“Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves. ” Churchill

Category error: Every assertion has built in premises, assumptions about the nature of the Real. If the assumption is wrong, then the containing assertion or claim can’t be right. In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means. Our experience, connection to the Real, as embodied, individualized, localized beings is the first of these. Link

“This finding adheres to a general pattern that imagining a given action or sensation is likely to be neurologically analogous to physically carrying out that action or experiencing that particular stimulus.” Link

“That’s why we’re here: the passing of time has no meaning unless experienced by conscious beings.” James Lileks

…or consciousness, truth, beauty. Time and these are universal but must be individualized, localized to be meaningful.

God hides in plain sight. He does not do the things man does, think, etc., but he is (there) when we do them.

Michael Hanlon on theory of “pocket universes” This sounds a lot like Aristotle: “If it is allowed by the basic physical laws (which, in this scenario, will be constant across all universes), it must happen. This idea from the Multiverse theory. And from Michael Hanlon on string theory: “The many worlds interpretation of quantum physics….states that all quantum possibilities are, in fact, real. When we roll the dice of quantum mechanics, each possible result comes true in its own parallel timeline. If this sounds mad, consider its main rival: the idea that reality results from the conscious gaze. Things only happen, quantum states only resolve themselves, because we look at them. As Einstein is said to have asked, with some sarcasm, would a sidelong glance by a mouse suffice?”

Me: The north pole can’t be definitely located, seen, but we know its there.

Hawking: If Einstein’s general theory of relativity is correct, the universe began with a singularity called the big bang. Now because it was a singularity, all the laws of physics broke down. And therefore we cannot predict how the universe began. A few years ago I was at a conference on cosmology that was held in the Vatican. And at the end of the conference the participants were granted an audience with the Pope. The Pope said it was fine for them to inquire into the early history of the universe, but they should not ask questions about the big bang itself… because that was the work of God. However, at that conference I proposed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity would have to be modified to take quantum mechanics into account. And that modification would mean that there was no singularity. Space time would be finite in extent, but with no singularities. In this picture, space time would be like the surface of the earth. It’s finite in extent, but it doesn’t have any boundary or edge or singularities.


The universe… the universe would have a beginning and an end in the same sense that degrees of latitude have a beginning and an end at the north and south poles respectively. There isn’t any point with a latitude 91 degrees north. And similarly, there isn’t any point in the universe which is before the big bang. And the, but the north pole is a perfectly regular point of the earth’s surface, it’s not a singular point. And similarly, I believe that the big bang was a perfectly regular point of space time. And all the laws of physics would hold at the big bang. And if that is the case, we can completely predict the state of the universe from the laws of physics.


I think it’s an open question as to whether we will find a complete unified theory. All I can say is that we don’t seem to have one at the moment.


We may never find a complete unified theory, but I think that there is a 50-50 chance that we’ll do so by the end of the century.


In principle, but not in practice. Because the equations are very difficult to solve in any but the simplest situations. We already know the laws of physics that underlie the behaviour of matter in normal circumstances. So in principle, we should be able to predict all of physics, all of chemistry and biology. But we’ve not had much success in predicting human behaviour from mathematical equations.

My commentary: Science posits the Real, the source of meaning and purpose, in an absolute other. It’s over the horizon and is called something like “complete unified theory” and would resolve the general theory of relativity with the (theories of) quantum mechanics, the physics of the very large with that of the very small. There are no concrete objects, but waves in force fields. Every discovery leads to new postulates as the absolute other is approached but never quite reached. Like going the speed of light requires ever more energy as one approaches light speed, to make the final leap requires all the known energy in the universe. I postulate that to calculate the grand unified theory similarly requires ever greater calculus and that eventually you run out of calculus coincidentally at the same moment you reach the ultimate theory. Ironically the evidence can’t be finally owned because it hides in plain sight. You can’t find it because the premise you don’t already have it is false.

What’s interesting is the notion that if its possible it will eventuate. Aristotle postulated this, too, and noted that unimaginable horrors were necessary conditions. Also notable is the absence of anything not quantifiable from these types of proceedings. Sean Carroll, for instance, dismisses philosophical insights relating to consciousness, the soul, and religious notions of transfiguration, for instance, as flowery speech. Science generally doesn’t consider anything that can’t be measured. Thus measurement becomes the sine qua non of knowledge. But knowledge isn’t the only path to understanding. Indeed it can be an impediment. It seems to me a grand unified theory would actually account for time, beauty, love, truth, and such coming to have meaning when actualized in a field of consciousness of a sentient life form. My personal grand notion, call it theory if you want, is consciousness is the instrument of the soul and the issue of Grace working through the emotions, through mind, to affect the apotheosis of matter.

If that’s too much to swallow then here is a simpe formula that is known to work: “Praise no day until evening, no wife until buried, no sword until tested, no maid until bedded, no ice until crossed, no ale until drunk.”

Is it really cold empty nothingness? When we “Gaze steadfastly at stars which though distant are yet present to the mind” do we bring the star to the mind or realize the star where it is as already in “our” mind? I’ve lost my note on who first made this observation though Parmenides made a similar statement. Another interesting notion in this regard is from quantum physics, reality results from the conscious gaze. I’d suggest James Lileks has it right when he says “Thats why we’re here: the passing of time has no meaning unless experienced by conscious beings.” Replace “time” with space, or for that matter beauty, truth, love, God, or, The Whole Universe, and we might realize we confer individuality on much more than just this body in which we find ourselves. The Universe might consist mostly of the void but its an interesting void.

Ponder the incomprehensible Otherness of the opposite…
woe has its wisdom, sorrow enlightens the soul.

We are all Don Giovanni

Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Vol. I

The overture begins with certain deep, earnest, uniform notes. Then we hear for the first time, infinitely far away, a hint which yet, as if it had come too early, is instantly recalled, until later one hears again and again, bolder and bolder, louder and louder, that voice, which first subtly and coyly, and not without anxiety slipped in, but could not force its way through. Sometimes in nature one sees the horizon thus heavy and lowering; too heavy to support itself, it rests upon the earth, and hides everything in the blackness of night; a single hollow rumble is heard, not yet in movement, but a deep muttering within itself-then one sees at the farthest limit of the heavens, remote on the horizon, a flash; swiftly it runs along the earth, and is instantly gone. But soon it comes again, it grows stronger; for a moment it lights up the whole heaven with its flame, in the next the horizon seems darker than ever, but more swiftly, even more fiery it blazes up; it is as if the darkness itself had lost its tranquility and was coming into movement. As the eye in this first flash suspects a conflagration, so the ear in that dying strain of the violin has a foreboding of the whole intensity of passion. There is apprehension in that flash, it is as if it were born in anxiety in the deep darkness-such is Don Juan’s life. There is dread in him, but this dread is his energy. It is not a subjectively reflected dread, it is a substantial dread. We do not have in the overture-what we commonly say without realizing what we say-despair. Don Juan’s life is not despair; but it is a whole power of sensuousness, which is born in dread, and Don Juan himself is this dread, but this dread is precisely the daemonic joy of life. When Mozart has thus brought Don Juan into existence, then his life is developed for us in the dancing tones of the violin in which he lightly, casually hastens forward over the abyss. When one skims a stone over the surface of the water, it skips lightly for a time, but as soon as it ceases to skip, it instantly sinks down into the depths; so Don Juan dances over the abyss, jubilant in his brief respite.


Dread is our energy. It is substantial dread. Despair is not what we feel it is our life powered by sensuousness born in dread. Our joy of life is the daemonic joy of life hastening over the abyss. On cessation we sink into the depths our joy not even a bright memory.

This is the gift of Christianity positing, as it does, personal fulfillment on an ever receding horizon infinitely removed from who we really are.

Without memory there is no Real.

Note on Epistemology

We’re not supposed to know. Its a blessing that we don’t. By Grace we are protected from knowing. Bliss depends on this. Such knowing that we would live our lives in its discovery vanishes the moment it is grasped. Because. Knowledge presumes object(s). What if there are no objects? Is knowledge always knowledge of? Grasping and knowing are similar. The desire to own. My knowledge! Certainty. Attraction. Who is the knower? The known? Are they the same? How to dissolve this clinging…

Discovery is the action of the unknown. The less you know the more you create.

Recent untitled poem

The rite of spring
riot of blooms
rout of cold winds, winter’s bane
shivering bones
clattering in dismal dungeons dark

Violets are gone now
and iris and lily
bluebonnets take the stage
peerless blue to shame a cloudless sky

Pretty pink primrose too
takes the eye and
pink petal’s secret promise folds
virgin thighs’ blissful path

See me touch me
feel me smell me
please don’t pick me
let me cast seed and wither and die

I’ll be here every spring
past winter’s baleful fling
and if you fail to come again
my bloom our last visit will ever contain

Of all I am the flowering sum
Pinnacle of the past
nadir of the future
purpose centered everywhere bounded nowhere

John Hinds

History, Culture, Language, and Ethos

The Real takes shape in memory alone.
Marcel Proust

We are only individuals at present and the only real individual is the One, all that is. Our actions are only apparently real. Nothing really happens. Our actions are caused by the whole of things, not really by our will. Therefore, only the One is an individual.
Irwin Lieb

“Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?”And God said unto Moses, “I AM That I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” 
Exodus 3

Proust wrote that in his monumental Remembrance of Things Past. It has always struck me as a profound observation and when I recently ran across a note from years ago it immediately came back into focus.

The note was that in getting a culture – language, ethos, that is – we get a past, we make it explicit. This is the common cultural, historical past.

That was from Irwin Lieb. We were studying R.G. Collingwood’s Speculum Mentis (Map of Knowledge). I’ve written here before about Collingwood and return often to contemplate his contribution to my contemplative life.

Plato observed that in thought we are always going “up” to principles, or “down” from them. Thought somehow puts one in touch with a higher order of things, a height from which we can enjoy a broader perspective. Socrates, Plato’s teacher, said the unexamined life is not worth living, it stunts one’s growth. But a life of thought is a life of reasoning writ large. The “Good” of Plato is the principle to be found in an examined life – the life of reason or thought. It is the bringing together of ideas and forming a synthesis of them.

We are considering history – memory, in Proust’s language, and its contribution to man’s place in the world, to his finding meaning and purpose. Language and culture exist because we have a past and the past exists because we have ideas or thought or reasons that give it shape. Without language we have no thought and no past or history. You see the synergy?

Collingwood postulated that history was one stage of being in the world. He taught us that art, religion, science, and history were part of a dialectic process, one being the foundation of the next in an emergence from primitive to refined modes of being of sentient life. It is said that because ignorance is bliss the artist can lead a full life. That is because art asks questions about the real for which it expects no answer. It lacks even the self awareness, consciousness, to understand its efforts to be questions about reality. Religion at least attains a level of self awareness where wonder about the nature of the world is seen as questions about existence itself. And science takes the next step but instead of positing answers in an absolute other as in the religious mode, it abstracts meaning and purpose as insubstantial, not concrete. It denies historicity by its very nature. Its abstraction leaves it without a basis in concrete reality to which we can relate. It thereby becomes uninteresting, unrevealing, and looses its relevance when it comes to the task of finding meaning and purpose.

In the particular there is buried generality (universality) we want to bring out. When it is extracted science is speaking of hypothetical if universal judgments. The language of science is mathematics which is closely akin to music. Is there a more abstract medium than music? Now, the medium of architecture, for instance, is existential mass. Language, the word, is closer to that substantiality. We can live by words. They can be grasped. They’re concrete, to make a pun. Mathematics, science, art, and religion, inform that life, enrich it, but without language the whole edifice crumbles into oblivion.

Having a memory of the past engages man in real existence. Whether that is something that persists is debatable. Likely it is as ephemeral – and maybe entirely an illusion – as the fleeting moment. But we can talk about the past, our history, and at least we seem to have the capacity to hold onto memories even if we can’t hold onto the instance out of which those memories forever flow into the reservoir of history. We desire a complete synthesis, a safe haven from tumult and its turmoil and trouble. But that ever escapes our grasp. We, while born astride our own graves, are given a glimpse of light during our plunge back into darkness. This brief yet precious beyond understanding moment is an instance of the Cosmos seeing into its very own nature. Take heart that we humans, all sentient life everywhere in the Universe, are the agency by which Reality, Existence itself – God, if you like – has self awareness. The world realizes itself through you and me and all like us. So, of course it is never ending, never complete, always escaping us on a distant horizon. Its somehow comforting, therefore, that the only real individual is the One.

Biblically speaking, God becomes an individual when the Word is made flesh, taking the form of Jesus the Christ. Accordingly, the thoughts expressed here bestow that same status on every sentient life form anywhere. “I am” sent Moses. “I am” sends All.

“G_d” is not a noun. Rather, “he’s” a verb. I am, you are, he, she, it IS. When he says I am sends you he is also saying, without being rude, don’t ask foolish questions. It’s obvious who I am and if you have to ask, well, I’m sorry, but you wouldn’t understand.

In memory of Judy Heckert Woehr


Black scape
Occupies space
on my wall
In my head
a door which is
a doorless room
the mysterious whole
mysterious severed parts
come together
to hold nothing
but itself.
In my head – ideas
seethe around
it’s black edges
compelling me
to turn away.
I think of structures
their particular
of destruction and renewal –
An apogee of atoms
tightly contained here
as a moment is held
solid it time
and at the last
totally grasped.

    Barbara Sturgell
    February, 1973, Austin, Texas

    In response to a piece of art I created, an assemblage named Apotheosis


     My excited ideas carry me away to a place where my presence in you is eternally presupposed, where we first met, where the simplest of seeds, just a transparent offering of your eyes into mine – moist fecund penetration of shameless desire and receptiveness, took root. And what grows now in this ground through our common experience is a yet young growth seen through rapidly evolving configurations tumbling cataclysmicly in turmoil about each other in a kind of spontaneity, like an ever changing yet never changing waterfall of thought and emotional textures, like light playing on light in the abyss, like colliding stars; ecstatic revelations of the silent blackness behind that common nothingness around which our gazing into each others eyes plays like solar flares, and which alone could support my perpetual falling, falling, falling, falling, and simultaneously reflect, reflect, reflect, reflect, our faces back and forth to each other in an infinite regress of images metamorphosing into worlds of subtlety in infinite regress.

     Finally, hovering on the abyss, I am just a benumbed butterfly in the winter wind, chasing you, a fallen leaf blown into a fluttering enticement.

     Potentiality is to actuality as meaning is to purpose as love is to joining. As you are to me as I am to you. We are the same, only the perspective is different. I confer individuality. You confer universality.

Midnight Contemplation

     The world is not what we perceive. (Through the five senses) These are devices to awaken us to the world. The world is what we know it to be through direct knowledge, noesis, intuition. So Merleau-Ponty was not quite right. Neither is the world a (17th century) machine. It is a mind, or, rather, a soul. Your atheist, but not so much your agnostic – he might be considered to be a sceptic – is stuck in the 17th century mind set of Newtonian physics of the mechanistic universe.

     The false dichotomies of the mechanistic world view are a product of the reasoning mind. We have learned that matter is to be contrasted with non matter. A more subtle view is that matter is that which is superimposed by form. Matter is a kind of universality – its more or less evenly distributed throughout space while form confers individuality on matter. The many confer individuality on the one while the one confers universality on the many. Universality is closely associated with intuition and through intuition to faith and understanding. Form is closely associated with reason and through reason to knowledge. We seek to define the universal in terms of the form, specifically, our own form. It was Heraclitus that said man is the measure of all things. This is a bug not a feature.

     The world is not what we perceive. Neither is the truth what we make of it. But this doesn’t mean there is no objective truth. The world is grounded in reality. Its just that the truth, in itself, is unknowable. Only in its particulars is it continuously and endlessly revealed while never being exhausted. The proliferation of red roses never uses up all the red. This is why knowledge always fails. You can’t own the truth. Red roses participate with redness but don’t use it all up. This also serves to explain why every moment of mind is a reiteration of self, soul. And in turn it follows that it is not true there is no abiding soul as the Buddha is reported to have claimed. Redness is there for the next iteration of a red rose for infinity.

     Confusion about this makes it seem we are free to make our own truth, but really, that we seem to find the truth we look for is something of an illusion. There are boundaries. Moral truth is real. Its just that it can’t be exhausted – like the red of the rose. Its not a thing in itself, and neither is God. We find God through faith. That is also how we find moral truth. You can say that reality is what we think it is but that is an error. It is measuring the universal in terms of the particular. And, another thing to consider about a moral compass is not so much that you can see where you are going but rather you know where you are coming from.

     God confers on man universality. Man confers on God, individuality. Put another way, God confers on man eternality, everlasting life. Man confers on God temporality. The sun, the planets follow this same scheme writ large.

     To summarize, its not about finding the one true answer to life’s profoundest questions. They simply are not there. Rather focus on the search for the answer, the ultimate truth. As Kierkegaard put it, life is a mystery to live not to discover. You can’t own it but, better yet, you are permitted to endlessly seek it out. Its much easier to drink from a pool with cupped rather than grasping hands. And, honor, duty, courage, devotion, love, truth, wisdom, understanding, faith, beauty, and liberty are to sentient life forms everywhere what red is to the rose.

     The moon is high in the night sky, almost full. But the silence of this night outshines her lovely face. Contemplate “nothing said can do more for enlightenment than what a finger pointing at the moon can do for seeing the moon.” 

Christian Superstition

     Fundamentalist Christians are not grounded in reality, or the real they are grounded in is based on a falsehood, a false dichotomy. Their sense of self, self identification is dissipated in passion, perpetual vanishing. The ritual entering of sensuous based, delimited, defined trance, is going repeatedly to a feeling characterized by guilt, dread, fear, awe, selflessness. They claim faith abut they have its opposite, dread.

     Feeling is material based. The daemonic is material based. They intend to love “God” but do they? Is the trance a surrogate for the divine and thus is it not true that they in reality unknowingly worship evil? 
     Music, likewise, is a perpetual vanishing. So one could say their worship is somewhat musical.
     Music has no meaning. Rather it is an escape from meaning. The meaning is lost to feeling; feeling comes to constitute the whole of the Real as forever discarnate, disappearing on its appearance, ephemeral and a perpetual vanishing. It can’t be held and therefore is impossible to truly affirm. It is essentially empty, a void, a surd. Evil is that. Void of meaning, purpose is that. Mere material is that.
     So, for the simple person, is there a true path to the divine? Yes, and it is essentially characterized by humility. For Christians of the kind I am thinking egotistically claim they have the secret to truth. Doubt is alien to them but doubt is a secret of the truth, in a sense, because one can never hold the truth, hold God as his very own.  Longing for rapture, union with the divine in a separate heaven to be carried away from this life to permanent bliss, joy, relief from the bonds of the flesh and joining with an eternal spirit are characteristics of their false dichotomy of spirit and matter.
     If one would take a drink from the fountain he doesn’t reach in and grasp the water. He cups his hands to receive it.