In Irons

Mariner knew the whole of US reality is a circus when the press made fun of how Donald held his water bottle. Funny thing, mariner holds his water bottle exactly the same way. The reason is familial palsy.

Donald is the ringmaster. Worse is that the entire news industry has joined the circus. So has Congress. So has forty percent of the electorate. The President’s cabinet is a group of foolish clowns worthy of eighteenth century British cartoonists. If Donald actually had the powers of a Roman Emperor, he would be Nero fiddling while Rome burned. As it is, he is Don Quixote fighting with windmills. Meanwhile, the United States dwindles in morality, international power and cultural meaning – noticeable on a daily basis.

The nation is a ship in irons. Its sails flap uselessly while the future blows by. Meanwhile, China has a global effort fully active on every continent and in every important nation – including our neighbors; China soon will be the international force that defines world markets – including the US role in those markets. But Donald Q is chasing the windmill of isolationism.

Night after night, news media focuses on Donald’s affair with a whore. That the viewers of news accept both the behavior and the coverage as de rigueur is frightening; morality has become a rubber band stretched by entertainment value. Can the reader hear the calliope?

Racism has been welcomed back to the circus by Donald. Immigration is a global issue as economies, cultural abuse and war force human families to leave what they know, what they own, and likely, what they love. In Donald’s US circus, add religious intolerance to the show. Quietly, the Attorney General removes laws protecting any disadvantaged person regardless of their plight.

There are some good acts; the Me Too movement, California’s defiance of many of Donald’s efforts at disassembling the fabric of American ethics. But it is a disrespectful circus we watch. There are menacing shadows.

Mariner has decided to leave the circus tent. There is solace in silence. Mariner retrieves news from foreign press and other websites that are not taken in by the music. This savage time will pass as it always has throughout history – but at what cost?

Ancient Mariner

A Biopsy of the Christian Faith

It all started with Jesus. Today, Jesus might be found in Black Lives Matter or some other rebellious, antiauthority group. He was no saint, for sure. When Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last will be first,” that was a literal statement. The authorities of the time, both governmental and religious, were the oppressors. Jesus devoted his life to caring for the plight of the common people and resisted sources of oppression. His pastoral approach and absolute commitment to his cause was remembered by many and in time led to authors writing about him and advocating his principles.

Authors had little factual data to draw on in those days. It was a time before the printing press, dictionaries, and fact-driven accounts of history. Conceptual writing depended largely on metaphor and hyperbole. These limitations about data allowed writers to emphasize the qualities of Jesus that were unique and deemphasize political and cultural content.

The significance of Jesus’s life is not to be taken lightly. It is difficult even in today’s data driven society to articulate the spiritual qualities that are drawn from his life. His core values of absolute empathy, unlimited forgiveness, and selfless dedication remain the bastion of western civility two thousand years later.

֎

It is difficult today given Hollywood heroes, news heroes, and documented heroes to understand how Jesus became an international icon. Without the media we have today heroes would be hard to find. What elevated Jesus to hero status and the source of spiritual inspiration was the hardship of daily life at the time. Oppression was the political device for managing the masses. If one was a commoner, one’s life wasn’t worth much. Church versus state didn’t exist at the time; there was only state. If one expressed critical views about the Emperor as godhead, one likely would be imprisoned if not worse. Common citizens longed for purpose and value in their lives; they wanted to be saved from their plight.

The term ‘Christ’ is derived from middle Greek ‘Christos.’ The first reference to the word is in Acts 11:26 where its use is noted in Antioch, a city located in Turkey. Early followers of the Christian movement were considered agitators and troublemakers and suffered greatly. To Christians, it seemed reasonable that respecting others rather than oppressing them would provide a way out, a path to a better life. Jesus was the personification of this path. His message and the politics that came with the message spread quickly in the Roman Empire.

A century or two later, the story is told of Emperor Constantine that, at the end of a successful battle, he saw clouds in the shape of a cross and took them to be a sign of divine intervention by the god of the Christians. He issued a decree that Christians were not to be persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Within a few years, Christianity was practiced openly around the entire Mediterranean region. The popularity was good and bad. The Christian message was good but local theology and doctrine ranged from outright magic and demons to sublime isolation. The effect of parochial preference overshadowed the core message of Christianity. Constantine was confused by all the variations and decided there had to be one theology, one doctrine and one ritual. In 325 AD he summoned Christian leaders from across the Empire to gather in the city of Nicaea and establish the official version of Christianity.

The result of that gathering is what most people today consider to be the Christian religion. The collection of books that comprise the Holy Bible was determined at Nicaea. Key doctrines of faith such as the Trinity, transformation and salvation were established. Principles of ritual were clarified and centered Christianity on the authentic principles of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and dedication.

 

[Mariner is certain that is the shortest exegesis of Christianity he has ever written.]

 

֎

A biopsy will be taken that includes parts of theology, faith and ritual:

Theology – A Christian believes in one God. A Christian believes in a loving God. A Christian believes in God as a singularity, meaning all that exists is God; God is not a personal, opinionated or historically interactive God.

Faith – The relationship between a Christian, Jesus and God is one of spiritual coexistence. This is expressed as a triangle called the Trinity. Sharing in the spirituality of the Trinity allows transformation and salvation to occur – a state of being wholly within the Grace of God’s love.

Ritual – Living in accordance with the life and discipline of Jesus; experiencing God’s power through a combined effort of empathy, forgiveness and selflessness; sacrificing the physical nature in behalf of the spiritual nature (laying down one’s life for another is a transformative act).

Mariner wants to clarify an important term before describing the state of the biopsy. The word ‘empathy’ is used frequently when one would expect the word ‘love.’ In mariner’s opinion, the English language is short on words for the various kinds of love that exist. Something isn’t right when we say, “I love God” and also say, “I love the coffee table.” During the time of Jesus, it took three Greek words to say love: eros, meaning physical attraction; philos, meaning brotherly love or friend love; agape, meaning love of God or conversely God’s love of humanity accompanied by a feeling of awe. It seems correct to combine a genuine feeling of empathy with acting in behalf of that empathy, and further to commit one’s self to continuously perform in behalf of empathetic opportunities – in other words, the core behavior of Jesus.

֎

The biopsy.

Generally, theology is in rough shape. Surprisingly, in recent decades more Christians have grown comfortable with a God that is a singularity while still advocating faith and ritual. But for centuries Christian education began by starting with page 1 of the Old Testament. Few students if any stayed with Sunday School long enough to learn the New Testament – the Christian part. The Old Testament, aside from a theistic relationship full of lamenting about God’s fickle ways, presents an image of God which is very anthropomorphic and very much a God who will interfere with history if what’s going on isn’t to God’s liking. A large majority of Christians with just Old Testament exposure still relate to the Old Testament God to help them with their daily activities or otherwise blame God for acting against them if bad things happen.

In the New Testament, God is a love power, a power that created the universe and all that exists. God drives a hard bargain for believers because believers must expand God’s love in order to benefit from God’s love.

Faith, too, is in poor shape as Christian practitioners cut short the dynamic of living hand in hand with God and thereby be transformed into a life of infinite reward. Faith in anything is hard to come by these days. Cultural stability for all of humanity is not readily available. The human tendency is to batten the hatches and retreat to a less troublesome spot where the stormy seas are kept away. However, this is a good time for Christians to measure their faith. Instead of retreating, step out into the world to improve the situation. This behavior requires a Christian to have faith that God will ‘respond’ with feelings of comfort and wellbeing despite the physical and emotional tribulations of spreading the quieting power of God’s love. Remember that Christianity is a transformative religion; somewhere it says your faith will make you whole.

Ritual is in critical condition. Many parts of ritual have ceased to function. Ritual is where Christians execute the core values of Jesus’s life: empathy, forgiveness and selfless dedication. Too many Christians are pew Christians. In Matthew 28:19-20, Christians are charged to go forth and spread the Word. In churches, this is called evangelism. Further, the Word can’t spread in pews; empathy can’t be served in pews; forgiveness can’t be served in pews. The church service has become the primary act in a religion that calls for finding salvation by giving one’s personal, face-to-face actions to people in need. The church service has a role in restoring theology, faith and ritual but the God relationship is outside.

Finally, selfless dedication to the church building has replaced selfless dedication to God and spreading God’s love. For too many Christians, the buildings and assets are sacrosanct without the accompanying theology, faith and ritual found in Jesus.

֎

Sociologists would step in at this point to explain the ill condition of Christianity by reflecting on the influence of changing culture, good and bad economic security, and the will of the flesh as core to the survival of the species. Economists would defend the importance of wealth even at the poorest levels of society. Scientists, educators and data experts would say that Jesus’s Israel no longer exists. Even Joseph Campbell would imply that the Jesus myth has faltered.

Mariner holds that these are excuses but not reasons for ill health in the biopsy. Religion is the responsibility of the individual. It is a personal search for a richer experience. Even without the gathering at Nicaea, humans would search for quality values in life. Many stop at wealth; many are incapable; most seek comfort, avoiding spiritual responsibility as an enriching experience.

More than ever before, our times need Jesus walking the streets spreading the love of God. Jesus, however, gave his life on the cross; it’s time for Christians to pick up the cross and take his place.

Ancient Mariner

 

Philosophy Recipe: Stir and Bake a Long Time

Philosophers are underappreciated. To most of us, embroiled in the intense competitions of the present to make a living, raise children, and root for the Chicago Bears, philosophers are too droll, write boring stuff and write in a dense, laborious style. However, it is philosophers who set the stage for what we believe, what is moral, what the value of life is, and invent the glue that makes sense of human culture. As a new era of history begins, it is philosophers that set the compass.

If one went to college or had an excellent history class in high school, one is aware of the Age of Enlightenment. References set the dates of enlightenment between 1650 and 1800 AD. Notable names of the era, philosophers all, are Bacon, Descartes, Hume, Voltaire, Grotius, Rousseau, Spinoza, Hobbes, Newton, and many more; check Wikipedia or your library for detailed contributions.

We should note that the philosophical burst previous to the Age of Enlightenment lasted over 700 years from about 650 BC to the time of Christ and included Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Euclid, Aristotle and others; again reference Wikipedia for more detail. From the time of Christ until about 1500, authoritarians, pragmatists and utilitarians took over to form the Holy Roman Empire and the Dark Ages. The philosophical growth during this time leaned more to the standardization of religious philosophy and practice. Little profound technical or economical change occurred except for mechanical improvements to daily life such as improved water and sewage and the beginning of practical medicine.

As mentioned, religious practices also are cyclic. Comparing historical cycles, Saint Augustine and the Nicene Council occurred in the third century AD; the Holy Roman Empire was established in 800, the Reformation began to emerge in 1500 and today religion worldwide of every spiritual inclination is under duress as pantheism grows in popularity.

Back to the Age of Enlightenment, toward the end of that Age, the Industrial Revolution emerged, throwing labor-based economics to the wind. Needless to say today in similar times, the underlying progress of science, technology, communication, relatively improved education and a newly discovered spherical world led to a hodge-podge of government theories, economic models and disruption in social class stability that cyclically reoccurs across all of human history.

Assuming a harmonic cycle of history, lasting about 600 years give or take, history indeed repeats itself. Comparing cycles (the last one started around 1550-1600), we today are at the point of the Luddite labor rebellion in 1811, the food shortage/population explosion during the Napoleonic wars in 1803-1815, and the Civil War in 1860. In other words, there is cultural turmoil among the masses. Old values, particularly related to human values versus economics, have shifted sufficiently that previous behaviors seem unproductive.

It often is difficult to make sense of the evolution of cultural value because we can’t see the forest for the trees. Events occur every day around the world that shift philosophy, religion and culture tiny bit by tiny bit. A simple example is moving from marriages arranged by families to sacramental marriages to freewill marriages to homosexual marriages to increasing numbers of legally-based marriages sanctioned by the State. Shifts occur event by event, conflict by conflict, official recognition by official recognition. Change is not a consistent path: there are ups and downs, movement is forward and backward.

With a little distance in time, however, one can identify the evolving harmonic cycle. Today, it may be difficult to identify the current harmonic cycle because of all the trees but there are signs – as confusing to us as signs for early H. sapiens during the Iron Age, Baal worshipers 600 years before Christ, Dark Age serfs, the Luddites, and the Reaganites.

Further, there are many similarities between recent lifestyle improvements and those lifestyle improvements that occurred during the Roman Empire. It may be an intellectual reach but in terms of improved daily life, radio, television, air conditioning, plastic and the invention of the combustion engine may be comparable to an easier life in Roman times. Also similar is the lack of a tour de force of philosophers during the Roman era. Noted a few paragraphs ago, the occurrence of a philosophical era did not happen from the time of Christ until the Age of Enlightenment. Daily comfort easily displaces the need for a new philosophy of life. Fortunately, cage boxing, baseball and curling have replaced savage entertainment at the Coliseum.

Will we, in this modern cycle without a philosophical era, suffer the lack of philosophic discipline? As we shift from technical reality to Artificial Intelligence as reality, will we have a new philosophy to hold together unfamiliar ethics, economies, human values and a new harmonic cycle?

Understand that futurists are not philosophers. Futurists predict events and conditions; philosophers interpret and create ideas. Lacking a philosophical groundswell to guide us in this harmonic cycle, will we suffer corporations as we suffered the authoritative behavior of the Holy Roman Church? Will we be forgotten like serfs during the Dark Ages? Many educated and respected futurists, including the renown Yuval Noah Harari, fear that as corporatism separates from humanism as a reason to sustain profits, the wellbeing of ‘useless’ humans will suffer simply because they aren’t needed. Sadly, this is normal behavior throughout history. Today, marketing to more humans means more profits. In the future, it is likely that profit will be built into the corporate model because corporations will control human value without human preferences.

So it is, without a bond of philosophic interpretation, that our next generations must deal with rootless perceptions of what is right, what is moral, what is just. It is the wild, wild west all over again. Oh, for a philosopher’s recipe.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Did it ever occur to the reader

Did it ever occur to the reader that analog clocks with moving hands and digital clocks with numbers tell different times? Mariner is old enough to remember when only analog clocks existed. Consequently, like everyone else, he grew up reading the whole face of the clock, not time-specific minute markers. If you would like to have the reading experience of an Evelyn Wood speed reader, quickly look at an analog clock for just a tenth of a second. Two things occurred: First, you did not subvocalize the minute marks, which is what speed reading is like; your brain took a picture of the whole face.

Second, your brain immediately perceives values on the clock face to be behavioral rather than temporal. For example, if one is preparing to leave the house for an appointment, the time on the clock face says, “Wow, I’d better get ready to go, it’s almost ten!” Almost ten is purely relative to the viewer’s situation and has nothing to do with finite measurement.

On the other hand, a digital clock zeroes in on the minute as the primary information. Again, the brain takes a picture of stationary digits but another mental step is required to convert the digital picture into a behavioral response. Because the brain perceives the digits as digital value alone, it is possible to look at a digital clock solely to know what minute it is without having a behavioral response. This effect actually is handy for people who don’t sleep well; they can check a digital clock throughout the night and avoid having to deal with behavioral responses.

Being the old generation yet again, with a digital clock mariner must momentarily search to construct meaningful human context for a digital value. Using an analog clock, however, he automatically has a human response. In his house, there are many analog clocks.

֎

Did it ever occur to the reader that our relationship with numbers – no matter why we use them from telling time to building pyramids to astrophysics – is the same as our reading of a digital clock? Our brains need human comprehension of value before numbers have meaning. For example, on sequential days Betty bought 7+4+19 = 30. Thirty what? If we say elephants, that’s a lot of elephants; if we say penny candies, that has a different behavioral response – either example is a response meaningful to humans – a value that numbers alone don’t possess.

When Albert Einstein wrote his “Special Theory of Relativity” in 1905 (he was 26), he had to devise demonstrations that made his theories understandable. He could have shown his mathematical formulas all day to no avail. However, by cleverly relating the special theory to a behavioral experience, people at least had an inkling of what Albert was talking about. One of his famous demonstrations was the elevator thought experiment. To view an entertaining reproduction with a quadcopter in an elevator, see: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=albert+einstein+elevator+theory&&view=detail&mid=5DCA66974B5DEE42C8CD5DCA66974B5DEE42C8CD&&FORM=VRDGAR

The moral of this epistle is that as humans we are bound to a human view of reality. How much more is there to the Universe, the flower garden, the weather, even of ourselves that we cannot see or experience? What is the Universe really like beyond our senses?

Ancient Mariner

Mariner’s Wife

Poets have their unique qualities. Edgar Allen Poe carried an overarching mood in his poems; examples are “The Raven,” “Annabellee,” and “Al Aaraaf.” Billy Collins wrote with a light touch; for example, “Man Listening to Disc.” And the injection of the self into the poems of Robert Frost was unique; for example, “The Road not Taken.”

Mariner’s wife is a serious and talented poet. She has won contests, writes about every aspect of life and, with seeming ease, can create poetry from events anyone else would dismiss without a thought. She, too, has a unique quality in her poems. She injects a twist of thought in her poems. It’s a twist the rest of us would not imagine yet we are forced to take note of it. In the following poem, his wife addresses the relationship of humanity with their God. As we relate to the human condition, we are led to a heavenly twist:

                         At the Gathering of the Great Congregation

At the gathering of the great congregation,

The Lord made his way down the aisle,

Shaking hands, smiling, nodding,

Reaching out to touch a shoulder

Tousling the heads of the infants

Catching the eye of everyone—

Amazing how he acknowledged

Each of us individually.

 

He mounted the steps

Paused briefly before the altar

Then moved over to the pulpit.

There was a great hush

As at the beginning of the world.

Now at last,

At long last,

The meaning of life would be revealed

And the purpose of our deaths.

 

The Lord said, “In the beginning…”

And paused.

A ripple of laughter spread through the congregation.

“Well,” he said with a smile,

“How did you expect me to begin?

In the beginning, I started a story.

It started with light and stars, and galaxies,

And earth and animals and a garden.

And you.

It was a story and you were part of it.”

 

A murmur of puzzlement arose from the congregation

As they turned to each other in dismay.

A hand went up.

The Lord acknowledged a young man.

 

“Is that it? It was all just a story?

We were just characters in a cosmic play?”

 

The Lord smiled. “Just a story. Yes.

But what more could there be?”

 

Voices, questions began to emerge

From the murmuring congregation.

 

“You put us through birth and death and suffering,

Through war and disease

And fear and pain

For a story?”

 

The Lord said,

“Things happen in a story.

If you want to keep it going,

Things have to keep happening.”

 

“But why,” the young man persisted,

“Did you make us suffer?”

 

The Lord replied,

“It was a big story. It had to contain everything.

Worlds, even.”

He paused and added quietly,

“I suffered, too.”

 

Now there was anger as the questions jabbed out.

“You suffered? Give me a break! It was your story,

You started it. You could have made it better.

We didn’t have to die.

We could have lived forever in the garden.”

 

The Lord was patient and kind. He said,

“One of you could have lived in the garden, perhaps,

But not two. Two is conflict and conflict is lack of peace,

It is pain—and it is also story.   Once there were two

The story spun out inevitably.”

 

An older man interjected,

“Are you saying you had no control of it?”

 

The Lord turned toward him and said,

“I could have wrapped it sooner.

At any point I could have said

‘And they lived Happily Ever After.’

But you do understand, don’t you,

That that would have been the end of the story.

Is that what you wanted—the end of the story?”

 

Someone asked, “Is the story over now?”

 

The Lord laughed. “It doesn’t seem to be.

Wherever two or more are gathered in my name

The conflict—the story—continues!

But that is not a bad thing, is it?

It fills up the universe, and our lives

Yours and mine

With joy and glory, companionship,

Fulfillment and love—yes,

It is true that part of it is also doubt

And hardship, pain and grief.”

 

A young woman stood up and said,

“Let me get this straight.

If there were peace on earth

And the brotherhood of man

Lived in right relations with each other—

Are you saying that would be the end of the world?

The end of the story?”

 

The Lord said,

“Yes. A story can’t continue if nothing happens.”

 

“So our choice is—live in conflict or not at all?”

 

The Lord said, “If you live, there will be conflict.”

 

“So what is the point,” came the plaintive cry

From somewhere within the great congregation.

“It seems like bad people advance the plot

Better than good people. You must really

Love the villains.”

 

“Oh, I do, I do,” the Lord said.

“I love them all. I love you all.

The point is—it is a story.

Be glad you were in it.

I’m glad you were in it.

“Oh, my questioning children—be at peace.

Your part of the story is over.

I thank you for the part you played

And for the indelible contribution

You made to the unfolding story of life on earth.”

The Lord raised his hands in benediction,

Turned and paused at the altar

And walked back down the center aisle

Through the quiet congregation

That was silent in his passing.

 

After he left the sanctuary

There was a brief pause before the murmuring began.

It grew louder and more insistent,

With cries of “It’s not fair!”

“He didn’t tell us anything!”

And, “I don’t believe any of it!”

 

And the Lord smiled,

Knowing that his will would be done in heaven

As surely as it was on earth.

 

MKM

June, 2014—after Annual Conference

The Apocalypse is Nigh

Mariner often has touted the joy of being married to a professional librarian, serious poet, and bibliophile of the first order. Yet again, reading through the many books by her bedside, his wife came across this amazing likeness in C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Problem of Pain”, published in 1940. The quote below is found in the chapter on hell:

“. . . . Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth or power by a continued course of treachery and cruelty, by exploiting for purely selfish ends the noble motions of his victims, laughing the while at their simplicity; who, having thus attained success, uses it for the gratification of lust and hatred and finally parts with the last rag of honor among thieves by betraying his own accomplices and jeering at their last moments of bewildered disillusionment. Suppose further, that he does all this, not (as we like to imagine) tormented by remorse or even misgiving, but eating like a schoolboy and sleeping like a healthy infant – a jolly ruddy-cheeked man, without a care in the world, unshakably confident to the very end that he alone has found the answer to the riddle of life, that God and man are fools whom he has got the better of, that his way of life is utterly successful, satisfactory, unassailable. . . .

“. . . . Even mercy can hardly wish to such a man his eternal, contented continuance in such ghastly illusion.”

– – – –

In Apostle Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, he describes the antichrist:

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” [Thessalonians 2]

Is who we think we’re talking about the antichrist? Is his base the nonbelievers deceived by his message? He is eager to use nuclear war. Is the Apocalypse nigh?

“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the Earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The Sun shall be turned into darkness,  and the Moon into blood, before the coming great and awesome Day of the Lord, and it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Joel 2:30-32)

Ancient Mariner

How to Make Order from Chaos

Mariner is not, what is the term – a neatnik. His home office is a replica of the human presence on Planet Earth. The office is a clutter sanctuary, a habitat of overgrown functions that dysfunction – lost in the mire of mismanagement, a Paleolithic collection of useless junk. Mariner decided in a godlike manner to restore order and spiritual beauty to his office. It is time for Armageddon.

Mariner discovered immediately that one must indeed have the power of God to restore functional and productive order to human disorder. God uses water and fire which seems excessive for this task. Mariner has no choice but to wade into the matter in the likeness of Jason and his Argonauts.

The home office is no 10 Downing Street. It is a 12×12 room beside the front door entry. The room has a 5×2 closet with a separate 2-foot storage area above which meets the ceiling. Someone in the past put shelves in the closet; it behooves mariner to say they had no sense of functionality. The closet has two sliding doors which means easy access is only at each end. Unfortunately, there are no shelves at each end – only in the middle behind the doors. This situation has led to intense jury rigging while storing supplies – certainly a contributing factor to the immense disorder at hand.

One immediately sees lying about the office towers of 8½ by 11 paper as tall as they will stay balanced. The reader will be entertained that the resident filing cabinet is half empty – suffering long ago from a failed filing system. An overgrown potted spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) contributes to the mayhem. Overstuffed oak bookcases dominate the walls. Any remaining wall space is filled with sailing charts, photographs of sailing trips and other memorabilia from the past (Why is an eight-foot boat hook leaning in the corner?). A small corner desk with a glass surface holds the computer and its paraphernalia.

Today, the closet has been cleared of everything, shelves and all. This means there is only a foot path from the door to the closet – a mere goat path among the hills. It is time to reorder things. What would God do? Mariner questions God’s judgment when God flooded the Earth but did not oversee reconstruction. Had God dealt with our home offices, perhaps the world of humans would be a more orderly place.

Ancient Mariner

Rajneesh

Mariner was a Methodist pastor during the 1960’s. He was interested in philosophical direction at the time; it was indeed a time of crossroads in contemporary thoughts about secularism, socialism, capitalism, theism, and the role in general of belief systems in modern society. For a college theology assignment, mariner researched an Indian philosopher named, for short, Rajneesh.

Rajneesh was sort of a rebel religious philosopher in India espousing normal Indian mysticism and spiritualism but Rajneesh injected a thread of spiritual humanism that made him known in the western world as well. Mariner has not thought of Rajneesh since his college days. Rajneesh is brought to mind by an article in this week’s New Yorker email.

The most efficient analysis of his approach to spiritualism is to examine his effort to write his own ten commandments (very much a restrictive western gesture). Bless Wikipedia for having Rajneesh’s ten commandments clearly presented!

1.Never obey anyone’s command unless it is coming from within you also.

2.There is no God other than life itself.

3.Truth is within you, do not search for it elsewhere.

4.Love is prayer.

5.To become a nothingness is the door to truth. Nothingness itself is the means, the goal and attainment.

6.Life is now and here.

7.Live wakefully.

8.Do not swim—float.

9.Die each moment so that you can be new each moment.

10.Do not search. That which is, is. Stop and see.

Bring a copy of the commandments to your next Sunday School class for discussion. Mariner guarantees there will be discussion. Certain commandments, particularly 5, 8, 9 and 10, can raise the blood pressure of western capitalists; socialists struggle with 3, 5 and 6; theists are stopped by 1, 2, 3 and 6; western society in general finds 5 an anathema.

Mariner gleaned many sermons from Rajneesh by integrating his spiritual elements with western pragmatism.

Being a bit older, mariner has in his mental library many forgotten moments to discover again. Welcome back, Rajneesh.

Ancient Mariner

 

Old Testament Christians in America

Politico.com headlined an article about millions of voters who believe God arranged for Donald to be President. It turns out it was primarily Pentecostals early in his campaign. Still, polls show a lot more citizens than just Pentecostals believe God interceded (He must have His reasons). The theme ‘Make America Great Again’ has a lot to do with Pentecostal support and with other fundamentalist-leaning believers who have an increasingly difficult time as American culture drifts left.

An interceding God who would do such things as impose Donald on a population is a God the vast majority of Americans accept. It is rare to visit with an individual who believes God is an unchanging, nonjudgmental power of love that does not interfere with our daily lives but requires us to use God’s power to improve the wellbeing of everyone – including ourselves. The disturbing issue to mariner is that it is the Old Testament God who plays pranks like anointing Donald. It is the Hebrew God – a theology that dates back to when theology and faith were just beginning to coalesce.

Mariner could find no polls specific to the preference for an interceding God or a God with a universal, constant presence that leaves history to humans. Based on his readings and personal experiences over a lifetime, mariner speculates that Christian believers in the New Testament (Christian) God are at best 1 in every 500; 1 in every 5000 if nonbelievers (called ‘nons’ today) are counted.

Aside from the Trinity being irrelevant when one believes God can play with history, God immediately becomes our own belief in who God is. If God is not a singular, universal presence, then God can have opinions – maybe opinions just like each of us. God can be prejudiced, racist, allow wealth to reflect faith – just like each of us. We end up believing in ourselves – conveniently blaming a sham God if things don’t go our way.

All of us are aware that theology of any kind is under stress today. We must be careful not to humanize our theology else there is no ultimate truth to our being. One will have only one’s self to be God.

Ancient Mariner

 

Governance in Flux

Like many, many folks around the world today, mariner notices not just a few but a majority of nations suffering from disruptions to their cultural and national ideology. Examples of disruption are environment, technology, computerization, population, globalization, shifts in energy sources, and other international product markets affected by political and entrepreneurial winds.

Mariner asks the reader to indulge the following description of nations and their status in the world of nations.

With 197 nations in the world, government concepts could be a real jigsaw puzzle. But it isn’t. If the nations can be categorized only by overall philosophies of government, there are not too many concepts. Consider:

Democracies – United States and many other nations. Mariner found that democracies in general are struggling with competing philosophies of governance. In the US, the nation is very close to being a cross between democracy and corporatocracy wherein a republic form of government exists with legislators and judges but the direction of policy is controlled by corporate interests. Further, many democracies struggle with succession, for example the collaboration of democracies called the European Union, independents like Syria, Turkey, and Iraq in the Middle East, and all the sub-Saharan nations of Africa.

Dictatorships, including variations on the theme such as totalitarianism, Plutocracies, autocracies, and Anarcho-capitalists (Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan). Africa is overrun with dictatorships preventing affected nations from stabilizing and establishing institutional functions.

Stratocracies (ruled by military) – As one would expect, nations under severe duress often are taken over by military juntas. Recently, a duly elected government in Egypt was thrown out by a military coup. It ruled until another election could be held. Myanmar (Burma) has become a stratocracy where the military has taken control of a powerless government still in place.

Communist Republics – Like democracies, the few communist nations that remain (primarily China) are experiencing philosophical changes in governance. China, while still ruled by one party and one very powerful president, struggles with socialist policies in an effort to improve society enough to compete in the new age of the 21st century.

Socialist Republics – Socialism was a common philosophy at the turn of the 20th century but today only a few socialist governments remain among the Nordic nations. Otherwise, the criterion for being a socialist nation is self-determined. Virtually all active socialist countries actually are variations on communism (Russia and China) or awkward descriptions claiming the rights of citizens as the primary goal of government (Albania, Viet Nam, Laos, Afghanistan and other –stans.

Theocracies – The Holy See or Vatican City is not the only theocracy. Also governed strictly by religious doctrine are Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. In a muted way, religious influence exists in most nations and frequently can cause difficulty in governance. The United States has an active minority hardening against the secularist nature that pulls the nation into the 21st century. Islamic nations suffer even more difficulty as 8th century dogma fails to fit modern cultural demands.

Aristocracies and monarchies – Great Britain is a democracy that retains a very weak role for a national monarchy. Monaco is free of French control as long as the royal family in Monaco can produce a male heir. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy but the monarchy has little authority in legislative processes. There are several other nations that have this pattern.

Corporatocracies and oligarchies – In every case where this category has a presence, it is conjoined with another philosophy of government; it doesn’t stand alone because it needs an organized source of cash. Nevertheless, Corporatocracies and oligarchies have a growing advantage as global markets emerge. The new world economy can easily lose nationalist authority as traditional rules of commerce and outdated concepts associated with Gross National Product lose meaning.

Beyond this list, one wanders into heavily crossbred variations.

– – – –

Mariner thanks readers who suffered reading this litany about the changing philosophy of most governments in the world. It is a necessary task to grasp the unbelievably large phenomenon that is washing away old standards of authority in governance and, amid unending change in technology, international relations, free range economies and shifting populations, there are neither precedents to follow nor a part of the world stable enough to be an example for troubled nations.

Always through the history of nations, destabilizing change was local. Even the Roman Empire and the Ming Dynasty were local compared to today’s universal, planet-wide upheaval.

Add to the high storm waves that wash over a nation’s culture the battle for supremacy among the giant nations, e.g., Russia, United States, European Union, China and, in the near future, continental consortiums like Mexico, Canada and the US, or China, South America and the Pacific Rim, or Russia, Brazil and Eastern Europe, or India and Africa.

Then add economic wars like oil versus alternative energy, international control of information, and dozens of money versus culture conflicts (Greece et al). Finally, add the gross changes in jobs and family sustenance affected by artificial intelligence and the control of thought represented by the novel 1984 and the movie, Matrix – already beginning to control our personal decision-making. Beware that piece of candy called a smartphone – it’s the Matrix connection to your life. Yes, mariner is old fashioned but he is intellectually independent.

Well. Don’t expect a solution from mariner. This conundrum reminds him of a gift he received during Christmas. It’s a nine-piece puzzle with imagery so highly redundant that there are over 50 million possible placements for each piece – but only one solution for all nine pieces.

As Roy used to say, “Happy Trails…..”

Ancient Mariner