Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Peter, why are you an Earth Centrist?

First there was a lifetime of living and absorbing lessons, then there was an essay, then there was an invitation to give a talk, then the challenge to inject some relevant bio and double the essay into 20 minutes that hold the audience's attention, okay can do, at least I’ll try.   
Then the skeptics’ group that invited me imploded.   
So it goes. 
Life is busy and now the script sits here, I like it, though I keep tinkering with it. Guess foremost it’s a continuing education project for me.  Still now with spring loading me up with chores and distractions I want to do something with it. So, I’m putting it out here and I invite thoughtful responses.
{For a fun distraction, any Bluegrass fans out there? }
Rational comments, pro, con, observational, are all welcome, nonsense will be ignored.  Thoughtful will be respected and posted no matter what it says.   

Hello, my name is Peter Miesler and I am an Earth Centrist,
      
… and I admit, I’m hoping you’re wondering what in the world is that and why on Earth should you care.
I even spent a couple weeks last year writing an essay describing this particular perspective.  It turned out pretty good, it was tight, flowed well, told a story that held attention and people liked reading it.
I sent it around, even received a couple attaboys from some genuine science Who’s Who, who are usually silent, which did me a bit of good.  I’m not the crazy one after all.  :-)  I have enunciated something valuable.  But that was about it, then a return to the good 'ol sound of one hand clapping.


© Steven Orfield 
When reading it to friends, though they listened with interest, it left them a bit perplexed rather than enlightened.  Okay? Fun interesting read, now what am I supposed to do with it?  What is it actually about?  And so on.  In responding I was down to, ‘it’s about perspectives and how we process the information that’s flowing through our senses.’  

Thinking on it some more I know that it's about much more than that.  It's about grasping for an appreciation of DeepTime, Evolution, and the dance of life and geology that created this world we were born out of and will die back into.  Something that offers individuals a path to understanding their own place in time and the universe within a sane reality based over-arching perspective.

Something that offers peace in the face of our individual mortality and that eternal question of “Why?”.

Something that offers spiritual fulfillment through a visceral appreciation for how time and life on this Pale Blue Dot created us and this world we inhabit today and will return to upon finishing our short dance across life’s stage.  Why isn't that cosmic gift enough?

Something that can offer rationalists and atheists a sense of our own spiritual fulfillment - in contrast to the faith-shackled's nonstop trumpeting about praising EGO and being intolerant towards others.  

Something that offers us Children of the Intellectual Enlightenment the inner moral foundation and spiritual fortitude to step up and lovingly, constructively, challenge and confront those sad brainwashed souls eye to eye.  

All of us have them in our lives, why not discover ways to ask them how they live with the cognitive dissonance inherent within their “my way only” religions? 

Maybe slow down those self-certain ME FIRST Trumpkins from steamrolling rationalists into oblivion.  Listen to them, lordie knows it's what they’re dreaming of doing.  We had better stop ignoring that or a genuine horrendous civil war will unfold in parts of our country.  They haven’t been stocking piling those straw men and contrived angry passions and weapons and ammo for nothing! (4/3/19)  But I digress.

Before I get to the Earth Centrism, I think I need to look at some of the origins of my own individual perspective.  After all, give the same book to a dozen readers of diverse backgrounds, …  


then ask each about what they had read. Each will describe a different story.  Sometimes only slightly different, other times it’s difficult to recognize they are reviewing the same story.

This is of course because each of us perceives the world that’s flowing through our senses, through our own unique Perceptual Filters which sort out this flow before our minds digest it.

Different aspects of a story capture our attention to varying degrees depending on our preconceptions.  Some experiences click with our sensibilities, some not. 

So I want to start with sharing some of the key moments in the formation of my own apparently rather unique perspective.

It started in my bloodline, for better or worse I’ve been introspective and thought filled since my first memories.  

Add to that my newly immigrated, eclectic parents and their environmental influences such as a small apartment full of classical music and books, the huge Webster Dictionary on it’s own stand, two encyclopedia sets, my older brother’s Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines piling up in a corner.  Then there was that magnetic mysterious Kulturfahrplan unreadable yet fascinating to page through in wonder at all the things people had done.

But there was more, back then, in a kinder gentler Chicago, I had a mom who loved visiting museums with her three little ducklings in tow.  That being me, my twin sister and our kid sister.  We didn’t have preschool, we had field trips into the city, the zoo, botanical gardens, parks, and one museum after another. 
As an aside, one of my friends, a few years older and who knew Chicago back then, laughed as I read him this part.   Peter, there never was a kinder gentler Chicago, he chuckled.  

Processing that has only deepened my appreciation.  Because now I'm recalling the tight ship mom ran, her instructions, lessons, expectation that we learned to live up to.  Now I see the Mama Cat teaching her kittens how to navigate and survive the jungle.    

Add to all that, since I can remember we had a rarely broken golden rule, outside English, inside our home German was spoken. 

So my brain developed bilingual and given Chicago’s, at that time, vibrant first generation German immigrant community, I can almost say bi-cultural.

With the hindsight of six decades I can now recognize how those experiences built one on top of the other, always spurring on a bit more awareness of, … engagement with, … and curiosity about this creation I was born into.
      
      
One day building upon the next.  Still, every once in a while, … a day comes along that immediately shifts everything to a new plateau.

My first “epic” - you could even say “mind expanding” - experience happened before entering Kindergarten.  

I was playing on our living room carpet, the afternoon sun had filled the room with a brilliant galaxy of dust moots. 

I was watching them as they floated about my head and chased the air drafts my Mom created as she moved through the room.  

I’ve no clue what prompted me. 
But you know, kids say the darnedest things.  I asked my mom, “What is God?”

I like to think it took her a few beats, 
in any event the response I remember crystal clear.  
A speck of dust that wanted to be more.” 

WOW, my attention zoomed in on one floating speck, God within my reach.  ZAP, BAM  Those words struck me and rang through every bone in my body … and it’s no exaggeration to say they’ve been reverberating ever since.  

I remember a few years later in grade school, when our teacher told us about the Big Bang.  I was gobsmacked.  My mom’s words came right back and I’ll admit she scored some big points that day.  

For me the two notions, one poetic and spiritual, the other exacting and technical, fit together and reinforced each other beautifully. 
  
Working on this talk, it occurred to me - this early tweak in awareness kindled a spark that made learning about Earth sciences and Evolution a profoundly personal experience.  Rolling around that sentence in my mind didn't offer any answers, but it certainly hinted at possibilities. 

The more science I discovered, the deeper I appreciated the folds within folds of Earth’s cumulative harmonic complexity flowing down the cascade of time.

All of it, eventually, giving me an ever growing sense of existential belonging, solidity and inner peace in the face of transition and death that no words from ancient Holy Books, nor contemporary preachers for profit can touch. 

And to think this awareness began with a speck of dust that wanted to be more.   :-) 

There was another early formative incident I’d like to share.  

Back then, at the end of the ‘50s when religion still respected its place in American society.  

My god fearing Southern Baptist grandmother, who made sure we said our prayers and told us Sunday School stories, also sat me on her lap to look through her old Encyclopedia Britannica volumes.

Dinosaur bones,… 
mammoths thawing out of permafrost, 
microscopes peering into the smallest cells while 
giant telescopes looked up into deepest space, and
Wagner’s notion that continents floated around our planet.

While explorers were trying to fill in the remaining terra incognita on our Earth.

She was introducing me to mystery,  
after down to Earth mystery 
that existed out there in my world.
Not silly fictions, but the real drama unfolding before me.

When I think about it now, I realize that I literally belong to the last generation of kids who could still believe in a boundless Earth and distant “empty” territories waiting to be explored.  

It was a time when the moon and Solar System was still all mysteries and guessed at wonders.  

I think about that, mine is the last generation of curious kids who looked at the moon with the same ageless wonder as the ancients did at the dawn of our history.

I find that very profound.  

I find it fun that Armstrong first walked on the moon on my dad’s birthday. 

Looking at the moon has never been the same.

Thinking on it, by sharing those scientific stories of earlier decades about people filled with curiosity, and their discoveries offering more questions than answers, grandma put me in touch with mankind’s ageless - at least we thought it was ageless - Wonder at the Universe that creates our world, something that had haunted thinking mankind since our inception - 

Seems to me that’s disappeared from generations now formed by Hollyworld daydreaming and social media consumption driven expectations.

She primed my curiosity to wonder about these natural questions.  Something that blossomed into a life long passion to keep up with science news during these past revolutionary decades, and to keep striving to put the pieces into a coherent whole best I can. 


But, that’s not the “epic” incident I was referring to.  

You see, we lived in Chicago, the Lakeview district.  Grandma and grandpa lived outside Chicago in the country - at least back then it was farms and country.  

They had a solid acre of land that included their house, a huge vegetable garden in the back, a few flower beds, a nice little gazebo covered in Morning Glories, big lawn, a sandbox for grandkids, and a few young trees here and there.

We’d stay there for parent vacations in the summers and such.  Early on, while we were still quite young, grandma would bath us, then haul us out on warm sunny days to the gazebo to clip our finger nails.  

Now here’s an example of our mental filters at work,  This memory includes my two sisters.  

We three were a captive audience as grandma explained to us that clipping our nails out there would put the nail parings into the flower’s soil to break down and then to help nourish the plants. 

Recently I spoke with my sisters about it.

They remember those days and the three of us fitting into the bathtub and even the gazebo and nail clipping ritual, but not that story.  

Yet, for me, the lesson was like a home run, then and there.  Suddenly this squirt become viscerally aware of the fundamental concept of material transformation and nutrition flowing throughout the biosphere.  

Curiously my entire life I’ve always tried clipping my nails while outdoors, still do.

It’s more than a gesture that keeps her memory present in my heart. 

It’s a bonding ritual, a bit of me becoming part of that patch of Earth and any roots seeking nourishment.

My love for Earth’s secrets continued through high school.  Then came graduation.  I had neither the self-discipline, nor the money, nor the inclination for college and a career in science.

After 12 years of school, I'd had enough.  I was sick of being told what to do and when to do it, and most of all I was sick of being told what to think.

I wanted to be left alone.  I wanted to taste freedom and travel.  I wanted to experience living for myself, I wanted to test my mettle out on the road, and so it was.  

I was a poor boy so always had to work.  Which created it’s own wonderful series of opportunities and adventures.  In fact, I’ve learned that about the best way to get to know people is to work side by side with them.

First stop, Yosemite National Park for 2 1/2 years.  I'll confess, while there you could say I was spiritually Reborn.  Not with Jesus!  With something better, a revelation that left me appreciating what the Indians meant with "Mother Earth".  At the time it was more a spiritual feeling of oneness while out in the Sierras and its foothills.  
  
(With the decades incoming scientific information has continually reinforces those early woo feelings with ever more down to Earth factual background that helps us better visualize Earth's wild evolutionary pageant which created us and our world today.  The one we continue consuming fast as possible.)

By and by, 22 found me in a chef’s apprenticeship at the Michelin Star Hotel Hirsch, in Bad Würzach, Allgaü, southern Germany, playing the exotic new kid in town from the fabled land of California.  Good times.

I was girl crazy, but terribly shy, although amazingly certain girls always seemed to drift towards me.  Perhaps simply because I related to them as real people and not targets.

One in particular, Erika, belongs in this story.  We could talk for hours.  We did a little petting but not more, she had a serious boyfriend back home.  Fair enough, so conversation and story telling it was.  One day she had a gift for me.  Giving it to me with a note of drama, she intoned: ‘You’ - ‘must’ - read this book.

It was by Hermann Hesse, “Narcissus and Goldmund” about two young medieval monastery students who bonded with each other, yet were destined for two very different lives.  

Narcissus, a disciplined scholar and ever more important Church cleric.  The other one discovered he was a lover of life, art and experiencing the world.  

As Goldmund’s life unfolded woman discovered him, he discovered women, he discovered he was an artist, all the while living a nomad’s life, full of good times and hard times. 

By and by, he discovered his lost mother’s memory and her spirit, which ignited a burning need to sculpt a sublime image.  

One that distilled all the women he’d known, with the mother he had barely known, into a vision of the eternal Madonna, mother to and lover of all men.  

It was a touching book and a wise gift, for in Goldmund’s story I found the permission I needed for my own quirky, experience seeking vagabond journey and all the people and places and fascinating conversations that came and went back in those traveling years.

It also challenged me with the notion that someday I too could create something that did justice to my life’s experience of this world.  

Some forty years later I found that an old essay by Steven Gould provided an excellent kickstart for me to try and do that.  That is, to write my own hallelujah chorus.

You see back in 1997 evolutionary biologist and historian of science professor Steven J. Gould wrote an essay for the Natural History magazine titled: “Nonoverlapping Magisteria.”

It was his attempt to address the tension between scientific truths and religious truths.  His solution was the notion of “Non-overlapping Magisteria” - also referred to as NOMA.  Magisteria meaning “teaching authority.”

You could say the “ teaching domain of science” and the “ teaching domain of religion.”

Gould concluded there should be no conflict because these “Domains of Authority” - the spiritual and the physical - don’t overlap and should be able to exist in mutual respect.

When it first came out I loved the idea because it resonated with my own struggling intellectual spiritual journey which was embedded within gathering and learning from sober scientific knowledge about this Earth.

Yet also containing a spiritual undercurrent of Touching Earth and having experienced ‘God’s Breath’ against my back, so to speak.

Gould’s idea was interesting and it gained a lot of attention and lively discussion, but in the end seems to have offered little to either side. 

For myself, the criticisms made sense, foremost being that in our real world the two realms do indeed cross boundaries all the time.

Though my enthusiasm for the essay diminished, the conflict kept echoing like an unresolved challenge, especially as I increasingly engaged in debates with faith-shackled contrarians about evolution and climate science.

In the years and decades since I’ve kept learning more about Earth’s amazing evolution and geophysics and also the scientific process itself. 

A process that’s basically a set of rules for gathering and assessing our observations in an honest, open and disciplined manner that all who’ve made the effort to learn can access and trust.

Recently it occurred to me Gould was missing a much more fundamental divide that is crying out for recognition.

Specifically, the Magisteria of Physical Reality vs the Magisteria of our Human Mindscape.  

It was then while I was struggling to find and weave the words to explain myself, that it became clear to me - Earth herself was not only central to my conception of reality, but supreme.  

After all, heaven and hell had evaporated long ago and human hubris filled me with contempt rather than any shock or awe.

The Earth Centrist’s perspective acknowledges that Earth and her physical processes and the pageant of Evolution are the fundamental timeless touchstones of reality.  

Part of Earth’s physical reality is that we humans were created by Earth out of her processes.  

Science shows us that we belong to the mammalian branch of Earth’s animal kingdom.  Yet, it’s undeniable that something quite unique happened about six million years ago when certain apes took a wild improbable evolutionary turn.

By and by, besides the marvel of our two hands, we developed two feet and legs that could stand tall or run for hours and a growing brain that learned rapidly. 

During this period our brain physically morphed in some significant ways that enabled it to host a profound leap in cognitive information processing, storage and retrieval ability. 

On the outside hominids learned to make tools, hunt, fish, and select plants, plus they mastered fire for cooking and better living.

On the inside our brains were growing and benefiting from the new super nourishment while human curiosity and adventures started filling and stretching our mindscapes with experiences and knowledge beyond anything the "natural" physical Earth ever knew.

By mindscape I mean all that the brain can perceive and process, which of course evolutionarily speaking was dependent on our brain’s hardware keeping up with the ever increasing volume of information and thoughts.

While the human mind and spirit are ineffable mysteries, they are also of tremendous consequence and real-world physical power. 

They drove our growing ability to study and manipulate our world; to communicate and record our experiences; 
and to formulate explanations for a world full of mysteries, threats and wonders.

People learned to think and gossip and paint pictures upon the canvas of cave walls, and even better, upon the canvas of each other’s imaginations.  We’ve been adding to our brain’s awareness and complexity ever since.

Of course, while all this was going on our extraordinary human mind was also beginning to wonder about the ‘Why’ of the world it observed and the difficult, fragile, short lives we were allotted. 

In seeking answers to unknowable questions it seems to me inevitable that Gods would inhabit our mindscape. I suspect inspired by buried memories of being coddled within mom’s protective loving bosom those first couple years of life.

No doubt these “Gods” enabled further successes, though not through super-natural interventions, but rather through their ability to form, conform, reform and transform the mindscapes of the masses of people beginning to congregate. 

Thus, combining pragmatic civil societal needs with universally felt, but keenly personal questions, fears, and dreams. …

After the middle ages - tribal stories - accepted ancient doctrines - and religious “truths” were no longer enough to satisfy our mindscape’s growing desire for ever more understanding and power over the Earth. 

The human brain took another tremendous leap forward in awareness with the Intellectual Enlightenment and the birth of serious disciplined scientific study.

Science’s success was dazzling in its ability to learn about, control and manipulate Earth’s physical resources and to transform entire environments.

Science was so successful that today most people believe we are the masters of our world and too many have fallen into the hubristic trap of believing our ever fertile mindscape is reality itself.  

Which brings me back to Gould’s magisterium and his missing key. 

The missing key is appreciating the fundamental “Magisteria of Physical Reality,” - and recognizing that both science and religion are products of the “Magisteria of Our Human Mindscape.”

Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our brain's mindscape. 

Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable.   

What’s the point?  I think it’s about better appreciating our ‘frame of reference’ - and especially recognizing that we aren’t the center of creation.  

This is important today because some have convinced themselves that they actually have a personal Almighty God in their back pockets, when in fact our Gods are as transient as governments and the human species itself. 

Religions, heaven, hell, science, political beliefs, even God, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.  

Destined to be swept away by the hands of time, while Earth and life will continue its dance.

Here we are, 2019, sober assessment of physical facts is out of fashion and self-destructive fantasy thinking in the service of ruthless avarice is in.

Now it literally threatening to topple USA’s government Of The People, By The People, and For The People, in favor of a Me First, profits are more important than reality, oligarch run machine.  

All the while the actual physical creation outside of our conceited petty minds keeps on unfolding, following well understood geophysical rules regardless. 

Ignore at our own peril.

So that’s my essay.  
But it wasn’t finished. 

I was asked what good is this essay?  
What can people do with it?  

Why should people care?
  
Well, lets start by thinking about our country and how over the past few decades easily a third of our citizens have been brainwashed into believing they actually know God’s Will.  

Sadly, their God’s Will seems to be focused on envying, fearing and hating their fellow countrymen and the way we want to live.  

They are blindly self-certain of their God and there is only one way.  Their way.  That’s Ego, not God at work! 

It doesn’t matter to them that America was founded as - and has always been - a pluralistic nation.

It’s hideous.  Now I’m no atheist, it's a meaningless concept to me. A personal god does not exist, that's Ego - manmade through and through.  

But, beyond that?  I’m too intimately familiar with evolution and biology’s utterly mind blowing ways and means and the story of how she got here.  I don’t care how much my science pals howl, there’s a direction, randomness is ordered, and there is a ‘will’ going on.  

Definitely way beyond my comprehension!  But like 'dark gravity' we see its result without knowing what it is.  Call it what you want.

I’m good with notions of God, but She's a whisper, an unknowable something beyond our mindscapes.  

For me God is Creation, 
all four and half billion years of her, unfolding one day at a time. 

Our individual unique relationship with God is the most intimately personal humans have - but it’s a nontransferable relationship - to nurture or squander as our own numbered days unfold.

But not to force others to fit into.  That's tyranny, a human thing.  
Which is why people always make god's in our own images.  Seeking god to hide their own avarice behind, we're so transparent.

Hell, the Biblical Book of Job even warns believers: 
God is beyond human understanding, 
PERIOD!
FULL STOP!
But do they listen?

There’s no denying that religions bring communities together and they help us feel the spirit in our hearts.  But what they offer is shadow plays and ritual.  

Nothing’s wrong with that !  We need it !  

But, for God Sake stop mistaking that 
with down to Earth Physical Reality ! 

God is in our hearts and souls, why isn’t that enough?

How did it get this bad?  

I think it’s because no one made the effort to call foul on greed driven evangelicals and their insane amoral hubris!  

We’ve been giving them a free pass since this hostile takeover attempt got serious with Reagan’s ruthless political strategists marrying some Me First power hungry evangelicals that had learned how to pimp Jesus for cash and power.

Now more than ever we need to stop talking past that part of our nation.  We need to start confronting them, even if they and us find it uncomfortable.  

Not with anger, but with intelligent spiritual challenges of a more constructive way to look at religious certainties versus physical certainties.  

Why not make them question themselves?

But, that message has got to come from your heart.  

I believe a fact based Earth Centrist appreciation for Evolution and our place on this Earth and in this time offers opportunities for us individually to develop our own intellectual/spiritual awareness, grounding, strength.  

That in turn, will help us develop individual constructive and challenging messaging towards the faith-shackled people who exist within our own circles.  

Why not challenge them to question their self-certainty?
Why not challenge them to rediscover religious faith as something reflected in how we live our individual lives, not in how we demand everyone else to live theirs.  

Least we can do is demand that geophysical facts and down to Earth reality start being respected and taken seriously.


Thank you for your time

(most recent edits 8/1/19) 
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2 comments:

Unknown said...

All that without mentioning the word capitalism. Great effort

citizenschallenge said...

Why should it have?