Archive for the ‘exploration’ Category

The Underground

March 19, 2020

Half a century before the Russians mustered enough rebellion to  depose the Czar, a deep current of discontent had begun oozing up from somewhere deep down in those thawing Russian steppes.

Since that era, we have come to call what that discontent represents: The Underground.

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevksy caught and early wind of it. In his 1864 novel, Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky identified and fictionalized an uncomfortable alienation that (he noticed) was mounting up among certain attentive and sensitive citizens of that restive country.

This alienation has, since then, become a characteristic of modern life.

In our day and time, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson points out that Dostoevsky and other writers (most notably Friedrich Nietzsche) detected this early alienation and wrote extensively about it.

There was, you see,  a deep, dark void in the European soul.

It was there. . . deep down in there, somewhere in the metamorphizing life of the 1800’s . . .  a sense that something was missing . . . something important, something—it must be something— essential.

Where some spiritual or soulful entity had, through many ages, carried European civilization along a certain path of cultural development, now there was nothing.

“Nihilism” is a word that was brought in to identify that void.

In our day and time, Jordan Peterson explains the development of nihilism—how it is related to the lapse  the Church, which had formerly evolved as a religious matrix around which the framework of European civilization and culture had manifested across almost two millennia of time.

Dr. Peterson attributes the identifying of this nihilism primarily to those two 19th-century writers, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. In his lectures, Dr. Peterson often mentions that these two prescient thinkers predicted—or one could almost say “prophecied”—the horrible carnage of our 20th-century wars.  Our two modernized hyper-mechanized destructive wars broke out as modern men desperately strove—through futile attempts at communist and fascist totalitarianism—to establish a meaningful State, or Society.

Instead of—let’s just say— the Church. Comprenez-vous?

Denizens of “the Underground” are those misplaced souls who have searched elsewhere—apart from the Society or Culture at large—for their own meaning or identity.  Even further than that, they will likely work collectively with other fellow travelers, striving for some collective opus that enables us—if not now, in the future— to live and thrive together.

When I was a young man, I composed a song about some of these deep urges toward meaning and liberty.

Underground Railroad Rides Again

I have empathy for the Undergrounders of this world, although some of them have, from time to time, carried their discontents too far, beyond the rightful constraints of decently civilized life. The Weather Underground of the 1960’s, for instance,  crossed that line of acceptable protest when they began making home-bombs,  one of which enabled one Undergrounder to blow up himself and his whole dam NYC apartment building, in spring of 1970.

But hey! Life goes on, in spite of all the abuse and injustices people pile on one another. In spite of all our myriad societal dysfunctions. The world persists in its predictable revolutions, whether you approve the changes or not.  Nations change. Seasons come and go. Our winters of discontent always as mellow out as . . .

a new wind, a fair breeze, and this year’s equinox a day early!

Now in 2020 A.D., about midday on this first spring day, 19  March, I was strolling along our local greenway, here in our little town of the Blue Ridge, observing obligatory social distancing protocols mandated by the COVID-19. When my walk began, the weather was dreary, misty and chilly. But as I neared the turnaround point of my 3-mile path, the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds, the air turned amazingly warm and dry, and suddenly! spring has sprung!

‘T’was then I encountered an Underground of different sort:

Molehills

This springtime sprung-up version of the Underground has been popping up with alarming regularity for a very long time. . . far longer than we homo sapiens have been struggling to find meaningful identity in our civilizations.

As I beheld these silly-pilly little dirt mounds, I disclosed the discovery to myself . . .  (as they say on the video spy dramas) what we have here is mole!

King of Soul

Bikinis and Starbuck

March 8, 2020

Herman Melville wrote his epic novel, Moby Dick, in 1851; it was the great American novel of the 19th-century, and is still revered as a classic.

In the story, a mysterious Captain Ahab commands the whaling ship, Pequod, which sails from New England across the Atlantic, around Africa, through the Indian Ocean and beyond, ultimately far into the Pacific Ocean, in pursuit of whales.

During the voyage, the first mate, Starbuck, experiences doubts about ole Ahab’s sanity. After noticing a few weird indicators in Cap’n Ahab’s behavior, Starbuck confronts him with a few probing questions.

In Warner Brothers’ 1956 film version of the story, Starbuck (Richard Basehart) carefully raises some questions to ole Ahab (Gregory Peck) about his motives in commanding the ship. Starbuck’s inquiry reveals that Ahab is driven by an obsessive vengeance against a great white whale, Moby Dick; the whale had injured him in a previous encounter.  Ahab’s speech about the beast indicates that his stubborn, soon-to-be global pursuit of the beast is more about revenge than hunting whales for oil and profit.

Consequently, Starbuck realizes, the good ship and crew were maybe sailing into the very jaws of death, for no good reason than one man’s vengeance toward a dumb beast.

Seeing this in the movie, I was reminded of Cain, the son of biblical Adam and Eve. Cain slew his brother Abel, which turned out to be a bad precedent in our human history. I recently viewed a few of Jordan Peterson’s lectures in which he points out Cain’s tendency to blame his problems on someone else–or perhaps the world in general–instead of resolving to identify areas of his own character that might need correction.

Ahab’s obsession against a brute beast is something like Cain’s grudge against the world, instead of resolving to fix himself.

As events onboard Herman Melville’s Pequod unfold, it becomes obvious to Starbuck that Cap’n Ahab’s manic pursuit of the “dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct” is irresponsibly irrational, insofar as it eclipses the legitimate purpose of the their mission to produce whale oil for the ship’s owners and crew.

Furthermore, the mad captain’s tyranny in this obsession ultimately endangers the lives of all the crew and the very safety of the the ship itself.

The Pequod sailors are, by Ahab’s command, sailing past whales in the Indian Ocean,  neglecting to fulfill their commission as they blow farther and farther, far into the largest ocean on our planet.

During Ahab and Starbuck’s man-to-man talk, Ahab had pointed to a map location, Bikini Atoll, located near the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

PacificBiStrbk

He explained to Starbuck that he had studied the behavior of those “great solitary” whales; Ahab was sure that Moby Dick would be passing through those Bikini islands at a certain time—at the “New Moon of April.”

So it becomes obvious to Starbuck that he and Ahab and the good ship and crew were proceeding, at great peril, in a mad chase across the planet . . .

for the sake of—not oil or profit, nor any such legitimate enterprise—but rather to impose a crazy captain’s manic vengeance upon a very dangerous, dumb animal.

Ahab’s pathological character ultimately turns out to be fatal for himself and for those crewman who were with him. His disastrous OCD propels Pequod into the very jaws of death.

AhabDead

Cap’n Ahab’s deathly voyage ends in the vicinity of the Bikini islands, exactly where he had thought  he would slay the monster, Moby Dick.

Now, as to why I write about such things as this on a spring-forward Sunday afternoon, I confess . . .

I have no real reason, except to note a couple of curious, 20th-century namesake associations that popped up in Moby’s fateful wake.

Almost a century later, the US military conducted its first explosions of atom bombs at those Bikinis.

So we see that those itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie Bikinis signaled, on one hand, the demise of a mythically mad sea captain and his crew back in the day. . .

but they also hosted the end of our world’s pre-atomic age (and the beginning of God only knows what fate lies ahead . . .)

Four days after the atomic blast, we also acquired a tiny two-piece obsession, unleashed upon the world by a Paris swimsuit designer.

The other significant namesake association from Melville’s Moby Dick was Mr. Starbuck, first mate of the Pequod. In the great story, his unheeded warning to Ahab turned out to be prophetic. His was the voice of reason, although unable to sway the pathological Ahab from his diehard suicidal course.

As for the Starbuck  namesake itself, that farsighted first mate managed to froth up, later,  a quite impressive legacy in Moby’s massive wake.

Starbuck

Glass half-Full 

The Big Questions

March 3, 2020

The big questions are:

1. How did I get here?

2. How did we get here?

3. What is the purpose of being here?

4. What should I do while I am here?

At the age of 27 years, about 43 years ago, I had made a big mess of my life. So I turned my life over to Jesus.

I am happy about how life has turned out for me and the family that God has given me.

Prior to salvation, I was quite undecided about those big questions listed above. Now, after walking with the Lord for 41 years, I have managed to answer those questions to my satisfaction. There are, however, a few questions hovering somewhat unresolved in my mind.

For instance, as pertaining to the big question #2 above—how did we get here?—I do subscribe to the biblical explanation, although I do not understand it. I cannot comprehend all that is being described in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis.

GutnBible

I do understand, and accept as true, that very first sentence of the biblical revelation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The verses that follow confuse me every time I try to impose order in my mind about the sequence through which our Creator did his creative work. This confusion does not really bother me. But it does fascinate me to ponder that subject.

Cutting to the chase—that is to say—the end of the book or the end of my life, the big truth that has been shown to me is that I will live eternally after passing through this life’s death.

How do I know this?

As the old song sings. . . the Bible tells me so.

The Word tells me what I really need to know: there is one man in the history of the world who survived death itself, and lived to tell about it:

Jesus.

This is a matter of belief, and I do believe it, thank God. I have been given the faith to believe in my resurrection from death, because Jesus himself has already shone the way—has been there and done that— and has passed that privilege of overcoming death along to me and to anyone else who believes what he has said about it, and demonstrated by his Resurrection.

Now, getting to the point of why I write on this particular day, year of our Lord 2020, March 3. . . while I have been fortunate enough to answer those big questions, there are still a few curiosity points that bounce around in my mind and my soul as I live and breathe in this earthly life.

For Instance, what about that creation sequence that is is described in Genesis?

People have been wondering about it, talking about it for thousands of years. In the last two centuries, speculations about question #2 above—how did we get here?—have taken a wider swath of variation than ever before. As far as I can see, this widening of theories and enquiries is prompted by two main developments in our collective human database—

1.) the discovery of geologic time, which scientifically explains how our earth was continuously rearranged by huge tectonic and geologic forces over millions of years.

2.) Darwin’s discovery of natural selection in the biological developments of life in nature.

As a believer in Jesus, I have no problem with either of these scientific discoveries. I believe these discoveries are merely a human way of classifying the universal and life principles that God set in motion millions of years ago.

For example: Genesis reports, in verse 1:24:

Then God said, ‘ Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind.’

This is just an old-fashioned way of saying: God designed into his creation a written code for ordering the development of life: DNA.

DNAdubhelx

So I hope you’re tracking with me on this. I realize that some of my believing brethren do not subscribe to this interpretation. But that’s okay; we’re not going to agree on everything. By ’n by, we’ll still celebrate our eternal life together with Jesus because of what he endured in sacrificing his perfect life at Calvary.

But the reason I am writing this today is: an amazing thing happened this morning. I had a funny little revelation while reading in Genesis.

In Genesis 2, we learn the truth that:

“. . . the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.,  The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man whom He had formed.”

So we learn that Adam—and later Eve, were a special creation, placed in a special place, for a special, divinely determined destiny. But Adam and Eve screwed that arrangement up when they opted for knowledge instead of truth.

So our Creator had to suspend their special status. Consequently, he ejected them from the Garden; they had to  go out and make their way by the sweat of their brow like  all those other humans who had evolved out there in the wild wild world.

A little further down in the scripture we learn more about historical human developments. From Genesis 6:

“Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves . . .”

Who were those “sons of God”? They were the offspring of the Creator’s special creation in Paradise, the children of Adam and Eve.

We are told the names of the created couple’s first three sons: Cain, Abel and Seth.

These boys were, categorically, the “sons of God,” because their parents did not carry the same genetic imprint as those other men and women who originated “east of Eden,” outside the gates of Paradise.

Now just because they were “sons of God” does not mean they necessarily acted like it. You may remember that Cain killed Abel, and that God had a serious discussion with him about what was to happen next. But then God had mercy on Cain, even though he had committed such a heinous deed by killing his own brother, who had not deserved such a fate.

God gave Cain a second chance anyway, by releasing him out into mankind to get a new start.

In Genesis 4, the story continues:

  “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife, and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch, and he built a city. . .”

For a very long time, I had wondered about . . .

a.) these “sons of God”—who they were and where they came from? Answer: They came from Adam and Eve.

and b.) the land of Nod, and the people who populated that land? Answer: They were humans who evolved through God’s natural selection process.

Now I understand more about reconciling the revealed Truth of our Creator with what we ourselves have scientifically understood  about life on this amazing planet.

RockStory1

Glass half-Full

What is Fulfillment?

February 6, 2020

Isaiah set the stage for fulfillment thousands of years ago . . .

Isaiah

Among many other attributes, fulfillment means the Old . . .

IsOldJerus

. . . giving rise to the new:

Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look about you:
    All assemble and come to you;

your sons come from afar,

    and your daughters are carried on the hip.

IsShineCity

Other visionaries catch a glimpse along the way . . .

Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.

EzekielYadV

But the process is indeed a long one, requiring very burdensome periods of human history. Inevitably, and predictably, the going is tough.

But our Creator has a scenario set up where adversity brings forth endurance in the worst conditions, and creativity to produce tangible evidence of forward progress. The striving to fulfill any great, worthwhile endeavor is arduous and prolonged. It is not given to any one generation to construct; nor is it given to any one people-group to fulfill.

Fulfillment of  prophecy and human destiny is distributed  over many generations of people and time.

IsStairway

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

IsDamascusGat

Glass half-Full

A World-class Sacred Mountain

February 4, 2020

About 27 centuries ago, the Jewish prophet Isaiah urged his people to live righteously, according to the laws that God had delivered earlier to the prophet, Moses.

By his use of predictive prophecy, Isaiah reinforced his exhortations toward the necessity  of holy living. As his biblical message has been brought down to us through history–even to this day–actual fulfillments of Isaiah’s predictions lent credence to the legitimacy of his message.

Consider this prediction:

“And it shall be at the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it.”

This prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled repeatedly for many centuries, and continues to be actualized every day of our 21st-century life.

In a steady stream of faces and pilgrims of all types, people from all over the world visit “the mountain of the Lord’s house” in Jerusalem.

Every day.

IsPlaza

In this large flat area, Jews from all over the world congregate to pray at their open-air synagogue, the Kotel, which is an ancient wall that retains the side of the mountain where their temple had stood in ancient times.

Christians also visit this site in great numbers. We  are welcomed every day by the Jewish people. Most Christians stroll through, gathering faithful inspiration, on their way to their own holy site nearby, in the Christian quarter of the Old City . . .

IsHSscene

where Christ was crucified almost 2000 years ago, and laid in a sepulchre, before rising from the dead on the third day after his death.

In my photo below. . .

IsPlaza1

. . .  notice the long ramp that connects the ground-level plaza to a higher location at the top of the wall. Through this stairway, the Muslims allow some visitors access, at certain times of the day, to their holy site, al-Haram al-Sharif, which happens to be the same location as the ancient Jewish temple. The Muslim shrine there, built in 692 c.e., is  known by us Christians as the Dome of the Rock. Believers of all three faiths— Jewish, Muslim and Christian— believe Abraham was led by the Eternal One up onto that high spot with his son.

In that world-famous episode, God revealed his will about ritual sacrifice; the Lord Himself provided an animal for Abraham to offer instead of his son. Muslims believe that the son was Ishmael. Jews and Christians believe it was Isaac. Whatever you believe about it, suffice it to say that the Eternal One thereby clarified once and for all: his call for sacrifice did not include any human victim.

A Christian rendering of that event is painted on a wall inside the nearby Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

IsSepcIsac

This clarification from God about the offering of sacrifice took place on the mountain–called Mt. Moriah by Jews–and called al-Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.

In our day and time, some visitors are more fortunate in the timing of their pilgrimage. At certain times of the day,  the Islamic-administered mountaintop is opened to visitors from other faiths. Christians and others may walk up the wooden-covered stairway to gain a limited access to the sacred mountaintop. Up there, they are allowed a brief access to Islam’s third-holiest site. They can amble for a while, to get a closer view of Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. They can also stroll around and get a panoramic view of Jerusalem, from Mt. Scopus, toward the northeast, to Mt. Zion at the westward view.

After a brief time, they will be conducted away, back to their own quarters, by Islamic devotees, so that the followers of Mohammed may express their devotion to Allah among an exclusive gathering of the faithful.

Infidels who do not subscribe to Mohammed’s revelation are thus asked at the appointed  times to leave the mountaintop, al-Haram al-Sharif. This practice is more restrictive than what is allowed by  the Jews and Christians below.

Muslims arrive on the sacred height by other entrances, from the Muslim quarter. After being summoned by several muezzin callers who chant their calls through loudly amplified minaret towers, the Mohammedan faithful enter those two holy structures to pray.

All of this carefully controlled sharing of the sacred mountain takes place every day in Jerusalem. Thanks be to ____ that this happens peacefully.

And this Christian says, may it always be so! until ____ visits the place in a more persuasive way, and perhaps aligns us all on the same page.

Pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Back down at the lower plaza level, the Israeli administrators of this dividedly sacred mountain have posted a sign that acknowledges the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy so long ago.

IsIsaiah2

If you enjoying listening to music, you may appreciate hearing a song about this mountain. My friend David wrote and recorded it many years ago, with a little help from our friends, Danny, Donna and Jenny:

Aliyah Yerushalayim

Glass half-Full

Dome and Temple? Why not?

January 27, 2020

Whilst strolling on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem this afternoon, I remembered an imaginary scene. I had written it into the first novel, Glass half-Full, back in 2007:

Dome&Temple?

Beneath a cold, clear, azure sky the city of Jerusalem lay stretched upon the mountains and valleys like a fuzzy glove upon God’s hand. People from all over the world had gathered here to unearth evidence of God at work among the people of the earth. Some sought a temple that no longer exists. Some sought a mosque where a prophet entered heaven. Some trod upon the cobblestones of ancient, holy real estate, pleading for reconciliation, seeking atonement for the human condition.

A man wandered beyond the dome, past the blocked-up eastern gate; curving around northward, he noticed a large open area beside the mosque. Was this where the former temple had stood? What a beautiful mosque.

Could not the owners of this hill sell the adjoining, vacant acre or two to those pilgrims who, standing daily at the wall below, were wailing for their wonderful temple? Why not make a deal? Such a deal. Cousin to Cousin. Temple and Mosque, Mosque and Temple…Mosque Shsmosque, Temple Shmemple. Such a deal. Everybody happy. You pray your way; I pray mine.

Glass half-Full

The commons; sacred and secular

January 26, 2020

Here’s a view into a commons area at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv . . . one of the first noteworthy scenes I noticed after stepping off the plane.

CommonsBG

Of all the airport scenes I have ever seen in travels across this world, this view seems to be more accommodating than most. The sight imparted to me a feeling of community, rather than a random passing of jet-travelers.

The late afternoon sun may have lent some bright ambience from above to color my perception in a favorable way.

The next morning, today,  I notice this building on the street where we are staying in Jerusalem.

StPaulChurch

Today I woke up recalling some words from an ancient poet who lived near here.

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
and to the quarry from which you were hewn;

look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
and I blessed him and made him many.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

“Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.

My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
The islands will look to me
and wait in hope for my arm.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.

“Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.

For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation through all generations.”

Awake, awake, arm of the Lord,
clothe yourself with strength!
Awake, as in days gone by,
as in generations of old.
Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces,
who pierced that monster through?

Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?

Those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Down toward the bottom of this text selection, the poet asks:

Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made a road in the depths of the sea
so that the redeemed might cross over?

While modern skeptics dismiss the possibility of such divine interventions to make the paths of faith-based emigrants . . . I was reminded, upon reading these words mentioned above, of a certain group of distressed 20th-century people of the book who, when being threatened with massive malicious extinction, took matters into their own hands and . . .

        “made a road in the depths of the sea”

. . . so that they could exodus from Nazi hell and move forward to carve out a place in the wilderness, on the other side of the Mediterranean: A new-old land in which to prosper, instead of being auschwitzed into oblivion.

IsraelEduc

Pretty amazing stuff on this first bright Sunday morning in the old country.

Glass half-Full

Crossing the Great Divide

December 26, 2019

Life is flexible and creative.

Mathematics is different from life; it is definite and conclusive.

When certain modern mathematicians recently figured out—and admitted— that equations can not account for all truth about life itself, they actually enabled themselves to make a quantum leap forward in human communications.

What George Gilder calls the mathematics of information theory is actually a “math of creativity.”

Human creativity is required to make this math work properly. If humans would not intervene—if we were to choose not to intervene, not to tweak, not to program—our stupid, soul-less computers would “churn away forever.”

Caught up in a never-ending loop—that’s what computers would do if we didn’t manage them and tell them what to do.

How did such a bright idea enlighten the computering pioneers of our 20th-21st century progress?

In his book, Life After Google, George Gilder describes a series of progressive mathematical proofs that eventually brought us to an advanced stage of modern mathematics. Beginning mainly with Isaac Newton, these theorems collectively lead, step-by-step, to a system of proven mathematical truths.

But the mathematicians ran into a problem—a dead end. The roadblock showed up shortly after a certain fellow, David Hilbert, came along and, being absolutely  sure that we could express all knowledge mathematically, famously said: “We must know; we will know!”

It seems to me David was gathering his sustenance from an old source that was long ago proven unreliable; it was, I surmise, that phenom that Moses called the “Tree of Knowledge.”

Actually, it was a little while later that his assistant—a fellow named John von Neumann—provided the missing link that exposed Hilbert’s wishful thinking for what is was.

Along those link lines, George Gilder provides in his book a list of other mathematicians and scientists whose work contributed to John von Neumann’s breakthrough. The list includes Kurt Gödel, Gregory Chaitin, Hubert Yockey, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon.

George Gilder explains. . .

“Gödel’s insights led directly to Claude Shannon’s information theory, which underlies all computers and networks today.”

In the midst of this move forward away from mathematical determinism and into creative computing, the contribution of John von Neumann was to encourage Gödel in his emerging proof that absolute mathematical proof was impossible.

Along this path of computing enlightenment, Gilder points out that

“Gödel’s proof prompted Alan Turing’s invention in 1936 of the Turing machine—the universal computing architecture with which he showed that computer programs, like other logical schemes, were not only incomplete but could not even be proved to reach any conclusion. Any particular program might cause it (the computer) to churn away forever. This was the ‘halting problem.’Computers required what Turing called ‘oracles’ to give them instructions and judge their outputs.”

Those “oracles” are human beings. Guess what: Computers need us if they’re going to work correctly!

George Gilder goes on to explain in his book that this creative guidance from us, homo sapiens, is what leads, and has lead to, all the computer progress we have seen in modern times.

Along that path of progress, Larry and Sergei came along and harnessed all that creative oracularity into a thing called Google.

You may have heard of it.

My takeaway is that, back in the dawn of the computer age . . . while Hilbert was chowing down on the Tree of Knowledge, his assistant Von Neumann managed to pluck some life-sustaining nourishment from the Tree of Life.

Gilderbook

Along those lines, here’s a cool quote from George Gilder:

“Cleaving all information is(:) the great divide between creativity and determinism, between information entropy of surprises and thermo-dynamic entropy of predictable decline, between stories that capture a particular truth and statistics that reveal a sterile generality.”

 Maybe you have to be a computer nerd to process all that quote in your very own CPU, or you may be like me and just read a lot . . .

King of Soul

Blue Ridge Mountain Home

December 20, 2019

Driving in bright, brisk December sunshine, winding slowly along a Blue Ridge mountain holler road, I arrived yesterday afternoon at the house address that I had earlier noted.

Turning off the car engine silenced radio reportage about the impending impeachment, which is neither here nor there. I am looking for an old fella that I recently read about in a locally written book.

The house is small, light green, near the side of the road, very neat and compact, meticulously maintained.I  This home is the kind of modest dwelling that was being built around these parts in the 1950’s, but it has been recently updated with vinyl siding. My carpenter eye notices the perfectly installed exterior. Nice job.

An attractive, low stone wall just a few steps from the roadway affords a stairway down to a welcoming front porch.  The front door is absolutely white, six-paneled proper in sunshine. It begs knocking, and so I do.

The lady who opens it is thin, with gray hair. She has a classic Scotch-looking mountain face, pleasantly aged with complimentary wrinkles. I forget now what she said, but it was some kind of greeting. I offered her my concise explanation for my visit this afternoon.

“Hi. My name is Carey Rowland. I’ve been doing some historical research—for a novel I am writing— about the Cone estate, and the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway through it back in the 1940’s or ’50’s.  I recently read an interview, published in 1997, with Mr. Paul Moody, who, I understand used to work for Bertha Cone.”

“I’m his wife.” she said

Well, gollee, I’ve come to the right place.

This was a pleasant surprise. I’m still new at this historical research stuff. The last few doors I had recently knocked on were run-down abandoned places with nobody home. A little confused about exactly what my next question should be, I blurted:

“Is he alive?”

“He’s right in here. You wanta talk to him?”

“Yes ma-am!”

“Come on in. I’ll get him.”

And so I did, and she did.  Next thing you know, I’m looking around in this smallish, comfortably lived-in den or living room. A few seconds later, Paul walks in, smiling.

Well gollee.

“Well, what can I do for ye?” he says, pleasantly.

And so I explained a little— that I had been living around here since the early ’80’s, raising a family with my wife, and the first job I had up here was working on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is, as you know, the missing link, in the middle of a 469-mile parkway that took fifty years to build—

And, as the old shake and bake commercial says. . . “and I helped!”

“Well, sit down,” said Paul.

Not in that chair, I thought, noticing the easy chair. That’s obviously his chair, with visual evidence of Paul’s accustomed comfort, possibly reading comfort, over years of sitting.  No sign of a TV in the room.

So I took my seat on the couch. “Thank you, sir!”

Long story short. Paul began talking about the Moses Cone Estate, on which he had been born in 1933, and thereby born into the hired help. His grandfather had been superintendent of the place back in the day— since before 1908 when Moses had died, and his father had been foreman of the apple orchard.

Paul proceeded to answer just about every question about the place that had been on my mind these last few weeks. This was becoming a very productive day, from a writerly standpoint.

He is a very pleasant fellow, full of history, and willing to talk about it. A historical fiction-writer’s dream informant. After awhile he took me back in the other rooms. He showed me the kitchen cabinets he had built, with frame-and-panel cherry doors on cherry face-frame, then took me back into the expansive laundry room, which was sunshine bright and entirely paneled with whitish, wormy pine, milled from trees that he himself had cut down.

A true mountain man, this Paul. The 16-gauge shotgun mounted over the doorway had been bequeathed to Paul from the Cone estate when Bertha died in 1947.

BRPaulmoody

Here’s Paul with his life-long wife, Margaret, who also came from a family of the hired help of the Cone estate, now the Moses Cone Memorial Park. They’re standing in front of another piece of his handiwork, filled with a lifetime of precious family mementos.

BRPMoody

After more friendly conversation and explanation, he took me out to his shop, where he had built the cabinets and the furniture and God-knows-what else.

BRmoodysaws

as far as ole folks from the Old School go, they don’t make ‘em like Paul any more.

BRmoody

And the rest is history, which you may read about in two or three years when I finish the novel . . .

Search for Blue

From the Brave New World

November 23, 2019

I’m glad I got to hear that before I die.

That’s what I told Pat, my wife, immediately as we stood up to join a standing ovation for the Charlotte Symphony last night.

Pat makes all the arrangements, you see, for our concerts and outings and travels and every other adventure we’ve had in the last forty years.

So I thanked her for making it possible for me to hear Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, in live performance, before I pass into eternity.

And I must say that the Charlotte Symphony’s treatment of it, under the guest conducting hand of Ilyich Rivas,  was masterful—very tender and very strong.

     http://www.charlottesymphony.org/

The oboe adagio in the slow second movement fully met my expectations, after having listened intently to the piece probably thirty or forty times as offered by the New York Philharmonic on youtube.

And those trombones in the final cadence did not fail to summon a tear from my eyes, as their vibrantly forthright sounding forth renewed my confidence in human excellence.

During the intermission I read in the program notes about Dvořák’s composition of that symphony—his No. 9—and its premiere performance in New York, in 1893.

DvNewWorld

The Czech composer had been recruited to our (American) National Conservatory of Music in 1892. His mission was to import a little of that Old World excellence to our New World.

And goshdarn! did he do it!

His New World Symphony ranks right up there as some of the greatest symphonic music ever to be composed on this side of the Atlantic. It’s right up there with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

If you ever have an opportunity to stand in Prague’s Old Town Square and behold Ladislav Šaloun’s statue of Jan Hus, you may catch a  glimpse of the passion that must have driven Dvořák’s resolve to compose such an orchestral masterpiece.

I’m glad I lived to see it.

Since the music was composed in New York City, I will provide here this link to the New York Philharmonic performance of it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HClX2s8A9IE   

In other news of my yesterday. . .

Earlier in the day I had finished reading Andrew Marantz’s excellent book analysis of contemporary alt-right online misadventures:

    https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

And I will offer as a closing thought, a quote from Andrew’s account of what he uncovered in the world of ultra right-wing fanaticism. Toward the end of his research project, Marantz arrived at an eye-opening discovery about the so-called media “gatekeepers” in our mad world of media, formerly on the airwaves ~~~ now online.

Because we do indeed live in a “New World”. . . a world that is continuously renewing itself, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.

In the quote below, Andrew Marantz is referring to the “gatekeepers” of our former (20th-century) times. They are primarily the major broadcast networks and news publications that came to dominate our public culture in the postwar 20th-century; but they have in this 21st-century been overtaken by the new superpowers of online media.

You know what I’m talkin’ about.  Their initials are FaceGooAmazTwittetc. One particular CEO of that cartel, the honorable Mr. Z, was recently put on the Congressional hotplate for public inspection.

As Andrew Marantz, the New Yorker writer, neared the end of his alt-right research opus, Antisocial,

  https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

He exposes a raw nerve in this,  our brave new cyberworld, a world in which the outmoded moguls of 20th-century media have been eclipsed by the new titans of 21st-century webdom.

Like it or not, these denizens of the updated corporate Deep must rise to the public surface to accept some responsibility for oversight in the polarizing electronic net that we’ve cornered ourselves into.

Here’s part of what Mr. Marantz has to say about it:

And yet this is the world we live in. For too long, the gatekeepers who ran the most powerful information-spreading systems in human history were able to pretend that they weren’t gatekeepers at all. Information wants to be free; besides, people who take offense should blame the author, not the messenger; anyway, the ultimate responsibility lies with each consumer. Now, instead of imagining that we occupy a postgatekeeper utopia, it might make more sense—in the short term, at least—to demand better, more thoughtful gatekeepers.

It’s a brave new world out there, boobie. Somebody’s gotta be brave, if not them, then who?

Us? But, but, as Pogo once said, long ago in the old media world: we have seen the enemy . . . and he is us!

King of Soul