Saturday, May 30, 2015

New Book By Diana Butler Bass "Grounded: Finding God in the World, a Spiritual Revolution."

Diana Butler Bass sits down with Huffington Post's Paul Rauschenbush to discuss her latest book, due out in October, "Grounded: Finding God in the World, a Spiritual Revolution". She argues that the problem with contemporary Christianity lies in the way we think and talk about God. She says the old vertical theology of "God above", "Earth below", no longer resonates with the way people actually experience God in their daily lives. Her solution is a new theological language for God talk. It's really a fascinating conversation I think you'll enjoy. As for me, I'm planning to buy the book!



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Science, and the Church

When it comes to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin I tend to see his ideas as metaphorical. He was a scientist and a mystic, and when it comes to mystics, it’s always a mistake to over literalize their work. That said, he was a pioneer in trying to reconcile Christian theology with the findings of modern science. The Catholic church rewarded his efforts by essentially suppressing everything he ever wrote. The avoidance of the hard questions presented by science has been a major failure of the mother church, who likes to think of herself as having moved on from the likes of Galileo. But the truth is, medievalism is still present and provides cover for fundamentalists both catholic and protestant. This has deep implications beyond the culture issues of the day. A religion without metaphors that comport to our modern understanding of the world is impotent. This is a great loss to humanity. On that note I would like to refer you to a great essay by John Farrel called Still Seeking Omega. It’s 3600 words but well worth your time if you're the deep think sort. Enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Monty Python, Thomas Aquinas and Gay Marriage

 

The Monty Python segment above is very amusing but it actually is based on medieval philosophy as practiced by 12th century thinkers like Thomas Aquinas. It also makes a salient point. Your logic is only good if your starting assumptions are correct. Thomas Aquinas was a genius with logic skills of the highest order and is largely considered the father of Catholic Natural Law. There are many schools of natural law, but the one most frequently cited in the gay marriage debate is the Catholic variety so I will stick to that. Aquinas main theological project, The Summa Theologica, is foundational to natural law and was concerned with reconciling Aristotle’s philosophy with Christian theology. Galileo got into all that trouble with the church roughly four centuries later by upending Aristotle’s cosmology which, thanks to Thomas, was considered settled theological truth. Aristotle’s metaphysics included the notion that all matter is formed of four essences, water, fire, earth, and air. Therefore birds could fly(or ducks float!) because of a certain admixture of air in their physical composition giving them a tendency to rise. That's only slightly less absurd than a wooden duck but it made sense at the time. In addition he reasoned that living things also contained a spirit or life force that directed the actions of living beings. This explained the difference between the living and non-living. In addition human beings had another non-physical component called a genius which corresponds to higher reasoning. This is what separated man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Aquinas took these concepts and placed them in a Christian frame. Without going too much further down the philosophy rabbit hole suffice it to say that Aquinas thought the human intellect had a divinely built in capacity to recognize moral choices. There where two sources of moral knowledge, natural laws and divine revelation. Natural laws are self evident in nature, like the will to live, the desire for food, or the desire to procreate. That last one of course is the sticking point in the gay marriage debate. Divine revelation was generally derived from scripture. In Thomas’s system all natural behavior in animals was intrinsically good. Only human beings, through the exercise of free will, could subvert their naturally moral state. Thomas states...

“It must be said that every evil in some way has a cause. For evil is the absence of the good, which is natural and due to a thing. But that anything fail from its natural and due disposition can come only from some cause drawing it out of its proper disposition.”

Basically since animals lack free will there is no cause to make them commit an evil act. Of course there is a disconnect here with modern science. Other species in fact due posses various levels of cognition that lead to varying degrees of what could be described as free will. Chimpanzees not only commit murder but they group together and plan ambushes ahead of time. A chillingly human act of evil. Another disconnect, in Aquinas’s natural law the only purpose of mating is procreation. In his time no one seems to have been aware of any counter examples from nature. Of course we know now that animals enter into same sex bonds for companionship. In fact same sex pairing, complete with sexual behavior, has been observed in over a thousand species. And don’t forget the Bonobos, those swinging free love hippies of the animal kingdom. Aquinas was operating on false assumptions. Basically what I’m saying is even if your logic is sound(Aquinas was impeccable), you make erroneous judgements about truth if, like the characters in the Python piece, your underlying assumptions are wrong. This means that appeals to natural law to oppose gay marriage just don't hold water. In fact with proper updating a natural law argument could be made for gay marriage. It won’t happen though. No matter how many gay penguins you roll out the Catholics won’t budge. Thomas Aquinas left them a trump card. Remember that divine revelation bit?

”But as to the other, i.e., the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Rm. i), were not esteemed sinful."(emphasis mine)

Natural law provides an unimpeachable guide to moral behavior  unless the Apostle Paul say’s it doesn’t. A witch! A witch! No wonder you can’t reason with these people.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

New Release "Amystery" and the story behind it

Me in the studio, mid 90's
I'm planning on releasing a project from the vaults this fall called "Amystery". Amystery was originally a set of fourteen tracks I recorded in 1995 but drew on material I'd been writing since about 1990. At the time I didn't have access to what we would of considered pro equipment at that time. As a matter of fact the equipment used was relatively humble. I had a early 80's vintage peavy live sound board, a Fostex A-8 reel to reel, an SM57 mic, a Senheiser large diaghram dynamic, an Alesis microverb, and a Mac SE. The instrumentation was equally humble, Two Jap electric guitars and a 30watt Texas Cyclone combo, A Ventura V-6 acoustic, a Washburn 12 string acoustic, Alesis 16bit drum machine, and an ensoniq synth. The recordings I made at that time were lo-fi to say the least. I did have one leg up though, the 8 track reel to reel was time locked to the Mac running MOTU's original midi sequencing software. This required me to sacrifice one channel on the 8 track for SMPTE time code and left 7 tracks for vocals and guitars. All other parts were sequenced on the computer using the synth and drum machine. This allowed me to create dense arrangements that normally would have required 16 tracks or more. After working on the project for about a year the record/play head on the old A-8 started to loose channels one by one. I saved my notes and backed up the digital data and put it on the shelf. Within I year I upgraded to ADATs, a faster computer, and entered the digital age for good. The next year I bought another old Fostex and transferred all the material to 24 channels of digital tape before my ancient synching system ceased to function. Years and other projects passed until about 2005 when my mind went back to Amystery. I thought about re-recording from scratch but it didn't seem possible. All lot had changed in my life since then, especially me. For all those old recordings lacked in technical merits, they had a certain vibe, a certain sense of place and time, that I could no longer reproduce. So recently I decided to remix Amystery using modern DAW tools. I cleaned up noise, made pitch corrections(I was in the habit of using the pitch wheel to adjust tempo), and applied up to date effects and sound processing. The result is what you'll hear below. It still reveals it's lo-fi origins but I think it's some of my best performances. I distilled the original down to ten tracks, two of which are below. You can stream the rest from my Soundcloud page.


Friday, November 4, 2011

American Soul video and free music download


Here's a new track "American Soul" that I'm giving away as a promotion. Just click the cloud logo on the lower right corner of the soundcloud player below! That will take you to the soundcloud page and you can download the track from there.


Thursday, November 3, 2011