let’s get megalomaniacal here: my consciousness — are part of the universe, then the universe is, as far as I’m concerned, a pretty magical place.
Bold and Rational Men
Come now y’ bold and rational men
and march y’ straight ahead
y’ fear not the fire of the dragon
nor the carious teeth of death
And come now, lad
fear not the gods
you’ve often said we’re all alone
d’n’cha see your where your path must lie
straight into the unknowable
good speed now
you’re on your own
But wait now put your hand on the earth
and see where your life flows from
this good dark earth
is the mother of us all
y’know you are her son
and come and gaze into the sky
see how dark and deep
you are the prodigal lost in time
lost in a dream kept sleep