Monotheism, Part IV

OK, so let’s say for the sake of argument that Science, the discipline and the practice, is a fourth branch of monotheism, following Judiasm, Christianity and Islam. This bratty youngest sibling in a mostly Motherless family obsessed with monopolizing Truth periodically argues for killing off the Father. So where does that leave us? Free? Stranded? Alone? Drifting? Seeking? In a cosmic bus stop with $20 and the freedom to choose?

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Family Mythology No. 1: Exiles from The Shire

About Family Mythology: It’s good for families to inhabit common psychic terrain. We do, but sometimes I think it stops at the boundaries of our property … maybe extends to the park a few blocks away, certainly to the kids’ schools … but there’s a whole lot of “TBD” out there, owing, in part, to the various life experiences and viewpoints we hold. (I was thinking “To Be Determined” when I typed TBD, but let’s change that to “There Be Dragons.”) For instance, I like church, and he likes football (both kinds, American and what the rest of the world means).

So anyway, about The Shire: Back when I first read The Lord of the Rings I longed for the mythological terrain of Middle Earth, with the cozy rightness of The Shire, and the epic landscapes beyond its borders. Somehow (that’s a quick gloss over of a lot of literary criticism) Tolkien created a world that seemed realer than regular old life. And all that place-based magic and meaning – how did we lose that?

Fast forward a decade, and I’m married. A couple more decades, and I’ve realized that he, too, is an exile from The Shire, and really wants little more than to hunker down in a hobbit hole with a cup of tea in a rocker by a fire. In his case it’s more personal. Economic forces uprooted his family when he was 15 from his home in Oxfordshire, and swept them across the Atlantic, inland, to the remote and barren terrain of West Texas.

We’ve had some lovely trips back over the pond, in which many of our country rambles on footpaths trod by Romans and earlier inhabitants of the isle lead to country churches that were there when William the Conqueror did his inventory way back when. Luckily no village is complete without a pub, as all that tramping builds up a thirst.

Now we live on the edge of the Great Plains of North America. It’s not as green as The Shire, but it’s got that ever-so-humble homey quality, low-key but tightly woven community — to quote nerdily from LOTR, “deep roots are not touched by the frost.”

Other truths “we” hold to be self-evident: The Sex Pistols have redeeming qualities. James Bond is a minor deity.

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Connections Revisited

One of the things I really appreciate about the high school that my daughter has chosen to attend is that she’s in school with some of the African immigrants and / or their kids whom I first met while working with our local refugee community. When I switched lines of work I was worried that I’d become totally out of touch with the African community. Now I see them dropping off kids and at various school functions. HooRAY for good public schools.

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What She Said

I just ran across an interview by Caroline Casey, visionary activist astrologer, with The Washington Post. She has got to be one of the most articulate people on the planet, and I identify with her efforts to communicate a mystical sensibility in the context of secular science. She drops finely honed gems of wisdom like, I don’t know, a diamond thief on the run. A couple of amazing excerpts from the above interview:

About being asked to give a blessing at a prominent international water conference:
“At the heart of all great cultures is the heroic task of restoring the waters of life.”

On religion:
“The divine wants to be liberated from past confines of human imagination.”

On religion and science:
“Once they said there’s meaning in patterns, the argument is over between physics and metaphysics and the idea is that then they could have a child, reverent science, as though life mattered.”


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What Else Would We Know?

On the Why page of this blog, I pose the question, “What if women had been serious players in religion, science and other truth-seeking endeavors from the beginning? What else would we know?”

In yesterday’s Science Times, John Tierney’s article, “A New Frontier for Title IX: Science,” provided a partial answer:

“… two psychologists at Vanderbilt University, David Lubinski and Camilla Persson Benbow, who have been tracking more than 5,000 mathematically gifted students for 35 years … found that starting at age 12, the girls tended to be better rounded than the boys: they had relatively strong verbal skills in addition to math, and they showed more interest in “organic” subjects involving people and other living things. Despite their mathematical prowess, they were less likely than boys to go into physics or engineering.”

Alrighty then. Need to think about that. I do know that sometimes working full-spectrum is scarier than holing up in a discipline. And the whole idea of “discipline” is that it focuses energy, molds a soul into an effective form. Hmmm. The challenge is in emerging from a disciplined practice to be able to part of the life-supporting, life-sustaining network of community, and / or for the community — local, federal, organizational, global — to know what to do with the specialized practitioners.

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Rites of Passage

A nine-year stage of life has ended. As of today, neither of the kids in our household attends the elementary school that is half a mile south of our house. I didn’t realize till later that my walk to and from the “fifth-grade celebration” would be the last time I’d enact that lovely ritual, at least as an active parent, for … ever? Many kids, parents, teachers, and school administrators were getting teary, including my son and me. One of the dads asked me how I was doing and I said I deliberately didn’t wear mascara that morning and he said he didn’t either.

What’s truly sad for my son is that a good portion of his close buddies will be going to a different middle school. This is life. It’s not a huge city but when you’re a kid and you don’t drive it really does affect your ability to see your friends. Of course now there’s texting, Xbox live, and much more.

Saw the daughter for about 30 minutes total yesterday. She had two celebrations after school, arriving home on foot with a buddy around 10 as prearranged, and then quickly finagled a sleepover at the buddy’s house. I’ll pick them up after theatre today. She seemed happy and calm. Independence seems to do her worlds of good.

The grownups on our street gathered for a block party, with fifth grade grads and their visiting parents making up a big chunk, and lots of littler kids filling in the spaces. The weather was perfect, clear and not too hot. We are very lucky to have such nice neighbors.

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Gulf Coast Gothic

I just finished reading Duma Key by Stephen King, mostly in one obsessed Saturday. It was good. I’d have to call the genre “Gulf Coast Gothic,” and the setting is reminiscent of Candles Burning, by Tabitha King, a revision of someone else’s not-quite-finished novel.

It reminded me of reading The Shining, probably in high school, down at my aunt’s house in Beaumont, Texas. She said it was one of the scariest books she’d ever read, and I should give it a try. Another year I read The Stand at my grandmother’s house, also in southeast Texas, mostly curled up in a big red chair for a few immobile days. I should reread The Stand, which to this day I recall as a great read, to see 1) whether King has changed over the years and 2) whether I have changed over the years.

King also has interesting Nebraska threads running through his work. It’s where one of the lead good guys is from in Duma Key. In The Stand, I believe it’s where the forces of good rally. The baddies are from Vegas.

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