How Real is Your Reality?

What do we mean by the term “reality?” Looking around the room things seem real enough: chairs, a table and sofa, windows opening to the outside world which is filled with countless other “real” things. But the question really being posed is this. “How does my human experience of reality differ from that vase of flowers sitting on the mantle?” Quite simply, I know that I exist whereas all those other things exist without any specific knowledge or awareness of their own existence. This basic exercise illustrates the dual nature of reality itself, a point which is central to understanding our human nature. As human beings we are constantly juggling these two modes of reality, the reality associated with being and a deeper reality which is a function of knowing. So which is the more essential reality?

For a vase of flowers, an atom, or even a planet hurtling through space reality is limited to the fact of being. Furthermore all those objects are subject to certain physical laws and behave accordingly. But the very existence of universal laws of physics leads one to ponder Continue reading

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The Book Thieves

In the early 1990s my city erected a stunning new addition to our central downtown library, an architectural gem that more than doubled its shelf capacity. This expansion was made necessary not only by increased patronage but also by the explosion of publications brought about by the information age. What the city and the architect may not have fully anticipated then was the extent to which the newly evolving internet would revolutionize books. No sooner had this state of the art library been inaugurated than ominous changes began to occur.

I grimaced when the old, highly flexible manual card catalogue disappeared, replaced by sterile Continue reading

“Laudate Si’s” Disturbing Echoes

The great 19th century thinker and apologist John Henry Newman observed that the Church exhibits three characteristics: first she is pastoral thereby sanctifying her members, next she is pedagogical (a fancy word for her teaching mission), and finally she is political because the Church is made up of humans. It was this third characteristic that caused Newman the greatest concern and, in fact, any cursory glimpse of Church history quickly reveals her many political struggles from the beginning, when Paul took Peter to task over his attitude towards the gentiles as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

.  The problem is that the lines are not clearly demarcated and sometimes political considerations become entangled with the Church’s pastoral and pedagogical mission Continue reading

Tolerance, a Force for Good or Evil?

My father was a great dad in almost every respect. Notwithstanding his cheery, loving disposition he was affected by a bit of residual puritanism which sometimes surfaced in amusing ways. I remember one such instance when I was about 12 years old. Our family received some free tickets to a newly released film, Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man. While the movie itself was quite entertaining I was more bemused by dad’s reaction to the story line which he earnestly viewed as immoral because Professor Harold Hill, the charming confidence man who wins the heart of the local librarian (Marian), is actually rescued from his well deserved fate of being exposed, horsewhipped, and thrown in a jail cell. Anything less than severe punishment represented a serious breech of justice in dad’s somewhat legalistic mind. I saw the thing a little differently. The real moral of this zany story revolves around the redemptive love of a good woman, Marian, and how that love has the power to transform a jaded, fast talking slicker into a genuine human being who learns to care more about others than himself.

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