The Desert Outside Mecca

That fate filled night when Muhammad stood on a mountain in the desert outside Mecca and received the first revelation of the Koran, he became afraid and perplexed. So afraid and perplexed, he even gave thought to throwing himself off the mountain.  The experience was so daunting and beyond comprehension, Muhammad considered ending all experiences. Some of different faiths or with no faith would rather quibble about the rationality of Muhammad’s revelation. But it doesn’t matter if the experience came from within him or without. It established the world’s most populated religion. And, not everything can be explained or needs be. What the episode tells me is that doubt is a good thing. Muhammad struggled mightily with doubt before he carefully revealed the occurrences of that fate filled night. He rightfully concluded that doubt is essential to faith. For faith without doubt is merely heartless conviction. The same heartless conviction we see when extremist Christians, Muslims and Jews approach their beliefs with arrogant fundamentalism. When one is dead certain he or she alone posses the truth, that truth becomes righteousness. Real faith has no easy answers. Absolutism is the opposite of true faith and only serves one’s personal vanity. Certainty is the arrogance of a closed...

Watch Out For The Black Swans!

by larrywomack.com Black Swans were discovered by the expedition of William de Viamingh on the west coast of Australia in 1697. Discovery of the black swan created a furor in Europe’s scientific community.  In Europe all swans are white.  And the term “all swans are white” was often used to indicate the validity of any well-known scientific truth. Since that time a “black swan event ” has come to mean an event that defies prediction.  When the unexpected occurs, people often engage in hindsight-bias by unknowingly inserting knowledge gained after the event into the gaps of knowledge available at the time of the event.  This often leads one to erroneously believe that the event was preventable or predictable.  The Internet has had an enormously chilling effect on getting at the truth.  Anyone can write anything, and there is always someone to take what is written as gospel.  There has also been a dramatic increase in paranoia fueled by uninformed and scrupulous individuals using black swan events as proof of conspiracies and other evils for personal gain.  These persons examine an event – 9/11, Katrina, the Japanese Tsunami, Sandy, etc. – combining pre-event and post event information to reach a conclusion that is commensurate with their previously held conviction or viewpoint.  They say, “See, I knew that was going to happen.” Following 911 someone fabricated a Nostradamus quote that was in wide Internet circulation indicating the old sage predicted 911. Several friends sent it to me. I didn’t hear from any of those friends when it was found out that an individual made it up after the fact. Especially over...

The Powers Of Magical Thinking

 The late Erwin Schrödinger was a renowned quantum theorist.  In German, Schrödinger means potty particles.  An important law in the quantum world is that all possibilities, even contradictory ones, coexist.  To explain this law, Schrödinger invented an imaginary cat.  That’s the easy part of being a quantum theorist or a theorist of any kind– inventing imaginary stuff. Schrödinger’s imaginary cat lives in a box equipped with a fiendish device.  The device is triggered by the random decay of radioactive particles that determine whether the cat is fed food or poison. In the real world, in which quantum theorists do not live or die, one switch or the other is triggered and the cat eats good food and lives, or eats poison and dies.  But Schrödinger’s imaginary cat is a quantum cat.  And, since all possibilities, even contradictory ones, coexist in the quantum world, his cat is fed both food and poison simultaneously.  Therefore, the cat is both alive and dead at the same time.  But how can we know?  It’s by looking into the box! There is, however, another law of quantum physics:  observation changes things.  It is only through our looking that the cat is either saved or lost because the observer is always part of what he observes.  If all of this is confusing; it’s supposed to be.  Schrödinger, like his comrades, have created an imaginary world where all things are possible and nothing ever really happens unless someone sees it.  Matter doesn’t matter unless it is observed and only a person with a PhD in quantum physics ever sees it . . . or NOT! Some...

Waving Goodbye to Noah

The rain had stopped, after pouring on and off for about a fortnight.  Water covered the floor of Aaron’s hut. Even though Aaron was over 300 years old, he could still wield a mean broom.  But the faster he swept, the more the water seemed to flow back into the hut. “I should have married again, after all my wives died in the fire,” he says aloud.  “Then I’d have some help with this mess. At least, I’ll be able to eat supper.” “Excuse me?” said a young man standing at the door of the hut.  “Has anyone told you about the meeting tonight down by the eternal flame? “No, this is the first I’ve heard of it.” Sloshing into the hut, the young man extends his hand and says, “My name is Ham, middle son of Noah.  My father figured everyone would need a relight for their home fire tonight and that the eternal flame would be a good gathering point to discuss the upcoming vengeance.” “Vengeance?” “Yes, Yahweh is upset with the way things are going around here and has made plans to flood the earth and annihilate all the sinners. “Oh, I’ve been hearing talk of that for over two hundred years.  What’s new?” My father says it’s for real this time. God came to him in a vision and told him to build a big boat in advance of the forty-day rain that will flood the land. Aaron, looking upward, “Just what we need, more rain.  I’ll be there if I can catch a pig in time for my supper.  If not, I’ll get the...

The Deti Scrits – The Books of Ahmudd

translated by Larry Womack Part One:  Achievement I was led by two of my captors up a short path to a great hall with an elaborately carved facade. The captors didn’t speak. This was my first day of sunlight since I, along with three other men, were taken from my village a fortnight ago. No reason was given.  I never saw the others again. My body was riffed with fear and trepidation.  Though no weapon was visible, their solemn demeanor and the firmness of their hold on my arms was sufficient evidence that escape was not a consideration.  My eyes were cloudy from the glare of the sun off the great hall, my legs taut with anxiety and my mind racing to understand my dilemma. Once inside the hall, they let go of my arms and disappeared.  I crumbled to the floor.   Illuminated by sunlight pouring through a large opening in the roof, the dust in the cavernous room gave an illusion of being under the sea.  The dust was thick and smoky to taste, like foul remnants of a long ago feast. As I tried to rise, my knees buckled.  I fell back to the floor.  There was a shriek in the distance of what sounded like a large bird.  It could have been a cry of human torture, but I convinced myself, it was a bird. The room was as long as a score of elephants and half as wide.  As my eyes adjusted to the dusty light, the image of a pyre at the opposite end of the room came into focus.  The pyre sat directly...

The Soul of a Monkey

We all bring our youth with us into adulthood. Though my mother, father, and brothers were not piously religious, I was. During my preteens and well into adulthood, I was intensely focused on religion and virtuous behavior. It was also the focal point of many of my neighbors in the second-generation off-the-farm urban neighborhood in which I was raised. In my childhood community, the Church of Christ Christian sect had the monopoly on Heaven. Both kids and adults in that church often told me, I was going to hell because I was a Methodist. Being a Methodist was evidently tantamount to worshipping Satan. In my adulthood, I attended the Episcopal Church with several parishioners who grew up in the Church of Christ. They had long since denounced the exclusivity of Church of Christ Heaven and moved on to a more inclusive version of Christianity. People change faster than churches. I haven’t regularly attended church for more than two decades. But through periodic visits, catching snippets of services on television, and from conversations with regular attendees, I see that the faith of my youth has taken some intriguing twists and turns. In fact, if the Jesus preached then comes back soon, he will not recognize his church. Rock n’ roll praise sing-a-longs have replaced the Eucharist and the reading of the Word as the focus of church services. Full orchestral prerecorded Christian Karaoke is favored over the organ for soloist accompaniment. The Old Rugged Cross and Gregorian chants are nowhere to be heard. The old central Christian message of: As ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren,...