Monthly Archives: April 2016

Religion, Aesthetics, and Science

Disregarding for a moment the formal institutions, artifacts, and roles of each, religion, aesthetics, and science are just different modalities of thinking that we all possess to greater or lesser degrees according to our needs and desires.

They all have to do with things we wonder about, would like to know more about, or don’t know enough about. Each has its own mode of proper ways to think, how to pose questions, and what constitutes answers. Depending on our current needs or desires we might shift from one modality to another and then shift back.

The religious modality gives us a sense of knowing the answers to questions that probably will never be fully or verifiably answered, like where did we ultimately come from, who made us and everything around us, what will ultimately happen to us, what is our purpose, and what should we do. I can’t think of any more important questions for a person to ask. Unfortunately, there are some people who don’t believe the questions should be left unanswered at any cost.

The aesthetic modality provides us possible explanations that are beautiful or elicit emotional or intellectual responses for things that may or may not exist of which we may or may not be aware. The aesthetic modality has no boundaries, not even that it must be true or verifiable. It is self-defining. Everything one says about it may be true and it may be untrue. It breaks the lock on our existence and ways of interacting with others and the world around us, allowing us to change what we do and what we are. It is creative in that it creates what didn’t exist before. It is irrational in that there is no deductive or inductive reasoning that leads up to it. Externally it looks like a random event. Internally it feels like a eureka moment.

The scientific modality offers us the means to know or at least to be more sure of some of the things we are ignorant about. It dwells less on what we know for sure and more on what we don’t know. It is rational, based on a minimal set of assumptions and an efficient process for drawing conclusions from initial conditions. It is repeatable in that anyone using the same assumptions and applying the same processes under the same initial conditions would come to the same conclusions. This may not sound like much but it is one of the primary foundations of the scientific method. Rather than hiding or running away from our problems and ignorance, we run towards them, attacking them with the tools of our minds (and anything else at hand). If they are too big, we break them into increasingly smaller parts until we are confronted with something we’ve solved before or know or can imagine. In Israel we call this mode looking for the lion in the desert. You are looking for a lion. You know it is roaming around somewhere in the vast desert but you don’t know exactly where, so you divide the desert in half and ask if it is in the right half or the left half. If the lion is in the right half of the desert, you subdivide that half into quarters and ask which quarter it’s in. You get the idea. You keep subdividing until you find the lion.

We are all capable of thinking in all modalities although some people seem to favor one modality over another even when that modality is less appropriate for a given set of circumstances in which they might find themselves.

Truth be told, we need them all. Otherwise they never would have evolved with us (or God would never have bestowed them on us, if that is your current mode).

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Advice to Those Who Would Offer Advice to Someone Who Grieves Instead of Consolation

  1. Don’t attempt to get between a person and her love. Love is infinite. You are not. You might get caught in the updraft.
  2. Never tell a person to put her griefs into proportion. Your proportions are not her proportions. Besides, love is never proportionate. You can’t take love’s measure. If you could, it wouldn’t be love.
  3. Don’t try to measure a person’s grief by the number of tears she shed. You can’t take the measure of another person’s grief either. Grief is like war. You can know how you get into it but you can never know how you’ll come out of it. No two people grieve the same way and there’s no right way to grieve. There are officially acceptable ways to grieve, but there’s no one right way for everyone. Don’t judge a person’s grief either. That’s the same as measuring. As a matter of fact, don’t judge other people unless that’s your profession or it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t do it if you don’t really need to. You’ll almost certainly be wrong in your judgement.
  4. Finally, don’t offer advice to someone who didn’t ask for it. Consolation may be given freely, even if it’s not accepted. Consolation is just compassion.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Seriously

You’ve probably been told more than once over the course of your life not to take yourself, the people around you, or the world in general too seriously. Lighten up a little or a lot. Roll with the punches. It doesn’t mean anything. Nothing really matters ( … “to me” ).

Well, I’m here to tell you the opposite.

Take yourself seriously, the people around you very seriously, and the world you live in very very seriously.

Why?

Because, no matter what you’ve been told, you have only one life, so do the people around you, and until we colonize another planet we can live on, we have only one world.

And because, all too often, we only get one chance to get it right, usually when it really counts.

How does one begin to take himself seriously? Seriously?

Since you are asking, here’s a list of things to do:

  1. Not everything is a joke. Look around you to see who else is laughing besides you. If it’s only you, then it’s not a joke.
  2. If somebody else is laughing too, look again to see who is not laughing. He won’t think it’s a joke if it’s at his expense or the expense of someone he loves. If that person is someone you care about, then it isn’t a joke.
  3. Don’t say or do the first thing that pops into your mind. Consider the fact that everything you do or say has consequences. Dwell on the fact that you can’t possibly anticipate all the consequences, good or bad, and most of what you can anticipate, you can’t control. Those trains have already left the station. You can’t control what others think. You can’t even control what you are thinking, but you can control what you say or do about your thoughts.
  4. You can’t expect everyone to forgive you for what you’ve done to them. Some won’t. Some will get even and some will walk away. You’ll have to work very hard to get back into someone’s good graces after you’ve wronged them and, even then, chances are they’ll never forgive you.
  5. Don’t believe the world has an infinite capacity to absorb our waste products. Our world is large but we are many.

There is room for humor, but not at the expense of seriousness.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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