Looking for answers that pop through the boundaries of thought

A few thought-provoking ideas, reflections and entertainments from the deep south of Cape Town...

Some serious, some frivolous, some perhaps just ranting - see what you think!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Beyond Dawkins' Mind

...a ribald riposte to the militant atheists and the monotonous monotheists

A few years ago, as part of the Darwin centennial celebrations, there was a tedious debate in Oxford between celebrity atheist and geneticist Richard Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury. An advocate of 19th century empiricist atheist science versus an advocate of 19th century wishy-washy patriarchal monotheistic religion.


If I had been up there to debate science and spirit, I would have said stuff like this…

Gentlemen, here in the 21st century, we know in our bones that there is no God outside of ourselves, because God goes all the way to the inside. She’s living and breathing in the electricity of my fingers and the itching in the back of your knees that’s telling you you’ve been sitting in one place for too long. She’s the part of you that wants you to stretch up this miraculous body-gift you’ve been given and sing exquisite music with your vocal chords to the miracle of the dawn, which is the appearance of a solar disc that appears most wondrously on the horizon every day in exactly the same size and shape as the lunar disc does once a moony month, and she is those discs too of course, resonating in harmony with your exquisite physiology. When your heart opens to its vast electromagnetic field and the neurons in your gut start listening to her signals – gentlemen, you will know in your being that there is a God, gentlemen, and she’s a Goddess neither of you have shown the capacity to describe yet, but that doesn’t mean she’s not there, in fact she’s so damned clever she gave you a “God spot” called your pineal gland that is designed (designed, Richard!) to help you experience the cosmic unity behind all this, the bigger transcendent picture that helps you sink into acceptance of your path and, “research shows”, be a happier person.

Now, none of this godly presence can I prove, Mr Dawkins, which you seem to think makes it untrue. It doesn’t, it just makes it “unscientific” by a very modern, narrow, materialistic definition of science – which is that scientific hypotheses need to be falsifiable. What this literally, laughably means is that without defining God, we can’t test whether she exists or not. And since she’s a massive, undefinable intelligence, the light of pure consciousness, the wild and wonderful will-force of the irrational, way bigger than a 3-dimensional laboratory, ergo she does not exist.


Except that in my 21st-century world, I think feel and act, therefore I am God just like you.

Gentlemen, this whole debate would be so much more interesting if I took you away to some Amazonian friends and got you dosed up on ayahuasca, so that the heart-body-mind-industrial complex you walk around in got to experience a Goddess or three, and then you returned to decide upon that question of her existence. For this debate will continue to be sterile while you rely on the notion that your brains alone can work this one out.

There’s something in your incredibly intelligent hearts that’s directed you to this debate. What is it that wants to settle for a limited definition of God and possibility? Or deny anything bigger and more conscious than your current level of perception? Did you have an overbearing father, or an absent one?

I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m sure that what you’re doing here is just perfect for your polarised life path. It’s just that for me, the most useful and inspiring ways of looking at the world involve things my heart leaps at and my head can’t satisfy.

For example, the idea that this whole planet may have been designed for our human incarnation, that all these insects and plants and rocks and animals and fish and birds – and let’s not forget the mushrooms – are simply throbbing with cosmic life juice that we were part of designing. That we’ve been here as consciousness all along, just not in physical form until we were ready – so we’ve left no trace in the physical fossil record. I find that an inspiring, useful notion to play with (thanks Rudolf Steiner for that one), and I can weave you a dozen others from the realm of the imagination which I inhabit as often as I can.

Belief is not a dismal thing to be deadened on a Sunday. It’s a vibrant, active engagement with the miraculous imagination, the metaphorical wonder of this life, the heartfelt intuition that there is a powerful primal force at play here which we are an integral part of. Play, gentlemen, requires your whole being to be engaged, in a way which was so foreign to 19th century Englishmen, but which every child knows. Einstein said (more or less) that “Play is the highest form of research”. Engage your hearts, guys, and party on with the divine being that you are. Your homework is to bring me twelve more beautiful, possible, unprovable, inspiring theories about life, energy, matter and spirit and dance them for me next Tuesday night. Ay-men!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ten thousand years

There is a painful truth in me, the one that says I too am not perfect. The curious thing is that I love it in my friends – this humanity, this smaller piece. Yet I fear to show it, at times, to the world. I fear rejection, judgement, and this fear is a very human one born from harsher ancestral notes, when rejection from the tribe genuinely meant isolation from human society and then most probably death. It’s a childhood fear too, of laughing leprechauns, dangerously mocking spirits, of a vulnerability that allows my power to be stolen away and leaves me in unfamiliar worlds, unable to make my way home.

Perhaps a part of you shares this fear too. This life is a mystery still = how and why I ended up here is at times a gaping question in my being, and perhaps all of the above has already happened. And still I live and love and laugh. Today it is a shiny bright winter’s day and another lost child grown up is standing on the platform, his Victorian beard and folded umbrella giving him away. And so I reach out to hear the idle birdsong chatter in this electric age.

“Soviet power plus electricity,” Lenin once called the revolution. That early magic fervour of the last century – material equality and electricity – was realised in so many horrifically levelling ways, as well as jet-powered certainties. I long at times for the certainty the trees have, the simplicity of a life where the gods still allow a hearty inner peace. Indeed, I think this home we all seek in some ways. The quest for the adventure of the story, the archetypal narrative of the hero’s journey home, leads to the wonder of the fantasy novel, the brilliance of the sci-fi movie, the trials of the video games set in ancient times; and the key question to ask, perhaps, is how much these instantly mythical adventures interact with, inspire, nourish our journeys in this daily reality, this alien world in which we have been deposited.

When I was a young teen I flirted briefly with the pixelated versions of epic, and engaged with the temptation of this virtual complexity. More important, though, were the social lessons I was learning – competing for time with the joystick or keyboard. Sometimes, losing myself in the arcade world for a while. Did I come back better equipped for this world? Almost certainly not: my imagination remained a fragile, vulnerable bird; the shell of escapism did not strengthen that. I have found my way gradually back into this world, and particularly the extraordinary body-heart-mind vehicle with which I navigate my way towards you. Sometimes, I know, you keep me at bay through your own related fears. And sometimes we spy ourselves trying that one again, catch ourselves out, laugh together in this ship of fools.

Today I drank elegantly prepared tea slowly with a friend, shared my imperfect foolishness a little further, talked without distraction, embraced finally beyond the story. The power of story can lead us back, deeper in to this wildly chaotic narrative of cells, to the next step we must take, to the next emotion we must feel without blocking, without lashing out with fists or tongues. Or express deliberately with tongues that know we merely play.  And then in these Yin-Yang moments there is the polarity of stillness: shape, pause, observation.

Ten thousand years of empires and plunder and artistry and genius. Ten thousand years of watching the wind blow and the trees grow and giving thanks.