Having Faith

My dad, a scientist, once told me, “I don’t need faith, I’ve got knowledge!” I think it was a response to my asking him to have a little faith in me. It was, however, his scientist-mindset all around. He had great respect for the scientific method, for things known, and for things not yet known, at least in the natural world.

Scientists seek knowledge, or as close as they can get to something they can claim as ‘knowing.’ At the same time, true scientists know they never know enough to say more than, “It looks like this is true with the information we have and the tests we can make.” Real science is always ready to accept its own ignorance, and to question what is ‘known.’ Many things have been challenged and tested enough that they are accepted as facts, though scientists still use the word ‘theory’ when labeling them.

It is a different use of the word than the layman’s concept of ‘theory’ as meaning ‘unproven.’ Hence a lot of the confusion over the Theory of Evolution. So far, no one has been able to present real evidence that evolution is not a fundamental dynamic of life’s functioning. Arguments, sure, and alternate hypotheses–which is the correct scientific term for unproven theories–but nothing that stands up to Reality’s tests.

In fact, my dad didn’t have as much knowledge, or even sufficient knowledge of me, either, as he asserted. Sure, he knew about things I didn’t know, had experiences of life I had not had, but he had not had my experiences, and truth be told, I knew even then a few things he didn’t. In any case, that day he was being clever, not smart, not kind; his intent was not truth, but shutting me down.

People who deride faith are often doing the same thing.

But the truth is, as much as we can actually know very little, and not absolutely in this complex universe, with our limited human minds, none of us live without faith in something. It may not be in a Supreme Being or an eternal soul, or in weather forecasting; it may be faith in absurdities already disproven by science, like Piltdown Man, or the Flat Earth that in fact turn out to be false. It may be faith in things proven by science, or in information from a trusted source.

I have faith in the essential goodness of human nature, though every day, every minute, someone in this world is doing their level best to prove me wrong.

I have faith that there is something greater than myself–greater than human beings–all, with supreme awareness, though how I define ‘God’ is not at all what most people mean by ‘God.’ My faith in God’s existence is not faith in any religion or dogma but in my own experience and reasoning.

I have faith that many things not now provable or even detectable by science will, someday, be detected and tested and proven and explained by science.

“Because God Wants It That Way” is not a statement of faith, it’s a cop-out that settles a matter without any kind of evidence, reasoning, or logic. It’s a conversation-stopper. It is psychic earplugs.

Every time we say, “I believe…” we make a statement of faith. Since practically everything we claim to know is actually belief, that makes us all people of faith.

Mystic Whispers: Medusa

O maid, you once were lovely,
full of grace, and named 
for Wisdom in eternal female form–
Metis, Maat, Medha the names you bore…

But the passing generations, 
reshaping and restructuring the norm,
made you over as a thing to fear,
no longer Maid, but monstrous 
with a deadly, stony gaze;

Men made you cruel and cold
and perilous to life in latter days,
forgetting that the peril in your eyes
is Truth too true for them to see, and live.

Grim-faced now, the Gorgon who is wise,
whose serpents in her hands once offered Life, 
now writhe in ringlets on her brow
And Perseus pursues her with a knife…

CL Redding 2005

The Virtue of Conflict

I was just watching a documentary about the first civilizations that states that for 99% of humanity’s time on Earth, we were hunter/gatherers, pretty much doing the same things for the whole time.

Then we began to settle down with our patches of grain, and herding animals instead of just following them. We discovered metallurgy… Squabbles became better-armed and graduated from fisticuffs to raids to wars… Conquest for control of resources–food and materials, work force, mates–led to the military/industrial complex, centralized governments, and organized religion, all with the need of offices and special places to interact with everyone else, like temples, training grounds, waiting rooms with counters… And everyone needed places to live that weren’t too great a commute to the jobs in those places. So, cities.

According to this documentary (FIRST CIVILIZATIONS, from PBS), management of large areas of land and large groups of people, control of all the resources in those large areas, led to a kind of security for those living within the pale. In that security, that peace, there was the possibility of evolving cultural ideas and skills: fundamentals of civilization.

As each centralized conquest grew and expanded its influence to surrounding communities, a couple of things planted the seeds of its ultimate downfall: Envy of other growing communities with conquest on their agenda; Complacence on the part of the too-long secure, the comfortable. So, inevitably some outsiders, energetic and hungry, break the peace and the comfort, and over-run the complacent.

Each power comes, through chaos, to enforce its own peace, and it is again, in those times of peace that culture has the time and space to grow. Each one, in its time, becomes comfortable and complacent, living on assumptions of permanence… And so it goes, a spiral of increasing complexity and problem-solving, as the very complexities and solutions engender and become the problems…

I suppose this model of progress/chaos/growth/chaos applies not only to whole societies, but also to each individual as we advance through our lives. “Chaos” is struggle, from the time previous solutions break down into problems, to the time we settle on a new solution that settles those problems, allows us to rest. But if we rest in place, if we don’t move ahead or keep our solutions evolving to resolve the problems that grow out of previous solutions… If we don’t keep paying attention, sooner or later, something snaps, and an adjustment forces itself on us. 

Earthquakes are a good metaphor.

Lament For Home

When the night goes dark, 
all glowing wild eyes dimmed and dead;
When the forest goes silent 
of song and cry and roar
and there is only the creaking
of trees moved by the rush of wind;

When flowers no longer hum
with the dancing bee;
When the sky is empty of wings
that glitter and crackle
or softly beat the air;
When water is wild and foul
no longer home to any living thing,
and dry dust bakes unsheltered
from the sightless sun;

When the heart of humanity
is broken with loneliness and shame, 
in a world of only whispers
in the accusing wind,
we will know the truth
that some will still deny:

We had the warnings,
We had the time–
We could have done so many things…

CL Redding July 2015

“Aren’t you kind of old to be so cynical?”

I look at some of the young people around today and they are a lot less bullshit-inclined or fooled than other generations have been: Less trusting of authority, more spin-proof. While this might look like cynicism sometimes, it may also closely resemble common sense.

Cynicism is a result of disappointed trust combined with a sense of powerlessness. It is a refuge of adolescents who are saying, essentially You can abuse me and I can’t stop you, but this doesn’t mean I don’t see what you’re up to, don’t despise you for it

It isn’t a matter of age, but of attitude. The young tend to be idealists and optimists, adolescents become pessimistic cynics, and maturity brings us around to a realistic acceptance of the world as it is: people as they are, ourselves, too, as we are. But we all know those who grow more bitter as their years advance, who never come to that place of acceptance of the world as it is, and of how no one has the power to fix everything, or the responsibility.  

To fix what we can, of course, not to simply walk away from everything disappointing or unfulfilled. But to stop feeling guilt over our times and places of powerlessness is part of wisdom.

For my part, old as I am, I love what the kids are doing, how they are taking action and speaking out, how they are demanding that we who have the power use it with more conscience and common sense, more decency. They are afire with healing anger, their determination is fueled with intention and hope, and they give me hope. I can hardly wait until they all vote!

Today’s rising generation is not taking refuge in cynicism: They are telling the world, You may abuse me, but I am not powerless, and I am going to change things!

Lessons from binge-watching AMAZING RACE

Tonality sinks more ships than flapping lips, and triggers more reactive explosions than the thing said.

History, geography, and basic manners are neglected studies these days.

Judging people by superficials–their accents, background, nationality, religion, physical attractiveness, or skin tone–is always going to be mistaken.

When there are no rules, sometimes people still choose to play fair.

Travel agents sometimes make mistakes: Best deals you find yourself on the Internet.

White-, American-, Age-, Religious Belief-Privilege are obnoxious throughout the world.

Sometimes bickering is annoying to listen to, but is how a relationship works. 

People become pessimistic to fend off the anticipated ravages of disappointment.

Emotional abuse takes many forms, some more passive than others, but still mean-spirited and destructive.

The most common exclamation on the Amazing Race is a toss-up between,”You got this, Babe!” and “This is ridiculous!” A close runner up, usually in a whining tone: “This is so haaard!”

People often mispronounce things, which can be funny, but the funniest so far was the gal in Africa who pointed out a troupe of bamboons. 

Sometimes mean people win. 

On Fallen Heroes

Heroes… perched on pedastols, enthroned, enshrined… And suddenly one day they come toppling down, to be charged with heinous behaviors, to be run out of town on a rail in a suit of feathers and tar… Or we just tear them down on principle, for daring to rise above the ordinary, pitching stones at anyone someone else has elevated to the Hero’s height.

I have a theory about Heroes.

First, they don’t make themselves. I have heard of many a celebrated hero who didn’t want to hear it, who denied the charge outright. Why? Because they know themselves what they are made of, all the flaws and foibles that make them no more than human. They know that the moment that made them Heroes was a fluke, an unthinking response to emergency. Or that they took that crown from some other, nicer person who simply didn’t get noticed. Or that they actually cut some corners, even cheated to come to the event they are praised for. They know the whole story. And they have their own human issues.

So, why do we make Heroes? Why do we want Heroes so badly?

I believe it’s because we miss our parents. Not the ones that deprived us of candy, or made us come out of the pool, forced naps on us as kiddies, and grounded us as teenagers. Particularly, not the ones we discovered were not all-knowing, all-wise, after all, and could not beat up the bully next door in our defense, would not trust our judgment, our choices, our opinions…

When we discovered that our parents were merely human, we mourned the loss of the Parent we had believed in, trusted, enshrined in our hearts from infancy when they were our sole means of survival, well-being and comfort.

The Hero is the replacement for the lost Parent. And the cycle of recognition, veneration, and disillusion is the same. The problem lies in our self-deception that we are perpetual Children who need someone bigger and stronger to assure our safety and happiness in a world of threats.

We have to stop expecting other human beings who do remarkable things to be that perfect lost Parent. We can recognized their extraordinary deeds, their above-average accomplishments without expecting them to be demi-gods on all fronts. We can throw them a parade, put them up on stage in spotlights, praise them for a season… and then let them return to their own quiet homes, their privacy, their humanity.

We can spare them and ourselves the anguish of cleaning up the pieces when they fall crashing from the pedastol, we can spare them and ourselves the need to punish them for failing to be perfectly what we wanted and so imagined them to be.

We can warm to their humanity when they prove human, after all, embrace and comfort them when they fumble; even love them because of the many ways they are not better, stronger, grander than ourselves. We can release them from the popular expectations that they will be heroes every day, all their lives.

We might also think better of ourselves, our own competence and potential for the extraordinary: We might forgive our parents, and accept our own adulthood.


So, I have been thinking a lot about this for the past little while for reasons sociological and personal, and this is where I have arrived. Top of the hill? Or a plateau on the way up? Don’t know. The view is good enough from here, for a while.

  • It doesn’t matter if your maleness or femaleness is a matter of birth records or genetics. It doesn’t matter if it is biological or choice.
  • The point is, if someone wants to live as a particular gender, a tolerant and civilized society can live with it without freaking out.
  • If someone later changes their choice, that is also their right to do without justification to anyone else. How it affects others close to them is between them and the others, no one else.
  • How it affects anyone’s relationship with the Divine is also their business and no one else’s. No one else’s!
  • Public bathrooms should be gender-neutralized. So many of them are now single-user now, anyway, how hard can that be?

Because We Can

Why do we make stuff that actually in the long run, diminishes us? Why are we so proud and excited by what we clever monkeys can make, like machines to do work for us, like AI to do that humans used to do?

Think of the jobs loss, think of the boredom of forced retirement and unemployment; think of how those still working have to compete with tech so that everyone has to move faster and be always multi-tasking to keep up… No wonder people burn out mentally and emotionally, no wonder so many people need pills and drugs to stay in the race. Like the White Queen told Alice, we have to run and run just to stay where we are! 

It isn’t just human workers being replaced, it’s life being mechanized. The more machines are integrated into our lives, the more our own habits of thought and action come to resemble the mechanical. Machines don’t have humanity; Artificial Intelligence has no empathy; words of greeting and caring from computer voices are meaningless, even deceptions, a pretense that someone cares where there is, in fact, no one there in our interactions.

I am not saying all machines are bad, that all aids to work are dangerous. I am not saying that computers or computerization is an evil in itself. I am not against the evolution of technology.

am saying we should be aware: we need to pay attention to where we came from, where we are at, and where we are headed, and make some considered decisions about what really makes life better and what only makes it faster.


Knowledge is power. Lack of information, or the wrong information diminishes our real power as it increases our sense of helplessness and desperation, makes us angry until it seems our feelings are the only force we have to defend ourselves. This desperate anger is the fuel of mobs, it is the madness of violence as an imitation of control. It is disastrous to trust only our feelings untempered by reason and knowledge.

Long ago humanity chose intellect over instinct, to be responsible for our own lives and well-being, to make our own decisions and choices, right or wrong: We opted for adulthood. We chose to use thinking, logic, experiment, deduction to guide our way through a world of mysteries. 

But within every adult is still the intuitive, the impulsive, the impatient child. It is the balance of ‘adult’ and ‘child’ that makes us human beings. And that, right there, is our birthright.