Saturday, August 29, 2009

More on The Spoon

The Buddha once taught his disciples, that if a man said he had a soul they should disagree. He then went on to also say that if a man said he had no soul, again they should disagree. This is a paradox of the transcendent, an observation about both the stabile unchanging nature of the universe, and also its chaotic upredictable condition of constant change. We regularly learn to do and become things which are impossible at the earlier time. This requires, in some situations, for a person to step away from the world he knows and accept one he does not know, to replace the present form with the desired version.

In The Matrix, the world of the Matrix is illusory in that none of the material facts are true, yet the people who live there are real, the things they do are real and if someone dies in the Matrix world, they die for real. Thus, we see that transcendent paradox present in the Matrix, and the lesson here is that our world is similarly transcendent.

In the films we often see Jedi Masters demonstrating the results of apparent meditation and intospection - these are done off-camera for obvious cinematic reasons, but we should not ignore their occurence. So too in the human world, many masters in different fields act only after long prior consideration and introspection.

Consider that in the films, the Jedi Masters Yoda, Obi Wan, and Anikin all die, and their resolution following death is subtly but undeniably different. We also see their way of action and even thought in different dimensions. It should follow that Jedi, being individuals in the majority of their lives, also find distinctive and personal identities in their walk. The paradox here is that in losing the pride of self, they refine their perception of the nouminous, and so are unfooled by mere phenomenon.

The 'spoon' I refute, therefore, is not the material spoon, but the phenomenon of the spoon. The underlying reality remains and is seen for its true character ad purpose, and as such true wisdom and attainment are made possible.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Matrix and Jedi

There is no spoon.

Early in the movie The Matrix, the character Neo meets with a number of "potentials" in the sitting room of an apartment of a being known as 'The Oracle'. I'm not going to go too far into that film, so no worries if you have not seen The Matrix, but I recommend the movie because it helps illustrate something of how the Jedi mindset works. There is something of the Zen in both cultures, even if the movie is fictional and the origin of Jedi as well. That is, a valid source is valid regardless of its cause and development. Also, just as in The Matrix the character Neo discovers that his world is illusory and his potential exceeds far beyond the apparent boundaries imposed by his perception, so too do the Jedi discover abilities which transcend beyond their own apparent limits. While some people may regard this observation as a naïve claim to supernatural abilities, in reality this discovery reminds the Jedi to doubt his senses, trust intution and find his core essence. When attained, this ability not only improve physical limits to some degree, but also perception, critical thinking and meditation.

In The Matrix, Neo meets a young boy who appears to be bending and unbending a spoon with his mind. The boy explains that this can only be done when you realize that there is no spoon. Later, Neo ralizes that because the Matrix is a world that does not exist in reality but is merely virtual, he can manipulate the Matrix to change the world as he sees fit, provided he focuses on the underlying reality instead of superficial perceptions. That is a valid lesson for the Jedi as well, as expressed in Yoda’s maxim “Do … or do not. There is no ‘try’.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Reconciliation of Souls

The passing of Edward Kennedy yesterday has provoked a great many comments, most of them predictable in their spirit and intent. While Senator Kennedy was best known as a political man and his person is generally judged in the light of his political actions and behavior, there is also a strong moral judgment in the public appraisal of the man, and to that end we may consider the condition of his soul. That does not mean that we are fit to do so, but judging others is a very common practice, even a game, among humans. Pride being the chief of sins, we often imagine that we can speak as we will about others with no worry about the consequences we bring upon ourselves.

And there is the point for this article. There are many things we cannot know in this life, but one sure thing is that we all must die. We are finite, and we are imperfect at best, and frankly most of us have things in our lives which we would be very happy to keep private and hidden away, if they could not be erased from the record completely. That’s not to say we are all guilty to the same degree, but all the same there’s few enough of us who could honestly claim to deserve the reputation we show the public.

Those who wish to condemn a man for his life, should remember that we all fail to some degree, and for all that we may rightly curse another for his wrongs we never know completely his own pain and trials, what may have brought him to speak and act as he did. And those who wish to praise a man might consider that everything we do will falter and end just as our own bodies do. The greatest acts of men have all come to end, so that only the Divine touch makes anything endure.

And that is where God and human souls come into the matter. All that truly matters is of God, and all that we may hope for depends in the end on His perfect will and hope of His mercy. Through all of Man’s history there have been attempts to make sense of the human identity and our place in the Cosmos, from ancient myths and legends to theology and reasoned thought, extending to every conceivable conclusion, including skepticism and antitheist hostility. In the end, however, one comes to one of three places – rejection of everything not proven beyond the possibility of doubt, belief in a greater purpose and Person than this universe proves, or essential doubt and abandonment of the question for fear of the question.

I believe we are made for better purpose, indeed we are each of us specially made for not only a purpose but a specific personage. We are each of us unique in our person, yet part of family, community and nation in many ways. This life ends precisely because it, and we, are imperfect, so that we may learn perfection and seek the greater person we are to become. I do not accept the notion that if someone murders someone else and is never arrested, if someone rapes another person and never serves a day in prison, if someone oppresses someone else through intimidation and never faces an accounting in this life, that there is no accounting for that injustice. I will not accept the claim that someone’s good dies with him and has no value beyond the moment. I believe and affirm that while God remains invisible to human eyes, He is imminent to us in faith and truth and hope. All that we do is either perfected or consumed according to its nature, and every one of us will discover good and evil in our lives to a greater depth than we ever suspected before.

All souls are made by God, yet all people are given free will to choose our disposition. I cannot promise heaven to anyone, as heaven belongs to God Almighty and must serve Him perfectly and so I cannot speak to His judgment. I also will not condemn anyone to hell, knowing its eternal torment and again being unworthy to sit in judgment of another sinner. Paul wrote that we believers shall judge angels, but may the Lord save me from the pride of believing that I am fit to judge my neighbor.

How the world ends is written in Scripture, but the mystery of a specific person who can say? I cannot earn heaven but cannot bear hell, nor do I imagine any man could do so save our Savior. So I depend, as we all do, on our Advocate and Champion to resolve what is, as always has been, beyond our ken, and for my part I pray that Edward chose well and sincerely. For even among Christ’s own hand-picked disciples, two betrayed Him and came to repent of it, yet one chose a way that ended in condemnation while the other was reconciled in penitence by the Lord’s grace. In the end we are resolved by greater power and purpose than we know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Angels and Nations

I had my colonoscopy and am able to enjoy solid food again without angering Al Gore, if you take my meaning. I have been doing some reading and some thinking on things theological, and have what I believe is a worthwhile consideration about Paul’s vision of the ‘third heaven’. But for now I have another thought which mixes politics with religion, always a recipe for lively debate I think.

Over the years I have sometimes been surprised by the way that things take a sudden unexpected turn. In recent days, we have seen President Obama’s seemingly unstoppable charisma implode, but that has happened to many Presidents before him as well. After his re-election in 2004, President Bush seemed to have all the control he needed to start fixing the mess in places like Immigration and Social Security, but then he also hit a wall. Bill Clinton also had a lot of personal charisma but he took some nasty shocks, and in the process so did the Republicans, who had full public support for impeaching Clinton, but that support evaporated by the time the Senate actually tried him. Hard to believe, but there was even a time when President Nixon had his mojo working.

I wondered about that. Looking through History, we see the same odd sudden changes in momentum and initiative. Look at World War Two, for example. In 1942, the United States was a clawless eagle, losing battles, bases and men in both the Atlantic and Pacific fronts, but by 1945 the US was unstoppable everywhere it went. What a strange coincidence, that the one thing which could change America from an isolationist nation determined to stay out of the war into an angry populace demanding war, an apparent sneak attack by Japan, was what happened. How odd, that this attack destroyed several ships which appeared to be vital to America, but left untouched the fuel tanks and aircraft carriers and dry docks which were actually key strategic assets? How odd that Hitler changed his strategy on the Eastern Front just short of capturing Moscow, choosing instead to divert to the South and so divide his forces when it was most risky to do so? How odd that despite over a half century of threats and crises, there was never even one nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. This same behavior goes back in history as well. The British, for example, won the battle of Chesapeake Bay in 1781 in terms of tactics, but their inability to win decisively allowed the French to block Cornwallis’ support at Yorktown and so the stunning end to the American Revolution was made possible by a simple shift in the wind. How interesting, that Captain Drake was able to have men in his pay infiltrate Spanish shipyards to sabotage the Armada so that the invasion of 1588 would fail. What a coincidence, that just when Japan reached the peak of its geopolitical power, it withdrew from the world for a century. Any one of these pieces, taken by itself, may be explained or considered just an anomoly, but altogether it is not hard to sense a purpose. Arguments can be made either way, but for those who believe in God I now turn to the Bible. Specifically certain verses in the book of Daniel, Chapter 10, verses 5-8 and 10-13:

“I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

“I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.”

“A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

“Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.”

That folks, is the prophet Daniel chatting with an angel, specifically the Archangel Gabriel. Gabriel mentions that Michael is a “chief prince” among the angels, and that he helped Gabriel get past the opposition of a “prince” of Persia, which tells us that nations have angels. It is unclear from this passage what those angels do, specifically, but there is clearly angelic activity in relation to human affairs.

It might be interesting to discuss what heaven is up to, right about now.