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Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Search for Truth in a Reverent Spirit

(Editors note:  This is the first segment in a new series.)

Many ordinary people find that something important is missing from life’s daily experience.  The cosmic balance has been altered.  The pursuit of happiness has, so it seems, evolved into a mindless and impersonal pursuit of material gain.  At times, it tends to consume us all.  The more we have yields the illusion that we’re almost where we need to be --- if only we could get a little more?

Why do the multitudes who possess so little appear to have much?  Conversely, why do people who appear to have so much in reality possess little?  Perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective.

Possession may mean one thing, when the goal is competitive advantage.  Its motivating force is a heavy burden which may consume the material aspirant.  But possession may mean something altogether different in a spirit of cooperation.  For example, do puppies at play really fight over a bone?  Or is there another dynamic involved?

What is the elusive ingredient we are searching for, absent from this great experiment in democracy we call the pursuit of happiness?  It’s not an easy question.  Those who have given it serious thought are content to label it a search for Truth.  However, this search leads to a fork in the road: on one side is science --- on the other, spirit.  A bright line divides the two.

In science, discovery of any “new” principle is little more than a matter of black and white.  If a principle cannot be scientifically proven, reason dictates that it simply be rejected.  Nor is it ever a matter of interpretation.  The idea that the earth is round was first proposed in the 6th century BC.  But it remained a matter of “philosophical speculation” until the 3rd century BC, when the earth’s spherical shape was “established” as a spherical given.

Surely the laws of gravity existed before man “discovered” its scientific principles.  Consider that nothing changed, in fact, except man’s understanding.  Would it not be pure folly, then, to debate the scientific properties of light?  But we can --- and should --- continue to ponder life’s important questions:  Where does light come from?  What is its source?  And so it is not difficult to understand the controversy over whether global warming is “real” --- for in a competitive landscape, many lives do hang in the balance.

On the other side of the divide are those whose lives are guided by spirit --- an energy force which surely cannot be explained by science alone --- if at all.  To them, reliance on reason alone is a limiting factor in the search for Truth --- unacceptably limiting.

In the scriptures Pilate's questionioning of Jesus went something like this:  “But what is truth?  Is truth unchanging law?  We both have truths.  Are mine the same as yours?”  To say that these questions are provocative --- in such an unequal exchange --- would be a gross understatement.  Will ordinary man’s consciousness ever be raised to the point where such answers do become scientifically defensible?

Liberated from the limitations of science, those who are guided by spirit are driven more commonly by intuition.  This allows for the potential of a broader understanding --- Theodore Roosevelt labeled it The Search for Truth in a Reverent Spirit --- and a higher trajectory.  Non-discriminatory by its nature, this path is available to everyone.  And the transformational principle --- is faith.

While scientific skeptics may be constantly nipping at the heels of spiritual mystics, somehow the latter remain undeterred.  “When an interest in Truth exceeds any interest in blame, expectation, or any form of comparison,” notes Matt Kahn, the spiritual teacher, “it is an indication that life has successfully prepared you for the soul’s true journey.”  As we progress and aim higher, that journey supplies the richness by which we --- and our lives --- will come to be defined.

(Editor’s note:  To be continued … )

-Michael D’Angelo

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Global Warming, Terrorism & Inconvenient Truths

In late September 2015 your blog host had the privilege to receive the benefit of three days of training in Miami sponsored by the Climate Reality Project, of which former Vice-President Al Gore is the Chairman.  The training created another core grouping of those who would earn the title of Climate Reality Leader.

The purpose of the Climate Reality Project is to raise awareness of the effects and consequences of climate change occasioned by the phenomenon of global warming.  The purpose is also to educate ordinary citizens as to what we can do to stem the tide, mitigate the processes and reverse the destructive momentum.

The training effectively empowers Climate Reality Leaders to present a slide show which updates information initially brought to light in Al Gore’s 2006 Academy Award winning (2007) documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.  In making the film, Mr. Gore was the subject of an Intergovernmental Panel on climate change of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

The fact is that the global climate has begun to warm appreciably, especially over the past 150 years coinciding with the onset of the Industrial Revolution.  While it may be true that the sun heats the earth, it is also true that carbon heats man.  Hence, the term “carbon man” enters the vernacular.  Coal had been the preferred fossil fuel, prior to oil, and its use is widely still prevalent at the nation’s large electricity generating power plants.  The phenomenon of fossil fuel burning on such a mass scale (coal burning in combination with oil) is what scientists attribute to the concept of global warming.

Scientists are in near unanimous agreement (97%) that climate change is the result of carbon-based fossil fuel emissions as a by-product of energy production mainly from oil, coal and naturally gas.  The film makes the powerful case that stewardship of the environment is not merely a convenience but, rather, a moral issue.

The statistics are sobering.  The US comprises less than 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes about 25% of the world’s energy.  Each and every ordinary American citizen uses about 3 gallons of oil per day, twice as much as people in other industrialized nations.  America is a throw away society, with dismal recycling rates, producing roughly twice as much garbage as Europe.  Until most recently, perhaps, the political parties have seemed content to put the idea of economic growth on one side of the spectrum and environmental protection on the other, as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive.

But the wild card today remains oil.  The US consumes approximately 21 million barrels of oil per day, about 65% imported.  It is not an exaggeration then to say that US dependence on imported oil is a greater threat to national security than any threat from terrorism, real or perceived.  Perhaps at no time since the pre-Civil War South’s economic dependence on slavery can it again be said that the US reliance on oil is so acute as to constitute a life or death economic dependency.  The need is so alarming, so encompassing, and so pervasive, that any moral issue that may come up along the way, including human rights and/or the environment, can also be dismissed as secondary.  Which begs the question: Once the problem of terrorism is theoretically dispensed with, are we then “free” to heat the planet into oblivion?

The slide show presentation challenges audiences to ask themselves three basic yet provocative questions.  First, must we change?  Second, can we change?  And third, will we change?  As President Obama has stated, “We’re the first generation to feel the effects of climate change … and the last generation who will be able to do anything about it.”  As leaders get set to gather next week in Paris, France to attend the long awaited gathering on climate change, the stakes for our way of life --- including the survival of our planet as we know it --- can hardly seem greater.

-Michael D’Angelo