Posts Tagged ‘ Mountain of Silence ’

Journal 09-15-03

Having Mountain of Silence open while reading Kurzweil has been of great comfort.  It clears my head and reminds me that there is beauty in humanity.  One question that a person in this book asks Fr. Maximos is, “Who is more useful to society: a doctor or a monk?”  Fr. Maximos begins by saying that the question itself is flawed.  At least, he says, “It is characteristics of a modern way of thinking…an activist orientation tot the world”.  That orientation is that people are worthy based on their usefulness instead of who they are, instead of their humanity (if I were referring back to Kurzweil’s arguments).  Fr. Maximos even goes on to say that if we don’t view people first and foremost on who they are”…we run the risk of turning people into machines that produce useful things” (my emphasis).  He also comments on how this type of attitude toward ourselves– and I would add toward others, as well — often leads to psychological problems.

So, I think this is true and even think it follows to Kurzweil’s entire basis.  It is a modern way of thinking, which doesn’t [necessarily] mean it is right.  Another author, Ken Wilbur, claims we can know reality in three ways: eye of the senses (empirical science), eye of reason (philosophy, logic, math), and eye of contemplation (systematic and disciplines spiritual practice to open up the intuitive & spiritual faculties of self)  **unknown source, perhaps Ken Wilber? He goes on to attribute the Western trend to an imbalanced reality toward sense and reason and  away from contemplation.  I think Kurzweil would begin to argue that the eye of contemplation will be within the capabilities of this spiritual machines given the words: systematic and disciplines spiritual practice.  This gives spiritual virtually no meaning at all.  Thus in the  remaining part which defines a bit more of what spirituality is  (open up, intuitive, self) Kurzweil would lose ground.

His modern thought has allowed for viewing humanity in mechanical terms to the extreme.  And I would say that even his critics are victim to the same., as much as they argue the various points of his theory to refute it.  Denton states that “there is no longer any doubt that many biological phenomena are  indeed mechanical and that organisms are analogous to machines at least to some degere”.  The last part (analagous) I can handle, but hwy isn’t it the other way around?  Machines didn’t create biology, so how is it that biology can be described so firmly and coldly as “indeed mechanical”.  Isn’t it rather that we invented machines to do the work we want to do better and thus that machines are more biological?  Did I just say that?  Oh, context, context!  What I mean is the context out of which ideas are brought.  We create machines out of a model of biology, out of a model of ourselves.  Technology, combined with flawed/modern thought process (that thinking of ourselves in terms of usefulness alone) got us to the point of seeing these machines as human-like and allowing that ther inverse is true — that we, as humans, are machine-like.  These are both true, but do not imply a merging of the two, unless you think like Kurzweil.  And you can’t make me!


Journal 09-01-03/09-17-03

Reading Fahrenheit 451 I came upon this sentence that struck a chord.

“If you hide your ignorance, no one will ever hit you and you’ll never learn”

See also what I post on this later on  class discussion lists.  After reading some other sources, I realize why this is so personal more than anything.  It reminds me of King David’s psalm that at says “a crushed and humbled heart, God will not despise’.  I read this psalm so often without taking time to understand what that actually meant.  It wasn’t until I started reading another favorite book of mine,  The Mountain of Silence by Kyriakos Markides that I began to realize.  The author converses throughout the book with the priest-monk Father Maximos (once an Athonite monk, now in Cyprus). They begin discussing what holy fathers of Christianity call the “illness of the heart”.  It has three parts: ignorance, forgetfulness, and hardness.  In this instance I found it was the issue of hardness most relevant.  The cause of an impenatrable heart, Father Maximos says, is overpreoccupation with wordly affairs, focus on physical pleasures and obsession with wealth.   “These are the three fundamental passions that toughen the heart…our attention becomes fragmented, scattered.” he says.

This is what I see happening in the Fahrenheit 451 quote. If you do not allow your heart to be crushed (allow yourself and your ignorance to be hit), you will never grow.  In this way, if Montag continues to hide his thinking, he will never find the freedom he is seeking (in his heart, I would say — see reflections on Kurwiell’s  Are We Spiritual Machines).  But the other two illnesses also are relevant here to Bradbury’s novel: ignorance and forgetfulness.  Wile Father Maximos is speaking of God, in general terms, I can see it applied here also.  That the ignorance or making a level playing field in the world of Fahrenheit 451 is one cause of illness or what has gone wrong.  And so is forgetfulness, forgetting how it used to be, the history.  All of this kills the heart.  For Bradbury, this kills the life source, the future of humanity.  Likewise, according to Father Maximos, this kills our communion with God.

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