Month: March 2017

“…a belief is too easy a road to God.”

I am working through “The Soul of the Marionette,” by John Gray, an enquiry into the question (some would say myth) of free will. And I ran across the above quote, attributed to T.F. Powys in his 1918 work, “Soliloquies of a Hermit.” The quote so resonated with me that I sought out the essay and am now sidetracked reading it. So much for John Gray… The quote in its entirety is thus:  “Though not of the Church, I am of the Church. Though not of the faith, I am of the faith. Though not of the fold, I am of the fold; a priest in the cloud of God, beside the Altar of Stone. Near beside me is a flock of real sheep; above me a cloud of misty white embraces the noonday light of the Altar. I am without a belief; — a belief is too easy a road to God.” — T. F. Powys (“Soliloquies of a Hermit,” Andrew Melrose Ltd, London. 1918) The quote resonates because it so concisely sums up my own attitude towards religion and spirituality.  My atheist friends want me to be an atheist, my Christian friends, a Christian.  My attitude towards both and everything in between is that taking such a route is too easy.  A few days ago, someone asked me what I believed.  I said, “I don’t know.”  He...

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Review of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” by Yuval Noah Harari

“We have advanced from canoes to galleys to steam ships to space shuttles—but nobody knows where we’re going.” — Yuval Noah Harari (From Animals Into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind, draft edition 2012) —- Harari is Professor of History at the Hebrew University of Israel.  This review is of a prepublication draft of his book, titled “From Animals into Gods,” which I bought on Kindle at the time. He subsequently renamed it on publication in 2015.  A cursory examination suggests the two are functionally identical.  For simplicity, I present it as “Sapiens,” but I read the former.   —-  To begin, I wouldn’t say Sapiens is a profound book, but it is unquestionably useful and insightful, perhaps more so than any I have read. It reflects an ability on the part of Mr. Harari to think holistically and synthetically across many disciplines. In today’s stovepiped academia, this is a rare and commendable trait. Only someone with extraordinary intellectual perspective could have produced this work. It has its faults, enough that I almost put it down. But as I gradually saw disparate disciplines woven into a story, I became hooked. I’d consider Sapiens required reading for anyone wishing to offer meaningful comment on our modern world. The author might have subtitled his work, “A Unified Theory of Civilization.” He treats biology, cognition, culture, religion, history, economics, science, psychology and...

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Pack up your old kit bag…

I hesitate to share this insight because it’s not mine.  A fellow traveler related it to me yesterday, and he in turn heard it from a French woman he’d recently met in the Caribbean.  Perhaps it was hers, or perhaps she’d received it from another.  But hearing it was one of those tectonic shifts.  The earth moves, and your perspective is forever changed.  So I have to pass it on as well.  My friend was hanging out on a beach on Culebra Island when he met the young woman and some other international travelers.  At some point he noted how much excess stuff he had brought for his 30-day stay, that much of it had gone unused.  The woman looked at him and said, “Well, you know, when pack for a trip, what you’re packing are your fears.” To a traveler, the truth of that simple statement is so resonant, so self-evident, there is nothing left to...

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