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September 22, 2012
My Lonely Brain and the Bible
I think of my Brain as a quite lonely little muscle that is basically a thinking data control center. It stores memory, assesses data, and sends and receives signals as appropriate throughout my physical system. I describe it as lonely for it has no direct connection with anything outside of me, myself, I , separated as it is by a thin layer of bone, skin, and (at one time hair). As capable as it is, however, it must depend on signals from other parts of my anatomy for outside information: sight, smell, sense, taste, hearing, and it receives inside information through my nervous system. On the basis of this information I, me, myself (I am more than sinew, gristle. bone, and Brain, or so I think) can override what Brain reports. Let's call this center of judgment (i.e., I, me, myself)--Mind.
Because the outside receptors are limited in ability, Brain and Mind are always working with suspect and incomplete data. For example, Brain will sometimes interpret what Eyes see incorrectly, and other data from my several outside receptors are all often contradictory, and this compromises the rational analysis of both Brain and Mind.
Here is one literary example from the New Testament about outside receptors being mistaken (there are others: for example, Acts 12:9 and 15). In Mark 6:45-50 Jesus comes toward the disciples "walking on the water." The disciples are all terrified (Mark 6:49-50) because they think they see a phantasma (a phantom; translated in RSV as "ghost"). Matthew 14:26 follows Mark; Luke omits the entire narrative, and John 6:16-21 eliminates any reference to a phantasma. So the earliest source (Mark) describes all the disciples seeing something simultaneously, which they all take to be a phantom, and believe strongly enough in such apparitions that they all react in the same way--with terror! The text portrays the situation as follows: that erroneous information from the physical senses has been relayed to Brain, and Mind accepts the report without challenge at least momentarily. Accordingly, Mind calls up the fight or flight response.
So here I am in the early 21st century asking Mind to make some kind of responsible judgment on the historicity of Mark's narrative on the basis of incomplete and imperfect information, a judgment that Mind and Brain regard as logically and reasonably impossible based on information at hand--only a provisional judgment based on too many assumptions is possible.
This essay begs a question about Faith, because most readers of Mark simply assume that the incident in some form derives from an actual historical event. In this essay only physical stimuli available to Brain have been considered. My analysis has been rational and based on reason. Is there not, however, another inner source available to Brain that should have been considered? Should Faith be thought of as a responsible source that can inform Brain about an actual event behind the narrative. If so, then Faith can either replace or work alongside reason, although the obvious question is whether Faith is capable of giving any information at all on historical issues. But If it can, when and for what reasons should Faith outweigh and replace analysis and reason? How does it seem to you, gentle reader?
Sent from my ipad, Karpathos, Greece
Posted by Charles Hedrick at 6:14pm
Wallace Stevens was a strong influence in my poetry, but I didn’t know anything about Stevens other than his poetry.
“To what extent does faith drive reason?” Maybe they push and pull each other. Somewhere between faith and reason, if separate, lies reality. Both faith and reason can “tug” at reality, distending or compressing it. Cognitive dissonance. I guess some might say that reason *is* reality. Maybe. It is one way to quantify it. I spent too much time with faith as a child, too much time with reason as an adult. I retired from both, preferring metaphor and marvel which, for me, require neither gods nor quantifiable method. (They also are the perfect complement to good wine!)
You've been drinking again haven't you?