Philosophy, science  Comments Off on Racism
Jun 262016



Saying something intelligent about racism is far from easy these days because of the welter of definitions that abound in the media. I’m going to simplify things for you after a little preamble concerning how the words “racism” and “racist” get used and abused. Pretty much everyone thinks that being racist is bad, but how they define the term is all over the map. You’ll often hear people say, “I am not a racist, but . . .” which they then follow by an overtly racist remark. What’s that about? I think that in that context “racist” is akin to “bad guy.” That is, “racists” are “bad guys” and I am a “good guy.” So, once I assert my standing as a good guy, I can follow it with a racist statement.

In other words, to be a racist by this definition you have to act badly in certain ways. This would include such things as denying someone a job or housing based on skin color, lynching, and the like. Thinking bad thoughts doesn’t count. Stereotyping doesn’t count. As long as you curb your behavior, you are not a racist.

Then there is the question of what “race” is. Donald Trump is branded a racist because he doesn’t like a judge of Mexican heritage and because he wants to ban Muslims. Is Mexican a race? Is Islamic a race? I can go on. What about Jewish?  Can we say that Jews and Muslims form a race, but Christians don’t? I can easily cut through the nonsense here.

Race is a biological term used in classification. Species can be divided into sub-species, and sub-species can be further divided into races. BUT . . . the terms sub-species and race are informal: they cannot be defined rigorously. In fact ALL biological taxons – kingdom, phylum, genus, even species – are not fully definable rigorously. They are conveniences that help us in evolutionary biology, but some, especially species, are more easily codified than others. Defining race is a lost cause from the outset. There are absolutely no biological markers. This fact is as true for humans as for plants and animals.

Let me give you a simple example. Barack Obama is hailed as the first Black president of the United States, yet his mother was White. True, a few pedantic journalists call him “half-Black” or some such, but mostly he’s identified as Black. This stems from a simple prejudice in the West that if you are in any sense not White (culturally defined), you are Black. Why isn’t he half-White? More to the point, why is he either White or Black? Why do these terms matter? Why is it either/or? This is the heart of the problem.

People want to use certain physical features, such as skin color, as ways of classifying people, probably because they are ostensibly distinctive and easy. They then load these features with all kinds of meaning. Skin color is the most common marker, which gives us the classic three races: Caucasian, Mongoloid, and Negroid. Then people set about further sub-classifications to be able to manage difficult cases such as Australian Aborigines or the Ainu. In the 19th and 20th centuries you could find all manner of textbooks on the races of the world, or the races of Europe, and the like, with galleries of photographs showing the archetypical members of these races. What was left out of these books was any mention of the fact that members of these supposed races were as diverse biologically as any random grouping of individuals. There is no biological marker that makes one person Negroid and another Caucasian – NONE.

We are forced back on the simple fact that race is not a biological term but a cultural one. Race is a social construct, an idea borne of convenience not of biology. Biological races do not exist. If you want to, you can talk about cultural races – groups of people who identify with one another as belonging to a particular group. Anthropologists often use the word “ethnicity” for such groupings. There you’re on safer ground, but not completely secure. Obviously groups can share language, religion, foodways, etc. that unite them, but these are not biologically driven. You are not born with a gene for speaking Chinese or Spanish. I’ll steer clear of the whole nature vs nurture pseudo-debate for now, but simply say that there is no biological basis for race.

My conclusion is also very simple, and leads me to define “racist.” By my definition you are a racist if you think races exist – at all. You don’t have to act in bad ways towards certain people to be a racist. You can be perfectly benign in thinking that although races exist, they should all just get along. It doesn’t matter. If you think races exist you are a racist.


 Philosophy  Comments Off on Change
Jun 192016


I believe that the fear of change is one of the more damaging human traits, yet is very common. We all fear certain changes, some for good reason. I don’t want the sound of my car engine to change. That’s never a good sign. A change in the weather might be good or bad depending on what you want to do and what that change is. Rain can end a crippling drought or spoil a picnic. Certainly, what changes herald can vary enormously from situation to situation. What I want to focus on here is long-term, significant change.

Let’s begin with the notion of a comfort zone. This idea has several facets to it. First is the basic idea. We can define our comfort zone, crudely, as the set of behaviors we carry out that don’t challenge us emotionally. This zone varies enormously from person to person, but regardless of the size and shape of the zone, we all have one. When I lived in the Catskills I had friends who had never left New York State, and would not even contemplate driving into New York City. Those journeys were completely outside their comfort zone. Such a narrowly defined comfort zone is completely alien to me, but I understand why people live that way, even though that’s not the way I live. Our upbringing plays an extraordinarily compelling role in this. I’d lived on 3 continents by the time that I was 6, and had completely circumnavigated the world (for the first time), by the time I was 14. So, for me, travel is normal. Staying in one place for any length of time is outside my comfort zone.

Here’s the second facet. For some people, their comfort zone is an iron cage that they will not, or cannot escape. For others, the comfort zone is there, but its boundaries can be transgressed. I’m not sure which group I belong to. Just because I can hop a plane to Hong Kong at a moment’s notice or learn Italian so that I can buy local specialties in street markets in Mantua, does not mean that I am moving out of my comfort zone: I am not. These actions don’t especially stress me. The fact that they stress others is irrelevant.

So what is my comfort zone? I don’t know that I can say exactly. I do know, however, that if things stay the same for me for too long, I get restless. In that sense, change is my comfort zone. Being stable and secure, doing the same things repeatedly would be torment for me – well outside my comfort zone. I have friends with a cabin on a lake that they stay in every summer for the same period year after year. That’s idyllic for them, but just unimaginable to me. I want things to be changing – all the time. If they keep staying the same where I am, I move.

What I have noticed, most especially this year with elections in the US and concern in the UK whether to stay in the EU or leave, is that there are a lot of people seeing change happening around them and they don’t like it. They want things back the way they were. Here’s a number of semi-rhetorical questions that I have:

  1. Is change bad by definition?
  2. Can you stop change?
  3. Is it possible to turn the clock back?

Personally, I’d say the answer to all three is a simple no, but I realize that there can be more nuanced answers.

#1 is the most complex because it depends very much on your comfort zone. Some people don’t want anything to change – ever; others are tolerant of small changes over time; and at the other end of the spectrum are people like myself who revel in change. Clearly you’re not going to be able to please everyone. Cultural change is a constant. Its pace may alter over time, but some change is always happening. In the case of language change as an example, it is clear that English has changed enormously over 1,000 years. The language spoken in England in 1016 is incomprehensible to us, yet the evolution from that dialect to ours can be traced quite accurately. The change is too gradual to notice over the span of a single lifetime but read Chaucer or Langland and it’s obvious.

Is language change good or bad? What about the internet, smartphones, air travel, nuclear energy . . . and on and on? I could argue both sides, but so what? Change is occurring whether we like it or not. One can take a stance in one’s personal life, of course. There are certain changes in English which I detest and refuse to comply, but that position does not prevent the changes from happening. There are some communities such as the Old Order Amish who take a general posture that in general change is bad, but even those societies change.

Then there is the more modest position which asserts that some changes are bad and some are good. Which is which? Anecdotally I’d say that most people are comfortable with fast travel and fast communications. Few people want to walk everywhere or send a message by pony. But these changes are a two-edged sword. If you can travel vast distances easily, so can others. You might like being able to travel to Asia or Africa quickly, but might be less comfortable with swarms of people from those places coming to your home town. Me? I don’t care. Travel from England to Australia took weeks when I was a boy, now it takes days. I don’t like smartphones very much, so I don’t use one, but for the most part I don’t care if others have them or not.

I tend to side with Emerson (from “Self Reliance”) in that all changes have the habit of bringing things you want and things you don’t want. It’s convenient to fly from London to Hong Kong overnight, but you end up being dumped down jet lagged, in an alien culture without time to adjust. Traveling overland on the Silk Road would give much more time to adjust, not only to different time zones, but to different cultures. In fact, I want to do just that one day. Besides, slow travel like that can be a wonderful experience. Going from England to Australia in 1957 I got to see Gibraltar, Naples, Greece, Suez, and Sri Lanka before arriving in Australia, instead of just flying over them. On the way back, I visited New Zealand, Tahiti, California, Panama, Curacao, and Lisbon before landing back in England. Unforgettable. Now I fly everywhere because surface travel is less convenient, but I am losing a lot.

Questions #2 and #3 are rather more straightforward. I don’t see how you can stop the clock, let alone turn it back. You can sort of pretend at a Renaissance Fair (or Fayre!!) but it’s not real. It’s just a game (and not an especially good one, with anachronisms abounding). How do you un-invent the internet? You can avoid using it, of course, but it’s still there. Right now immigration is a hot-button issue, especially because conflict in the Middle East is driving refugees into other countries. But immigration has always had its detractors. People in the 19th century in New York didn’t like the Irish moving in, even though the country was a nation of immigrants, and the Irish were fleeing hunger and poverty. They weren’t welcome. Now descendants of these immigrants are complaining about Mexicans and Muslims. If only the indigenous peoples of the Americas had turned Columbus back!!! It would have done no good, obviously. Others would have followed.

This brings up the related question: “What period do you want to turn the clock back to?” I get the feeling that the answer to this question depends, in large part, on how old you are. People get nostalgic about their own experiences. Not me. The 1960s were great for me but I don’t want to return to those times. A lot of people do though. I suspect that a great part of the nostalgia comes from selective memory. It’s also, in part, a function of the aging process. People tend to dislike getting older. In that regard there is a simple response. Things are changing, are you going to accept the changes or fight against them? Either way things are going to change.

 Posted by at 8:42 pm

Seven Deadly Sins

 Religion, Spirituality  Comments Off on Seven Deadly Sins
Jun 152016


Remember my acronym WASP LEG? — Wrath Avarice Sloth Pride Lust Envy Gluttony. Pretty deadly ones if you ask me. But there’s a lot of bad stuff missing here – the 10 commandments are largely absent for example – killing, stealing, lying, disrespect, and so forth. The thing about the seven deadly sins in my opinion is that they are as much, if not more, inwardly destructive as they are outwardly harmful. Sure, anger or greed can lead to some nasty actions as can lust or envy, but sloth and gluttony don’t usually lead to a life of crime. In fact they can all be contained, one way or another, without doing outward damage. You can seethe in private and bottle up lust. What you can’t do is keep those feelings, pent up or not, and have them NOT harm YOURSELF.

Anger is an excellent case in point. I talked about this already http://www.passionintellectpersistence.com/anger/ here’s a bit more before I move on. Anger, and its close ally, hatred, is toxic internally and externally. Jesus made the excellent point that it’s not what goes into the body (e.g. supposedly unclean foods) that damages a person, but what’s already in there that comes out. The antidote to anger/hatred is love, and it’s not surprising that Christianity, and ALL other major religious, put love in the forefront. Anger is pure poison. I should know; I used to indulge in anger whenever I felt like it. Now I don’t. I used to be suckered into the common belief that anger demonstrates strength, although I did not subscribe to the opposite, equally popular notion, that love is weakness. I sort of wanted it both ways. It doesn’t work like that.

Anger corroded my soul, and since I stopped indulging that little addiction I am much happier. So are the people around me. There are times when getting angry at someone can achieve an immediate goal, but at what cost? A colleague launched a major outburst of anger at me in the faculty room a few months ago because she did not like something that I had done. I admit that I was at fault although what I did was not a major crime. I wasn’t thinking when I breached a confidence, which I didn’t believe was terribly important anyway, and as far as I can tell there were no negative consequences. But my colleague yelled at me for a long time in front of numerous other colleagues. The result? They all think that she is unstable, and sympathize with me. Certainly I won’t do the like again – basically because I don’t talk to her any more. She’s lost a friend. In my estimation, that’s not worth the little she gained, if anything.

If we look at the other deadly sins we can see that they are all toxic to ourselves. Some of them I’ve never really indulged in but I certainly see their negative effects. Greed has to be a killer. It’s a bottomless pit. The classic notion that if something is good, more is better will eat you alive. The Irish have a saying, “contentment is wealth.” Couldn’t agree more. Nowadays I work to earn what I need to live on, plus a little more for travel and such, and then I quit. I don’t want more and more. This also takes care of envy and gluttony. Having been raised a Presbyterian Calvinist, sloth doesn’t enter the picture either: just the opposite. When thinking of me the word “driven” comes to my friends’ minds. It’s virtually impossible for me to do nothing. I don’t spend a lot of time working to earn money, but I am active all my waking hours: writing, traveling, cooking, photographing – you name it.

Pride is the one tricky one, and often tagged as the deadliest. What exactly does the word mean, though? I can be proud of what other people have accomplished, for example, and don’t see that as in any way negative. I’m proud of my son without taking credit for all that he has done. That seems entirely positive to me. Sometimes I’m similarly proud of my own achievements. Is that wrong? I don’t prance around crowing like a narcissistic idiot because I’ve done something good; but I do feel happy about it. Most commentators equate “pride” with “hubris” and there I can see the point. Pride becomes a sin when it becomes overreaching and overbearing. The opposite is humility.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” There’s the nub of it all. Pride turns the focus inward, but humility turns it outward. That’s the sum and substance of the deadly sins. Find their opposites and turn them outward – LOVE, GENEROSITY, ENERGY, HUMILITY, CONTENTMENT and MODERATION, are all pretty good antonyms. I’m struggling a bit with LUST. Does it have an opposite exactly? I am INDIFFERENT to sexual attraction at this stage in my life, but that’s hardly a general rule. Oh well, do with that one what you will, namely DON’T LUST.

 Posted by at 8:36 pm


 Philosophy  Comments Off on Chronocentrism
Jun 122016


The term (and notion) “ethnocentrism” is not universally known, but a lot of people understand the general idea – judging a foreign culture by the standards of ones own. The opposite, cultural relativism, seeks to understand cultures in their own terms, rather in the terms of others. Cultural relativism, of one sort or another, is at the heart of much of modern cultural anthropology. There’s actually a good deal wrong with cultural relativism, especially, as a blanket methodology, and it has its critics. I’ll hold off on the critique for another time. Whilst cultural relativism is not all good, it’s not all bad either. There’s a great many “-centrisms” I should explore over time here – all of them pernicious – but I’ll stick with chronocentrism today.

Chronocentrism is a little like ethnocentrism, especially if you think of “the past as a foreign land,” and may also be combined with genuine ethnocentrism. But it is distinguishable. Chronocentrism, in simple terms, is the mistake of believing that people in the past thought in the same ways that we do now, and that they can be judged by modern standards. This is quite obviously a myopic way of thinking as far as I am concerned, but it is very common, and takes many forms.

I’ll begin with a relatively easy example, that does not involve too much in the way of moral dilemmas – is the earth the center of the solar system or the sun? Historically the earth was seen as the center, and it took a lot of fighting over several centuries to shift perspectives from the earth in the center (geocentric) to the sun in the center (heliocentric). In the 15th century geocentric theories predominated, and by the late 17th century heliocentric theories were the norm. It’s easy to dump Aristotle and Ptolemy on the junk pile of history as ridiculous thinkers because their maps of the heavens, with all kinds of spiraling planets, look absurd to us. In fact we are a lot closer to the ancients in our observations than we may care to acknowledge. We are given to geocentrism, even though science tells us that heliocentrism is correct. We don’t feel or see the earth move. We see the sun move. We talk about the sun “rising” – not the earth rotating – because that is what we experience. Geocentric theories are a lot closer to our daily observations than modern scientific perspectives are. It’s completely chronocentric to think that we are so much more knowledgeable than the ancients were. Very few modern people understand the physics of the motion of the planets in anything other than a trivial way, and fewer still have any personal experience other than that the earth is stationary and the sun, moon, and stars move around us. For all intents and purposes we are the center, not just of the solar system but of the universe.

What bothers me most about chronocentrism is that it pervades the study of history. We really have very little idea of how people in the past thought. When it comes to ancient peoples, the problems are gigantic, but even the recent past can be problematic. I think we’re on fairly safe ground when it comes to the 20th century. I was born in 1951, and even as a young man I knew people who had lived in the 19th century. So I have personal experience, and the personal experiences of others, to draw on. As you go farther back things start to get murky.

As an anthropologist, colonialism interests me, and, as an historian, the 19th century has been the focus of much of my study. Why did 19th British imperialists in Africa, Asia, and the Americas think they could, and should, colonize vast tracts of lands and peoples? The profit motive should not be underestimated. The Industrial Revolution was ravenous for raw materials which Britain alone could not provide. The economy needed fuel, materials, and labor, not to mention markets. But that’s not the whole story. Most Victorians really believed that 19th century Britain was the pinnacle of civilization: the end product of millennia of social and cultural evolution that should be shared with less fortunate cultures (at a price). It’s not fair to sneer at Kipling’s idea of “the white man’s burden.” He believed in it wholeheartedly. “Civilizing” other cultures was as much a duty as a benefit in the 19th century. In hindsight we can recognize the inherent weakness of this line of thinking, but we ought not to condemn them outright for it. On the other hand, we should not just excuse the wrongs of the past simply because they did not know any better. We know better now, and have a duty to repair what damage we can.

Unfortunately, many of these 19th century ideas are still around in slightly modified form. In the 19th century, many people were ethnocentric because that was the prevailing social norm. The notion of ethnocentrism as a wrongheaded and narrow way of thinking about other cultures had not been established, in part because modern anthropological methods had not been created. In the modern world we shouldn’t be ethnocentric, but many people still are. A big part of the problem lies in another wrongheaded notion: the belief in “progress.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson – a great 19th century essayist – hit the nail squarely on the head in “Self-Reliance,” source of the great line: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” The essay is mainly about his recurrent theme of the importance of individual action and the avoidance of conformity, but he does, in the process, address the issue of progress. His argument is that, yes, we can do things now (the 19th century), that were impossible in previous times, BUT . . . gaining new things entails losing old things. Scientific instruments can navigate ships, but that entails the loss of the ability to navigate by the stars. Can you find Arcturus, Polaris, Sirius, Vega, or Betelgeuse in the night sky? I can because I have deliberately taken an interest, but I don’t have to. If I needed to navigate by the stars I’d certainly need to know them.

In other words, every gain in one direction involves a loss in another. You have to decide whether the gain is worth the loss. Is the gain in connectivity provided by smartphones worth the loss of immediate social interaction. I don’t think so, but an awful lot of people do.

Nowhere is the fantasy of progress more evident than in the contemporary popular misconception of biological evolution. Darwin did not see evolution as producing better and better species, nor did he use the phrase “survival of the fittest” (that was an early misinterpretation). Darwin saw “evolution” as exactly synonymous with “change.” Species change (evolve) to adapt to changing environments. End of story. One branch of primates evolved into Homo sapiens because big brains and opposable thumbs carry an advantage. But so do fast legs and sharp teeth, and so do being small, slow, and barely noticeable. Species survive because they can adapt to changing conditions. If our brains are big enough we’ll figure out a way as a species to survive our own destructive stupidity. If our greed outstrips our intelligence, we won’t.

Nowadays the West seems still to be caught in a 19th century mindset. There’s a prevailing notion that because we can send rockets to space, communicate globally instantaneously via computer, eradicate diseases such as smallpox, and whatnot, we are progressing or advancing. We are not: we are changing. I’m glad of some of the changes and not of others. In 500 years, if humans are still around, what will they think of us? Unfortunately I can already predict how hideously stupid they will think we are.

To be continued . . .





 Religion  Comments Off on Bahá’í
Jun 042016


Recently I was writing about a celebration within the Bahá’í Faith for my other blog, and this gave me the opportunity to delve into its beliefs more deeply than I had done before. I know a great deal about the history and theology of Christianity, of course, because I am an ordained minister, have studied these subjects in university, and have also done extensive fieldwork, and have written about, a slew of sects and denominations. In one way or another I’ve also studied, and occasionally written about, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Shinto, and so on. I’ve had a few friends over the years who were Bahá’í devotees, but did not study the faith in any detail until I started writing my blog post on the death (ascension) of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith. http://www.bookofdaystales.com/ascension-of-bahaullah/  I knew that it was an outgrowth of Islam and that was about it. Studying more deeply was an eye opener.

You’ll have to study the faith in detail for yourself if you want to get into specifics. I want to focus on one core value here. At the heart of Bahá’u’lláh’s teaching is the notion that all monotheistic religions worship the SAME God, they just use different names and ascribe different attributes to him/her/it (pronouns aren’t much use). I’ve always been inclined in this direction myself, and anyone who has read about different religions can see this. The Golden Rule, for example, is found in one form or another in all the major world religions.

When I was being orally examined for ordination in my presbytery I was required to answer any question a member cared to put to me. The first questioner was well known to me because he was an outspoken conservative evangelical who spoke a great deal at meetings, condemning what he viewed as the “liberal” stance of the bulk of the members. For ordination examination you have to write and distribute a statement of faith, which becomes the jumping-off point for the questioning period. So . . . he began his questioning by saying, “I have 13 questions for you regarding your statement.” The presbytery members groaned, but I mentally rubbed my hands. You take me on in debate at your peril.

First question: “Do you believe that Jesus is the ONLY path to salvation?”

He was laying his cards on the table right from the start. Theologically speaking the answer has to be “yes,” otherwise you are not an orthodox Christian. But you can answer in the affirmative and not insist that Christianity is the sole, TRUE religion – and I did:

Answer: “Yes, but I am not so arrogant as to claim to be able to discern the voice of Jesus all the time. Maybe he speaks to Buddhists or Hindus or Sikhs. I don’t know.”

I was sorry that after three of his (similar) questions a member minister voted to close questioning, and I was excused whilst they voted (overwhelmingly in my favor). I could have debated all day, but in hindsight I realize I also could have got in a lot of trouble by talking.

The Abrahamic Faiths – that is, the faiths that view Abraham as a common patriarch – come in an historic succession: Judaism first, then Christianity, then Islam, and their beliefs underscore that succession. Judaism, and a certain amount of Judaic law, is foundational to all three. Christianity, especially in Paul’s writings, sees Judaism as on the right track – with the right God – but needing some overhaul. Islam sees Judaism and Christianity as being on the right track – again, with the right God – but also in need of changes. In each case the changes are spoken of as a maturing, or deepening of vision.

Bahá’u’lláh, in the 19th century, took this notion a step further. Certain branches of Islam have been open to the idea that major prophets can emerge once in a while. Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be one these prophets. Perhaps to bolster his claim, he went on to say that the God of all religions is essentially the same and, more importantly, is unknowable. Our limited minds cannot grasp the infinite complexity of God. But once in a while a prophet of God comes along and gives us a glimpse. The problem is that a whole religion coalesces around that one prophet, claiming that it is the only true religion to the exclusion of all others. But God is multifaceted, and if you take one face and think that it is the whole jewel you are missing a lot.

Bahá’u’lláh’s philosophy was that all the major religions of the world have shreds of truth embedded in them, and so we should pay attention to them all. But we must also remember that these religions were founded in a particular time and for particular reasons, and so should not be wedded to specific dogmas and practices. Some are doubtlessly eternal, some are limited in time and space. I’m very much in favor of this agenda. The catch is, of course, that Bahá’u’lláh’s philosophy, broad though it may be, has developed into yet another religion.

I won’t say that I detest organized religion, but I don’t like it all that much. I understand that a religion (or sect) can feel like HOME. When I was on the path to ordination I knocked on all kinds of doors – Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran – and they all rejected me. Finally I walked into a Presbyterian church in New York and felt at home. The décor, the hymns, the people, the sermons etc. were all things I had grown up with from childhood.  I could immediately fit right in. However, I would never mistake comfort for being correct. One of my mantras, in fact is – COMFORT IS THE ENEMY.

Organized religion has great strengths and great weaknesses. Its gigantic weakness in my opinion is its tendency towards dogmaticism, and hence, exclusionism – “I am Presbyterian because I am NOT Catholic, NOT Methodist, NOT Anglican . . . etc. etc.” That stance comes about because of the way certain religions and sects were founded in the first place. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli et al. broke away from the Catholic church; Christianity broke away from Judaism etc. Obviously there were efforts made to salvage the “good” bits of the faiths they broke away from, but there lingers a sense of separatism (with ecumenism doing its part once in a while).

The second “Bible” of the Presbyterians is The Book of Order – a codification of the rules that govern the church. To be ordained you must know it inside out – and I do. Meetings of Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies are mired in discussions concerning these rules and their amendment. Worship, prayer, ritual etc. all play second fiddle. Ugh !! It drives me nuts.

The positive side of organized religion is that it provides a focus, spiritually and socially. Going to church on Sunday, for example, can be a time for spiritual renewal, friendship, learning, and all kinds of good stuff. It’s just important, I believe, to remember that one way is just that – one way. It’s not necessarily the right way or even the best way. All ways have severe limitations. Flexibility and openness enrich me far more than being walled off in a little space where all I can do is dig a hole deeper and deeper. I doubt that God would be at the bottom anyway.