Sunday, November 25, 2012

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to My Daughter
25 November, 2012
Good Morning Jessicca…

The attached picture is of the remains of a pigeon found a while back by a London man as he was cleaning out his chimney.  One of the bird’s legs has a small metal canister fastened to it that contained a coded message written by British troops in France sometime after D Day in World War II.  The finest cryptologists have attempted to decipher the code’s meaning but, so far, they have only revealed the message’s first two words:  “Dear Santa, “.

The latest issue of The New Yorker has a profile on the Evangelical theologian Rob Bell.  In the article he quotes 1Timothy 2 as saying, “God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth.”  I couldn’t find that quote in my King James version of the Bible, but it sounds pretty good to me if you assume God gets what God wants.  I don’t claim to know anything about the nature of God for the simple reason I don’t believe claims that any doctrine knows anything more than man’s own thoughts and desires.  The infinite complexity and surprises contained within Existence itself makes it difficult for me to believe I can somehow better understand its creator.  At best, I can only tap into my own intuitive sense of things.

As I age I do place more trust in what is referred to as intuition.  I’ve come to see intuitive feelings as less mystically based and more firmly grounded in actual experience.  I believe we experience during the course of each day a number of perceptions that might be called subliminal in nature – impressions that don’t quite reach the level of fully acknowledged conscious consideration.  These impressionistic feelings aid in providing the basis for the ultimate conclusions we derive with our conscious mind.  While some aspects of intuitive response may result from the accumulated experience of just living, I suspect much of what we regard as intuition could be credited to instinct – behaviors and reactions to circumstances that are hard-wired into our DNA.  The nature of Life itself is shaped by its primary necessity:  survival. 

While walking the dog I recently came across a large, fat robin that had died.  Each morning for the following week I saw the robin lying in the same spot unmolested.  Finally, last Sunday, two crows came upon the robin and methodically picked it apart, leaving only a scattering of feathers to indicate it had ever existed.  This is a common occurrence, isn’t it?  This is an element of life we not only see carried out by other species but we experience the same fundamental impulses ourselves while maintaining the course of our own lives.  The most critical behaviors we rely upon to sustain our life do not have to be taught.  We are born with the desire to eat, to drink, to appreciate comfort and to value safety.  We are determined to sustain life even before we have any conscious appreciation of the quality of not living – death. 

Life is a complex, carefully balanced, phenomenon.  The existence of Life within the physical realm is precarious.  Any one miscalculation by a living organism can easily lead to the unraveling of its own organized state and its resulting permanent loss of consciousness.  For life to be sustained, at any level of complexity, requires decision-making that does not rely on conscious thought.  We call this instinct.  What are the instinctive behaviors?  Certainly, as I indicated earlier, the desire for nourishment, comfort and safety are instinctive.  I would add behaviors such as parental love as being instinctive; as well as the feeling of romantic love that ultimately leads to the creation of new life – or, perhaps more accurately stated, to the continuance of life.  Let’s extend our appreciation of instinct even further to include our interpretation of our surroundings. 

What it is we know of our world is not the result of direct experience but, rather, the product of a subjective mental process.  Our minds experience colors but the physical realm has only frequencies provided by the action of photons.  Our mind hears sounds but, here again, the physical world provides only the vibrations of molecules.  No molecule has the characteristic of taste, but we know sweetness and salt.  Similarly there exists no characteristic of odor or hot and cold in the universe of our existence.  The senses we rely upon to navigate the reality of earth are only mental interpretations of experiences we cannot otherwise know.  They are fundamental instinctive processes that guide us to actions favoring the continuance of life and ward us away from behaviors dangerous to our survival.  Our minds provide us with the best possible chance for existence in a realm heavily weighted against any individual instance of complex organization required to sustain Life.

Now, how does your Thanksgiving feast fit into this grand scheme of things?   Let’s start by saying it probably qualifies as being what we call too much of a good thing.


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