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Sunday, January 15, 2006

"... and reas'ning but to err."

When I was the Master of a ship - in the Merchant Navy, not in the killer kind! - I once asked a group of cadets, who had been on board for a month or so, to describe what they thought a Shipmaster did: his duties, responsibilities, authority, and so on. Apart from the obvious ('head of the ship', 'in command', and other generalizations) these boys, only 7-10 seafaring years away from that position themselves, understood nothing about the role of the Master.

In a Catalogue produced by aliens, there'd have been little or no difference to be seen between them and me, just a dozen or so years their senior at the time: Human, Male; mainly dressed in white; Habitat: metal floating homes. Maybe the physical charactersitics would have been noticeable (if far enough apart) and recorded as digital values of Height and Weight.

The fact that, despite such minor differences between us, the cadets were unable to comprehend a Master, got me thinking: What if the aliens had captured an Ape and a Man. There is a possibility of putting a selected specimen of each beside one another, and, through alien eyes, being unable to discern too many differences: Hirsuteness, maybe; and Tails. In most cases. And, with even such a small difference - albeit a major one in the eyes of humans - can the Ape comprehend or understand what Man is?

On further extrapolation, I thought: What if the aliens put an Ant, a Dog, and a Man in a lab and studied them? Size differences would be obvious. And some physical characteristics. Depending upon their interests in the three samples, and the purpose of their research, they may even jot down 'multi-sized carbon-based life-forms' ... and pass on to more interesting tasks at hand.

Does the Ant comprehend the nature of the Dog or the 'debatably higher' form of life that Man is? Is the Ant even aware of my entire being, as I stand towering beside it? Does it cross my foot, stinging me as it passes, and is aware of my feelings (pain, anger, whatever ...) at what he considers to be an innocuous natural act? Is it even aware that the piece of flesh he is 'located upon', at that moment, is actually a part of a larger being who is aware of the Ant, a being from a species capable of everything from the sadistic torture of fellow humans to the most intense examples of selfless love and sacrifice? Does the Ant have any awareness of his own death as my hand picks it up and I crush it between my fingers? Does it 'know', or presume to know, my feelings or motives? And, can I presume whether or not Ants presume?

And we know how much of a leap in differences it is between the Cadet example and the Ant one.

Yet, we have a whole bunch of people who are so sure of not just that 'God' is but also of what He is ... and wants! His capabilities and desires. Even His 'future' (as in, what He would do if such-and-such happened). I am not even getting into the obviously different answers they all get; that's a minor quibble. I am merely wondering about the basic assumption that they not only comprehend but can speak for a Being who, by their own definitions, is not a carbon life form, does not exist in any state similar to ours (or even theirs), shares none of our characteristics in terms of the 5 senses or physical necessities that we could not exist without, is constrained neither by space nor time, does not need to 'think' - for He 'knows' - and, is infinitely more different from us than the Cadet from a Shipmaster or even the Ant from Man.

To assume, for example, that a God would cause Ariel Sharon to have internal bleeding in the brain because he was about to politically divide up the His land - a claim that Evangelist Pat Robertson has just made - truly amazes me. [And to think that Pat was once a US Presidential Candidate.]

Don't forget, even a Pope (Alexander!) has suggested the we 'presume not God to scan' ;-)

Graffiti in the 60s: And God said unto them, "And who do you say that I am?"And they replied, "You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed." And God said unto them, "Huh???"

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Blogger the olive ream said...

Logical profundity ZAK, this is why I love your posts. Your words force one to think, which is a rarity in the blog world.

And what can one say about the great Pat Robertson? I think a Woody Allen quote describes him best, "His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy."

15 January, 2006 12:20

Blogger insiya said...

I read your blog a few times, everyday. It's just that there's never anything smart or even half-intelligent to say or comment. Your views and how you look at life amazes me.

I'd die happy cause I know you. :)

17 January, 2006 12:51

Blogger sabizak said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

19 January, 2006 17:59

Blogger bluecheese said...

you write amazingly well, it'a an absolute pleasure going through your blog.

24 January, 2006 01:55

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

The most important quality, stressed upon by all religions, which has gone missing nowadays, especially amongst the so-called 'religious leaders' and those who call themselves 'men of God' (though 'Godmen' is perhaps a better way to describe them), I believe, is humility.

28 May, 2007 15:45


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