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Friday, June 28, 2013

Prospects And Aerodynamics Of The Soul


[Illustration from Our Wonder World, Vol.1, Schuman&co.1918]

It has been many years since I've hiked the slopes around Placerville, a town 40 miles uphill from here, but I can't imagine it much changed. It was called Bloodandguts and Hangtown before residents settled on Placer to emphasize alluvial deposits over boomtown origins. This valuable sediment was exploited by miners who dug little holes, big holes and holes of no particular character or limit. It was holey ground, dedicated to a belief in reward --a product of faith-based enterprise. Backfilling was a concept unknown during this cultic frenzy.

As metaphor, the Gold Rush had some features in common with the search for the human soul. One may examine holy scripture, seek revelation, epiphany, cultivate faith and apply it to oneself. One soul-searches, a meditation by which one explores regions resistant to sensate measurement,  like walking into a very dark room. One has no notion of height or size and must solve the volume of gloom without using eyes. If one is brave, distances can be paced off  but there is a lot of tripping, bumping, falling down. Sometimes the ground just gives way over a hole with no effective bottom. We can conclude the topography of the soul is much like the outskirts of Placerville on a moonless night.

Then 50, 60 years went by and people got tired of digging for diminishing returns. So they looked up from their holes and were stunned by a great hierophany. Over their heads was the biggest hole they ever saw, and it didn't go down either. It went up, and up and up. Picks and shovels were beaten into aeroplanes and imaginations ignited instead of dynamite . The illustration from my beloved 1918 edition of  Our Wonder World shows us exploring the vast outer hole in magnificent airships, complete with outdoor observation and promenade decks where brandy is sipped and cigars are smoked while planets roll past.

The picture is captioned, "A race for the planets at the terrific speed of two miles a minute." This might cause one's hat to blow off and induce vertigo and swooning, but such is the uncertainty of faith-based technology. Most people choose to go to church instead. . Church is good but sometimes misleading. One hears so much about church leaders who compromise morality on a regular basis, then go right on leading churches, certain of forgiveness and salvation. This suggests we of the laity spend far more time impressing God than is strictly necessary.

As with gold-mining and aeronautics, I am likewise no expert on  churches. I know they are different from each other. Most even out their differences for the greater good. Others go defensive in a farrago of theological anxieties and regional squabbles. The former tolerates questions while the latter rejects them. To the imaginative researcher I recommend the defensive ones. This may come as a surprise, but after all, why would they fear your investigations unless there is something to be discovered?

11 comments:

  1. Even though, with modern day knowledge, the picture is laughably wrong, there is something so endearing about the hope and imagination portrayed there. So much so that I wish it could be true.

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  2. I wish I knew some who even out their differences for the greater good... Evangelical churches are the norm here in Ky. and they don't really like differences. But maybe that can change with imaginative researchers... :)

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  3. Great post, as always.
    Believe it or not, I've been to Placerville - long ago - but I don't remember much about it.

    I love this line that you wrote:
    "The topography of the soul is much like the outskirts of Placerville on a moonless night."

    Very apt reasoning.

    My brain is too tired and groggy to let me say anything philosophical but I will say this:
    I've always maintained that religion and sex were the downfall of the human race.

    My comment is worthless, but I'll offer it anyway......

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  4. 'This might cause one's hat to blow off and induce vertigo and swooning, but such is the uncertainty of faith-based technology.'

    See, this is why I love your posts, G.man.

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  5. Sara-- This is why I collect old books, not for profit but for the exquisite novelty of glimpsing another time --a time just as real as this one.

    Michelle-- Ah, the Evangelicals. So long as they put lightning rods on their steeples, we may count them among the changeable.

    Jon-- Worthless? NEVER! But sex and religion, well it sounds kind of...never mind --as long as one doesn't get caught.

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  6. Sara-- This is why I collect old books, not for profit but for the exquisite novelty of glimpsing another time --a time just as real as this one.

    Michelle-- Ah, the Evangelicals. So long as they put lightning rods on their steeples, we may count them among the changeable.

    Jon-- Worthless? NEVER! But sex and religion, well it sounds kind of...never mind --as long as one doesn't get caught.

    Suze-- Most kind. Thanks.

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  7. "A race for the planets at the terrific speed of two miles a minute." - nowadays they ask you to "Just run two miles in 16 minutes" - but I bet not in the dark rooms of the soul.
    I'm happy that your blog has the possibility to look at your post while writing a comment - because it is quite tricky (your text) - which I enjoy. Your Gold Rush metaphor evokes the tons of sand that drop through the sieve while hunting for a tiny nugget - though I think I will fill up with that sand not only the black holes but enjoy playing with sand instead (I always liked it as a child) - don't need to impress God, I think.
    So: hand me the brandy and cigars, please.

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  8. Aeronautics and churches are a mystery to me. My father was an avid amateur gemnologist so I spent (far too much)time around disused mine sites as a child.
    I think I prefer the dreams captured in that stunning illustration - further illustrated superbly in this post. Thank you.

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  9. To the imaginative researcher, the latter definitely have more to offer. They are like foreign countries, or alien planets. For an anthropologist, so much to be explored. But I expect such cultures will all always remain, to the outsider, unfathomable.

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  10. CAN one impress God? I can't imagine what you would have to accomplish to impress the unimpressable.

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  11. A far reaching piece....you make mental connections that are exceedingly impressive....

    Haven't seen anything like it since the night in 1974 in Dixie's black-light lit basement with Jimmy Hendrix playing on the turntable and the room blue with smoke....

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