The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, November 9, 2009

Observations Made at the National Zoo with Our Kids

The Parable of the Monkey House

Walking into the monkey house, one man quietly gazed upon the large, dark male gorilla. The beast was at peace while all around him was bedlam. The crowd outside his cage hooted and shrieked, made odd faces, pointed and waved, all in a vain attempt to attract the attention of the recumbant beast. Within the cage a TV flickered and sang, but it was ignored as well. The man stared into the eyes of the ape, marveling at the intelligence within them and pleased with himself for noticing. Then the man saw a curious thing. The ape’s eyes usually wandered over the crowd, without finding anything of particular interest. Suddenly, however, the ape sat up straight and his eye’s tracked something unnoticed by the man, something moving from left to right at the back of the crowd. A moment later, the ape relaxed again and his eye’s wandered.

The man was curious now and wondered if this would happen again. What had suddenly gotten the beast’s attention? Watching the gorilla, the man soon saw something again attract the ape’s attention. Quickly, the man followed the gorilla’s gaze. Across the back of the room, a beautiful woman crossed from one side to the other, noticed by no one other than the gorilla, and the man. The man chuckled to himself, mere coincidence he thought.

Still, the man was curious and continued to watch the gorilla as the crowd came and went, making odd monkey noises and gestures which were of no interest to either ape nor man now. Again, the gorilla’s attention was captured. Again, a beautiful woman crossed the room, a different woman than before. Three times this happened while the man watched. Shaking his head, humbled by the experience, the man left the monkey house. The gorilla, mere object of curiosity when the man arrived, proved to be much more, able to find beauty among his captors even as they ridiculed him with their foolish japes.

Information and Belief Collide: Confusion Reigns

Two books I've been reading lately have helped sum up one of the problems of our time.

From Harold Evans' book My Paper Chase, I read: "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." --James Madison to W.T. Barry, August 1822

However, in Joseph Blenkinsopp's book, A History of Prophecy in Israel, I discover that the later prophets were backed by such a long tradition of prophecy and so many prophets with divergent views (prophecy varied by time and circumstance) that the average hearer was not sure what to believe and often ignored prophets out of confusion.

Things are exacerbated today. We have a huge onslaught of information, all conflicting and endlessly streaming and knowledge that should govern is submerged in a flood of opinion and visceral response. Oftentimes we throw up our hands and respond, "Oh that's just your opinion" and then turn to our favorite information outlets (so many of them can't be termed news with good conscience) for our own tailormade point of view. In doing so we run the risk of ignoring vital information and being ruled by ignorance and fear. Things are too dangerous today to do that. What a bind we find ourselves in!

Any solutions out there? Anyone wish to impart some real knowledge?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Challenging Quotes in Polarized Days

The following quotes are from the book, Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road by Paul-Gordon Chandler. This book presents the story of Mazhar Mallouhi a Muslim follower of Christ who is introducing the loving Jesus he knows to the Islamic world. These provide food for thought for all, religious and non-religious folks alike, who feel the urge to become invective spewing bomb throwers. Read these, take a deep breath, think twice, repeat:

"We have reduced ourselves to religious, to denominations, to confessions...instead of following my Palestinian compatriot from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth." Elias Chacour (The Palestinian Archbishop of Galilee) [p. 127]

"...some ... believe they have the whole truth and therefore assume others can have no truth at all. However, as Mazhar says, 'we do not own the truth; the truth owns us.' Consequently, Mazhar is very grateful for all truth found anywhere ..." (Consider this carefully all angry adherents of faith and non-faith before calling others hell-bound or superstitious fools.) [p. 95]

"God walks in the Holy Scriptures seeking people." St. Ambrose [p. 147] (Not one special group of people or another, all people.)

"Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,/There is a field. I'll meet you there./When the soul lies down in that grass,/the world is too full to talk about./Ideas, langauge, even the phrase 'each other' doesn't make any sense." Jalal Al-Din Rumi, a 13th century Muslim Sufi mystic [p. 73] (Shhhh...)

"All truth, by whomever it has been said, is from God's Spirit." St. Ambrose (who baptized and discipled St. Augustine of North Africa) [p. 73] (Makes drawing lines in the sand seem a little silly, no?)

Less contention, more dialogue, more truth discovered, please.