Everyone knows “Eskimos have 50 words for snow.” Everyone knows that’s an urban myth. Both statements are true for appropriate values of everyone. The truth, of course and as usual, lies in the middle and is both more elusive and more nuanced.
The frosting: as with many of life’s more vexing issues, there is also a definitional component, and things depend, at least somewhat, on perspective. What constitutes a word and how does the basic language structure introduce new concepts, with new words or phrases?
But no matter because this post isn’t about the 50 words for snow.
My dad and my dad’s dad were Lutheran ministers, and my dad’s brother taught theology at a Lutheran seminary. Lotta preachers on the paternal side of the tree. (Lotta teachers on the maternal side; mom and sis among them. I grew up with preachers and teachers.)
All of which gave me something of an insider view of religion and the organizational church. It also provided a cornerstone I’ve built on through much of my life: a reconciliation between the Yin of my science side and the Yang of my spiritual side.
One interesting place the two meet is Pascal’s Wager.
The primary inspiration for this post, which I’ve been meaning to write since I started this blog, is a 1995 webpage titled The Art of Conversation. In fact, as I’ve done with this post, it could be called The Art of Debate, since debate over a topic — a dialectic — is what drives these (in fact ancient) ideas about discourse and rhetoric.
The page’s authors (Dean & Marshall VanDruff) give it other names: Conversational Cheap Shots! (on the site’s main page link) and Conversational Terrorism (on the page itself). The graphic, which I’ve shamelessly recreated here, calls it How Not To Talk.
Regardless, it’s about how to have an honest effective debate that actually goes somewhere. (Be that concordance or disagreement.)
I’ve mentioned quite often in posts, and in comments to posts, is that I’m quite bored by superhero movies. Somehow though I’ve never been moved to post about exactly why in detail. A few recent conversations about it made me realize it might make a good Sunday Sermons post.
The thing is that it does go beyond being just bored. There is a cultural aspect to it that’s gotten under my skin more and more. It has to do with the massive violence and destruction inherent in these movies and with a fundamental aspect of these comic book superhero stories.
They center on fighting, and I’ve never been a fan of it.
I’ve been thinking about an aspect of modern life that bothers me at least as much — if not more — than the anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-thought, bias of our culture.
It’s bad when emotions are elevated above rational thinking, that what matters most is how one feels. It undermines our future when that is not guided by understanding and thoughtfulness. And all too often those feelings don’t involve compassion and acceptance, but fear, hate, and rage.
What’s worse, what makes we wonder if we’ll ever find a decent path again, is that we’ve become a culture of lies.
When I started this blog back in 2011, it was always my intention to write about the Yin and Yang of our physical reality and a putative metaphysical one. Call it programming if you wish, but I have a life-long commitment to the perceived reality of the latter. I have a faith, deliberately irrational though it be.
I also have a life-long commitment to science and the physical world, and I’ve never had much trouble reconciling the two. That’s the thing I’ve been wanting to write about; how a spiritual life is not contrary or exclusive to a scientific one.
In fact, I believe they are the Yin-Yang of a complete person.
It was never the plan for this blog, but I’ve found myself several times writing about morals (for example: here, here, and very recently here). In those posts I touched on what morality means and how we might define it. I make no claim to breaking new ground or having anything particularly insightful to say — just my 1/50th of a buck based on my own observations, thoughts, and experiences.
The last week or so a set of three thought threads wound through the loom of my mind and seemed to form an interesting fabric. They have to do with the nature of morals, the usefulness of reason, and our modern sense of otherness.
Today I’m going to try to make something out of that fabric.
“Space is big. Really big.”
When I started blogging here, one of the first bloggers I followed was Robin, of Witless Dating After Fifty. Over the years, she’s several times mentioned a great question her dad often posed when discussing religion with someone: “How big is your god?”
Last week my buddy and I were having our weekly beer- and gab-fest and our (typically very meandering) conversation came to touch on the problems with young Earth creationism — the Christian fundamentalist idea that the universe is only thousands of years old.
In fact, there’s a pair of real whopper problems involved!
Two things collided. I saw Leon Wieseltier on The Colbert Report and was enthralled by his view of modern social life. That moved a friend of mine to look for other YouTube videos of Wieseltier. She posted a good one that then moved me to look at more. Bottom line, I ended up watching a fair bit of the man last week. Still enthralled.
Meanwhile, after my last post about religion and atheism, a reader commented that she found the article so balanced she couldn’t tell on which side I stood. As an agnostic, that’s the goal. Yet, in one of the videos, Wieseltier expresses an idea that really grabbed me.
It has to do with on which side of what line I stand.