Category Archives: science

Three Poems About Marriage

The following poem beautifully and, kind of darkly, describes the duress that marriage presents to two people who have opted to engage in the process of becoming, “one flesh.”  I like to think, facetiously, that marriage was invented by the gods just to torment mankind, forcing two diametrically opposed forces to live together under the same roof.  Traditional life has controlled the tension of this union of opposites by implementing overt power, defining the term “marriage” as a relationship in which the female would be subservient to the male.  Technically this subservience went to the extent that it deprived women of a subjective experience, that their desire should only be to please their husband. But women usually managed to get their pound of flesh in the relationship which Alfred Hitchcock beautifully and darkly portrayed in his movie “Frenzy.”  In this movie a psychopathic killer was on a rampage of grisly murder of young women and the stiff and proper police inspector was obsessed with stopping the rampage.  After a hard day at the office and on the streets looking for the killer, the poor police inspector would retire to the comfort of his home where his would wife would have dinner waiting.  However, as she dutifully and daintily presented an ornate and formal dinner, he would grimace as she had prepared food that he didn’t like or was given to him in minuscule portions.  In one scene, when she stepped back into the kitchen he hurriedly poured his soup out.  But all the while as he was tortured through these scenes, she would be so delightful, loving, and gracious and he would respond in kind.

Here is a narrative poem by poet Anne Carson in the most recent edition of The New Yorker Magazine.  It is quite witty and pointed:

We really want them to like us. We want it to go well. We overdress. They are narrow people, art people, offhand, linens. It is early summer, first hot weekend. We meet on the street, jumble about with kisses and are we late? They had been late, we’d half-decided to leave, now oh well. That place across the street, ever tried it? Think we went there once, looks closed, says open, well. People coming out. O.K. Inside is dark, cool, oaken. Turns out they know the owner. He beams, ushers, we sit. And realize at once two things, first, the noise is unbearable, two, neither of us knows the other well enough to say bag it. Our hearts crumble. We order food by pointing and break into two yell factions, one each side of the table. He and she both look exhausted, from (I suppose) doing art all day and then the new baby. We eat intently, as if eating were conversation. We keep passing the bread. My fish comes unboned, I weep pretending allergies. Finally someone pays the bill and we escape to the street. For some reason I was expecting snow outside. There is none. We decide not to go for ice cream and part, a little more broken. Saturday night as an adult, so this is it. We thought we’d be Nick and Nora, not their blurred friends in greatcoats. We cover our ears inside our souls. But you can’t stop it that way.  

And here Wendell Berry offers my favorite poem on marriage, vividly stresses and strains of two different forces of energy living in the constraint of committed relationship:

How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.

And here is W. H. Auden with a witty, facetious and playfully grim description of marriage.

If all a top physicist knows
About the Truth be true,
Then, for all the so-and-so’s,
Futility and grime,
Our common world contains,
We have a better time
Than the Greater Nebulae do,
Or the atoms in our brains.

Marriage is rarely bliss
But, surely it would be worse
As particles to pelt
At thousands of miles per sec
About a universe
Wherein a lover’s kiss
Would either not be felt
Or break the loved one’s neck.

Though the face at which I stare
While shaving it be cruel
For, year after year, it repels
An ageing suitor, it has,
Thank God, sufficient mass
To be altogether there,
Not an indeterminate gruel
Which is partly somewhere else.

Our eyes prefer to suppose
That a habitable place
Has a geocentric view,
That architects enclose
A quiet Euclidian space:
Exploded myths – but who
Could feel at home astraddle
An ever expanding saddle?

This passion of our kind
For the process of finding out
Is a fact one can hardly doubt,
But I would rejoice in it more
If I knew more clearly what
We wanted the knowledge for,
Felt certain still that the mind
Is free to know or not.

It has chosen once, it seems,
And whether our concern
For magnitude’s extremes
Really become a creature
Who comes in a median size,
Or politicizing Nature
Be altogether wise,
Is something we shall learn.

*****************************

Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

Paean to Pope Francis

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: We will meet one another there.”  (Read more, including discussion of the contest of this quote at: http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/popeatheist.asp#xwbkSGqYxMVhujwy.99inj)
Pope Francis is one of the most courageous human beings I have seen in my life time, a true example of “speaking truth to power.” The above quotation has been circulating on social media and stands out and is deeply appreciated by all of us who recognize when someone is daring to step outside of the “box” that he finds him/herself in and offer an authentic word. And Pope Francis finds himself in one “hell” of a box for the Catholic Church is monolithic, steeped in rigid tradition that does not want anyone to “think outside of the box.” But, this epistemic closure goes far beyond the Catholic Church as I don’t see anyone else in christiandom daring to “think outside of the ‘christian’ box” and offer a prophetic word. Theologian Paul Tillich authored a book of sermons, “The Shaking of the Foundation” in which he voiced the need of Christianity in the mid-twentieth century to find a prophetic voice in the din of its burgeoning echo chamber.

Of course, Pope Francis is meeting resistance within the Catholic church and even from American politicians who do not like him daring to suggest that his faith has anything to do with such “mundane” and “unholy” things like, say, climate change. These politicians are driven largely by a fundamentalist faith which practices a “pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by” theology in which this world we live in, and the bodies in which we live, are only a means to the end of getting to heaven where we will spend 39 quatrillion years fawning over Jesus, not realizing that Jesus is really more mature than to even permit that!

Pope Francis realizes that the Christian faith is more than a doctrinal creed which, if taken too literally and seriously, will only be used to create and perpetuate a Christian echo chamber in which we “bask, agreed upon what we will not ask, bland, sunny, and adjusted by the agreed upon lie.” And yes, in this case the teachings of Jesus become a “lie” when they are used to hide behind, deny reality, and oppress others in the name of “faith.” W. H. Auden, the author of the above quote, also noted, “The divine and the demonic often speak the very same language.”

Christians have a hard time understanding how their dogma, centered on the Holy Bible, can embody epistemic closure in which they are merely “thinking within a ‘christian box.’” But the New Testament clearly warns of this temptation, repeatedly warning of those who mistake “the letter of the law” for “the Spirit of the law.” When this mistake is made, we are guilty of “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (2 Timothy, ch. 3) When any suspicion of this error confront those self-imprisoned in this “box,” they merely “shout a little louder” their dogma and heap disapproval…and sometimes worse…on those who have brought “discomfort” to the safe little world in which they are ensconced.

Donald Trump’s “Dysfunctional Family”

When our unconsciousness begins to speak to us, the messages are sometimes subtle over a period of time until we finally “get it” and start paying attention.  But then other times the unconsciousness strikes us abruptly, like a thunderbolt from the blue and then we are sometimes stunned or even devastated.  But in either case the human tendency is to deny this irruption into our safe little world of delusion…and “delusional” describes all of us…and to shore up our defenses and shout more loudly the soothing self-talk that comforts us daily.  As W. H. Auden put it, “And Truth met him, and held out her hand; and he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”

Donald Trump represents a voice from the Republican Party’s unconsciousness.  He is behaving and speaking with reckless abandonment, fulfilling the role of the identified patient in a dysfunctional family who “acts out” and announces the conflicted dynamics of the family that is trapped in its Ozzie and Harriet world.  In my clinical practice, my task was twofold: a) stop the “acting out” of the identified patient and b)get the family to own its own role in a dynamic that was often overtly pathological.  Needless to say, often one or both of the parents did not appreciate this approach to their child’s treatment.  For the unacknowledged anguish of the family had forced the identified patient to articulate its pain with word and deed and the parents  were not willing to admit that.

Donald Trump offers the Grand Old Party an opportunity to get real, to get honest with itself.  For example, one of the things that Trump is currently admired for by the base of the party is that, “He tells the truth!”  Well, yes he often does but without the decorum and respect which would make him more palatable to the upper hierarchy of the party.  But if this hierarchy would learn from this unconscious gift they have before them, they could start being such “politicians” and be less blatantly dishonest.

My favorite example…and there are many…is the climate science/global warming issue.  The base of this party is proudly skeptical of science and therefore of the overwhelming evidence that global warming is a critical issue.  But realizing that their base would disapprove if they acknowledged this, the Republican leadership and current candidates for their Presidential nomination glibly shrug their shoulders and report when questioned on the issue, “Well, I’m not a scientist.”  They could easily just simply answer the question but it would be politically inexpedient so they humiliate themselves and their party with this lame response.  And the same dishonesty has often been demonstrated on the issue of whether or not President Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya.

Paying attention to the unconscious is often just gut-wrenchingly painful.  But listening to this dimension of our experience, to a gut-level intuition, parallels with closely with  what Christians like to call heeding, “the Spirit of God.”  But  heeding the “Spirit of God” is not just listening to the whims of our heart that we are comfortable with, those  that confirm our pet theories and belief systems. It requires us to pay attention to those that rattle our cage.

The “Unity of All Things” in a Poem

I love the way poets can bring things that are totally disconnected together to make sense. Of course, that is because we, and everything about our lovely world, is very connected in the first place. But lost in our illusion of separateness, it takes poetic courage to “Dive into the Wreck” and put the unity of all things into words so that pedestrian traffic like “moi” can appreciate it:

Trinity
Small things have a different logic to them.
Drop an ant from fifty times its height.
It survives. But a man, a mammoth, a bomb …
well, quantum particles tell us, size is fate.
So when Robert Oppenheimer gathered
those great minds, each with his specialty,
they chose a boy’s schoolhouse in the heart
of an enormous nation, its sons at sea.
Those days were never simple: the squeak of chalk
against the darkness, the dread of failure,
of success, inside each uneasy thought
the dull knowledge that, hell, if not here,
then some other hell, and so they worked
against the clock, the hammer of its hours.
Trinity. That was their goal, their test site
that drew its name from a line by Donne,
who invited God to batter his heart,
God who was three-person’d, and so one
conscience split into ravishing light.
The way men long to be that usurpt towne,
no doubt it frightens them: the blank slate
that reason fills for all the wrong reasons.
What Oppenheimer saw there, God knows.
Perhaps it was the words knocke, breathe, shine, 
and seek to mende. Perhaps the overthrow
of one god for another, for one who blinds
the doubt, so we might lie against our shadows
and fall, too deep to fathom, too small to find.

BRUCE BOND
For the Lost Cathedral
Louisiana State University Press

http://poem.com/today.php

Neurology Challenges & Deepens Faith

The New Yorker magazine has an excellent article on a new device which electrically stimulate parts of the brain and alleviate depression and even addiction.(http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/06/electrified) It reminds me of neurological research of a couple of years ago that said that his religious fervor of mine can be traced to a neurological “god spot” which did not shake my faith in the least due to the intransigence of my very unique and special “god spot”!!! (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scienceonreligion/2012/04/god-spot-in-the-brain-more-like-god-spots/)

And, seriously, my faith and the rest of my reality is not shaken by scientific exploration as I feel very strongly that my grasp of reality is a mystery beyond my comprehension and that “reality” itself is far beyond my comprehension. And since I’ve come to realize this, I’m much more accepting of myself and of others though I am often very, very angry that the rest of the world refuses to see things just as I do!!! (Just kidding!)

Consciousness is a scary thing. Hamlet said that it “doeth make cowards of us all” as Shakespeare realized that it was easier to live in the comfort of unexamined dogma, knowing that the “earth was flat” or whatever the prevailing myth of the moment is.

The Moon is Made Out of Cheese!

This is just a whimsical notion I’ve tossed around for years to illustrate lunacy. And our imagination is a myriad of whimsical notions some of which are occasionally more outrageous than that one. This dimension of the human heart is the birthplace of everything that makes up the world, everything from the wheel to bread-ties. Without the capacity to imagine we never would have even made it to the Stone Age.  And, yes one is free to imagine that the moon is out of cheese but hopefully the notion would not find lodging in too many minds!

My mind/heart is now teeming with these whimsical notions as I have taken giant strides towards escaping the linear logic of the “literallew” of my youth. And, I feel that these whimsies are fine as they are just that—“whimsies.” But, some of them aren’t so nice…to put it mildly…and fortunately I have the “faculty of judgment” available which empowers me to not pay any attention to them. And if our imagination is in play, there will be a myriad of fancies that flutter past our mind’s eye and we cannot be dismayed by the unpleasant ones.

History is the tale of visionaries who have dared to imagine the impossible. One simple example is that unknown soul who dared to imagine that the earth was not flat back in the 16th century. Whoever he or she was must have been hesitant to share this “crazy notion” and when it was first shared the outcome was certainly not pleasant. The “tyranny of the way things are” holds us captive and it takes bold individuals to dare and question that “psychopathology of everyday life.”

I think religion should have a role in challenging this “tyranny” and does on occasion though usually the insight of the challengers is quickly co-opted and turned into dogma. Scientists are often earth-shakers as they are willing to think outside of the box and bring new dimensions to our consciousness. And art provides my favorite “earth-shakers,” people who are not only able to think outside of the box but at times outside of the box that the box is in!!!

The imagination is very much related to the body. One whose imagination finds the freedom to flow will be in touch with his/her physicality and will be comfortable with it. The unconscious, the gut-level dimension of the heart, will be allowed to speak its truths some of which are occasionally very dark at first glance. As Ranier Rilke put it, “The heart has its beastly little treasures.”

Out Smarting our Brains!!!

Wray Herbert is a journalist who has written about science and psychology for the past 25 years. He recently wrote in Salon a report about neurophysiology and the ability to “out smart our own brains.” (See the following link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/temptation-in-the-neurons_b_6861836.html) Of course he does not believe that we can actually “out-smart” our own brain but with willingness to learn from modern neurophysiology we can learn that our thought patterns are often driven by something other than we are conscious. With this gift of meta-cognition we can self-monitor on occasion and identify maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving. In my clinical practice I would often use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies, one of which was to help clients identify these “mal-adaptive thought patterns” which CBT calls, “stinkin’ thinkin’”

Recently Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas raised my ire with his letter to Iran that signed also by 47 other senators. This action reveals a rigid certainty in their heart which allowed him them to jeopardize complex negotiations between President Obama and other world leaders with Iran over nuclear disarmament. If Cotton and his colleagues could have employed the Shakespearean “pauser reason” they could have been more judicious in pursuing their goals. Having spent most of my life in Arkansas and being a “good ole boy” myself, Mr. Cotton is really “grinding my gears.” or, as I like to put it, has my “panties in a wad.”

My emotional reaction has reminded me that I’ve spent most of my life as an ideologue myself and that the first half of this self-imposed prison sentence found me very rigid. Though now I have changed, there is always a residual presence of the ideologue, which I call, “literallew,” that I have never exorcised and never will completely. For example, I often find myself taking my own “pet thoughts” too seriously and at times find myself using them as a hammer. Eckhart Tolle’s teachings tell us that “thought” is what confines us to the space-time continuum, living our life in the past or in the future but not in the Present moment. And, there is only the Present moment. The past and future are only fancies many of which are not realistic and sometimes delusional. And Tolle certainly realizes that we cannot do without “thinking” but insists that if we acknowledge other dimensions of our reality then our “thinking” can be less rigid and less self-centered.

“Pet ideas” are so easy to take so seriously because they often embody and perpetuate a view of the world with which we are comfortable. If we are too fond of these “pets” we will be unable to compromise with diverse points of view; for, allowing these “pets” to be questioned will tap a fear our ego has of losing control. But slavery to these “pet ideas” is always just slavery to our ego and the ego never likes to consider the possibility that it is not in control. To a person in such bondage, the consideration of neurophysiology (and the unconscious) on his thinking is just not permitted.

Decades ago I read a relevant observation somewhere, “Our thinking is the belated rationalization of conclusions to which we’ve already been led by our desires.”