Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Two Cats

My curious cat, Cleopatra (or Cleo), amazed me when she slept in my chair from which I write my posts as I was away for a few days in early August 2015. Cleo wakes me everyday with her little voice crying for attention. Now she turns around my feet while I write my words then chooses to put her little foot on top of mine as a sign of affection. The older cat, Guccio, is also close to me and particularly to my wife - Guccio likes to cuddle in my wife's arms and sleeps there until she wakes him up. Pets are animals like us in many ways. They eat, sleep, and need protection and affection. For the elder whose kids are too busy to visit them often, pets are a company that help them walk and be active. This is a particularly social phenomenon in Western countries, like Canada, that care for animals.

Some conservatives may find it odd to claim that humans are animals. However, in the bio-physical sphere humans share 98% of their genetic code with chimpanzees, and 70% with horses...The advent of homo sapiens, our ancestors and us, is regarded as the final complex phase of a long evolution (See my post here).

The mind is probably the most complex reality that distinguishes human beings from other creatures. Marc Hauser, past professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University, wrote about the basis of the distinct mind in humans in Scientific American in 2009. His article shows, in contrast to Darwin’s theory, a profound gap between us and animals, or as the well-known Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin put it, there is a leap from the biosphere to the noosphere which is the sphere of the human mind that can ask himself about himself.

The complexity of the human mind, unmatched by that of any other creature has been confirmed by much recent research. Hauser gives this example: “One of our most basic tools, the No. 2 pencil, used by every test taker, illustrates the exceptional freedom of the human mind as compared with the limited scope of animal cognition. You hold the painted wood, write with the lead, and erase with the pink rubber held in place by a metal ring. Four different materials, each with a particular function, all wrapped up into a single tool. And although that tool was made for writing, it can also pin hair up into a bun, bookmark a page or stab an annoying insect. Animal tools, in contrast—such as the sticks chimps use to fish termites out from their mounds—are composed of a single material, designed for a single function and never used for other functions. None have the combinatorial properties of the pencil.”

I find it fascinating that the evolutionary vision of Teilhard de Chardin was introduced by Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, in his theological "Introduction to Christianity" written in the late 1960s (See here). On evolution as a mechanism in creation, Saint John Paul II affirmed the Catholic Church's favourable agreement to its scientific findings in his address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in October 1996 (full message can be read here).

However, it is not the mind alone but what we do with it that really built civilizations. In June 2015, the historian Yuval Noah Harari explained to some 400 persons (as also reached through the Internet by nearly 900,000 persons) the rise of humans and the massive cultures that by now humans control the planet Earth (listen to his brief talk here; or read the transcript here). The reality of cooperation between the early homo sapiens has been addressed too in a massive article in the August 2015 issue of Scientific American by Curtis Marean, Professor of Human Evolution at Arizona State University. His team in collaboration with teams of researchers at the University of Johannesberg, and the University of California found the basis of the ascending home sapiens invasion of the planet. The migration from Africa to the Near East and Eurasia was successfully completed by our ancestors because of their collaboration in defending their tribes which then extended themselves to the shores and lands of Australia and the Americas some 70,000 years ago.

Although Harari speaks in terms of fictional stories invented by humans - which are not always the case for believers, especially that the historical evidence for Christ's crucifixion and resurrection has been demonstrated (here) - he makes two points:
1. What sets us apart is massive cooperation in all fields of knowledge and the transmission of this knowledge. This is the result of belief systems where I trust you will give me what I need to eat in exchange for a piece of paper (a dollar bill) even if it is the first time that you see me.
2.  The survival of human beings may be threatened soon by the machines they make (such as robots) or probably two classes will be created if material consumerism continues: the very rich (virtual gods) and the very poor (slaves). Eliminating this threat has been shown by Pope Francis in his recent Encyclical Laudato Si (here).

Cooperation is possible between two countries who signed peace agreements. As Egyptians are celebrating the achievement of completing and opening the New Suez Canal, the Egyptian author Ali Salem, writing in Al-Masry Al-Youm, recently proposed cooperation with Israel as beneficial to both countries and the region as a whole. Ali Salem has been writing in favor of cooperation between Arabs and Israel since his visit to Israel following the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. He later described his visit as a "serious attempt to get rid of hate". Why enmity when Israel can help Egypt in its economic recovery and its war on terrorism in Sinai? The technological advances in the Israeli industries can then be shared by Egyptians. Receiving Jews in Egypt will also help change the Salafist destructive influence found in Al-Azhar and his Grand Imam whom the Egyptian President has been begging for a better religious discourse that recognizes the right to life of billions of non-Muslims.

Again, cooperation has become an urgent requirement for Christian unity between Orthodox and Catholic Churches. President Putin of Russia is reported to have called the Turkish ambassador recently where he was given a harsh lesson after inappropriate comments by the Islamist Turkish President Erdogan. In the report (which requires confirmation) Putin also threatened Turkey to turn Syria into a big "Stalingrad"if Turkey does not cease supplying ISIS with weapons - "Tell your dictator Erdogan to go to hell..." (here). Putin has made his evaluation of terrorism public (YouTube in French here). If Putin is ready to defend the legitimate government of Syria, it could be an opportunity for Pope Francis to go to Moscow and work as a bridge between the United States in the West and the Eastern Christian nation of Russia. This step could be followed by convoking an Ecumenical Council in which Eastern Orthodox bishops and Catholic bishops participate for finding ways to save Christianity. Our bishops could write to the pope on this matter sooner rather than later.

In his latest book written in French "Mourir c'est naitre" Fr. Henri Boulad S.J. brings hope of eternal joy with God to an atheist world. He insists that atheism (or doubt) is a wave that will bring everyone to experience God beyond the theological abstracts of the past. In introducing his book (Conference in French here), the 84-years old missionary said "The problem of atheism is not rational,,,It is rather existential. The problem arose with rationalism and positivism of the last 2-3 centuries. For civilizations from ancient times, what mattered was not life here but preparation for eternal life or immortality." In other words, Boulad says, "I believe more in 3 million years of faith in immortality than in 300 years of skepticism. I know that I will never die...When you look back to your life, you will see the years of love with parents and beloved. There is a universe in me; a universe of desires of hopes; of dreams...One day I will arrive at myself... " Quoting Gabriel Marcel "Love is to say to the other: You cannot die". Henri Boulad speaks about the "Other" regardless of his religion or no religion. God is in the other person..."The secret of love is this: Death is really being born to the other. To be yourself is not simply you alone. Adam carried in himself all humanity, but he could not express this richness except through his offspring. All these faces before me have been present within Adam but Adam could not show them; for he was limited with his one face. Thus all human history is a deployment of more human persons. How come we cannot find two completely identical persons?  Does not this mean that each one is unique?" Everyone reflects the rays of God who loves everyone and came in Christ to save humanity. What a great talk! But for this I need time to read the whole book. Let us discuss it when there is a chance!

And last but not least, it was announced in the Sunday August 9 Masses at St. Alphonse's Church that over 550 projects are being carried out by the Catholic Church in Canada which require $3.4 million in donations; half of them are for missions and the other half includes religious education for children, youth, adults, and seminarians. This is a serious matter for the Church in Canada. The Gospel reading from John 6, 41-51 reminded us of Jesus' words I am the bread that came down from heaven,...No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me." Can we really help in renewing the Church and expanding the mission where we receive God in the Eucharist?

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


See Links to Websites Below