Soul Music

Soul Music

Copyright 2017 Don Ray
While watching an amazing piano concerto performance by John Nakamatsu.
As I watch the extreme facial and body language and contortions, and marvel at the physical training and skills of these artists, it strikes me how ridiculous the whole thing is. To train the human body to this extreme level, to concoct such bizarre contraptions of wood and string and metal, all in the effort to communicate from one soul to another…….this scene and countless others like it through the ages give powerful testimony to a profound and fundamental truth. Continue reading “Soul Music”

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Our Actions: Coerced, compelled, and chosen

Our Actions: Coerced; Compelled; Chosen

Copyright 2017 Don Ray
The answers are all right before us. The structure of existence, the nature of our being, the summary of purpose and meaning, it is all right before us.
Look just a little deeper, just a little deeper.

Gently peel away the worldly façade and recognize what is really transpiring in most of our human endeavors.

Everything we do falls into a few categories. 1) We do that which we think facilitates our survival-security-and comfort. 2) We do that which connects us to something or someone. 3) We do that which is irrationally loving. Continue reading “Our Actions: Coerced, compelled, and chosen”

Digital Migrations

Digital Migrations

Copyright 2017 Don Ray

Today’s political polarization seems shocking, a new and unforeseen development, unimaginable and inconceivable, at least to us old goomers. But if viewed in the context of history and technology development, we can see this societal divergence as quite natural.

Bear with my brief recap of 100,000 years, and we will come to the key question facing our hyper-connected society today.

We began with family alliances, small groups of people hunting and gathering, parents and children and grandparents looking out for each other.

We evolved into tribes, groupings of people bonded by mutually beneficial survival advantages gained from group membership.

With the advent of farming technology (read “sticks and grinding stones”) tribes evolved into villages.

Eventually with wheel and ship technology allowing trade across vast distances, the city-state arose. People now joined together for defense, as always, but now also for economic advantages.

Occasionally a city-state, Babylon or Rome for example, would extend its power, and empire was born, but most residents of the empire would not identify with the distant city-state center of that empire.

With improved roads and spreading language and communication now possible over hundreds of miles in only a matter of weeks, the nation-state was enabled, and kingdoms spread their influence beyond the city walls.

These national identities were not as automatic as had been membership in the tribe or village. Coercion and manipulation and propaganda became necessary to convince people to kill and die for king and country when king and country posed no evident advantage to survival. But with enough flags and anthems and taxes, the nation-state secured its “natural” role as the geographic location of a given linguistic or ethnic or religious group.

During the perennial warfare of the age of nations French speakers in the Alsace moved west, Deutsch speakers moved east; Deutsch speakers moved north of the Alps, Italian speakers moved south; Muslims moved west of the sub-continent’s Line of Control, Hindus moved east; Shiites and Sunnis and Jews and Turks and Armenians packed up and moved in countless migrations in whatever direction the swords and guns pointed; Russians and Mongols and Magyars moved wherever they wanted.

We always had somewhere to move, even if only a desolate reservation assigned by treaty or a tiny strip of desert between the ocean and the tanks.

We moved as ethnic groups, as language groups, as religious groups, and we formed new nations, or conquered old ones, or assimilated into existing ones, but we wound up in a place with people of some shared identity.

All fine and good until recent decades. A new coalescing, a new great migration, now unfolds. A large swath of the human population has taken to a virtual road to journey to their promised lands.

That new promised land is populated with people just like us. That new promised land is run the way we think a land should be run.

Our new virtual migrations do not conveniently lend themselves to tidy borders and genocides and conquests and subjugations and expulsions.

We now migrate digitally. Our tribe and ethnic group has been replaced by those who listen to the same news sources. Our religious denomination has been replaced by a congregation of people of shared faith in political and social and football philosophies.

We once coalesced around a water source. Later we coalesced around a color on a map. Now we coalesce around a FaceBook page.

Shared genes once brought us together, then shared food sources, then shared language, then shared place. Now it is shared opinions and attitudes that bring us together.

Spears and clubs facilitated the tribe. Hoes and digging-sticks facilitated the village. Sails and compass facilitated the city-state. Wheels and roads facilitated the nation.

What “migration”, what new structure of human interconnection, is our digital technology facilitating? It is not a migration of place, not a structure of geography. It is something new and unforeseeable, as the city-state and nation were unforeseeable before their advent.

The word we associate with “tribal” is warfare. Name a city-state: Troy, Babylon, Rome, Venice, and we can list its wars. Mention a nation and you can list the nations with which it fought wars. Will the outcome of these new migrations, this new connection, this new communication, be new in its influence on our behavior?

The migrations of old separated us as we crossed rivers, mountain ranges, or lines on a map to be with those who spoke our language or read our scripture. Today’s digital migration to our preferred news source and web sites and FaceBook friends still leaves us living next to the same irritating neighbors, in the same country as those benighted voters we won’t talk to, and in the same world as those gentile/heathen/infidel heretics we fear and demonize.

The technology has changed and the geographic distributions have changed……but have we changed? Do we want to change? Each historic coalescing of identity: family – tribal – religious – and national, led to violent conflict with the “others”. Will our coalescing into right and left – red and blue – liberal and conservative – fundamentalist and progressive – NASCAR and Indy Racing League – science and superstition, simply lead to new iterations of conflict? …or will we finally learn that the person of different belief – opinion – perspective – attitude – philosophy does not necessarily pose a threat? When no longer separated by the mountain between villages, the river between tribes, the language between nations, when we have the same language – the same neighborhood – the same community – the same world, when we are done texting and tweeting those who agree with us, will we finally talk to each other?

Copyright 2017 Don Ray

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Bridges of Sound and Light

Bridges of Sound and Light

Copyright 2017 Don Ray

Sound and light, this stuff that serves as the tenuous connection among souls, this flimsy bridge we struggle to refine and craft and carve and polish, then call it “art”.

Sound and light, fleeting and gone in the very moment we perceive them, but imparting some miniscule fraction of another’s soul into our consciousness, thereby making us conscious of our own soul.

The composers and musicians and painters and poets are the spiritual corps of engineers, fabricating their structures to bridge the void between our souls.

Music can shine a light, paintings can stir rhythms, and we are left more human by their touch.

The palette of notes and the chords of colors hover before our consciousness, inviting us to awareness, momentarily filling the void between us, revealing visions and dreams and aspirations shared, their fading echoes and receding glow leaving us a little less alone.      Copyright 2017 Don Ray…….share

 

Endangered Thinking

Endangered Thinking

Copyright 2017 Don Ray

 

Since time immemorial tribes, political parties, and religions (three labels for essentially the same entity) coalesce around the tallest or best looking or most persuasive leader, at which point that subset of the human species finds itself running down yet another logically indefensible path of beliefs.

 

This human characteristic used to be amusingly quaint when technology limited the damage to the non-believers within reach of a club or range of an atlatl.  But with the advent of ballistic missiles, cable television, and digital media (mentioned in  increasing order of potential negative impact) our species’ proclivity to swallow even the most flagrantly false beliefs and opinions begins to pose an existential threat to nations, society, and civilization.  

 

Gratuitous deceit has become the stock in trade of some powerful media chieftains and their political chattel.  This statement, unlike the rabid rantings of their vituperous talking heads, is easily verifiable.

 

What becomes of this pandemic of delusional beliefs depends, in some poignant irony, on our beliefs.  Do we believe in critical thinking, in open-mindedness, in restrained judgement pending verifiable facts – whether the facts do or do not suit our preferences?  These are beliefs worthy of proselytizing.  From these beliefs we can construct opinions, as opposed to fabricating opinions.  These beliefs nurture sanity and connection to reality, two commodities in precariously short supply.  

 

Critical thinking, open-mindedness, and restrained judgement pending verifiable facts were once considered endemic in modern, educated, technologically advanced society.  But even endemic species become endangered.  

 

Believe in these pillars of a sane society, practice your beliefs, and for the sake of our nation and children, try to spread your beliefs.  

 

You better believe it, this is critically important.

 

Copyright 2017

Don Ray

The Scrum of Our Beliefs

Copyright 2017 Don Ray

Inter-human interactions…..

no experience comes closer to knowing God.

No experience can so promptly and radically drive us away from all that is holy.

We may see God in those interactions if we have already made God’s acquaintance. 

We may in those inter-human interactions see the reason for hell. 

There, in the grip of the handshake or the blow of the fist, we will feel whatever of God is within us and will sense the Void only God can fill.

In our interactions with and responses to our fellow humanity we will experience the breadth of goodness and the depths of evil. 

It is there, there in the interactions with our fellow children of God, that the questions of the ages will arise and the contradictory answers will be lost.

There, there in the confusion and conflict of the scrum of our beliefs, we find our redemption and salvation in the ample opportunities for compassion and forgiveness.

Copyright 2017 Don Ray

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