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  Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Psalm 8

God, brilliant Lord,
     yours is a household name.

Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
     toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
     and silence atheist babble.

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
     your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
     Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
     Why take a second look our way?

Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
     bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
     repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
     even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
     whales singing in the ocean deeps.

God, brilliant Lord,
     your name echoes around the world.

—The Message

  Friday, January 30th, 2015

Special Prayers

Just as the meditations of those who seek to live the contemplative life come without warning, so, too, do their prayers. I am thinking of their private prayers, of course, not those laid down by Holy Church. For true contemplatives could not value such prayers more, and so they use them, in the form and according to the rules laid down by the holy Fathers before us. But their own personal prayers rise spontaneously to God, without bidding of premeditation, beforehand or during their prayer.

If they are in words, as they seldom are, then they are very few words; the fewer the better. If it is a little word of one syllable, I think it is better than if it is of two, and more in accordance with the work of the Spirit. For a contemplative should always live at the highest, topmost peak spiritually.

We can illustrate this by looking at nature. A man or woman, suddenly frightened by fire, or death, or what you will, is suddenly in his extremity of spirit driven hastily and by necessity to cry or pray for help. And how does he do it? Not, surely, with a spate of words; not even in a single word of two syllables! Why? He thinks it wastes too much time to declare his urgent need and his agitation. So he bursts out in his terror with one little word, and that of a single syllable: ‘Fire!’ it may be, or ‘Help!’

Just as this little word stirs and pierces the ears of hearers more quickly, so too does a little word of one syllable, when it is not merely spoken or thought, but expresses also the intention in the depth of our spirit. Which is the same as the ‘height’ of our spirit, for in these matters height, depth, length, and breadth all mean the same. And it pierces the ears of Almighty God more quickly than any long psalm churned out unthinkingly. That is why it is written ‘Short prayer penetrates heaven.’

—The Cloud of Unknowing

  Friday, January 30th, 2015

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

—Henry David Thoreau

  Thursday, January 29th, 2015

God is very subtle, but he is not malicious.

—Einstein

  Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Contingency

The absence of necessity; the fact of being so without having to be so.


  Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Supervenience

In philosophy, supervenience is an ontological relation that is used to describe cases where (roughly speaking) the lower-level properties of a system determine its higher level properties. Some philosophers hold that the world is structured into a kind of hierarchy of properties, where the higher level properties supervene on the lower level properties. According to this type of view, social properties supervene on psychological properties, psychological properties supervene on biological properties, biological properties supervene on chemical properties, etc. That is, the chemical properties of the world determine a distribution of biological properties, those biological properties determine a distribution of psychological properties, and so forth. So, for example, mind-body supervenience holds that “every mental phenomenon must be grounded in, or anchored to, some underlying physical base (presumably a neural state). This means that mental states can occur only in systems that can have physical properties; namely physical systems.

Supervenience has traditionally been used to describe relationships between sets of properties in a manner which does not imply a strong reductive relationship. For example, many hold that economic properties supervene on physical properties, in that if two worlds were exactly the same physically, they would also be the same economically. However, this does not entail that economics can be reduced in any straightforward way to physics. Thus, supervenience allows one to hold that “high-level phenomena” (like those of economics, psychology, or aesthetics) depend, ultimately, on physical substance, without assuming that one can study those high-level phenomena using means appropriate to physics.


  Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Disclosure

A previously hidden fact or series of facts that is made known.

To open up, unfasten; to uncover, physically expose to view; to expose to the knowledge of others; to make known, state openly, reveal.

From Latin dis-+clausus, literally away+enclosed.


  Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Second Simplicity

There is a secret in the heart of life that is not only the unmoving white light. It is not only the still point of the turning world, not only the light-filled empty center. It is also the lion of fire, the unceasing explosion of expansive being, of proliferating life, from the center. It is the fontal energy that demands to express itself everywhere and through every form.

—Bruno Barnhart

2015-01-10-16.25.30

  Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Energy

Coal meets the coast this afternoon at Carkeek Park.


  Thursday, January 8th, 2015

stand with your lover

on the ending earth—

and while a(huge which by which huger than
huge)whoing sea leaps to greenly hurl snow

suppose we could not love,dear;imagine

ourselves like living neither nor dead these
(or many thousand hearts which don’t and dream
or many million minds which sleep and move)
blind sands,at pitiless the mercy of

time time time time time

—how fortunate are you and i,whose home
is timelessness:we who have wandered down
from fragrant mountains of eternal now

to frolic in such mysteries as birth
and death a day(or maybe even less)

—e.e.cummings

  Monday, January 5th, 2015

Percy Wakes Me

Percy wakes me and I am not
     ready.
He has slept all night under the
     covers.
Now he’s eager for action: a walk,
     then breakfast.
So I hasten up. He is sitting on the
     kitchen counter
     where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say.
     How clever, if you
     needed me,
          to wake me.

He thought he would hear a
     lecture and deeply
     his eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for
     more compliments.
He squirms and squeals; he has
     done something
     that he needed
          and now he hears that it is
               okay.
I scratch his ears, I turn him over
     and touch him everywhere. He is
wild with the okayness of it. Then
     we walk, then
     he has breakfast, and he is happy.

This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than
     Percy.
Think about it.

—Mary Oliver

  Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

What is Information?

As Machlup (1983, 642) has noted, the original meaning of the word “information” derives from the Latin, informare, which means “to put into form.” “Informing” therefore carries the sense of “imparting learning or instruction” or more generally conveys the sense “to tell (one) of something.” Thus, “information” refers to the action of informing or to that which is told. These meanings of the term are carried along with it wherever it occurs and are the basis of our commonsense notions of “information.” As Webster (1995, 26-7) points out, the semantic definition of information conveys that “information is meaningful, it has a subject, it is intelligence or instruction about something or someone.” When we talk of an “information society” it is these connotations of “information” that we would expect to be discussing.

—David Sholle


  Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

G_d in Relationship

The doctrine of the Trinity was first expounded at length by St Augustine in his treatise De Trinitate, written around 400 A.D. This has been the basis for all subsequent discussions of the topic. (Thomas Aquinas, for example, relies heavily on Augustine.) Anticipating Hegel, Augustine found 22 different examples of triads in the cosmos and within the human being, which are analogous to the divine Trinity. The most important of these, in the human realm, is Mind, Knowledge, and Love.

This closely parallels Hegel’s principal division of his system into Logic, Nature, and Spirit. Hegel’s Logic is not (and was never intended to be) a set of principles of deductive reasoning like those of Aristotle. It is, rather, a systematic array of concepts, before those concepts are instantiated by particular things. As Hegel put it, only half-metaphorically, the content of his Logic is “the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite mind.” Logic can therefore be aligned with God the Father: the ‘creative principle’, according to Augustine.

Nature is the created world, of which we can have knowledge. It is the world in which, in the famous words of St John’s Gospel, the Word (i.e. the concept) becomes flesh (i.e. concrete and particular). In the incarnation of Christ the universal (God) becomes particular (a single human being). Similarly, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature shows how the array of universal concepts from the Logic guide (without determining) the scientific search for specific knowledge of facts.

The third part of Hegel’s system is the Philosophy of Spirit. The word ‘Spirit’ (Geist in German) is used by Hegel in a very specific sense which is at the core of his philosophy. Spirit, for Hegel, always involves relation. An isolated individual might be a consciousness, but only in relating with others can the level of Spirit (higher than that of mere consciousness) be reached. This is the level which includes all the phenomena of art, religion, and society.

The parallel with Augustine’s exposition of the Trinity is particularly striking here. In Book 15 of his treatise, Augustine writes “If the love whereby the Father loves the Son, and the Son the Father, reveals in an ineffable manner the union between both, what more fitting than that He, who is the Spirit, common to both, should be properly called love?” So the Holy Spirit is not so much a separate being (that vague and symbolic dove that appears in Renaissance paintings) but the embodiment of the love between the Father and the Son. There is the Father, the Son, and also the relation (of love) between them, which is Spirit (exactly as Hegel understands the word).

—Peter Benson


  Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Hegel and the Trinity

Hegel links up the Trinity with the knowability of God, which is to say, with a theory of revelation. God reveals Himself because He is not envious but self-revealing. This is the mode of existence of spirit itself, and thus is God’s mode of existence. For Hegel, revelation means the particularization of the universal. For ordinary thought, universal and particular are opposites, but they are not mutually exclusive. The universal, like all real and mobile things, generates its opposite; this is the movement of the dialectic. But then this opposite is folded back into a fresh unity. Revelation is “this self-particularizing of the universal, this self-negation and differentiation.” Revelation is a moment in the life of God, and Hegel isolates two main moments in which the universal generates particularity in order to be united with it–creation and Jesus. Creation is God’s self-othering, and in Jesus “God has again passed out of universality and entered into the realm of particular being.”


  Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Storm Warnings

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky

And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.

—Adrienne Rich