Duality Paradox

Never count on miracles,
but know that they are real.
Pray for aid, but not confined
to forms we understand.
Guard your mortal body well,
but know that it can heal;
Work as though we had no help,
and help we’ll find, unplanned.

Logic with empirical
support is the foundation
«Le couer a ses raisons, qu la
raison ne connait point.»
Schemes of mice and men can ne’er
suffice for our salvation
Steer from danger, then let go:
«L’on crée ce que l’on craint.»

Of all our means to know what’s true,
dear science is the best–
Yet all the answers science yields
won’t fill a thimble’s hollow.
We’ll never know the limits of
our knowledge till we test
And question, question everything–
then follow, follow, follow…

— Josh Mitteldorf

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Beginning my 70th Year

At the dawn of my 7th year, I relished all things new and lustrous.  Each day, I understood something about the world that I hadn’t understood just the day before.

In my 70th year, I celebrate unlearning the things I thought I knew.  Each day, I hope to question some assumption that I have accepted for so long that I cannot imagine how my world might fit together without it.

As one piece after another falls away from what I once thought was the bedrock of reality, I find the most daunting challenge is to assemble from the new pieces some coherent whole, something with just a fraction of the satisfying integrity of the mythical picture of the world that has guided me since childhood.

Like the old peasant of Shamcher’s story, I will be given to know what I need to know, no more.  If I want to know more, then, I must throw myself into some mission that requires deep knowledge.  I ask for the guidance to tell me what that mission might be.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Listen

We know right away if someone’s inspired or merely devout—
Nor Moonies nor Marxists nor Tupperware salesmen can fool us.  
But within, institutional din, social message has power to rule us,   
And God’s whisper is drowned by the roar of their collective shout.

All wisdom and all certainty depend on this foundation
Inner light is not a luxury for rare, inspired moments—
Sanity itself is Phoenix, rising from turmoil it foments,
This collective, primal sanity may prove mankind’s salvation.

Death and Sleep are timeless portals for the music of nature’s choir;
The lost art of dreaming, our connection to the source of creation.            
Without sleep, we sink in desperate selfishness and isolation;
Without death, our souls are stalled, suspended, and can climb no higher.

Less doing, more listening—in the end we know it comes to this.
Lurking fears, the lonely quest for power—these are not things we will miss.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Ego Defense

Since childhood, I’ve responded to ostracism from family and friends with a drive to prove myself better than other people around me.  I gave up on belonging to the club, and convinced myself instead that “they’re not good enough for me.”

This was both an inner affliction and a social liability to me until at age 26, through a program of personal growth through peer counseling, I learned to transform the outward behavior while maintaining the inward aloofness.  I learned to listen empathetically, to offer kindness and generosity on the outside, while thinking secretly, “I have much to offer you, but you have little to offer me.”

This attitude has been too successful for me, because it has made it easy for me to connect socially, while hiding my scar from public view; so the scar has remained cloaked and unhealed forty years on. 

I don’t want to give up on kindness or service.  But can I devote my life to serving without feeling that I have one-upped the people I serve?  Can I live with myself if I relinquish the habit of whispering in my own ear assurances of my moral and intellectual superiority?  Can I care for another in a loving relationship without making her or him feel smaller for receiving my help? 

Futurama Fry Meme | NOT SURE IF HELPING OR PATRONIZING | image tagged in memes,futurama fry | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

As e e cummings might have said (but didn’t, quite), To feel better than others is a comfortable disease.

Caring for others helps me support the illusion that I am better than they are.  I am the helper, they are the helped. Though I keep it quietly to myself, an aura of moral superiority clouds the relationship.  I am left with something more comfortable than intimacy, but less real.

You are invited to reach within me gently or prod me violently or surprise me with humor or whatever it takes to re-open this piece of my heart.  Can you make me feel cared for while helping me to laugh at myself?

Thank you!

— Josh Mitteldorf

A Rational Approach to Science Funding

The problem with science research today is that everyone wants to fund the next Einstein, and no one wants to fund a thousand crackpots whose ideas will lead only to dead ends—but none among us is smart enough to tell the difference.

We have to give up on the idea that we can manage research the way we manage an efficient business.

We have to give up on the idea that we have a solid foundation or understanding nature’s workings, and the job of scientists is to fill in the details.

— Josh Mitteldorf

image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/20/Nikola_Tesla%2C_with_his_equipment_Wellcome_M0014782.jpg/318px-Nikola_Tesla%2C_with_his_equipment_Wellcome_M0014782.jpg

Nikola Tesla, with his equipment

Inquire within

Inside each of us is a fount of knowledge, an intuitive sense of what is real.  It is there when we quiet our minds’ flow of words and focus on open-ended questions.  But we are given to know only so much as we can assimilate and use in our lives. As we step into a wider scope of action and take on larger challenges, the knowledge we need will be available.

— Josh Mitteldorf

If God were a Poem

If God were a poem, she would be written in a primeval hieroglyph, indecipherable to man, but transcribed from an oral tradition every forager of seeds and berries would understand with intuitive precision.

If God were a peom, she would contain all words beauteous, which is to say all words known and unknown–all can be transfixed and transmuted by their composition to be beauty itself.

If God were a poem, she must last a lifetime of readings or a thousand lifetimes, in case we should reincarnate and forget to forget, and so must contain strophes that number as the moments of life.

If God were a poem, she would cry out against the futility of notation, until men, compelled to acknowledge the justice of her plaint, must write only a single ellipsis, denoted by a symbol not of any earthly script, and holding the place for that which cannot be spoke nor written.

If God were a poem, she would be written by numberless poets, all channeling the same verse in their own vernacular, and she would be as often lost in the library stacks as re-discovered by those few who had evolved already beyond any desire to read.

If God were a poem, you would not be reading her here.

— Josh Mitteldorf