Quakerism

Speaking of Serpents

I live on the Pacific Rim, in Portland, Oregon, which has a Chinese Gate, marking a long history of East-West traffic.  The Dragon is pretty much a powerful creature but more often celebrated than demonized.

We have parallels in the west, but in Genesis the serpent plays a decidedly negative role.  Although it’s a “dragon” that St. George would slay, I think that hearkened back to the generally negative connotations in the Bible.  Serpents and dragons were one and the same.

These days, I do a lot of programming in Python, perhaps another reason to think ahead.  True, Monty Python was more the target of Guido’s homage, but the familiarity of the Python, to Athena, really has to be remembered, which brings us full circle, as Athena reminds us of Eve, scholarship I needn’t duplicate here, check the Web.

In one re-telling of Genesis, in a limited edition art book called Tetrascroll, the authors of Genesis want to punish any knowing of the Dragon religions, older and further east.

That our world is actually a sphere, is also forbidden fruit.

Eve is like the name of a ship, feminine, where ships have ribs and convey Adam, around the world.  They’d flip their ships over on shore back then:  the ribs became eaves.  Like I said, an art book, not real etymology.

My friend Sam Lanahan owns one.

He went to the Philippines with Bucky in Martial Law days, as a guest of the Marcos family. This was well before I knew him, even though I was in high school in Manila in those days.  Our paths would cross later.

sam’s copy of tetrascroll

By admin on September 9, 2016 | literature, Quakerism, synergetics

Religious Education

Given I’d “glommed on” to Wittgenstein, as my thesis advisor Richard Rorty might have put it, as a user of the verb “to glom,” I found myself wandering over to the Religion Department half the time.

Victor Prellar was there, in Religion.  He’d been an Anglican priest in one chapter, I think it was, and now he was sharing Wittgenstein with higher level students.  Princeton includes a small grad school, although it prides itself on its focus on undergrads.  I was invited, as an interested undergrad, to attend his upper class seminars. At one point I spaced out writing a final paper, which annoyed him.  We stayed friends.

Wittgenstein was a religious man, I think that’s fair to say.  He chose a life of asceticism over a life of wealth and privilege, and his passion for logic gained him audiences with Gottlob Frege, and later Bertrand Russell.  The latter came to recognize great genius in Ludwig, and took him under his wing as a protege.

Fast forward and I’m getting lectures from some of the best in the business, not just Rorty and Prellar.  Diamond was great on William James.  My teachers of both Milton (Paradise Lost) and Machiavelli (The Prince) were both fantastic.  Princeton was not short on highly talented teachers.

I bring up all this lineage to help me plant a spear or javelin in an even more distant future, long after the turn of the millennium.  I’ve gone ahead and branded a few memes as “Quaker” just to see if “Quaker schools” might gain some traction around curriculum you won’t get just anywhere.  Dig around in my blogs and you’ll find them.  Think “philosophy of mathematics.”

I’m doubtful about finding the correspondence on my end, however I well recollect a long back-and-forth with Dr. Suber at Earlham College, long before I’d ever visited the campus.  I was hoping to get on his rather exhaustive list of “philosophy websites” around the web, however he was skeptical that Synergetics really counted.  I finally convinced him.  This quote marked the turning point:

The integration of geometry and philosophy in
a single conceptual system providing a
common language
and accounting for both the
physical and metaphysical.
Synergetics 251.50

A funny piece of trivia and synchronistic event:  Dr. Suber listed Synergetics immediately adjacent to Systematic Ideology, for alphabetical order reasons, and the latter was a link to Trevor Blake’s website.  Trevor lives just blocks from me, I see him fairly often.

Trevor (likewise atheist-friendly) has also participated in critical and specific ways to save the Bucky stuff, a transcendentalist corpus in which I specialize.  He inherited Joe Moore’s U-haul truck’s worth of materials, which he stashed and organized, Sam Lanahan helping with finances.

When I finally did make it to Earlham, I was invited to address their Philosophy Club, a somewhat brown bag lunch affair.  I spoke on two topics:  whether members of the natural numbers N might have infinite digits (the consensus among professionals is “no” only real numbers can have that); and on tetravolumes, more of that almost-trademarked Quaker stuff, at least in my niche of the market.

What all this “Quaker + geek” stuff traces back to is probably Right Sharing of World Resources and the GNU project (Richard Stallman et al).  I’ve written about him on Q2 before:  my idea of a prophet.

A branch of engineering decided to give the world the benefit of its craftsmanship for free, as a side-result of its master practitioners agreeing to empower one another.  Rather than let the lawyers control ownership, the engineers would on their own take ownership, of the whole idea of ownership.

In my telling, some Quakers were paying close attention, and nothing in Quakerism has any problem with engineering.  If you’re into outward violence and designing “killingry” to amplify “acting out,” then fie on that, however “livingry” remains the focus of so many talented people, whether they call themselves “religious” or not.

If they’re loyal to humanity as a whole, I’m happy to think of them as religious in a way I might respect.  Religious education is not antithetical to an Engineering education.  Quakerism embraces science, including computer science, as Earlham College makes obvious.

By admin on | Quakerism

On Racism

One of the more bogus locutions out there stems from identifying with some goofy fiction like the “white race” (really?) and then thinking to “speak for” that fictional grouping.  “Speaking as a white person for a moment…”  Yeah, right.  Funny.

Even if there were a “white race” I wouldn’t consider anyone I know, including myself, authorized to speak for it.  But yes, I consider “races” to be entirely fictional, a-scientific inventions.  There’s no genetics behind the concept, only a confusing hodge-podge of ideas, mixing ideas about “blood” with ethnicity (cultural heritage) and a million other things.

Ashley Montagu was one of the heroes in anthropology, willing to stick his neck out to discredit the whole idea of “races of man”.  Yet efforts such as his, to deconstruct the whole idea of “races”, tend to take a back seat to the front and center battles that just assume the truth of this socially engineered meme virus.

Decades ago I came to the maxim:  “a racist is someone who believes in races” and I’m sticking to that even now.  If you want to overcome racism, go back and study how the idea came to be, and look at the arguments of its opponents.  Sure people differ in how they look, that’s not in dispute. Adaptation is real, the human genome is amazing.  That doesn’t mean the “race” concept is apropos.  After all, it grew to prominence long before anyone knew about DNA.  The race concept never depended on real science in the first place.

Just as the “military industrial complex” is a psychological thing, a tangle of beliefs about being a “superpower” (guffaw) with all the “manifest destiny” mumbo jumbo that goes along, so is the belief in races little more than a mental ailment, for which treatments are readily available.

By admin on | Quakerism

An Abolitionist President

Although US president Barack Obama is not a direct descendant of the Anglo-American slave trade, his abolitionist stance versus nuclear weapons is consistent with abolitionist values championed by a few Quakers in Underground Railroad times.

You may be thinking “a few Quakers” is an understatement given Friends had disowned all slave-owning by around the early 1800s, pre Civil War.  Good point, however the US Government took the position that slavery was legal at the time, and indeed founding fathers such as Jefferson were entirely dependent on slavery as an institution. Quakers also believed in the separation of church and state.

People were still in the early stages of industrialization and were not seeing how labor-saving appliances, factories, freeways, on-line shopping, would be altering the landscape, especially after two “world wars” (in the early 1800s, people did not yet imagine wars at that scale with a lot of foresight, science fiction writers excepted perhaps).  They could not foresee how prisoners and the undocumented could be forced to work under slave-like conditions.  Making slavery go away is more sleight of hand when you have PR-minded spin doctors serving political agendas.  Those days were in the distant future (our own time).

Many Friends therefore took the view that whereas members of the Religious Society should not be slave-owning, members of other persuasions, not convinced of Quakerism, were free to hold slaves, as private property was protected by the laws of the land, and other humans could be property.  Women were not voting members of society yet either.

When a suitable homeland was established, in Liberia perhaps (a sort of proto-Zionism was in the wind), all the “Negroes” could go there.  Some Quakers were most comfortable with this political agenda.  The stereotype that Friends were all secretly working with the Underground Railroad is more like spin applied later, after the Civil War.

Fast forward to today and one may find some Friends taking a non-abolitionist stance towards nuclear weapons, which make slaves of us all by threatening us with gross destruction in case someone’s will or policies are not obeyed.  “Defiance will be punished” is the message, from the masters to their minions.

Some Quakers are OK with this state of affairs, believing themselves to be on the masters’ side, which is also the side of God and all that is right and orthodox (ortho-normal, right-angled, four-square).

Other Friends such as Bayard Rustin, into speaking truth to power (a translation of “jihad” by some accounts), have been less compromising.  Like Obama, the AFSC, with which Rustin was affiliated, has been consistently in favor of (A) non-proliferation and (B) roll-back.

Indeed, built in to the Nonproliferation Treaty is the promise that those presently endowed with nukes will seek to abolish them.  The Marshall Islands is suing nations it perceives to have violated these terms of the agreement.  More power to ’em, as they too were victims of nuclear war, euphemistically described as “forced evacuation” followed by “tests” by the imperial-minded of a non-Friendly bent.

As a former AFSC liaison for the West Region (US jurisdiction), and former NPYM delegate to Philadelphia, I’d like to thank president Obama for calling for an awakening of conscience from Hiroshima today.  He takes his stand with abolitionists of the past, as well as those of the present.

By admin on | Quakerism