Friday, August 24, 2007

To the Angel of the Eighth Church

I know an eighth church was never intended. The seventh church, Laodicea, was to have been the very last. It was not.

Many of you are on fire for your Lord, others are colder and colder everyday. Why speak of a lukewarm state anymore? Just as there are hotter and hotter degrees of heat, so are there colder and colder degrees of cold.

Among you are carnal Christians who, though wanting to love their Lord, fail miserably. I've done all I can do for them. The rest is in their hands. Do they really want to be rid of their carnality? Or do they love their sinful natures more than they love me?

I am grateful for the spiritual Christians among you, though I have this against you: take heed lest you focus too much on your spirituality and forget those who are not as focused as you. You could very well join their ranks and suffer as they do, wanting to love me, but unable to do so because of their great love for self. Minister to their weaknesses with the strength I have given you by my Spirit.

Finally, know that I hate those who hate sinners and love those who love them, as I love them.

If you have ears to hear, take heed of what the Spirit says to the Angel of the Eighth Church.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What is Real? Anything?

When I first read about the idea that we might be a computer simulation I thought that it was a bit much and that someone had nothing better to do than speculate about the nature of reality. It's odd that all of this speculation goes hand in hand with cutting-edge technology. If one day, lets say, science perfects teleportation, then that will become the paradigm with which to redefine reality, or what we think reality is.

If one day we're here one moment and light years away in a flash, philosophers might start to wonder if we were ever here to begin with, or if when we got to where we were going would we still be the same person, or would we ever be that person again, if we teleported back from whence we came.

Of course even Plato questioned whether this was the true reality or whether it was a shadow of the ideal model somewhere in some perfect sphere beyond our reach. I've sometimes thought that the apostle Paul must have read much of Plato when he spoke of "looking through a glass darkly."

Please click on the title of this post to read the original New York Times article, Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch, by John Tierney that got me to thinking about the views I've expressed here.

Living between Time

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven (1971) has influenced my perception of life more than I care to admit. The gist of the story is that reality is transformed by what the hero dreams. His psychoanalyst suggests ridding the world of racism. When he dreams about that, he awakens to a world where all of humanity is now gray-skinned. This and many other startling changes are brought about by his lucid dreaming.

Through the years, I didn't consciously think of that novel which I read at 15 or 16. I once caught a PBS adaptation (1980) which delighted me by its distillation into quite a completely different story from what I had imagined it to be. Nevertheless, for about 20+ years I've had the odd suspicion that some elements of life have changed ever so slightly than from what I clearly remember them to be.

One of the earliest occurrences was being completely befuddled at finding that a chord or motif that I had been so certain existed in the Beatles' Hey Jude, did not, in fact, exist. I imagined that I was mistaken, but in my mind I could still hear the other version that I had been familiar with. Now this is before bootlegs became widely available on the Internet and in Greenwhich Village rare records stores. It saddened me that I remembered a version of this famous song, that, in fact, no longer existed, or perhaps, never existed.

Another startling occurrence deals with a book that I have been reading since I was eleven, October the First is Too Late (1966) by the astronomer/mathematician/philosopher Fred Hoyle. I've read this perhaps four or five times in my life. The last time I read it I was astounded by the fact that a encounter between the hero and a historical/mythical person that I had vivid memories of having read many times before, suddenly had disappeared from this only paperback copy that I have always used to reread this story. I tried rereading it in case I had missed this significant encounter, but, alas, it was not to be found. I have a feeling that if I were to read this book again I might either find this missing scene again, or perhaps new ones missing, or--even more perplexing--a scene that I know I had never read during the previous readings of this unique book.

The latest occurrence of this personal phenomenon was when I recently learned of Ingmar Bergman's death. This stunned me more than you'd imagine, as I distinctly remember reading that Fanny and Alexander (1982) was his last film. I never heard anything else about Ingmar Bergman until this past month when all the news agencies reported his death at a ripe old age. Now the confusion may be that, yes, this film was in fact his last film, and his Swan Song, as far as feature films are concerned. He, however, continued making other kinds of films, mostly for Swedish TV. Now as much as I loved his work, and as much as I have immersed myself, obsessively at times, you'd think I would have read at least a review or two in the ensuing years, but that was not the case. Not until he died did I see anything in print in any of the major film or cultural media about this singular director. To my mind, this was indeed proof, that the reality I remembered quite certainly that Bergman died some time in the early 1980s, had, in fact, changed.

These are only two glaring situations in my recollection that illustrate this point. There have been, in fact, many others, including meeting people that no one else remembers, but I remember them because they left a huge impact on me. I always ignored these inconsistencies with other people's memories until I was able to reveal to relatives or close friends things they had said to me, 20 or 25 years ago, that upon some reflection, they admitted that they very well could have said that, but it was long gone from their memory. This gave me some assurance that if I remembered statements or situations in family member's lives or in those of close friends, perhaps I remembered other realities that others no longer remembered at all.

I'm not sure what this phenomenon is called. I thought briefly of how fascinated I used to be with the concept of déjà vu until until I read that it had nothing to do whatsoever with a mystical reality, but rather that it was caused by a trick of the mind. For years I often had episodes of déjà vu and they delighted and perplexed me greatly. Since learning that this phenomenon is a trick of the mind, I no longer experience episodes of déjà vu .

Recently I read in the New York Times that one major cosmologist believes that we change our evolutionary and cosmological past by what we collectively choose to remember or imagine it to be. This was both startling and comforting. I'm still looking for this recent quote, but, it seems to elude me the way other memories or recalled incidences have done for more than 20 years.

Perhaps one day I will remember that I wrote this post, but will find that no one read it or recalls it, and even more problematic, I will find no copy of it either here or in my hard copy binder of blog posts I've written.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Temporal Mechanics

If you live in the past you will die there.

If you live in the present you will live out your life normally.

If you live in the future you will live forever.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Simple Pleasures

God disappears behind the shocking white clouds and the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. When I find any shade worth pursuing, he reappears and I'm grateful for the gentleness of his shade. The entire country is experiencing a heat wave and unbearable humidity. I've felt heat like this before and it's humid all summer long, here in South Florida.

For years I've wanted to document what I see around me, especially as I look up, as well as around me as Callisto and I live our simple pre-Sabbath lives. Suddenly, with no strong intention to own one, a free camera phone appeared in my hand last night--courtesy of ATT's upgrades--and I was able to capture the blazing white ecstasy of a Floridian summer sky this afternoon. The search for other people's close approximations of what I see daily has come to an end, and for that I am grateful.

Suddenly I'm reminded of Bob Dylan's lyric, "She's got everything she needs. She's an artist. She don't look back." While I can't claim to be an artist of any kind, but I'm learning not to look back at what was and at what might have been.

Last week I talked with a Buddhist for the first time in my life. I mentioned I was a Christian and that I wanted to know what was worth sharing about the Buddhist vision of life. The simple response, was "there is no past. Life begins from this moment on." I understood this to mean, in the context of the larger conversation, that whatever regrets or expectations or anything, really, that had gone before, ceases to have ultimate value from this moment on.

I was once guilty of "living in the past" and loving it. I couldn't understand those who considered it less noble than living in the present. While we can't completely ignore the past--at least I cannot--I'm realizing that more and more people live for today and for the promise that tomorrow brings.

If you live in the past, you will die there.

So much time was spent hiding from the heat, that fifteen minutes before the sun set, I knew I had to get out and about if only to have the luxury of being able to return home again. There were restaurants still open where I might run into old friends from town, but their conversation probably wouldn't be very conducive to enjoying the Sabbath. I opted, instead, to order some Chinese food at the local take-out and head home.

On my way home I did get an invitation by phone to see Marc Anthony & Jennifer Lopez' new movie, El Cantante. These friends know I go to church on Saturday morning, but I don't know them well enough to explain why I don't accept invitations to movies on Friday nights. Simply, I said that I had a standing order tonight.

Once home, I enjoyed the simple pleasures of a Weight Watchers Chinese menu and found it lacked zing, but at least it was free of starch, sugar, salt and all the things that give Chinese food its flavor. I was thankful for the healthy meal, nevertheless.

I read a chapter from The Great Controversy and was grateful that I still had an interest in reading a book that some, or many, Adventists stopped reading decades ago. I took what I could from it and then settled down to my progressive time travel film retrospectives I now closely associate with Sabbaths in the early 21st century.

Happy Sabbath to you in whatever decade you happen to be reading this.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Deserted Island Opus: Frustrated Excellence

Cecil Taylor, the Avant Garde pianist who was one of the challenging and challenged practitioners of Free Jazz during the 1960s, tells of a time in his life when no one cared to hear his music and therefore he was without a recording contract once again, as well as, without any scheduled performances. During the day he worked at whatever nickel and dime jobs he could to survive, but at night he came alive when he gave the most exotic sounding pianist concert imaginable for an audience of one, himself.

What little I've heard of Cecil Taylor's music I've enjoyed immensely. Of course, when he was composing his perplexing free jazz pieces I was but a child and his music would have sounded like noise to my untrained or unchallenged ears. I wish I could have somehow have been in the next apartment or in front of his summer building as he nightly played his liquid songs of frustrated excellence, with the appreciation that 30 years of persistence have granted me in returning time and again to the austerity of Free Jazz.

Sometimes you have to live your life or work at your art or craft even though there may not be anyone to take note of what you have to give to life. If, like Cecil Taylor, you are the only one who wants to listen to or who is able to listen to a piano that is played upside-down, and inside-out, then do so and relish each quixotic note that your fingers, or your voice, or your words, or your actions produce. If there is no one to take note of the work of art that is your life or your art, then enjoy the serenity and the tranquil independence of your Deserted Island Opus, in spite of the absent audience. Someday they may very well regret that they were far away when the place to be was right by your side, enjoying as you enjoyed what you contributed to life.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Designing your Own Eternity

"As a man thinketh, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

"If death is not extinction, what might it be like? That’s a question the Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick, who died five years ago, enjoyed pondering. ... Although his reflections were inconclusive, Nozick hit on a seductive maxim: first, imagine what form of immortality would be best; then live your life right now as though it were true." -- Jim Holt, Eternity for Atheists, New York Times Magazine, 07.29.07

Yes the Bible says this and the Bible says that. I'm grateful for what it says, and more importantly, for what it doesn't say. It leaves out so much information. So much the better. We have minds and we have imagination. Let's use them creatively to make eternity the wildest, most regarding and incredible reality we want it to be for ourselves, and for those we love.

My own version of eternity is a bit like this. And it keeps on changing all the time.

This may sound bizarre but I've had this thought forever. Death is so ugly to many of us that I want the luxury of dying in heaven. Yes that's an oxymoron. But let me explain. If you die in heaven, you will live a second later. In a way this is the most perfect kind of death. Virtually, of course, it is a non-death. If you're dead for only one second, are you really dead? What constitutes death, anyway? My ideal death in heaven would be in a coffin of light. When I awake, right beside my coffin of light, is my smiling savior, who gave me the luxury of being dead for only one second, in--of all places--heaven itself.

I'd love to travel back in time once I've entered eternity and sample, first hand, all the major moments of past human history, including the very creation of the universe. I'd also like to travel into the far future. But not just any future, but the future as it might never exist, had God not intervened in some future point in time. Anything unpleasant I'd witness I'd want to forget an hour after I had witnessed it.

Living my eternity as myself, would be very familiar, perhaps too familiar. I'd like to live as another person, perhaps one of my friends, or even my parents, and get a unique perspective of people I loved and wished I had understood and loved more perfectly. Let's say I'd live as someone else for a thousand years, then as myself for another thousand. I'd never run out of different people to experience through the miracle of living as their very selves.

Water has always held a special fascination for me. Waterfalls even more so. I've sat in front of falling water displays in major cities of the world and each time I contemplate the water that falls yet doesn't fall since it keeps on falling, I envy it. In eternity I'd like to be, not part of the waterfall, but I'd like to be the falling water itself. I'd love to experience the sensation of falling, yet not falling.

If He has the time, I'd like to spend a million years talking with God, non-stop. Laughing with Him, playing baseball with him, walking through invisible forests of anti-neutrinos with Him.

I'm happy and I'm grateful that I'm in the process of imagining and experiencing eternal life right now.

Finally, I'd like to know what you'd like your eternity to be like. Share it with me. We just might live our fantasies if we imagine them with the greatest of intention.