Best of Spirits

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Best of Spirits

An Oak Tree Falls

They might be just one miracle, two parts

I got two miracles on Saturday.

"The very hairs on your head are counted," Jesus reassured us in Matthew and Luke.

Somehow…
Kreml Dandruff Shampoo Ad
…I don't think this is what Jesus had in mind.
Image source: Sat Eve Post 1935, c/o Duke University Libraries

Urantia Paper 38 clarifies that the angels don't waste their time pawing through your lice and dandruff to enumerate your follicles; they are math geniuses, inherently capable of such estimations. Sounds right to me.

Which was on my mind early Saturday morning, as I examined the fall of two of the three forks of a once-mighty 100-year-old oak:

Oak tree fallen near pick-up
Click pic for 4x bigger

Knothole Cracked trunk
Squirrels evicted. — The remaining trunk is cracked and rotten, too.

Branches fell inches from the big plate glass window - there were oak leaves caught on the roof flashing above the window, and all through the little cedars on either side of the window. Inches. Very close thing.

The big breakInches from the window.

The power lines to the barn run under a branch of a neighboring pecan, which branch got snapped, but missed the lines.

And big branches fell all around both vehicles, yet only one small twig-end broke against the pickup door. No scratch worth mentioning.angel

And no human or beast got hurt. Not even the resident family of squirrels, I think.

That was the first miracle, the incredibly precise harmless tree-fall. Thank you, hypercalculating chaos-controlling angels!

Then…

We were also fortunate that it happened early on a Saturday morning. Within a few hours of the fall, the neighbor's Son-in-Law, and the Son-in-Law's two Sons-in-Law, came over with their chainsaws, a big trailer, and a really sweet little Deere (want!) with grapple attachment. They sacrificed their Saturday morning enthusiastically.

Chainsawing Chainsawing

Chainsawing Chainsawing

Big branch pulled down anim
This may be fake

By two in the afternoon, tons of tree were gone to the South 40, and I was left raking up leaves and twigs.

Raking

That was the second miracle, in many ways, more miraculous than the first. Mrs & I stood there mid-afternoon, amazed at our blessings.

There's a big hole in our leafy canopy now, though. Won't be filled in my lifetime.




Best of Spirits

So, Where is Everybody?

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

Dr. Frank Drake conceived an approach to bound the terms involved in estimating the number of technological civilizations that may exist in our galaxy. The Drake Equation, as it has become known, was first presented by Drake in 1961 and identifies specific factors thought to play a role in the development of such civilizations.

The short, common form of expression of the most positive potentials of this equation is: "Odds suggest there's lots of technological civilizations out in the universe, so why haven't they contacted us yet?"

Or, in the other end of the possibility range, "if advanced, intelligent life exists elsewhere at all, it's going to be extremely uncommon." —OregonMuse on Ace of Spades

Saturn

It's been practically half a century since I read Asimov, but as I recall, in his Foundation and related science-fiction, Asimov projected a creation where the only human-intelligence level reached was earth-spawned humans. Other proto-forms of life were found, but nothing else close to intelligent life. Part of this formulation is the first arrivals (that would be us) interrupt the natural development of any other life form; the "niche" of intelligent life having been filled, we prevent any other. Yay us.

Of course, it makes for easier SF if you don't have to make up a cosmos full of extraterrestrials. Yet some of the finest (and sometimes worst) of science-fiction has been the "first encounter" story, where incredibly different cultures meet.

Galileo suffered from geocentric theology. Pre-reason religionists could be forgiven for thinking geocentrically. The scriptures don't mention that stars are suns with other planets; pre-reason, pre-Copernican people wouldn't've even been able to grasp the concept (some still can't today). The modern believer can't help but put the Drake Equation into the formula. Like the question of why God would allow Evil in the World, the question of Where Is Everybody? can be a challenge for belief.

DNA stretching to spaceI would presume that intelligent life evolves everywhere, yes in astonishing variety, yet along recognizably similar lines as our evolution because it's inherent to the design as light and water and air and carbon. (My Physics 100 professor said something like this.)

I assume life evolves out of mud (possibly with some nudging), that motility induces central nervous systems, which grow brains which look and think and wonder and eventually recognize, "I am me" and "you are not me" and morality and theology derive from that realization everywhere just as they may in the development of any terrestrial.

My view is that Darwinian evolution is really quite predictable, and when you have a biosphere and evolution takes over, then common themes emerge and the same is true for intelligence.

Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary paleobiology at Cambridge University, quoted in 5 Scientific Theories About What Aliens Might Look Like, The Week, 2013 Jul 16.

Therefore, just as we have (rather recently) discovered that galaxies abound and planets are plentiful, we can project that the solar systems of the universe, naturally, will be as teeming as possible with the children of the Almighty.

Even more, moving science under the more general umbrella of theology, the faithful assume that this is not some randomly-fluctuating mechanism in which we are spawned, but that the universe is under the overcontrol of, not the Almighty First Source and Center his own self directly, necessarily, but at least direct and trusted appointees, as it were.

It is, in other words, a grand, well-ordered universe, designed to be inhabited.

So, again, where is everybody?

Legions of angels watch over the earth

Taking the above assumptions, presuming we're not unknown but well-known to the Governors of the Galaxy, what's the deal?

One would pretty much have to conclude our isolation is intentional. In this framework, we might be left alone, the way an anthropologist might try to avoid unduly corrupting a hidden native culture, or the Star Trek reflection of that, the "Prime Directive," (which only seemed to be brought up when it was about to be violated).

Another possibility is that we have been corrupted, and we are isolated the way the body walls off a virus, or we would (back in thoughtful days) isolate a community that had become rife with contagion.

They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.Psalm 82

Andovontia is the name of the tertiary Universe Circuit Supervisor stationed in our local universe. He is concerned only with spirit and morontia circuits, not with those under the jurisdiction of the power directors. It was he who isolated Urantia at the time of the Caligastia betrayal of the planet during the testing seasons of the Lucifer rebellion. In sending greetings to the mortals of Urantia, he expresses pleasure in the anticipation of your sometime restoration to the universe circuits of his supervision.

Spock and McCoy as mobsters
Links encountered while researching the above
Why We Haven't Met Any Aliens, by Geoffrey Miller, Seed — Perhaps our current science over-estimates the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence evolving. Or, perhaps evolved technical intelligence has some deep tendency to be self-limiting, even self-exterminating.
Anthropic principle (Wikipedia) — The strong anthropic principle… [states] the Universe is compelled, in some sense, for conscious life to eventually emerge.
Everything Forever — Gevin Giorbran "eloquently explains for the lay reader the governing role a cosmic zero plays in the evolution of all universes and all life"
Physics and the Immortality of the Soul, by Sean Carroll, Scientific American blog — The questions are these: what form does that spirit energy take, and how does it interact with our ordinary atoms? Not only is new physics required, but dramatically new physics…. [That's true, y'know.]
Does science make belief in God obsolete? — Mary Midgley: "Of course not."



Best of Spirits

Imagine Only Heaven

What in Heaven do you mean by no Hell?

Lennon profile after Imagine sleeve art

Imagine there's no Heaven above us, no Hell below us. When John Lennon released his cry of confusion, many religionists took it as a dismissal of religious belief, among other criticism:

Interpretations of these lyrics abound, with some claiming Lennon was saying he was an atheist and other claiming that it was merely a condemnation of organized religion. However, if there is no hell below us and above us is only sky, it would seem as if Lennon is saying that some of the most important theological aspects of Christianity simply don’t exist! In short–I say atheist.

Wikipedia: Imagine: Recognition and Criticism
IxQuick web search: Criticism of John Lennon's Imagine

Whatever the song's author's beliefs or intent, I've always thought the religious critics missed the point about Heaven and, more especially to my thinking, Hell.

In the pre-scientific age of flat earth, where the sky and the heavens were synonymous, God and the angels sat among the clouds above, literally raining or hailing down munificence or punishment. Meanwhile, volcanic activity and geysers of hot water certainly lent credence to the belief in a fiery underworld.

Fresco of Heaven, Earth, Hell
W Wikipedia

The idea of good and bad spirits was always around, but Zoroastrianism chiefly influenced higher religions with the concept of dualism, so I've read. The teaching parable of the Book of Job is a classic consequence. And there was that unpleasantness with a local senior administrator and his followers. But wherever we got the idea that the Evil One had power on a par with Deity, and held independent sway over his realm like a separate but equal Mirror Universe of Heaven, that's not monotheism. [Link unavailable 2019-04-30. Here's a dialog-free short version.]

UFO Comes the Age of Space. We travel in the clouds and find only... clouds. We turn our telescopes to the farthest regions of Creation and see only... more stuff. We probe and explore the center of our globe and find.. only a remnant of the sun.

Old ideas of "where" Heaven and Hell exist could not stand. Quite naturally, their very reality therefore comes into question. That's why we sang, with John, "No Hell below us, Above us only sky." (Further apologetic for Imagine's lyrics awaits some other article.)

Moderns have managed to push the dual realms into some kind of science-fiction-like other-dimensions, but otherwise have not really upgraded the concepts.

Mirror Universe Spock as Devil in Bosch Hell


 

 

 
Let's start over, with God.

God creates universes. There really is a perfect, eternal universe centered around Paradise, home of the eternal Trinity, home of the immortals of that divine universe, and true home of survivors from time and space. Physically, from our perspective, it isn't "in" time and space, but the time-space creation circles that gravitational focus.

Star Trek 5: Staring Heavenward
Just like in Star Trek V — Not!

That perfect creation is the pattern, the nucleus of all reality. We in evolutionary space are the mitochondria in one of the cells of the still-developing replications.

The kingdom, the government, really, the family of the Gods thus create life in abundance. Squishy, evolving, fallible life like they can't grow in the perfect place. They make children of God out of... dirt! out of... meat! Believing creatures who have to learn to be spiritual! From the perspective of those never-erring Eternals, who never grew up or sinned, our partiality of perfection must be astonishing.

Theistic Evolution

They put in place mechanisms for the continuation of mortal personality beyond material death, an accumulated real thing which reflects the spirit's efforts to bring animalistic thinking into harmony with divine values - a soul by which you can be reconstituted in the mansions of resurrection. It's taken care of. They even sent us that message, in the most powerful possible Way.

Empty tomb

The true dualism is, a soul survives, or there is nothing of survival value. Much breath and ink has been expended debating whether all are saved, whether judgment comes soon after death or at the end of an age, what one must do to be saved, and whether every soul arrives already perfected and saved, or some (most, it looks like from here) need a purgatorial extension before being able to make the fully-informed free-will choice to join the eternal family. All these weighty matters lie beyond our present scope, because the question at hand is not the way of Heavenly salvation, but the consequences of the Other Choice.

Goal thermometerDualism is an illusion, merely a subjective binary interpretation of the quantity of water in a glass; fullness is the reality by which less than full is considered, emptiness being a total lack. Cold is lack of heat, but unless you're at absolute 0°K, there is some "heat." Darkness is absence of light. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Immorality is the absence of a heart guided by wise fellowship. The absences, lacks, and emptinesses are not "real" as much as they are defined by lack of that which is real - heat, light, wisdom, love.

Those who reject the light do not go to a fiery pit and burn in eternal torment. It pleases our animal thirst for vengeance, for old-fashioned, Old Testament justice, to imagine the worst souls writhing in agony eternally for their iniquities. But in mercy, the iniquitous simply cease. They are, in Pythonian, ex-souls. There is no longer anyone there. Personality disruption is complete. Is that not heartbreaking enough for the family of souls to endure?

Kneeling, grieving woman

Jesus spoke of those who rejected the truth as being cast upon Gehenna. Some take that to mean the Hell of their own concept, but Gehenna was the perpetually-burning trash heap (tire fire of its day) outside Jerusalem. He was saying, my way or the trash heap.

This only concerns Hell as a location in reality. There is a need in some folks for fear of eternal torment; for them, until the carrot of love of God, fellowkind, and values replaces the stick of fear, avoiding eternal torment is a positive motivator that understanding of mere eternal cessation may not provide. Then there is the metaphorical living Hell of separation from God, the burning torment of divided loyalty, a life of sin. And there was, likely still is, a real Devil, walking this world, who brought a kind of Hell to our world, not yet repaired. But again, all these are beyond the current scope. In practical terms, a soul has a simple, root choice:

Survival or not. You might say, Join or Die.

Heavens, yeah.

Now go forth, enlightened, believing firmly in the Heaven you get around you every day, the Lord you find in the eyes of every struggling fellow mortal, while assured that, although there is no Hell, the cartoons about the guy with the horns and hooves and the jokes about who's there or not can still be funny.


 

 

 

AC/DC and Led Zep fans see choice of Stairway to Heaven or Highway to Hell
Al Bondigas, Deviant Art

Video playlist accompaniment for this article
includes videos linked above, and more.



Best of Spirits

Rampaging Nutcases and Other Disasters

Despite blots on the canvas, the big picture matters

Bridge collapseTornado strikes church during services.
Earthquake-tsunami wipes out coastal towns.
Cars fly off collapsed bridge.
Airplane flies off the end of the icy runway.
Gunman opens fire on campus/ theater/ crowd.
Tyrants torture.
Armies conquer.
Famine spreads.
Economies collapse.

We can learn from hard experience.
We can plan better, build stronger,
act more wisely, strive for peace.
We can have more
armed people,
security guards,
everyday citizens packing,
balanced self-government,
fortified defenses,
wise diplomacy.
We may even find a kind of international peace and unity.
The degree of disaster can be tempered, but
murder and disaster can not be prevented.
Not entirely.

Hitler Storm over NYCThe unspeakable horror that is too common,
the psychopath, the sociopath, the unhinged mind,
devoid of all social, moral, spiritual self-governance,
a conduit for catastrophe beyond comprehension.

Our hearts go numb with shock at first.
Anger and disgust may pass through our minds.
We imagine the horror endured as if we were there.
Then the kindred spirit takes over.

We mourn with the living.

The dead will be comforted beyond.
The wounded need mighty care and prayer.
The families and communities need to heal,
as much as healing and recovery is possible.
We mourn, we weep, we cry out to the Almighty.
We bury our dead, grieve deeply.

World in a CellOur connection with one another has grown exponentially.
Even as we become five, six, seven billions,
we are as close to each other as the nearest cell.

Every caring person is affected.
Some rush with chainsaws to help
the tornado-ravaged city.
Some donate blood and goods, cash and time.
If nothing else can be done,
we mourn and pray with the affected.
So we appreciate the information.
It's hard to bear the news.
But we appreciate the news.

Chatting online and suddenly someone says, it's an earthquake!
An earnest radio voice reports on the horror,
with passion, with sympathy, without exaggeration.
A neighbor asks, have you heard about the explosion?
These messengers are respectful.

Bat ChildIn the old pop news media,
so often, the presentation
is distasteful.
The bad news is bad enough.
The frame they put upon it doesn't help.

Pop news celebrates the aberration,
because aberrance is sensational.
Man bites dog, they call it in the news biz.

After the plane crashes, after the terrorist attacks,
the tabloids scream with fear-inducing details,
fat headlines and frightening photos.
Watch our channel!
Buy our paper!
Read our website!
Be afraid!
The politicians and newcasters consort
to rush to capitalize on tragedy,
get their faces associated with the madman's,
their names among the headlines,
their propaganda entangled with the tragedy.

Clinton Alien BabyThey don't recall the absolutely incredible
record of airplane safety,
how many peacefully attended the theater,
how well the infrastructure held up today,
how many people do not want to kill you,
or the magnificent stories of everyday heroes.
That isn't sexed-up. That doesn't sell.

The relatively small event
is framed as if it were all-encompassing.
You are doomed.
All is lost.
Live in fear, despair, depression.
This is a vale of tears.
The Devil wants you to think no one's in charge.

News shock / OMG cat
But.
Someone is in charge.
Kneeling before JesusYou are blessed.
Live in hope, with sincere faith.
Appreciate the everyday miracle.
that joy and fellowship can be found.
This is the big picture.

Millions of the gregarious and civilized
enjoy common pleasures, public treasures.
Then, despite all precaution,
every now and then,
a madman can rush past the guard
and slash the honored canvas.
We haul the madman off,
we repair the canvas as best we can.
Ultimately, the madman
has no lasting value,
is just another thing.
The big picture matters eternally.
Humanity helping each other in true fellowship,
reaching out more than ever
in consequence of disaster.

Long after his murderer's
very existence is forgotten,
the musician will be honored,
his music inspire.

Brian Ross of ABC takes heat for another blunder (Politico)
“I would emphatically say its not a left-right thing. I’ve never discerned in his reporting any ideological movement,” one ABC News source told POLITICO. “It’s the big sensational story that he’s after, and he’ll do the same on either side.”

Bomb squads disarm traps at Colo. suspect's apt (AP/MyWay)
The Colorado shooting suspect… [rigged] his apartment with explosives aimed at killing first responders. "You think we're angry? We sure as hell are angry," Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

Aurora shooting suspect jailed in solitary: ‘All the inmates were talking about killing him’ (NY Daily News)
“Let’s just say he hasn’t shown any remorse,” a jail employee told the Daily News. “He thinks he’s acting in a movie.” A released inmate said Holmes’ behavior behind bars was increasingly irrational.

The stories of the victims, and the ultimate heroism (Daily Mail)
[Three] died trying to save their girlfriends… a very delightful, lively little girl… excited about life… He saved me and gave me the opportunity to live and he would have done it for anyone that day… threw himself in front of his girlfriend… and her brother… always had a smile, always made you laugh… I hope this evil act... doesn't shake people's faith in God… He was an outstanding shipmate… valued member of our Navy team, he will be missed by all who knew him… a man who loved God, loved his country, loved the outdoors but most of all loved his family….

NO GREATER LOVE




Best of Spirits

Jesus Stands There

Crossing all barriers of culture and language and time

One day long ago, at the beginning of a break from college, I sat down in my mom's back yard with the practically untouched Bible she'd given me years before for my catechism, and I read the four gospels for myself, really for the first time.

Answered many questions, raised many more.

I was persuaded by nothing more than those records — and have never had cause to be dissuaded since — of Jesus' historic reality, and indeed the general accuracy of what he was reported to have said and done. Miracles and all.

Mark Gospel fragmentI'm no inerrantist. (I always say every word of the Judeo-Christian scripture may be divinely perfect, but that doesn't necessarily mean every passage means what we think it means.) However, I find the gospels all the more persuasive in that despite seeming contradictions and some general confusion of sequence (how many times did he do the mass feedings?), despite intervening centuries, and recopying glitches and translation problems known and unknown...

Jesus stands there, confounding the 'wise' while both amusing and uplifting the commoners, and readers centuries later,

replacing crippling ceremony with liberating simplicity a child can understand (good Samaritan),

forgiving his 'enemies' even as they're nailing him to the cross,

living his teachings magnificently, through all trials, to the horrifying glorious end,

concerned even to the last about others, his mother, his followers, the thief the next cross over,

and when it was finally at an end, when his mortal brain was expiring, going down reciting Psalms.

Then coming back like a Boss.

Among other immortal highlights from his saga.

You know the saying, you can't make stuff like this up? I am persuaded that nobody alive then could have made this up.

Which leaves this reader confronted with a personal call across two thousand years that I still strive to answer.




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