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?