After taking my beginning algebra class over this summer, I think that if there is a hell, it has something to do with math (at least for me). This math class has been the most dizzying summer project upon which I have ever embarked. So, if I die and immediately after, some one looking like a teacher encourages me to take out my calculator, I will promptly conclude that I have ended up in the wrong place.
It is true that religious thought has brought many positive characteristics to bloom over the centuries, but I am not sure those flowers actually out weigh the destruction that has been wrought by those who claim faith. I would love to see what it could look like without religion propelling us to harm one another and to exclude others of different opinions.
Using “bloody” merely as an expletive expressing my feeling of exhaustion rather than an expression of the quality of my summer. I have worked, been a dad and husband, taken an algebra class at double the pace of a normal semester and just about completed my 120 hours of training to prepare me to test for my CNA (certified Nurse’s assistant). This has required late nights and extremely early mornings (as early as 3:30 am) so that I can still have time with family and time to work. I am almost finished, and I’m looking forward to a 3 week break before the next semester begins (Math 123 and Anatomy / human physiology. That’s what happens when you change careers in mid-life.
Archeologists dig and find remnants of past civilizations all over the planet. This consists of pottery, tools and discards of various types, as well as evidence of structural creations. All this give us a small window into the lives of our ancient ancestors, generating fascinating data and understanding. There is still, even in this human residue a sense of our living and existing much closer and connected to the earth we call home.
Unfortunately, the advancement of our species has not been so favorable or manageable in our more recent development. All our technological discoveries, while they have made life more comfortable and provided for a significant population boom, have wreaked a filthy devastation upon this planet in unimaginable ways. The shear amount of trash (much of it toxic and not in anyway bio-degradable) that we dump into our landfills every day is astounding, the toxic and radioactive waste produced, which sits in barrels all over the planet, and the chemicals we have dumped into our ecosystems (both on land and at sea) is enough to make Walle cry and give up.
This morning I read an article that surmised that the amount of debris in orbit around our planet (trash and discards from space adventures and satellites, which are again products of our “advancement and enlightenment” float around our planet at over 17,000 mph. Follow this link to read the article if you like.
If we are so advanced and so enlightened, why the hell are we so ignorant and out of harmony with the world on which we live? Generation after generation has chosen to make decisions that “benefit” humanity (oh and make a good buck, aka: corporations the occult evil that lurks among us) but are destroying the future of our species by the very choices they make, because they are destroying our planet and in the process eradicating the habitat of hundreds of species. I find nothing about how we now exist to be truly “enlightened” and it seems the best thing that could happen to this planet would be a catastrophic event that reduced our numbers greatly and somehow plunged us into a less technological existence. I know I am supposed to choose humanity over the planet, or at least that seems to be the culturally driven approach, but I really don’t. Something has got to give, and so much has got to change. In the movie “The Matrix,” the guys in black suits are interrogating Orphius (I think that was his name) and they liken humanity to a virus that doesn’t live in harmony but changes its host to be like itself. I fear their indictment is accurate. Something has got to change, if we don’t change it, the only other options is that something we can avoid will change it for us.
This was an interesting chapter looking at the rise of “spiritual experts” in the person of the Shaman. I appreciated the way that Wright reasonably evaluated the shaman, seeing some of the ludicrous claims, and ways of controlling…yet he didn’t dismiss the possibility that through some of these shaman rites and rituals (probably not the whole rite but parts) some of these men had some true experiences. Speaking of one particular group but seemingly making broader application the author writes:
“In any event, the possible truth of some part of the num master’s experience isn’t precluded by the means of it induction. No doubt the trance state reached during hours of dancing is a result of, among other things, the rhythmic shocks delivered to the base of the brain, as many as 60,000 shocks in one dance session by the estimate of the anthropologist Melvin Konner. But that doesn’t steal the possibility of truth from the experience Konner himself had while dancing with the !Kung, ‘That oceanic feeling of oneness withe the world.’ The opposite of this experience – our everyday sense of wary separation from all but a few kin and trusted friends – is a legacy of natural selection, no more and no less. Its been good at steering genes into the next generation, and thus must have in some sense faithfully reflected some features of the social landscape, but it doesn’t necessarily capture the whole picture. It has been, in a sense, strategically “true,” but that doesn’t make it morally or metaphysically true” (pages 41-42).
I also didn’t expect to see myself in this chapter but, I did. Wright he puts it this way:
“No doubt the world’s shamans have run the gamut from true believer to calculating fraud. And no doubt many true beliefs have been peppered by doubt. But so it is in other spiritual traditions, too. There are deeply religious Christian ministers who urge the congregation to pray for the ill, even though they personally doubt that God uses opinion poles to decide who lives and who dies. There are ministers who have a more abstract conception of divinity than the image of God they evoke in church. And there are ministers who have wholly lost their faith but keep up appearances” (pg. 39).
I’ll let you wonder in which one I see myself.
I provide you one last quote that I found interesting and true.
“The shaman’s role in cultivating antipathy and violence, both within the society and beyond it, is more evidence against the romantic view of religion as fallen – having been born pure only to be corrupted later. Apparently one of religion’s most infamous modern roles, fomenter of conflict between societies, was part of the story from very near the beginning” (pg. 43).
I must agree that we look back at the origins of various religious expressions (which ever ours happens to be) with a much more romantic view than probably reflects the truth. All too often, as well, religious rhetoric truly stimulates antipathy and even violence, which I am certain the founders of these faiths would have scorned.