Author: Bob Adamcik

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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Living the blues…

For the last couple of months, I’ve been studying blues on the guitar, specifically delta blues out of the deep South…blues out of poverty, disenfranchisement, rootlessness, lonesomeness in the midst of others. It’s affecting me in ways I never anticipated, resonating… People make fun of the delta blues, because the themes are so repetitious…waking up in the morning, work, sex. But that’s the very point, consignment to a life that never changed, marking time. There is hypnotic melancholy throughout, and if my mood is right, it makes me cry. Because some days I just wake up lonesome, and stay that way all day. Thinking on this, I remembered a seemingly trivial thing: When I was in college, I would study late into the night. And at times, I would just have to move. I’d get in my car and drive for miles in the dark, alone out on the country roads around Texas A&M, going nowhere but always moving. I’d just get restless. And I realize now that the feeling has never left me. Despite having lived in multiple states and a half-dozen countries, having traveled thousands of miles by train and plane, in a car and on foot…I still get restless.   A dozen years ago, I began walking. I literally woke up early of a morning and heard a voice say, “You need to walk.” I began...

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When and how, yes.  But whether or not?  Hardly…

This is a quote from Yuval Noah Harari’s “From Animals Into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind.”  Mine is a “draft edition,” without a cited publisher, but I’m pretty sure it was finally published under the title “Sapiens,” with the same subtitle: In the year AD 1500, five hundred million people inhabited the world. Today, there are seven billion.  In 1500, global annual production was equivalent to 250 billion dollars.  Today it’s close to 60 trillion dollars.  In 1500, humankind consumed each day about 13 trillion calories of energy. Today, we consume 1500 trillion calories a day.  (Yuval Noah Harari, “From Animals Into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind,” Draft Edition 2012) How long can this last?   Or more to the point, will it end with a whimper or a bang?  Personally, I think we’re whimpering now.  But I’m waiting for the bang (a big one, either real or metaphorical).  After that, it’s anyone’s guess.   Interestingly, this also makes me think of another quote:   “Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour…”  (Matthew 25:13)...

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