...can be uncomfortable, but is absolutely necessary:
"You are omnipotence in disguise, you are no helpless, defenseless, poor little thing. Even the baby with syphilis is the dreaming godhead. Now, this makes people brought up in the West extremely uneasy."
...[Neefe] was inflamed with visions of endless human potentials that the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment promised to unleash. Like many progressives of the time, Neefe believed that humanity was finally coming of age. So he had picked the right place to get a job. Bonn was one of the most cultured and enlightened cities in Germany; the court supported a splendid musical and theatrical establishment. Before long in his new post, Neefe found himself mentoring a genius. Meanwhile, in his spare time, he signed on with a plan to, as it were, rule the world.
"I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming."
For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.
US (German-born) author & poet (1920 - 1994)
Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space. Every one of us is a part of that jewel. A facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of infinity, our differences are infinitesimal. We are intimately related. May we never even pretend that we are not. Have you heard my favorite story that came from the Seattle Special Olympics? Well, for the 100-yard dash there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and at the sound of the gun, they took off. But not long afterward one little boy stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard him crying; they slowed down, turned around and ran back to him. Every one of them ran back to him. One little girl with Down Syndrome bent down and kissed the boy and said, "This'll make it better." And the little boy got up and he the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line. They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in that stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long, time. People who were there are still telling the story with great delight. And you know why. Because deep down, we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win too. Even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.
You heard about a book. Intrigue darkened in its normal consistency and gripped you. Something about the book’s ability to project the reader into the world of another mind. A world with characters leading implausible lives between a chapter, a page, a paragraph; sometimes merely within the rhythmic pentameter of one sentence. The writer is unknown to you, yet through the patterns of perspective weaved into you can clearly be made out a new colour, never before realised. Perhaps the book will be a let down, many are. Some wished-for vistas dull to grey, their sky-piercing peaks devolving, eroding to a single extended dimension over time. Perhaps, after some musing, you’ll be less alive in the book’s pages than in your own mind, and which reader seeks for that existence? The one they think they already know; the one they comfort awake each morning and rotate within their minds, is less whole than the world of the book. You ponder this, pausing for a moment to let the idea sink in.Is every book more real than an existence? Surely you’ll only discover by reading more. That’s what books are for.
The world's oldest magic text, De viribus quantitatis (On The Powers Of Numbers) was penned by Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk who shared lodgings with Da Vinci and is believed to have helped the artist with The Last Supper. It was written in Italian by Pacioli between 1496 and 1508 and contains the first ever reference to card tricks as well as guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance. It is also the first work to note that Da Vinci was left-handed.
Although the book has been described as the "foundation of modern magic and numerical puzzles", it was never published and has languished in the archives of the University of Bologna, seen only by a small number of scholars since the Middle Ages.
The enemies of festivity have argued for centuries that festivities and ecstatic rituals are incompatible with civilization. In our own time, the incompatibility of festivity with industrialization, market economies and a complex division of labor is usually simply assumed, in the same way that Freud assumed—or posited—the incompatibility of civilization and unbridled sexual activity. In other words, if you want antibiotics and heated buildings and air travel, you must abstain from taking hold of the hands of strangers and dancing in the streets.
The presumed incompatibility of civilization and collective ecstatic traditions presents a kind of paradox: Civilization is good—right?—and builds on many fine human traits such as intelligence, self-sacrifice and technological craftiness. But ecstatic rituals are also good, and expressive of our artistic temperament and spiritual yearnings as well as our solidarity. So how can civilization be regarded as a form of progress if it precludes something as distinctively human, and deeply satisfying, as the collective joy of festivities and ecstatic rituals?... The prehistoric ritual dancer or the Caribbean practitioner of Voudou did not believe in her god of gods; she knew them, because, at the height or group ecstasy, they filled her with presence.
New research published in the March issue of Psychological Science may help elucidatethe relationship between religious indoctrination and violence, a topic that has gained renewed notoriety in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. [Not to mention Bush's hell-bent Armageddon obsessed foreign policy - Ed.] In the article, University of Michigan psychologist Brad Bushman and his colleagues suggest that scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase aggression, especially in believers
The authors set out to examine this interaction by conducting experiments with undergraduates at two religiously contrasting universities: Brigham Young University where 99% of students report believing in God and the Bible and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam where just 50% report believing in God and 27% believe in the bible.
Once upon a time in a distant land, a chubby blonde haired big lipped three year old boy thought he had suddenly discovered the secret of flight. It was night, the kind of summer night that wraps around you in a blanket of stars and lulls you into peaceful reverie. The sound of the ocean whispered through the pines, cicadas droned like sitars, and the boy believed his pajamas were magic. He pretended to sleep atop the bunk bed, waiting for the perfect moment when the house was quietest. He made his move to the edge of the bunk, summoning up the arcane power of his Superman Underoos and, in a moment of silent bravery, he leapt, headlong and fearless into the night…
In the first second of a fall, a falling body will traverse 32 feet. Being that the bunkbed was about five feet in height, it only took a few mere tenths of a second to illustrate to the boy the Law of Gravity and velocity of impact. He would be reminded of this for the next several years because two front teeth were all he really wanted for Christmas. Thirty one years later, the formerly gap toothed lad still looks for ways to evade gravity as much as possible, though I’ve long since outgrown my erstwhile magic pajamas.
Sure, that particular wild idea taught me that physics sometimes does not automatically favor every dream. Yet, for all of us, at some time in our lives we must stalk some wild idea, and pursue it over the rivers of our dreams and into the wild forests of our souls. We are an audacious and stubborn species who could be defined by the wild ideas we’ve made this wacky world out of… wild ideas… the wilderness… The place of our temptation, and our redemption… Breathe deeply.
All of us at one time or another must be tempted to climb a tree. It’s simply a part of growing up and out into the world. Sitting atop the braches, feeling the very blue of the sky dance into your lungs as twigs gently poke your tush is a rite of passage.Trees are fascinating and inviting, generative feelers of mother Earth. They feed, shelter and inspire us in their beauty. Perhaps that’s why the temptation to climb may be so strong, especially in kids; it proves that you’re capable, and most definitely curious. Sometimes, we risk “getting in trouble” as we ascend. My grandmother once scolded my for climbing her crab apple tree and knocking all of the apples to the ground. Whoops.
My beloved grandmother was perhaps rightfully peeved that I caused the tree to drop its crop. Eve endured a much harsher tongue lashing for her curiosity, and all she wanted was a succulent bite of celestial knowledge. For a little lunch of wisdom fruit, she was made to bear guilt. Interestingly, it’s the female trees that bear fruit. For several thousand years, the story of Eve’s off limits snacking enabled western so-called civilization spread the notion that even though we all are created in God’s likeness, a woman’s life was worth less than a man’s, and not to be trusted with power. In my profession, that’s what we call a thought disorder.
Curiosity does not have to cause undue harm to the proverbial kitty. Of curiosity, Albert Einstein wrote: “One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” This runs counter to the commandments of millennia not to shake the tree. Without a holy curiosity, where is wisdom? Breathe deeply.
[band begin noodling] After growing my front teeth back in a few years later, I found that the shores of the Delaware River were perhaps the safest place to test the innate curiosity which rambles through the bones and muscle of every child. I tied driftwood together to make little boats that I would push out into the murky currents, just to see where they would go, while dreaming of my unknown journeys ahead. I scampered among the river rocks, looking for anything that caught my eye; a weathered chip of porcelain, a tiny skittering crab, a twist of rope. Always by myself, the banks of that river were a library of knowledge; a kind of wordless knowledge that every child must get wet and muddy to discover. It is the knowledge of the self, those dreams unique to us that baptize us and call us into our names. It was as if the lapping of the little waves and the distant voice of foghorns called me into being after I was born into the world. You don’t know that you’re having those moments until you’ve long since past that spot on the river of life, looking back in realization.
[band seriously begin noodling] Interestingly our holy curiosity is found in many spiritual traditions on the banks of rivers; there’s wild haired John, baptizing Jesus in the warm waters of the Jordan… the Ganges, a river that Hindus revere as the body of a goddess incarnate… the Nile, a thin stream banked by reeds in the shadow of the pyramids. Our own French Broad is a north-flowing curiosity, a repository of ancient dreams and smoothed mountain stone. The very sound of its flowing induces dreams and deep breaths, its cool inviting rivulets a blessing and affirmation of its near-eternity and your fortunate moment to wade in it. It’s as if you merge with it when you step in, you becoming a current in an infinite progression of water, ice and cloud, and the river carries the dreams you have borne from curiosity upstream, and beyond. The song is by Garth Brooks, so put on your cowboy hats if you have ‘em…*
"You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin' as it flows
And a dreamer's just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what's behind you
And never knowing what's in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores..."
Chorus: "I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry"
While cool baptizing waters can sooth, the temptation can also prove dangerous. Oceans have their riptides, and these mountain rivers have their eddies. Over a year ago, a group of friends waded into a river gorge with too much naïveté, which suddenly turned from frolic to panic as I was swept into an eddy and very nearly drowned. Healing from the darkness of near death took time, but I was determined to not fear the water, but draw closer to it, as the gift of one foolhardy temptation actually brought me closer to life.
"Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don't you sit upon the shoreline
And say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide..."
Somehow, in our own diverse ways, we have all encountered a roaring river that is far more powerful than it looks. How that power, that surprise, opens your eyes and calls you into being is your story alone. Knowledge does not come by way of the Universe giving us some token of appreciation for our mere presence; rather, knowledge comes by way of being tempted to dive into the chilling waters of mystery, to be drenched in the blessing of just being alive thanks to an intensely creative God. Sometimes we need cosmic cajoling and enticement to take that bold first step off the edge...
"There's bound to be rough waters
And I know I'll take some falls
But with your love as my captain
I can make it through them all..."
In this non-stop frenzied world of wild ideas and forbidden fruit, temptation can be taken so casually. To be breathlessly “tempted” by a mere low-cal Splenda resplendent cupcake does not remotely compare with Eve’s conundrum. Yes, there is danger in some temptations, and a few inches on a waistline does not equal up to the length of your life line. Some that wade in the water never return. Feeling that water trail along your fingertips can bring you to the awareness of which temptation will serve you and the world the best; the temptation to mediocrity and collecting “stuff,” or the temptation to be immersed in the waters of the here and now, the miraculous, the truly magical.
This week, I rode into Pisgah National Forest with a child who is intensely curious. As we drove, we suddenly came across a cluster of colossal icicles emerging from some exposed rock walls. We immediately stopped the car and ran over to it, and even though there is twenty odd years between us, we ran our hands through their glassy points with the same wide eyed wonder. Peering deeper, we could see tiny frozen bubbles which when thawed will be tomorrow’s breath. Five cold minutes of timeless water, timeless stone, and these finite hands moving through them in a dance of wonder called us away from the road, the predictable path and in the silence, called each of us deeper into ourselves, each in our own wordless way. Yes, temptation can have a holy place in life. When that ice is returned to the river, it will bear the memory of two funky humans who learned from it in awe. We ourselves could be rivers, carrying dreams for countless souls. When the dance of that river goes wild within you, be open and be not afraid.
Though it might help if you found some magic pajamas.
*“The River,” written by Garth Brooks and Victoria Shaw. Originally performed by Garth Brooks. (Adapted)