CURIOSITY: The desire to enlarge oneself is the desire to embrace
more and more possibilities, to be constantly learning,
to give oneself entirely over to curiosity.



henry adams the habit of doubt

“The habit of doubt; of distrusting his own judgment and of totally rejecting the judgment of the world; the tendency to regard every question as open ... all these are well-known qualities of New England character.”

mmmmeditating chaos

“Until the Great Exposition closed its doors in November, Adams haunted it, aching to absorb knowledge, and helpless to find it. He would have liked to know how much of it could have been grasped by the best-informed man in the world. While he was thus meditating chaos, Langley came by, and showed it to him. At Langley’s behest, the Exhibition dropped its superfluous rags and stripped itself to the skin, for Langley knew what to study, and why, and how; while Adams might as well have stood outside in the night, staring at the Milky Way.”

“Historians undertake to arrange sequences — called stories or histories — assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect. These assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty libraries, have been astounding, but uncommonly unconscious and childlike; so much so that if any captious critic were to drag them to light, historians would probably reply, with one voice, that they had never supposed themselves required to know what they were talking about.”

“One sought no absolute truth. One sought only a spool on which to wind the thread of history without breaking it.”

“It was typical of Adams to show us that what we held as convictions could turn out to be conceits.” John Patrick Diggins. Get an Education on Henry Adams>

karen armstrong — fundmentalism

“Fundamentalists have no time for democracy, pluralism, religious toleration, peacekeeping, free speech, or the separation of church and state. Christian fundamentalists reject the discoveries of biology and physics about the origins of life and insist that the Book of Genesis is scientifically sound in every detail.

“At a time when many are throwing off the shackles of the past, Jewish fundamentalists observe their revealed Law more stringently than ever before, and Muslim women, repudiating the freedoms of Western women, shroud themselves in veils and chadors. Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists both interpret the Arab-Israeli conflict, which began as defiantly secularist, in an exclusively religious way. Fundamentalism, moreover, is not confined to the great monotheisms. There are Buddhist, Hindu and even Confucian fundamentalisms, which also cast aside many of the painfully acquired insights of liberal culture, which fight and kill in the name of religion and strive to bring the sacred into the realm of politics and national struggle.”
Battle for God>
Mythos and Logos>>

cardinal francis arinze — nostra aetate

"Nostra Aetate (a document from the Second Vatican Council) says that God's grant of salvation includes not only Christians, but Jews, Muslims, Hindus and people of good will." The Full Article>

walter truett anderson — lost

"People become so involved in their identity-narratives that they become lost in them like some brilliant builder who constructs a wonderful maze of gardens and buildings and then cannot find his way out of them into the world beyond — who indeed forgets that there is a world beyond." A Book Review>

jean baudrillardmurderers of the real

Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model, as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity. To this murderous capacity is opposed the dialectical capacity of representations as a visible and intelligible mediation of the Real.

All of Western faith and good faith was engaged in this wager on representation: That a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could exchange for meaning, and that something could guarantee this exchange -- God, of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say, reduced to the signs which attest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum -- not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference.

So it is with simulation, insofar as it is opposed to representation. The latter starts from the principle that the sign and the real are equivalent (even if this equivalence is utopian, it is a fundamental axiom). Conversely, simulation starts from the utopia of this principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum. This would be the successive phases of the image:

1. It is the reflection of a basic reality.

2. It masks and perverts a basic reality.

3. It masks the absence of a basic reality.

4. It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure

ernest becker — a serious constriction

Right away we can see the immensely fertile horizon that opens up in all of our thinking on mental health and “normal” behavior. In order to function normally, man has to achieve from the beginning a serious constriction of the world and of himself. We can say that the essence of normality is the REFUSAL OF REALITY. What we call neurosis enters precisely at this point:

Some people have more trouble with their lies than others.

The world is too much with them, and the techniques that they have developed for holding it at bay and cutting it down to size finally begin to choke the person himself. This is neurosis in a nutshell: the miscarriage of clumsy lies about reality.

In each historical period or social group, man thought that he lived absolute truth because his social life gave expression to his deepest innate hunger. And so Rank could say, “Every conflict over truth is in the last analysis just the same old struggle over … immortality.” If anyone doubts this, let him try to explain in any other way the life-and-death viciousness of all ideological disputes. Each person nourishes his immortality in the ideology of self-perpetuation to which he gives his allegiance; this gives his life the only abiding significance it can have. No wonder men go into a rage over fine points of belief; if your adversary wins the argument about truth YOU DIE.

Your immortality system has been shown to be fallible, your life becomes fallible. History, then, can be understood as a succession of ideologies that console for death. Or, more momentously, ALL cultural forms are IN ESSENCE SACRED because they seek the perpetuation and redemption of the individual life. Becker Notes 1> The Nearest Beyond> Psyche-Theology> Canadian Daffodil> Becker and Kubrick> Power> Becker Bergers>

peter berger — instability

"The world of sacred order, by virtue of being an ongoing human production, is ongoingly confronted with the disordering forces of human existence in time. … Since every religious world is based on a plausibility structure that is itself the product of human activity, every religious world is inherently precarious in its reality." 19 Bergers with everything> Becker Bergers>

henri bergson — falsification

“The intellect traffics in stable perceptions and static conceptions; and neither of these yield an accurate picture of the world. It surely follows that the results of the sciences are not 'knowledge' in any proper sense of the term. The results are practically efficacious, but not 'true.' Indeed, they falsify the actual character of the world in the interest of action.”

isaiah berlin — no simple inspection

“There is no Archimedean point outside ourselves where we can stand in order to take up our critical viewpoint, in order to observe and analyze all that we think or believe by simply inspecting it, all that we can be said to take for granted because we behave as though we accepted it — the supposition is a self-evident absurdity.”


“According to the romantics — and this is one of their principal contributions to understanding in general — what I mean by depth, although they do not discuss it under that name, is inexhaustibility . . . No matter how long I speak, new chasms open. No matter what I say I always have to leave three dots at the end. Whatever description I give always opens the doors to something further, something even darker, perhaps, but certainly something which is in principle incapable of being reduced to precise, clear, verifiable, objective prose.”


“In a short essay called ‘An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?’ Kant lays it down that enlightenment is simply the ability of men to determine their own lives, the liberation of themselves from the leading-strings of others, the fact that men become mature and determine what to do, whether it be evil or whether it be good, without leaning excessively upon authority, upon governesses of one kind or another, upon tradition, upon any kind of established values on which the weight of moral responsibility is then squarely laid. A man responsible for his own acts.” Berlin and Bryan Magee>

harold bloom — emerson

“The lengthened shadow of our American culture is Emerson's. ... Starting from Emerson we came to where we are, and from that impasse, which he prophesied, we will go by a path that most likely he marked out also. The mind of Emerson is the mind of America, for worse and for glory, and the central concern of that mind was the American religion, which most memorably was named self-reliance.”

“Emersonianism or our literary religion remains the most diffuse and diffused, yet the only faith of spiritual significance, still of prophetic force for our future.”

“There is, thankfully, no Emersonian church.”

The true Emersonian test for the American religion (which Bloom refers to as “my own dogma”): “It cannot become the American religion until it is first canonized as American literature.”

To call Emerson a truly religious writer is to “call into question very nearly everything that phrase usually implies.”

“Emerson's freedom rises out of the ordinary, and not out of crisis.”

Bloom says that Emerson might be called an American Orpheus, the prime emblem of the American religion, whose motto he once ventured as: “Everything that can be broken should be broken.”

“Why should Orpheus be incarnated again in America? Because he is the authentic prophet-god of discontinuity, of the breaking of tradition, and of re-inscribing tradition as a perpetual breaking, mending and then breaking again.”

“What made (Emerson) free was his Gnosis ...” not what he knew but his way of knowing things and then knowing them differently then knowing them even more differently than before. Emerson is not about knowledge but the process of knowing.

david bohm — world view

“Now you have to say that your world view, the way you look at things, is a part of you, just as any other thought is a part of you."

"Throughout history there has been a succession of world views; that is, general notions of cosmic order, and the nature of reality as a whole. Each of these views has expressed the essential spirit of its time, and each of them in its turn, has had profound effects on the individual, and on society as a whole, not only physically, but also psychologically and ethically. These effects were multiple in nature, but among them, one of the most significant is notions of universal order." Meet David Bohm>

marcus borg — christian diversity

"Being Christian therefore can't be about getting our beliefs 'right,' even though we have often acted that way. The point is, there is no single right way of understanding Christianity and no single right way of being a Christian. ... " Resistance is Futile>

norman o. brown — enthusiasm

“The Western consciousness has always asked for freedom: the human mind was born free, or at any rate born to be free, but everywhere it is in chains, and now at the end of its tether. It will take a miracle to free the human mind: because the chains are magical in the first place. We are in bondage to authority outside ourselves ... The power I look for is enthusiasm.”

lawrence buell — from “emerson”

Like it or not, there is no getting rid of religion as a force in human affairs. If you think it’s nothing more than the opiate of others, you’re likely to misunderstand yourself as well as them.

Emerson had to be rescued several times from the clutches of religion — the first time he rescued himself.

A half-century ago New England Transcendentalism was still generally considered a revival of religion that happened to find its new forms of expression in literature rather than in formulation of doctrine. For scholar Perry Miller, the chief force that animated Emerson’s thought was the release of a radical antinomian spirituality inherent in Puritanism that was held in check until Enlightenment rationalism and German higher criticism of scripture as myth eroded dogmatic structures. Scholars believe that the single most important question for Transcendentalists was, “How do we see the world?” As William James said, “No one moment can go very far, and no one man can lay down the law for others, for their angles of vision may be as sacred as his own.”

Emerson was the great legitimator of individual spirituality over against official authority of whatever sort.

Emerson may have gotten the idea from Schleiermacher that, “Religion fashions itself with endless variety, down even to the single personality.”

The question of what it means for a person to think seems, if anything, even more basic and absorbing to Emerson than the question of what that person thinks about. Intellect teeters between mental capacity and spiritual force. The thinker is not in full control of his processes: “We do not determine what we will think.” And a “too violent direction of the will” is as bad as “too great negligence.” Emerson sets great store by the fact that “each mind has its own method.”

Emerson wrote that our various ways of thinking, “falling on Roman times, made Stoic philosophers; falling on despotic times, made patriot Catos and Brutuses; falling on superstitious times, made prophets and apostles; on popish times, made Protestants and ascetic monks, preachers of Faith against preachers of Works; on prelatical times, made Puritans and Quakers; and falling on Unitarian and commercial times, makes the peculiar shades of Idealism which we know.”

The mind knows, but it isn’t necessarily knowable. (That which knows is not ultimately knowable in itself.)

Emerson positively relishes the “wise skepticism” that would hold up for interrogation all of society’s sacred cows: marriage, the state, the church, political activism, capital, labor, high culture. It’s quite a list. He loves to rattle the skeletons as vigorously as possible before he takes his last foreclosing leap.

Emerson starts to look less like a philosopher of mind and more like an ethicist, for whom the core concern was negotiation of life in the world. More from “Emerson.”>

joseph campbell — myth

“One might reasonably define mythology as other people’s religion. The definition of religion is equally uncomplicated: it is misunderstood mythology. The misunderstanding consists typically in interpreting mythological symbols as though they were references to historical facts. And this problem is particularly crucial in our tradition in the West, where the whole emphasis has been on the historicity of the events on which our churches are supposed to have been founded.”

Mythic images “must point past themselves to that ultimate truth which must be told: that life does not have any one absolutely fixed meaning. These images must point past all meanings given, beyond all definitions and relationships, to that really ineffable mystery that is just the existence, the being of ourselves in the world. If we give that mystery an exact meaning we diminish the experience of its real depth. But when a poet carries the mind into a context of meanings and then pitches it past those, one know that marvelous rapture that comes from going past all categories of definition. Here we sense the function of metaphor that allows us to make a journey we could not otherwise make, past all categories of definition.” — Joseph Campbell, “Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor”

“The whole personal complex includes your moral principles. Ethics and social mores are internalized as part of the persona order, and Jung tells us that you must take that lightly. Just remember, Adam and Eve fell when they learned the difference between good and evil. So the way to get back is not to know the difference. That’s an obvious lesson, but it’s not one that’s very clearly preached from pulpits. Yet Christ told his disciples, ‘Judge not, that ye may not be judged.’ You judge according to your persona context, and you will be judged in terms of it. Unless you can learn to look beyond the local dictates of what is right and what is wrong, you’re not a complete human being. You’re just a part of that particular social order.”

Mythology has a function … it takes care of this creature man, born too soon. It carries us from infancy to maturity, from maturity to our second infancy, and then out the dark door. You know most of the mythologies have told us Daddy or Mother will be out there, the old ancestors, Daddy God and Mother Goddess: you’ll enjoy it, all your old friends, go on, don’t be afraid to die. It’s sort of a psychological nursery school.

There’s an image that came to me long, long ago: the other animal that’s born too early is the marsupial — the baby kangaroo or the wallaby or the opossum. These are not placentals; they can’t stay in the mother’s womb long enough to grow up. So, born at the gestational stage of about 18 days, they crawl up the mother’s belly into a little pouch. There they attach themselves to a nipple and remain until they are able to get out and walk.

They are in a second womb, a womb with a view.

I think of mythology as the equivalent organ for man. We need mythology as the marsupial needs the pouch to develop beyond the stage of incompetent infant to a stage where it can step out of the pouch and say, “Me, viola: I am it!”

Now, in order to aid personal development, mythology does not have to be reasonable, it doesn’t have to be rational, it doesn’t have to be true; it has to be comfortable, like a pouch.

Now, what has happened in our modern tradition is that science has disqualified the claims of our major religions. The whole point of science is that there are no facts, only theories. You don’t believe these things: they are working hypotheses that the next bit of information may transform. We’re taught not to hang on, but to stay open. Can the psyche handle it?

There has been one other time in Western civilization when the culture’s various myths were at odds in this way… during the time of the Arthurian romances, where these knights, parading as Christian heroes, are actually Celtic gods; gods of the Tristan romance, where Tristan and Iseult, like earlier Heloise, said, “My love is my truth, and I will burn in hell for it.”

I think where we need to look now is to the same source that the people of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries did when their civilization was foundering: to the poets and artists. These people can look past images of the present and begin to forge new working images … new myths.


The interviewer was a young, smart-looking man who immediately warned me, "I'm tough, I put it right to you. I've studied law."

The red light went on and he began argumentatively, "The word 'myth' means 'a lie.' Myth is a lie."

So I replied with my definition of myth. "No, myth is not a lie. A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time."

"It's a lie," he countered.

"It's a metaphor."

"It's a lie."

This went on for about twenty minutes. Around four of five minutes before the end of the program, I realized this interviewer did not really know what a metaphor was. I decided to treat him as he was treating me.

"No," I said. "I tell you it's metaphorical. You give me an example of a metaphor."

He replied, "You give me an example."

I resisted. "No. I am asking the question this time." I had not taught school for thirty years for nothing. "And I want you to give me an example of a metaphor."

The interviewer was utterly baffled and even went so far as to say, "Let's get in touch with some school teacher." Finally, with something like a minute and a half to go, he rose to the occasion. "I'll try. My friend John runs very fast. People say he runs like a deer. There's a metaphor."

As the last seconds of the interview ticked off, I replied, "That's not a metaphor. The metaphor is: John IS a deer."

He shot back, "That's a lie."

"No," I said. "It's a metaphor."

And the show ended. What does that incident suggest about our common understanding of metaphor?

It made me reflect that half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.

lesley chamberlain — freud, the secret artist

“What is truly remarkable about Proust and Freud is the coincidence of a theory of mind which all but locks the individual in his subjectivity.”

“What Freud wants to say psychologically is that there is a pattern of energy in us that wants to get free ... that this force will hitch a lift with any idea, socially appropriate or inappropriate ... to realize its intention. Proust said something very similar in ‘In Search of Lost Time’ ... that in order to know where the hidden intensity comes from that often spoils our lives, we work back from the way we consciously perceive reality.”

Nietzsche called on philosophy to study the shapes, colors and appetites of the world at hand, rather than indulge in abstract speculation. One of his means was to doubt any pretensions to One Truth. There was after all a kind of music of the personality that attracted perceptions into a particular key — let's say, here Christian, there Buddhist; here artistic, there scientific — all of which went under the grand banner of “thinking” but which was, in truth, not objective. ... Concealed in the body of Nietzsche's work was the powerful suggestion that the cogitating subject, the infallible “I” of Descartes, was probably not the key to understanding the truth of the world.

charley weaver to block

For those of us old enough to remember the old Hollywood Squares and names like “Charley Weaver” and “Paul Lynde” this may provide a laugh. Thanks to Jeff Fobes for sending it.

Q: If you're going to make a parachute jump, you should be at least how high?
A: Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q: True or false ... a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
A: George Gobel: Boy it sure seems that way sometimes...

Q: You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A: Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

Q: According to Cosmo, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think he's really attractive, is it okay to come out directly and ask him if he's married?
A: Rose Marie: No, wait until morning.

Q: Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
A: Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

Q: In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say, "I love you"?
A: Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

Q: As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while you are talking?
A: Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing older question, Peter... and I'll give you a gesture you'll never forget!

Q: Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A: Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q: Charley, you've just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during your first year?
A: Charley Weaver: Of course not, Peter. I'm too busy growing strawberries!

Q: In bowling, what's a perfect score?
A: Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

Q: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps.  One is politics. What is the other?
A: Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q: Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
A: Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A: Paul Lynde: Make him bark.

Q: If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
A: Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

Q: Do female frogs croak?
A: Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q: Imagine you are a child in your mother's womb, can you detect light?
A: Paul Lynde: Only during ballet practice.

Q: According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?
A: Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army!

Q: It is the most abused and neglected part of your body -- what is it?
A: Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused but it certainly isn't neglected!

Q: When a couple has a baby, who is responsible for it's sex?
A: Charley Weaver: I'll lend him the car. The rest is up to him

church bulletin bloopers

1. The Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

2. Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

3. The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

4. Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.

5. The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, "Break Forth Into Joy."

6. A songfest was hell at the Methodist church Wednesday.

7. Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.

8. The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The Congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

9. Thursday night Potluck Supper. Prayer and medication to follow.

10. The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of David, the sin of Rev. and Mrs. Adams.

11. Tuesday at 4 PM there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.

12. A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

13. At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.

14. Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

15. Mrs. Johnson will be entering the hospital this week for testes.

16. Please join us as we show our support for Amy and Alan who are preparing for the girth of their first child.

17. The Lutheran Men's group will meet at 6 PM. Steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread and dessert will be served for a nominal feel.

18. The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours."

19. Our next song is, "Angels We Have Heard Get High."

20. Don't let worry kill you, let the church help.

21. For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

22. This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

23. The service will close with Little Drops of Water. One of the ladies will start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join in.

24. Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

25. The senior choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

cohen and taylor — “escape attempts”

"We begin to see that the routine nature of the world emanates from ourselves. Our personality – that last apparent repository of individuality and spontaneity in a predictable world – is itself the source of the problem. It is we who bring routines to the world; our characters have set like plaster and we can behave in no other way." More Excerpts>

michael cunnigham — richard, “the hours”

"I wanted to write about it all. Everything that’s happening in a moment. The way those flowers looked when you carried them in your arms — this towel, how it smells, how it feels — this thread — all our feelings, yours and mine. The history of who we once were. Everything that’s in the world. Everything mixed up. Like it’s all mixed up now. And I failed. Whatever you start with, it ends up so much less." Emerson and The Hours> Magical Coincidence> Colorful Art of Rereading>

don cupitt — belief and identity

"We cleave to, and we are chauvinistic about, our own particular body of supernatural beliefs and stories because its distinctiveness is our identity! It communicates, in coded form but very effectively nonetheless, our own distinctive vision of the world and form of life.

"Because in the past it was generally felt to be essential to the maintenance of one's ethnic cultural tradition for all this material to be passed on without change and thoroughly assimilated by everyone, it was commonly taught and understood realistically — as if describing a really existing invisible supernatural world above. But today the globalization of our scientific theory, our technologies, and our communications has suddenly democratized naturalism everywhere.

"The result is that tradition finds itself ironized, put in brackets, believed — and yet, surely, not really believed. We are exhorted and pressured to cleave to our own traditions, not because they actually command our intellectual assent (they can't any more) but simply as a matter of ethnic loyalty and political duty."

"Many people find themselves caught in contradictions. The ways they are battling to defend and reaffirm their traditional faiths are not reversing, but rather accelerating the loss of traditional religious values; and around the world the forces tending to liquidate traditional identities are much stronger than any attempts to conserve them can hope to be." Meet The Don>




UNCERTAINTY: Living with no supernatural justifications,
no complete explanations, no promise of permanent
stability, with guides of merely probable validity.