I went to another meeting last night … similar but different to the Socrates Cafe. Ironically, our meandering topic intersected with some of the discussion of the night before, but the format is essentially a self-regulating free-for-all. Over all, I think it worked, although there were times where I found myself tuning out as we continued to beat a dead horse when someone didn’t “get it”, and we got stuck in a vicious cycle.
The characters at this meeting are very interesting as well … as much as I was able to infer from those who interactively participated. One plus for this sort of format is the lack of bottling up your thoughts until you want to explode, but yet will never really have a way of sharing your views, as is the case with the Socrates method implementation. This informal method doesn’t require everyone to participate, so that is a downside, but there are likely cases where someone just has nothing to contribute. Since they are never put on the spot, they may be more likely to continue to attend and suddenly find themselves in a position where they *do* have something to contribute.
During the discussion, a statement from (seemingly multiple discussions) 4 years ago was resurrected, and that led to an interesting discussion, as well as insight about some of the members. I believe the statement was “The rock is spirit”, which lead to a full, but yet off-topic, discussion about if the “rock *has* spirit”, and the concept of “spirit” itself. After exploring this path, another redirection of the topic became the effect of specific phrasing and how it affects the intent of the speaker vs the understanding of the listener, and how that can radically change the conversation. In this case, the two statements are completely different, and caused the contributors to go off on a totally different path. My conclusion, concise language is critical, but also that modern language alone cannot consistently convey the speaker’s true intent.
In any case, one of the contributors decided the best path to research the “rock *has* spirit” statement was through the American Indian beliefs, and he did so with great effort. He claims to understand, to some extent, the commonality across their belief structure, and, in their world view, the rock does indeed embody the common spirit. He has, also through his extensive research, decided to become a Christian, and therefor is at odds with the Indian belief structure. I find I do have great respect for him in the sense that he is willing to research and consider “facts” that he may ultimately decide are untrue, but he seems willing to concede that others may believe them to be true (although he “knows” them to be false). This, of course, brings me back to the conversation about what is a truth and how we accept a truth (the make up of supporting “facts” vs “faith”).
Do I think the rock *has* spirit or *is* spirit? I think I don’t know! I do know there are a lot of “things” out there that I cannot detect with my human sensory inputs, but yet they do exist. I may not be able to define them, and certainly not in our limited language structure, but I believe they do exist (more “faith” than “fact” support).
Consider the idea that when people refer to “spirit” or “connectedness” or “<fill in the blank>”, they are often thinking in religious connotations. Consider that a lot of religious concepts were (and still are) employed to justify things we see or think may happen (the Greeks and Romans had individual gods for much of these mysterious tasks, such as lightening). We now “know” that lightening is a result of charged particles in the atmosphere, but if we didn’t “know” that, would Zeus still be a part of our daily lives?
The Christian religion has dumped all of these great responsibilities on one God, who really should attend some management seminars and learn to delegate better (it’s a joke, get over it!). Regardless of the differences between the Greek/Roman gods and Christianity’s God, the underlying responsibility for what makes these charged particles exist and do what they do is because it is His will.
So, following along, as science learns more about how things work, they are finding more and more proof of how “things” (people, objects, gases, etc) interact and interrelate at a sub-atomic level. Could science be starting to get closer to describing with language and formulas this “spirit” or “connectedness”?
Just as with lightening, we, as a collection of societies, can allow multiple explanations for things we hold true. Acceptance of this allows us to consider that science vs religion does not need to be absolutely diametrically opposed, or one *must* be wrong. There are obviously some areas that are in direct conflict, but that is not the point of this proposition.
Final answer, do I believe the rock *has* spirit or *is* spirit (or both)? Still don’t know, but I still believe there is a lot of possibility out there and that I don’t know so much that don’t even know, I cannot draw a conclusion yet. (my “gap” is made up of more skepticism than faith, I suppose?) I’d like to think that such a thing does exist, but perhaps that’s just the human desire to gravitate toward being social vs isolation.
Back to the group conversations, did I enjoy both experiences? Sure. Will I become a weekly contributor? Who knows. I know I’m certainly interested in adding additional data points to my experience with both in order to draw a better conclusion.
We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.