Author: Bob Adamcik

Down the rabbit hole…sorry!

I know my readers are few, but still, I dislike not posting more frequently.  However, a couple of months ago I started John Gray’s “The Soul of the Marionette,” and it took me down a rabbit hole I’m still exploring.  Gray’s straightforward purpose is the exploration of free will. The book came to me through a fellow traveler in Berlin last year.  I’m not sure why I finally started it, but it might have been better if I hadn’t.  Gray draws from many esoteric sources, several of which resonated deeply.  They drew me in, and one thing led to another.  Now I’m knee deep in a half-dozen books and have been too distracted to think of much else, though I will review any relevant ones at the right time.  I’ve already done so with “Soliloquy.” Anyway, I guess I could list the books that have come up so far, read or being read: The Soliloquy of a Hermit, T.F Powys The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels Straw Dogs, John Gray Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl Existential Psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom So you see, fair readers (ok, reader), I’ve a good excuse.  I just need to plow through some of this and digest it, and I’ll be good to go…!...

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On T.F. Powys and “The Soliloquy of a Hermit”

Man is a collection of atoms through which pass the moods of God…” T.F.Powys, “Soliloquy of a Hermit,” (Hardpress Publishing, Miami. Originally by G. Arnold Shaw, N.Y., 1916) On first read, this work comes off as obtuse commentary on the nature of man, the appeal of simplicity, and the misguided desire for immortality…with some incomprehensible Jesus language tossed in. I was unsurprised that both it and Powys are little known to modern readers. Finding its core, if core there were, would take patience. Who has time for that these days? But I’d come to the book via John Gray, a British political philosopher. Gray spends several pages in “The Soul of the Marionette” discussing Powys. So I explored what Gray and others had to say about him, then gave the book a second read. At some point (and with much help from Gray, on whom I draw for this review) I began to understand it.  Once I did, I found it so insightful I had to read it yet again.  It’s so full of pithy and even humorous commentary, I want to break it into chapter and verse and quote it like the Bible: Powys 6:23, or the like. The book’s original publisher calls it “religious psychology.” Gray and others speak of Powys’ as being “deeply but unconventionally religious.”  I presume, they mean religious from the monotheistic perspective. In...

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More on Powys and belief…

I’ve been wanting to comment further on the T.F. Powys quote, “Belief is too easy a road to God.” If we replace the word “God” with “meaning,” Powys’ intent becomes clear. Much of the West avoids consideration of existential meaning by finding it in some variant of “God’s plan.” Such is their choice. For the rest of us, however, condemned forever to question rather than accept, there has to be more. This is Powys’ point. For us, exploration of meaning is obligatory, and reaching a place of personal peace is a lot of work. Just “believing” is too...

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“…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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Being who and what we are: privilege and responsibility

Back when the idea of retirement was just a distant glimmer, I often considered what it would mean. Like most, I usually thought about free time and how I would use it. Surprisingly, though, six years “post-career,” I’ve come to believe that retirement’s biggest surprise is also its most disconcerting: It’s the privilege, and maybe the responsibility, of finally being myself. I always knew I wasn’t especially suited for the structure of an organization. But I also saw myself as adaptable, a team player, a valuable contributor. It would be easy to rationalize now why my career played out as it did, why I didn’t rise higher, why my ideas didn’t last longer, why I wasn’t more respected. That would be the easy way but it wouldn’t be (in the words of Ranger Doug), “…the cowboy way.” Objectivity is difficult, but without it there is no understanding. I see only now how ill-suited I was to to the life I was living: I wasn’t a good field biologist, my ideas were not that good, and I didn’t belong in an organization. In fact, as much as I considered myself a team player, I was constantly struggling against the yoke of supervision and organizational hierarchy.   In retrospect, I used a system I wasn’t suited for to gain the benefits of that system: a secure job and salary, health benefits,...

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