being natural, Intelligence, natural, simplicity, Taoist, Uncategorized

FULL OF AWE

I spent my honeymoon in 1970 on the banks of Loch Awe in Scotland. At the time I wondered whether its name had any relationship to “awe”, meaning “wonder, marvel”. It was only recently, when the word “awesome” became ubiquitous, that my mind went back to original meaning of this word.

As you may know, “awesome” is now used in virtually any situation to mean “the best, the greatest”, often when the thing being described is far from the greatest, far from the best. Whereas in Scotland, we might say “that’s not bad”, Americans (and many others) would say “awesome!!!”

Indeed, “awesome” seems to the word of choice in a world of permanent hyperbole. Nothing is ordinary any more!

It may interest you to know that “awesome” and awful” used to mean the opposite of what they mean today. Awful meant “full of awe” – therefore, wonderful, marvellous. Awesome, as the word suggests, meant “some awe” – therefore, not quite so wonderful.

I have no idea when the change occurred, but I can speculate why. I believe it is mainly because we live in a world of topsy-turvy values…where footballers get paid much more than nurses, and where people become overnight celebrities because they say something rude or stupid on Twitter or YouTube.

I had this cultural decline in mind when I organised and chaired a conference in Scotland in 2000 – entitled “Thinking Allowed”. The strapline was “Bring Back Thinking – All is Forgiven”. Of course, this was partly tongue in cheek, but the serious intent was to demonstrate that the quality and range of thinking has deteriorated markedly these last few decades.

A few years later, when I was living in New Mexico, I used to watch a programme called “Thinking Allowed” on Sunday mornings. As its host, Jeffrey Mishlove, pointed out, this was a play on words. He also pointed out that it was difficult to find people who could really think, and whose language reflected this. The fact that he was able to find a few was, of course, awesome!

global change, Intelligence, natural, simplicity

ARE WE HERE BY CHANCE

Today I will apply intelligent simplicity to an important question: are we here by chance? Do we human beings just happen to be here, for no reason, on this particular planet, and nowhere else? In any event, what do we mean by “chance”? When we say that the toss of a coin or the throw of the dice is a matter of chance, what do we really mean?

What we really mean is that we cannot predict the outcome. This is not because the outcome is theoretically unpredictable. It is because we cannot do it in practice, because we do not know all the variables. There are two many of them, and the effect of some of them (for example, the exact force exerted by our thumb, or the influence of the air temperature) are too difficult to know.

This is important because it suggests that there might be no such thing as inherent chance – meaning no reason at all for something to happen. What we have instead is apparent chance – meaning our inability to know exactly why something happens. There is a world of difference between inherent incomprehensibility, on the one hand, and our current inability to understand or explain. The first would be a quality of the universe. The second simply reflects our state of knowledge and consciousness. The problem is that we tend to confuse the two.

Having said this, I believe that nothing happens by chance. We may not be able to explain why it happens, but this is no reason for consigning it to “chance”.

Significantly, if we are not here by chance, but for very good reasons, it is clearly important that we discover what these good reasons are. To express another way, if there are good reasons for our being here, this suggests that there is a purpose – a meaning – for our being here. We have a role to play in the grand scheme of things! How would we go about finding out what our role, our purpose is? For the moment, I think this question is best left hanging in the air!