How Earth-Like of us Humanoids

imageI had a lightbulb moment while watching a close up on TV of a vibrating string during a musical performance. It’s really all about air, isn’t it?

I wonder if the air swirling around Bach back in the 1600’s was slightly different than our 21st century air vibrating in today’s concert halls? Further, how would Bach or for that matter Berg sound in an atmosphere that was slightly altered? More nitrogen, less oxygen and vv?

Then again, I recall that aboard Voyager was a recording of some music from us humanoids. Should aliens find that and understand how to play it, how will it sound to them, assuming that they can indeed hear? Did the space engineers include instructions for air-mixture proportions?

Alll of these questions while algae blooms around the inlet pipe for my city!


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Isis and ISIS


Isis is the most popular of all the goddesses, she has been worshiped for approximately 4500 years ( with origin dates varying from 2700- 2500 BCE.) She is representative of beauty, love, abundance, marriage, fertility, healing, the power of the Moon and of the Afterlife.

Imagine that. Too bad she was put into a box and moved the attic with other ‘stuff’ we deem as no longer useful.

ISIS and all of the other so-called ‘pagan’ gods and goddesses were dumped when the fable of Moses was written in 600 BCE by Jewish scribes who were returning from Babylonian captivity.

The fable, as we recall, pretended that Moses climbed a mountain to get ‘closer’ to God because God lived ” up there just above the firmament.” Such was late Iron Age cosmology. Moses came down with two stone tablets onto which were inscribed 10 commandments. At least the Mormon tale was of gold tablets! Apparently Moses got the economy package- stone!

Bang off rule #1: Get rid of those other gods and goddesses, including Isis. His people, however, liked their lower-case deities and found them quite useful in their daily life.

But no. None of this small-g stuff! Only the “G” from now on. And, by the way, that’s all-male. The female is out.

As a result the goddess of beauty, love and abundance was replaced by a jealous and angry god. One who directed the smiting of enemies, of genocide, of intolerance.

Fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim, has accounted for the death and maiming of millions of people since the inception of this wrathfully god. And now, two millennia after Isis was melted down over hot coals, ISIS raises it’s ugly head and beheads all who do not believe in that wrath-filled deity.

Yet, like deer in the headlights, American Christians are dumbfounded with reports of this set of fundamental religious zealots.



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Active Ecosystem One-half Mile Below the Surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

The first breakthrough article to come out of a massive U.S. expedition to one of Earth’s final frontiers shows that there’s life and an active ecosystem one-half mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, specifically in a lake that hasn’t seen sunlight or felt a breath of wind for millions of years. The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth.

Many of the subglacial archaea use the energy in the chemical bonds of ammonium to fix carbon dioxide and drive other metabolic processes. Another group of microorganisms uses the energy and carbon in methane to make a living. According to Priscu, the source of the ammonium and methane is most likely from the breakdown of organic matter that was deposited in the area hundreds of thousands of years ago when Antarctica was warmer and the sea inundated West Antarctica. He also noted that, as Antarctica continues to warm, vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, will be liberated into the atmosphere enhancing climate warming.


I’d imagine that this opens up great hope for life elsewhere in our Solar System and beyond. If life can be found at these depths and these conditions, the universe must be teaming with life.



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Medieval Reenactment and Faith

What, you ask? How are the two related? Here’s the story by Carol Kirk.

I have just returned from my annual vacation in Pennsylvania where my husband and I attend Pennsic War, the world’s largest medieval re-enactment event. This year nearly 11,000 of us who are fascinated by the Middle Ages camped together at Cooper’s Lake enjoying two weeks of friendship and learning in the hills of Western Pennsylvania. During that time we took classes on medieval arts and skills, fought mock battles, danced, sang the hours away, renewed friendships and made new friends. All of this took place in an atmosphere of respect and tolerance.
What, you ask, has this anything to do with interfaith?

What we see at Pennsic is the modern culmination of a 2000-year journey filled with religious warfare, hatred, and genocide based solely on disagreements over whose religion was “true” and which was “false”. In the period of the Roman Empire we saw the persecution of Christians by Pagans, then the reverse of that after Constantine the Great converted to Chrisianity. The great Pagan religions of Europe were undermined and then destroyed either by peaceful conversion or, if they were stubborn, by the sword.

In the later Middle Ages we found the Church itself divided and doing battle against what were perceived as heretic sects throughout Europe. One of these, the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s, resulted in some one million dead primarily in France.

From 1095 until 1285 the entire Mediterranean region was locked in a tremendous struggle between Christianity and Islam. Both claimed the Holy Land as their own and countless lives were lost in the battles that raged there and in other countries bordering the Mediterranean, such as Spain, before the Crusades were finally abandoned.

In England the struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism divided the country from the time of Henry VIII until after the reign of William of Orange. Many who were innocent of any crime other than their beliefs about the nature of the Divine were executed, imprisoned, or fled England for the New World.

Even now we watch cases of religious discrimination pop up here in the United States and sometimes result in violence and death. But these incidents are nowhere near as violent or as far ranging as the struggles of earlier centuries. Yet we cannot ignore the hatred and religious bigotry that flies airplanes into the side of buildings, bombs synagogues, guns down children in a playground, or that speaks words of hate against those who hold a different belief than our own.

And here is where Pennsic has a lesson to teach us all.

Pennsic recreates the medieval world in a kinder and gentler light. There are no serfs or slaves. There are no terrible plagues. The warring armies carry swords made not of steel but of rattan and they limit their belligerence to the battlefield. And most of all, there are no battles over religious beliefs. The reasons for the latter are three-fold.

First of all, outright displays of religious symbolism or discussions of religion are generally avoided. This is a nod to the fact that discussions of religion and of politics are hot-button topics that can create discord in a small community such as Pennsic. Here it is understood and generally agreed upon that what one believes in the mundane world is strictly one’s own business.

Secondly, Pennsic is aimed at learning about the Middle Ages…and of course that means learning about the religions of that period and of the wars fought in the name of religion that so devastated the medieval world. It is nearly impossible to educate oneself on the catastrophic results of religious wars and wish to repeat them in our modern world.

And finally, at Pennsic and throughout the rest of the year, those who seek to re-enact the Middle Ages create a persona for themselves. They find a time period that speaks to them and they become a person living in that time and culture. This leads to some interesting juxtapositions. I know a nice Jewish man who dresses and acts as a medieval Saracen. I have met a gentleman from Japan whose persona is that of a Pagan Viking. My friend, a long-standing Wiccan is Catholic in her persona. What this encourages is the study of what the religion of their persona would have been like. And in doing so they become less frightened of the unknown and realize that each religion is seeking to understand the nature of the Divine and how to live rightly with their fellow man.

So the lessons that Pennsic teaches all of us are that knowledge and understanding builds tolerance. And that the beliefs of another are not a threat to our own beliefs.

It has taken us over 2000 years to find our way to this point, and much of the world still struggles to leave its own Dark Ages behind. So I like to hold up the example of Pennsic as what the world could be like if we could but (to paraphrase the Pennsic motto) become “One time enemies, eternal friends.”


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Creature from Outer Space?

One of the most bizarre-looking fossils ever found — a worm-like creature with legs, spikes and a head difficult to distinguish from its tail — has found its place in the evolutionary Tree of Life, definitively linking it with a group of modern animals for the first time.




Early interpretations of Hallucigenia, which was first identified in the 1970s, placed it both backwards and upside-down. The spines along the creature’s back were originally thought to be legs, its legs were thought to be tentacles along its back, and its head was mistaken for its tail.


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Wissenschaft and Kenntnis

Wissenschaft and Kenntnis
Leonard Sax, MD, in his book Boys Adrift discusses the two kinds of knowledge, which we unfortunately don’t address more easily in the English language. In German, something you have actually experienced is kenntnis from kenen, “to know by experience.” Knowledge from books is wissenschaft from wissen, “to know about something”. Other European languages have their own words to express the same concept, that knowledge comes in two forms, one direct from personal experience, and the other, second hand, explained or imparted by others. As stated by Dr. Sax,

“There is a fundamental belief running through all European pedagogy that both wissenschaft and kenntnis are valuable, and that the two ways of knowing must be balanced.”

Our current model of education in the US, however is to impart wissenschaft, without kenntnis. This is in large part I suspect due to the current emphasis on testing. We can offer information, (second hand, of course) and then test to see that the student can repeat or remember what we have offered. So it makes education cheap. We don’t have to provide any sort of real experience at all. But in failing to provide experience, we cheapen the experience so that it actually has little value to those students, particularly boys, who are left wondering at that back of the class, “What the f___ am I doing here?”

Testing for knowledge gained from real experience is a much larger challenge. How can we test for real skills? It requires people with real experience to do so, and kenntnis is much harder to measure. In a society of anxiety, overly concerned with measurable success, those things that are easiest to measure become the predominant concerns.

Now one of the only skills that parents and children and teachers are most concerned about is the skill of taking tests. They have found that like other human processes, practice is required to gain the best results, and the test scores have become more important than the knowledge gained, as the scores themselves and not the learning they represent are important for opening doors to college.

What is the proper balance between kenntnis and wissenschaft? Experiential knowledge and second hand shared knowledge? Remember in the writings of Otto Salomon and other early educators, the relationship between the concrete and the abstract? As stated by Salomon, education should move from the concrete to the abstract. Pestalozzi, Froebel, and others including Salomon believed that we should start in learning with the concrete allowing investigation. For Froebel, that was accomplished through the introduction of “gifts,” objects whose qualities were to be investigated in the classroom. For Salomon, Froebel’s investigations of form and material were to be continued at the upper levels through the use of woodworking as a tool in general education providing direct hands on experience of tools and materials, the essence of kenntnis. Wissenschaft is knowledge shared but also offered up for comparison and criticism. We evaluate what we are told in comparison to the experiential knowledge gained from our own investigations. If we look at the international scientific community, and all the benefits of modern technology, we see the benefits of that balance. But when education lacks the fundamental concrete investigation that provides a framework for the evaluation of abstract or second hand knowledge, society is placed in peril, at risk to manipulation by demagogues.

Lacking kenntnis, these days we pick and choose what to believe based on conformity to the manipulations and machinations of others rather than on comparison to a foundation of self-discovered truth and confidence of our own investigation. Sounds like the perfect formula for delusion. And if you are following internet media these days, you will see plenty of examples.


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The High Cost of Bored Boys

By Tim Wright, Patheos: Searching for Tom Sawyer

Over the last several months we have witnessed far too many stories about “bad” boys—boys setting off a bomb at the Boston marathon; a boy taking up a weapon to shoot his fellow students; to name a few. But what makes this latest “bad” boys crime so shocking—the shooting of an Australian man—is the seemingly cavalier attitude of the shooters. They were bored.

These boys certainly need to be held accountable for their actions. I in no way want to diminish their complete responsibility for their crime.

But…as a society, we need to be asking questions about how we’re raising boys (or not raising them) and the consequences of raising a generation of “bored” boys.

Boys raised with no compelling vision for manhood, boys who have no good men pouring noble, heroic masculinity into them, become bored. And bored boys damage society either through passivity or violence.

Over 90% of the prison population is male. And almost 80% of them grew up without a father in their lives. These are boys who were raised with little or no good masculine energy being poured into them.

Bored boys see no value to life. Life loses its sacredness. And so any life becomes expendable.

Most bored boys won’t express their boredom through murder, but crime, playing on the edges of what’s legal, breaking the law because of a dare, and other acts against society grow, in large part, out of a sense of lostness—a lack of a vision for what it means to be a good man.

The other response to boredom—passivity—doesn’t get the press violence does, but we certainly feel its effects. Boys are checking out of society. Because they are falling behind girls in almost every area of education, fewer and fewer of them are attending college. They aren’t keeping up with the skills training required of them for 21st Century work. Over the last 20 years, the reading skills of the average 17 year boy have declined!

We stereotype these “boys” as the guys in the cave playing video games for hours on end. Or the guy who still lives with his parents at the age of 35. Or the guy watching ESPN 27 hours a day. These “images” are certainly symptoms of boredom. But the high cost of passivity runs deep.

Robert Bly, in his book, Iron John, offers some challenging insights into passive boys/men:

We know that for hundreds of thousands of years men have admired each other, and been admired by women, in particular, for their activity. Men and women alike once called on men to pierce the dangerous places, carry handfuls of courage to the waterfalls, dust the tails of wild boars. All knew that if men did that well the women and children could sleep safely. Now the boars have turned to pigs in the stockyard, and the rushing rivers to the waterfall in the Museum of Modern Art courtyard. The activity men were once loved for is not required…

…Women are coming out into activity just as men are passing them going the other way, into passivity…During the last 30 years men have been asked to learn how to go with the flow, how to follow rather than lead, how to live in a nonhierarchical way, how to be vulnerable, how to adopt consensus decision making. Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man—they are called priests (authors note—ouch!); the university wants a domesticated man—they are called tenure-track people…

The passive man may not say what he wants, and the girlfriend or wife has to guess it. As compensation for passivity at home, he may go into robot production at work…The passive man may skip over parenting…The passive man leaves his wife to do that.

A Swedish man…told me recently that his women friends complain that the Swedish man has no overview of the relationship. The man knows what he wants today or tomorrow, but does not know how he wants the relationship to be two years or ten years from now. We would call that a sort of passivity of vision. (pages 60-63)

Women in the US echo that concern as they are finding it more and more difficult to connect with men they want to date, let alone marry, because so many boys have grown up into passive men—men with no compelling vision for what it means to be a good man.

We have yet to fully experience the effects of a generation or two of boys growing up with no vision for manhood, but the glimpses we’ve seen so far should cause alarm!

This is a societal issue. One that we can positively impact if we have the courage to change the storyline of our boys and raise them with a noble vision for what it means to be a man.

What can we do about it?

1) We need to re-value boys. We’ve poured (and continue to pour) lots of energy into our girls over the last 40+ years. That’s a good thing. But our boys are lost, and we need to put that same energy into them.

2) Educators need to learn more about how a boy brain learns and fight for getting our boys caught up in school and parents will want to insist that their local teachers learn to teach to boys. (One great resource is the Gurian Institute.)

3) Men need to step up and start mentoring boys, pouring good masculine energy into them. Men need to model for our boys what it looks like to be a man of principle, character, and vision. The church, by the way, is filled with men looking for something world-changing to do. Men, this is your moment. You can change the world by mentoring a boy into manhood.

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