Friday, June 20, 2014

Journal of a Soul 58

So Many Colours in the Rainbow

Who can forget the lyrics of  the chorus of the late great Harry Chapin's song "Flowers are Red"?  Let me remind you of them:

But the little boy said
"There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one."

Howth Harbour by night, three days ago 
The song is a good one as its message is perennial, namely, that it reminds us that "variety is the spice of life," that differences are not alone to be acknowledges but to be celebrated. It is a timely reminder not alone for politicians, law makers and legislators but also for academics, teachers, and indeed preachers.  Who wants to live in a monochrome world where everything is boringly staid, monolithic and grey? These reflections were occasioned by reading about how changes are occurring for the better in certain churches in the world: "US Presbyterian Church Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriages," see Here.

Many Narratives

Bronze statue, UCD
Another phrase that stays in my mind is one I heard just last week used by our former President (Uachtarán na hÉireann), Mary McAleece, viz., "there is not just one narrative, you know," in response to a question on the centralized power structures of the Church. In other words, why is there just one monolithic approach to every moral and dogmatic question?  Surely, there are many approaches to and many perspectives on one or other truth.  Is there one monolithic Truth with a capital 'T'? Oh for a broad-Church mentality, not a narrow straitjacket approach where the take of a certain period in history is petrified or set in stone for millennia?  

Likewise, we tire from the same old rants by the tabloids that sell through sensationalist stories, many often blown totally out of proportion.  The narratives they proclaim and sell are all of a certain unseemly nature.  Many years ago my now deceased mother used always say: "good news never sells: bad news does!"  It is so easy to sell certain narratives only.  There are so many other stories, and many of them good, that could be given more public space and acknowledgement.  One further thing that does annoy me considerably is the almost deliberate avoidance of good journalistic practices of investigation before going to print with the publication of the latest  exposure of X, Y or Z.  

I Fear the Man of One Book

An old friend of mine used always quote the Latin phrase (he was a teacher of a certain era) from the pen of St. Thomas Aquinas, viz., "hominem unius libri timeo" which means "I fear the man who quotes one book (all the time)." As an academic of many years standing, I have never read or written a paper that did not make allusions to and citations from as many learned sources as possible.  In that way, academics attempt to bring out as many sides of the truth as possible.  After all, there are many ways of approaching every problem.  Let's take the field of geometry within the subject area of mathematics.  When I was at school, it was thought that Euclid was the final word on geometry, but when I got to college I learned about many other geometries: analytical geometry, algebraic geometry, descriptive geometry, differential geometry, projective geometry and so on.

Colloquialisms and Old Sayings

How often have we all heard that old chestnut: "There is more than one way to skin a cat"? This is a dreadful thought, and as to why one might want to skin a cat, I'll never know. I could understand it better if instead of the word "cat" one substituted that of "rabbit" as the latter provided much needed food to many of our forebears in less fortunate times.  The following is an interesting and learned conjecture as to its provenance: 

To a lexicographer, all phrases are interesting, it’s just that some of them are more interesting than others ... There are many versions of this proverb, which suggests there are always several ways to do something. Charles Kingsley used one old British form in Westward Ho! in 1855: “there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream”. Other versions include “there are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with butter”, and “there are more ways of killing a dog than choking him with pudding”. The earliest version appears as far back as 1678, in the second edition of John Ray’s collection of English proverbs, in which he gives it as “there are more ways to kill a dog than hanging”. (see Here )
Celebrating Difference

Marley Park, April, 2014
Surely the celebration of difference is one of our greatest possibilities as educated and progressive humans?  You don't need to be a zoologist or a botanist to celebrate the wonderful variety which the flora and fauna of the world present us with on a daily basis or a physicist or a chemist to celebrate the mystery of the microscopic world and even the submicroscopic world of atomic structure.  Neither do we need to be astronomers to appreciate the vastness and mystery of our universe.  Nor do we need to be college professors to marvel at the sheer exponential growth of knowledge.  All of this adds to the wonder of difference and the importance of celebrating this variety that seems to have one underlying thrust that biologists and physicists chase after in their desire for one overall comprehensive theory of the universe.  Perhaps, even if we are believers, we might see this as a quest for the Creator God?

The Wonder of Children

As a little primary school boy I was fascinated with the following quotation from the great English scientist Isaac Newton that our teacher Mr. Murray made us learn off by heart.  I remember it to this day: “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” This childlike wonder at mystery and truth celebrates life in its great diversity.  It was the same wonder and innocence that Jesus meant when he said to all the adults around him:And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." ' (Mat 18:13)

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