Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
Home PageSend Comment

Ask yourself: Who am I?
Invariably the internal answer will be autobiographical -- an identity based on the past. It will be a description of a continuity from childhood through adolescence to adulthood which is all past memories and no longer exists. Memory is the mirror and we live on the wrong side. Seldom will anyone answer the question of Who am I? with:
I appear to be the process of reading this page.


Who Made Us?

My 3 year old boy loves dinosaurs. What boy doesn't, right? I mean, big, scary monsters that are completely safe appeals to them. We've spent many a day going through our collection of books with him naming the dinosaurs he knows: stegasaurus, celophysis, ankylosaurus. And him asking what the names are of the ones he doesn't remember: beipiaosaurus, deinonychus and those other Chinese dinosaurs that I can never pronounce like huayangosaurus.

My daughter, who's favorite dinosaur is maiasaura, asked who made the dinosaurs. Now, you probably know how you would answer, but at the moment I was going to answer, a second idea came to me, and I feel they both deserve attention.

  1. The dinosaurs, like all creatures, make themselves. Each baby starts as a collection of tiny parts, but grow more interesting bits … likes arms, hearts and heads.

  2. Nature made them, for every now and then, a baby is born that is a little different. Sometimes those differences are good, and the baby gets to grow up and make more babies that look like him. So while a lizard didn't lay a dinosaur egg, over a long process of time (and a lot of eggs), she did.

You can't really separate these two ideas, for it really is a literal chicken and egg problem. Nature provides the environment and incentive for a creature, but it is the creature that mutates to exploit and survive. DNA may be the building block for all complex organisms, but it was simple organisms that put those proteins together.

A few weeks later, the kids and I were watching a documentary on early hominids (okay, only part of it… they don't have that much patience with daddy's shows). My daughter made the mental link between apes and humans. She thought the idea of human evolution intriguing and even humorous-- though she still doesn't comprehend it entirely.

But the answer to who made the dinosaurs, is surely the same answer as to who made us… we made ourselves as well as nature. I present this familial story as merely a preface to an essay I recently ran across.

John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop, wrote an editorial for the Washington Post (you can read a copy here), were he claims that we need to come up with a new definition of God. He says:

Atheism, technically, does not mean a denial of the existence of God. It means literally a denial of the theistic definition of God. That is to say, theism is not what God is; it is what human beings have decided that God is. Human definitions of God can die without God dying. Theism means that we perceive of God as "a being, supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere external to this world (usually conceived of as above the sky), who periodically invades this world in miraculous ways."

He continues:

The theological question that needs to be explored in both church and state is this: Can God be understood in some way other than through these infantile and tribal images? Can Jesus be seen in some way other than as the divinely appointed sacrificial victim who paid the price owed to God for our sinfulness? Because I believe that both God and Jesus are so much more than these distorting images suggest, I am confident that a dialogue with those who call themselves 'atheists' would not only be good for the church but it would also allow deep and profound truth to emerge.

A very interesting idea. But what definition of "God" could we come up with that an atheist, an agnostic, and a religious person could agree upon?

If God is the creative force of the world and the life within, then I guess my two ideas of who made the dinosaurs would be my answer… that is, us†† Keep in mind that according to the Gospel of John, Jesus quoted the Psalmist when he said, "You are gods", and seemed to mean it. and nature.

But the idea of "nature" (or the world) as the genesis and creator of life seems logical, and even helpful given our drive to environmental short-sightedness. A respect or worship of nature would certainly make the pagans in the audience happy.

The fear of such a suggestion to most religionists is the lack of personal meaning. As I've said before, there is plenty of wonder, beauty and awe in such an evolutionary viewpoint, but I suppose that won't be good enough.

It seems that claiming a belief in "reality" or "nature" is little more than a tautology. Could we go beyond this simple fact to find the purpose and meaning-- dare I say the spirituality-- within the materialistic structures that make this world?

This idea sounds very much like the "Way" of the Taoist. For this "Way" is posited as both the creator, and the model for how humans and all other creations should behave.

The Tao gives birth to one
One gives birth to two
Two gives birth to three
Three gives birth to ten thousand things
Ten thousand things with yin at their backs
And yang in their embrace
And breath between for harmony‡‡from verse 42 of the Tao Te Ching as translated by Red Pine

According to the Tao, every creature that follows its natural path (its inner tao) lives in balance and harmony. It is really only humans that stray from this path. Wang Wu-Chiu, an eleventh century Taoist scholar, said:

The sage is not interested in deeds or words. He simply follows the natural pattern of things. Things rise, develop, and reach their end. This is their order.

Tell others about this article:
Click here to submit this page to Stumble It