Fact, Fable or Future?

Fact, Fable or Future?

Pentecost 17

I recently posted an article I had the pleasure of co-authoring last year regarding spirituality and religion. I was asked to write the article which was to be entitled “Religion versus Spirituality”. I did not select the title nor was I successful in changing it. I did invite a spiritualist to join me in writing it. My purpose in doing so was an attempt to counter the title. You see, for me there is no “versus”. I have since learned that I am not in the majority in that thinking and that, interestingly enough, both theologians and spiritualists agree in the “versus”.

The stories of our creation are largely the basis upon which belief systems are built. If you believe the story, then it becomes a fact, a religious or spiritual tenet of doctrine. If you do not, then it is considered a myth. Myths with factual basis are referred to as legends and those with talking animals often as fables. Victorian literature romanticized some myths, especially those with the more diminutive spirits or deities and fairy tales were written.

All of these stories, regardless of what they are called, served a very important purpose and had a lasting and profound effect on the cultures of the world. For many they were sacred tales. For some they were a compass for moral living. Even for the nonbelievers these tales were a beckoning rod, encouraging exploration and discovery. The premises for these sagas were the benchmarks of living – birth, death, growing, learning, how the natural world operated, man’s environment, and possibly the proposition that there was more than what was experienced in one lifetime.

For many these myths reflect a collective wisdom, things common to all cultures. Three common themes in all cultures are myths about a great flood, a virgin birth, and the afterlife. Myths did not always end with a “happily ever after” although some explained the “in the beginning”. They all spoke of “once upon a time” and like life, expressed both positive and negative, good and evil, life and death. They not only served to teach ancient cultures, they remain popular in our own century today. They have been evident in the arts of the world from cave drawings to frescos to elaborate oil paintings. The reason is clear: They speak to us today as they did hundreds of centuries ago to our ancestors.

Dejan Davchevski wrote a very interesting piece published online in late 2014 at the website, the-open-mind.com. In this piece he continues the division between religion and spirituality by listing seven differences. I do not mean to take issue with Dejan’s thoughts. They are as valid as my own and I do respect that. Let me briefly list his seven differences. They are worthy of your notice. First, “Religion makes you bow – Spirituality sets you free.” Second, “Religion shows you fear – Spirituality shows you how to be brave.” Third, “Religion tells you the truth – Spirituality lets you discover it.” Fourth, “Religion separates from others – Spirituality unites them”. Fifth, “Religion makes you dependent – Spirituality makes you independent.” Sixth, “religion applies punishment – Spirituality applies karma.” And lastly, “Religion makes you follow other journey – Spirituality lets you create your own.”

I think how we undertake our journey tells whether or not Dejan’s words are truth. Much like the myths we are discussing in this series, the core value is what you believe and how you live it. For me, most of his comments are both right and wrong… on both sides of the hyphen. For me, many myths are wonderful bits of literature but I do not hold them to be universal truths. It is comforting, though, when as yesterday I sit in the middle of a thunderstorm with my smart phone telling me how close the lightning strikes are, to think of an ancient deity striking the ground of his mountaintop with a hammer rather than imagine electrically charged particles clashing due to changing air temperatures. I doubt said deity is going to drop out of the skies and hit me; the electrically charged particles….not so sure.

He portrayed a caveman brought back to life after a frozen hibernation in a Hollywood film designed for young adults and teenagers. The ensuing chaos felt by the caveman when confronted with the modern world is the basis of the film “Encino Man”. One of my favorite quotes about mythology and the darkness it sought to explain comes from Brendan Fraser, the same actor who portrayed the caveman in this film. “I guess darkness serves a purpose: to show us that there is redemption through chaos. I believe that. I think that’s the basis of Greek mythology.” Another quote speaks to the passage of time and the inventions of man. “Our grandkids will lead the lives of the gods of mythology. Zeus could think and move objects around. We’ll have that power. Venus had a perfect, timeless body. … Pegasus was a flying horse. We’ll be able to modify like in the future.” These words from Michlo Kaku might seem to be describing life in our current times.

Yesterday I changed a channel on the telly without moving my feet at all. Last week conjoined twins were separated and somewhere, during business hours in a plastic surgeon’s office everywhere, someone is striving to have a perfect body created. Life is too short for us to pick it apart and create divisions. The mythologies of the world are evidence of our commonalities. Continue the journey with me as we explore them and in doing so, perhaps learn something about ourselves.


Assumptions: To Be or To Be Told

Pentecost 16

A recent comment stated simply: “You are making an assumption.” Yes, I am. The commenter did not state the specific assumption to which they were referring but, generally speaking, any conversation requires an assumption for discussion on a topic to continue. I MAY OR MAY NOT BELIEVE THE STATED ASSUMPTION. This blog is not a personal diary of my journey. It has never been intended as such. It is a conversation about our journey, the journey of life that we all share. As English cleric and poet John Donne wrote in his 1624 “Meditations 17”: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesser, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”. [Spellings have been updated to current English standards.]

This is the Christian season of Pentecost. In John Donne’s time, it began with Whitsunday or White Sunday. It celebrated the Holy Spirit, just as Pentecost does but more emphasis was on the peaceful aspects rather than the passion. Often depicted by a dove, the Holy Spirit was a way of living the goodness that the faith required. Whitsunday was followed by Trinity Sunday, a time that celebrated the One-in-Three spiritual side of the faith. The color of the Trinity season was green, a color that depicted life. Also called the Ordinary Time, Trinity was a period of regular living, living that was considered possible only because of the Holy Spirit or, as it was called previously, the Holy Ghost.

The Episcopal Church in the United States changed their Book of Common Prayer in 1979 and in doing so, updated some of their observances. Whitsunday became what is always was – Pentecost Sunday, the hallmark of the season of Pentecost, a day previously celebrated not always on a Sunday but exactly fifty days after Easter. In a time where religion is considered more a trend than a belief, the passion and fire of the Holy Spirit was emphasized.

According to Dr. Robert Sweetland of Wayne State College, a myth has certain basic characteristics, regardless of the time in which it appeared or the culture for which it was told. The professor explains that myths are based upon gods or superheroes that can usually take our human form but are really immortal with supernatural powers. The stories take place in a culturally relevant setting with the timeframe being both past and present, something that may seem contradictory but in the myth makes sense. Every myth has a plot and every myth’s plot or storyline has action, suspense, and conflict.

A myth differs from a legend, though. Mythologies generally explained occurrences in the natural world and led to religious or spiritual customs that explored, explained, and sought to alleviate human strengths and weaknesses. Legends have a basis in fact and were often stories woven around a “real” person. While there may be evidence of a man named Jesus being from Nazareth, there is not the overwhelming body of evidence that he truly lived, preached, and walked the earth as there is about a man named Davy Crockett or the American female citizen living in the western part of the country known as Calamity Jane.

Is it an assumption to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the man that Christians call Jesus Christ? Perhaps. Was this Jesus who preached and traveled around with his twelve apostles merely a teacher like Plato and Socrates? Perhaps. I love that the commenter mentioned making an assumption because that is both how and why we live as well as how and why wars are started. If possible, I would give the commenter a standing ovation because truly, what we assume and how we then proceed makes all the difference.

Legends have some basis in truth although they are usually greatly exaggerated in the telling of strengths of the hero or heroine. Can a story by both myth and legend? How do we tell if it is a fable with talking animals, a folktale with the expected happy ending to the conflict of the story, a folktale that emphasizes and continues the culture of a region, a legend with some truth at its core, or a myth that seeks to helps explain the world and our place in it?

What we choose to believe is based upon an assumption. One of my favorite quotes is anonymous. “Faith is like Wi-Fi; it’s invisible but it has the power to connect you to what you need.” IF you are a Christian, then the story of Jesus is neither myth nor fairytale but real. The legendary aspects are miracles and not exaggerations. If you are not a Christian, then the story becomes a myth. If the man known as Jesus of Nazareth is a part but not the primary character of your beliefs, then some of his exploits might be considered a folktale or even a legend.

The French philosopher Voltaire wrote: “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”   We and we alone decide for ourselves what is an assumption and what is truth. It all begins with an assumption, though, and then what we do next explains what we believe. How we live portrays whether or not we take the story to be myth, legend, folktale, or truth.

Forever and Never

Forever and Never

Pentecost 15

In the early 1960’s Jay Lerner, a classmate at Harvard of President John F Kennedy composed music for a musical based upon the Arthurian legends which we discussed yesterday. Entitled “Camelot”, the Broadway musical was hit by all stanards. The songs, however, were even more popular. President Kennedy was said to be particularly fond of the concluding couplet lyric of the title song”: “Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was Camelot.”

President Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy reportedly once said, was strongly attracted to the Camelot legend because he was an idealist who saw history as something made by heroes like King Arthur. After his assassination, a reporter wrote the Jacqueline Kennedy remarked: “There will be great presidents again,” she told White, “but there will never be another Camelot.” In this way, stated the reporter, Mrs. Kennedy sought to attach a morally uplifting message to one of the more ugly events in American history. Later reports dispute whether or not the quotes were ever said since the Kennedy family was very religious and believing in myths would seem at odds with their faith.

Similar contradictions might seem obvious throughout the history of mythologies. For those who believe, they were the basis for belief syst3ems. For those who did not believe, they were mere stories. As works of literature, the mythologies of mankind provided entertainment and engaged the audiences, regardless of location or period of history. As creation stories, they provided explanations for the beginnings of the world and mankind.

In the world of today where science and religion often battle, mythology bridged the gap between the two.   Myths illustrated concepts of morality, the very same concepts upon which most religions are based. They also answered one of mankind’s most consistent questions: Why do bad things happen? The occurrences in the natural world of such things like rain and lightning were explained as actions or responses of the gods and goddesses. If Zeus was mad, he struck the earth which caused lightning. If a goddess was saddened, he tears fell upon the planet as tears.

There is an old African saying: “God made man, because he liked to hear a story.” Whether they are telling the beginning of man or the reason for a part of nature, the myths told explained the experience of being alive. They served and continue to serve a profound purpose for us today. They illustrate our history and perhaps our future. What will be the story you write today?

Ascent of Knowledge

Ascent of Knowledge

Easter 40

If you’ve been reading along these past thirty-nine days, then you know that mankind took the leap to discover knowledge at the dawn of man. In the creation stories of the Torah and the Bible, it was curiosity that led to sin and evil. For many belief systems, education is still a privilege granted only to a select few or group. Most recently the Nobel peace Prize was awarded to the youngest recipient ever because she dared to follow her dream to learn.

In the Christian tradition today is known as Ascension Day. The fortieth day after Easter is the day Christians celebrate as being the day of Jesus Christ’s bodily ascension into heaven. In a world with the philosophies of Anaximander, Aristotle, Boethus, Diogenes, Empedocles, Heraclitus, Leucippus, Parmenides, Plato, and Socrates, how, you might be asking, could they believe that a man could be crucified, buried, walk among people for forty days, and then ascend to the afterworld? After all, Leucippus came up with the theory of atoms. How did people think those atoms could be destroyed, rejuvenate themselves, and then vanish into thin air?

As it gained momentum, the Christian Church, the Roman Church became the vessel for all learning. Scholasticism became the method of teaching and it used strict dialectical reasoning to teach Christian theology and to interpret the ancient classical texts of learning. Using Aristotle’s approach of determining knowledge through our senses proved too down-to-earth for church leaders who felt it took away from the mystery of faith.

Nicholas of Cusa proposed something he termed “learned ignorance”. According to Nicholas who was also known as Nicolaus von Kues, all knowledge came from “the One”, “the Good’. God, according to Nicholas came before that so it was impossible for a mere human to truly know God. Nicholas believed that one should use reason to understand this ignorance and that we only knew of God what we could through the “learned ignorance”.

Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus took exception with the Roman Catholic doctrine and felt one’s personal relationship with God was much more important that the doctrine of the Roman Church. The knowledge of philosophy he saw as a hindrance to the basic human traits emphasized in scripture and preached by Jesus.

Knowledge had not been seen as evil by all belief systems, however. Mohammed founded Islam and by the seventh century it had spread from Arabia to Asia and Africa and then to parts of Spain. Rivaling the empire of Christian Europe, Islam entered into what is known as its “Golden Age” around 750 ACE. This period lasted for more than five centuries as learning and discovery was encouraged in the field of math, sciences, and scholarship. Major advances were made in astronomy, alchemy, medicine, and mathematics and Aristotle’s philosophy was smoothly integrated with Islamic tenets of faith.

The Islamic philosopher Avicenna proposed a “flying man” theory which married knowledge gained from our senses and reason. He offered that a man flying blindfolded and floating in the air would still know he had a soul or self, even though his senses were not giving him any information. According to Avicenna, one’s mind and body coexist but as distinct entities. He also suggested that if this is true, then the mind or soul existed in a different realm than the body and did not die when the physical body did.

Not surprisingly, Avicenna’s theories were not accepted by all. Al-Ghazali was an Islamic philosopher who felt such beliefs were contrary to the Qur’an. The Iberian Islamic philosopher Averroes or Ibn Rushd disagreed. He argued that the Qur’an presented metaphorical truths and that, instead of any incompatibility between religion and philosophy, philosophy could be used to interpret religion. This way of thinking was similar to the paradoxes of Plato. They also greatly influence Christian philosophy of the period.

The conquests by Christian crusaders in the eleventh century are seen by many as an unjust invasion and their beliefs can be understood. These invasions unlocked Europe to the knowledge of the Islamic world, though, and soon the influence of such spread throughout Europe, leading to the Renaissance and the losing of control over scholarship and knowledge previously held by the Roman Church.

Whether you believe in the ascension of a man who previously presented as a mere mortal or whether you fail to believe in any religion, one cannot deny basic principles of life and our living. We all need air to breath. Plants use photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy and then into carbon dioxide which is released into the atmosphere and creates the air we breathe. The plants in my garden in one hemisphere are not the same plants I had when living in another. Yet, they still follow the same basic processes in their growth, their blossoms or fruits, their harvest, their period of dormancy, and their value.

For one day a year, the Christian Church celebrates the ascension of the central figure in its teachings. yet, do we live every other day in dissension and the descent of knowledge? What I do or do not do today affects my tomorrow. The Hindu mystic Swami Vivekananda says “The will is not free; it is a phenomenon bound by cause and effect, but there is something behind the will which is free.” American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.”

Mankind has always been curious and that curiosity has fueled a quest for knowledge that continues today.  Regardless of the period of history or location on the planet or even in space, we are constantly learning as we live. Living in the northwest part of the USA, young adult author Richelle Goodrich sums up our ascent into living and the subsequent knowledge gained from it this way: “You are here to make a difference, to either improve the world or worsen it. And whether or not you consciously choose to, you will accomplish one or the other.”

The Argument for Being

The Argument for Being – Half or Whole

Easter 25

Today marks the half-way point of the period known as Eastertide. During this period these articles are based loosely upon the study of philosophy, the study of knowledge. An interesting question was raised several days ago. Is the state of gaining knowledge a synonym for being live? “You talk quite a bit about “living” and “everyday living”. Isn’t philosophy or the study of philosophy just … living?”

What a great question! (I have not mentioned names or initials at the request of the asker.) Aristotle considered philosophy not a study of the parts of reality but a study of reality itself. For example, the parts of reality might be the study of math or music, politics or history. Reality is the existence and properties of things, their changes, causalities, and possibilities; reality is about the time and space of the here and now. He called this “first philosophy” metaphysics as previously discussed based upon the Greek words “meta” meaning beyond and “physica” meaning physical.

The question implies that we gain knowledge just be being alive, by … being. Those struggling to find food and shelter in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Nepal are in a state of being. We learn a great deal from such survivors and marvel at their tenacity and resiliency. Certainly they are giving life their every bit of effort. By doing so, are they also gaining knowledge? Those participating in a second night of riots in Baltimore are also putting energy and effort into their behavior but do we really think they are “learning” just by their doing?

Aristotle maintained that there are five “predictables”, five common ways that we discuss a subject or object. We can define the object very specifically [Aristotle referred to this as the species.] or we can discuss it in general terms [the genus]. We can notate what distinguishes it from other objects [the differentia], what makes it unique or special [propia], or we can discuss it by discussing things that are not like it [accidentals]. Philosophy instructor Dr. Maxwell Taylor illustrates Aristotle’s Predictables with one of my most favorite musical instruments and shapes – the lowly triangle. For instance, a triangle is specifically a three-sided figure or in general terms, a shape. It is different from other shapes by its number of sides and its properties are varied in that the sides can be of differing lengths. Perhaps the easiest way to describe a triangle is by comparing it to shapes it is not like, starting with the fact that it is not a rectangle, square, diamond, or rhombus.

The definition of something is that which makes it what it is. Aristotle called this “horos” which means definition. Porphyry called it “eidos” which means forms and Boethius called it “species” to imply an object’s specific essence. Both the survivors in Nepal and the protestors in Baltimore are living but their manner of form of living is very different. Still, both groups are living and that fact would be classified under the “genus”, that part of the two groups that, although very different, they share in common.

The genus is the general things found in common with other things that are otherwise different. Perhaps an easier illustration or analogy is that flowers would be the genus and roses, daffodils, tulips, and lilies would be the species. Not all species are the same, however. Some roses are climbing vines while others are bushes. Some flowers have specific number of petals while others have fewer or greater number of petals. This would be the differentia.

Things can become a bit involved, however, when we start discussing the “propia” or properties of an object. The general population in Nepal is not accustomed to great wealth or lavish luxuries but the current conditions in which they are living are very different from those of some of the protestors in Baltimore, residents of the area who also live in abject poverty and sometimes deplorable conditions. The destruction of businesses in Baltimore will leave some of the area’s residents homeless, although not homeless like the survivors in Nepal.

It is easier to use our analogy of the triangle; the properties are easier to explain. We’ve already mentioned that a triangle’s form or definition is a three-sided object. The genus would be that it is a shape. The differentia or differences between triangles is determined by the angles within the three-sided shape. Where the three lines of a triangle meet, angles are formed. Those angles differentiate one triangle from another. The specific angles are the properties of the triangle and there are six different types of triangles but do not make the object any more or less a triangle.

As I noted, triangles are one of my most favorite shapes and also musical instruments. The tone of the instrument can be affected y the type of metal used which affects the number of vibrations, the number of overtones and the sound that reaches your ears. The type of beater or mallet used also affects the tone as does the manner in which the triangle is hung or held. Most musical triangles are equilateral triangles, having three equal sides, although they come in varying shapes. Almost all musical triangles have the same basic pitch and skill in playing is determined by physical dexterity in handled in the beater as well as knowledge of acoustics. None of those things change the type of triangle being played or its general properties or its basic definition.

In addition to the equilateral triangle with three equal sides, there are five other types of triangles. An acute triangle is one with an angle less than ninety degrees. A right triangle, fittingly enough, contains a right angle or an angle of exactly ninety degrees while an obtuse triangle has an angle greater than ninety degrees but less than one hundred and eighty degrees. An isosceles triangle has two sides which are equal while a scalene triangle has no sides of equal length. These are all properties of a triangle but there is still yet another way we might describe or refer to a triangle.

Imagine if you will a page of triangles. The can be of varying types and sizes, some alike while others are different colors. I might ask you how many are isosceles triangles or how many are acute triangles. Either one of those questions would be answered by using something specific to the triangle or its classifications. What if I asked how many were black triangles or red or yellow? That response has nothing whatsoever to do with any specific aspect of the triangle but rather its color. Other things have those same colors – a box of crayons, a row of pants or sweaters, or even the flag of the state of Maryland, a flag proudly displayed on the law enforcement vehicles burned and overturned by the protestors in Baltimore. The fact that same of the triangles were red, black, or yellow has nothing to do with the definition of a triangle; it is simply another or accidental part of their description.

How can we apply these “Predictables” in our own philosophy of being, in our own living? Certainly all of mankind shares some things in commons. First of all, we are all mammals… but so are cows and dogs and cats. Man is known as “homo sapiens” or “wise being”. We have two genders, although that is being challenged in both life and the court systems around the world. We also have different ethnicities and races, often noted with adjectives denoting one’s skin color. Some use these latter descriptive types to denote value or worth or even potential. In some countries, cows are more revered than women; people are discriminated against or profiles based upon their skin color or even eye shape.

The study of philosophy gives us an argument for being. With it, hopefully, we can learn that existence is living and living means potential. A triangle is no less a triangle simply because it has three equal sides or no equal sides. A green triangle is just as much a triangle as a red triangle. Lives matter – black, brown, red, or white. The value of living is reason enough for us to give it our very best efforts, to give all of mankind our very best efforts. Aristotle noted: “The value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.”

Translucent Yet Powerful

Translucent Yet Powerful

Easter 23

The 1937 Nobel Prize fo4r Medicine was awarded to a Hungarian biochemist, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. He is noted for a great many things but I think his definition of water is the best. “Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Water is necessary for all living things, animal or vegetable and sadly it is not as abundant as the world needs. Water became the answer when on man sought to discover what the world was made of by rational thought. Known as Thales of Miletus, he is considered to be the first philosopher. Because water is essential to all living things, Thales reasoned that everything must be derived from it. Water exists in several forms: solid when cold; a gas when heated; liquid in what most consider its natural state. From this beginning and the reasoning of Thales of Miletus comes the modern theory that all matter can be reduced to energy.

The Tao philosopher Lao Tzu also considered the philosophical properties of water in the sixth century BCE. “Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet, when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant; the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it.”

Thales reasoned that the earth grew out of the water that surrounded the land masses. Over seventy-one percent of the earth’s mass is water, after all. His student Anaximander reasoned that the earth must float on air. If water supported the earth, he asked, what supported the water? Anaximander believed everything could be reduced to air. While neither man was correct, their argument/counterargument form of deduction still forms the basis for philosophical thought and discussion today.

OF course, though, philosophy encourages questioning and someone did just that after Thales and Anaximander. Heraclitus proposed a “theory of opposites”. He believed that rather than everything being derived from a single element, there was an underlying principle of change. The world to him consisted of opposing tendencies. His argument to support this theory was the basic fact that the path that went up a mountain was the same path that went down the mountain. Another analogy was the fact the while a river remains constant, the water within it is constantly moving and flowing. Heraclitus proposed that the reality we see as constant is really a reality of processes and changes.

Later Xenophanes would suggest that the knowledge we claim to know is just a hypothesis. Our searches for knowledge start from working hypotheses but the actual ultimate knowledge, the “truth of reality” will always be beyond our grasp to understand. Xenophanes believed in a cosmic composition of life, based upon two extremes – wet and dry. He combined the Milesian ideas of air and water with Heraclitus’ views of opposites and used fossils to support his theories. This was the first evidence-based argument recorded.

Philosophy would not remain in this mode of thinking for long. It would evolve into theories based upon something being everything and nothing being impossible to be something. We’ll save that for another day, though. What we should focus on today as we start Monday is whether or not we are one element or living in a state of contrasting opposites.

Night falls at different times on the earth as the planet revolves through its orbit around the sun. Just as the timing of the night is different so does what nighttime looks like. For the child growing up in a refugee camp, night might be a period of cooler temps but scary flashes of light indicating mortar rounds being fired. For the child snug in their bed in Paris, the City of Lights, nighttime is a warm blanket and a calming bedtime story.

Today I heard a story about a school-aged child whose class went on an over-night field trip to a state camp. The two-day excursion included nature walks and environmental lessons. The child’s class was to be the last to experience such a visit as the camp was deemed inefficient with a delinquent revenue stream. Sitting around the campfire, the children listened to the sounds of the night. Two weeks later, as he closed down the program and prepared for his next job, the director of the program received an envelope of thank-you notes from that last class.

The drawings of the various birds, and other wildlife discussed he had expected but it was the simple handwritten note of a young girl that truly touched him. “Thank you,” she wrote, “for showing me what creation is really about. I liked the walking, the trees, the flowers, and learning how to reuse things. I liked seeing the baby rabbits and although it was scary, even the snake in the grass on the trail. My favorite, though, was learning that nighttime can be nice. At my house I cannot see the stars. I see the restaurant signs. We don’t have quiet on our block. We hear cars and sometimes, gunshots. At camp, I got to see the stars and hear the quiet and then the call of the night animals. What I saw at camp was creation. Bobby next door calls it Allah and my grandma calls it God. I am just going to call it life. Thank you for showing me what life can be.”

We all see life each and every day. Like the water Lao Tzu spoke of, life can sometimes attack us and we might feel we cannot withstand it. With knowledge though, and thought, we can learn to be flexible and by being flexible, gain strength. Knowledge is power when applied properly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr summed it up: “Science investigates religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control.”