The Dreaded “D” Word

The Dreaded “D” Word

Lent 33

 

Editorial Note:  Someone asked why I would begin a perfectly good week with a discussion about discipline.  Well, as it turns out, due to weather, scheduling snafus I can attribute to the time change in the United States regarding Daylight Savings Time, and the inevitable hiccups that occur when we connect cyberspace with realistic space, you got an extra day without the discipline discussion.  Like everything in life, however, discipline has caught up with us.

 

When we think of discipline, we usually think about punishment.  What we should be thinking is academics.  Lent 19, two weeks ago, we discussed evangelism of self and how we presented ourselves and advocated for ourselves to others.  I remarked on the general reaction whenever anyone used the word evangelism and how perhaps we should replace it with “habit” or “presence”.

 

Discipline is another of those words that draws an immediate and strong response, one that is usually negative.  The word originates from the Latin “discipulus”.  The Latin word referred to objects of knowledge and/or instruction and could be either actual objects or elements that assisted instruction such as teachers.    Our usual response to the word and definition that involves punishment and that comes from the French derivative of the original Latin “descepline”, which defined the term as physical punishment used to aid in teaching.

 

Discipline and punishment became connected because someone was not a good student.  That may seem like the punchline of a joke but it really isn’t. Because students needed some sort of organization in their studies and later on, some type of behavior motivation to complete said studies, the two worlds of academia and punishment became one in defining the word discipline.

 

Bertrand Russell wrote an interesting treatise on education and punishment and approached the two in a manner befitting our purpose in growing a better self.  Russell wrote: “Any serious educational theory must consist of two parts: a conception of the ends of life, and a science of psychological dynamics, i.e. of the laws of mental change. … The conception which I should substitute as the purpose of education is civilization, a term which, as I mean it, has a definition which is partly individual, partly social. It consists, in the individual, of both intellectual and moral qualities: intellectually, a certain minimum of general knowledge, technical skill in one’s own profession, and a habit of forming opinions on evidence; morally, of impartiality, kindliness, and a modicum of self-control. I should add a quality which is neither moral nor intellectual, but perhaps physiological: zest and joy of life. In communities, civilization demands respect for law, justice as between man and man, purposes not involving permanent injury to any section of the human race, and intelligent adaptation of means to ends. If these are to be the purpose of education, it is a question for the science of psychology to consider what can be done towards realizing them, and, in particular, what degree of freedom is likely to prove most effective.

 

Russell felt we should substitute the idea of education as purely academic and make it reality.  Russell proposed we think as education as living, the only way and true meaning of the word civilization.  After all, the purpose of education is for the betterment of civilization and its continuance, Russell felt.

 

Bertrand Russell has strong views on the organization or discipline of education.  “On the question of freedom in education there are at present three main schools of thought, deriving partly from differences as to ends and partly from differences in psychological theory. There are those who say that children should be completely free, however bad they may be; there are those who say they should be completely subject to authority, however good they may be; and there are those who say they should be free, but in spite of freedom they should be always good. This last party is larger than it has any logical right to be; children, like adults, will not all be virtuous if they are all free. The belief that liberty will ensure moral perfection is a relic of Rousseauism, and would not survive a study of animals and babies. Those who hold this belief think that education should have no positive purpose, but should merely offer an environment suitable for spontaneous development. I cannot agree with this school, which seems to me too individualistic, and unduly indifferent to the importance of knowledge. We live in communities which require co-operation, and it would be utopian to expect all the necessary co-operation to result from spontaneous impulse. The existence of a large population on a limited area is only possible owing to science and technique; education must, therefore, hand on the necessary minimum of these. The educators who allow most freedom are men whose success depends upon a degree of benevolence, self-control, and trained intelligence which can hardly be generated where every impulse is left unchecked; their merits, therefore, are not likely to be perpetuated if their methods are undiluted. Education, viewed from a social standpoint, must be something more positive than a mere opportunity for growth. It must, of course, provide this, but it must also provide a mental and moral equipment which children cannot acquire entirely for themselves.”

 

That reads like quite a lot and it is but I implore you to please take the time to go back through it and make up your own opinion.  There are some things in that paragraph I like and others I do not agree with at all.  Two things stand out to me:  Russell’s disbelief in spontaneous goodness and a strict adherence or rules for life.

 

I believe in organization and really like organizing things.  Do not assume this means my house is spotless.  It is clean but very cluttered and I make very few apologies for that.  Life is much more than simply putting things in their place.  For me life is about using what we have learned and being open to learning more.  Russell would probably disregard that discipline or school of thought.

 

I also believe the purpose of learning and living is to develop those spontaneous good thoughts and actions which Russell does not think possible or beneficial.  “We live in communities which require co-operation, and it would be utopian to expect all the necessary co-operation to result from spontaneous impulse. The existence of a large population on a limited area is only possible owing to science and technique.”  I respectfully disagree with Russell on this.  Yes we are able to occupy large numbers of people within a confined space due to advancements made with science and technology but the application of that science and technology must include benevolent deeds which are instigated by benevolent thoughts and feelings.  When we forego such, we lose our humanity.

 

Discipline is necessary because it actually defines us.  When seeing a very large person unknown to them, many people assume the person is lazy.  This is a horrible first assumption but it is the first impression many have.  Perhaps the person is not physically active but there could be good reasons for this.  Very few of us are intelligently active.  Reread that last sentence please.  Most of us either are haphazard in our physical activity or obsessive.

 

The disciplines we develop give our life meaning and definition.  We cannot discuss our garden of self and soul without discussing discipline.  Our week will not, hopefully, be morose, though.  Discipline can be fun and entertaining.  It also will mean a cleansing of the soul, so to speak, if I am to continue to be honest with you.

 

So relax and be open to leaning and perhaps developing a new pleasant discipline.  Some believe one of the first and great disciplinarians was Plato.  I will let him have today’s last word:  “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

 

 

An Eye 4 an Eye; a Heart 4 All

An Eye 4 an Eye; a heart 4 All

Lent 4

 

In mathematics, a Motzkin number for a given number n is the number of different ways of drawing non-intersecting lines between n points on a circle.  This may not seem very interesting to you but Motzkin numbers cross mathematical genres and have a variety of purposes in determining and defining our lives.  I find these numbers interesting because they appear as illustrations – lines drawn between two points or more on a circle.  We live on a planet that is often represented by a globe, which is as you know a circle.  Whenever people connect, they often form the illustration of a Motzkin number.  You know how much I like connections; no surprise that I like Motzkin numbers.

 

Four is a Motzkin number.  It is also a number, a numeral, and a glyph.  Let’s work backwards in defining the number “4”.  First though, we have to talk about typography.  You all are typography experts, especially if you read my blog posts.  I can be a good proofreader but often miss things in my own posts.  This is usually because I am caught in a time-crunch but also because my mind knows what I wanted to put on the page and so it sees what it thought I wrote and not what is on the page itself.   Typography is arranging things in such a way that they can be read and understood.  Typography is important in numbers because it gives them meaning.  The dashes between a phone number take it from being an identification number to being a phone number, from representing an account number to a website address.

 

A person writing wants their writing to be understood and sometimes a glyph is employed to do this.  A glyph is a symbol within an agreed-upon set of symbols that is intended to represent a character, a character that exists only in writing.  Glyphs are those marks that collectively result in the spelling of a word or contribute to the meaning.  I should note that such meaning is entirely dependent upon culture and the usage within a certain social construct.  Think about the lower case “I”.  Written properly, there is a dot above the small vertical line.  The dot is not a glyph because it doesn’t really mean anything and the “I” is recognizable without it.  In the Turkish language, though, that dot is a glyph because the Turkish language has two distinct versions of the letter “I” – one with a dot and one without a dot.

 

Four follows the number three and comes just before the number five.  It is the only number that has the same number of letters in the English language as the value it represents.  A number is a theoretical concept that represents a certain value and a numeral is the physical representation of that value.  Thus the number “4” is a number, a numeral, and a glyph.

 

Although the number four is found within the Torah, the Quran, and the Bible (Luke 13:29), Biblical numerology does not usually contain the number four.  It is a different story in numerology, that concept that assigns meaning and distinction to numbers.  In that discipline, the number “4” is a number of stability, order, and completion of justice.  Succinctly put, number “4” is the number of earth and mankind.

 

Four appears quite often in our lives.  There are four points on a compass, four winds, four moon phases, four seasons, and in Western living, four basic elements – earth, wind, fire, and water.  The ancient Greeks considered four to be a perfect number.  In Pythagorean philosophy (Who remembers that from blogs past?) there are four parts of the human soul: mind, opinion, science, and sense.  The luckiest symbol on earth is the four-leaf clover, with each leaf symbolic of mankind’s living – hope, faith, love, luck.

 

This series is about growing a better self and even in gardening there are four basic steps: preparation, planting, cultivation, harvest.  Every day we live those four steps…or we should.  Every day we are subjected to the four parts of the human souls of others – their thoughts or mind’s doing, their opinions, their interpretation of science, and their logic or sense.  We respond in kind with our own four parts of our own individual souls.  We go through each day with hope, faith, seeking love, and counting a receiving a little bit of luck along the way.

 

We ourselves were once the theoretical concept of whomever we believe it the Creator or Supreme Spirit.  We are also the living representation of said concept and we each are characters within a greater set of characters – that set known as mankind.  We connect like lines on a circle in everything we do and all of our actions affect not only the rest of mankind but the earth on which we live.  In the Western world the fourth anniversary is one of fruits and flowers – things that bloom within a garden.

 

Go out today and bloom, living as one of many, knowing that your actions and being counts to us all.  Just like the fruits and flowers, we blossom and then rest, and then again find purpose in our being.  Even for those who have passed, there is still purpose.  They contributions to our living are not forgotten, just as those plants that have lived out their life cycle become part of the mulch that feeds the future garden.  You are important; you have value.  You are the fruits of life and the future of tomorrow.

Prepositions and Miracles

Prepositions and Miracles

Pentecost 122

As you know I love feedback from you guys, my readers and followers.  It is, after all the purpose of this blog – to engage in conversation as we engage in our living.  I do not identify the responder unless they request it due to privacy concerns and respect but I do value each of you deeply.  Over the weekend I was asked a really interesting question:  Aren’t these myths out of date?

I mentioned several days ago that a family member had been in an automobile accident and was in a coma.  She remains in a coma and while some progress has been seen, the outlook is still up in the air.  In other words, we are hoping and praying for a miracle.  Tomorrow her youngest will celebrate her second birthday so while it has become the new “normal” to visit her in the hospital, this celebration of life is also reminding us of the fragility of life.

The mythologies of mankind also served to remind us about the fragility of life.  While they seldom called the endings of their tales of colorful characters, fantastic exploits, and incredible out-of-this-world powers “miracles”, that is how other writings would classify them.  More importantly, they were guidelines for living and, since we are all still living, then I don’t believe them to be out of date.

Depending on the culture, the purpose of the myths varied while many of the characters and deeds were strikingly similar.  While there seems to have been a “parallel development” as Carl Jung phrased it in the development of similar stories, some simply choose to believe that these commonalities are the result of travel.  They believe that, like the trade winds that carried the trading vessels to all parts of the world, exploration and travel carried the stories that were then altered to fit the culture.  I choose to believe there is a much simpler answer: We are all human.

In the throes of tragedy or great confusion, we need to make order out of the chaos.  It is how our brains function and the mind works.  Our eyes see everything as it is but how our brain interprets those visions is not always accurate.  Place a large rectangle in a room identified to us as a bedroom and the rectangle is first thought to be a bed because it makes sense.  That is why fifty eye witnesses can all be telling what they perceive to be the truth and yet none of them tell the same story.

Mythology is the collection of man’s attempt to make order from the chaos that life sometimes throws our way.  The stories may seem unbelievable to those of us living in the twenty-first century but that is just because we have become egotistical.  We think, with all our technology, that we know all the answers.  We don’t even know all the questions so how can we possible know all the answers?

One of my favorite parts of speech is the lowly preposition.  Like the myths of old and even those newer ones, prepositions give us direction.  Place the candle…where?  On the table.  Run…where?  Up the hill.  Where is she hiding?  Around the corner.    Often overlooked, the importance of the preposition is found in its definition:  “a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause”; “a relationship between other words in a sentence”.

Mythologies, those weird stories about even weirder deities that can’t have possibly defied the laws of gravity to accomplish what they allegedly achieved, are all about our relationships – to nature, to each other, to ourselves, and to the universe.  A simple word such as “in” or “after” or “on” may seem insignificant or meaningless but really, without them we would be lost.  We would be left with only “here” or “there”.  We would have no relationship with our living.

I cannot prove that miracle have ever occurred but to an ancient Greek or aborigine, I think the lifting of a space ship that then circles the planet while men and women live within it might just qualify.  What we consider science today was once an imaginary story, the dream of someone many considered crazy.  The miraculous cures that saved many from plagues and viral epidemics are science but they are also answered prayers.

In December we will discuss prayers for all cultures have some sort of them, regardless of what they are called.  Today, though, think about the prepositions in your speech and your actions.  I picked the cup of tea up off the table.  I pushed the vacuum across the floor.  I placed my hand on the puppy’s head.  I also petted the cat but anyone who is owned by a cat knows the cat places their head under your hand!  I raise my spirits and prayers to the supreme being of my beliefs.  It may be neither here nor there but the fact is we are here and, for my at least, mythologies still hold meaning.  And I will continue to have hope that my family member will experience the miracle of science and faith in her recovery.

A Constant Light

A Constant Light

Pentecost 95

It is known as the North Star.  The brightest star in the night sky, children learn to first find the constellation Ursa Minor and then look at the tip of its handle to locate it.  Known by its scientific name of Polaris, this tar is the celestial body most closely aligned with the north pole of the earth’s axis and has been used to guide mankind home since the beginning of time… except that it hasn’t.

The constellations were once one of man’s greatest mythologies and the basis for many gods and goddesses.  Which came first?  It is not pertinent to our discussion today but it is a great topic for discussion.  Did someone name a grouping of stars in the visible night sky after belief in a particular deity or was an image seen in the night heavens the reason for a particular belief?

Polaris is the star most closely aligned to the north and many call it brightest star in the nighttime sky.  Actually, it is not the brightest, coming in at approximately number fifty, depending on where you are, the time of year, and a number of other factors.  Polaris has not always been the North Star, either.

Three thousand years before the common era (BCE), a star known as Thuban in the constellation Draco served as the North Star.  Today it is invisible in urban areas being only one-fifth as bright as Polaris.  One thousand years BCE, a Greek navigator named Pytheas disdained the concept of a North Star.  Ursa Minoris was actually the star closest to the north celestial pole but it was too far to be of any real use for navigation.  During Roman times the celestial pole was equal distance between Cynosura and Kochab, Ursa Minoris A and Ursa Minoris B.

Kochab is actually one hundred and thirty times more luminous and these two stars are found in the bowl of the Little Dipper, Ursa Minor.  Cynosura was also known in Anglo-Saxon England by the name scip-steorra or “ship star”.  Cynosura was called Stella Polaris in the sixteenth century although it was several degrees from the actual northern celestial pole.

The earth may seem constant to us, the ground usually remaining under our feet except for earthquakes and sink holes but in reality the earth is always moving.  As it rotates around the sun, it also rotates on its axis which means that the North Star of today will not be the North Star of the tomorrow in time to come.  Around the year 3000 ACE, the star Gamma Cephei or Alrai will become the star closest to the northern celestial pole.  It will be replaced by that Star Iota Cephei in the years 5200 ACE, and then in 10000 ACE, the star Deneb will be the North Star at a position within five degrees of the North Pole.

Polaris, our current North Star, will once again regain its throne as the star closest to the northern celestial pole in 27800 ACE (or CE) but it will not be as close to the pole as it is now.  In fact, Its closest position the North Pole was in 23600 BCE.  Does this mean we should not use Polaris as a guide to determine the compass point of north if lost?  Of course it doesn’t.  It simply means that life is constantly evolving and mankind is as well.

The religion, beliefs, or faith of mankind have long been used as a guiding principle for how one lives.  Whether or not you consider yourself religious or spiritual, you have a sense of self, a sense of how to live.  Even the most spontaneous individual has a system for living.  When we feel hunger, we hope to something to eat.  When cold, we seek warmth, either from a change in room temperature, by applying more clothing, or by leaving the frigid area.  Life is based upon stimulus-response.

The monotheistic mythologies of the Abrahamic religions gave a sense of navigation to their deity.  Ancient mythologies had man reacting to the deities of the various cultures but this monotheistic deity was more a compass point for daily living.  “Or Goyim” was a “light to the nations”.  Faith was not just to be a part of the collective culture but a personal belief and the deity “Jehovah Ori” not just a deity but “the Lord my light”.

A tree planted in the ground will grow at an approximate rate, much like the North Star is approximately the star closest to the northern celestial pole.  However, as we have learned, Polaris will not always be the North Star and neither will a tree planted grow exactly as another of the same species planted at the same time.  As mankind grew, even with one monotheistic mythology, mankind grew differently and the deity of these faiths was seen from differing perspectives.  There may have been one deity but it had differing interpretations.  The “Jehovah El Emeth”, this “Lord God of truth” was seen from diverse perspectives.

There are those who might claim there is no one deity.  There are those that reject the scientific view that Polaris will not always be the North Star.  After all, who will be around to verify, who could be able to see both Polaris and Gamma Cephai?  The answer is, of course, no one.  Man/Woman cannot live as long as the stars do.

What is important is how we believe.  I need not worry about the North Star three thousand years from now.  I need to worry about that which can lead me home, that which can give my life meaning and purpose.  We all need a North Star in our living, virtual, spiritual, and actual.

To Be or Not to …Exist?

To Be or Not to … Exist?

Pentecost 84

Imagine yourself at midnight on a dark road, away from civilization with only the sounds of the surrounding countryside to keep you company.  Suddenly, light seems to dart across the sky.  It is as if the newly discovered ability to create fire has been found by the nighttime sky.  Suddenly more and more fire streams across the sky.  Is it raining fire and if so, why has it fallen?  As quickly as the streaks of light appeared, they seem to vanish, falling into the oblivion of where the sky meets the earth.

If you were outside the past two nights in the northern hemisphere, you might just have seen the image I described.  Of course, you would have realized that what you were witnessing were the Persoid meteor showers.  The annual meteor shower performance is nothing new but this year the meteors were especially visible due to the new moon being present (or not) at the same time.  The absence of moonlight made the falling meteors appear even brighter than their normal which is so bright that in 2014 the National Space and Aeronautical Agency or NASA deemed the Persoid “Fireball Champion”.

What if mankind had not yet discovered meteors?  What would you have thought then, seeing those bright streaks of light seemingly fall to earth right before your very eyes?  It is easy to understand why our ancestors developed the mythologies they passed on to us, stories that told of angry gods and goddesses controlling the elements.

There were many similar names for the one deity of the Abrahamic mythologies that became the religions we know today of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity:  Elohim Bashamayim, God in Heaven; Jehovah El Elyon, Lord Most High; Jehovah Elohim, Lord God; Jehovah Elohim Ab, the Lord God of Your Forefathers; Jehovah Ha-Melech, The Lord, the King; Elohei Marom, God on High; Elohei Haelohim, the God of Gods; Jehovah Adon Kol Ha-arets, the Lord, the Lord of all the Earth; Jehovah Tsaba, the Lord of Hosts; Elohim Tsebaoth, God of Hosts; Eli Maelekhi, God my King.  All names that were to answer questions about the reality mankind was living each and every day.

The Greek Aristotle sought to explain reality and his views were widely accepted until a man named Isaac Newton began to offer his ideas.  The English writer Alexander Pope explained the impact and popularity of Isaac newton with this: “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night;  God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light.”  Newton’s ideas were not all original, though.  One of his first laws about motion and the state of a body of matter, the reality of said body, was actually something first discovered by Galileo: : “Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”

Galileo’s idea strongly opposed the beliefs of the Roman Church, beliefs which were based upon the mythologies that preceded the Church and gave reason for its being.  Those mythologies proclaimed God as the Creator of the earth and so the earth had to be the center of the universe so created.  What this deity had created was their planet, the land beneath their feet.  Their mythologies did not mention outer space or even gravity.  It was the nature of our creation that grounded us, literally and spiritually.

Newton proposed that the reality or state of each body of matter should be and could be described in terms of its position, its velocity, and its acceleration.  Once a person knew these things, Newton postulated the future could be predicted by forecasts of future positions and velocities.  Not only were Newton’s theories more simple than those of Aristotle, they left little room for the effects of a deity on such matter or bodies.  The early religions could find no place for their deity and many, as they had done with Galileo, rejected the science.  This rejection and rift between science and religion continues today.

The fact is that there is much we do not know, much that even our wonderful stories and legends of mortal and immortal deities and mankind has yet to explain.  I am fairly certain that I am alive.  I exist.  The nature of my existence is dependent upon my well-being – mentally, emotionally, and physically.  Like water in a pond, our bodies and minds can stagnate.  I may not be a doctor and I certainly am not Sir Isaac Newton but I do know that my body will stagnate if I fail to care for it and use it.  Muscles atrophy within ten days so if I take a vacation and sit in a chair for two weeks, I have reduced my ability to move.  Spiritually and religiously, we also need to exercise our beliefs.  Science, in my opinion, is not our enemy in doing this but can be a great help.

Once upon a time there was one state of matter – the solid matter which early mankind could see, touch, taste, feel, and hear.  Then there were two as man realized that water could move, air could move; we had a state of liquidity.  The idea of fluid matter gave rise to other ideas, seemingly unrelated and with the invention of a fulcrum or lever, even the heaviest rocks could be moved.  Mankind was on the move and had the ability to alter the solid state of his/her existing terrain.  Then we realized that some solid things or even those that were fluid could disappear, vanish into thin air.  We recognized a third state of matter – gas.  For centuries students were taught that there were three states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas.  The world revolved on its axis very well with these three states of matter and even the religious community embraced it.  The same early Christian Church that had excommunicated Galileo now used the three states as symbolic of their Holy Trinity, a concept of God in three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Life continued, and consequentially, so did science.  A fourth state of matter was recognized, a state of super-heated gasses called plasma.  We enjoy our plasma screens for entertainment watching and even espouse their educational value in lecture halls but seldom realize their connection to unbelievable mythologies.  Plasma if foretold to our ancestors would have seemed as unbelievable as some of their myths seem to us today.

Don’t get ready to close this page quite yet.  The story of reality isn’t over because, just as life is continuing, so is science.  There is now a fifth state of matter, a fifth way we can exist, called the Bose-Einstein condensate.  First developed as a theory by two scientists in 1925, it took over seventy years to prove.  Just as gas is a state of matter that occurs when things are heated, a reality in which water for example turns to steam and then is dissipated into the atmosphere, the Bose-Einstein condensate is what happens when matter is made as cold as possible, taken down to the temperature known as absolute zero.  Molecules within steam move very fast and when taken to the opposite extreme, to the coldest possible, they have little or no energy at all. It is as if an ancient deity has frozen them for eternity.

If our beliefs are to have value, we need to understand their state of being.  The tenets of my faith are solid to me based upon my education, understand, and believing.  When I share them in the form of compassion, charity, and kindness to all, they become liquid, flowing over all I encounter.  Taking part in what we often term a “mission”, those tenets of faith become are energized and when combined with the work of others, are supercharged in helping an even greater and larger population.

However, and there is a big however, there is that pesky new fifth state of being – even for our belief systems.  That is that state of coldness, the state that we ourselves create when whatever name we call our deity or deities represents coldness.  Our beliefs become cold and reach an absolute zero stage when we alienate.  You have faith and live it or that faith will into a state of being with no energy whatsoever.  It really is that simple.  If our beliefs, our religions, and/or our spiritualities are to exist, we must give them life. It really is the only state of being for one’s faith.

From Myth to Material

From Myth to Material

Pentecost 67

In 1987, an author wrote to a publication regarding the possibility of publishing his work. Recognizing that his writing, like that of a few other authors did not comfortably fit into any established genres, he wittingly came up with a new name for it.

Dear Locus,

Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I’d appreciate your being so good as to route it Faren Miller, as it’s a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in “the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate” was writing in the “gonzo-historical manner” first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.

Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like ‘steam-punks’, perhaps.

—K.W. Jeter

The writers had taken the imaginings of writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and combined them with the fashion of the Victorian era with the current mythologies of the science fiction world. It may have seemed like an impossible pairing but it was really nothing new.

The genre of science fiction had for a century taken fiction and provided a breeding ground for technological advancements as the stories told became the fact of the modern world. Jules Verne imagined a ship that would sail not on the water but under it, twenty thousand leagues under it, as a matter of fact. The advent of movies made these stories take on visual realities and inspired inventions that today are commonplace.

Verne did not invent the submarine. He named his sub the Nautilus after the real-life submarine of the same name invented by Robert Fulton in 1800. He had also seen the French submarine, the Plongeur, at an 1887 exposition. His imagination, however, whetted the appetite of underwater pioneers and gave inspiration that such devices could be appreciated and valued.

Space travel has also gotten a boost from various authors in the telling of their out-of-this world stories. George Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” and Fritz Lang’s “Woman in the Moon” are two such examples that, while some aspects of their stories like the lunar surface were off base, others such as the launching of the spaceship from a cannon were closer to reality.

Today, some of you might be reading this on a tablet computer. Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001 – A Space Odyssey” not only accurately portrayed the hand-held computer we call a tablet but also the time period of its birth. The movie props even became part of the landmark court case when Samsung used the film against Apple’s assertion for their iPad design claim was original. The Star Trek franchise accurately predicted such things as mobile phones, 3-D printers, and the latest smart device, the smart watch.

Even the movie Short Circuit combined technology with mythology in telling an accurate depiction of militaries worldwide interest in robots. Today the robots are used in both defensive and destructive manners but also in life-saving maneuvers such as detonating bombs and even performing surgeries in hyperbaric chambers. Laser surgeries save lives every day and are the same of science fiction from a century ago.

The stories of our cultures have tremendous impact, not only on the current listeners but those who might read these tales in the future and those who become inspired by them. It is very easy to dismiss them as the ramblings of prehistoric men with no knowledge of their world or science. These mythologies speak of mankind’s dreams and aspirations.

No one person is a commodity and no one has the right to make them feel that way. Life is about much more that simply going through the motions each and every day. The mythologies of antiquity encouraged our ancestors to not only believe in the immortal beings of their imaginations but also to believe in themselves. It is a belief we should have discover, explore, and feed. There is much more to life than simply going through each hour in drudgery.

It is a beautiful world out there and it exists not just for the privileged or the wealthy but for us all. The basic premise of each mythology was to explain the material aspect of life while never forgetting the mystical quality of life itself. Find the magic in your life today – the magic of a sincere smile, the joy of a hug, the promise of a better tomorrow.

True to Self

True to Self

Pentecost 64

It has not been that long since the twentieth century poet e. e. cummings wrote: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” It is theme often repeated in Greek and Roman mythologies. Disguised as one thing in an effort to woo someone, both mortal s and deities discovered what actress Judy Garland knew: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

The Roman god Faunas doubted his appeal and so he crawled into bed with his vision of beauty, Omphale…or so he thought. Omphale was the mistress of Hercules and the two had retired for the evening in a cave. Faunas reached over to hug his beloved and instead discovered a very hairy chest. Apparently, Hercules and Omphale had worn each other’s bed clothes for the evening. Faunas crept away, ashamed and humiliated and became known for nudity.

The story of Pomona is another illustration of the virtue in being one’s self. Pomona was a nymph who became the goddess of the harvest. She was also the dream of Vertumnus, the god of the changing seasons. Uncertain of his appeal, Vertumnus adopted many different disguises to try to win the affections of Pomona, all to no avail. Finally he simply appeared as himself before Pomona who immediately fell in love with him.

Some deities were so sure of their power that they simply road roughshod over everyone to get what they wanted. The story of Flora is one such story. Flora was the Roman goddess of flowers and fertility, known by the Greeks as Chloris. Flora was originally a wood nymph, known for her personal beauty. The god of the west wind, Favonius (the Greek Zephyrus), spied Flora one day, fell madly in love, chased and then abducted her. The story had a happy ending, though, because Flora fell in love with her captor.

The Greek name of Flora, Chloris, has remained with us in botany, chloris being the name of a type of grass. As an herb, chloris is said to bring luck and also good health. Sometimes known as monkey grass or crab grass, the spiked grass emanates from a cluster at its base. It is also known as five-finger grass and species of it are found world-wide. In many temperate regions it is used as a ground cover, valued for its evergreen hue year round. It is not the lush carpet grass we see on the greens of golf courses but it its own right, chloris can provide ground cover and erosion control that the more “pretty” grasses cannot and it heartier than they are as well.

Whether masquerading to win the attentions of another or simply growing wherever, it is important to represent yourself for what and who you are. To do anything else means to be living a lie. Chloris is not clover nor is it a rose bush. In its own right and place, though, it has great value. For some deities, pretense was the path to misery. For a select few, it was successful but because of their actions but rather the charity and generosity of their attendees.

We must be true to who we are. To live otherwise is to live in misery. Ralph Ellison wrote in “Battle Royal”: “All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: that I am nobody but myself.”

Each step we take need to be taken with confidence with ourselves. We should not attempt to live posing as what the world wants or by following trends. When we fail to live our beliefs, we give up any personal power we might lay claim to ever possessing. There is much to learn but there is value in celebrating the self.