Dreaming of Neverland: Faith and Extinction

This essay is my response to a song from Peter Pan. Here’s a video

Many historians and observers of the human condition have likened the “stages of life” of civilizations and empires to those of individual human beings. They have spoken of the birth, infancy, adolescence, maturity and senescence and, of course, death of countries and cultures. This is, needless to say, a poetic use of language; but poetry often serves as a vehicle for truths that cannot be conveyed nearly so well – or perhaps at all – by other means.

 

I want to take this line of thought a step further: I propose that the human species as a whole follows a parallel developmental trajectory, and that there are valuable insights to be gained by recognizing it. It may be a bit surprising to some, exactly where I fix the watersheds.

 

In a nutshell: I liken our Pleistocene, Paleolithic condition to the childhood of the species, and reckon its condition ever since the Agricultural Revolution to be a form of adolescence out of which we are currently struggling to emerge into full maturity. Dotage is far in our future, and whether our species will survive to see it is very much an open question.
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Lucifer Dismantled: The Final Fall

The mere mention of Lucifer often strikes dread in the hearts of believers while arousing the scent of searing sulfur and eternal punishment. “He” is seemingly forever synonymous with Satan; although the two terms are not entirely equivalent to each other. Etymology is necessary to unravel the historicity of how the word “Lucifer” became adopted by early Christians.

 

Lucifer is derived from the Latin phrase “lucem ferre,” which means “bearer of light.” The 4th century Vulgate is a Latin translation of the Hebrew bible (its authorizer was Pope Damasus I) and there you will find that “Lucifer” translates literally to “son of the morning,” or “the planet Venus.” [1] The Hebrew word hêlêl—that the Vulgate deems as “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12—does not represent an all-pervading corporeal creature with cruel powers to possess and seduce souls. The Septuagint, a 2nd century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, also represents hêlêl as meaning “Day Star,” which is another fancy term for Venus. [2]

 

Ironically, modern versions of the Bible refer to Jesus with the infamous “morning star” title (New Living Translation, King James Bible, Jubilee Bible 2000, English Revised Version, etc.):

 

Revelation 22:16 – “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

 

Matthew 2:2 – “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”

 

Revelation 2:28 – “I will also give him the morning star.”

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If God Falls Like a Tree In the Forest and No One Hears, Does God Exist?

At the beginning of every semester, I tell my students: there is a world of difference between hearing music and listening to it.  Emphatically despite the fact that “hear” and “listen” are often used interchangeably in casual speech, as though they were exact synonyms. In fact, they mean two completely different – although not entirely unrelated – things.

 

I’ve spent a goodly portion of my life thinking about language and trying to understand its expressive range, the better to express myself. I’ve noticed that transitive verbs do not carry the same weight – are not charged with the same energy – as intransitive verbs. Did any of your English teachers ever tell you that? Mine didn’t: I had to discover it for myself.

 

Let me illustrate: We regularly hear music, but we also occasionally listen to music. The transitive verb requires a direct object to complete its meaning; the intransitive verb is complete in itself (hence its greater potency), and the prepositional phrase that follows adds no weight to the verb: it simply brings the verb’s activity to a focus.

 

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The difference in energy between transitive and intransitive verbs is faithfully reflected in our daily experience. Taking the illustrative case I’ve offered above, consider the fact that hearing is an altogether passive experience which might actually be described as a condition, often ignored and therefore mostly registered unconsciously; every animal with ears has pretty much the same experience of hearing, assuming similar auditory capacities. (There are interesting differences, of course: dogs can hear at least an octave higher than humans, and humpback whales and elephants can communicate in wavelengths much longer than those available to us.) The capacity – the sense – known as hearing is our ability to register physical phenomena in a way that’s available only to an exquisitely fine-tuned nervous system, by means of equipment (eardrums, etc.) that can respond to (resonate with) disturbances in some fluid medium such as air or water. The old conundrum, “if a tree falls in a completely unpopulated forest, does it make a sound?” is thus answered: sound is the name we give to that nervous-system registering, that experience of a disturbance in air or water. Where there is no experience, i.e. no experiencer, there is no sound.
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