Perception and “The Dress”

So this picture of a dress has been going around – you may have seen it – and apparently 74% of people see white and gold. I see blue and black. I’ve tried really hard to see white and gold, but it ain’t happening.

Go here to see the dress:

And here’s an explanation for why people are seeing different things:

This incident with The Dress – and the way people can see the same thing so differently and are so sure they’re right about the way they see it – reminded me of some conversations I’ve had with others about God and Nogod. Many of those dialogues have been frustrating for everyone involved. But there was a dialogue I had on this blog a year ago with Andrey Pavlov, a young medical doctor and atheist, that was one of the most enjoyable conversations I believe I have ever had with another human being regarding “God.” I had met Andrey on the website, and he had kindly joined me on my blog so we could carry on our conversation.

I’d tried to describe to Andrey what “God” is to me. I’d written: And perhaps “God” IS nothing more than my own consciousness of good, really – but I feel this Good as a presence in my life. It’s as real to me as the air I breath. It speaks to me – not in a man-voice – but… it speaks to me as Truth. As Love. In times when I’m scared, I feel this presence of Love and comfort around me – and, again, maybe that’s nothing more than my own thoughts – but whatever it is – whether it’s just my own consciousness – something inside me – or whether it’s something I am inside of – this power I call God has been with me when I’ve been sick, and when I’ve been scared, and when I’ve had to make important decisions in my life – and this presence has helped me.

And Andrey responded with this –

“This is interesting to me. I believe you, I really do. I absolutely believe that you have these experiences and feel the things you do as you say them. And I do not think these are evidence of any sort of psychiatric illness, cognitive dysfunction, or anything someone may call ‘abnormal.’ I don’t really know (nobody does) but there is plenty of evidence to lead us to think that this is simply one of the many fluid ways in which an individual processes the universe around them.

“It is, IMO, important to realize that everything a person sees, feels,experiences in any way is highly processed by the software and hardware of our brains. We (mostly) all agree that an object which reflects electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of 650nM looks ‘red.’ But how do I know that what you actually experience as ‘red’ is actually what I experience as ‘red’? I can’t know and you can’t know. That is what philosophers refer to as the ‘qualia’ of life – that purely internal subjective processing and experience of life and the universe through the consciousness we have. It raises this interesting idea of ‘p-zombies.’ Dan Dennett has written a fair bit on them and it stems in part from the concept of a Turing test.

“So when you say that you ‘feel’ the presence of Love, Goodness, etc. I believe you. I can’t possibly imagine what that means in the same way I can’t imagine what it means when a synesthetic says that someone’s name is “lime green” in color. But to that synesthetic, it is a consistent, meaningful, and very real experience.”

I really appreciated the way Andrey listened – heard me – and made an effort to understand my perspective and translate it into something he could relate to in some way.

And wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we all could do that for each other?

“We must think critically…”

“We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out on the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat… Be intellectually rigorous.Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.” – Tim Minchin

I really like the quote above. But it strikes me as a little over-the-top – like we’re marching off into a major war or something, with swords drawn and bludgeons and bats at the ready.

My approach to the art of critical thinking is a little different, I guess. Sometimes I’m a gardener – pulling up the weeds, planting the cheery sunflowers, nurturing and watering the good, plucking out the stuff that’s not so good. And sometimes I approach it as a housekeeper might – adding a little vinegar to the water, and wiping the film and build-up of nonsense off the window panes so I can see clearly again, and so the light can come into my home.

We don’t need to beat the crap out of ourselves – and certainly not out of others – to make progress in our lives. We don’t need to break the windows – we just need to clean them, you know?

So how do we know when we need to spruce up our beliefs? Well, for me it starts with looking at where my beliefs are taking me. If they’re leading me towards hate, fear, anger, bigotry, bullying, greed, and selfishness, then those beliefs have got to go. But if my beliefs are leading me towards love – guiding me to a place of courage and compassion, generosity and hope, joy and kindness and forgiveness and integrity – then those are the beliefs I’m going to nurture.

Are we clearing the gardens of thought by uprooting the noxious weeds of passion, malice, envy, and strife? – Mary Baker Eddy

The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. – Mary Baker Eddy

sunflower and bee

photo of sunflower and bee by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Immortal Corporeality or Immortal Consciousness?

Life, Love, Truth, is the only proof of immortality.  Man in the likeness of God as revealed in Science cannot help being immortal.
– Mary Baker Eddy

A young friend was conversing with me about the strides science has made towards giving humans immortality. My friend told me that one path science is taking to find immortality is one that would keep the body alive and un-aging. The other path, he told me, is one that would somehow keep our consciousness alive.

A quick google search led me to this story:”At the recent Global Future 2045 International Congress held in Moscow, 31-year-old media mogul Dmitry Itskov told attendees how he plans to create exactly that kind of immortality, first by creating a robot controlled by the human brain, then by actually transplanting a human brain into a humanoid robot, and then by replacing the surgical transplant with a method for simply uploading a person’s consciousness into a surrogate ‘bot.He thinks he can get beyond the first phase–to transplanting a working brain into a robot–in just ten years, putting him on course to achieve his ultimate goal–human consciousness completely disembodied and placed within a holographic host–within 30 years time.”

Another google search took me here: “”The discovery of Turritopsis, along with many other recent observations of longevity, suggests that science may help us find the fountain of youth. With a host of new biological techniques and the rigor of the scientific method, investigators at UC Berkeley and around the world are poised to take the human race closer to everlasting life than we’ve ever been before…”…/chasing-immortality/

So I’ve been thinking about all this – about the scientific search for an immortal body and an immortal consciousness – thinking about which of these two scientific methods I’d prefer, if I had to choose, and thinking about immortality as it’s referenced in the textbook for Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. 

If I had to make a choice between an immortal body and the disembodied immortal consciousness that is Itskov’s goal, I’d opt for Door Number Two. I don’t want to be carrying this corporeality around for eternity. It’s a lot of responsibility. It has to be hydrated, fed, clothed, cleaned – and society has certain aesthetic standards that we are expected to maintain. This body is a lot of work.

Door Number Two sounds kind of cool – but, again, our consciousness would be inside a holograph, and that sounds limiting. I kind of like the idea of not being contained in ANY form – of blending my consciousness in with a collective universal consciousness maybe. I’ve sometimes toyed with the idea that maybe that’s what “God” is – a collective consciousness of Good that we all maintain together.

I really like what Mary Baker Eddy has to say about immortality. She writes that, as ideas and expressions of God, we already ARE immortal. Love and Truth and Spirit are immortal – and she tells us that we are the reflections of Love and Truth and Spirit. Christian Science teaches that our immortality is based on a spiritual foundation, rather than a material one.

If we call the Christian Science idea of immortality Door Number Three, I’ll pick that one over the other two. The other two sound kind of complicated and convoluted and iffy. Both of them are depending on matter. I say let’s forego matter altogether – let’s just skip that part and claim the immortality we already possess and express – the immortality of Love and Truth.

Immortality, exempt from age or decay, has a glory of its own, – the radiance of Soul. Immortal men and women are models of spiritual sense, drawn by perfect Mind and reflecting those higher conceptions of loveliness which transcend all material sense.
– Mary Baker Eddy







No Endings

Sitting here with the calico cat on my lap – watching her ears twitch, feeling the breath going in and out of her warm body. She is 16. I’ve had her since she was a four-week old feral kitty – hissing and scratching and scared. I’ve shared almost all her life with her – from the beginning to today. She trusts me now – trusts me enough to jump into my lap and curl up there, and let herself be petted.

Now that she’s older I sometimes find myself thinking about that moment when my calico cat will no longer be with me. I think about death.

This year a lot of people I’ve known and cared for have died. November was especially challenging – a former student, a man who became my friend after he and his wife read one of my books, and a friend of mine from my walks in Bellingham all passed on.  Last week a dear woman in her 90’s with a kind heart, a stalwart faith, and a twinkle in her eyes – a woman who had been a member of our church most of her life – passed on. It’s all gotten me to thinking about the nature of death – what it is and what it isn’t.

The thought came to me the other day that death isn’t really an “event” – that there really aren’t any seams or borders or divisions separating one part of life from another – but that it’s forever flowing in an endless stream.  It’s true that I can’t see the friends that have passed on, but I can tell you there are times when I feel their love. Death can’t end the love we have for one another.

It probably seems weird to connect the insights I’ve had about death to the Superbowl – but that’s where my pointy little noggin went when I contemplated the end of the Seahawks season this morning. If only the game could have gone on a little longer, I thought, the Seahawks might still have been able to pull it off. “But it’s done. Over. Ended. It is what it is. And the magnificent catch by Kearse, the receptions by Matthews, the runs that Lynch made, the colossal efforts of Russell Wilson and his teammates – none of that matters now because they lost.”  Those were my initial thoughts. But when I stopped thinking about the Superbowl as an “Event” – when I started thinking of the game as just a step in an endless progression – a step towards progress – a character-builder – another life-lesson – my feeling about it changed.

I would like to think that all the lessons we’re learning here – the lessons about honesty, compassion, integrity, friendship, courage, perseverance, honor, selflessness, generosity, love – are lessons we can build on and carry with us as we ride the current down the stream. It doesn’t make sense to me that all of that learning can abruptly come to an end at the close of a Superbowl, or a life.

My calico cat is with me in this moment – alive and breathing – and this moment is forever.


Karen’s calico cat

The continual contemplation of existence as material and corporeal – as beginning and ending, and with birth, decay, and dissolution as its component  stages – hides the true and spiritual Life, and causes our standard to trail in the dust.
– Mary Baker Eddy