Posts Tagged ‘creation’

From out of the void

From out of the void

From out of nothing did all creatures come
And Time and Chance provide their present forms ;
And all the things, both live and not, that home
Themselves in human mind, have fated norms.
So speak the seers from lofty chairs, new-found,
In places long renowned for more than schemes
That merely glance at Nature and the ground
Of Being ; seeing Earth for what she seems.
But from the spirit that belongs to Man,
Full-formed and of glad, enquiring mind,
A more reflective mood descends to scan
The World and find a  truth of deeper kind.
How comes a thing from nothing?  How come Chance,
Unaided, brings the World to great advance?

Jamie MacNab 2011


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Survey the hills of home, now bathed in light,
Whose gladness is to please the jaded eye
Of careworn soul, grown weary of the slight
Reward afforded by the dreary tie
Between desire for pleasure and its gain.
And yet, those hills ; what are they if not heaps
Of stones and dust?  And what the light? – in main
An airy nothingness.  Yet fancy leaps,
Investing beauty in the dullest dust,
And so transform the merest native Earth.
Creating things of wonder, as we must,
Is surely our appointed task. If worth
Be reckoned fair and made as kind to kind,
Then beauty’s born from aught but living mind.

Jamie MacNab 2011

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    Old and young

    Old, or young?

    She thought she saw a wicked witch
    A-cursing in the wood.
    She looked again and saw it was
    A damsel fair and good.

    I wrote a post earlier which shows how easy it is to mistake one thing for another ; if you like, you can find the post here.

    So, at first glance, and for particular reasons, she first saw a wicked witch ; but, at second glance, and for different particular reasons, she then saw a fair damsel.  But suppose there had never been a second glance?  Suppose there had never been particular reasons of the second kind?  Surely she would have gone on believing for ever that she had seen a witch.  She would have gone on believing in a mistake.

    Now,  it’s plain to see that an individual can easily make such a mistake.  But suppose a whole population were to make that same mistake?  Is it possible for an entire population to misconceive something?  For, surely, our most common test of truth is that everybody believes it.  In our common way of thinking, the more people who believe in a thing, the truer it is.  There are many possibilities for developing a discussion on this point.

    But, for now, I’d just like to focus attention on some thing nearer the root of this peculiarity of ours ; this peculiar ability to form two distinct and contrary concepts from the same raw material.  How can the same ink marks on a piece of paper give rise to contrary mental (cognitive) models of the material reality in front of us?  It would seem that the differences in the concepts do not arise from the world outside of us, and so they must arise from within ourselves ; from our own mental processes.

    So, the ink marks seem to be just that, nothing more ; but the concepts of them seems to be within us.  Does this mean that world outside of us is one thing, while our concepts of the world are another?  Are there, in fact, two worlds – one outer and one inner?

    Some argue that there is only one world, and that is the world as we see it ; the world of our consciousness.  But, if that is the case, then how are we to describe what is outside of us?  Perhaps the ‘world’ outside of our consciousness is only a potential world ; and it does not reach its completion until we have formed our concepts of it.  Thus, the paper with the ink marks is only potentially a picture of something real ; it becomes real when we have made a mental model of either a witch or a beauty.

    So, if this is the case, then the world is something that we create within ourselves.  But, if that is true, then it is no longer true to say that we see either a witch or a beauty in the world before us.

    But there is yet another way of understanding this.  We can say that, having made a mental model of something in the world outside of us, we then project our model on to that object.  The ambiguous object then becomes identical to our mental model of it.  Some people call this process interaction ; we are not so much passive observers of the world, are active observers who do, in fact, play our part in creating the world.  And so, as we go on discovering new things, the world becomes what we ourselves make of it.  In older times this same process was known as participation ; we participate in the material world, while the world participates in us.  As we change as a result of our participation in the world, so the world changes as a result of its participation in us.

    Much to meditate on here!

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I have known lots of people who have got themselves into a tangle over the Book of Genesis.  It seems to me that the tangle is spun by two principal misunderstandings : that the book is to be read literally : and that it deals with the creation of the bodies of two main actors, Adam and Eve.

First, why read the story ‘literally’?  Why try to convince ourselves of the literal existence of the Ribs, Trees, Apples, Serpents and so forth?  I am not saying that the ‘literal’ account cannot possibly be true, if only because no person living today was there to contradict it ; and there are more things in Heaven and Earth than we can even dream of.  But it seems to me that we can easily overlook the rather obvious point that almost every word we use began its life as a metaphor, and that has been true for a very long time indeed.  It follows that the language of Moses was highly metaphorical ; and it might well be the case that he never appreciated that.  So, when I see the word serpent in this context, I do not think automatically of snakes and dragons ; instead I think of evil.  Just as, when I see the word ‘true’ today, I do not automatically think of a straight rod like a ruler ; instead I think of honesty and reality.  When I speak of a sunbeam, I do not mean a plank of timber propped up against the sun, but a pattern of light in the sky.

The point about metaphors is that their use becomes a habit, and then we forget their metaphorical origins ; they become ‘literal’.  And this can give rise to misunderstandings.

And then we have the question of “What was created at the time Adam and Eve first appeared?”  Was it two bodies, one male and the other female?  Maybe, but the story suggests otherwise.  Did not the children of Adam and Eve marry people outside the family?  The writer cannot have made such a gross error in his plot.  It seems to me that he was referring to Adam and Eve, not as new physical creations but as New People.  They were the first two proper, conscious and self-conscious human beings.   All the other people were still in an essentially unconscious or perhaps semi-conscious, animal-like condition.

When I first began to think of the puzzles of Genesis as being really puzzles of language, the book made much more sense to me.  And its truth became clearer.

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