how do you experience a sense of self?

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A friend of mine ask a very important question.
“Please. Tell me about how you experience a sense of self. I’m not talking about self-esteem, although of course it’s inseparable. I’m talking about identity. Who are you. Do you know? I’m not talking about labels and flags either like ethnicity or sexual orientation. I’m not talking about any of that. Do you feel integrated like you know your identity and it is solidified and linear?”

I think that I am all my labels – labels + what each one means at any given moment.  So I am:

Autistic

Artist

Writer

Husband

Cat Dad

Man

Boy

Bisexual

Trans-man

Jewish

Danish

Tri-lingual

Theologian

Philosopher

Poet
Seeker

Theist

Fat

and
so on.
Each of the above – labels – touch on every aspect of who I am. Each label informs my core and shape how I interact with myself, others and the world at large. I cannot separate out any of them from ‘ME’.
If we paraphrase Descartes’ *I Think Therefore I Am* I would say “I relate therefore I am”.

I define who I am in relation to what is in front of me, what has my mental, emotional and physical attention at any given moment.
This also means that I am a bunch of things I might not readily find pleasant.

Stubborn

Arrogant

Prejudiced

Angry

Depressed

But it also means that I am a bunch of things that I appreciate about myself.

Kind

Generous

Intelligent

Caring

Talented

Labels are not useful if they are shaped in stereotypes and by others.
They are only useful as tools for me to understand what make up my inner structure, what makes me ME.
Each of those labels has to be investigated emotionally and intellectually as they appear in my life, and they have been – every now and then some BIG label comes along – Like Autistic. Part of investigating that label entailed looking at external labels (from the medical society, other autistics, history etc) and figure out which ones fit me. That took time. There were so many bits and pieces to look at and either shape till they fit or discard because they did not fit.

They say there is no G-d, but I see G-d Everywhere!

Venus orbits the Sun 13 times for every 8 Earth orbits. If you track the relative positions of Earth and Venus, this is the resulting pattern.

And they say there is no G-d… and then they respond:

Same principle as with the drawing tool spiral ruler / spirograph art tool. Nothing godly about it – unless circles are godly.”

Yes. But  you are missing my point. In the case of the drawing tool Human is imitating Nature. Not the other way around.

People keep telling me there is no G-d – but I see G-d EVERYWHERE – especially in circles, snails and flowers.

The Weakest Link Must Define Society

Humanism
Humanism
© 2018 Henric C. Jensen

Writing about Autistics in the Media this morning got me thinking. If we lived in a world built around the weakest of us, everybody would get their needs met all the time. To me that is Humanism. I really do not need to say anything more. It is so obvious, don’t you think?

“entry – engagement – exit – aftermath”

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Some of you know that I was once an evangelical Xian, albeit in Sweden and during the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90s, but I was just like those Evangelical Xians that are right now ripping through the USA. Fundamentalist, arrogant, life-hating and aggressive towards those who did not agree with me.

Lucky for me G-D had a few surprises up E’s sleeve for me. Surprises that unless I did something about them I would eventually have to kill myself. G-D’s biggest ally was my own brain.

1. I was virulently homophobic/transphobic – G-D’s solution: have me fall in love with a woman while physically still female. (later on it would turn out that I am a trans-man – but that didn’t come until I had had my “Night at Jabbok”)

2. I was virulently anti-abortion – G-D’s solution: make sure I had to counsel several women who had had several abortions during their lives – as part of my pastoral education.

3. I was virulently fundamentalist – G-D’s solution: show me every little contradictory statement in both the Xian scriptures and the Hebrew scriptures.

I was ready to kill myself. Yes, I had to quickly change my tack on the G-d stuff… I did. Took me a few years, but I did. Much reading, much digging, much praying and arguing with G-d. Many angry, frustrated hours spent ranting to myself about the hypocrisy in Evangelical Xianism, looking for alternative ways of reading scripture, alternative ways of understanding the texts and the immense gap between scripture and practice that I encountered over and over and over again. Homophobia, misogyny, self-righteousness, spousal abuse, child abuse, fundamentalism, idol-worship of pastors and youth leaders.

I entered Xianism at 16 because I was lonely. At 24 I was still lonely – because no amount of prayer could change the fact that I was, on the out-side, a lesbian, pro-choice and non-fundamentalist. No amount of prayer could change the fact that nowhere in the world I knew was there room for me.

I tried changing communities. I tried switching denomination, but still I was lonely and ready to leave at 27.

I switched religion – explored Paganism and it worked for a time – this was before I had access to the Net, so it was very much a loner path.

At 30 I finally came out a trans-man did the whole process as much as I could (in the 90’s) and then I switched again – this time to Judaism. Here at least I recognized the texts, the images of G-D. I found one thing in the texts I read about Judaism that I had not found in Xianism – freedom of thought and freedom of practice. And no hell.

I also found the Internetz. And found that the flavor of Judaism most prevalent on line at the time was Traditional Judaism/Orthodox/Ultra Orthodox Judaism. Same problem there – homophobia, misogyny, self-righteousness, spousal abuse, child abuse, fundamentalism, idol-worship of rabbis and youth leaders. So I switched again – to my own flavor of Judaism.

To a path all my own within Torah as I understand it.

Many people in similar situations loose their faith completely. I didn’t, and that I thank G-D for. Every day. However much I adapted my beliefs, my faith away from a fundamentalist path, one thing remained, and only barely: My belief in One G-D.

I had my Night at Jabbok. I wrestled with G-D – mostly about not being accepted into a community, about the rigidity of interpretation of Torah, about who I was in relation to Torah – and G-D. I came out on the other side together with G-D.

I walk with a limp today. But I walk.

[Death is part of Life]

Death is part of Life

[Death Is Part Of Life]

Artwork © 2018 Henric C. Jensen

We never say much as we frantically try to save the life we know we can’t save or perhaps silently hope we don’t save. When it’s finally over and the last heart beat blips across the screen and we survey the clutter of bloody gloves, wrappers, masks and needles that now litter the room, you may catch a glimpse as we bow our heads in shame, fearful perhaps that someday we may have to stand in front of God as he looks down upon us and says, “What in the hell were you thinking?”

When it comes time for us to be called home, those of us in the know will pray that when we gaze down upon our last breath we will be grateful that our own doctors and families chose to do what they should instead of what they could, and with that we will close our eyes to familiar sounds in a familiar room, a fleeting smile and a final soft squeeze of a familiar hand. (I Know You Love Me — Now Let Me Die)

I am not afraid to die, nor am i afraid of the after-life. Death is a natural part of living and I and G-d are on first name basis, so what happens to me after I have died is irrelevant. I am afraid of the process of dying. The pain, the possible withering away, hooked up to all sorts of beeping instruments. That scares me. Because that is not natural, that is not part of Living. That is just inhumane and cruel, and I do not want that to be the last thing I do in my life.

Removing this horrid process from Life has to be regarded as more important than the length of any life. It has to be made a part of us mending the world, mending the tears in the fabric of our Universe. No one should have to go through the cold, callous and cruel process the idea of Quantity over Quality forces on us. Dying in our sleep should not be something we pray and hope for, because what we should hope for is a Good Death – a death among our loved ones with every needed word said and final farewells given.

 

Sacred Maps – Our Myths and Our Stories

Sacred Maps 2

Sacred Maps – Our Myths and Our Stories.
Artwork © 2018 Henric C. Jensen

Sacred texts are maps. Maps reveal certain points and obscure the rest because they are a guide, not the territory. It is when we forget this that we end up in the dark and dismal place of dogma I wrote about here.

These Sacred Maps are an impetus and a lodestone in our personal explorations. When we read them as an injunction to be followed to the letter, we lose sight of ourselves and the Universe, even of G-d. As long as we keep this in mind, there are no right or wrong ways of reading our Sacred Texts. Take what you need, what speaks to your core, and leave the rest.

Dogma, an insidious monster

Dogma by AJ Bodnar

Artwork: © 2018 AJ Bodnar‘s Daily Monster “Dogma” – used with permission.

I love this. It has just the right fuzziness to seem kind and gentle, but if you are not careful you will get both lost and suffocated.

 

Definitions of DOGMA

  1. an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church.
  2. religious doctrine or system of doctrines proclaimed by ecclesiastical authority as true
  3. specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church.
  4. prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group
  5. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.
  6. a belief, principle, or doctrine or a code of beliefs, principles, or doctrines

Dogma – any kind of dogma, within any field of inquiry – has in its very nature a great potential to sooth and comfort. This is why so many people are drawn to it. That was why I was drawn into a dogmatic cult in my youth. It feels good to know exactly what to believe. How to express that belief. It gives a sense of security to have clear and defined lines and boundaries around one’s beliefs.

All that fuzz on the out-side is deceptive though. At its very core dogma is a monster. A monster that will lead to us to dark and dismal places, where it will eventually suffocate our minds, souls and spirits to death.

It is a good thing to be clear about what one believes, however to set them in stone and cement is not. Being dogmatic is the opposite of having an open and questioning mind. Life requires an open and questioning mind if we are to make the most out of it.

Doubt, in moderation, is good for the mind, soul and spirit – it forces us to question our beliefs and opinions, if we chose to accept the questions. Like everything else in life we need to be careful so we do not direct it at ourselves and our self-worth. It should be directed at our beliefs, the tenets and principles we think are important, not ourselves. It also needs to be fearless, so that we do not get bogged down by thinking about ‘what might happen’ or ‘what would others say’  – as Yoda says:

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”

Doubt can be scary, because it challenges that soft and and comforting certainty dogma disguises itself with, but again as Yoda says:

In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.

Open another book – a book you have not connected to your faith, beliefs and opinions before. Keep looking for books that are not of your faith, belief or opinion until you find one that sheds light on your thoughts, and let it lead you out of Dogma’s dark and dismal place.

G-d Is In My Genes, that’s why!

G-d Is In My Genes
“When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, 5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him?” Psalm 8:4-5 Artwork © 2018 Henric C. Jensen

I believe in G-d because I have no reason not to – and because I have a very good reason to believe in G-d. Genes. Of course my genes do not compel or force me to believe that G-d is – but they just might make it possible for me to ‘make the connection’.

I look at the intricate dance of our Universe and I think: “How can say there is no G-d?” Not because I think less of those who say there is no G-d, but because I think so much of G-d. Every time Science finds a connection between elements of the universe, that was previously thought to be un-connected, or a new species of animal or plant is found somewhere, I experience a brief moment of intense joy and awe.

For me what Science tells us about the Universe, as it discovers more and more of it, only validates my belief in G-d as the Ultimate Source of the Universe instead of  invalidating it.

Does it matter to me that my experience is most likely triggered or caused by “a vesicular monoamine transporter that regulates the flow of mood-altering chemicals in the brain”? No, not really. As Mr Hamer says “Religious believers can point to the existence of God genes as one more sign of the Creator’s ingenuity — a clever way to help humans acknowledge and embrace a divine presence.”

The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state.

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland. (The Evolution of the God Gene)

When Rabbi Moshe Tendler says: “I attribute religiosity to the working mind of man searching to answer the mystery of life.” I agree, and point to the fact that, as can be verified through history, Human has always searching for answers to the mysteries of life – some of us have just gotten a little extra help with that from G-d. 🙂

More reading:
A God Gene?  – some good questions posed here.
The God Gene  – a Jewish perspective

The Maestro has moved Beyond the Event Horizon

Maestro Is No More

Stephen Haking

The death of Professor Stephen Hawking seems to have hit me in a way I could not imagine – apparently the man and his work mean something to me.

I cannot stop crying and thinking about Black Holes, The Universe and Everything. Because that is what made him Great to me. I am a humanities man – in fact I am dyscalculic so all the math involved in theoretical physics is completely beyond me. Still, it was Professor Hawking who explained it all to me – Black Holes, The Universe and Everything. His books and the documentaries he was part of… they touched my imagination, my heart and my spirit, so that I could visualize the Universe, and see it.

My wife lamented the other day that I cannot SEE the beauty of Mathemathics the way she does (she is a MathWhiz) – the inner workings of f.i the Golden Ratio. I responded:

“I can. Just not the numbers. I can SEE the Golden Ratio. I might not be able to read the music off the sheet. But I can HEAR the music.”

That is what Stephen Hawking did for me – he made it possible for me to SEE and HEAR the Music black holes, quantum physics and the Universe make. And there will be no more theories, no more visualizations, no more books, no more wild, crazy, passionate love for Black Holes, The Universe and Everything. It saddens me so very much.

The fact that he died on Pi Day and Albert Einstein’s birthday put a little smile on my face.

Thank you Professor, for making my life richer, wilder and so much more colorful!

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These are the discoveries that made Stephen Hawking famous

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Science. Hard science, soft science – where do we draw the line? Is there a line? Does how we talk about science make a difference?LC2

“Science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is an enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world. An older meaning still in use today is that of Aristotle, for whom scientific knowledge was a body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained (see “History and etymology” section below).

Since classical antiquity science as a type of knowledge was closely linked to philosophy, the way of life dedicated to discovering such knowledge. And into early modern times the two words, “science” and “philosophy”, were sometimes used interchangeably in the English language. By the 17th century, “natural philosophy” (which is today called “natural science“) could be considered separately from “philosophy” in general. But “science” continued to also be used in a broad sense denoting reliable knowledge about a topic, in the same way it is still used in modern terms such as library science or political science. .

The narrower sense of “science” that is common today developed as a part of science became a distinct enterprise of defining “laws of nature“, based on early examples such as Kepler‘s laws, Galileo‘s laws, and Newton‘s laws of motion. In this period it became more common to refer to natural philosophy as “natural science”. Over the course of the 19th century, the word “science” became increasingly associated with the disciplined study of the natural world including physics, chemistry, geology and biology. This sometimes left the study of human thought and society in a linguistic limbo, which was resolved by classifying these areas of academic study as social science. Similarly, several other major areas of disciplined study and knowledge exist today under the general rubric of “science”, such as formal science and applied science.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science

“Hard science and soft science are colloquial terms often used when comparing fields of academic research or scholarship, with hard meaning perceived as being more scientific, rigorous, or accurate. Fields of the natural, physical sciences, or computing sciences are often described as hard, while the social sciences and similar fields are often described as soft. The hard sciences are characterized as relying on experimental, empirical, quantifiable data, relying on the scientific method, and focusing on accuracy and objectivity. Publications in the hard sciences such as natural sciences make heavier use of graphs than soft sciences such as sociology, according to the graphism thesis.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_science

I find it interesting that the author of the Wikipedia entry on hard and soft science do not tell us what characterizes soft science – in a way saying that soft science is not ” experimental, empirical, quantifiable data, relying on the scientific method, and focusing on accuracy and objectivity”.

Is that really so? Or is it simply that our definitions, connotations and denotations have not yet caught up with a more holistic view of our Universe?

“Holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, whole, entire, total) is the idea that all the properties of a given system (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.

The general principle of holism was concisely summarized by Aristotle in the Metaphysics: “The whole is different from the sum of its parts” (1045a10).

Reductionism is sometimes seen as the opposite of holism. Reductionism in science says that a complex system can be explained by reduction to its fundamental parts. For example, that the processes of biology can be reduced to chemistry and the laws of chemistry explained by physics.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holistic

Can I understand the complexity of human, from the earliest known humanoid ancestors to modern man, without also understanding language, culture, social structures and human thought? Can I make sound scientific decisions without understanding the the ethical implications of them?

Have we departed from the idea of everything tying into everything else? If so is that because there’s too much ‘everything’ to keep track of ?