Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Retina Shadow

A commonplace minor moment in daily life brings back a life-changing experience:

Retina Shadow

The blinding resplendent brilliant blaze of sunfiring
In the translucent window
at the top of our old stairs,

Lighting to my eyes glaring defects
In the polished stairstep walls.

And afterward, for an hourglass,
That irised rectangle of remembered light
Luminous shining

Bright-blinds me to all lesser
Than transcendent,

A euclidic image in front of my vision,
The 'optic mystic' nerve gleam
Of photo-receptors

Turned into lighted-ecstasy in my mind
As I trudge about the hectic scurry of my work day,

That brilliance of aperture at the center
Finite briefness

(In this pit-caved depression
Of emptiness, and not.)

The after shadowed light of Reality
Far brighter
Than temporary nature's harsh survivor'd death glare
Or the gray-dusted rituals of this culture of shame;

Look, not to this dark cavern,
But to the sun-resplendence,
Of eternal goodness, truth, and beauty.

Oh, the after-glowed radiance!

--Daniel Wilcox
First pub. in The Greensilk Journal
in different form

We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is This True: "Most Scientists Are Non-Religious" According to Jerry Coyne?

Biologist and Atheist Jerry Coyne writes on his science webblog,
"Why else are most scientists nonreligious—far more so than the general public?"

Caution: Whether or not religion or non-religion, theism or atheism, is true, isn't a popularity contest!

The number of scientists who are or aren't "religious" is only a general indicator of whether or not science and religion are compatible, not whether religion is true or false.

HOWEVER, contrary to atheist Jerry Coyne, according to Pew Research, 51% of scientists aren't atheists.

That means that a majority of scientists are 'religious," not the "most scientists are nonreligious," Coyne's claim.

"According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power."

"Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power."

That doesn't sound like "most scientists" are "non-religious."

But let's give professor Coyne the benefit of the doubt; maybe his claim was that "most scientists" are not organizationally Christian?

Also, consider this study done by Rice University:
"First worldwide survey of religion and science: No, not all scientists are atheists

"Are all scientists atheists? Do they believe religion and science can co-exist?"

"These questions and others were addressed in the first worldwide survey of how scientists view religion, released today by researchers at Rice University."

“More than half of scientists in India, Italy, Taiwan and Turkey self-identify as religious,” Ecklund said.

“And it’s striking that approximately twice as many ‘convinced atheists’ exist in the general population of Hong Kong, for example, (55 percent) compared with the scientific community in this region (26 percent).”

“No one today can deny that there is a popular ‘warfare’ framing between science and religion,” said the study’s principal investigator, Elaine Howard Ecklund, founding director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program and the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences. “This is a war of words fueled by scientists, religious people and those in between.”

"The study’s results challenge longstanding assumptions about the science-faith interface. While it is commonly assumed that most scientists are atheists, the global perspective resulting from the study shows that this is simply not the case."

"Elite scientists: 34% Atheist, 30% Agnostic, 36% Religious"

"The researchers did find that scientists are generally less religious than a given general population."

However, there were exceptions to this:
39 percent of scientists in Hong Kong identify as religious compared with 20 percent of the general population of Hong Kong,
and 54 percent of scientists in Taiwan identify as religious compared with 44 percent of the general population of Taiwan."

"Ecklund noted that such patterns challenge longstanding assumptions about the irreligious character of scientists around the world."

"When asked about terms of conflict between religion and science, Ecklund noted that only a minority of scientists in each regional context believe that science and religion are in conflict."

"In the U.K. – one of the most secular countries studied – only 32 percent of scientists characterized the science-faith interface as one of conflict. In the U.S., this number was only 29 percent."

"In addition to the survey’s quantitative findings, the researchers found nuanced views in scientists’ responses during interviews. For example, numerous scientists expressed how religion can provide a “check” in ethically gray areas."

"Ecklund and fellow Rice researchers Kirstin Matthews and Steven Lewis collected information from 9,422 respondents in eight regions around the world: France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S."

"They also traveled to these regions to conduct in-depth interviews with 609 scientists, the largest worldwide survey and interview study ever conducted of the intersection between faith and science."

About Amy McCaig
Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.

Also, consider this survey's results:
updated 6/23/2005 11:42:26 AM ET

"CHICAGO — A survey examining religion in medicine found that most U.S. doctors believe in God..."

"In the survey of 1,044 doctors nationwide, 76 percent said they believe in God..."

“We were surprised to find that physicians were as religious as they apparently are,” said Dr. Farr Curlin, a researcher at the University of Chicago’s MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics."

Of course, probably, Coyne would argue that doctors aren't scientists.

But even discounting doctors, it isn't true that "most scientists are nonreligious."

Professor Coyne needs to edit his incorrect claim, or provide contrary evidence.

In the Light of Ultimate Reality, God, Deity, Divine, Essence, the Good, Transcendence, Process, Higher Power, Meaning,
(or whatever other term religious people use to refer to their convincement
that matter and energy aren't the only reality).

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, February 20, 2017

Part #5: The Intellectual Beauty of the Cosmos and Physical Reality

"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason

Currently, I am reading A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design by the Nobel-winning physicist, Frank Wilczek, and am also about half way through physicist Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe.

From physicist Frank Wilczek's new book on the nature of the cosmos:
“Thus far our meditation on quantum reality has revealed that the world of everyday matter, when properly understood, embodies concepts of extraordinary beauty. Indeed, ordinary matter is built up from atoms that are, in a rich and precise sense, tiny musical instruments."

"In their interplay with light, they realize a mathematical Music of the Spheres that surpasses the visions of Pythagoras, Plato, and Kepler."

"In molecules and ordered materials, those atomic instruments play together as harmonious ensembles and synchronized orchestras.”

"...ideal beauty…feature color, geometry, and symmetry. Consider, in particular the magnificent plate HH. Here the local geometry of the ambient surfaces and the local patterns of their color change as our gaze surveys them."

"It is a vibrant embodiment of anamorphy and anachromy-the very themes that our unveiling of Nature's deep design finds embodied at Nature's core."

"Does the world embody beautiful ideas? There is our answer, before our eyes: Yes."

"The world does not, in its deep design, embody all forms of beauty, nor the ones that people without special study, or very unusual taste, find most appealing."

"But the world does, in its deep design, embody some forms of beauty that have been highly prized for their own sake, and have been intuitively associated with the divine.”
― Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

"Beauty is a vague concept. But so, to begin with, were concepts like "force" and "energy." Through dialogue with Nature, scientists learned to refine the meaning of "force" and "energy," to bring their use into line with important aspects of reality."

"So too, by studying the Artisan's handiwork, we evolve refined concepts of "symmetry," and ultimately of "beauty"-
concepts that reflect important aspects of reality,
while remaining true to the spirit of their use in common language.”

"Concepts live outside of time and, because All Things Are Number, liberate us from it.”
― Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

“When religion talks about our aspirations and our sense of morality, I do not believe that science can contradict it. However, when religion contradicts science on matters of fact, religion must yield.”

“In short: the space of color information is infinite-dimensional, but we perceive, as color, only a three-dimensional surface, onto which those infinite dimensions project.”

“Two obsessions are the hallmarks of Nature's artistic style:
Symmetry- a love of harmony, balance, and proportion
Economy- satisfaction in producing an abundance of effects from very limited means”

“Dynamical beauty transcends specific objects and phenomena, and invites us to imagine the expanse of possibilities. For example, the sizes and shapes of actual planetary orbits are not simple."

"They are neither the (compounded) circles of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Nicolaus Copernicus, nor even the more nearly accurate ellipses of Kepler, but rather curves that must be calculated numerically, as functions of time, evolving in complicated ways that depend on the positions and masses of the Sun and the other planets."

"There is great beauty and simplicity here, but it is only fully evident when we understand the deep design."

"The appearance of particular objects does not exhaust the beauty of the laws.”

“With this, in a powerful sense, our Question has been answered. The world, insofar as we speak of the world of Chemistry, biology, astrophysics, engineering, and everyday life, does embody beautiful ideas."

"The Core, which governs those domains, is profoundly rooted in concepts of symmetry and geometry, as we have seen. And it works its will, in quantum theory, through music-like rules. Symmetry really does determine structure."

"A pure and perfect Music of the Spheres really does animate the soul of reality. Plato and Pythagoras: We salute you!”
― Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

“For us, the great conclusion is this: all the colors can be obtained from any one of them, by motion, or, as we say, by making Galilean transformations."

"Because Galilean transformations are symmetries of the laws of Nature, any color is fully equivalent to any other. They all emerge as different views of the same thing, seen from different but equally valid perspectives.”

“Yet it is beautiful to discover that there's another chapter to the story, where we discover deep unity beneath, and supporting, the diversity of appearance. All colors are one thing, seen in different states of motion."

"That is science's brilliantly poetic answer to Keats's complaint that science "unweaves a rainbow.”

“Yet many creative spirits have found inspiration in the idea that the Creator might be, among other things, an artist whose aesthetic motivations we can appreciate and share-or even, in daring speculation, that the Creator is primarily a creative artist."

"Such spirits have engaged our Question, in varied and evolving forms, across many centuries."

"Thus inspired, they have produced deep philosophy, great science, compelling literature, and striking imagery."

"Some have produced works that combine several, or all, of those features. These works are a vein of gold running back through our civilization.”
―Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

“The legendary Danish physicist Niels Bohr distinguished two kinds of truths. An ordinary truth is a statement whose opposite is a falsehood. A profound truth is a statement whose opposite is also a profound truth.”

“The entity we perceive as empty space is a multilayered, multicolored superconductor. What an amazing, astonishing, beautiful, breathtaking concept. Extraordinary, too.”
― Frank Wilczek, The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces

And other scientists on the beauty of the cosmos and our study of it:

“I have a friend who's an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don't agree with very well. He'll hold up a flower and say "look how beautiful it is," and I'll agree. Then he says "I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing..."

"First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is ... I can appreciate the beauty of a flower."

"At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty."

I mean it's not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes."

"The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms?"

"Why is it aesthetic?"

"All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower.”
-Richard Feyman

“I would suggest that science is, at least in my part, informed worship.”
―Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

"My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding..."

"In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.
I am not an Atheist."

"A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."

"I have not found a better expression than 'religious' for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason."

"I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe."

"We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books."

"It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects."

"That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God."

"We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations."

"Scientific research can reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and view things in terms of cause and effect. Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order....
bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God."

"If I were not a Jew I would be a Quaker."
-Albert Einstein

In the Light of Science, of the Intellectual Beauty of the Cosmos,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pin the Ban on the Valentine Heart: Romantic Love, UnIslamic

from the BBC News:
"Pakistan capital bans Valentine's Day"

"People shout slogans during a protest against Valentine's Day in Karachi, Pakistan.

A court in Pakistan has banned public celebrations of Valentine's Day in the capital, Islamabad, on the grounds that it is not part of Muslim culture.
The Islamabad High Court's order prohibits all Valentine's Day festivities in government offices and public spaces with immediate effect.
It also directs the media not to promote or cover Valentine's events."
It comes a year after Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain said Valentine's Day should be avoided...Last year local officials in Kohat, in north-west Pakistan, banned the sale of Valentine cards and goods, and Peshawar local council banned celebrations.

"In Saudi Arabia, Valentine's Day is banned by the kingdom's religious police.

Women and men sit separately in restaurants and public displays of affection are taboo.

However, some shops continue to sell red roses and other traditional Valentine's presents.

One shop owner described how Valentine's Day orders are placed over the telephone to avoid detection and flowers are hidden in the back of the store."

"Last August, the decision to sentence five Saudis to a total of 39 years in prison, as well as 4,500 lashes between them, was upheld.
The men had been found dancing with six women they were unrelated to on Valentine's Day. Alcohol and red roses were also seized."

Muslims need to lighten up.

Hopefully, you and your spouse are caring, cherishing,
and affectionate every day of the year.
Live your witness for love against such intolerance and arranged marriages.

In the Light of Romantic Love,

Daniel Wilcox

Palestinian Stranger: Of a Different Mind and Place

The Middle Eastern stone and masonry buildings hunched like a dense crowd at the gate, darkened in the dusk’s sun, and I stood there, my red American backpack leaning against my knee. Down the twilighted street it looked dark and foreboding.

Where might I find a hotel? It was 6:30 pm and I had just missed the last bus leaving Nablus, Palestine at 6 pm.

I was going to be stuck here all night. True, Palestinians had been courteous and friendly all day.

The people in Nablus hadn't been at all like most Palestinian Muslims who support killing civilians, not at all like Palestinians who had recently knifed to death Jewish civilians including a 13-year-old girl in her own bedroom. Or the ones who intentionally rammed into Israeli cars, trying to kill Jews. In one car attack, a 1-year-old Jewish infant had been killed.

Immediately, the Palestinian government in the West Bank had praised that Muslim attacker as a"martyr." Really sick and twisted.

My bumpy ride up from Jerusalem in the blue and white bus had been fascinating and safe. A short, black-haired Palestinian teen in the seat next to me had introduced himself and plied me with many questions about America, grinning with enthusiasm and intensity.

And for the past 6 hours, I had wandered the ancient streets of Nablus (called in the Bible, Shechum), marveling at the dead stones of that ancient past contrasting now to the lively hubbub of present day life.

Shop sellers had given me the hard sale, though had been very polite. No hostility. Probably spotted me immediately as North American. Some of the Arab men dressed American, but very conservatively, not with my colorful garb.

I saw few teen girls in the streets, only about or 6, and they walked quietly beside their men escorts, ensconced in cocoons of dark cloth with only their faces visible shaped like pert olives.

So, excited by another new adventure, though tinged by anxiety, I walked down a central street past more shops, looking for what might be an inn. Some older men in traditional dress were pulling sheep heads, slabs of meat, and sheened metal cookware from their display tables, and then pulling down the dull, metal rolling doors, locking out the night. Noisily and uncertainly came the darkness.

Would I even have enough Israeli currency for a room? Or would they take American money? What would their attitude at the inn be, if I found one?

Would they demand to see my passport? Up until now my looking more Jewish than all Jewish members on our kibbutz where I worked in eastern Galilee, had been humorous—my dark curly hair and prominent nose; also often bent close to the text of my Jewish Bible, which none of them, the actual Jews bothered to read. They wondered about this goyim who knew all about Nahum and Jeremiah.

But now I was hungry in a strange place, a mind’s distance from Americanized Israeli cities, so I walked over to something familiar, a small falafel cubicle still open.

It was a bright spot along a large dark 3-story building. The cook, a tall Palestinian youth, probably about 19, was busy cleaning a grimy grill, scraping off pea crud and the last shreds of dark meat.

But he paused smiled and said, “Salaam."

I pointed and asked, “How much?”

Behind him 2 boys about 7 and 5 were cleaning bowls and shoving vegetable shavings into a dented trash can.

Then in perfect English, the cook said he was near closing but still had enough for a couple falafels. I ordered two and stood there eating them, crunching delicious hot peas, meat, and steaming vegetables. Between a 3rd and 4th bite, I asked, "Are there any hotels near here?"

“You American?” he asked as he continued to clean and he rushed some Arabic at the boys behind him.

”Yes, I missed the bus. I came over to the Middle East after finishing college in California--am an anthropologist--actually hitched across Europe, then down down the Croatian coast, when I should have been at my commencement. Your English is very clear. You a student?"

"Yeah, I'm Ismael, recently graduated from Ramalah Friends High School, and now attend an-Naja National University here in the city. And your name?”

We flowed like the Jordan River into a young adult conversation, the kind that take place anywhere--
comparing notes on studies, girls, religion, and, finally, politics, of course. Is there any other topic in the Middle East?

He rinsed the grill and said, “I can direct you to a hotel, but if you wait a short bit longer for me to lockup, you are invited to our home; I'm sure my mother and father would be happy to provide you with hospitality for the evening. Then we could continue our discussion. I would like to ask more questions."

That night with the Abrahamic stars outside, countless in the black sky, I sat in the cook's family's 2nd story living room of a 3-story concrete home.

Ismael explained, "Our third story is still blocked off, under construction." On the wall behind us hung a tapestry with a deer and a mountain. In front of it sat Ismael’s father stocky with short hair and a pudgy face ensconced like a sheikh on a stuffed chair, his 5 children sitting on the floor by him, all watching TV.

His father didn't speak much English, and me, of course, no Arabic. So Ismael translated a few words he said to me in greeting.

A few times, Ismael walked into another room to answer his cell. The old and the new.

I sat on a low chair and watched fascinated as the white hijabbed mother first served me--as honored guest, a dish of Arab meat with red and green vegetables, then served her husband, then Ismael, then children, and lastly back in the kitchen, I guess, Ismael's younger sister and herself.

To my surprise, after conversation, they didn’t have me sleep in a side room or on cushions in the living room. As the guest of honor, the parents gave me their own large bedroom with its king-sized American-style bed covered in large elaborate quilts.

I felt sheepish being so honored, but remembered that they were no doubt practicing the Islamic rule of hospitality to strangers. Or, maybe, my skeptical side kicking in, trying to impress this American, hoping for some favor from me in the future.

The next day we dined formally on the floor in their dining room. I sat cross-legged in front of a spacious banquet of many dishes, again served first. The gracious mother ate last. Maybe, not so different from my own Thanksgivings as a kid growing up in the Bible Belt of Nebraska where the women labored most of the day in the kitchen, while the men sat in the living room watching the North/South Football Game.

The next morning Ismael didn’t have to work and took me down to the young men’s club. The open air game room was on the top floor of a 5-story building in downtown Nablus. At a pool table, 7 young adults avidly played billiards. We soon joined after introductions, but I didn’t get many balls shot before the conversation turned to politics.

Especially, a very serious guy in a rap shirt kept button-holing me, saying in flawless English, “Why does America keep helping the Jews? That’s what I want to know. Your President Trump, what an idiot! Obama was no better!"

He paused to cue a ball, then continued, "We are oppressed every day, by the Zionist dogs always telling us what to do and where to do it. And they won’t give us our land back. Look at how they are stealing our land, and settlers are cutting down our olive trees.

But we will get it back by blood and bravery. Thank Allah, praise be his name, that we have Fatah to stand up for us!”

I listened, somewhat taken back by the harsh barrage. Other Palestinians jabbed in their own knife points, bitter comments. Since I had come on this great pilgrimage leaving the U.S. behind because of my own disillusionment with Obamaism, I found it hard to know what to say. But I couldn’t stomach the Palestinians' attacks on Jewish civilians, and reminded them that Jewish people have suffered, too.

So, while we poked spheres of color into pockets--and debaters would step aside every few minutes to take cell messages, I side-stepped the anti-American barrage with mild-mannered equivocations.

They didn’t seem to really be asking for answers but only using me as a sort of political, Islamic piƱata.

Gradually the conversation cooled, but then the guy wearing the old rap t-shirt asked “Why did have you come to Palestine? If you call it 'West Bank,' I'll punch you.”

Suddenly, the conversation was no longer impersonal insults; it got direct and personal.

Ismael started to come to my defense, even had the pool game stopped.

But I motioned, "No, let me respond. I'm a theist, a spiritual seeker, a Friend, and wanted to see the land where all 3 large monotheistic religions began. This brought forth mild surprise from a number of faces.

One perceptive youth who hadn't spoken yet, said, "It's more than 3; don't forget Baha'i."

"Very good point! I responded." And then continued telling them about my travels and background.

Only having been in the Middle East for a few months, I still didn’t grasp the real nature of religious people in Israel or the West Bank. How many Jews, how many Muslims, how many Christians really believed in their religious identities? Or were those only their cultural and political, often rancorous, worldview, not a thought-out lifestance.

These pool players, friends of Ismael, of course, were more religious, than the Jews on my kibbutz who were all hard atheists. One 45-year-old kibbutzim farmer worked on Jewish holy days, disking fields all day, working hard as ever on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the Jewish calendar when no cars were seen on major highways, and even the most hardened secularist would at least reflect on his errors from the past year and make new resolutions.

But what of these modern Muslim youth with their cell phones? Only two months before, 5 Muslim fighters had come across the Jordan River and attacked 15 Jewish civilians in apartment buildings in Bet Shean just a mile and a half from the kibbutz farm where I lived and worked. Israelis reserve soldiers bullet-riddled the terrorists and fire-torched their bodies.

Would the young adult in the shades and rap shirt, who had verbally attacked me, soon pull a knife at a bus stop and stab an old Jewish lady or a Jewish child for Allah and Palestine? Or would he join a Muslim jihad organization such as HAMAS?

What did that even mean to them? Did they really believe in Allah?

While I ruminated on such questions in a side-part of my mind, I finished up with my explanation to them, "Last week while eating at a Palestinian restaurant in Jerusalem, there had been an Islamic plaque on the wall that said, "Islam is a religion of love." Would you agree with that?"

But what about the verses in the Quran which advocate the killing of Infidels—which means Jews, heretical Muslims, and us Americans. Or the drastic Quranic statement that at the end of the world Jews will try and hide behind rocks, but the stones will cry out and tell Muslims where Jews are hiding so they can be killed?"

Ismael glanced around toward the downstairs and at other buildings near the open terrace where we stood, and whispered to me, "It's best not to discuss Islam in a public place."

"Oh, okay. Sorry."

"So, what about girls?" I chuckled. "Is that an okay topic? Are you allowed to date as Muslims?"

"No," said Ismael and several others chimed in--no they "couldn’t date; dating isn't part of Islamic culture."

A stocky guy sitting near the edge of the roof on a hardwood chair and nursing his cell phone spoke up, "Look at Pakistan's Islamic government in the news today. They've banned Valentine's Day. Our government ought to do that, too."

"Not quite," said Ismael to the anti-Valentines youth. "Check the news, again. What happened is that the Islamabab High Court prohibited all Valentine’s Day festivities in government offices and public spaces and directs the media not to promote or cover Valentine’s Day."

Then Ismael turned back to me. “First, I must finish university and then build up a business--like my father did--so that I have a secure foundation; and then my family will arrange a wedding for me with a respectable girl."

“Really?” His conservative explanation jarred paradoxically with the lurid news I had read in the English-language Jerusalem Post the previous week. "What about several East Jerusalem youths who followed an American woman a couple weeks ago and attempted to fondle her as she walked down a windowless street? Many Muslim men seem to have a vulgar attitude toward women."

"Wade, keep in mind, young men here think all American women are like actors in Hollywood movies, loose and adulterous."

Finally, Ismael said it was time to go.

I thanked everyone for their hospitality, and added, "I'll work on improving my billiards' game." They laughed at that.

But at the door out, the stocky guy in the rap t-shirt walked up close to me and whispered.

"What?" I asked. I thought he was making another sarcastic comment, a parting shot at me and the U.S.--that I was getting verbally stoned, again.

But instead he repeated in a low voice, “Do you think you can get me an American visa?”

-Daniel Wilcox

In the Light, hoping for reconciliation for the Jewish and Palestinian peoples,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Despair, hatred, wrath, negativity, even "depravity" juggernaut down
on all of us at present.

The Ocean of Darkness overwhelms.

Destruction and despairing theologies and philosophies ramp down.

Not only in the shocking debacle of contemporary politics
in the U.S., Turkey, Russia, etc.,
even worse a nigh-endless despair or theological negativity has shown up among so many Friends leaders:

Friend Micah Bales: "I believe that the concept of depravity is vital to the experience of the church in the West today.If we are to live in the truth, we must begin with the devastating realization: You and I are ourselves depraved. We are liars, self-seeking, potential murderers. We are dishonest with ourselves and others."

Friend George Amoss Jr.: "At last I learned that there is no salvation. I had retreated from belief in God and Jesus to the seemingly finer ideas...But life proved the emptiness, as it were, of such enlightenment. Eventually, I saw that those concepts, too, had functioned as superstitions, attempts to make something of nothing. I had to acknowledge that there is nothing to believe or hope in."

"There is no salvation. There is nothing I can do, or anyone do for me, that can rescue me from being what I am: a human animal conditioned in every sense. No deliverance from guilt, pain, death. No act, belief, or experience that would make acceptable the unacceptable. No person, institution, concept, or intuition to hope in."

"Nothing to hold, seek, or look forward to. Nothing anywhere any better than this... ultimately, not even love remains."

Even the hard atheist Ernest Hemingway's infamous short story of utter despair and negativity, "A Clean, Well-lighted Place" doesn't get as negative as these Friends are writing and sinking into.

And there are so many other humans turning to, getting drowned in, giving way to such negativity, letting in the Ocean of Darkness:-(


I don't have any quick answers for them, but only deeply grieve.

And ask them, to turn from this dwelling on "depravity" and "emptiness."

Let us live in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Part #4: The Beauty of Music and Song

There are millions of examples of the transforming beauty of music stretched over thousands of years and many cultures.

Where does one even begin?

Give a contemporary wonder?

Maybe go back to classical gems...

But, I've decided to first post a powerful early 70's sacred rocker which has come back to my consciousness, again and again over the years musing to me in crises, enlightening, encouraging:
"Old Man's Rubble" by the famous songwriter and repeated Grammy winner, Elliot B. Bannister.

The instrumentation, pacing, tempo, vocal, lyrics, and depth of spiritual reflection makes this rock song, not only memorable, but important for truth, and a powerful example of utter beauty and glory of song.

Old Man's Rubble

by Elliot B. Bannister
(sung by Amy Grant and band)

Bio: Elliot B. Bannister is a well known sacrd song writer, audio engineer, and leader in the music industry. He's won many music awards including 14 Grammy Awards, and is in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Old Man's Rubble

Are you living in an old man's rubble
Are you listenin' to the father of lies

Are you walking' with unnecessary burdens
Are you trying to take them upon yourself
If you are then you're living in bondage
And you know that's bad for your spiritual health

And are you trying to live by your emotions
Are you puttin' your faith in what you feel and see
Then you're living just to satisfy your passions
And you better be careful, 'cause you're being deceived

Are you living in an old man's rubble
Are you listenin' to the father of lies
If you are then you're headed for trouble
If you listen too long, you'll eventually die

Are you living in an old man's rubble
Are you listenin' to the father of lies
If you are then you're headed for trouble
If you listen too long, you'll eventually die

Are you puzzled by the way that you're behavin'
Do you wonder why you do the things you do
And are you troubled by your lack of resistance
Do you fell that something's got a hold on you

Well, deep within' you there's a spiritual battle
There's a voice of the darkness and the voice of the light
And just by listening you've made a decision
'Cause the voice you hear is gonna' win the fight

Are you living in an old man's rubble
Are you listenin' to the father of lies
If you are then you're headed for trouble
If you listen too long, you'll eventually die

If you're living as a new creation
If you're listening to the Father of light
Then you're living in a mighty fortress
And you're gonna' be clothed in power and might

But are you living in an old man's rubble
Are you listenin' to the father of lies
If you are then you're headed for trouble
If you listen too long, you'll eventually die

If you're living as a new creation
If you're listening to the Father of light
Then you're living in a mighty fortress
And you're gonna' be clothed in power and might

But are you living in an old man's rubble
Are you listenin' to the father of lies
If you are then you're headed for trouble
If you listen too long, you'll eventually die

But if you're living as a new creation
If you're listening to the Father of light
Then you're living in a mighty fortress
And you're gonna' be clothed in power and might

Written by Elliott B. Bannister • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc


And from the classical past, a few strums of Johann Sebastian Bach:

Thankfully, very few still look at music as "vain" and destructive as did some early Friends such as Solomon Eccles, a former musician:
"Few if any of his works are extant since, when he became a Quaker, he burned all his books and compositions so as to distance himself from church music.

Believing music to be a sinful vanity, he initially sold the compositions and his instruments, before taking them back and burning them to prevent the purchaser falling into sin...and wrote the anti-music tract: "A Musick-Lector" (1667)

How tragic.

My own encounter with music has been drastically the opposite!

My deepest encounter with music happened during worship at a Friends Meeting of Pacific Yearly Meeting years ago. I am still blessed by that transcendent experience--the most powerful spiritual experience I ever had at a Friends Meeting. At the time I was in deep despair, not shared with the members, yet a Friend stood up and began to sing extemporaneously a song whose spiritual lyrics brought healing to my inner self. (This wonder of music happened at Central Coast Friends Meeting, San Luis Obispo, California.)

I am so thankful for not only the beauty of music, but how this art often ministers Light and healing to those in need.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox