To be absolutely sure of the truth of matters concerning which there are many opinions
is an attribute of God not given to man.
Plato, Laws, c.360 BCE
Now I was really depressed. I thought about why. I was happy with the whales. They showed me the fun of life. Like Jesus' saying, 'See the birds, how they neither toil nor do they weep.' But then he followed it with, 'If God cares for the birds so well, so much more does God care for you.' Well after my conversation with Jay, I wasn't too comfortable with that. It seemed like nobody was in charge. And beings far greater than me were experimenting with my fate.
I went out for a walk. It was late and appropriately drizzly for my mood. At least it was warm. Some things in the history of hominids, culminating with us, bothered me too.
One was that our big advancements came while we were changing from herbivore to carnivore, and making better tools to butcher. What kind of personality did that tend to create?
Then the blossoming of our ancestors into art and sculpture and other creative thinking may have been associated with drugs. I was in college in the seventies. I knew what dead end roads modern day drugs could be. Although here and now, people take them to escape, not for learning or with reverence.
And lastly we had apparently ended up with the same dichotomy I was trying to solve. Mindy thought Science was the culmination of our intellect. Howard, and probably Maria, would sing the praises of faith and passion. It seemed an endless battle. There must be some other answer.
I started to hear the bustle of Harvard Square. The Wursthaus was nearby. I thought the warmth of its famous hearth and the din of conversation would do me good.
Although not my habit, I was about to stun my worries with a long, muscle relaxing draft when who surprises me but Ludwig. Actually I saw him first, walking slowly, with great confidence but searching with a piercing gaze. When I caught his eyes, it seemed as if he had found his goal. He spoke first.
"Greetings. Somehow, I knew you were here."
"And how did you know that?"
"I'm not sure. I just woke up and started walking around the square. I'm staying at Howard's place not far away. But I must say, I felt a strong pull. Are you all right?"
"Some readjustment from my former life I suppose. In the 'Ring' everything was black or white. We knew what we should do, even what we should think, because we were told. I guess growing up is hard to do."
He didn't say a thing. Perhaps he wasn't interested in my self pity. He did order some coffee.
"How'd you feel about our conversation on the boat?" I asked.
"I love that kind of discussion. I'd rather talk about big questions any day then what the next rocket stock will be."
"I thought you were upset over some of the ideas, like Mindy's for example."
"You know, Mindy's brilliant. There are a lot worse things I could be doing than debating her, whether or not she thinks I'm crazy. In fact, I'd like to get the E-group together again before I head back."
"So how do you sort out the balance between spirituality and science?"
"I believe when they both mature, they will merge. Knowledge is always partial. We are a product of Nature, or God, trying to understand the whole of Nature or God. Because of that, any system of knowledge that pretends to explain everything has an inherent paradox in it. At least one. So for example, your question about Evil, 'How can a loving God create Evil; or create free will knowing that it will be used to generate Evil?''"
"How did you know that was my question?"
"Sorry my mistake. In any case, this is an area of paradox for the traditional religions. The answer that, 'We are too puny to understand the purposes of God' is not an explanation. It may be true, but it certainly has no explanatory value.
"And science, as we have discussed before, has this big wastebasket with randomness, probability, chance and luck parked on the four sides of it. To say this or that process is determined by chance is to say, 'Don't even ask me about the underlying reasons for this process.' That's not an explanation either.
"Then there are the semantic riddles which really don't even deserve the status of 'paradox'." Ludwig continued. "Like, 'What was before the beginning of time?' This could be asked in any explanatory system and lead to a blank stare. By definition, if there is something before the beginning, then we have to redefine when the beginning was."
"So you're saying that there is no truth. No absolute Truth?"
"Not exactly. If I take this knife, and slice my jugular, it doesn't really matter what paradigm I follow does it? I'm still going to die."
"Yes and no." I said. "If you believe in the afterlife, and your body dies; your spirit lives on free and happy. Then the jugular thing was just a bump on the road."
"Very good. But still there are views which most of us agree upon. There is a reality defined by consensus."
"Is there a reality beyond consensus?"
"If there is, who cares, if we don't buy into it."
"Let's talk about what people do buy into." I persisted. "Right now the world struggles with a thousand different views of spirituality and a slightly smaller number of conceptions of science."
"What's so bad about that? You want all the flowers in your garden to look alike?"
"These aren't flowers Ludwig. These are beliefs. We live and die by our beliefs. I happen to struggle to live up to my beliefs. And when I don't, I feel hypocritical. I feel evil."
"I understand. Here's how I sort it out. We look at the world through many different filters. When we notice the same thing happening through more than a few filters at once; well then it's true!"
Soltrey@humanmind.net is copyrighted July 2000. All rights reserved B.T. Brian Brown.