Celestial Quest By Nelson J. Nichols
Contents PREFACE ........................................................................................................................... 4 INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 5 CHAPTER I - THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM ................................................................... 11 CHAPTER II - THE SKEPTICS ...................................................................................... 26 CHAPTER III - THE TRADITIONALISTS .................................................................... 44 CHAPTER IV - WHO‘S AT THE HELM? ..................................................................... 62 UNIVERSAL TRUTHS – OVERVIEW GRID ............................................................... 75 CHAPTER V - UNIVERSAL TRUTHS/CODE OF ETHICS ......................................... 76 CHAPTER VI - DIVINITY FACTOR ........................................................................... 104 CHAPTER VII - THE HUMAN DILEMMA ................................................................ 119 CHAPTER VIII - CONSIDER THIS ............................................................................. 138 CONCLUSION - WAS THE JOURNEY WORTH IT? ................................................ 162 EPILOGUE ..................................................................................................................... 164 APPENDIX ..................................................................................................................... 179 I. One to Another ........................................................................................................ 179 II. Photo Illustration of our Universe .......................................................................... 180 III. The Impossible Dream .......................................................................................... 181 IV. A Victorious Family Outing ................................................................................. 183 ABOUT THE AUTHOR ................................................................................................ 187 MY PRAYER ................................................................................................................. 191
Figure 1 - Ascension of Venus
(Carrara Marble – 36‖ x 20‖, 600 lbs/Bronze – 16‖ x 11‖) The Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty is said to have traveled through the Universe in a Chariot pulled by beautiful white swans. I show this mythological Goddess ascending into the heavens on the wings of a beautiful white swan. Though the sculpture is part of my ―Spiritual Expressionism‖ series, it is, nonetheless, a perfect example of classical sculpture in the truest sense. As such it was featured by National Sculpture Society in their New York (Park Ave.) gallery/museum.
Figure 2 - Celestial Quest
(Metal – 8‘) (Georgia Marble – 25‖ x 10‖) Represents, in abstract form, the spirit of human exploration and quest for knowledge and truth. Inspired by the Space Program and my work at NASA.
PREFACE The seed for this book was planted over forty years ago while preparing and giving a speech at a Statewide ―Toastmasters‖ competition. (This was also during my early NASA days.) The title of the speech was ―Bridging the Gap‖. I guess I was already feeling the tug, and frustration of having to deal with the mentally lazy entrenched on one end of the spectrum, and the pseudo-intellectuals entrenched on the other end, at least when it came to trying to make sense out of cosmic/philosophical/theological issues. Having been fortunate enough to have enjoyed varied and even unique, professional careers, I have been able to keenly observe the human dilemma in dealing with mind-boggling concepts. Throughout the ensuing, extremely busy/active years, as my life took varied turns, I continued my interest in, and, as time permitted, the study of these challenging, complex issues. I, early on, recognized that the theological arena, particularly, could be rather threatening, with varied and deeply entrenched views/opinions being rampant. I respect this freedom of viewpoint and truly appreciate what others have gone through when they dared to venture into this thorny arena. I sincerely hope the material (including my thoughts) included in this book will be read and studied with an open-mind, and though there will be times in which my words may cause some consternation with those of certain mentalities. I nonetheless must be honest and true to myself. I fervently feel I need at this stage in my life, to share some thoughts (mine as well as those of others who have gone before me) on the ―Riddles of Life‖. This is first and foremost a cry of the soul. It is an attempt to make sense out of our human dilemma and to help me in what I call my ―Celestial Quest.‖ It seems that most books/documents on theological (God, etc.) subject matter are written by individuals having almost always, a ―locked-in-concrete,‖ pre-ordained position. I would like to hear a so-called religious authority, just once, approach the subject from the standpoint of the ―seeker.‖ Hopefully, my rather novel approach (i.e. spiritual expressionism via art), enhanced by beautiful and relevant poetry, as well as narrative research material will prove useful to others in their own ―Quest.‖ My many years working passionately as a sculptor, painter, and graphics artist have convinced me that visual expression can be a most effective/valuable means of communicating a profound thought. To this end I, some years ago, redirected my artistic endeavors from art for commercial purposes, to art that came from within (i.e. the soul) and could visually express a universal concept or human emotion. As such, throughout the following discourse, I have interspersed photo illustrations of my ―Spiritual Expressionistic‖ works in hopes they will aid in stimulating thought, or creating a mood, for assessing the subject matter presented in the narrative. A brief description of the art is provided as an addendum to the illustrations. The poems are those of two extraordinary, spiritual individuals who have, in their own way, made a significant contribution to the lives of so many, including mine. One is my beautiful (even saintly) mother who was received into Heaven at a relatively early age. The other, Jim Pecquet, is an old friend and associate from my NASA days. Few, at the time, knew Jim was an accomplished Poet and only after his NASA retirement were his works published. (Guess not too many knew during those early, crucial years of space exploration that I was a classically trained artist.) The ―Mother Ocean‖ poem is by my surfer son, Michael.
Celestial Quest INTRODUCTION The purpose here is to introduce the Reader to my own original art form, (―Spiritual Expressionism‖) and show how I have used this ―Gift of Art‖ in my continuing Celestial Quest. I further hope that those viewing this unique art form will, at least to a degree, feel the divine spirit I credit with the creation of my art and in this way possibly aid them in their own Quest. ―Spiritual Expressionism is to me an expression of art that comes from within my soul (or spiritual essence) and flows outward as conceptual interpretations. These concepts are manifested and brought to reality via the sculptural process in stone, wood, bronze, metal, clay, as well as through the various two-dimensional media. Biblical, as well as mythical themes are usually inherent in much of my work, as well as attempts to reflect universal concepts and human emotions. Mine is not, however, religious art per se, with that art form‘s standard Institutional connotations. (There is no regimentation in my art.) Even when there is a biblical subject, it is represented in a never-before experienced, totally original creative mode. It derives from what I feel deeply to be the spirit of the Universal, a type of positive creative source or energy force flowing throughout the universal system, including through all of us. In the process of creating my art, I actually feel as though I become one with the ―Spirit‖, allowing my senses to be fully activated, and with the spiritual energy flowing outward from within my being. I am totally focused on the artistic challenge before me. In this way originality cannot be compromised, it is implicit. To me art is a communicative process and my objective is to artistically express/interpret universal concepts and human emotions in such a way that the viewer experiences, at least, some of the spirituality that I did in the creation. Whatever art form (i.e. sculpture, painting, and graphics) or medium utilized, the work must still be executed with the highest possible degree of artistic expertise/skill. In my attempt to offer thought provoking substance and creative nuances to the viewer I employ various symbolist techniques, ranging from recognizable, some anthropomorphic, to pure esoteric. I also maximize centripetal movement/flow, thus creating a symbiotic interrelationship of compositional elements aimed at drawing the viewer into the art. Since I sincerely believe that love, compassion, beauty, and power flow through the Universal Spirit, I can only hope that this unique art form of mine will encompass the same and have a positive and lasting impact on humanity. I was encouraged recently to read that famed artist and all-around Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci also saw a relationship of soul to art. He said: ―A good painter has two chief objects to paint; man and the intention of his soul; the former is easy; the latter hard.‖ Additionally we have the following quotes on the subject of art: Ruskin – ―the expression of one soul to another‖ Michelangelo – ―a shadow of divine perfection‖ Zola – ―life seen through the temperament‖ Madariaga – ―the conveyance of spirit by means of matter‖ I also like this one paraphrased from Emerson: ―Some are not content to just admire the beauty of nature, they seek to embody it in new form; the creation of beauty is Art, (thus throwing a light upon the mysteries of humanity).‖
Celestial Quest For those interested in learning more about my particular art form there is an art reference listing in the Index. One needs only to go to my art website (Http://nicholssculpture.com) All listed works have, to varying degrees, aspects of ―Spiritual Expressionism‖, even if they only represent human emotions/feelings, or as in the case of ―abstracts‖ a universal/naturalistic connotation. Now for the task ahead; all of us, at times, have been perplexed by the Riddles of Life‖: What is this so-called Universe we find ourselves in and how did it happen? What is life all about/why are we here? Is there a God, creator of the Universe? How did we take form/materialize and what is our role in the broader scheme of things, but also our ethical responsibility to others on the planet earth? What is death and is there an afterlife, and of course, what form does it take? Many have tried to solve these riddles only to end up in utter frustration, or worse. A few people over the centuries, have, to some extent, penetrated the mysteries, and many more have seen fit to avoid the challenge altogether. These latter individuals seem satisfied to accept what various Institutional (i.e. Church/Temple/Mosque) sources have to say on the issues, or prefer not to think at all. Where do we stand today regarding these seeming abstractions and have we been missing something? My immediate concern is, as mentioned in the Preface, bridging the gap between the two extremes of human mentality. One believes a certain way because of tradition/indoctrination. This is the way they were told to believe, by whatever source they derive from. It‘s a sort of ―cow-path‖ mental process. They automatically close their minds to all rational thought that may question, in any way, the rules of their particular religious affiliation. Of course this attitude can also be found on the other side (nonseekers) of the spectrum. If only we, who sincerely seek truth and honesty, could bridge this gap with reason, what a more harmonious world we would have. It just seems to me that since we have been provided a brain (via whatever creation process one adheres to) and this brain allows us to think/reason, we must have been expected to do so. Otherwise, what was the point? I contend that different mentalities among humans allows for different approaches to dealing with theological and philosophical issues. For certain mentalities even faith, based on knowledge & reason, is far stronger and more lasting. A wide knowledge base/frame-of-reference can also go a long ways to reducing intolerance/bigotry and maybe even warring against ones earthly neighbors. Let me just briefly address the ―non-seeker‖ side of the spectrum mentioned earlier. This group seems to feel: either it is too intellectually sophisticated to believe in a Creative Force or First Cause responsible for the Universe (and all life within) or; it is just naturally adheres to negativity in the thought process .In other words this mentality just automatically pooh-poohs the concept of a Universal Creative Source, or will only believe in something that can be proven precisely through some scientific equation or elaborate laboratory test. I only wish they would get down from their lofty pedestals, use their ―senses,‖ observe, and appreciate the many wonders/marvels and downright miraculous phenomena of our natural environment that are impossible to account for except through the supernatural. I believe here lies at least one way to stimulate, or amplify (as the case may be), an awareness of the existence of a Supreme Being or Creative Force, and a better understanding of life itself. It is a simplistic approach, but the 6
Celestial Quest resulting state of mind may also help a person to even extract from the traditional religions the essential elements, which often are forgotten or overlooked due to all the artificialities and trivialities which have engulfed the religions of the world. Emerson put it this way: ―A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and of virtue, will purge the eyes to understand her text. By degrees we may come to know the primitive sense o the permanent objects of nature, so that the world will be to us an open book and every form significant of its hidden life and final cause.‖ Now, I recognize and respect, that there is not necessarily just one route to an awareness of a creative, universal force (a Supreme Being if you will) and that throughout the ages human intelligence has sought out this source, with varied success. Also keep in mind that one‘s ―Frame of Reference‖ is everything, as an old professor of mine used to remind us every day in class. In the following pages I will, in using the ―Gift of Reason‖ address this journey, this Quest, as well as take a closer look at both sides of the human mentality spectrum. Along the way I will, of course, interject my take (for what it‘s worth) on certain theological/philosophical issues including what I see as one very possible hope of humanity – the beautiful, yet simplistic message (i.e. love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness) dramatically demonstrated by one humble young carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. Whether one buys into the ―divinity‖ factor or not, the message itself is not only overwhelming for we troubled humans, but downright miraculous in his application. He certainly comforts me as I pursue this Quest with his words: ―Take my yoke, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.‖ (Matthew 11:29). With these beautiful words in mind we should always strive to help others, especially those that are hurting (in one way or another). In so doing, use whatever unique gifts you have been given by the Creator, whether they be special talent, skills, abilities or various resources, and use these in service to your fellow human being. This, at least in my estimation, is what life is all about. Sure there are, in this life, some more fortunate than others, but nonetheless we all, to varying degrees, face a myriad of obstacles along the way. It is how we deal with them, and hopefully overcome them, that are important, and in the process we must continue always to reach out and help others that are hurting. We must be doers in this life and, at least, try to make a difference. Otherwise what is the point of it all? Now, let us begin with ―The ―Impossible Dream.‖
Figure 3 - Ascent of Woman
(Italian translucent alabaster and marble 36â€– x 24â€–)
Figure 4 - Divine Love (Italian translucent alabaster and Marble – 36” x 36”)
Figure 3: This sculpture represents a spiritual expression of the life of Ruth Eckerd, a beautiful woman who, through her endowments and foundations, did so very much for so many. It was donated to the Ruth Eckerd Hall (Performing Arts Center in Clearwater, FL) by Fred and Aleta Fisher, and now honors the memory of Ruth. The sculpture shows a woman (Ruth spiritually ascending into the heavens as the earth opens up releasing her. Figure 4: The Creator of the Universe, and all life within, is shown in the guise of a woman‘s head with flowing, spiritually appearing locks bringing forth a child (i.e. human species). The lower portion of the sculpture depicts a rapturous scene of angels and swans, with the wings of the angels fusing into wings of the swans.
Figure 5 – Divine Love (Painting) (61” x 26”)
This was a study done for the lower portion of the Divine Love sculpture. It is a form of triple imagery with the wings of the angels blending into the wings of the swans. There is a Christ like feature in the center of the painting created by the swans and angels.
CHAPTER I - THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear the unbearable sorrow, To run where the brave dare not go, To right the unrightable wrong, To love pure and chaste from afar, To try when your arms are too weary, To reach the unreachable star, This is my quest, to follow that star , No matter how hopeless, no matter how far, To fight for the right, without question or pause , To be willing to march into hell, for a heavenly cause, And I know I‘ll only be true, to this glorious quest, That my heart will lie peaceful and calm, When I‘m laid to my rest, And the world will be better for this; That one man, scorned and covered with scars, Still strove, with his last ounce of courage, To reach the unreachable star. ―Man of La Mancha‖ – 1965 musical Lyrics – Joe Danon Composer – Mitch Leigh
Celestial Quest On June 14, 2008, a busted-up old artist achieved his impossible dream, a non-stop, nonassisted 15-mile swim of the foreboding waters of the TVA‘s Lake Chatuge Reservoir. I under took this most extreme sports challenge to honor my niece, Debbie, a rare and beautiful, though severely disabled woman who has heroically faced (and met) the extreme challenges in her life, challenges that would have done in, even the hardiest soul. Her happy smile, genuine sweetness, and always outward caring for others, even under the most extreme circumstances, are an example he sets for us all. She is a true miracle of our Creator. I, therefore, at the age of 70, set out to honor Debbie for showing me (and many others) how to face the adversities/difficulties in our own lives. Debbie, by the way, has been paralyzed from the waist down for the past 25 years due to complications incurred while giving birth (the baby died). She has also had to deal with cancer and diabetes and recently had both her legs amputated, in order to save her life. Figure 6 - With Debbie at Allied Services
As far as the ―swim‖ is concerned, I‘ll let someone (my son) who witnessed up close and personal, every mile of the epic odyssey tell the story. This is his ―Report.‖ “SWIM FOR DEBBIE” REPORT By Mike Nichols Some Work Best When the Rest of the World is Asleep It‘s 1 a.m., June 14, and Nelson Nichols is restless as he wanders the house. Although he should be sleeping, the pain from many years of neck and back injuries keeps him awake. He thinks to himself that the pain this particular morning is greater than usual. You see, after four major back operations and eight inguinal hernia operations, Nelson‘s pain is really only bad or better, there really are not good days and this particular morning appears to be a really bad day. This is usually not a problem as he can deal with the pain but today is no usual day, today is the swim. You see, Nelson has been training the past few months for this day. To swim in honor of his niece, Debbie Bordeos, for her courage against the hardship she has had to endure in her life and help provide support to the Allied Services Foundation where Debbie now resides. This swim is not for him, it is for Debbie. As he sits in the early morning hours, he reminds himself that no matter the pain he is in, he will be getting in the cold waters of the Chatuge Reservoir. He will challenge what these waters have to throw at him in an attempt to swim the some 15 miles of the Chatuge from its most northern point in North Carolina to the southernmost point in Georgia. This is no ordinary feat, rather it is a monumental challenge that Nelson is determined to take on to swim such a distance nonstop, dealing with cold water, 125-foot depths, heavy currents, blinding surface pollutants like gasoline etc., the many fishing and recreation craft on the lake and just plain trying not to get run over. Oh, did I mention he is 70 years old! 12
Celestial Quest So there Nelson sits in the early morning hours, in pain and waiting for the rest of us to awake from our good night‘s rest so he can start the day. Breakfast Energy As Nelson‘s son I want to make sure he has the best shot at achieving his goal of reaching the south shore of the Chatuge Reservoir. Although Nelson is accustomed to athletic competition, as he was quite the swimmer in his day, that day was over 50 years ago. And when he did compete it was not for endurance but 200 yard sprints to the finish that did not required the same training and nutrition regimen that a marathon event like this swim will require. One of my main objectives was to get Nelson on the right plan to make sure he has the best shot at this swim. If any of you are runners or athletes that have participated in endurance events such as a marathon then you know, when the wall comes, it comes quick. One moment you feel great the next you have no energy and your body is shutting down. When the wall does come there is no recovery. My Goal, make sure Nelson does not hit that wall! With this I had three major areas of concern; nutrition, pace and cold water. I don‘t think eating has ever been a problem for Nelson. He certainly enjoys his food. Plus, he is always active enough so that his calorie burn offsets his caloric intake, but this was different, now it was about building up sustainable energy and tapping quick energy when needed. One of the first measures was to introduce Nelson to quick energy so he can get used to this concept during his workout regimen. It quickly became evident that this concept of energy was a bit foreign to Nelson as the discussion about gel shots went something like this: Mike: ―Dad, you need to practice taking gel shots during your training regimen. For one, you need to become accustomed to doing this while you are swimming and additionally you need to find a gel shot that you like. You don‘t want to be introducing something new to your body during the actual swim. Besides, there are all kinds of flavors and you should find one you like.‖ Nelson: ―What‘s a gel shot?‖ Anyway, Nelson picked Raspberry Cream Power Gel and figured out how to swim and take a shot at the same time. Welcome to the world of endurance sports, Nelson. So now, I set off on addressing my concern about being subjected to cold water for a long period of time. Up to this point, Nelson was dead set against wearing any sort of wet suit as he probably viewed it as some sort of modern new fangled contraption that he did not see necessary. Besides, how many times did I hear the story of how my dad used to break the ice on the lake to go practice his swimming when he was a kid up in Pennsylvania? Really, how did he walk uphill to school and uphill back home every day, in the snow, no less? After much discussion, we seemed to settle on a compromise. I will not make him wear the full ironman‘s wetsuit I brought up for him but he will wear the short 1 mil spring suit that seemed less constrictive to him. At least I got him in something other than just his swim trunks, not optimum in my opinion, but doable. Speaking of nutrition, the morning has arrived and the swim support crew is gathering. 13
Celestial Quest Nelson seems anxious to get going but I insist not before a good breakfast. Today, the breakfast energy is hot oatmeal with brown sugar and a banana. Let‘s make sure he starts out with good sustainable breakfast energy. Tranquil Beginnings The morning is quiet, the winds are calm and the sky is clear as we gather at the northernmost point of Lake Chatuge Reservoir. The launch spot is just a small parking area just off SR64 nestled along the mountain highway near Ledford Chapel. It‘s good to start from a church. There is a scurry of readiness about as the small group of close friends and family prepare for the start of the swim. Terry Preston, Nelson‘s childhood friend, works on getting his canoe ready for portage. Terry insists on being there with Nelson, although a quick cursory inventory of his gear leads me to believe he is preparing for the worst. Really, I hope we will not need that sleeping bag! I am also going through the last minute check of readiness: GPS – check; nautical maps – check; food – check; water – check; phone – check; and an assortment of other items I hope I never need check. All along, Nelson goes about being upbeat and excited. He is lathering in Vaseline, not my doing, someone else advised him on the Vaseline trick to protect from the cold water. I‘m okay with this as I suspect it will at least help with any possible chafing which may occur as a result of wearing a wetsuit for the first time. It‘s now 20 minutes before our scheduled departure and Nelson takes his first shot of Raspberry Cream Power Gel in preparation for the swim. All systems are ―go‖ for an on time launch as the countdown approaches 8 a.m. Hey, I had to slip that one in given Nelson‘s NASA legacy. I think Mom is quiet during this time, as she has made it clear that she really thinks this is one of the most harebrained ideas Nelson has come up with. So with an updated life insurance policy and swearing that there are only two possible outcomes, either he will end up in the hospital or he will end up as fish food, she stays calm and reserved as the moment of no return approaches. And They’re Off It‘s 8 a.m. and family and friends are growing ever so much smaller as they stand and wave from the shore behind us. Nelson is off with a strong freestyle stroke as we take a south heading across silk smooth waters. This morning the only waves in the water are the ones we create as our ripples radiate out from our position and they eventually lap silent on a nearby shore. The conditions could not be better with clear sky, calm wind, smooth water and no boat traffic. As Nelson would often say, ―The Dream Team, not to be confused with The Three Stooges,‖ was off. Nelson with a strong stroke and tons of determination and Terry in his freshly borrowed canoe. Did I mention that Terry really has not spent much time in the saddle of a canoe, and me on the Stand Up Paddle board appearing to be walking on water at first glance, all just minutes into a long and winding road, Okay, lake. First Signs of Life Nelson remains constant in his swim taking little break in his stroke. Only to alternate occasionally to his breaststroke and back to the freestyle, a strategy he has employed to take best advantage of his strongest techniques and to use different muscle groups for 14
Celestial Quest swim optimization. For me, it seems like just moments after getting started that I feel the heat of the day already in full force. Although it was early in the morning, I had already removed my shirt in an attempt to stay cool as the heat was just beginning to bear down on us. At this point being in the water and swimming did not seem like such a bad idea. But I am the first to admit that it would only be for play and to cool off. I was asked in an interview for The Franklin Press what I thought my dadâ€˜s chances were for completing this swim. Honestly I gave him a 100% chance just based on his determination. After that I think I told the reporter I would have given myself a 50% chance. Well I lied on that one, after seeing what this swim was really turning out to be, my chances would be way less and I consider myself a very capable swimmer and of course, I am much younger. We must have only been into the swim for half an hour when that first sound of a roaring engine came from around the comer. The official lake day had started as we got buzzed by a powerboat, towing a large rubber banana with two kids screaming and hanging on for dear life. This would be the first of many as Lake Chatuge proved to be a very active recreational playground and probably not the best of choices for a long distance endurance swim. Nelson's Old Friend Hector Those who know Nelson know he is an avid outdoorsman. He thoroughly enjoys being in nature and all it has to give. Well, on one of his trips into nature, what nature almost gave was a bite from a timber rattler that was hanging out on the banks of the Chatuge Lake near the dam. As Nelson swam past the dam, he made sure we stopped for a moment to pay our respects to Hector the Snake, as Nelson has come to refer to his reptilian friend. Terry and I were glad that this respect was done from a distance; as we passed the dam to leave it well behind in the distance. For now, we had our sights set on Penland Island, the next milestone mark on the route. Regular Feedings I really think that Nelson would have done this swim regardless of the support he may or may not have been given. See the determination comment I made earlier. With that said, he swims like Forrest runs, sort of the â€•Swim Nelson, Swimâ€– thing. If I was not there to stop him and make him eat and take energy gels, for which I was calculating even setting my watch to go off on predetermined increments as a reminder, I suppose he would have swam until there was no reason to swim anymore. I made sure he had plenty of liquids, along with electrolytes, sugars and food along the way. Whether this had any real impact on his ability to complete this swim is really unknown, but I like to think I went through all those motions for a reason. Regardless, I did stop him regularly to make sure he took in energy. Funny thing is, one of the reasons I chose to support Nelson from a Stand Up Paddle board is I figured it would make things easier for him when it came time to eat. I sort of envisioned Nelson using the board as a water table where he could swim up and hold on to the side of the board and rest for a moment while he ate and took in some fluids. Who knew that when Nelson said he was going to swim the length of Lake Chatuge that it meant not touching anything, including my Stand Up Paddle board. Nelson took every break treading water without touching anything. He took his gel shots, ate bananas, oranges, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drank without ever touching anything but good old lake H20. 15
Celestial Quest Good Luck From the Lake The day has progressed and Nelson is still swimming strong, Penland Island is a thing of the past along with several other landmarks like Brown Island, where we wave at lake party-goers as they moor their pontoon boats to the island for a day of water recreation and family picnics. By this time, several hours have passed and I can only think that many people have already read the morning paper, ate breakfast and gone through all sorts of morning routines that have brought them to mid-day. So much done by so many and yet Nelson has been full on swimming non-stop for the entire morning. Here we are now past a large section of lake where the recreation traffic was particularly heavy. I can only imagine what most of these people are thinking as they scream past on their powerboats and jet skis when they see these three oddball figures, a man swimming in the middle of a large lake, with a canoeist and a guy walking on water. For real, they must have thought it a bit odd. Even so, we did have people stop and ask what was going on, and of course Terry being the jokester could give a straight-faced reply such as, ―Not sure, I‘m just out for a paddle and this old man swimming keeps following me.‖ But for many it was admiration and two thumbs up when we explained what Nelson was doing and the cause he was doing it for. I have to say the Lake was cheering him on this day! A Sign From Above I knew going into this that the lake was a recreation area but never realized how much it was used, especially on a busy Father‘s Day weekend. It seemed one of my main concerns now was not even one of my main concerns going into this swim. As to you recall, the three things I thought were the big concerns going in were nutrition, pace, and cold water. Well forget everything I told you. Now my sole purpose is to keep Nelson from getting run over. I really am amazed at how many jet skis there are on this lake. I felt like, well like a big turd and all these flies were buzzing around just out to get a little piece. They would come out of nowhere and buzz right by before you knew it. It seemed to become ever more important that Terry and I kept our swimmer in between us and to watch all flanks with me guarding port and Terry taking charge of starboard. Then all of a sudden what we originally figured to be a bad thing happened and it turned out to be a sign from above that I believe helped greatly in Nelson‘s race. The storms moved in, the skies opened up and it began to rain, and it appears that the only three idiots that remained on the lake were a swimmer, a canoeist and a guy walking on water. No Help from the South The best laid plans do not always come to be. I think I am supposed to say something about mice and men here but I really don‘t understand that proverb so forget about that. As part of my greater plan for support this day, I planned to have a rented pontoon boat come from the south end of the lake and have it meet us as we headed south. Well, even though the thunderstorms cleared the lake, it now prevented me from having the pontoon boat launch in such storms. No sense of risking any more on this adventure, besides the support on the pontoon boats was Stephanie my wife, Mikaela my 5 month old daughter, my mother, as old as my dad, and her friend Betty, even older than mom. I really think Stephanie was a bit thankful for the rain and may have even had a hand drumming it up. Well that and possibly Terry who seemed to believe some sort of connection between it
Celestial Quest raining and Terry‘s rain jacket. Long story here but I will try to make it short. With three people left on the lake, you know who they are, the swimmer could care less about the rain, and he is already wet. The guy walking on water, I was wearing a bathing suit and rash guard that were intended to be wet. But Terry was in full on docker shorts, t-shirt, socks and loafers, so every time it started to rain, he would pull out his rain jacket and struggle to get it on. Once settled in with his rain jacket in place, the rain would back off and he would begin the struggle to get it off and tucked away neatly. Of course this became a vicious cycle and to this day, Terry will swear that the rain knew when he did not have his jacket on. The point of this is no support from the south can now be expected. Welcome to Georgia Nelson had been going at it for many hours by this time and the bridge at SR76 was now in sight. I could feel Nelson‘s energy pick up at this point. For one, I think he felt that he had made it past the halfway point and was now in Georgia waters, and two, I had called ahead to our pontoon support crew to let them know that this was probably a great place to cheer Nelson on as he swam past. As we approached the bridge, I had to laugh to myself. You see, there was a small fishing boat anchored in between the first pylons of the bridge, which would have been the most direct route for him to swim. Now I don‘t know Nelson‘s actual thought process here but instead of skirting the boat on a direct route, he decides to head back out toward the channel and pass under the bridge several pylons farther away. I can only figure Nelson being an avid fisherman, he did not want to disturb these folks chances at catching the big one or maybe he did not want them to catch the fish of a lifetime, a 70-year-old swimmer as he heads on his migration to the southern spawning grounds. Anyway, I had a good laugh with that one. As he rounded the corner, there they were — our pontoon support crew high and dry on land cheering and clapping encouragement. They were willing to throw some sub sandwiches to us to eat, but at this point I think we had grown accustomed to our regimen of 0power gel, PB&J, bananas and oranges that we did not want to break the routine. I had Nelson take a break for some nutrition. As I turned to straighten some items on the board I realized that this is where Nelson was on a mission. I had only looked away for a second and he was already heading down the lake towards the town of Hiawassee. Seems at this point, there is no time for rest. I have to remind him this is not a race. Not sure if this really registers with him. The Final Stretch As we pass the town of Hiawassee, there are many homes and lake cottages. I can hear the voices of people as they sit on their decks as they look out over the lake while a steady downpour of rain continues to fall. I can only imagine what these people must think as a swimmer, a canoeist and a guy walking on water head past down the lake. I am sure it must have something to do with words like crazy or idiots. At this point, it is getting late in the afternoon and Nelson still has that same determination he had as when he entered the water at 8 a.m. Only at this point it is becoming much more evident that the hours and hours in the water are starting to take its toll. Nelson starts to indicate that we must be getting closer to the headwaters because he
Celestial Quest is feeling the cold. He does not want to admit that it may have something to do with being subjected to cold water for close to nine hours and his core temperature is starting to react. The body‘s way of protecting its vital organs when cold is to start shutting down non-vital parts such as legs and arms to protect the vital parts. This is the first stage of hypothermia and what people don‘t realize is that hypothermia is not limited to freezing temperatures. Long periods in cool water can have the same effect. This is what Nelson was starting to experience; the water was no cooler from where we got in at 8 a.m. as it was at this point in the swim. It was his body starting to say enough is enough; I am going to start protecting my vital organs. I See the Steeple When the swim started in the morning we left from a Chapel. Well it is good to end at one as well. We rounded the last bend in the lake and about a mile away, you can see standing high on a hill the Macedonia Baptist Church Steeple. This was it, the swim was almost over. Nelson was still moving along at a good pace but it was clear that he had given it his all. By this time, he had lost use of his left leg due a newly-developed groin pain, so his breaststroke looked a little ragged. The reach on his freestyle was not as crisp or out-reaching as it was when he first started the day. But given all this, he was still going. At the point he saw the church steeple, he calmly said to Terry and me that he figures since this was the home stretch that he should probably finish it out with a good butterfly stroke. Now, I would have really been impressed if he actually did. As we approached the take out point, many friends and family were there to cheer Nelson on to finish in style. Good friend Mark Hollis was running down the road beside Nelson yelling, ―Go ‘Canes.‖ Others were also there to lend a hand as Nelson arrived at the end of his swim only to suffer the worst injury of the day. After all that, Nelson stubs his toe on a rock climbing out of the lake. You have to wonder if that is all the lake could do in return for its defeat of allowing this 70-year-old man to swim the breadth of its waters. Celebration With champagne and cheers, we all gathered around in the shadow of the steeple to congratulate Nelson on his accomplishment. And more importantly to reflect on the reason for this swim, to honor Debbie and the challenges she has had to face and overcome over the years, and to raise awareness to the Allied Services Foundation and all it is doing to help not only Debbie but thousands of others who need help day to day. This was an amazing accomplishment by dad and I hope it brings inspiration to others that there is more to give than just money: you can give of yourself. For those who gave your support to this cause, thanks from all of us.
Not much I can add to Mike‘s rather impressive literary take on the ―historic Swim-ForDebbie,‖ only to thank him for making it all possible and to thank both him and Terry for keeping me alive. I also want to thank all those who prayed for me to succeed so that I could make a difference in Debbie‘s life and in my own way, help the Allied Skilled Nursing Center provide the excellent care, not only for Debbie, but the many others that pass through its highly skilled and compassionate medical center. 18
Celestial Quest Mike mentioned the early morning hours before the ―swim.‖ Well, the pain I was experiencing at that time, I have to admit did give my usual strong confidence a jolt. I realized at 1:30 a.m. that it just might take some sort of ―Divine‖ intervention for me to achieve this impossible dream. I know, in my heart, that many were praying that I not only survive, but that I actually achieve what the vast majority said was impossible. All these prayers (including my own) must have been heard for as soon as I entered the ―foreboding‖ waters, and began to swim, the pain seemed to be lifted from me, and I swam and swam and swam. If at any time, I felt weary, chilled or cramping, I thought of my ―angelic‖ niece and how she has heroically faced adversity and I would just swim on. During all these many hours (at times I felt I was growing ―gills‖) in the extreme aquatic environment, I thought, not only of Debbie, but all the millions around the world that are enduring hardships and suffering (of all kinds) and this would help me endure and swim on. I would (and did) achieve the ―Impossible Dream‖ for all these poor souls. Based on the feedback from numerous sources, the example of the ―Swim for Debbie‖ has struck a chord and is achieving its inspirational objective. Now let us proceed into what many have found to be an even more foreboding/hostile but still challenging environment, that being theology, universal truths/theories, and human intelligence/rationality. Art References: Aquatic Love The Surfer Lagoonal Bliss Nautical Bliss Natures Way Poetry: Mother Ocean (Michael H, Nichols) Lyrics: Impossible Dream (―Man of La Mancha‖)
Figure 7 - Aquatic Love (Honduran Mahogany – 44” x 15”)
An aquatic form of woman swims through the encircling fins of an aquatic creature, which in turn flows upward out of the scull of a huge fish. Since it seems that all life emanates from water (or liquid substance), including human embryo, the romantic embrace of these forms provide (at least in my mind) a spiritual message of love. It seems that I have created, with this sculpture, my own unique mythological concept. (Since I, as many know, am an aquatic person, this sculpture is very special to me.)
Figure 8 - The Surfer (Georgia Marble – 34” x 20”)
This is a spiritual representation of the esoteric world of surfing. In this world the true surfer believes he or she is actually one with the wave, and the wave is one with the surfer. Though executed in somewhat abstract style, I like to think of this creation in even a broader sense, in other words, surfing the universe in my celestial quest for truth. The Sculpture now resides on Fernandina Beach, FL in front of my surfer son‘s home.
Figure 9 - Lagoonal Bliss (Swamp Tupelo)
Sculpted in the somewhat rare, but beautiful Swamp Tupelo which has the strength and texture to stretch the limits of carving. Having spent many a day wading (and occasionally swimming) in Mosquito Lagoon, FL. I experienced sea horses, coral, and sea weed first hand. It has all made for a beautiful art composition. Though not spiritual in a religious sense this theme is certainly spiritual in a natural sense. 22
Figure 10 - Nautical Bliss (Black Walnut/Bronze)
Another aquatic (ocean) sculptural work having both an environmental, as well as a spiritual theme. A beautiful mermaid and dolphin (porpoise) swirling in the ocean waves, giving off a feeling of complete freedom. This â€•freedomâ€– is somewhat akin to what the surfer experiences when riding a wave.
Figure 11 - Natures Way (38” x 34”)
This tranquil, inspirational, aquatic scene of a lake near my home in Titusville, FL just called out for a painting. I know the Creator‘s spirit was flowing through me, even in those moments long ago. For some reason I have always gravitated to the aquatic world.
Figure 12 - Mother Ocean by Mike Nichols
CHAPTER II - THE SKEPTICS Let us begin on a positive note with a quote from Tennyson: ―There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.‖ Then Erasmus said: ―Freedom of thought is required in order to find the pure faith‖ and that ―realism and mysticism were not always exclusive.‖ It is also important to note that practicing the universal maxim (―Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.‖) is not just for people of ―the Book,‖ and that there are many examples where the ―Unbelievers‖ have outdone the religionists. ―Come now let us reason together.‖ (Isaiah 1:18) If the word of God is troublesome, why not use Master Designer, First Cause, Creator, Energy Force, Seed, or whatever one finds mentally comfortable. Why even get caught up in the ridiculous ongoing, often bitter/destructive debate over concept of evolution. Both sides are so entrenched that the debate is obfuscating the obvious (i.e. the vastness/marvels of the Universe; phenomenon of our natural world including the beauty and marvels of the myriad of flora and fauna; unfathomable creativity evidenced in the human body/systems). Did all this just happen, and for no purpose? Think about all the biological occurrences in everyday life. For example, the birth process itself, as well as the complexity and unbelievable effectiveness of each body part, yet cohesiveness of the overall functioning system. (We haven‘t even come close to fully understanding the brain and its complex workings, yet this organ is the key to human domination of earth species.) Now, let‘s just take one mundane example of the marvels of creation directly related to the sustenance of a species, but one I find remarkable, at the very least. Have you ever had the privilege to witness a young female dog (could be any animal) giving birth (and caring for afterwards) to her first litter of pups? Now, this young mother certainly has not read any of the numerous ―how-to-do-it‖ books available to human mothers and has not had the guidance/counseling of professionals. Yet, it becomes immediately clear to the observer that this young mother needs none of the aforementioned instructions. She knows exactly what to do and does it. What put this and many other instincts in animals? I mean, what is the purpose in denying the existence of some form of intelligence in the Universe setting everything is play? Why not a Creator/Master Designer? Then, there are the never-ending mysteries of our extensive flora environment, and except for professional botanists (and occasional serious amateur observer) few of us can even begin to comprehend the creative forces in play throughout the varied flora community. For example: germination; growth patterns; impact of light and dark; fertilization requirements; differing scents. From just a seed, the whole of earth comes alive with thousands and thousands of botanical miracles, not to mention the oftentimes overwhelming esthetic beauty. Just to see the flowering trees of spring makes me feel good, not to mention, alive. Also, have you ever considered the architectural perfection of a beehive? Where did they get their architectural/engineering degree? How do we explain all this creative process in humans, animals, birds, etc? Science has over the centuries, penetrated much of the phenomenon of life, but as yet offered no solution to who/what is responsible for the first ―spark‖ that set the process in play. From just a seed (sperm) look what happens: unfathomable growth patterns, 26
Celestial Quest eventually reaching full human form. Oh, some feel the key to all of this life-forming process is ―DNA‖ and considerable research is under way to more fully understand the full ramifications of DNA. But, who/what is responsible for this element? There are also, of course, ―test-tube‖ fertilizations, and ongoing embryo and stem cell research, but still the drama of life must have a beginning. What is this spark, this first cause? Next, I wonder how many ―non-believers‖ have spent any time studying the night sky from a good vantage point, and when the planets, stars, moons, and asteroids are in their most panoramic and majestic beauty. Most of us know, at least a little about our own planet earth, and its relationship to the moon and sun. How could we not with our fascination with the Space Program? We also, at least, know the names and approximate distances to the planets in our own solar system. The mind-boggling aspect is that when we go beyond this system and enter our ―galaxy‖ we are now dealing with millions of planets, stars, moons, asteroids; and then we must expand our thinking even farther and accept the fact that there are millions of galaxies. The science of astronomy including considerable space program/NASA discoveries (via deep space probes and ―Hubble‖ telescope) has demonstrated that we are not only dealing with incomprehensible numbers and distances, but also that all of this is somehow functioning/operating in an orderly, systematic mode. (See index) A team of astronomers even found a galaxy more than 14.5 billion light years from earth. (A light year is the distance light travels in one year, so light just now reaching earth from that far away galaxy started out 14.5 billion years ago.) Let‘s face it — we are less than a speck in the greater scheme of things. One does not have to be a rocket scientist, as the saying goes, to understand and appreciate this fact. Rather humbling, oh you that argue, that man/humans alone are in charge. Einstein put forth a formula (E=mc2) that posed the equivalency of mass + energy. This could help us understand the concept of energy (spirit/breath) flowing through nature (mass) thus creating form. Even in violent natural occurrences there can be fascinating form, and only when living organisms (e.g. humans) are introduced does the energy flowing through nature collide with life energy. This points out the utter necessity that we humans must learn to live within the parameters of natural forces (much of which we don‘t understand). Since we are not all agreed as to ―Who, or What, if anything, is in control,‖ we, at least, are all agreed (and sensitive to), the awesome power of nature. I will, in a later chapter, address relatively recent findings (e.g. Big Bang, Dark Energy, Black Hole, Super Novas) relative to the subject of ―Creative Omnipotence,‖ including: macro/micro management of Universal Forces; natural disasters; biological flaws/dysfunctions; human cruelties/wars; positive-negative forces (i.e. yin-yang effect). It is interesting that most of us, not trained in telecommunications, automatically accepts (at least without much thought) the mysteries of television, and the more recent advances in digital technology, where real-life pictures and sounds are transmitted (via airwaves) over hundreds/thousands of miles to little tubes/screens in one‘s home/office/auto/field. Yet some of these same people have trouble even thinking about the possible existence of an omnipresent energy force having created the atmospheric conditions whereby the transmission of these communications are made possible. If we free up our senses, nature will talk to us and even conspire with the spirit to emancipate us. It stretches out her arms 27
Celestial Quest to embrace us, and serves as an appendix to the soul. Let our thoughts be equal to the opportunity. Much of humanity spends its time in pursuit of money, material possessions, influence, power, status, comfort, and entertainment. Life is pitiful if the ―higher goals‖ of life fade out of sight and near-sightedness sets in. Modern humanity has surrounded itself with a crowded and artificial existence at the expense of truth, virtue, wisdom, and a recognition of/and relationship with the creative force and spirit of the Universe. Every rational creature has all nature for his/her estate, if he/she will open the door and experience it. The noblest ministry of nature is to stand as the apparition of the Creator. Let‘s take a look at what just a few of the world‘s most brilliant minds had to say on the subject. Albert Einstein – ―My religion consists of a humble admiration of the inimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.‖ Voltaire – ―The development of intelligence in man indicates an intelligence in or behind the Universe.‖ Montesquieu – ―For what greater absurdity could there be than a blind fatality which had brought forth intelligent beings?‖ Humans, from the earliest known records (archaeological, paleontological, and anthropological) believed in some form of a supreme power/force. The ancients beheld this ―force‖ face-to-face through their close attention to and respect for natural phenomena. Early Native Americans had a mystical conception of an impersonal supernatural force that permeated all nature and animated all the natural actions controlling human destiny. This ―force,‖ akin to the life principle of ―Ki‖ (energy force) of the Japanese, and ―Chi‖ in Chinese. It is called ―Manito‖ by the Algonquin, ―pokunt‖ by the Shoshoni, and ―Orenda‖ by the Iroquois. Early Europeans explorers/settlers, not comprehending the real existence of this concept, usually translated it as ―The Great Spirit.‖ If the existence of a creative energy force permeating all of nature was ―a given‖ to peoples throughout history, why should this ―harmony with nature‖ be automatically discounted by anyone today? Erasmus said, ―Realism and mysticism were not always exclusive.‖ My position is that the real issue is not whether there is a Superior Being/Force, but rather, what kind of Force? Does it micro-manage our lives and is it truly, fully omnipotent? One scenario could be that the events/happenings of life are controlled by negative and positive forces outside the purview of a ―personalized‖ form of Creator/God. These forces could be in constant interaction, with sometimes the negative prevailing and sometimes the positive. This type of format could let ―God‖ off the hook when we try to understand why he allowed (if omnipotent), or even possibly initiated the many ―natural‖ disasters that have destroyed, and continue to destroy/work havoc on our lives and property. Could the ―Creator‖ function as the grand designer, but not necessarily the operator? This is somewhat akin to the ―Deist‖ take set forth early in our country‘s history. The 28
Celestial Quest Creator may, however, perform some sustaining engineering when things get too far out of kilter on earth, or elsewhere in the Universe. He could still stay aloof from direct interaction in peoples‘ lives. I once heard an interesting take on Pre-destination, a cornerstone in certain Christian denominations. It went along these lines: Imagine a large raft, with several people on board, floating down the Mississippi river. We could say that it is predestined, due to North-South current flow, that the raft will eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico. However, what the people do while on the raft is based on their own ―free will‖ decisions, not a predestined format of a Creator. This is, I realize, just one person‘s humble attempt to encourage the ―Doubters‖ out there to, at least, give some serious thought to the possibility that this life of ours is not all about us, but that a creative force does exist in the Universe. Additionally, that this magnificent Universe of ours did not just happen, but there was, in fact, a first cause. The following quote is from Proverbs, ―Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up the voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand and find knowledge of God.‖ Jesus speaking in Matthew, chapter 7, ―Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.‖ Or for those of you who are uncomfortable with Judeo-Christian philosophy, how about the pagan (at least in the eyes of the early church), yet highly enlightened Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: ―The doubters ask, where have you seen God, and how do you know he exists, that you worship as you do? In the first place, he may be seen with the eyes (i.e. we see what God does all around us; just as we know man has intellectual powers, because we see what humans do (their potentialities/products). Also, neither have I seen my own soul and yet I honor it for what it has helped me create. I constantly experience the power of the Universal, and venerate same.‖ And then there is the much more familiar quote from a highly revered (even by those questioning his divinity) personage of history. Jesus, in responding to Thomas (―the doubter‖) said, ―Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.‖ I must interject here the often-used term of ―miracle,‖ a phenomenon at the very least, perplexing to most of us. History, of course, is inundated with recordings of these unexplainable phenomena, so it does not seem necessary to elaborate on them here. However, I can‘t help but mention an experience I had in my recent ―Swim for Debbie,‖ also known as the ―Impossible Dream.‖ As one of the newspapers (Macon County News) covering the epic swim stated: ―Having trained for months at the Cherokee Aquatic Center, Nichols said his confidence only wavered once the night before the challenge when he was awakened at 1 a.m. by extreme back pain. [See details in ―Swim for Debbie‖ report]. He said he knew then that it would take divine intervention to achieve what he called his impossible dream — a 15mile swim in honor of Debbie. Nichols said all of the prayers (including his own) for his dream to be realized must have been heard, for as soon as he entered the foreboding waters to begin the historical swim, the pain lifted from his body and all he knew was to swim and swim and swim. If at any time he felt a degree of weariness, chill or cramping, he said he would think of his heroic niece and how she faced adversity, and he would keep swimming.‖ 29
Celestial Quest Okay, what happened here? Was it the oft heard term ―power of prayer‖ kicking in? Was it a ―miracle?‖ Some may find God, or at least an awareness, of a spiritual presence, a creative source while seated beside a quiet stream and looking up at beautiful encompassing mountains as I have many times. Some while watching a sunset painted in vivid colors across a majestic sky; some while watching the rhythmic rolling ocean waves; some while engulfed in the lush vegetation of jungle life or the distant, yet flowering dunes of a desert. (While swimming non-stop for nine hours, I actually felt I had become one with the water, an integral part of nature). How many of you have taken the time to watch the sparkle and enchantment of the midnight sky, the embodiment of our Universe? Even city dwellers can do this from terraced, protected building tops, bridge walkways, structured decks, and the myriad of city parks, if they were so inclined. As one who was at the launch site for all the lunar launches, I distinctly remember when our Apollo 8 astronauts expressed their feelings of a spiritual presence while they circled the moon. Since then, many space travelers have been in awe of what they experience and have credited our vast universe to a divine creator. (See ―Astronaut‖ poem) It is through these awesome works of nature that our Creator communicates with us and provides us with spiritual inspiration and a freedom of mind, and raises life to its highest plane and true value. To be caught up in this beauty and magnificence is to be free of the hypocrisy of our crowd, materialistic existence and is to find a better understanding and acceptance of life and the creative force behind it all. Art References: The Awakening Alpha and Omega The Dance of Life And God Created Primal Fury Jungle Mist Omnipresence Nature‘s Design Poetry: Fallow Fields (James P. Pequet) If I‘m Dreaming, Let Me Be (Dorothy E. Nichols) Life‘s Sonnet (Dorothy E. Nichols) The Astronaut (Dorothy E. Nichols)
Figure 13 - The Awakening (Wormy Chestnut – 84” x 24”)
This Large unusually shaped section of an extinct tree was recovered by me and my art student Mark Hollis during an annual draw-down of the TVA‘s ―Lake Fontana‖ reservoir. This particular reservoir was created via the damming of the Little Tennessee river valley in 1942, thus this wood, submerged for near seventy years, has been brought back as an art treasure. It is interesting that once I chipped away the outer, softer wood (and hollowed out the center) I discovered numerous stones imbedded deep in the core. I can only surmise they were caught up in the tree limbs during the swirling waters.
Figure 14 - Alpha and Omega (Painting on ¾ board – 4’ x 2’)
The ―beginning‖ and the ―end‖. Depicts a Creator, in woman form, spiritually drawing/raising the human species (in child state) from the depths of earth; guiding thru life process; and eventually returning the body to earth (a la ―earth to earth, dust to dust‖). The soul is reflected returning to the Creator in the spirit of love.
Figure 15 - The Dance of Life (Painting 56” x 40”/Mexican Raspberry Alabaster 22” x 10”)
Male and female forms swirling through life, entwined in a spiritual state of love and heavenly awe. The painting introduces an embryonic reflection to the never ending human creative process. Also included is a classical rendition entitled ―The Dance‖. The ―Dance of Life‖ received the top award in the prestigious Broyhill Gardens Sculptural competition. For the highly anatomical (classical) work (Figure 16) I attended my first (and only) ballet to make sure I got the ballet ―lift‖ right.
Figure 16 - The Dance
Figure 17 - And God Created (Charcoal Drawing and Buckeye wood)
Represents the Garden of Eden theme of the creation of man and woman. The figures are evolving out of the earth in a swirling upward flow in reverence to their Creator. (In possession of a NYC/Boston collector)
Figure 18 - Primal Fury (Carrara Marble – 26” x 18”) (Bronze – 21” x 16”)
Two horses, with nostrils flaring and open mouths exposing teeth and tongues, wrapped around each other in a state of primal ecstasy. This representation can easily relate to the human emotion of passion and even rage. It puts the creation of ever important animal species into the broader scheme of earthly inhabitation.
Figure 19 - Jungle Mist (Virginia Soap Stone 20â€? x 10â€?/Bronze)
A Black Leopard (Panther), in its natural state of survival, in an increasingly limited and threatening environment. One more of the many examples of the environmental disasters facing our world.
Figure 20 – Omnipresence (24” x 18”)
A majestic bald eagle flying downward from above a layer of floating clouds to alight on a barren three. I can‘t help but feel the presence of a creative spirit on such a powerful, but beautiful sight.
Figure 21 - Nature's Design (30” x 24”)
Geese in their instinctive ―V‖ formation silhouetted against an early morning sky on one of their seasonal migrations. Don‘t know how anyone can possibly witness one of these overwhelming natural phenomenons without coming to terms with the creative essence behind it all.
Figure 22 – Remembrance (24” x 18”)
I often passed by this old stump (the remains of a once majestic tree) while wandering the swamps (and forest) of South Georgia. For some reason I was unable to get the image out of my mind, so after returning from one of my Georgia adventures I painted my ―Remembrance‖. Again, to me, this was a spiritual experience.
Celestial Quest FALLOW FIELDS
We are fallow fields until God comes to work in us. We produce only weeds until God plants the seeds of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Then, we must lie and wait for the hand of God to work in us and harvest us for other's use. James P. Pecquet
Celestial Quest If I'm Dreaming, Let Me Be I love life and its mysteries, The mountains and the trees. The plains, the sands and grass so green. There's the ocean and the streams. There's the flowers rich in fragrant splendor, Colors bright and petals tender. Plants that grow and feed the living, Abundant foods that keep on giving. There's the brilliant sun and golden moon That seems to smile when lovers spoon. The twinkling stars in heavenly glory, They too could tell a lively story. There's winds and rain and noisy thunder That makes a man take heed and wonder. Then the rainbow makes her grand debut, And chases clouds that make you blue. Then there is day for work and play, But man gets tired at close of day. Then comes the stillness of the night So he can rest 'till morning bright. And then there is amazing birth. A new life comes upon the earth. And with each fleeting hour too, There's death that comes and captures you. There's music, love, and laughter gay, Or grief and tears may come your way., Rich blood may flow through every vein Or sickness comes and you have pain. If I am dreaming, let me be. For if awake I could not see The wonders of this earth and sky; I'd want to lay me down and die. Dorothy Elizabeth Nichols
Celestial Quest Life's Sonnet Wonders of this world, to me, are countless. Life itself! Eyes to see, God gave to me. My heart keeps beating even though I rest, I wake because a bird sings in a nest. I can smell the fragrance of each flower, And touch the earth to feel the morning dew. Born with a love to share; love with power, To make a friend, and feel their warmth in you. A salty teardrop trickling down my cheek, Then laughter comes and tries to take its place. The strength to help, though I may seem too weak, To build anew, a faith in every race. But to calm my soul, when the wind is wild, I must have a smile, from a little child. Dorothy Elizabeth Nichols
Celestial Quest The Astronaut Around, around, around, the heavens are yours today. The astronaut, courageous, will lead us on our way. For all mankind has made it known, That they aren't content with earth alone. Though, be it true, that the human race With rockets for cradles to reach outer space, Each star and each planet, what secrets they hold, Up until now, their stories untold. It's weird enchantment to all as they gaze, At the heavens above, each whispers a praise. What lies there beyond? That question again? Sometimes, with great fear, I pray for these men. God guide them and keep them, for you gave man a mind, To learn and explore what our astronauts find. Dorothy Elizabeth Nichols
CHAPTER III - THE TRADITIONALISTS Since these Traditionalists are people of the ―Book‖ let‘s begin with what I consider a very germane message from Paul, recorded in the King James version of Acts 17:22-29: ―Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are superstitious, for as I passed by, beheld your devotions I found an altar with this inscription: ―TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.‖ Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto You: god that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples (i.e.bldgs.) made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord if happily they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from everyone of us; For in him we live and move and have our being (as certain also of your own poets have said), for we are also his offspring.‖ This God of Paul is ―Christ Jesus,‖ and if one devotes his/her time to the study of the Bible, and does not put the teachings/message of Jesus into practice (on a daily basis), all this excessive reading is no more than a mental exercise. This is especially true if you spend an inordinate amount of time laboriously wading through the many books of the ―Old Testament‖ (much of which is an Epic of the Jewish tribes), just to be able to recite names, places, and events. It‘s sort of like taking a college literature or history course just to get your required credits. Dwelling on the O.T. as so many in the religious community do, can, in my humble opinion, stifle or complicate our relationship with Jesus. Our belief in, and love of Jesus, should always be uppermost in our hearts. Instead of becoming, caught up in, and even confused by the extremely fearful, threatening, killings/wars and considerable destructively-oriented, discourses (incl. Outright inconsistency with actual teachings and life of Jesus) of the O.T., why not draw (for validation) only those specific references to scripture made by Jesus, as part of his ministry of love. For example, numerous messianic prophecies; and of course, the ―law‖ (commandments). It is to be noted, however, that the O.T. literature is an exceptional read. It is an integral part of ancient history, ripe with ―Homeric‖ oriented mythology; Epic-style treatment of wanderings of Jewish tribes and their national history; extensive genealogical, legalistic, and ritualistic instruction; beautiful poetry, psalms, and prophecy. We do not, however, need anything near a Ph.D. in ancient history or religion to know what our Lord Jesus expects of us. It‘s right there in the relatively brief Gospels, very succinctly stated in oft-translated, but still beautiful words of the Teacher from Nazareth. It is all so very simple. The important thing, however, is to put his beautiful message of love into practice in our everyday thoughts and doings. Don‘t ever forget that God is Love. One‘s personal ministry should be based on the ministry of Jesus (i.e. ministry of love). When one is won over to Christ Jesus and his message of love, good naturally follows, whereas a ministry based on fear of God and threats is highly suspect, and shortterm at best. ―Not everyone who saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21). ―And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful 44
Celestial Quest are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of Peace, and glad tidings of good things.‖ (Romans 10:15). ―Love worketh no ill to his neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.‖ (Romans 13:10). ―Love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.‖ Jesus‘ message is not only one of love, but one of hope, yet it is unfortunately apparent that there are elements of Institutional Christianity that seem to be geared to the ―fear factor‖ (i.e. fear or God, fear of ―Doomsday‖ and all the terrors this will bring). This element is also hung up on Satan/Devil (whatever this may be). They actually seem to spend more time dwelling on, and talking about this Satan thing then they do about Jesus. This should not be, especially since Jesus‘ ministry emphasized the ―Loving Father‖ concept of God. A loving, earthly father does not go around threatening his children with death and destruction, even if they happen, at times, to go astray. The loving father reaches out his hand and helps them arise, and get back on track (albeit the parable of the prodigal son). Marcus Aurelius said: ―As a mark is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world. Virtue is the mark which God has set up for us to aim at; missing it is our fault, not his. Likewise our failures do not indicate that there is anything wrong in the Universe, in nature, but only in us.‖ The ―Church‖ has done, and continues to do some very good things. However, some aspects of the ―Institution‖ do not seem to be in sync with Jesus‘ type of ministry. Within certain elements there is a maze of organizational structures; hierarchies with its inherent power structures; over-emphasis on doctrinal (dogma) and liturgical stipulations; excessive pomp and ceremony in certain forums; rules and regulations, (Except for the practices of baptism and the eucharist (communion) I don‘t see any of this deriving from Jesus‘ ministry.) All the ―additives‖ are man-made, with the resulting confusion and even built-in intolerance for all other points of view. It seems that much of organized religions (not just Christianity) prefers ―cow-path‖ adherents to rational (brain-using) members. ―Folly is a joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.‖ Prov.15:21. It should be noted that our Creator (God) is the one that gave us a brain, so this source must have intended we use it. It seems that no matter how many times questions are raised on Biblical discrepancies/contradictions, the brain-washed of the ―flock‖ will not see the problem. They will come up with some irrelevancy or just say ―you shouldn‘t be questioning this or that.‖ Then there are those that seem convinced their religions or denomination‘s take on ―scripture‖ is the only possible one, even though they have never done any research or honest assessment. They also know nothing about any other religion, philosophy, or theological issues. They automatically close their minds to all knowledge. I‘ve even been told by some of these people that they purposely avoid reading anything that may alter their views, or counter in any way the doctrine/practices of their particular religious affiliation. (Shades of Savonarola‘s book burning known as the ―Bonfire of the Vanities‖). Jesus took on the bureaucrats (e.g. Pharisees, Sadducees, Roman officials) and intolerant power structure of his day and told them emphatically that they were off base and on the wrong track. Needless to say, it got him crucified. Later, during the Institutional Church‘s own ―Inquisition‖ many who raised questions were also put to death (burned at the stake) or tortured (e.g. the rack). Talk about the ―Church‖ not getting ―his‖ message of Love! 45
Celestial Quest The early church also stuck us with the concept of ―Original Sin,‖ based on, I suppose, the act and punishment of Adam and Eve addressed in Genesis, Chapter 3. Unless one is ―brain dead‖ he/she would naturally question why all of mankind, including all future generations, should be punished for the disobedience of just two children, way back in the beginning of time. (Does Chapter 3 really delineate this stupidity that so much of Institutional Christianity ―hangs its hat on?‖) Isn‘t the whole book of Genesis just mythological anyway? ―Sin and Satan‖ seem to be synonymous in the eyes of elements within the Institutional Church. How should we actually know the specifics of ―sin,‖ and what it is based on? Is it non-compliance with Moses‘ Ten Commandments; the Jewish Law/regulations as set forth in the Torah and Talmud; non-compliance with the ―church‘s‖ dogma, sacraments, liturgy, rules/regulations; or what? Proverbs 6:16-18 lists these as what the Lord considers abominations: ―a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief; a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.‖ It is to be noted that on March 10, 2008, the Vatican released an updated list of ―sins‖ to include: 1. Polluting; 2. Manipulating DNA; and 3. Using mind-altering drugs. (I wonder if this last one includes mind-altering ―alcohol‖ since so many within the clergy imbibe?) Could it be that what Institutional Christianity calls the work of this Satan factor is really negative energy flowing within people, at any given time? If we learn the way to negate the negative by emphasizing the positive energy force, humanity will survive. Truly following Jesus is, in my mind, The Way. Another critical issue the Traditionalists need to come to terms with is whether the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of Christ Jesus, and if so, is he a Loving Father (as Jesus contends) or not? You can‘t have a God of pure, unselfish love, forgiveness, compassion and mercy on the one hand, and a God of spitefulness, condemnation, vindictiveness, unmercifulness, wrathfulness and war on the other hand. This latter idea is far too prevalent in the Epic depiction of the early tribes of Israel, as is evidences by the Noah flood tale in which the God of the O.T. drowned all of humanity (and other life) except for Noah‘s family and certain animals. Which do you want: A God of love, mercy, and forgiveness or a God of death and destruction? I’ll take Jesus. And who, by the way, made the call as to what specific writings would constitute Biblical (including canonical) scripture? Was this done, as supposed, at the ―Council of Nicaea‖ in AD 325, convened at the order of Constantine (so-called the Great)? What gave the participants of the Council the authority, not to mention the ―infinite wisdom‖ to make these decisions, thus setting forth a ―mind control‖ policy for all time? What about now lost writings (e.g. Q documents)? What about the Gnostic gospels and other non-canonical books? What about Papal interpretations/condemnations? What normally takes place, in transcripts as the result of numerous re-writes, translations, and long time spans? (Think about it. Doesn‘t consistency/contradiction, missing facts, misinterpretations, writers‘ preferences 46
Celestial Quest and prejudices, hierarchal orders, etc. Creep in?) Now let us return to Jesus. I mentioned earlier that one doesn‘t have to be so-called religious at all to lead a good life and be a positive influence in society. Many follow the Universal maxim ―Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,‖ with some degree of success. One does not even have to believe in the divinity (a la the Holy Trinity) of Jesus as long as they follow his beautiful earthly message of love. There are many example of this. However, let us never forget that Jesus not only implemented this concept fully, but went way beyond, even to sacrificing himself for all of us. We will discuss this as well as his humanly challenging ―Sermon on the Mount‖ message (e.g. love all people, even those that do you harm) at a later point in this treatise. What amazes and even saddens me is that so many in Institutional Christianity (not to mention other religions of the ―Book‖) do not in practice actually follow this beautiful ―God of Love.‖ They seem at times to just prefer the ―institution‖ itself. At this juncture, let me list a few of the references (prophecies) to Jesus made hundreds of years before he walked the earth: Isaiah 53:3-9, 12; 7:14, 9:6,7 (This was all written approximately 700 years before Jesus and describes in detail events surrounding his birth, earthly mission, death and resurrection) Psalm 22 foretold betrayal, false witness, manner of death and resurrection Deuteronomy predicted prophet greater than Moses Micah pinpointed place of birth/Bethlehem Jeremiah (specified ancestry) Proverbs (chapter 8) sets forth the entire concept of the wisdom of Christ and this relationship to all of us. I do have a question on the ancestry/genealogy given for Jesus in scripture. That is: why is there so much said about Jesus being of the lineage and seed of David? I thought, as the Gospels assert, he was the son (seed) of god. Remember the Virgin Birth story. Which is it going to be: Son of God or Son of David? Also, why have the ―children of Israel‖ rejected outright, these prophecies, when they came from their own revered/heralded founders/teachers, and recorded in their own sacred literature? The Torah (Pentateuch) as well as the Septuagint (Greek translation), recognized a God, creator of the heavens and earth, and everything within (including human species). Yet this O.T. God seems to side primarily with one people group (Israel). In so doing, he causes horrible suffering (pestilence, starvation, killings/wars, etc.) on other tribes that contend with Israel. In essence, he is the god of war (a la the Greek ―Mars‖). The God of Jesus, on the other hand is the God of Love and Peace. When I questioned some of our extreme wing of the ―Church‖ about their war-waging and other vengeful (e.g. death penalty) inclinations, and these inconsistencies with teachings (love, forgiveness, mercy) of Jesus, I was told that Jesus must be viewed in the context of the Old Testament (e.g. God of wrath). Also, that Jesus was only talking to the Jews of his day. Wow, I really wonder to what extent this is believed within the overall ―Church.‖ God‘s message according to Jesus is of a different bent and is straightforward. All it takes to gain this knowledge is to read one brief sermon (Sermon on the Mount‖). From his own mouth (and actions) the Holy Spirit communicated God‘s message: ―True, unselfish love, for all 47
Celestial Quest peoples.‖ Please, don‘t gum up this simple, yet beautiful message with ―man-made‖ gobbledygook.‖ Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.‖ (Prov. 16:18). There was another-worldliness in the Church of the Apostles, which seems to have vanished in today‘s Institutional Church. The present world seems to occupy so much of the Church‘s attention, as is evidenced by increasing involvement in politics, the material world, as well as commercialization (e.g. TV so-called evangelism) of Christianity. Making a buck out of one‘s ministry seems to be the order of the day. (Shades of the selling of ―Indulgences‖ by bishops/priests, resulting in Luther‘s Protestant revolution.) Then there‘s the huckstering/competition among various denominations/sects resulting in considerable intolerance, and the turning off of many potential church adherents. Also, what are certain elements within Institutional Christianity doing actively supporting and even encouraging earthly wars of aggression/occupation? Again, somebody‘s apparently not getting the ―message.‖ Proverbs 16:7 reminds us: ―When a man‘s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.‖ Morihei Uyeshiba, the great Japanese martial artist and founder of ―Aikido,‖ sounds more Christian than so many professed Christian ideologues, which have led us into aggressive, non-sensical wars. These are his beautiful works in describing his own spiritual experience: ―I felt that the universe suddenly quaked, and that a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into gold. At the same time my mind and body became light. I was able to understand the whispering of the birds, and was clearly aware of the mind of God, the Creator of this universe. At that moment I was enlightened: the source of ―budo‖ is God‘s love — the spirit of loving protection for all beings. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. Since that time I have grown to feel that the whole earth is my home and the sun, the moon and the stars are all my own things. I had become free from all desire, not only position, fame, and property, but also to be strong. I understood: Budo is not felling the opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world into destruction with arms. True budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect, and cultivate all beings in Nature. I understood: The training of budo is to take God‘s love, which correctly produces, protects and cultivates all things in Nature, and assimilate and utilize it in our own mind and body.‖ It should be noted that Aikido means the way to harmony with Ki (energy/spirit) of the universe. There is no attack mode in the martial art of Aikido. The Aikidoist does not do any technique until the attack is launched directly at him or her. Then the force of the attack (not attacker) is redirected and neutralized. The Aikidoist never purposely tries to hurt the attacker. (However, the attacker, thru his/her own violent action may hurt his/her own self.) Let me digress a little. How many times have you been told (especially when growing up) that you got to be tough? This is drilled into us (especially boys) from an early age. You must be physically tough, don‘t let anyone bully you, push you around, etc. Get the first punch in if you can. (The old sucker punch). Look what is so popular these days on TV 48
Celestial Quest and on the internet. Such extreme physical violence the likes of which has never been mass-produced for primetime, regular audiences (especially children). Is the public really clamoring for this stuff so much that network/station owners and producers (many of whom profess to be Christians, or people of the ―Book‖), will fall prey to the religion of greed, sell out to commercial sponsors, and in so doing destroy the minds of viewers (many, children). No wonder violence and war is glorified. Being tough is also a byword in other walks of life (business world, government, sports, education, arts, institutional religion, etc.). We are continually cautioned: not to be taken advantage of; get even; don‘t take it lying down; don‘t give an inch; hit back; beat them at their own game; take what you can get; always best the other person; lash out; and the old standby ―hang tough.‖ Honestly, how does all this fit into the universal maxim: ―Do unto others what you would have them do unto you,‖ or, of course, the much tougher instruction of Jesus, i.e. turn the other cheek; go the extra mile; if someone takes from you, give him more; love your enemies, forgive those that do you harm? I have been asking the religious community this question for years and still have not received a rational reply. Oh, some have said, ―you just have to be a realist, it is ―human nature‖ to be self-serving and belligerent.‖ Everyone‘s on an ego trip. Then there are the Job-ites previously mentioned whose answer to every difficult question is: ―Read Job.‖ I will say that in my seventy years, I have know some people that are basically good, some especially good, and then some especially (even downright cruel and evil). Why, I ask of the ―church‖ are some people good, caring and compassionate, and so many others downright awful? Please don‘t give me the old cop-out reply, ―it‘s Satan‘s doing.‖ You don‘t even know what a Satan/Devil is, let alone if there even is a physical entity of such a creature, or even how it functions, even if there was. Can‘t we, the creations of an omnipotent/all-powerful, yet all-loving Supreme Being ever be responsible for our own actions, and not put the blame on some kind of weird Devil creature. As the oft-stated maxim says: ―Let‘s get real.‖ Has Institutional Religion, parents and families, governments and society in general failed, or at least fallen down on their responsibilities? Okay, now back to ―being tough.‖ I contend real toughness is demonstrated in a much different way than earlier presented. I think the truly tough person is one that will risk everything to go out on the proverbial limb to help someone that is hurting, in whatever way this may be. The truly tough person, though they themselves are suffering (physically, mentally, financially) will, nonetheless reach out to help (and soothe) the suffering of others. The truly tough will not give into age, or physical deterioration, but will continue giving their all for society, right till the end. Retirement, do nothing-ism, and living ―high-on-the-hog‖ are not words in their vocabulary. Helping one‘s neighbor; volunteer work; using one‘s talents to make a difference; helping in natural disasters; on and on. So, I contend that there are different ways of serving our Creator; some do it via organized religious/groups. Some directly to those they see as ―in need.‖ As long as we truly serve and achieve the objective, both approaches should be acceptable —are they not? I also feel obliged to add: why do we have to technically belong to some kind of religious organization, denomination/sect etc. in order to believe in ―Jesus,‖ and, of course, follow his beautiful message/teachings? Doesn‘t it all have to do with how we 49
Celestial Quest relate to our fellow human being, using Jesus‘ words and actions as our guide on how to do this? Is it really about talking (or even preaching) the ―Message,‖ or is it about doing, i.e. living the ―Message?‖ My take is that it‘s about setting an example, as Jesus himself did. ―Walk the walk‖ not just ―talk the talk.‖ As far as ―Faith‖ is concerned, I do, of course, recognize that the majority of the ―flock‖ actually needs the church (buildings, formal services, activities, etc.) in order to sustain their faith. Others of us do not. If a ―church‖ is what it takes, go for it. The important thing is: What do you do with your faith? Practice it on Sunday morning, or serve Jesus, in helping others, every day of your life? Now, to another all too puzzling matter having extreme consequences on humanity previously inferred, many people of ―Gospel‖ orientation have, and continue to be, the biggest advocates of aggressive pre-emptive strike and warring against their earthly neighbors. How can this be in light of the teachings of Jesus, I sure don‘t get where they are coming from. Didn‘t he specifically say, ―put away your sword,‖ not to mention ―Love your enemies, and they that do you harm?‖ Also, never forget that until the latter part of the 19th century, much of the ―church‖ seemed to turn a blind eye to the horrible, in-human practice of slavery and allowed it to foster. Why? For centuries the Institutional Church has been made up of the devout, and (based on their conduct outside the church building), the ―part-timers.‖ Many of these selfabsorbed, self-serving ―part-timers‖ have sought out an easy road to ―Grace.‖ The hard realities of life test us daily and we must be up to Jesus‘ expectations regardless. Why don‘t more good people speak out against hypocrisy within the ―Church‖ or wherever else people claim to follow his teachings, but don‘t. Let‘s all take His words seriously. For example, shouldn‘t we, if at all possible, do more than just pray for someone that is hurting (for whatever reason)? Again, isn‘t it all about tangible service? Or as I mentioned before, instead of loafing around, if you‘re able, do meaningful volunteer work. There is a myriad of needs and opportunities for this kind of service. For example: hospice; meals on wheels; REACH; various help-the-handicapped programs; youth services – scouting, Big Brother — Salvation Army programs; hospital volunteering; humane society; feed the hungry programs (some of these are already sponsored by responsible church groups; literacy assistance etc. Then there is the all-important, and not to be discounted, one-on-one helping/assisting where the service is rendered, regardless of an organized charity or program. Or use one‘s own unique talents, expertise, and skills in the service (non-monetary) of others. One should, at all times, demonstrate his/her compassion/caring by personal example. This is the only valid way. It should be noted here that many individuals and families, have through endowments/foundations done wonderful and immensely meaningful good works for those in need, and society in general. These blessed individuals, through the sharing of their resources (and time) have met the needs, not only of their own communities, but even reached out, in many ways, to alleviate suffering humanity (and even animal life) throughout the world. It is important to point out that many of these benefactors are not part of Institutional Religion, so where do you think their inspiration is coming from? Of course maybe the most critical area of need is medical care for the millions that are suffering (and dying untimely) due to lack of money for doctor or hospital treatments. I‘m not just talking about the indigent, but those other poor souls uninsured or under50
Celestial Quest insured. Some medical professionals have reached out, but much more needs to be done here. The ―Church‖ also must, at all times, acknowledge that it does not have a lock on, or responsibility for service to humanity. I wish organized Christianity would, at least, acknowledge that one can be a good Christian with or without the Church membership. The true message of Jesus runs through all of us, whether it is acknowledged as such, or not. The question is: Why play holier-than-thou just because you enter a ―building‖ every Sunday morning (or Saturday)? ―Though I speak with the tongues of men an angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal … And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.‖ I Corinthians 13. Remember the saying, ―By their fruits ye shall know them.‖ And of course, ―If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up the cross daily, and follow me.‖ Luke 9:23. I have said much about the laws of Institutional Christianity, but that is not to say the ―church‖ in general is not playing a role in advancing/spreading the message of Jesus, or providing a type of setting for his worship. Institutional Religion (church, synagogue, mosque, and temple) has for centuries, provided a place for many to gather together in worship of their version of ―God‖ and to be a source of comfort and personal identity for many of the lost and suffering souls of this world. Its buildings provide a usually safe and friendly destination point for the sharing of one‘s particular religious views and spiritual experience. Many devout members of Institutional Religion have, and continue to, reach out (in various ways) to help victims of natural disasters; aid the sick and hungry; be a friend in times of personal tragedy; ―help-their-neighbor,‖ either near or abroad. This is certainly in the true spirit of Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao-tzu, Zoroaster, and others that taught the Universal ethic of ―helping others.‖ So, when I point out, or raise a question regarding a particular action (e.g. hypocrisy/belligerence not consistent with ―the Message‖). I am not trying to diminish the role of Institutional Religion, but urge and pray for it to get back on the track, intended by the particular founder. (Why is it that after the ―sage‖ passes on the followers screw thing up?) This will actually strengthen the ―ministry of good.‖ Another aspect of the organized religion (at least the Christian Church of which I am most familiar) is ―music ministry.‖ This is a beautiful and positive way of bringing people closer to a spiritual awakening and a love of your fellow human being, via the message of Jesus. I even know of agnostics who truly enjoy religious oriented music, even gospel. So this is a good thing. Church pageantry/plays aimed at communicating the story of Jesus can also be quite effective, especially for the young. The visual arts (as I certainly can attest to) can touch the soul of someone needing a spiritual experience, especially Jesus in their life. More will be said on this subject in Chapter 8. And, how many children have learned of the beautiful story of Jesus via a pictorial illustrated, well-written book? How many of us give serious thought to the following: 1. True meaning of life; 2. What really is important (i.e. what should my priorities be?); 3. What should be my relationship to those I share the planet with (i.e. what my responsibilities to others be); 4. Is there something beyond self (i.e. A spiritual relationship with an unseen, but still guiding force in the Universe?; 5. How do I tap into this non-physical/material energic force/spirit? (i.e. how do I know and come to terms with the essence of the spirit flowing through everything in the Universe?) Maybe, just maybe, one does not have to wrack his or her 51
Celestial Quest brain to resolve the preceding issues. Acknowledging first that not all of us see things the same way. The answer for some could be readily available. It could be as simple as reading the brief, but all-inspiring, yet challenging ―Sermon On The Mount: as well as the fascinating parables (e.g. ―Good Samaritan) of that poor, itinerant sage, Jesus of Nazareth. This method is really so simple, and just think what a wonderful world this would be if we all (or as many as possible) just follow (practice) the beautiful message of: love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness that this perfect human being set forth. He, in essence, set the example for acting out the true meaning of life and realizing/experiencing a relationship with our Creator. The divinity factor will be covered in a later chapter, but the point here is that even if one has trouble assimilating the ramifications of Jesus‘ divinity, my humble belief is that this beautiful message in itself will go a long way toward bringing peace to the individual, as well as creating a better world for all of us to reside, and make life meaningful to everyone, not just the fortunate few. Art References: The Forbidden Eden Lost Isaac‘s Ram The Struggle The Rapture Morihei Uyeshiba Bible Study Solitude Reverence
Figure 23 - The Forbidden (Vista Grande Onyx – 40” x 20” 450lbs)n
Represents the Genesis account of the Garden of Eden happening. Entwined within the ―Tree of Knowledge of good and evil,‖ Eve, guided by the serpent (Satan), reaches for the ―Forbidden Fruit‖. The beautiful and rare form of onyx lends itself to this mystical garden scene and is now the centerpiece of my sculptural garden.
Figure 24 - Eden Lost (English Walnut and Buckeye – 24” x 12”)
Represents (with a tinge of surrealism) the downfall of humanity. Was originally a burntout log found in California by a friend of mine and brought to me in hopes I could create something out of it. Though I made full use of the distorted formation (e.g. skull) I nonetheless pursued a mythological theme including the serpent and human factor. The upward lifting arms and hands in prayerful position also gives the viewer elements of hope, in midst of distortion/suffering.
Figure 25 - Isaac's Ram (Travertine)
Though beginning as a pure abstract form, with no preconceived subject, the stone evolved into a discernable human figure and a Ramâ€˜s head. Viewers began seeing a connection to the biblical story of a sheep being sacrificed en lieu of Isaac.
Figure 26- The Struggle (Buckeye – 42” x 14”)
Figure 27 - The Rapture (Translucent Alabaster 28â€? x 14â€?/Bronze)
Figure 26: An angelic apparition pulls humanity out of the depth of the abyss while a skeletal hand and arm reaches out and around the neck of a human, trying to prevent the escape. The sculpture represents, in art form, the struggle between life and death, as well as good and evil. Figure 27: Two Beautiful, spiritually transcending angels reaching upward in love and praise of the Devine Creator. Though viewed in awe and reverence wherever exhibited the alabaster version graces the beautiful mountain estate of Renaissance art collector, Jere Sechler.
Figure 28 - Quest For Knowledge (Morihei Uyeshiba) Pen and Ink
Figure 29 - Bible Study (Charcoal)
Figure 30 – Solitude (30” x 20”)
An elderly gentleman dozing off on a park bench somewhere in Paris. We have all felt weary at times and our minds wander far away. It is, at times like this, that we often wonder ―what it‘s all about‖, this life of ours. For me, it is times like this that I feel especially close to my Creator. (The painting is based on a Photo taken by my son Mike while on a trip thru France and Italy.)
Figure 31 - Reverence
Though painted two years before my granddaughter Jenniferâ€˜s birth the child (in the painting) looks exactly like Jen did at this early age.
CHAPTER IV - WHO’S AT THE HELM? Do we really need to ask the hard questions or should we rational beings just hush up and stop ―rocking the boat?‖ So many in Institutional Christianity seem to either avoid the questions outright, or give irrational, cop-out replies. Also, the atheists and agnostics that I have heard from either don‘t seem concerned enough about these universal, earth threatening issues to give them much thought, or just feel it‘s a lost cause. However, I do consider addressing the tough questions very important and here they are: 1. Is the Superior Being/God/First Cause that created the physical elements (from massive to infinitesimal) of the Universe the same as the ―Father‖ referred to by Jesus, in his ministry? 2. Is this ―God‖ really omnipotent as the Institutional church contends? 3. Is this source a loving-father as Jesus said, and, of course, the ―Church‖ contends? 4. If the answers to the above are ―yes,‖ then why the astronomical death toll, maimings, disease, extreme suffering (physical, mental, homelessness, etc.) inherent in the never-ending natural catastrophes here on earth? 5. Is this loving, omnipotent God of the ―Church‖ really taking an active/positive role in the Universe and particularly in our lives? 6. Really, how can we make sense of all this? Anyone – please help. First, the issue of natural disasters (i.e. earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tidal waves (tsunamis) extreme flooding, lightning strikes and destructive fires that may result as well as various other weather related disasters.) The phenomenon of human initiated horrors will be reviewed in a later chapter. ―Webster‖ defines nature/natural: the sum total of all things in time and space; the entire physical universe; the power, force, principle that seems to regulate this. (I heard it said, by those in the ―Church,‖ that nature is the state of man, unredeemed by grace). Now, if the Creator/God is as the ―Church‖ contends, not only omnipotent, but also a loving, merciful Creator, why does this source cause (or allow to occur) natural catastrophes? We must all remember the Tsunami in the Far East. The total killed (by God, if in control?) surpassed 250,000 (a third of which were children), and the numbers maimed, and made homeless in the millions. The toll from disease is beyond tally. The countries, heavy in Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist religions, have some of the poorest populations in the world. (Of course world governments, private organizations, and individuals did their best to alleviate the suffering.) Then, we, in the U.S. experienced ―Katrina‖ and its horrible aftermath; numerous tornadoes, floods, etc. the Pakistan earthquake occurring in same timeframe resulted in upwards of 75,000 dead, 250,000 homeless, and in Indonesia, 6,500 dead, 50,000 injured/missing, 650,000 homeless. More recently, the Myanmar (Burma) cyclone resulting in the death of more than 150,000, plus rampant disease and starvation, as well as, homelessness in the millions. Also the China earthquake killing 60,000. These are just a few examples of the devastation brought on by natural (non-man initiated) disasters. There are many, many more. The big question is: If the Creator/God is the all-powerful, loving father as the gospels (and the ―Church‖) say, why does God‘s actions not bear this out? Or, maybe he is the wrathful God of the Old Testament or no God at all, as the atheists contend. Sure would be nice, if he is, as I believe, the God of Jesus, that he will soon take pity on us poor souls, and enlighten us. So far, not only does he/she not seem to care to help us 62
Celestial Quest understand, but not a single ―Church‖ leader has come forward to help make sense out of all this, at least in an honest, open-minded, rational, thought-provoking, non cop-out manner. When I raised these questions to avid, ―Bible-thumping‖ church-goers, I either got the stupid reply that we should not question these things, or we should have built the levies stronger, even though God sent the hurricane. Then, of course, anyone watching TV would have heard about one Evangelical ―heavy‖ who said god was punishing the people of New Orleans for their inappropriate lifestyle. Then we have certain TV preachers trying to look at the positives in all these horrors by saying basically we can‘t look at things in the short term. In other words, God has a plan for all of us and we just have to have faith and patience. (Tell that to the 250,000 – a third of which were children - who were killed in the tsunami and the 75,000 killed in the Pakistan earthquake.) Also, have you even noticed that for some combative individuals there is no such thing as reason or respect for other points of view. To them it is all a form of competition. They aim to best the other person no matter where the truth lies. I also got the old ―read Job‖ cop-out. It is interesting to note that, in the story, Job actually (unlike the victims mentioned above) ended up with the good life, far more wealth and material things than before. God asked the Devil to zap him. I even find it strange that a ―Loving Father/God‖ would make a pact (to prove a point/sustain his ego) with a cruel ―Satanic Creature,‖ and allow this ―thing‖ to devastate and even destroy the children of god. Would a loving human father ever stoop to this cruelty? The ―Job-ites‖ need to start thinking. It saddens me that we suffering humans can‘t get anyone to help us understand. Why should anyone even believe in the concept of a ―Loving God‖ if the evidence is otherwise? Then there‘s the outside chance that, since humans are good and bad, and we are created in God‘s image (as stated in Genesis) then, maybe god is both good and bad. Of course, this does not play well, in light of the ―God of the Gospels.‖ Now if we pattern ourselves after the wrathful/fearful God of the O.T. it would be different. I prefer God of Jesus. How about we look at some real mind-boggling rationale, (and oh, do I tread on some dangerous waters here). Could it possibly be that there is a distinct separation between the Creative Force (or first cause/seed) responsible for the natural/physical elements (i.e. nature) of the Universe and the God that Jesus spoke of so eloquently of in advancing his beautiful message of love? (Don‘t forget the organized Institutional Christian Church is the direct result of the words of Jesus as set forth in the New Testament, not the O.T. where God was a wrathful, vengeful force.) It might help, if there are any uncertainties about this message of Jesus, that we re-read the ―Sermon on the Mount‖ and his other teachings (e.g. the Parables). (Key tenets of gospels are provided in the Index.) Now, back to the Creative Force mentioned above. The premise is that this source formed the physical elements encompassing the Universe and set the whole universal system in motion. Kind of a grand designer creating a spark or planting a seed, or causing the ―Big Bang‖ as referred to by space scientists and astronomers. For those interested in knowing more about the ―Big Bang‖ theory, as well as the concept of the Black Hole, super novas, dark energy, the following (obtained via the Internet) is provided: In physical cosmology, the ―Big Bang‖ is the scientific theory of the origin of the universe as an explosion of space and matter, starting from an enormously dense and hot state at some finite time in the very distant past. The central idea is that the observed red 63
Celestial Quest shift of the galaxies (Hubble‘s law) shows that the galaxies are receding from each other, which implies that they were much closer together in the past. Extrapolated to the extreme, this line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that all the constituents of the universe began at very high density and temperature. Since then, space itself has expanded with the passage of time, carrying the galaxies with it. The Hubble Telescope has revealed a form of ―Dark Energy‖ throughout the Universe, a force never encountered before. Scientists confirm that the universe today appears to be dominated by this mysterious form of energy and that it makes up approximately 70% of the total energy density of the universe. They claim that this component of the universe‘s composition is revealed by its property of causing the expansion of the universe to deviate from a linear velocity-distance relationship by causing space-time to expand faster than expected at very large distances yet unsolvable mysteries appear as science looks closer to the beginning of time, when particle energies were higher than can yet be studied by experiment. There is no physical model for the ―first cause‖ and specific beginning before the phase transition called for by the scientists‘ ―grand unification theory.‖ Another discovery of modern science is the concept of ―Black Holes.‖ Space scientists contend that these are evolutionary end points of stars at least, 10-15 times as massive as the sun. If a star that massive or larger undergoes a supernova explosion, it may leave behind a fairly massive burned out stellar remnant. With no outward forces to oppose gravitational force, the remnant will collapse in on itself. The star eventually collapses to the point of zero volume and infinite density, creating what is known as ―singularity.‖ As the density increases, the path of light rays emitted from the star are bent and eventually wrapped irrevocably around the star. Any emitted photons are trapped into an orbit by the intense gravitational field; they will never leave it. Because no light escapes after the star reaches this infinite density, it is called a black hole. All this space jargon is certainly mentally challenging for the layman, but space science cannot be ignored. Our future, as far as I‘m concerned, is space, including near earth orbit space colonization (hospitals, medical research, farming, manufacturing, etc. as well s bases on the moon and near earth planets as well as increased deep space probes/research. The Hubble space telescope has proven to be an incredible device for providing deep and clear views of the universe, ranging from our own solar system to extremely remote fledgling galaxies forming not long after the Big Bang 13.7 million years ago. For you people of the ―Book,‖ I really don‘t see how any of this evolving universe idea is necessarily in conflict with Genesis Chapter I: ―In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.‖ It further tells us that ―God made the firmament and called this heaven. He then gathered the waters together (under heaven) and separated out the dry land which he called earth.‖ (I do have a question here for the experts: Is heaven equivalent to the vastness of the universe, or is it as the ―Church‖ has drilled into us over the centuries, the place where god resides, and the ―chosen‖ of the earth will be brought?) Now back to the geological evolvement of our own miniscule planet traveling through the vast universal system. Supposedly, according to science, it evolved out of the primordial molten substance inferred above, with life forms arriving on the scene much later. However, since my discourse is, in no way, directed toward the never-ending, even inflammatory, 64
Celestial Quest ―Evolution/Creationism‖ controversy I will stick strictly to rational inquiry. That whole debate is so very destructive I really wish that both sides would just ―cool it.‖ I even had one extremist tell me (when discussing recently discovered evidence for water on Mars) that space scientists were just trying to ―disprove earth.‖ That was a new one, even for me to hear. It is encouraging that a more ―theistic‖ theory (i.e. evolution as a tool of god for higher purposes, including human development) is being kicked around and may reduce some of the polarization. My immediate question, however, is whether the vast, universal cosmic reality is a system unto itself, exclusive of human and other life forms and not really responsible for or concerned about the everyday life patterns of such minuscule life forms? This Grand Designer/Creative Force of the Universe may only be interested in the so-called ―big picture,‖ with no micro-management concerns. In other words, once the ―Force‖ sets the Universe in motion it is ―hands-off‖ macro-management from then on. All in all, things seem to work fairly well (i.e. planets of the solar system stay in orbit; galaxies mingle without any catastrophic anomalies; earth‘s axis rotation is in sync; sun and moon generally compatible with earth‘s needs, etc.). However, it is not unusual that there would be the occasional blip (i.e. earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.) on a miniscule planet, the likes of which would not even be detectible in the vastness of the Universe. Now if the Grand Designer/Creative Force is also the omnipotent, all-loving God of Jesus, and thus God of the ―Christian Church‖ we got some problems. For example, why should there be any flaws in a system created by an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipotent God? Or did this same God incorporate these anomalies as some sort of control mechanism over his children? Maybe the God that Jesus spoke of, on the other hand, could actually be what is referred to in the gospels as the ―Holy Ghost/Spirit/Comforter.‖ This is the personal, everyday God we want to believe in, and in fact, need. This Spirit God, or just ―Universal Spirit‖ is, believe it or not, recognized in many of the World cultures. Some, especially in oriental thought, consider it to be the energy radiating through everything within the Universe, including the human species. I early on mentioned the ―Great Spirit‖ of Native Americans, the ―Ki‖ of Japan; ―Chi‖ of china. Even our own 19th century ―Transcendentalists‖ had the ―over-soul.‖ The Buddhists have ―Brahma,‖ their overriding, but unknown, source God. Also inherent in the mysterious ―Nirvana‖ and ―Karma‖ concepts; the ―Tao‖ of Laotze; and the mysticism of Zoroaster. How many of you are familiar with Plato and Aristotle‘s take on the Creation and Ordering of the Universe? Their conceptual genius demonstrated hundreds of years before the Christian era should not be ignored. Those of us who believe in the eternal value of following the beautiful maxim of ―love and compassion for all peoples,‖ certainly can readily see the ―Universal Spirit‖ as being manifested in Jesus, as he walked the earth among us. Could it be that in its infinite wisdom, the ―Creative force: behind the Universe, saw that the human element introduced into the earthly process could, at times, be incompatible with the ongoing workings of the universal/earthly systems. This included interacting within itself. So the Creator, seeing the need for a ―Guiding Light‖ brings forth Jesus, an extension of its own spiritual self. In essence, Jesus and the Spirit are one. Jesus, as man, demonstrated the power, beauty, and ultimate goodness inherent in the ―Universal Spirit.‖ The Spirit, alive in Jesus, set the 65
Celestial Quest example for all humanity. Though the physical/geological/atmospheric and oceanographic elements of our planet may not be technically of the ―Holy Spirit,‖ we can take comfort in knowing there is always the Spirit of Jesus to draw on. This ―Spirit‖ is there for all of us if we would only allow it to flow and live through us. Just think about it — If this ―Spirit of Love‖ became manifested in all of us, there would be no human cruelties/hatred, terrorism and wars. Let us really be honest with ourselves; let us really use the great gift of reason given to us by the ―Spirit.‖ In so doing, we will all be joining hands to make this world of ours a healthier and better place for generations to come. Before we close out this chapter, let‘s take a closer look at the human factor. It is when this human reality comes into play that the theory of a Grand Designer — MacroManager gets somewhat troublesome to swallow. This god has created us to die, usually via considerable suffering. There also seems to be flaws in the human and animal design as is evidenced by: susceptibility to all kinds of diseases; relatively long-suffering cancerous deaths; heart malfunctions; extreme birth defects/deformities; mental illness; emotional and physical sufferings of all kinds; etc. Why would a loving, caring God allow this to be? I have previously explained why the concept of original sin makes no sense, so could there really be a so-called ―Satan Factor‖ that so many within Institutional Christianity ―hang their hat on?‖ If there is such a thing as a ―Satan‖ is he/she/it besting our God of Love, as earthly life seems to indicate? I actually was told (more than once) by leaders in certain Institutional Christian organizations that, in fact, Satan is in charge of all the earth and controls everything within the planet: (This line of irrationality did not, of course, set well with me and I let these disturbed people know of my disagreement.) The question, however, is still out there as to why an omnipotent, yet loving God (As ―Church‖ teaches) allow the catastrophes, and resulting suffering to occur over and over? Who‘s at the Helm? Before we proceed any further along in this extremely challenging study, let‘s take a look at Webster‘s definitions for words (i.e. spirit, soul, divine, love, God, nature, universal) used throughout the discourse, in reference material and by me. These words have, and continue to be, thrown out and around, by theologians, philosophers, historians, religious lay persons, the media, and the arts community and just about everyone. The various words are even used interchangeably. (There even appears to be something of, or at least a smattering of interchangeability in Webster‘s definitions, and a bit of obfuscation.) I am also providing the readers two paraphrased discourses (one from Plato, the other Aristotle) that set the stage for the ensuing study entitled ―Universal Truths.‖ Both discourses on creation and the ordering of the universe are evidence that some daring souls, even in ancient times, were more than willing to tackle the mystery of creation. Why not us? Toward this end I have also prepared the following graphic chart to at least, begin the process of putting this all in focus. WEBSTER’S DEFINITIONS SPIRIT – L. (spiritus): breath, courage, vigor, the soul, life; (spirare): to blow, breathe 1. The life principle, especially in man, originally regarded as an animating vapor infused by the breath, or as bestowed by a deity; hence the ―soul.‖ 2. The thinking, motivation, feeling part of man, often as distinguished from the body; mind; intelligence. 3. Life,
Celestial Quest will, consciousness, thought, etc., regarded as separate from matter. SOUL – 1. an entity which is regarded as being the immortal or spiritual part of the person and, though having no physical or material reality, is credited with the function of thinking and willing, and hence determining all behavior. 2. The moral or emotional nature of man. 3. Spiritual or emotional warmth, force, or evidence of this. 4. Vital or essential part, quality, or principle. DIVINE – 1. Of or like God or a god. 2. Given or inspired by God; holy; sacred. 3. Devoted to God; religious; sacrosanct; theological. 4. Supremely great, good, etc. (Divinity – 1. The quality or condition of being divine. 2. A divine being; a god; deity. 3. A divine power or quality; supreme virtue or excellence.) LOVE – In theology, a. God‘s benevolent concern for mankind; b. Man‘s devout attachment to God; c. The feeling of benevolence and brotherhood that people should have for each other. GOD – 1. Any of various beings conceived of as supernatural, immortal, and having special powers over the lives and affairs of people and the course of nature; deity. 2. In monotheistic religions, the creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and all-knowing; supreme being. NATURE – 1. The sum total of all things in time and space; the entire physical universe. 2. The power, force, principle that seems to regulate this; often personified. 3. The primitive state of man. 4. Natural scenery, including plants and animals, which are part of it. 5. In religion, the state of man unredeemed by grace. 6. The essential character of a thing; quality or qualities that make something what it is; essence. UNIVERSE – 1. The totality of all the things that exist; creation; the cosmos. 2. The world. 3. An area, province, or sphere, as of (thought or activity), regarded as distinct, comprehensive system or world (earth). UNIVERSAL – 1. Of, for, or including all or the whole of something specified not limited or restricted. 2. Of the universe; present or occurring everywhere or in all things. 3. Being, or regarded as, a complete whole; entire. (Universalism – the theological doctrine that all souls will eventually find salvation in the grace of God.) PLATO In his dialogue of ―Timaeus‖ the assertion is made that God, the all-perfect ruler of the spiritual world, though himself lacking nothing, beheld the sphere of Non-being, or, as it was to be later called, matter, and found it lifeless, dark, and chaotic. (Somewhat akin to circumstances leading up to the ―Big Bang.‖ Himself all goodness, he desired all things to be like himself, good and not evil. So, he looked to the spiritual world of ideas about him and framed a material world after its model, bringing down spirit to unite with matter, making it rich and diversified and endowing it with life, should, and intelligence. The sky he created as a vast globe, placing within it the stars, sun, and moon in their orbits and setting them to revolve as in a great dance. The earth he fastened in the center. Time began as the celestial bodies rolled on, marking the days and nights, months and years. 67
Celestial Quest Next, God made creatures of every sort and capacity to inhabit the universe, following still the patterns already existing in the ideal world. He created first the ―lesser gods‖ (i.e. the Olympian deities, Zeus, Apollo, Athene, etc.) and after them the beasts, birds, fishes, and land animals, bestowing on each an appropriate soul. Last of all, he poured what was left of matter into the cup in which he had mixed the world‘s soul and from this diluted mixture created the throng of human souls, which he distributed among the stars. For a while, the souls were content to live there in purity and bliss, but eventually, they were drawn by their kinship to the material earth beneath to desire bodies. Thereupon the Creator assigned to the lesser gods the duty of preparing mortal bodies out of material earth, air, fire and water. Thenceforth each soul, as its turn comes, is joined for a lifetime to a body and joined thereby to the lower appetites and passions that cling to it throughout its earthly career. (Some might be inclined to compare this concept to Genesis, especially Garden of Eden inference.) It finds itself, Plato says in his ―Phaedrus,‖ driving a chariot with two horses, one a white horse, gallant and gentle, straining continually to mount, keeping his eyes ever on the divine world to which he aspires to return, the other a dark horse, unruly and vicious, obstinately plunging downward and dragging the chariot behind him. ARISTOTLE In his ―One Man in the Universe‖ we hear about the first principle and final cause of all the universe. (Unlike the Universe‘s ―Creator‖ of Plato or Christian God.) One of Aristotle‘s firmest convictions is that nothing can ever be produced out of nothing that since matter and form now are and are continuously in motion, they must always have been and must always be moving. Time, too, can never have begun, ―for there could not be a before nor an after, if time did not exist.‖ Nevertheless, there must be somewhere a first cause of all this activity and motion, something that keeps the heavens revolving and life stirring on earth. That first something must be itself motionless, unaffected by any cause outside itself, a calm, immortal substance, pure form and intelligence, with no mixture of matter, for wherever there is matter, there is change. While itself unmoved, it produces motion by being the object of the world‘s love and desire. Like the god of a runner‘s race, it inspires the perpetual revolution of the outermost heaven that keeps moving the spheres enclosed within it down to the lower center that is earth. All lesser beings in their degree aspire, to realize their potentialities. But the highest and best of forms, the supreme actuality, God, does not aspire. He is always in that state of serene, contemplative thought that is life at its pleasantest and fullest. Aloof and unknowable to us, he is wrapped in himself, utterly beyond human reach. Yet of what that blessed state is like we catch a momentary glimpse when our lives are at their best. For man shares with God the divine power of thought and knows that ―the act of contemplation is what is most of all pleasant and best.‖ The actuality of thought is life and god is that actuality. And God‘s essential actuality is life most good and eternal. We may say then that God is a living being, eternal and most good, so that life and duration, unbroken and eternal, belong to God for this is god. In his ―Metaphysics,‖ Aristotle questions the substance of the Universe and all that is within. He contended that there is a combination of a blank, inert, limitless substratum or underlying something, which he calls matter, and a dynamic purposeful, shaping 68
Celestial Quest principle or essence, he calls form. Everything that comes into any kind of being is the result of form entering into appropriate matter. Matter alone has potentiality, a capacity, that is, of becoming something. (Marble can become a statue, a human seed can become a man.) But Nature, or the hand of man must seize and put form into it before it can realize its possibilities, or the potential become actual. That actuality — the statue carved from the featureless marble, the man full grown from the feeble seed — is the thing‘s end or final cause, to realize which it exists. Above and beyond this low earth, compounded of half-realized potentialities and perishable substances, is the starry realm of eternal beings, whose potentialities are always realized in full. Over that again is the First Cause and Final Cause of all existence, the unmoving Mover, whose life is the highest actuality, pure form with no mixture of matter, pure thought in utter tranquility thinking itself. So with Plato we have two worlds in conflict, the terrestrial world of visible but unreal, transitory objects, and the celestial world of invisible, but real and immortal spiritual existences. With Aristotle, our present, visible world is the only one, and is itself real and eternal, an indissoluble combination of matter and form. Form is ―that energy which combines with matter as a shaping, purposive element and lifts it out of its state of nonbeing.‖ Art References The Origin Genesis Olympus Unraveling Fractured World Poetry: The Answer by James P. Pecquet
Figure 32 - The Origin (Painting â€“ 42â€? diameter)
In abstract form I have shown, via planetary orbiting/rotation, the origin of human species. An embryo occupies the center of the universal explosion of orbiting planets.
Figure 33 â€“ Genesis (Black Walnut)
Meant to symbolize the creative process; either the sculptorâ€˜s efforts or the Creator of the Universe bringing forth humanity.
Figure 34 - Olympus Unraveling (Travertine 22â€? x 14â€?)
While doing an unplanned (direct sculpting method) work on block travertine (obtained while in New Mexico) the catastrophe of 9/11 shocked us all. Without even pre-planning the design, an abstraction of the Twin Towers destruction appeared in the stone. All those viewing the work, including patrons at the Georgia Marble Festival (art Exhibit) immediately saw the Twin Towers theme, thus Olympus Unraveling. 72
Figure 35 - Fractured World (Basswood – 72” x 24”)
Conceived during the ―Tsunami‖ natural disaster in which hundreds of thousands were killed and millions left homeless. The Sculpture reflects the earth fracturing (breaking apart); but the Universal Spirit appears to be flowing, from above, thru a ―cross-type‖ form and returning back to earth; thus giving hope to earth‘s inhabitants.
Celestial Quest The Answer It happened one day when God was near. I asked Him, "Lord, who did you send to bring me here? Who carried me to your presence when I was lost? What angel did you assign to show me love?" And He said, "I sent no one -
but his name is Suffering. He often brings my children home." James P. Pecquet
UNIVERSAL TRUTHS – OVERVIEW GRID
CHAPTER V - UNIVERSAL TRUTHS/CODE OF ETHICS Is there a basis for a Universal Code of Ethics and basic truths applicable across-theboard regardless of: religious orientation (or no religion); philosophical influences; race/ethnicity; culture; and status (monetarily and otherwise) in life? World religions historically, have had documented ―standards of conduct‖ (i.e. right and wrong actions); deity worship and other religious observances; human-to-human relationships; cultural/family obligations; and generally basic life values/truths. Wouldn‘t it be great if enlightened leaders and men/women of wisdom from world religions, philosophies and governments could come together, on a regular basis, and iron out a universally accepted Code of Ethics or Standard of human conduct for implementation the world over Pope John made a valiant attempt (via his Ecumenical Council) at reconciliation and commonality within a very complex Institutional Christianity. The effort seemed to lose steam after his passing, but with strong leadership this concept could be broadened if we truly want to make this a better world, and why wouldn‘t we? In an earlier chapter, I mentioned what I consider a universal maxim (i.e. ―Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,‖ or the various variations of this around the world. Confucius remarked: ―What the undeveloped man seeks is outside, what the advanced man seeks is within himself.‖ Just to get people pointed in this direction would be a start, and as time passes maybe, just maybe the nasties of this world will come to realize the tide is changing and it is in their interests to follow suit. No longer would using force (terrorism, wars etc.) to deal with perceived wrongs or desires be the norm. This mentality and resulting dysfunction course of action would be replaced with a banding together of like-minded rational being for peaceful resolution of international disputes. The resulting organization would have to have some significant leverage, unlike the current United Nations, which has failed more often than not. We need to try again, but with an agreed upon universal code of ethics and conduct as the basis for all decisions and actions. This previously agreed upon Code would be the measure for all international operations, and the overwhelming agreement among national representatives would discourage war-mongering and other hostilities from rogue states or elements. Over the centuries, up until recent times there have been varying ―Schools of thought‖ on universal truths and ethics. In the following pages of this chapter, I will enlighten you on the thoughts put forth by many of history‘s greatest thinkers. There will be mostly paraphrasing, but some direct quotes. It will become obvious to you that all of these ―thinkers‖ looked deeply within themselves (as we all should be doing) for the answers to the ―Riddles of Life.‖ I have for study purposes, broken the subject areas out as: universal; nature; ethics/human relations; divine spirit; the soul; death; and cosmic love. I am hoping that these discourses will, in addition to helping us think more objectively an deeply on concepts usually avoided by most, also set the stage for the theological discourses of later chapters. Hopefully this will help us approach theological issues with an open mind and with honesty/truthfulness. So, now let us begin with some thoughts on the ―Universal‖ extracted from Marcus Aurelius‘ treatise titled ―Meditations‖: Things change, persons die, but the universe remains. Men are corrupt and nations pass away, but the reason in the universe is eternal, and in one‘s own life, reason 76
remains incorruptible. Despite the unreasonableness of men and events, there is a deeper reason in things, a reason that is good, and a reason which is God. Honor what is best in the universe; this is what controls all things. In like manner, honor also what is best in yourself; and this is akin to the other. The substance of the universe is obedient and pliable, and the reason which governs it has itself no cause for doing evil, for it has no malice, nor does it do evil to anything, nor is anything harmed by it. But all things are made and perfected through this reason. The universe is either a diffusion and intermingling of atoms, in a constant state of flux, or it is unity and order and providence. If it is the former, why do I wish to tarry amid such a haphazard confusion and disorder? Why do I care about anything, but how I may at last become earth? And why do I trouble myself, for my element will be scattered, whatever I do. But, it the other supposition is true, I revere, I stand firm, and I trust in him to govern. Consider the connection of all things in the universe and their relation to one another. For things are somehow implicated with one another, and all in a way friendly to one another. All parts of the universe are interwoven with one another, and the bond is sacred. There is one universe made up of everything and one God who pervades everything, and one substance, one law, one common reason in all intelligent animals and one truth; perchance indeed there is one perfection for all beings of the same stock, who participate in the same reason. (Anyone even remotely familiar with the life of this enlightened Roman emperor would have to agree that he, though a ―pagan‖ in eyes of Institutional Christianity, sets the example for wisdom and virtue.) To continue the above symbiotic theme, we have Morihei Uyeshiba saying: ― All things, material and spiritual, originate from one source and are related as if they were one family‖; and John Muir (noted American naturalist) saying: ―Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.‖ In Hindu scripture we find: ―As is the microcosm, so it the universe; as is the human body, so is the cosmic body; as is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind.‖ And Euripides: ―Whoever yields properly to Fate is deemed wise among men, and knows the laws of heaven. As every season seems best to us in it turn, so the coming in of spring is like the creation of the cosmos out of chaos, and the realization of the Golden Age.
The similarity of thought among all these wise men and the outright beauty of thought leads me, at least, to believe they‘re on the right track and it certainly is worth our pondering their words. Also, we moderns don‘t seem to know much more about the Universal than did the Ancients. Next up — how does Nature fit into this scheme of things? Who better to hear from than our own Ralph Waldo Emerson, father of the American version of ―Transcendentalism?‖ Much of the following is paraphrased, with my comments interspersed: Nature conspires with the spirit; It has a spiritual and moral side. (Nature, in my way of thinking can be the ally of religion, not an antagonist as some within Institutional Christianity contend. One must only have the ability to observe and a heart to feel. Biblical prophets, David, Isaiah, and of course, Jesus drew heavily 77
from nature.) ―The happiest person is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship.‖ ―The noblest ministry of nature is to stand as an apparition to God.‖ The Supreme Being does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us. ―Nature is an appendix to the soul. The soul being the region of ideas, touching on the divine.‖ There is considerable evidence that plants and animals were created to aid humans (e.g. mule to be pack carrying) Philosophically, the universe is composed of nature and the soul. (Are humans then part of both nature and soul? Nature in its ministry to man, is not just the material, but also the process and the result. (We should not abuse nature.) The presence of a spiritual (higher) element is essential to the perfection of nature. Every rational creature has all nature for his/her estate. (Some divest themselves of it, but it is theirs, if they will.) Nature stretches out her arms to embrace humans, only let their thought be of equal greatness. (This could be a slogan for all who venture into space.) A virtuous man is in unison with her (Nature‘s) work and makes the central figure of the visible sphere. (The visible heavens and earth were obvious friends to Jesus as evidenced by his type of ministry.)
To be in harmony with all of nature: first make God‘s heart yours. It is a great love, omnipresent and timeless. ―There is no discord in pure/true love.‖ (A mind of discord, thinking of the existence of an enemy is not consistent with the will of God.) Just think it‘s been over 150 years since Emerson warned us about abusing our environment, but it is only very recently that anyone is taking heed. Now at least a few brilliant, courageous souls are trying to get the message (i.e. polluting of environment, greenhouse gases, global warming, water contaminants and other toxins, alternative energy) across. However, greed and the worship of the almighty dollar still is prevailing. Our own government has been dragging its feet on this highly critical issue. It seems many of our political leaders still knuckle under to the Industrial/financial power elite. Hopefully, somehow the reams of scientific evidence will prevail. Aristotle‘s take on nature was that it was one immense, advancing process, a ladder of ascent from low to high. ―Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life, so gradually that it is impossible to detect the exact line of demarcation, or to tell on which side of it an intermediate form should lie. Thus, next after lifeless things in the upward scale comes the plant; and among plants one will differ from another in the amount of its apparent vitality …‖ This conception of the entire natural world as a chain of graded links, stretching up from that which barely lives at all to that which lives most richly was itself a breakthrough in European thinking (even Darwinian). Leonardo da Vinci believed that: ―Human understanding results from the glories of natural design (nature) which speaks more eloquently of divine creation than any theological book could speak of God.‖ For Leonardo, the world was alive with divine presence, (and this fact is certainly evident in his art). To him, the divine, being 78
Celestial Quest manifested in nature, was to be worshiped through close study and reverent appreciation of nature‘s perfection. Next we tackle humanity itself, specifically how one human relates to another, at least how one human should relate to another. Sprinkled within this review are thoughts on our responsibility to our environment (earth/nature). So now let‘s take a look at the subject of Ethics, beginning with our old friend Marcus Aurelius. It always intrigues me to get into the mind of Marcus Aurelius. This man of wisdom and deep philosophical thought just does not fit the usual perception of a Roman Emperor, as history portrays them. As we shared some of his thoughts on the Universal, we now share his thoughts on subject of Ethics and Human Relations: It is a shame to let ignorance and complacency be stronger than wisdom. Help everyone according to your ability and their fitness. Reverence the gods and help men. (This is not too far afield from Jesus‘ first and second commandments). Quoting Homer, he said, ―never has he wronged a man in deed or word.‖ When a man has done you any wrong immediately consider with what notion of good and evil he acted in doing wrong. When you have seen this, you will pity him and will neither wonder nor be angry. For either you think the same thing to be good that he does or something of the same kind; it is your duty then to pardon him but if you do not hold the same notions of good and evil you will more readily be charitable to him who is in error. (Sure sounds like a message set forth by Jesus of Nazareth. Yet another indication that you don‘t have to be a ―Christian‖ to believe in the message of Jesus.) Webster defines Ethics as: ―The study of standards of conduct and moral judgment/moral philosophy.‖ He defines Virtue as: ―General moral excellence; right action and thinking; goodness of character.‖ Most of us have, I hope, given some thought to our behavior and have a basic idea what ―society‖ considers right and wrong. This moral code of ethics is derived from various sources; Ten Commandments; Laws of the Land (i.e. government); teaching of Jesus; teaching of Mohammed; teachings of Confucius, Buddha, Lao-tzu, Zoroaster; Institutional Religions (doctrines, rules, regulations); even possible the Hammurabi code. Where do you fit into this scenario? The following ―Golden Verses‖ of Pythagoras provide food for thought: Let not the stealing god of sleep surprise, Nor creep in slumbers on the weary eyes, Ere every action of the former day Strictly thou dost, and righteously survey What have I done? In what have I transgressed? What good, or ill, has this day‘s life expressed? Where have I failed in what I ought to do? If even were thy deed, repent and mourn: If good, rejoice. Good stuff, don‘t you agree? Those old-time ―non-Christian‖ philosophers sure could hit a homerun from time to time. I believe it was Aurelius that said: Ethics and religion differ: one is the system of human duties commencing from man; the other, from God. And also things that are seen are temporal; the things that are unseen are eternal. 79
Celestial Quest Now for some of our own look-see into ―human nature.‖ Many years ago I took a graduate course in Organization Theory at the University of Oklahoma. As we students settled down in our seats the Professor boldly wrote across the blackboard the words: ―Frame of Reference Is Everything.‖ Those words, having far-reaching ramifications, have stayed with me ever since. People historically have thought (and acted) based on their particular frame of reference: i.e. environment; family background, culture, religion (or none); prejudices; peer pressures; type of education/academics; health (including mental) status; financial status; political preference; vocation/career field, sports involvement; genetic traits, etc. People also generally do what serves their self-interest. This is a form of nature‘s self-preservation rule, as is: wanting to be appreciated or thought well of. (No one likes being treated as a ―non-entity.‖) So, if each person is the center of his/her world, we should always stay attuned to this when dealing with someone. Show an interest in others‘ lives, rather than thinking in terms of the ―Me‖ factor. There are basically two ways of getting others to do what you want: compulsion and persuasion; persuasion is the method of free human beings. With a little encouragement or even latitude, people by nature prefer to prove themselves better than they are, rather than worst. In fact expressing concern for others and an appreciation/recognition of their efforts, are the most neglected elements of effective leadership. The commonest fault in dealing with people is failure to see the other person‘s point of view. It is a blind spot that blacks out everyone but you, and causes head-on collisions in human relations and life in general. For example, dogmatic statements (i.e. remarks made to appear factual when they are only sometimes opinions.) Webster‘s definition for word opinion is: a belief not based on certainty but on what seems to be true or probable. (And what influences opinions? – frame of reference.) Another of my favorite ―Thinkers‖ is Henry David Thoreau. These are some of his thoughts on the subject at hand: However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. The faultfinder will find fault even in paradise. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. Superfluous wealth can be superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul. Every chip of the marble should be as the forming of the Universe, and I am blessed to be part of this work. (I sure can relate personally to this maxim.) The life in us is like the water in the river. Beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue. The good in people is not contingent on one‘s status in life, Good exists when the Universal Spirit is allowed to flow through a human being unimpeded by the distractions (e.g. priorities of wealth, power, sensual pleasures) of the world. (I often wonder what it is about the make-up of the human psyche that makes one act a certain way.) Far too much in-fighting, outright intolerance, and ―brain rot‖ among various religious sects to allow for an open-minded, honest appreciation of the Universal, and what is expected of us. (Right on Henry – maybe we do need a new beginning, free from the bondages of the old, Institutional structures/hierarchies/policies/doctrines/customs.) If we can just put into focus the varied mysteries of life, including human to human, as 80
Celestial Quest well as human to earth and atmospheric environments, maybe we can do a much better job of just living. In his ―Ethics,‖ Aristotle contended that the end for which all humans strive is happiness. Our differences in behavior are due to our different notion of what happiness is. To Aristotle, a life of deep and lasting happiness is attained through conduct which is: brave, just, good, and in a love of truth. Plato, on the other hand, contended that the ―ills of the human race will never disappear until power, or the rulers of our cities learn true philosophy.‖ He thus formed his ―Academy‖ to teach: love of wisdom, truth, and justice and, in this way, hoped government reform could come peacefully, via education and persuasion. He thought that only by study could a young mind be sharpened to penetrate beyond the confusion/uncertainty of this world and grasp the essence of truth. Plato saw the make-up of the Universe as two-fold: 1. The well-knit, harmonious and changeless system of elements 2. The less defined (even conflicting), and short-lived mass of everyday objects/activities which are marred by never-ending flaws of ugliness/decay, natural disasters, deformities of humans and other living things. (Sounds like my ―Who‘s In Control‖ discourse.) In his mind, there were two worlds: one an invisible, spiritual world of perfect order and design, containing in itself the eternal models of all that appears temporarily and imperfectly in this world. That is the heavenly world of true Being, presided over by the greatest of all Ideas, the Idea of Good/The Supreme One/God. The material world, by contrast, is a world of Non-Being, of becoming, but never remaining the same, of evil polluting good, of beauty forever fading and passing away, a faulty copy of a peerless pattern. Plato was the first to lay down certain fundamental rules of logical reasoning: insistence on defining terms; analysis of individual instances as a basis for generalization; the distinction between opinion or wishful thinking and knowledge; and between words and things. (True lovers of wisdom are never content with what their eyes can see, but are ever searching with reasons for the invisible, pure and immutable essence of things.) In time, the Christian Church latched on to some of Plato. For example, centuries later when men turned from wretchedness/disappointments of this world to hopes of a fairer world above, they imagined it as a city, ―The City of God.‖ (Plato‘s ideal state was a city.) It is to be noted that Plato stirs us with the beauty, depth and height of his imagination, whereas Aristotle with his hard, intellectual grip and passion for exactitude and order. Both denounced the materialists and saw in the discords and contradictions of this present world a struggle between two principles: one intelligent, dynamic and good, the other irrational, inert and base. Plato‘s forces for good came from an invisible, spiritual world; Aristotle‘s from an inseparable part of this world. (Wonder what Jesus‘ take on this would be and how he fits into the scenario?) Both Plato and Aristotle were sure that nature moved to a predetermined end, and that the end was the realization of its own impulse toward perfection. Both believed that man‘s reason made him, in some degree akin to God whose
Celestial Quest goodness was the cause of all goodness in the world beneath. Sounds a little like Descartes (i.e. ―I think, therefore I am.‖) This all also has a tinge of Kant and Hegel‘s version of Transcendentalism which emphasized discovering the nature of reality by investigating the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience. Another thing that I find rather interesting, is that Socrates (469-399 B.C.), teacher of Plato, didn‘t seem to bother himself with things, such as creation/origin of Universe, in which there was so much disagreement. What was important in his teaching was: How do we make the best of our lot in this life? We are here, now what? Cicero said: ―Socrates brought philosophy down from the heavens to planet earth.‖ (Sounds like Socrates was more in sync with the vast majority of the average human being trying to deal with their earthly plight.) He was a stonecutter by trade, though he seems to have spent most of his time in the ―marketplace‖ searching for truth and showing others the way of reason. He seemed to think that if we all could be brought to see the good, we would choose it over evil. (Certainly food for thought.) Humans were bad because they were thoughtless and ignorant. Straight thinking has to lead to right living, according to Socrates. (Like Jesus, he left no written word for us. But also like Jesus, he left devoted followers, such as Plato, who documented their recollection of his words.) Another take on life, albeit a rather bleak, yet pragmatic one is ―Existentialism.‖ It came into some degree of fashion in France after World War II. Primarily (according to Webster) a literary/philosophic cult of nihilism/pessimism (a la jean Paul Sartre) which holds that each man exists as an individual in a purposeless universe and he must oppose his hostile environment through the exorcise of his own ―free will.‖ Guess Sartre eliminates the concept of a Creative Force, and certainly a loving father (Jesus) God. It‘s the old ―man is the center of the universe‖ theme. I do wonder, however, if the pessimistic/negativistic mentality sprinkled through humanity is the reason for so many do nothing-ers‖ of society. We all know people that fit this category. They basically have given up. Of course, in some instances, the giving up may be due to extreme poor health, either physical or mental deterioration. But, in most cases it is just a lousy ―state of mind,‖ and/or laziness. A milder case of ―Throwing in the towel‖ is when someone reaches a certain age and comfortable (or even passable) level of financial security, turn from a working contributing mentality to one of pure leisure, vacations, interspersed with do-nothingism. There seems like there could be at least a compromise position, so society doesn‘t lose out altogether. This concern can be addressed in Chapter VII titled, ―Consider This.‖ And then there are the givers and the takers of the world. A whole book alone could be devoted to these two elements of humanity. The challenge of society, and all of us wanting to make this a better world, is: How do we turn the takers into being givers? Any suggestions? Another of our noted ―Thinkers‖ of history, and one who has gotten some bad press from the Institutional Church is Voltaire. Why the bad press is a bit of a puzzle, for he based his ethic on the reality of an altruism independent of self-love, and he derived this altruism from a sense of justice infused into men by God. This doesn‘t sound anti-Christ to me. Wonder why they pegged him an atheist? 82
Celestial Quest Also we have: D Alembert: ―Natural morality is one single and incontrovertible fact, the need that men have of one another, and the reciprocal obligations which that need imposes. — Our own self-interest which is the basic principle of all moral obligations.‖ C. Reich (―Greening of America‖): ―Morality properly understood is the science of the means invented by men to live together in the happiest manner.‖ Helvetius: ―All actions, however moral and virtuous, are egoistic. They are not necessarily selfish; many actions are altruistic in the sense that they are intended to benefit others, sometimes at great cost to the agent; but even these actions area egoistic in the sense that they are motivated by the impulse to self-satisfaction we area altruistic because, by instinct or training, we can take great pleasure in pleasing others; so the mother may sacrifice herself for her child, as the hero for his country.‖ George Washington in farewell address: ―Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, the reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.‖ Lao-tze (founder of Taoism): ―If you do not quarrel, no one on earth will be able to quarrel with you … Recompense injury with kindness … To those who are good, I am good, and to those who are not good, I am also good; thus all get to be good. To those who are sincere I am sincere, and to those who are not sincere I am also sincere; and thus all get to be sincere … The softest thing in the world dashes against and overcomes the hardest … There is nothing in the world softer or weaker that water and yet for attacking things that are firm and strong there is nothing that can take precedence of it.‖ (Remember Lao-tze walked the earth long before Jesus.) Now words from a well-known ―Church-goer,‖ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. On Aug. 28, 1963, he gave his famous ―I Have a Dream‖ speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. For the reading of the total text I highly recommend you call it up on the Internet. It‘s as powerful a message on human relations and freedom as has ever been given. The closing words are: … When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up the day when all of God‘s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last. Eusebius (historian-3rd century A.D.): ―May I be no man‘s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides … May I never devise evil against any man; it any devise evil against me, may I escape … without the need of hurting him. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men‘s happiness and envy none … When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends … May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent … May I reconcile friends who are wroth with one another. May I, to the extent of my power, give all needful help … to all who are in want. 83
Celestial Quest May I always keep tame that which rages within me … May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps.‖ (If someone not of the Judeo-Christian following, a pagan in the eyes of the ―church,‖ can identify so closely to the essence of the Sermon on the Mount‖ why cannot more ―Church-goers‖ of today do the same?) We all are quite aware of the people that make a show out of church attendance, but leave their faith, and compliance with Jesus‘ wishes in the pews as they exit the building. If the preceding issues in this chapter required some deep thought, the next four subjects (i.e. Spirit, Soul, Death, and Love) will really joggle the mind. SPIRIT Let us begin with Proverbs (Chapter 8): ―The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths. I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the hills was I brought forth; while as yet he had not made earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.‖ (Of course, this is a prophecy of Christ and his relationship with the Creator.) It leads me to believe the concept of the ―Holy Spirit‖ was in play here, flowing through Jesus, and in turn through all of us, if we ―believe and accept.‖ Emerson was somewhat in sync with this when he stated that he believed: ―the spirit is the projection of the Creator in the unconscious of humans. It is not, however, subjected to the human will.‖ He further went on to say: ―The foundations of man are not in matter, but in spirit. (The elements of spirit is eternity). Truth and goodness and beauty are but different faces of the same universal spirit. (Visual nature must have a spiritual and moral side). Nature is not fixed, but fluid. Spirit alters, molds, makes it.‖ According to Epictetus (a slave, but also teacher to Marcus Aurelius) all things are under Divine supervision. ―How else is it that in their season, as if by express command, God bids the plants to blossom and they blossom, to bud and they bud, to bear fruit and they bear it, to ripen it and they ripen; and when again he bids them to drop their leaves, and withdrawing into themselves to rest and wait, they do so? Whence again are there seen, on the departure of the sun, so great changes and transformations in earthly things? … From the Diviner within, I know the essence of good and evil, and indication of both.‖ (In many ways, Epictetus was more Christ-oriented than so many today that claim to be ―followers.‖) I like Epictetus‘ answer to himself, when he asked: ―Why did God bring me into this world? He wants such as will share the festival, make part of the chorus; who will extol, applaud, and celebrate the solemnity.‖ 84
Celestial Quest Plato delved into our visible, restless world of mixed beauty and conflict by: ―picturing behind an invisible, creative spirit of intelligence, order, and comeliness (striving to impress itself upon reluctant clay) Man. He being a compound of spirit and matter can be trained from childhood to master the earthly passions that darken his vision and hold him down and can learn to love goodness and develop his reason to see the law that has been working in our Universe from the beginning. So having lived, at death he will fly away from the bodily prison house and return, at last, to the heaven whence he came.‖ (This sounds like ascension of spirit, which may be what happens in our case.) Now according to Justin, the Christian martyr: ―The mind is guided to the Divine by the Holy Spirit.‖ (I wonder if the soul too is divine and immortal and part of the mind? So many questions, so little time for answers.) Our body, according to the theologians, is subject to the divine. Here are but a few indications: ―Know ye not that ye are the temple of god and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Corinthians 3:16); ―I am the universal fire within the body of living beings … He is seated in the hearts of all.‖ (Bhagavad Gita); ―On God‘s own nature has been molded man‘s.‖ (Islam Hadith);‖His light is in every heart.‖ (Sikhism, Guru Nanak); and, of course, ―… the Kingdom of God is within you.‖ (Luke 17:20,21); ―God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.‖ (Hebrew scripture Genesis 1:27). Marcus Aurelius put it this way: ―Man has three relations: the one to the body which surrounds him; the second to the divine cause from which all things come; and third to those who live with him. … One who lives with the Divine constantly show the Divinity that his soul is satisfied with what is assigned him in this life, including obeying the Divine gift of understanding and reason.‖ (We must allow the Divine spirit within us to dominate over the things (e.g. materialism) that jerk us around in daily life. All emotions are spirit driven.) In Plato‘s ―Symposium‖ Socrates tells how a man may rise as on a ladder, from love of one fair, earthly face or form to a love that reaches upward to the Divine. At some point in his appreciation of the beauty of earthly forms, he will realize that the beauty of the mind is more precious than beauty of body and rise to a love of beauty of spirit, justice, and truth, thus knowing ―absolute beauty.‖ SOUL Our friend Aristotle viewed the ―Soul‖ as the vital energy in living things. In its most elementary form, as a nutritive soul, it inspires the whole vegetative life of plants and keeps all live bodies feeding, growing, and reproducing their kind. In more advanced form, as a sensitive soul, it feels sensation and emotion and keeps memories of its experiences. Finally, as a reasonable soul, it thinks and judges and is the peculiar gift of man. Soul and matter together, like form and matter, make the complete, living individual. Death dissolves their union. ‗The two things (according to Aurelius) common to both the soul of God and the soul of man, and the soul of every rational bring, are not to be hindered in their purpose by another; and to hold as good the disposition to justice and the practice of it, and in this to let your desire find its satisfaction. Oh, for a soul that is ready at any moment to be separated from the body, either to be extinguished or dispersed or continue to exist! This
Celestial Quest readiness must come from a man‘s own judgment and considerately and with dignity, in a way that will persuade others, without tragic show. The spherical form of the soul maintains its figure, when it is neither extended towards any object, nor contracted inwards, nor dispersed, nor sinks down, but is illuminated by light, by which it sees the truth, the truth of all things and that which is in itself. As to the perfecting of life, this power is in the soul, and it grows by being indifferent towards things which are indifferent. From Emerson‘s "Revelation of the Soul" we seem to have a more dramatic assessment: "Announcements/manifestations of the essence of the soul. These are always attended by the emotion of the sublime. For this communication is an Influx of the Divine mind into our mind. It is an ebb of the Individual rivulet before the flowing surges of the sea of life. Every distinct apprehension of this central commandment agitates men with awe and delight. A thrill passes through all men at the reception of new truth, or at the performance of a great action …" To Emerson, the "over-soul" come to the lowly and simple; It comes to whomever will put off what is foreign and proud; It comes as Insight; It comes as serenity and grandeur. The soul respects the end too much to concern Itself In the means. (Emerson emphasized a search for reality through spiritual Intuition, the over-soul"). God will not make himself manifest to cowards; and faith that stands on authority is not faith (It Is a withdrawal of the soul). To the body belong sensations, to the soul Impulses, to the mind, principles. Outward things cannot touch the soul; nor have they admission to the soul, nor can they turn or move the soul; but the soul turns and moves itself alone. Whatever judgments it may think proper to make, it makes for itself of the things which present themselves to it. We find In Plato's Dialogue, that Socrates believed that the soul of man was Immortal and that true beauty was not lost due to death of the body. He believed in a type of transmigration of souls, with the soul soaring back to the Universal after bodily death. The Platonists, on the other hand, though believing the soul to be Immortal and Immaterial, believed that even though they did evil, they would not be punished, since anything Immaterial Is Insensible to pain. (Interesting thought, but hard for some to swallow). As we see, there are varied points of view as to what spirit is, and the exact essence of the soul. AT times, it even seems that to some degree, fusing of the hallowed terms Is Inevitable. I like to think of Spirit as energy, since the word derives from the Latin word "spirare," meaning: breath power (to blow). To me It Is determination, the will to do "do, to accomplish, to live to the fullest. Soul, on the other hand, to me is: emotion; Impulse rationality; moral attributes; and truth; creative Inspiration. As you will see in Chapter VIII, both spirit and soul play the essential/critical role, not only in life generally, but in my work especially. DEATH Once again, Marcus Aurelius comes through for us. The following are but a few of the profound thoughts on the subject of death, recorded in his "Meditations." Death is not only a work of nature, but it is also a thing that fulfills the purpose of nature. 86
Celestial Quest Dying is one of the acts of life; Do It well, what there is to do. Every man's life is but an exhalation of the blood and a little breathing of the air. For like drawing In the air, and giving It back, which we do every moment, the whole quickening power, received at birth, Is now given back to the element whence It came. Do not despise death, but be well content with It, since this, too, is one of those things which nature wills. It is consistent with the character of a reflecting man, to be neither careless nor Impatient nor contemptuous with respect to death, but to wait for It as one of the operations of nature. As you now wait for the time when a child comes out of the womb, so be ready for the time when your soul shall fall out of this envelope. Now consider your life; your childhood; youth; adulthood; and old age - for here also every change was death. Perceive at last that you have within you something better and more divine than the things that cause the various effects, and, as It were, pull you around by strings. Consider that before long, you will be nobody and nowhere, nor will any of the things exist which you now see, nor any of those who are now living. For all things are formed by nature to change and be turned and to perish in order that other things in continuous succession may exist. How small a part of the boundless and unfathomable time is assigned to every person! In a moment It Is swallowed up in the eternal. And, how small a part of the whole substance, and how small a part of the universal soul! And on what a small clod of the whole earth you creep! Reflecting on all this, consider nothing to be great, except to act as your nature leads you and to endure that which the common nature brings. But, I am not finished yet." Good, for what shall constitute a complete drama is determined by him who first caused its composition, and now its dissolution: but you are the cause of neither. Depart then serenely, for he who releases you Is also serene. You have taken ship, you have made the voyage, you have come to port; disembark. If you come to another life there are gods enough even there; but If to a state without sensation, you will n o more be gripped by pains and pleasures, or be slave to a vessel, which Is as much Inferior as that which serves It Is superior. I especially like this one from Epictetus: "If death overtakes me In a situation, It Is enough for me If I can stretch out my hand to God, and say: The opportunities which I have received from thee of comprehending and obeying thy ways/methods/desires I have not neglected, as far as In me lay, I have not dishonored thee. See how I have used my perceptions; how my convictions, Have I at any time found fault with thee? Have I been discontented at thy dispensations, or wished them otherwise? Have I transgressed the relations of life? I thank thee that thou hast brought me into being …" LOVE Leonardo da Vinci considered love as the single most powerful force in the universe as evidenced by the role it plays in all cultures. The following quotes on "Divine" love support this contention;
Celestial Quest "God Is love, and he who abides in love abides In God, and God abides in him." I John 4:16 "It makes no difference as to the name of God, since love is the real God of all the world." - Native American wisdom. "The glorious one God of love." - Hindu, Upanishads "Love has no cause; It is the astrolabe of God's secrets." - Sufism, Rumi "The world is built of love." - Judaism, King David "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Tibetan Buddism, Dalai Lama "From Love we are born; It Is love that sustains us; It Is unto Love that we return." - Upanishads "Sane and Insane, all are searching lovelorn for him, in mosque, temple, church alike. For only God Is the One God of Love, and Love calls from all these, each one his home. - Sufi wisdom. "Love is the guardian deity of everything. Nothing can exist without it. Love gives life to all beings, we should not be struggling one to another." - Morihei Uyeshiba I believe the subject of "divine love" Is a perfect lead in to my next chapter entitled "Divinity Factor." Since we are now returning to the theological realm I sincerely hope (and pray), that we all keep an open-mind in our search for knowledge and truth regarding this all-important/critical issue. Art References Universal Forces Free Spirit Symbioun Hands of Peace Good Samaritan Breath Of Life Love Universal Love Eros Aged Kiss Cosmic Wedding Poetry: Why We Are Born by James P. Pecquet Gallantry by Dorothy E. Nichols A Rich Man by James P. Pecquet Balance by James P. Pecquet
Figure 36 - Universal Forces (Painting – 38” x 26”)
The negative and positive forces of the universal system which seem to be the drivers of much that goes on. Also known as the yin – yang effect.
Figure 37 - Free Spirit (White Italian Alabaster)
A beautiful female aquatic spirit rising up through ocean waves in reverence to the Devine.
Figure 38 – Symbioun (Southern Red Cedar – 48” x 20”)
Sculpted from the lower trunk/root system of large Red Cedar which school officials arranged to be removed from a local school yard. Working in abstract style I began to see human figures taking form, but still each dependent on the other for its definition, thus Sybioum (Greek derivative of ―symbiotic‖)
Figure 39 - Hands of Peace (Bronze 16â€? x 12â€?)
Created for Mark and Lyn Hollis as their gift to Japanese friends and business associates of Marks, when he was president of Publix Corporation. Shows hands spiritually extending upwards, releasing doves (symbols of peace and good will among peoples and countries)
Figure 40 - The Good Samaritan (Basswood and Buckeye – 27” x 25”)
Takes Jesus‘ parable and brings this blessed theme forward to the era of the early European settlement of America. Two cultures/races, normally at odds (even warring) with one another, but in this instance at peace. The old, grizzled Native American is helping a colonial settler by bandaging a head wound, using a piece of the settler‘s own shirt.
Figure 41 - Breath of Life (Mahogany - 24” x 14”)
Symbolistically showing life (via monarch butterfly) entering thru the child‘s hand; life revolving/proceeding thru the years; and finally life‘s breath leaving (via angelic swallow tail butterfly) upwardly from the extended aged (weathered and arthritic) hand. 94
Figure 42 â€“ Love (Mahogany)
Embraced by a beautiful swan two lovers spiral in spiritual love as the woman releases doves into the heavens.
Figure 43 - Universal Love (Georgia Marble – 24” x 20”)
A geometrically designed work utilizing the letters L-O-V-E. The letter O is not hollowed out, as it would be in script, but carved fully round to represent the world. With the letter L, lovingly wrapping around the world (earth), it conjures up the Gospel verse: ―God so loved the world…‖ (See in Chapter VI, sculpture addressed specifically to this theme.
Figure 44 – Eros (Pecan)
Sculpted from a log obtained from a friend owning a grove of Pecan trees in Alabama. Though sculpted in highly stylized form the passion of lovers is quite evident. Eros, in Greek mythology was the son of Aphrodite, goddess of love and equivalent to ―Cupid‖, son of Venus.
Celestial Quest The massage here is that, although we grow old, we still have within us compassion/love and willingness to share these emotions. The original Basswood version was purchased by Mark Hollis since the ―Kiss‖ reminded him of the last time he saw his mother and father kiss, in the hospital room before her death.
Figure 45 - Aged Kiss (Basswood 20” x 12”/Bronze)
Figure 46 - Cosmic Wedding (Painting 48â€? x 66â€?)
Floating in a celestial environment, the female and male bodies form linking rings (a la wedding rings), as well as a heart shape. Transparent veiling swirls throughout the bodies giving off a spiritual aspect to the wedding, as well as universality.
Celestial Quest Why We Are Born We can think on it until we turn blue and still miss the mark by a thousand miles. It isn't to be great or successful or even loved very much. It isn't to debate or discover or even decide very much. We are born simply to glorify God by imitating Christ and remembering the forgotten.
James P. Pecquet
Celestial Quest Gallantry Dear gallant tree, where is thy heart? Please speak to me, I love you so. I'll keep my rendezvous with you, For I pretend you're one I knew. Like he, you grew so straight and tall, As harsh winds blow and snowflakes fall, You show the world how brave you are, As brave he was but now a star. He loved the birds, the flowers and song, He watched you sometimes all day long. You seemed to answer if he'd call but now you're still, no life; it's fall. For now he's just a memory, like the leaves that flyaway. But just like you he'll live again For this to God I pray. So cross my heart I shall not cry, It's faith I have in God so high. Dorothy Elizabeth Nichols
Celestial Quest A Rich Man The greatest moments I have known have been with simple things the wind, the sea, a story told, perhaps a bird that sings. I never looked for glory, for power, and for wealth. It was enough to rest the night and to awake with health. James P. Pecquet
Celestial Quest Balance The fig leaves on my little tree are always first to fall. It seems as though they listen to a wholly different call... perhaps a sound that rises on summer nights so still, and tells them in a whisper to fly beyond the hill. It never comes to pass, of course, they seldom journey far, but even learned men at times will try to reach a star. And when mid-winter settles in, and strips the world so bare, my fig tree thinks it's time to bud and show that life is there. It may be true that rebels are not the stuff of kings, but I believe there's balance in the very heart of things. James P. Pecquet
CHAPTER VI - DIVINITY FACTOR Let us now explore, in more depth what I consider the key to Christianity, the divinity of Jesus. We will use Webster's definitions of divine as being: "of or like God or a god"; "given or Inspired by God, holy-sacred." If Jesus did not, or does not, fill this definition can there still be Christianity? Since it appears that the only record of Jesus' divinity is in the gospels how can we best authenticate these works? What, If any, secular accounts do we have of the existence of the historical Jesus and can we use these in any way to rationalize the divinity claim? It is one thing to get people to accept the existence of the historical Jesus, but can we use these accounts in any way to rationalize the divinity claim? It Is also one thing to get people to accept the existence of a Superior Being or Force, a God, and another thing to get them to accept the divinity of Jesus. Before proceeding with the analysis of the divinity Issue, let me retell the beautiful story (derived from the gospels) of the blessed events surrounding the birth of Jesus. I believe in this way we can properly set the stage for this all Important study. Back In history, in the days of Herod, there was a Hebrew priest by the name of Zacharias. His wife's name was Elizabeth. They were good people and lived according to the commandments. They had no children for Elizabeth was barren, and both she and Zacharias had grown very old. One day while Zacharias was attending to his priestly duties, the gospel tells us that an angel of the Lord appeared unto him and according to Luke 1-11, the angel said: "Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. He shall go before him, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare the people for the Lord." Zacharias was quite bewildered by this and was reluctant to believe. Because of this, the angel caused Zacharias to be dumb, and according to the gospel account, told him that he would not be able to speak until the day the baby was born. Thereafter Elizabeth conceived, and the book of Luke tells us that six months later the angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, a city In Galilee, to speak to the Virgin Mary. Mary at this time was espoused to a man named Joseph. According to Luke 1-28, the angel said to her: "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus, He shall be great, and shall be called the 'Son of God.'" The angel explained to Mary: "The Holy Ghost shall come unto thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee." Mary later went to the city of Judah and visited Elizabeth. The account goes that when Elizabeth was greeted by Mary, the babe leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. Elizabeth told Mary what had occurred and referred to Mary as being "blessed among women." The Gospel says that Mary stayed with Elizabeth around three months and then returned to her home. Soon after, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. 104
Celestial Quest Some wanted to name him Zacharias, but Elizabeth wished to call him John. Zacharias, therefore, took a writing table and wrote - "His name Is John." At this point, Zacharias was cured of his dumbness and spoke up and according to Luke prophesied saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and thou child shalt be called the prophet of the highest: For thou shalt go before the Lord to prepare his way." Now at this same time in history, Caesar Augustus Issued a decree "that all should be taxed," and Instructed that the people were to return to their own cities to file for the taxation. Joseph took his wife Mary, who was nearing the final days of her pregnancy, and went to the city of Bethlehem, the town of his forefathers. While In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her first son. The Gospel says that she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room at the Inn. Luke 2-9 tells us that the angel of the Lord came upon the shepherds tending their flocks in the field and said to them: "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. For unto you are born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which Is Christ the Lord. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph, and the Babe lying in the manger just as the angel had said. The shepherds told of the miraculous events which led them to the manger. All that heard wondered what the meaning of all this could be. But, the gospel notes that Mary just kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. She was to see her son grow to manhood and give his life as a sacrifice for the people of the world. As beautiful and blessed as this account of events surrounding the birth of Jesus Is, we should, as true Inquiring minds, recognize that other world religions also had similar accounts for their founders as previously mentioned. We must also recognize that, since the referenced religions were several hundred years older than Christianity, they could not have borrowed the miraculous stories about Jesus and incorporated them in their sacred literature. Could the reverse be more accurate? Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Persians, claim their founder (Zoroastres) was divinely conceived, as well as experienced divine Inspirations. Will Durant provides one account of the event In â€•Our Oriental Heritageâ€–. It states that: "Zarathustra's (Zoroastere In Greek) conception was divine: his guardian angel entered into the haoma plant, and passed with Its juices Into the body of a priest as the latter offered divine sacrifice; at the same time a ray of heaven's glory entered the bosom of a maid of noble lineage. The priest espoused the maid, the Imprisoned angel mingled with the Imprisoned ray, and Zarathustra began to be. He laughed aloud on the very day of his birth, and the evil spirits that gather around every life fled from him in tumult and terror. Out of his great love for wisdom and righteousness he withdrew from the society of men, and chose to live in a mountain wilderness on cheese and fruits of the soil. The Devil tempted him, but to no avail. His breast was pierced with a sword, and his entrails were filled with molten lead; he did not complain, but clung to his faith In Ahura - Mazda, the Lord of Light, as supreme god. Ahura-Mazda appeared to him and gave into his hands the Avesta, or "Book of Knowledge and Wisdom," and bade him preach it to mankind. For a long time, all the world ridiculed and persecuted him; but at last, a high prince of Iran-Vishtaspa or 105
Celestial Quest Hystaspes- heard him gladly, and promised to spread the new faith among his people (a la Constantine). Thus, was the Zoroastrian religion born. Zarathustra himself lived to a very old age, was consumed in a flash of lightning, and ascended into heaven." Except for the long life of Zarathustra, the similarities of the story of Zarathustra to that of Jesus are startling. Many legends surround the life of the Buddha, originally a prince of the Gautama clan of India. His mother was said to be of great beauty. In a dream she was a white elephant (considered sacred and actually the Buddha himself) entering her side and was told that her son would be a king, a universal monarch and would remove the veil of Ignorance from the world. After ten months, the child was born as his mother stood under a tree. The babe supposedly stood erect, took seven steps, and declared in a voice like a lion, "I am the chief in the world. This is my last birth. There is now no existence again." At the birth legend says a great light appeared In the sky, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, the lame were made straight, gods bent down from heaven to assist, and kings came from afar to welcome him. (Sound familiar?) It is also to be noted that Gautama was tempted by Mara, Prince of Evil, while Gautama was seeking truth, seated under the Bo-tree (tree of enlightenment). After a day and night, light came to Gautama and he became a Buddha (an enlightened one). Immediately preceding this experience, Gautama, for six years had devoted himself to the most severe form of asceticism, living on seeds and grass and Is said to have reduced his Intake to a grain of rice a day. Much (virgin birth, violent death, ascension Into heaven, etc.) of what a Christian holds sacred is also, woven into the events surrounding Zeus and his sons (e.g. Hermes, Aesculapius, Bacchus, Hercules, etc.) Even Bellerophon, who though sprung from mortals, soared to heaven on the horse Pegasus. Ariadne also was elevated to the stars. The mother of Mahavira (founder of Jainism) is said to have dreamt for 14 consecutive nights she would have a prophet son. When he was born the sky was bright, soft winds swept the earth and all the people were glad. Mahavira organized a band of followers and gave up all their possessions and earthly ties to seek the truth. He had eleven disciples. The Persian cult of the sun god Mithras had as one of its rites a sacred meal not unlike the Christian Eucharist. Its main festival was held on Dec. 25. These accounts or legend from other religions are not submitted here to refute the miraculous happening described in the gospels, but only to open some minds to the similarities among the major religions of history in their attempt to deify their respective founders. One lesson these similarities in miraculous events may be telling us is that we may eventually, n the course of our study; have to look elsewhere for the true uniqueness of Christianity. However, for the time being let us continue our critical analysis with a look at the "Doctrine of the Trinity." I look forward to the day when I meet someone with the wisdom to fully explain the "Trinity" to me. Most Christian churches view it as: 1. God as the Creator or Father. 2. God revealed historically in the personality of Christ, as God the Son. 3. God as a continuing presence and power in our lives, as God the Holy Spirit. This is fine, except the gospels (our only source) are almost mute on the subject. In fact, 106
Celestial Quest most statements in the gospels attributed to Jesus seem to infer that he was separate from God. (I.e. Son of God.) For example: In the synoptic gospels, he did not equate himself with God. He said, "Why do you call me good?" he asked. "There is none good but one, that Is God." Also the following: Matthew 20:23: "… but to sit on my right hand and left Is not mine to give, but It shall be given to them for whom It Is prepared of my father." Mark 14:36 and Matthew 26:39: "O my father If It be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Beside the fact that Jesus is showing disappointment In God (a separate entity) he has also demonstrated his own lack of faith In God's plans.) Even Justin (martyr), 2nd Century Christian convert and revered "Church" patriot, said of Jesus: "We do right to worship him, accepting him as the Son of the true God, and holding him In second place, and the prophetic Spirit In the third." So, what is it: same or different meaning of word "Son?" "Swedenborg" suggested: three aspects of one God (I.e. a Divine Trinity); all three divine aspects culminate in one, Jesus. It is to be noted that the Institutional Church's version originated with the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and supported by the Athenasian Creed (500 A.D.) The fact remains, however, unless one falls back on the "faith" catchall position of just don't question the church's authority. The Idea of the Trinity has exasperated people of other religions and philosophies. Needless to say, the Trinity concept has always been somewhat confusing to me. Why can‘t the presence of Christ just be viewed as his spirit flowing directly through all of us? The other God element as mentioned in a previous chapter could be as follows: The Creator of the Universe sets everything In motion; at varying points In time physical form occurs; the "seed" Is planted and all life begins Its evolvement; humanity takes hold, and here we are. Since the Creator Is a macro-manager he sees that things are working very well and backs off. However, though the physical elements of the Universe function according to plan; humans, with their "free will" to think and do as they wish, will sometimes Interact Incompatibly with the physical. They also, at times, interact dysfunctionally among themselves, often with disastrous results. At this point the "Creator" sees a need for a loving/comforting "Guiding Light" to help ease the suffering, and give hope. Another way to look at the Universe (and everything In It) is that, like any great endeavor, It Is a "work-In-progress." So the Creator sees the need to Intervene at this point in human history and allows his spirit to bring forth the man (yet divine spirit) to be known as Jesus. The divine Holy Spirit as Jesus shows humanity how to deal with Inequity, Injustice, and outright suffering. But also gives us hope (via the Cross). Now It Is all Important that we, in turn, accept (and allow) the Creator's Spirit (flowing through Jesus), to flow through us, thus returning us to the Creator. While we're reviewing statements attributed to Jesus let's look at some others that, to the rational mind, appear paradoxical or at least dysfunction in our attempt to shed light on 107
Celestial Quest the divinity Issue. In describing (Mark 13) the events leading up to the second coming why did Jesus state (verse 30) "Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass till all these thing (signs of Christ's second coming) be done." When In fact, the generation did pass before the things were done? Also In Matthew 16:28 he said, "Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the son of man coming In his kingdom." (He was speaking of his disciples and others within listening range.) How could the disciples have witnessed so many miracles (e.g. the transfiguration; raisings from the dead; walking on the sea and calming of the sea; numerous healings; feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000; paying of tribute from money obtained from a fish's mouth; opening of graves at time of Jesus; death and releasing of saints), and still have doubted his divinity. There were even Peter's denials, Judas' betrayal, and Jesus' constant references to the "little faith of his disciples." Even the hardest skeptic would be impressed by the miraculous events mentioned above. Maybe we will just have to agree with Dr. Albert Schweitzer's statement that "the historical Jesus will be to our time a stranger and an enigma." What we know of the writers of the gospels is also sketchy. The numerous Interpretations, and Institutional Influences don't make our search for truth any easier. Some historical theologian, however, have suggested that the gospels belong to the period following the Jewish War with Rome, and can be dated between A.D. 75 and 115. The Book of Mark Is thought to be the oldest, with the writers of Matthew and Luke using Mark as a guide. It is also suggested that Mark's Gospel owes much to the Nazorean prophetic gnosis as evidenced by a third of the book being devoted to "passion week." The man Mark accompanied Peter and acted as his Interpreter since Peter only spoke Aramaic. He wrote down what Peter had taught concerning Jesus. Much of it was probably written In Italy. Luke, a physician, was the companion of Paul. It is thought by some that Luke also wrote Acts. John may even have been written by a Greek who had known the disciple John. Suggested date for the Book of John Is A.D. 110-115. Since there was a substantial Messianic flavor to the gospels, prophecy is often used to substantiate the divinity of Jesus (See specific prophecies referenced In previous chapters). The argument goes that If Jesus fits the mold of the Messiah prophesied by Hebrew "holy" men, living hundreds of years earlier, then only the divine could have brought this all about. For example, Moses testified In Deuteronomy 18:15,18 of Christ's coming, "The Lord the God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken â€Ś I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words In his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. Peter, In Acts 3:19-22 bore witness to Moses' Deuteronomy statements. (Also Proverbs, Ch. 8 previously referenced). We have looked at the enigma of the "Trinity" Now let's try to put the all-Important events of "The Cross" In perspective. First, I proffer that a review of the sequence of events, as set forth in all four Gospels (our only available source), is in order. The compilation of scriptural passages provided In the Index should suffice for this purpose.
Celestial Quest In order to understand the theological significance of "The Cross" we need to try and understand the following: 1. Purpose behind Jesus' humiliation, torture, death. 2. Parties involved in bringing Jesus to the Cross. 3. Role played by "God the Father" (Omnipotent). Was Jesus' death (via the cross) preordained (even staged) by God (I.e. Jesus himself)? This is inferred in scripture (O.T. and even Jesus' words). Who then is responsible for the "Cross" - humans or God? 4. Institutional Church's official position (past and present) on events/purpose of the "Cross." 5. Significance for humanity, first with an Ascension, and then without an Ascension. What are some alternative views on Jesus' crucifixion? We know he was considered a type of rebel. In his case, a rebel, with a cause. (I.e. heroic attempt by ideologically impassioned individual to free the downtrodden from the religious and civil powerbrokers of his day). Or could he have been a good and special young Jewish man, seeing himself as fulfilling Hebrew (O.T.) prophecy? He certainly took on the religious hierarchy, fanatics and Intolerant, "holier-than-thous" of his day. His taking on the "City Hall" and pervasive hypocrisy of his day could have been, what we have come to refer to as "Quixotic." There have been numerous examples throughout history, of Impassioned and courageous men and women who took on "Quixotic" challenges, usually paying a heavy price for their quest. The more esoteric position of course, is that of the "Universal Spirit flowing through Christ." This Spirit defeated/overcame the tragedy of the Cross via the "Resurrection" and thus this "ultimate sacrifice" of Jesus, for all of humanity, was consummated. ("For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16) This is, of course, the "Church's" position, and the one I find especially humbling and comforting. I wish, however, there was a clearer understanding of his promised "Return." It's been over 2000 years since he left earth, at least visually. He said: "Verily, I say unto you, there be some standing here (talking to his disciples), which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming In his Kingdom." (Matthew 16:28); "But, I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:27). Let us now look at secular evidence that Jesus, the man, did exist and preached his message in and around the old Jewish state of Judea. The earliest non-Christian reference Is In Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, written around A.D. 93. Josephus, a Jewish Historian, says this about Jesus: "At that time live Jesus, a holy man, if man he may be called, for he performed wonderful works, and taught men, and joyfully receive the truth. And he was followed by many Jews and many Greeks. He was the Messiah." The earliest known mention of Christ In "pagan" (non-Judeo-Christian) literature is in a letter by Pliny (ca.110) the Younger, asking Trajan's advice in dealing with the Christian sect. Tacitus also describes Nero's persecution of the Christians In Rome and mentions that "Chrestiani" derived its name from Chrestus, who suffered under Pontius Pilate in reign of Tiberius. Suetonius (ca.125) mentions the same persecutions, and reports
Celestial Quest Claudius' banishment of "Jews who, stirred by Christ, were causing public disturbances." Through these references really just prove the existence of Christians, rather than a historical Jesus, basic logic tells us that the movement had to have had a catalyst, and that would be the "rebel" Jesus of Nazareth. Though as previously mentioned, the gospel authors were to an extent motivated by self Interests, their works are unique in world literature. Never before, nor since, have writers Introduced: so powerful, yet pure and appealing a personality as Jesus; so lofty and humanly challenging an ethic; and so Inspiring a vision of human love and brotherhood. This story of Jesus is so potent that it is, in itself, a miraculous achievement. Furthermore, If Jesus did only part of the things attributed to him, he would have had to have still been divinely inspired. His message is so pure and his actions so unselfish and beyond human failings that It is almost too much for the world to handle. Jesus was not Interested In worldly political and economic systems, he sought to cleanse the Inner person. If this were successful then the earthly Institutions and systems would automatically be righted. In the spiritual sense, Jesus' message was the ultimate revolution. One needs only to read the "Sermon on the Mount" to realize that only someone divinely Inspired could speak these words, especially In a world of greed, hatred, and cruelty. Keep always in mind that Jesus lived his life of purity, not in the protected environment of a seminary or monastery, but out in the real world, among the scarred and treacherous elements of humankind. Though he himself was made to experience the ultimate sufferings, he never lost his purity and continued to the last to care for those around him, including his enemies. This certainly was no mortal being. The heroism of the disciples, after the death and purported resurrection is also indicative that their leader was something more than mortal. There are few, if any, historical precedents for the type of martyrdom expressed by the disciples and early Christians. History tells us that Stephen, one of the ordained deacons of the early "Nazarene" sect, was condemned by the Sanhedrin and dragged and stoned to death. James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded. James, "the Just" brother of Jesus, was put to death. Peter was crucified, head downward. Paul was beheaded at Rome. There were many others who suffered torture and death because of their Intense faith In Christ, but these few examples plus the following words of "Justin" should suffice to Illustrate the point: "I give injunctions to all men that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if you do not hinder it. I beseech you, be not an unreasonable kindness to me. Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God â€Ś Rather entice the wild beasts that they may become my tomb, and leave no trace of my body, that when I fall asleep I be not burdensome to any â€Ś I long for the beasts that are prepared for me â€Ś Let there come upon me fire and cross, struggles with wild beasts, cutting and tearing asunder, racking of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, and cruel tortures of the devil If so I may attain to Jesus Christ!" This Intense faith on the part of a few Impoverished and persecuted people and their hope and comfort In Christ, confronted the most powerful state the world had know, and with only words of love and peace, and righteous conduct, eventually conquered pagan Rome. Christianity became the state religion of Rome under the reign of Constantine, who himself had been converted to Christianity. This victory can be understood fully only by 110
Celestial Quest accepting the fact of divine Intercession. In summation, the divinity Issue will continue to evoke emotional debate since by its very definition embodies a superior being, a God; and who among us can fully comprehend God? There are Irrational zealots on both sides of the Issue and it would be a miracle, indeed, if the twain should meet. Then there's that rather gentle mentality in which it doesn't really matter whether there is any evidential basis for the "divinity" of Jesus, or even accuracy of the accounts of his earthly ministry. These people are just basically in love with the "story." Kind of like a child believing In a Santa Clause, or a fantasy tale like "Alice In Wonderland," or Dorothy of the "Wizard of Oz" or "Cinderella." The story is so spellbinding and beautiful that this gentle mentality will believe, no matter what. As I have said before, there are all kinds of people with varying thought processes/motivations. Actually, I don't see any particular harm in this approach to Jesus, as long as the results (person's actions) are In keeping with Jesus' teachings as recorded in the gospels. Let us then concentrate on the words of Jesus and the spirit of Jesus, for these, we must agree, are very special and provide hope for mankind. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, in his book, "The Quest for the Historical Jesus" put it this way: "Jesus as a concrete historical personality remains a stranger to our time, but his spirit, which lies hidden in his words, is known in simplicity, and Its Influence Is direct. Every saying contains In Its own way the whole Jesus. The very strangeness and unconditionedness in which he stands before us makes it easier for Individuals to find their own personal standpoint in regards to him. … But the truth Is, It Is not Jesus as historically know, but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men, who Is significant for our time and can help It. Not the historical Jesus, but the spirit which goes forth from him and in the spirits of men strives for new Influence and rule, Is that which overcomes the world." Well said, Dr. Schweitzer. Also, since there is such scant secular (historical) evidence of the Divinity of Jesus, maybe, In addition to opening up our being to the spirit (allowing It to flow freely); we should put our emphasis on Jesus' beautiful message. At least his message is very clear, regardless of who recorded It, or when. His message of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness for all (even those that do you harm) is not only revolutionary (or at least extremely challenging), but down right beautiful. He set the example, in his exemplary life, for all of humanity, and this fact should not be ignored. What a wonderful world this would be, if we could even come close to practicing his teachings. If Jesus did not even give the "Sermon on the Mount" then whoever came up with this powerful message must truly been blessed with tremendous Insight Into human frailties, yet potentialities. To love your enemy is truly radical thinking for most of us. To "turn the other cheek"; walk the extra mile; give more, if someone takes from you; give up the material life; love and help everyone. All this is mind-boggling to most, but If followed could save humanity. Let's give it a try. It is after all our only hope. Art references: God So Loved Divine Gift The Lamb 111
The Magdalene Eternity Purity
Figure 47 - God So Loved (Alabaster – 26” x 14”)
The hand and wrist of Jesus enshrouded in the burial cloth. The lower alabaster is sculpted to represent Golgotha. In addition to the nail puncture wound in the hand, I have opened up the whole wrist to accentuate the ―extreme sacrifice‖ made, by Jesus, for all of us. Additionally, scripture tells us that the cup holding the body preparation ointments was, in fact, alabaster. What better sculpture stone to use in this instance.
Figure 48 - Divine Gift (Buckeye – 46” x 12”)
The extended arms and hands (with puncture wounds) of Jesus superimposed over a ruffed out cross and shrouded upper portion. Has been, by request, exhibited in churches, especially during Easter week. Has also received much attention, as well as emotional (tears) reaction when exhibited in museums and galleries.
Celestial Quest This is not only ―Spiritual Expressionism‖, but ―functional art‖ since it was created to be the top section of a beautiful (and nearly 100 year old) marble font located in a Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania. The sculptural project was initiated by Ernest Kent, and his siblings to serve as an ―honorarium‖ for their mother, who was turning 100 years old. She had been a lifelong member of the Church (Peace Lutheran) and it was felt that this was the most poignant way to thank her for the beauty and service of her life. The sculpture itself shows a lamb (representing Jesus) cuddled unto the loving mother sheep (Mary), with both a Sheppard‘s staff, as well as a rugged tree cross hovering overhead. A ―crown-ofthorns is also evident in the front root system of the tree.
Figure 49 - The Lamb (Honduran Mahogany – 18” x 16”)
Figure 50 - The Magdalene (plastelene/clay – 32” x 14”)
Mary Magdalene, is an angel evolves out of the stylized wings of birds, which in turn rise out of an earth formation. The Magdalene, of course, was one of the closest confidants of Jesus, during his ministry and was, as the Gospels wrote, at the ―Cross‖ with the other Marys. She was also, as the Gospels note, the first to see (and speak to) Jesus after he arose (from the tomb). It‘s unfortunate that Pope Gregory I did Mary such a disservice.
Figure 51 â€“ Eternity (Granite)
This was another instance where I began chipping away at a stone (this time and extremely hard stone) and not having any subject in mind. As so often happens in my art, I am mysteriously led into a spiritual theme and in this case rather geometric attempt to portray the three crosses of Golgotha, AS the current owner of this piece observed. One cross turns toward the center cross (Jesus) and the other turns away. Just as the Gospel notes.
Figure 52 – Purity (Georgia Marble)
This highly stylized rendition of a swan is meant to communicate the beautiful ethic of compassion, as well as truth. We all should be striving to live our lives according to the Jesus‘ message of: ―love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness for all peoples‖
CHAPTER VII - THE HUMAN DILEMMA How would one rank the state of "human goodness" today? Have thousands of years of material/technical advancements made a difference? Also, has Institutionalized religion made a significant difference? Let's first take a look at Institutional Christianity. I date this form of Christianity from the time Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome In the early part of the fourth century. Christianity as an Institution/organized religion has reigned supreme in the western world ever since. Yet, our modern era seems to have as much, If not more, sinfulness; warfare; terrorism (foreign as well as homegrown); the various Hitlers (he was a professed Christian); religious strife of all kinds; bigotry and Intolerance (even In highly Christianized countries); Increasing crime rates; overflowing prisons; social and political upheavals; government and corporate corruption, Injustices; huge scandals with the "Church"; even Involving the priesthood and denominational clergy; a culture turned on to drugs and booze; TV, Internet, rife with pornography; the worshiping of the almighty dollar (I.e. greed); and children being exposed to all kinds of extreme violence and lewdness via TV and the Internet. Any serious study of the Institutional Church from Its conception to the present will disclose all types of Injustices, Inequities, Intolerances, corruption, and even reigns of terror. What about the horrors of the "Church's" Inquisition? What about the cruelties and killings perpetrated by the "Christian" Crusaders? What about the Witch Hunts with the burnings at the stake? What authority In Holy Writ commanded that so-called heretics were to be convinced by fire, rather than welcomed by reason and love? Then there was the practice of Indulgences whereby parishioners were encouraged to buy, from the "Church" officials, absolution for perceived sins. (Guess plenty of bishops got rich on that moneymaking scheme). However, many of the resulting "church reformers" were just as Intolerant (and cruel) as the Roman Catholic hierarchy they opposed, even to the point of outright religious wars. Even some of the early "Christian" missionaries to this hemisphere were outright cruel in the treatment of native peoples. Slavery was not only overlooked but even condoned, by many within Institutional Christianity, all the way up to our own slavery days In America, and subsequent segregation era. Even today in our so-called enlightened time frame, an undercurrent of racism exists. The following was paraphrased from Erasmus: "Rather than burn candles to the Virgin Mary or a particular saint, why not Imitate the revered Individuals via pureness of life, humility and live of one's fellow human beings for this Is true worship and the most acceptable to the Divine. Paul said "faith" Is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." Doctrine played no role in this concept. In fact, the disciples worshiped in spirit, following no other guide than the teachings of Jesus. We know God through the spirit of Christ and therefore should be worshipped in spirit and truth, void of all the additives Imposed by the Institutional Church. Much of the "hierarchy" contend that only the Church "learnedâ€– can properly interpret and set forth the word of God. They with their volumes of doctrinal rules have complicated the word. With their excessive ceremonies, fancy robes and hats, ridiculous trifles (chanting, hand gestures/waving, etc.) exercise a kind of tyranny among the parishioners/congregation. By the way, what's with the tall, fancy hats anyway? What's the basis for this non-Jesus attire? I recommend a serious rereading of Desiderius Erasmus' "The Praise of Folly." Over the centuries, many In the Institutional Church have taken the beautiful scriptural 119
Celestial Quest words, "We have left all and followed thee" and as Erasmus (Praise of Folly) said, turned this Into "Patrimony lands, cities, tribute, impasts, riches from which being Inflamed with the love of Christ, they contend with fire and sword, and not without much loss of Christian blood, and believe they have then most Apostolically defended the Church, the spouse of Christ, when the enemy, as they call 'em, are valiantly routed. We, of course, are still doing, In our own way, these horrible things via aggressive (pre-emptive) wars against other countries killing thousands of Innocent people. Everyone except a small percentage of these so-called religious Ideologues agree that Invading and occupying Iraq was not only stupid, but Immoral. "Come not, let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18). Is the reason the "Church" puts so much stress on accepting Its liturgical/regulatory/pomp and ceremonial/ policies and practices, because It Is In extreme defensive mode, knowing full well that there Is no basis for all this man-made stuff In the actual teachings/life of Jesus. Many (If not most) of "Church" defenders are not inclined to tackle complex theological Issues. They prefer not to learn of anything that may disrupt their "cow path" beliefs. They seem to prefer Ignorance to enlightenment. Jesus said, "Men love darkness rather than light." (John 3:19) He also said, "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them." (Matthew 13:15) Jesus, of course, is saying: Please listen to what I am saying, and observe my way of life (and way of caring for others); not some man-made organizational/hierarchy more Interested In Its own self-preservation. In some Instances, It even seems that there are those that are more dedicated/loyal to the "organization" than to the message of Jesus. So many meaningful/genuine Inquiries are going unanswered/Ignored by "Church" leaders, or are being dealt with In matter-of-fact statements like: It's In the Bible, so accept It, even If you don't understand the passage; or you weren't supposed to know the reasoning of God, so just take It on faith; or the much used statement - read Job. No wonder so many "thinking people" are turned off by this blatant Irrationality. Word-byword, literal Interpretation of Biblical passages, as well as many of competing denominations "our Interpretation Is the only oneâ€– approach is just not compatible with the rational thought process, bestowed on humans, by their Creator. The mandatory requirement by some elements within Institutional Christianity to accept, without question, doctrines/concepts such as the Trinity; virgin birth; bodily resurrections; transubstantiation; life after death; a satan/devil creature; literal hell; original sin, etc. on faith alone (or because an authority within the "Church" structure told them so) Is utterly Incompatible with the Inquiring mind of many. "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright, but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness." (Prov. 15;2) Even the much fallback concept of "free will" needs to be looked at in more depth. If as so many do within "Church" circles, attribute all our human generated miseries on "free will (given to us by God), maybe a different provision would have worked better. Don't forget Tennyson said, "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds." And Erasmus, "Freedom of thought is required In order to find the pure 120
Celestial Quest faith." How should the Bible be used? We already have illustrated the dysfunctionality of trying to convince an atheist or even an agnostic of eternal truths within Christian doctrine, by quoting Biblical passages. There are genuine approaches in sharing your Christ orientation with non-believers. These will be discussed later, but, for now one might just be a living example of the universal maxim (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) Now, for those of us that thirst for knowledge and truth, I fervently wish that academia or at least some objective (I.e. non-defensive, non-prejudiced) beyond reproach, "Researchers" would tackle the job of, at least, attempting to legitimatize the scriptures. If the "powers-that-be" In Institutional Religion can be honest and objective then that's fine, but so far they have failed in this task. Issues that need to be addressed Include: 1. Is there any non-"Church" supportive secular historical documentation and, If so, what? 2. Much has been said recently about archaeological proofs of places/Incidents, so letâ€˜s have all of It and If possible, an explanation of how a specific geographical finding can verify a Biblical story. 3. Is there any proof to back up "literal " interpretations, especially those portions of the O.T. (e.g. Genesis) which have all the trappings of Mythology? I do wonder It, as the text says, God created Adam and Eve and they, In turn, begot Cain and Abel (no other children mentioned), where all the women came from, which Cain found In the "Land of Nod," after he was sent away for killing Abel. And how about the Giants? Have you ever notice that when you question a "Church" leader on anything In the Bible, their reply will often be: the passage Is true since the Bible Is divinely Inspired. Did Jesus tell us this or what? 4. Is there any evidence for the scriptures being divinely inspired, or must we always just accept everything on faith, like so many in Institutional Christianity tell us? (Is faith compatible with a rational, even scientific mind?) 5. Under what circumstances were the various books of the Bible written and what substantive Information do we have on the authors? 6. Approximately, how many translations have been made, and by whom, and how can we be sure of scripture accuracy/consistency, after so many translators and "spinmasters" have been Involved? 7. How can we be sure that the "powers-that-be" In Institutional Religion didn't have their own narrow-minded agenda in scripture publications? Since there has been so many translations (In numerous languages) over thousands of years, by numerous scholars (all with their own "frame of reference" and potential for human error, how can we be so sure of scripture accuracy? It is a common occurrence that when two or more Individuals hear the same story/account, there is, more often than not, a different understanding of the account and In turn, different Interpretations are communicated again and again. If one accepts the literal word of Biblical scripture, wouldn't it be just as easy to accept other religions' scripture having similar miraculous (mythological) orientation, as fact? For example: Gautama Buddha's divinely Inspired birth and his being tempted y the evil spirit (Satan) while sitting under the Bo-tree; the tempting of Zoroaster by the evil one (Satan) and Zoroaster repelling Satan by quoting text to him, as Jesus did when tempted by Satan; divine birth of Mahavira amid same type "Bethlehem" circumstance; the virgin birth of Zoroaster and his ascension Into heaven In a flash of lightning. (It is to be noted that Gautama and Zoroaster lived on earth over 500 years before Christ walked the earth. This seems to even raise the possibility of "story Influence.") It Is Important to keep in 121
Celestial Quest mind that people of other world religions (majority of world's population is nonChristian) believe their sacred literature to be divinely Inspired renderings. Again, I wonder if early followers of Jesus drew from these older religions some of the divinely oriented stories/miraculous events we now find in our own Bible, as "gospel truths." To further strengthen this possibility, we have the pre-Christian era God/Mithras (called "Son of God" and Light of the world" being born on Dec. 25; dying and being buried In a rock tomb; and resurrecting In three days.) Dec. 25 is also the birth date of Osiris, Adonis and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even the holy day (Sunday) was taken from the "pagans." (Early followers of Jesus honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the "pagans" veneration day of the sun. Even the Images of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus were taken from pictographs of Isis nursing her miraculously conceived son Horus. Constantine saw the urgent, political/military need to strengthen his designation of Christianity as state religion, and thus ordered the gathering known as "Council of Nicaea" (a la Nicene Creed). This all too political Council debated and voted on: role of bishops, priests; administration of sacraments; divinity of Jesus (Including the Trinity concept); make-up of Bible, especially New Testament; and even the exact date of Easter. Until this time (4th Century), Jesus was viewed by many of his followers as a great and revered man but mortal. Jesus' role as "Son of God" was officially proposed, and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. Constantine himself commissioned a select Bible omitting those gospels (e.g. Coptic scrolls, Q-documents) giving credence to Christ's human traits, and elaborated/embellished those writings that made him God-like. The Indications are that Constantine had this done to solidify his (and the bishops) own power base. It is to be noted that Mary Magdalene played a much more significant/vital role in the rejected scriptures. Pope Gregory I (6th Century) further did "Mary" In with his "harlot Inference" (for which there Is absolutely no basis In scripture or elsewhere.) speech. Now, I would expect at least that everyone In Institutional Christianity would agree on one point. and that is: the "Church" is based on, and even owes its existence to the concept of divinity. If Jesus were just a nice man (and a good teacher) would Christianity as we have it today exist? We addressed this in a previous chapter but again ask: Without citing Biblical quotations and without stating, "these things must be accepted on faith," how can one best support the divinity aspect of Jesus? For example: What secular evidence If any do we have of Jesus' earthly activity that would support the Institutional Church's claim of his divinity? What means do we have to authenticate the substance of the gospels (I.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)? If the substance cannot be authenticated why should rational man believe a divinity claim? What secular Information do we have on the authors of the gospels? What was their relationship to any eyewitnesses of Jesus' divine acts? The gospels reference certain "after the tomb" sightings and Acts mentions even more, why no secular reference/Impact? Why was there such a delayed reaction of the Impact of Jesus (said to be God, or at least the son of God) In the ancient world? Doesn't It seem that If Jesus did even half the things attributed to him In the gospels there would have been considerable secular historical documentation reflecting the deeds? (Several places in the gospels after Jesus performed one of his miracles, there are statements like: "his fame was spread abroad in all that county." But why was it not picked up in historical accounts? How can we be so sure that the gospels are not just 122
Celestial Quest glorified exaggerations about Incidents In the life of a man named Jesus written by Individuals who wanted to establish unique credentials for the founder of their particular movement? There are many examples of this sort of thing, throughout history. As previously mentioned, other religious movements, especially, did the same thing in regards to their founders. It's been approximately 2000 years since Jesus and his miracles, don't you think there has been at least a need for an occasional "Inspirational booster shot? How can we be expected to believe in the divinity of a man said to have lived 2000 years ago, yet there is no secular evidence available on the divinity claim. Sure would be nice if the institutional "Church" leadership would be considerate of the rest of us poor souls and truthfully address these questions. If you can't, at least admit it. If you can, please just give us the facts, without hyperbole or obfuscation. Institutional Christianity has gone so far afield from the pure message espoused by Jesus and from his style of ministry that It Is difficult to say It Is, In fact, Jesus-centered. It seems to be more of a religion dictated by man not its founder, Jesus. Some churches also seem to cater primarily to the socially acceptable and financially stable. Does It really want the "lost souls" and downtrodden of our population (I.e. the ones Jesus sought out) to actively mingle with its congregations. (I have been encouraged of late by efforts to help in natural disasters and hunger) I'm also not so sure that Jesus himself would be greeted warmly in many of our socially elitist churches of today. This phenomenon of social elitism is, of course, of a subtle nature and few "Church-types" would acknowledge that it exists. Why Is It that so many "Church-types" seem so smug in their religious biases that they take on a "holier-than-thou" attitude? They seem not to be sympathetic to the mental anguish experienced by those poor souls who want so much to believe, but are overcome by their own "God-given" rational mind. Don't these smug Individuals realize their attitude is actually driving more souls away from Christianity than bringing them into the fold? Christianity Is, In terms of numbers, a minority percentage of total world religious membership (and by some accounts, dwindling) so It might want to reassess Its approach to conveying the message of Christ. The authoritative "Handbook of Denominations In the United States," by Frank S. Mead documents 250 religious bodies within this country alone. All these groups contend that they have found the "right way" and even belittle those other groups that don't agree with them. How can a rational, objective Individual, though wanting genuinely to take an active part In Christianity, possibly know which of these 250 Church groups to join, especially when there Is so much divisiveness and "back-biting" within the Church community? Maybe If all these competing groups ever get their "Christian" act together, outsiders will begin to take Institutional religion seriously. Why was (and Is) the Judeo-Christian God so cruel (or are we viewing his acts from the wrong perspective?)? The Bible Itself relates numerous Instances, which seem cruel from our human standards, e.g. God destroyed practically the whole human race with his great flood (If one accepts the literal version). Is this the work of a loving father as the "Church" describes God? Does this "loving father" concept make sense at all In light of the atrocities brought about through natural disasters previously discussed? Or is it possible God Is not omnipotent and the controller of all natural events. Meslier (priest) put It this way: "Is there In nature a man so cruel as to wish In cold blood to torment, I do not say his fellow beings, but any sentient being whatever? Conclude then, O theologians, 123
Celestial Quest that according to your own principles your God In Infinitely more wicked than the most wicked of men â€Ś What morals would we have if we should imitate this God! The Christian God is the author of all evil, for, since he is omnipotent, nothing can happen without his consent. If he gives us life, he also gives us death; if he grants us health and riches, he must send us, in recompense, poverty, famine, disasters, and war. There are in the world many signs that this Divine Providence, if it exists, is capable of the most devilish mischief?" This most dreaded concern goes right along with my question "Who's At the Helm" discussed earlier in the book. Apparently this particular Issue is bugging more than just me. Seems like there may be two Gods: God of Jesus (my God); God of O.T. (destructive force). What (If any) is the uniqueness of Christianity In relation to other religions and In relation to Its Impact on the world? Is the Christian himself/herself any more special than any other of the Creator's children? What evidence do we have that God has taken a particular Interest In our lives and what do you suspect he wishes from us? How does one fulfill his or her Christianity? I'm not talking about being a staunch and loyal member of some particular Institution, but being a follower of Jesus and showing by example you believe in his message of love. Some people seem to worship their church more than they follow the teachings of Jesus. It Is Important that we all recognize, before proceeding, that Christianity cannot be studied in a vacuum. We must acknowledge that to fully understand Christianity It must be viewed In light of the total human eco-system, constantly Interacting; Influencing and being Influenced throughout the centuries; challenging and being challenged; encompassing human failings as well as occasional human spiritual victories; and continually trying to transmit the beautiful and pure message of Christ to the peoples of the world. We must always be on guard to ensure the "ministry of Jesus" is not usurped by "man-made" religion. Voltaire had an interesting thought on this point: "If God made man in his own image, we have well repaid him by making him in ours; nothing could better reveal man's conception of himself than his conception of God." The following are words of Paul as recorded In Acts 20:29-39 and II Timothy 4:3,4: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears â€Ś For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables." These are rather strong words, but any objective study of the history of the Institutional Church from the 4th Century A.D. to the present would prove to the Individual that Paul was correct. The teaching of Jesus was a prophetic teaching of the new type that began with the Hebrew prophets. It was not priestly and Institutionalized, It had no consecrated temple/church and no altars/ritual/ceremonies. Its sacrifice was a broken and contrite heart. Its only organization was a loose-knit grouping of poor but caring Itinerants dedicated to spreading the word of Christ, not the word of man and his criteria. The fully pledged Christianity of the 4th Century (post Council of Nicaea and Constantine) was 124
Celestial Quest mainly a priestly religion of the type already familiar to the world for thousands of years. The center of its elaborate ritual was an altar, and the essential act of worship was the sacrifice, by a consecrated priest of the mass. Today's Institutional Church does not like to think about the part played by "pagan" religions on the development of the Church during the 4th, 5th, and 6th Centuries, but the evidence Is there. The dominant religions or cults of the time and of that area were (as previously mentioned) Mithraism, Zoroastrism, Osiris, and the Roman and Greek pantheon. Mithraism claims that Mithra was born from a rock (I.e. "God out of the rock"), just as Christianity was said to be built upon a rock (I.e. … Peter, upon this rock I will build my Church"). Also, the Vatican hill at Rome was regarded as sacred by Peter. The same hill was already sacred to Mithra, for Mithraic remains have been excavated there. Satan is the old Persian Akriman, the eternal enemy of Ormued and the Egyptian Set opponent of Osiris. In Mithra, you had the evil "Prince of Darkness." There are many other examples, but suffice It to say, the Institutional Church conquered Mithraism and other cults by accepting many of their stories and ceremonies. This action was foretold by Daniel (Daniel 7:25, 8:12), Jesus (Matthew 25:5) II Timothy 4:3,4. Over the centuries, a few brave Individuals have spoken out against the errors of the Institutional Church. John Wycliffe (born 1320) was a translator of the Bible and founder of English prose writing. He was also condemned by the "Church" for not believing in the "doctrine of transubstantiation" and after his death in 1384, his remains were dug up and burned. John Huss (born 1369) didn't fare so well. The "Church" burnt him at the stake in 1415 for not believing in transubstantiation. Huss had also proffered that Christ, not Peter, Is head of the Church, to whom ultimate appeal must be made. Michael Servetus was burnt at the stake in 1553 after being condemned by Calvin. This latter Incident Is just one of many illustrating that Protestantism took up the same tools of Iniquity that it had fought to be free of. History has related an incredible abyss of tyranny, superstition, bigotry, Intolerance and corruption on the part of the Institutional Church. There is no need to pursue this course any further suffice it to say the battle against this evil, this encasement of the human spirit, is never finished. I believe what is now important, is that we extract from the broad spectrum of the Institutional Church of today, the essential elements and return to the simplistic message of Jesus. Anything that has crept into the "Church" which is not specifically consistent with the teaching of Christ, as set forth in the gospels, should be eliminated. The fact that Jesus confined himself to truths having eternal implications/value is what made his message so critical. Those that come along much later seem to have used only the imagery of Jesus, and this to advance their own objectives, fraught with human frailties. Abraham Lincoln put it this way, ―When any church will inscribe over its altar as its sole qualifications for membership the Savior‘s condensed statement of the substance of both the law and the gospel, ‗Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself - that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul.‖ Erasmus had this to say, ―The gospel is primarily a philosophy of life in that it gave the divine message telling men how to lead their lives. So the only concern, for the true Christian, is to live according to Christ‘s words.‖
Celestial Quest The leaders of Roman Catholicism, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy and other various sects and denominations, constituting the Institutional Church, should get together and put the conglomerate of Church verbiage, ritual and doctrine under intense and unbiased scrutiny and try to ascertain in what ways the Christian movement strayed from Christ‘s ―Sermon on the Mount.‖ (There was an ecumenical attempt with some success under Pope John, but has since lost direction.) The time is here and now when the ―Church‖ must uncover all sins/errors and be courageous enough to abandon self-serving attitudes (often revealed in only subtle actions of inequity toward others) which have substituted politics, wealth and personal interests for true Christian struggle. As recorded in Corinthians 1:10, Paul had this to say regarding a united Church effort: ―Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.‖ In John 17:20,21 Jesus taught his Apostles, ―Neither pray I for these (the Apostles) alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.‖ Isn‘t it also quite possible that the term ―Church‖ (not really a known word in Biblical times) as used in the gospels does not relate to physical structures (as well as elaborate pomp and ceremony) which the Institutional authorities/denominations feel are mandatory for the purpose of worship? Couldn‘t the huge sums of money being eaten up on these often enormous elaborate structures and associated recreational facilities; plus Madison Avenue style advertising/promotional campaigns; real estate; and other business ventures and outright huckstering and religious trappings and adornments (what‘s with the fancy expensive robes and big hats?) not compatible with Jesus‘ ministerial style; be redirected to ministering to those truly in need and to the many suffering souls barely able to survive in this world. Rather than the structurally vast and elaborate Church facilities, spread throughout a city or community, maybe we could just do with neighborhood ―Church‖ gatherings in several of the members‘ homes or in open fields, mountain top clearings, waterfronts, with ordained, as well as lay ministry exercising roles, (or even no official priesthood/ministers). This approach seems to be more in keeping with the style of the early Apostolic Church and the ―Body of Christ‖ definition of the Church in the New Testament. Further, I don‘t believe that it is essential that one belong to ―Institutionalized‖ Religion in order to gain the right relationship with one‘s Creator/God and salvation through Christ Jesus. The passage (Matthew 11:25) ―For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,‖ seems to refute the necessity for a formalized man-made church structure for worshiping and relating to Christ. Also, for individual worship and a feeling of oneness with God, try seeking out the solitude and beauty of God‘s ―Natural Church‖ i.e. the woodlands, swamps, marshes, prairies, meadows, mountains, rivers, oceans of the great outdoors. Attending the man-made ―Church‖ structure certainly does not guarantee that you are truly experiencing ―Church‖ (i.e. the Holy Spirit) but when you are in God‘s Natural Church you can‘t help but feel its closeness. I also contend that one is in ―Church‖ no matter where the individual happens to be, as long as Christ is in his or her heart and thoughts. Does everyone need a fellow human being to be his or her ―Pastor‖ or go-between with Jesus? I don‘t think so. Some prefer to have Jesus as their Pastor. Remember, spirituality is a state-of-mind; religion is an institution. 126
Celestial Quest As one additional thought on the dysfunctional aspects of the Institutional Church, I wonder if it needs to reassess its approach to recruiting and developing its professional ministry or priesthood. Oftentimes a kid who has known nothing but a loving family, and a relatively protected existence from childhood through seminary years, is expected upon ordination to minister to a congregation/parish of varied and life-scarred people. Even those from more difficult backgrounds may not have fully thought out their life commitment. Institutionalized seminary life alone cannot possibly prepare one for the demands inherent in ministering to suffering humanity. Maybe ordination should be held in abeyance until the initiate has lived, worked and been tested in the ―real world‖ for a period of time, and I don‘t mean denominational Church directed and controlled work. Also, why all the academia anyway? The message of Jesus is ―short and sweet.‖ All you need to do is set aside a little quiet time and carefully study his message, as set forth in the gospels. If you prefer the ―Church‖ setting for such a study, then that is fine too, but make sure you don‘t wander too far from the gospel message. That is all that is important and so very simplistic. Remember he said ―come to me as little children.‖ Now, after you fully know ―the message,‖ see if you can put it into practice in your daily life. Without this part it is all just an academic exercise. To this end, let us in the next chapter consider some issues that we need to think about as we try to become worthy of Christ. Art References Broken Dreams Losing The Forgotten Help The Climb Thoughts of Stardom Heather The Way Heaven‘s Cathedral Poetry The Lord's School (James P. Pecquet)
Figure 53 - Broke Dreams (Translucent Alabaster – 17” x 15”)
A rather surrealistic work involving two sculptural pieces. The top portion is hallowed out for placement of a light magically reflecting out thru two strange (distorted) faces. The bottom portion has a hand holding the top faces and below the hand is a foot. Wherever there is normally a convex (e.g. ankle) area I have made concave. I do believe Dali and maybe Picasso would like this one.
Celestial Quest This is a work I did years ago when I was feeling a bit down. As this fighter illustrates, there will be times in this life of ours when we are downright dejected. Back when I was on the juried art show circuit, and this sculpture was among the work exhibited, it was quite apparent that many of the viewers were relating to ―Losing‖. Often times I would hear someone say ―That‘s me – that‘s how I feel‖.
Figure 54 – Losing (Pen and Ink/Buckeye/Bronze)
Figure 55 - The Forgotten (Pen and Ink)
Years ago, after reading the book ―Ironweed‖ by W. Kennedy, I found myself dwelling on the subject matter of this terrific book. Unable to sleep I rose one night and created this artwork to express my take on the poor ―street people‖.
Figure 56 â€“ Help (Charcoal Drawing)
Expresses our feelings of being squeezed between two powerful forces, institutionalized religion and bureaucratic government, with an expression of help from above.
Figure 57 - The Climb (Pen and Ink/Buckeye 28” x 12”)
After receiving a late night call from my sister Margaret who was, at the time, in Zurich, Switzerland enjoying a get together with some fellow hikers. They had just finished a group hike in the Alpine mountains. She was so excited with her accomplishment she asked if I could do a sculpture reflecting the mountain hike. I told her I didn‘t care to sculpt a mountain, but would do a work that would forever record her accomplishments. I not only set out to show the altitude climb, but also to show her, as well as other women, overcoming the many obstacles of life. Also reflected is this work is the concept that, though we do reach the top, we still need to reach into the heavens for that which is beyond.
Figure 58 - Thoughts of Stardom (Buckeye)
Represents human emotions of hope and determination. Also believing in one‘s self in pursuit of a ―dream‖.
Figure 59 – Heather (Basswood)
As with ―Thoughts of Stardom‖ this sculpture also represents human emotions of hope and determination.
Figure 60 - The Way (Painting – 32” x 24”)
A geometric interpretation of the ―Cross‖. In other words, the way to a truly spiritual (loving) relationship with our Creator is via the ―Cross‖ of Jesus.
Figure 61 - Heaven's Cathedral (Alabaster – 22” x 13”)
This form of my geometric pieces en lieu of my usual flowing, centripetal works. It is a fusion of butterflies and angels extending upwards (equally front and back) creating a cathedral-like structure in almost cubistic fashion. One could say it is a natural cathedral for worship of the universe.
Celestial Quest The Lord's Schools The children are from all places and are of all ages. God makes no distinctions. He hugs each one and takes them by the hand to their classroom. There they learn of suffering and loneliness, pain, brokenness - all things that human nature rebels against. The subjects are not easy in God's schools. Often we want to go home. But He keeps us there until we grow in compassion and can graduate fully qualified to serve our brothers and sisters in His ways - with love. James P. Pecquet
CHAPTER VIII - CONSIDER THIS Those of us who are truly followers of Jesus would automatically say that hope for humanity is via ―The Cross.‖ In other words, Jesus was the ―Sacrificial Lamb.‖ He gave his life so we may live (i.e. in eternity), but also showed us, by example, how we should live this earthly life of ours. However, for many here and around the world the sheer nonevidential, non-technical, mystical concept of the ascension, as well as the hard realities of their own lives, make this dream of hope (and its very questionable heavenly ramifications) very difficult to accept. What else do we have to offer these people? I suppose we could more fully research, and document testimonies of those who have experienced some form of divine inspiration, or spiritual intervention in their lives, or events that could be classified as miraculous. A lot of us, to varying degrees, have had unexplainable possibly spiritual experiences/happenings. (I mentioned one of my own in an earlier chapter.) But, people are generally skeptical of these type incidents/stories relayed to them by others. However, let us not arbitrarily discount the potential impact of a sincere story from an honest person. But, when all else fails, I believe our best bet is to encourage and teach by example. That is demonstrating, in our own everyday lives the beautiful message of Jesus (as well as other revered sages of antiquity). The skeptical as well as the ―don‘t give a damners‖ may of some point be sharp enough to realize that there is a better way to approach life and that there is a higher ideal (or order of things) to strive for in achieving serenity/happiness. By observing this state in others, those bogged down in the materialistic dog-eat-dog daily grind may give up worshipping the almighty dollar, or even stop living by ―it‘s all about me,‖ selfish doctrine. Whether it‘s the universal maxim of: ―Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you,‖ or Jesus‘ second greatest commandment: ―Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, (Matthew 22:39) this ―Way‖ would prove positive and healthy for all humanity. If enough of us truly live our daily lives accordingly, the beauty (and even practicality) of ―The Way‖ will in time surely rub off on some ―searching souls.‖ Some might even decide to read, or more fully read as the case may be, the account of Jesus, the most unique of all historical figures. (I really think he had in mind for us to set his example in motion, but unfortunately we got off track.) As these individuals mentally relax from the stress of their daily grind, they may even find that thinking about Jesus, and his comforting/beautiful message, peace and serenity may begin to seep into their troubled lives. They might even progress to talking privately to Jesus and sharing their burdens, hopes, and thoughts in this way. Once we reach this point in our spiritual evolvement, life takes on a whole new perspective and meaning: Our priorities change; monetary an material gains no longer occupy our thoughts; Our relationship with others becomes unselfish, and we become ―givers‖ rather than ―takers.‖ This then can be genuine evidence of the ―Spirit‖ working within us, re-directing our lives. This could even be compatible with what Institutional Christianity refers to as the ―State of Grace.‖ Webster defines grace as: a. the unmerited love and favor of God toward man. b. divine influence acting in man to make him pure and morally strong. Whether it‘s the institutionalized approach or a personal relationship with Christ, it seems that a key ingredient in fulfilling/demonstrating one‘s Christianity is that oft-mentioned but seldom fully followed, ―Sermon on the Mount.‖ I encourage all to take the time to read (or re-read) the ―Sermon‖ carefully. The essence of Jesus‘ desire and hope for 138
Celestial Quest humanity is in this ―Sermon.‖ What else do we need to know in order to live our lives in harmony with his wishes? It has always baffled me that so many professing to be ―Christians‖ do not appear to follow precisely their Founder‘s teachings. Unless a person makes an honest effort at complying with Jesus‘ teachings, how can he/she be considered the Christian they say they are? How can one legitimately profess belief in Jesus and especially his Divinity (as the ―Church‖ contends) and yet hedge on his teachings? I have even noticed that many Church-goers are not even intimately familiar with the full text of the ―Sermon,‖ and even if they are, have rationalized why they cannot comply with it. It even seems like the Institutional/Organized Church minimizes its attention to this beautiful, all-important message, or just doesn‘t know what to do with it. So most just compromise on the practicality of the ―Sermon‘s‖ lofty standards. Why is this? Does the Christian have this option of accepting only that part of Jesus‘ teachings that suits his/her fancy at the moment. Or is the problem with the ―Church‖ leadership, i.e. are the ordained and lay leadership off on more mundane matters (e.g. politics, mercenary pursuits, etc.) and not concentrating on Jesus‘ all-important message? William Barclay had this to say on the subject: ―Here is a great eternal truth. Life cannot be divided into compartments in some of which God is involved and in others of which he is not involved; there cannot be one kind of language in the Church and another kind of language in the shipyard or the factory or the office; there cannot be one kind of conduct in the Church and another kind of conduct in the business world. The fact is that God does not need to be invited into certain departments of life, and kept out of others …‖ Barclay confirms my observation that many so-called Christians leave their Christianity at the ―church‖ door upon exiting. The precepts of the ―Sermon‖ are not to be viewed and practiced in isolation, or just within the ―Church‖ environment, but wherever we are, and whatever we are doing. We are Jesus‘ witnesses, and we all must be his minister to the world. Jesus said: ―Let you light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.‖ (Matthew 5:16) I see it as a challenge to true Christians to introduce others (including many Churchgoers) to the ―Sermon‖ and help them to come to grips with this beautiful, yet humanly formidable message. Some key life indicators of one‘s commitment to Jesus are his or her priorities; stress on economics in value decisions; ethical standards; concern for others at expense of one‘s self (i.e. selflessness); courage in complying with the teachings of Christ as set forth in the ―Sermon‖; non-concern for societal status and economic security if it means compromising your Christian convictions to retain that status and security; willingness to help (hands on) all people at all times not just donate a few bucks to an occasional charity. Why is it that so many of those who make such a show of Church-going are often the same ones who are insensitive to the suffering of others, especially if it means disrupting their own lifestyle or processes in any way. Oh, they will contribute to a Church fund and outwardly express concern for the hungry and for the victims of natural disasters, or the mentally and physically sick, and even take positions on important socioreligious issues (e.g. prison reform, abortion, sexual orientation rights, etc.) but, if there is a cost in terms of career, societal standing, financial impact, emotional strain, criticism in any form, or just hard and dirty work, forget it. It is also interesting that some Church139
Celestial Quest goers will send a few dollars to an agency for hunger relief in faraway places, but totally ignore the suffering of people they come in contact with in daily life. Could it be the dollars sent to the agency is ―conscience money.‖ Also, more times than not, it is not the money that is the answer to the sufferings of other, it is taking the time to listen attentively and show a genuine interest, and together actively seeking remedies to the problems, and sticking with the person during the crisis period. Sharing another‘s sorrow is often a burden-releasing act in itself. If critically analyzed, economics would stand out as a dominant force in most people‘s ongoing life decisions and actions relating to dealings with their fellow man. This is not unusual considering that economics plays such a critical role in the ―church‖ itself. A practice of Jesus that irked the Pharisees and Sadducees was his open willingness to associate with, eat with and of all things, forgive the unseemly doings of such supposed unrighteous souls. How do we stack up in this practice? Another good indicator of one‘s Christianity is when one actively reaches out to help others, though he/she is also experiencing adversity in their own life. The truly blessed individual is the one that somehow retains his or her purity including a generosity of both word and deed to others, though they themselves are suffering, often severely. I have been fortunate enough to have known some of these blessed human beings, so I know a life of service to others is possible, in spite of the nay-sayers/negativists and other prophets of doom. Then there are the so-called Christians who appear to do all the ―right‖ things; say the ―right‖ things; make a show of good conduct; go regularly to ―Church‖ but how many of these same people will go out on a limb for a friend or neighbor or fight for a Christian ethic, if it means losing their job or at the least, impacting career progress, financial security, or social standing? (Guess institutional religion is like humanity itself, there is some good in it, and some not so good.) Thousands of years of historical fact has demonstrated that institutionalized religion, with some exceptions, does not change people‘s basic ethical make-up or values and their attitude toward dealing with fellow human beings. There is a mind-set in most people (and society in general) based on besting others. There is just as much dishonesty, greed, self-serving, back-stabbing, two-facedness and cowardliness today as there ever was. We can therefore expect the world to continue to experience strife between nations; terrorism and other cruelties and atrocities; oppression by those in power; religious, race, political and other intolerances; governmental and business/industry corruption; plus various subtle means of hurting another. Needless to say, the trashy TV shows and Internet spewing forth all kinds of violence, pornographic substance and mercenary pursuits are ―crippling‖ our youth. (Why hasn‘t Institutional Religion made any strides in this arena?) Though world religions have espoused such humane concepts as ―Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,‖ (or the Confucian reversal of this), or Jesus‘ ―Love thy neighbor as thyself,‖ these ideas are often left as the Church/Temple/Mosque door as the member goes out into the everyday world of work and play. The examples of this are not only legion, but downright upsetting. Most (there are exceptions) members of Institutionalized religion are therefore contributing no more than anyone else in the battle against the inequities and injustices of this world. In fact, the observed hypocrisy of these 140
Celestial Quest individuals could even have more negative results by demonstrating the futility of religious training/instruction. Allow me to digress here briefly to ask: What will it be – Jesus‘ message of ―Love thy neighbor‖ or pre-emptive, aggressive warring against our earthly neighbors? How can a religion and its leaders, based on the beautiful message of: universal peace; loving and helping all peoples; forgiveness, ―turning the other cheek,‖ going the extra mile, etc. close its eyes to the many, within its ―flock,‖ that pursue/advocates war as a means to an end? How can so many within the ―Church‖ view it as okay to kill (via bombs, missiles, guns, etc.) maim and even torture, hundreds of thousands of their fellow human beings? Some of these ―Church-goers‖ are the most vociferous in advocating pre-emptive, aggressive wars (i.e. Iraq) against peoples that are, in actuality, not even a threat to our country. You certainly don‘t bomb (with resulting devastation) thousands of innocent people (including children) just because you don‘t like their president. This type of conduct by our religious leaders and top governmental administration/leaders also is contributing disastrously to our youth. How can we expect our children to be moral and considerate of others if their supposed ―role models‖ are just the opposite? We all, from parents, government leaders, religious leaders, schools, societal organizations, must at all times, set the best possible example for our youth. We owe this to our children. How does all this warring with its inherent killings/horrors, equate to the teachings of Christ, especially as set forth in his ―Sermon on the Mount?‖ And let us not forget the parable of the Good Samaritan. Can one truly be a believer in Christ and follow his teachings, and still believe in killing, via the instruments of war? Didn‘t he tell us to love all peoples, including our enemies, and do no harm to anyone? This is a tough message for us humans, but let‘s please not be hypocritical, and this goes for the so-called Christians that advocate (and participate in) wars against their neighbors. (I suggest a close review of the New Testament verse references in the Index listing ―One to Another.‖) Erasmus, speaking about the ―powers-to-be‖ in the church of his day said this, ―Whereas the Church of Christ was founded in blood, confirmed by blood, and augmented by blood, now as if Christ, who after his wanted manner defends his people, were lost, they govern all by the sword. And whereas war is so savage a thing that it rather befits beasts than men, so outrageous that the very poets feigned it came from the Furies so pestilent that it corrupts all men‘s manners, so unjust that it is best executed by the worst of men, so wicked that it has no agreement with Christ; and yet, omitting all the other, they make this their only business.‖ It is to be noted that the twelve were sent out into the world with minimal (or no) education, lacking in speech, but with the spirit of Christ. They spoke against war (and all cruelties) and preached that we all should love our neighbors (including those that do us harm,) They were willing to die confessing Christ, and many of them did. What we have today is not, in my opinion, the ministerial approach that Jesus (and his early followers) had in mind with its splintering into Roman Catholic, Eastern/Greek Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodoxy, hundreds of Protestant denominations and various breakaway sects. I refer to this overall system as ―Institutional Christianity.‖ There is, in my mind also an unstructured, non-formal following of Christ and this difference needs 141
Celestial Quest to be kept in focus as we proceed. Individuals relates to their Creator in their own way. Why is it necessary for one to be required to follow some institutionalized system of worship and formalized ritual? I even wonder why there is such a lengthy (years of seminary etc.) training/preparation for Christian ministry. Understanding what Jesus wants from us is simple. It is interesting to me that the word ―Church‖ was added by the early institutional ―powers-to-be‖ to the passage: Where two or more are gathered in my name …, since the word church was not even a known word at the time of Jesus. Also, based on this number (2), it seems that many of us, if we believe and follow his beautiful message of love for all peoples, are almost always in church, and especially since being in a manmade structural building certainly was not a requirement of Jesus. And why can‘t faith be just a personal relationship with Jesus? Why do we need all those structures/hierarchical ―layers‖ between oneself and Christ? Even in the political arena, recent events have proven that the extreme (so-called pro-life) wing of Institutional Christianity are the biggest war mongerers. Why is this? These are the same people that fiercely/belligerently oppose any type (and for any reason such as danger to the fetus, mother‘s life, rape, incest, drug dangers etc.) of abortion. Many of these same people even oppose all measures of birth control though almost every day we see on TV millions of kids around the world languishing in slop, diseased, dying, starving, homeless and abused/raped. World organizations are at a loss on how to deal with this calamity so maybe birth control education may be at start. They even adamantly oppose stem-cell research being conducted for the sole purpose of saving lives, through the conquering of various diseases. Most of the same people (socalled Christians) also vehemently support the death penalty. Why all the hypocrisy? You either believe in Jesus or you don‘t. Once again, ―I choose Jesus.‖ Let the hypocrites go their way. I‘ll walk with Jesus. Nonetheless, there are times for taking a stand and for courageous opposition/resistance to injustices and cruelties, levied on us by tyrannical, dictatorial, intolerant power-hungry sources, as well as the fanatical fringe, including those in religion. (Let‘s not forget the horror of the Inquisition) Now, any student of the gospels knows that Jesus without resorting to physically combative action, took on the injustices imposed by the tyrannical power structure of his day. He did not resort to a call for earthly (i.e. neighbor against neighbor) wars. Remember ―put away your sword‖; ―render unto Caesar that which is Caesar‘s‖; ―Have peace one with another‖; ―Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another; and of course, ―Blessed are the Peacemakers.‖ I must also, once again, remind you of his words in Matthew 5:44, ―But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.‖ Unfortunately, most of us are not quite at this point in our human development and our spiritual growth. Self-preservation is a rather powerful, inherent trait, and cannot be discounted outright. The issue is when and in what form, should we (as individuals and even a nation) defend ourselves. First, I think the aggression against us has to involve 142
Celestial Quest overwhelming potentially life-threatening, destructive force. In other words, ―Life and Liberty‖ has to be the sole justification, for both individuals and nations. Couple examples: AS a nation we should never engage in military action to preserve materialistic interest, especially interests of the power elite (e.g. oil barons). As individuals, we should make every effort to allow the ―Rule of Law‖ to play a role in protecting us and when physically and aggressively attacked, respond only for the purpose of defending ourselves but in a very efficient mode. This can take various forms depending on the condition/capability/skill of the attackee, as well as the nature of the attack. If there is sufficient time use Jesus‘ ―turn the other cheek‖ approach. In other words – walk away. When one observes a life threatening attack on an apparently helpless soul, every effort with one‘s capability should be made (including 911 call if possible) to help the attacked person. As far as worldwide threats, including rogue nations/organizations/‖nut-fringers,‖ a United World Front (e.g. revamped U.N.) should come together to protect (rescue) those segments of humanity being attacked/enslaved. Also, those parties/governments in the particular region of the world impacted, should take the lead in conflict resolution, through negotiations or other non-aggressive, non-military means. Only as a very last resort should military action be brought into play, and even this should be part of United Front. Now‘s let‘s get back to hypocrisy vs. true faith. The hypocrites that Jesus took on, were comfortable in knowing they were doing all the right ritualistic things (e.g. outward show of praying by authoritative rote; temple/altar attendance/sacrifice; avoidance of certain foods, etc.). But, they turned a blind eye on the downtrodden and suffering souls. Even today, there are those that deceive themselves with their holier-than-thou‖ attitudes. And then there are the ―Religious Hucksters,‖ the ones trying to make a buck out of Jesus. I don‘t have to elaborate on this horrible disgusting practice for it is more than evident (via TV, Internet) for those that care to open their eyes to observe and use their ears to hear. In Proverbs Chapter 30, we read: ―There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness … There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from the earth, and the needy from among men.‖ Is there an answer to all this? If so, it doesn‘t lie in institutional bureaucratic processes, whether secular or religious, including attempts to legislate morals or impose religious dogmas. As previously shown human beings will continue their injurious conduct regardless of the type of religious or governmental structure they are under. I propose that the answer is internal, not external. We need to reach into the innermost part of the human being. Depending on one‘s philosophy or culture the reference may be the mind, the heart, the soul, the hara (orient). Once the ―self‖ is redirected via the spirit to an absolute dedication of one‘ life relationships to the maxim: ―Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: the actions of mankind in general, its institutions and processes will automatically be redirected to true justice and equity (not just lip service.) The purest standards for which we should strive are, as previously stated, Jesus‘ ―Sermon on the Mount‖ teachings. We must not, however, compromise (as many in the ―Church‖ do) on the achievability of these lofty standards. We do not have that option if we are to 143
Celestial Quest maximize goodness and love in this world. I cannot accept the defeatist attitude or care to be roped in by the ‖prophets of doom.‖ For example, I have oft been told (especially by the extreme wing of the ―Church‖) that I am a ―dreamer‖ in thinking humanity has a chance for survival. These nay-sayers contend there is nothing we lowly humans can do to save ourselves and preserve the world and we must just wait for ―Armageddon‖ and the Day of Judgment.‖ In the end, ―their kind‖ will be spared and the rest of us will be obliterated. Nice try, but I‘m fortunately one of the eternal optimists of the human race and don‘t buy into the ―give up‖ philosophy of the doomsayers. I‘m always ―looking for the pony,‖ as the saying goes. For those that are not familiar with this saying, here‘s the context: ―It was Christmas morning and two little sisters (one a pessimist by nature, the other an optimist) started down the stairs to see what Santa left for them under the Christmas tree or in the living room. As they approached the bottom of the steps they could see under the tree a plop of manure. The little girl pessimist started crying and ran back up the stairs, but the little girl optimist started jumping for joy, yelling, ―Where‘s the pony?‖ I like this take on life and truly believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. So let‘s follow God of Jesus, not God of destruction; don‘t sweat this so-called ―satan‖ thing, concentrate on the beautiful message of Jesus; live today, in accordance with ‗his‖ message. Don‘t get hung up on ―Doomsday.‖ You set the example for goodness, even if others go elsewhere; Use your gift (what you do well) to serve humanity and please Jesus; give it all you got and ―walk with Jesus.‖ There have been just enough rays of sunshine break through the dismal screen over the centuries not to have faith in the human potential for goodness. If there is such a thing as the ―original sin‖ of man then generations subsequent to the ―act‖ have been given a bum rap. Jesus reversed all this and provided us an option; in other words love and everlasting life in association with him. His life on earth was in itself a real, historical example of a concerned and loving ―supernatural force.‖ (i.e. God, Yahweh, Allah, Isvara, Bhrama, Ahura Mazda) and its relationship with mankind. All other approaches to solving man‘s injustices to man have failed, so let‘s try dedicating our whole being to living the message of Jesus, regardless of your take on the divinity factor. Just think, if we all (or even just most of us) followed/practiced in our daily life the beautiful message of Jesus, as set forth in the ―Sermon on the Mount‖ and his parable such as the Good Samaritan, what a truly wonderful world this would be. So many of the ―Sages‖ of history had basically the same message, regarding one‘s responsibility to his/her fellow human being and a respect/relationship with a creative force. The problem, historically, has been when the particular ―Sage‖ died, those that came after founded their own self-serving organizations, resulting in the distortion of original message. Religious fanaticism even crept in resulting in the most hateful practices the world has known. I said in an earlier chapter, it‘s all so very simple. We do not have to have a PhD in theology/philosophy or anything else to read and understand the simplistic yet beautiful message of Jesus, or for that matter, any of the ―Sages‖ of history. It is encouraging to note that to some extent, the basic message has been incorporated into certain facets of human relations in our world today. Some examples include: cooperative efforts/projects in space exploration (i.e. Space Station and astronaut travels). Overpopulation of earth 144
Celestial Quest will be putting such a strain on earth resources that the search for habitable planets and/or space colonies is a must. There has already been found evidence for water having been (or still is) available on Mars; and we have barely begun our explorations beyond our immediate Solar System. Post shuttle era vehicles and spacecraft are already under development (e.g. Ares/Constellation Program) and it is obvious international cooperation will be key to successful exploration (and settlements). Another area where international goodwill and joint involvement is a must is in earth environmental/ecological preservation. Already great strides are being made in worldwide greenhouse emissions, global warming cooperative efforts, in spite of the naysayers. However, there is an immense cost in terms of national resources, so it is essential that we re-direct resources (monetary and human) from warring with our earthly neighbors to just saving our earth. Other areas of human endeavors where cooperation among nations and cultures has already proven relatively successful are: Sports (e.g. Olympics/Para-Olympics/Special Olympics); the Arts (Visual/Performing/Literary); and, to some extent, medical research. It should also be noted, once again, that certain elements within the religious community are often in the forefront in aiding peoples in underdeveloped countries suffering from famine, natural disasters, human exploitation, and disease (e.g. AIDS). It always amazes me that so much good can come from elements within Institutional Religion and at the same time the not-so-good (i.e. some within actively supporting the evils of War). Also, as previously noted, Institutional Religion does not have a monopoly on ―good works.‖ There are numerous example of this. As previously noted, there are some exceptionally good people within Institutional Religion, many of whom do their very best to put into practice the message of Jesus or their particular founder. However, there are just as many that are not part of Institutional Religion that do just as much to help their ―neighbor‖ and serve society. Also, one certainly does not have to be a ―card carrying‖ member of any ―Church‖ to fervently believe in, and be a devoted/loyal follower of Jesus; and of course, put into daily practice his beautiful message of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness for all peoples. I guess there was a time in ―Church‖ history that I would have been burnt at the stake (or at least put to the rack) for such a statement. Thank God for democracy and the freedom of thoughts and speech it allows. (Let‘s keep it that way.) The challenge for all of us wanting to make this a better world, for all those that follow in our footsteps, is to convince as many as possible to put into practice the beautiful message of the young carpenter from Nazareth. With this as an integral part of our everyday life, nothing is impossible. Also, let us never forget to drop to our knees on a regular basis in reverence to this young Nazarene and give thanks for his service to us and ask how we may serve him. Art References Life‘s Equation Life‘s Passageways Rhythmic Souls Kindred Souls Emotion The Cheetah Dance Harmony 145
Compassion Wings of Love Eternal Vigil Florida Panther Pals Jennifer Reflecting Dixie Cube
Figure 62 - Life's Equation (Buckeye – 35” x 15”)
With a base designed as embryos and the upper sculpture reflecting both a skeletal arm and hand, as well as a life-like form, the work represents life and death. In the religious sense life is the beginning of death and death could be the beginning of life.
Figure 63 - Life's Passageways (Buckeye – 38” x 12”)
An abstract interpretation of one‘s journey through life. As well come to realize, there is not just on (direct) path to journey‘s end, but many detours along the way. Hopefully, as many of us as possible, will allow the Universal Spirit to flow thru us and guide us to a spiritual union with our Creator.
Figure 64 - Rhythmic Souls (Buckeye – 46” x 22”)
Of oriental context it sculpturally represents Yin-Yang concept, though figures are discernable in an earthly sense. Affixed, for kinetic effect, to brass rod imbedded in Honduran mahogany block.
Figure 65 - Kindred Souls (Buckeye and Beechnut 43” x 34”)
Upper part of sculpture carved in abstract form, from large buckeye log. Lower part from the root system of beechnut tree retrieved from bottom of TVA‘s Lake Fontana, during draw-down. Figures, in harmonious inter-linking, give off a feeling of oneness.
Figure 66 â€“ Emotion (Sweet Cherry)
When a cherry tree died (from blight) outside our mountain home I felt quite sad and decided to preserve it in art form. Sculpting the bottom trunk section was somewhat emotional (thus the title) as I represented the remains as a spirit into the heavens.
Figure 67 - The Cheetah Dance (Bronze/Alabaster 18” x 12”)
A playful, musical adaptation of two Cheetahs dancing. Was also designed with heart symbol of love in the center. Also, this particular alabaster has an unusual color which appeared via polishing. Represents life in a ―fun‖ mode.
Figure 68 â€“ Harmony (Basswood)
A playful, joyful nautical scene of a mermaid, purpose and whale rhythmically swimming upward out of the ocean waves.
Figure 69 – Compassion (Black Cherry 24” x 12”/Bronze)
A mother otter tenderly caring for the pup otter as she holds it close in her chest. The beautiful markings of the black cherry wood are evident in the photo, as is the loving, compassionate facial expression of the mother. The sculpture is part of the Orlando Museum of Arts permanent collection.
Figure 70 - Wings of Love (Strawberry Alabaster 20â€? x 15â€?)
A mother eagle wraps her wings around her little eaglet in a loving embrace. The stark contrast between the original chipped stone and the highly polished alabaster is quite evident in this sculpture. This sculpture was selected for special exhibit at the Honor the Eagle event held in the Dolly Parton Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The TV station did a take on the president of the National Eagle Foundation holding a real eagle, as I stood next to them with my stone version.
Figure 71 - Eternal Vigil (Bronze/Alabaster 15â€? x 12â€?)
A rather different portrayal of wolf parents protectively caring for their pups. AS is usually the case with my environmentally oriented works there is an anthropomorphic relationship to human parental emotions.
Figure 72 - Florida Panther (Italian White Alabaster 22â€? x 14â€?)
The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered (approx. 35 remaining) animals in the world. I had to work with some state wildlife biologist to do some sketches in preparation for this sculpture. Also did a maquette which I cast in the cold-cast process. The finished sculpture, showing the loving mother panther wrapped around the baby (with baby touching the mother) was selected by the then Governor of Florida for special exhibit at the State Capital Building. The sculpture is now in a special collection in Key Largo.
Figure 73 – Pals (White Alabaster – 15” x 14”)
This is the first stone sculpture I did after moving to the mountains many years ago. It is of my grandson (Nelson David) and the neighborhood beagle hound he used to play with down in Mims, Florida. As is usually the case, I sculpted the two of them from memory, including the torn hole in the knee of his pants. I also had several smaller bronzes cast, but they went rapidly.
Figure 74 – Jennifer (Basswood 32” x 10”)
This is my granddaughter, Jennifer, at a very early age (she is in her 20‘s now). She always used to hug the rag doll shown, and it was not unusual for her to have a band aid on her knee. Though it is hard to tell from the photo the base consist of three levels of carved hearts illustrating love. Several small cast of this sculpture also were made and passed into collections.
Figure 75 – Reflecting (40” x 30”)
Linda, with our kitten Muffin at her feet, taking a moment‘s break in her reading to reflect on the book‘s story. Maybe she is also thinking about how comfortable and content Muffin looks, as well as, possible, life in general.
Figure 76 - Dixie Cube (Alabaster 20â€? x 12â€?)
A Cubistic rendition of my Labrador Retriever who faithfully stays alongside me whenever I am sculpting.
CONCLUSION - WAS THE JOURNEY WORTH IT? I have always liked (perhaps even lived) this quote from Thoreau: ―If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away‖ I really don‘t see how anyone can passionately pursue the arts and not step to his or her own music or divine spirit within. This is a must in a creative person. There are many sacrifices, trade-offs, and out-right discouragement along the way. I am one that has experienced all three, but realized years ago that life is a ―series of trade-offs‖. As such, I gave up a highly successful, well-paid, future secure, career in the Federal Bureaucracy (U.S. Treasury & NASA) to pursue my art. There were plenty that thought I was crazy, and maybe, like so many true artists, I was. Of course, money has never been important to me, and changing careers in mid-life from a successful NASA (management systems/strategic planning) career to a struggling artist certainly proved this point. Needless to say, those early years as a full-time artist were extremely busy from a creative standpoint, but rather unpredictable in every other aspect. Many times I questioned my decision of having given up so much to become a struggling artist, but I was driven by something within me. I now know, without a question of doubt, that this is what I was meant to do with my life. Artistic talent was a gift given to me from the Universal Creator and not having used this gift, would have been self-serving. As a result of ―hanging in there‖ I have achieved some degree of success/recognition in the often intimidating world of art. Through my own original/unique art form (i.e. ―Spiritual Expressionism‖) it seems that I‘ve been able to touch the souls of many, and in this way I am able to please (& serve) the Universal Creator. So yes, this part of the journey, though questionable at times, was in the final analysis, worth it. As to whether writing this book was worth it, I believe the jury is still out. I do know that the same Universal/Spirit/Energy that flows through me, activating/directing my soul in the creation of art also made the writing of this discourse a must. Though, as I said in the Preface, the seed was planted many years ago. But the blood, sweat, and tears of the ensuing productive years were indispensable in being able to get the words down. Now at the age of 70, much of my life behind me, I have a better vantage point to view the ―Riddles of Life‖. Yes it has been a long journey, but no part of it was wasted. I met the challenge; was privileged to ―meet and deal ―with all kinds of people and mentalities; became a keen observer of our natural world; and even delved deeply into the unseen world of Spirit and Soul. All this was an essential part of my desire and motivation to record my observations and thoughts. In doing so I was true to myself, first of all; but also responsive to all those that have believed in me, or at least know me, over the years; and lastly I believe the message of this book, if given a chance, will go a long way in the service of the Universal cause of goodness and respect for all peoples, as well as a respect for our natural world. Maybe it is true that I am a dreamer, or at least spend an inordinate amount of time pondering/reflecting on the non-material/non-physical Realm. Within the human race we have the ―conceptual thinkers‖ and the ―Nuts and Bolts‖ thinkers and maybe the twain will never meet. But, being the optimist that I am, this merging of mentalities I feel is quite possible and to this end the book was written. However, there is that other element, (hopefully a much smaller percentage) of humanity that I may not ever be able to reach. 162
Celestial Quest That, of course, are the ―non-thinkers‖ (closed-minds or even brain-washed) who, unfortunately, will refuse to pick up the book, or throw it in the ―fire‖ when they are confronted with a thought that they perceive as ―stepping on their toes‖. This type is so irrational and downright recalcitrant that they take positions on various issues that smack in the face of all human intelligence. Guess all we can do is be patient when dealing with this type of mentality and hope for the best. So rather than becoming discouraged about the existence of, and negative influence on the world, that this latter group presents, I will be realistic. Enlightenment is not something everyone dares to search out and is downright far too threatening for some. Status quo is not only preferred by these people, but downright comfortable. So be it. Hard work and a considerable amount of living have been the precursors of this book. If my efforts result in, at least, some people thinking more clearly or rationally about the preceding subject matter then yes the journey was worth it. If I have met the expectations of, and pleased my Creator then, without a doubt, the journey was worth it. In my heart I know that I have been true to myself and the purpose of my study, which is a search for knowledge and all-important ―Truth.‖ As such, I welcome (and look forward to) any additional, well thought out information on issues addressed in this book. What I don‘t welcome is hypocrisy, as it relates to putting into daily practice, the beautiful message of that young Nazarene carpenter, the message of: love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. This, I believe, is our only hope for a better and peaceful world.
EPILOGUE This quest of mine, though Quixotic by some accounts, has drawn me deeply into those mentally challenging arenas (i.e. theology, philosophy, ethics) usually reserved for academicians. I, as an old artist, however, have taken a somewhat different and hopefully refreshing tact on our age-old quandary. For those of you that have traveled along with me on this long and winding road, I sincerely thank you. Hopefully, accompanying me on this fascinating journey will be beneficial to those of you setting out on your own quest. If we all put to good use our uniquely human trait, the beautiful ―gift of reason,‖ anything is possible. Also, let us always direct this sacred gift to the universal good. Now, it may be beyond our human mental capacity (as beautiful as it is) to ever truly know, but I still can‘t help reflect on: 1. Why we are here on this planet we call earth and of course, 2. What caused us to be here? We exist (some better than others) but for a relatively brief period of time on a speck of geological formation (earth), which in turn, spins and rotates in an incomprehensible vastness we call the Universe. Do we as the socalled ―human species‖ have any purpose or role in all this and what is it if we do? As to our role/purpose much has been surmised and even written about over the centuries, mainly by religionists and philosophers. More recently, the scientific community and a few ―earth crusaders‖ have chimed in due to concerns about environmental threats (global warming, etc.) and the need for planet preservation provisions. Most of us have this genuine appreciation and even reverence of our natural environment and feel it is our responsibility to do everything within our power to protect/preserve same. Now the religious factions, especially Judeo-Christians, have their own take on ―why we are here.‖ They contend we are here for the sole purpose to glorify God. What exactly this entails I suppose depends on one‘s own frame of reference. Now the two issues I often find myself pondering are: What is this creative source or original cause that put us all here in the first place; and why did ―It‖ do so? Not wanting to disengage my brain and just go along wholeheartedly with the religionists I offer the following: Could it be that this Source, Grand Designer, or if you will, God wanted some form of intelligent being to share in its masterly creative undertaking. Though the evolvement of a fully rational mental capability may have take more time (another ―why‖) we humans (at least most of us) now have the capacity to think, and even create. So we, in essence, become an extension of the ―Original Source,‖ the creative soul and spirit of the Universe. Sort of like a human child becoming an extension of its parents. (Even the Bible says ―we are created in God‘s image,‖ though the Institutional Church seems to have difficulty explaining this verse succinctly.) So if this bond between Creator and Created sanctifies the process, it also entails human responsibilities. We humans, as the most advanced of the species in the evolutionary chain, must be worthy of its unique gift (a life of sharing in the creative process). We must, at all times, not only honor the ―Giver,‖ but must do justice to this ―partnership‖ in the ongoing creative process. This means fully exercising our gift of intelligence/reasoning capability by perpetuating and expanding our own creative, 164
Celestial Quest innovative and inventive process in a positive way (i.e. for the good of all earth species and the preservation of Earth itself.) This, in my mind, is the way to honor the ―Master Creator.‖ We must also ensure that the love and beauty evident in our Creator‘s work is evident in our own work. This, of course, is where the all-important ―reaching out to others‖ comes into play. Though years of study and deep thought has gone into this ―Quest‖ of mine, I still find, as I put it all in narrative form, that there is one area of the human dilemma I can‘t seem to shake. That is the never-ending human cruelty perpetrated by certain elements of humanity, on its earthly neighbors. I have, of course, addressed this subject in my text, but I feel I am missing something. I, and many others, need to more fully understand the impact of brain cell evolvement/development. Since the brain is the controlling mechanism (organ) of all thought processes, doesn‘t it follow that it is key to understanding human actions/behavior whether good or cruel? For example, in the case of human cruelty, has some element (e.g. cortex) in the brain of certain present day humans not developed/evolved beyond the limited mental capacity of the primeval humanoid where the survival element dominated the brain. Also, could it be said the brain of the loving compassionate caring person of today has more fully developed and is now directed to more lofty objectives? I would like to believe that science has reached a level of brain cell analysis and testing whereby human capacity for cruelty (or kindness) can be determined. (I sure welcome knowing about any research data that may be out there on this one.) Now sociologists tell us that one‘s environment, including peer influence, plays a pivotal role in determining one‘s actions, including his or her treatment of others. However, we all know of instances where a person from a rough and crime-ridden environment overcomes this negative influence and becomes a good and positive role model. There are also many examples of those coming from the more stable, traditional environment and ending up negative forces within society. So what is the determining factor: brain cell development/evolvement; geographic and social environment; education; religion; parental control and influence? With all the psychologists/sociologists/theologians, educators, criminologists, and even government programs around, you would think we could get a better handle on this hugely critical earthly problem. Of course, there are the ―dooms-dayers‖ who blame everything bad (in their opinion) on some sort of satanic creature. We all have heard the old ―devil made me do it‖ line. Nuff said about that. Now on a brighter note, one I am especially enthusiastic about. Yes, my quest was initially to somehow bridge the gap between the ―mentally lazy‖ and the pseudointellectuals, at least in trying to make sense out of cosmic/theological/philosophical issues. However, there is also something more simplistic and even beautiful, in its own way that takes center stage. That is another one of my ―Impossible Dreams,‖ along the line of the ―Swim for Debbie.‖ It is to create a spiritual atmosphere whereby more and more people will begin ―reaching out‖ with caring and compassion to their fellow human beings rather than functioning under the selfish motivation of ―me first,‖ no matter the cost to others. Sure we are constantly tested, and often saddened and hurt by the actions of others, but we must guard against reacting with our own aggressive and destructive behavior. Though we as average individuals have little if any control over the thoughts and intentions of others, we at least can make every effort to do what we believe to be 165
Celestial Quest right. Remember: ―Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.‖ In taking this moral high ground we demonstrate (by example) in our everyday life, the concept of reaching out to others in their time of need. We can‘t just talk-the-talk, like so many of the ―holier-than-thous‖ do, we must ―walk-the-walk.‖ Remember, my earlier discussion in the text on being tough? How it‘s drilled into us from day one that we must: gut it out; be forceful; be aggressive; win at all costs; get the first punch in; don‘t take any crap from anyone; never give up, etc., etc. (I, at least, can relate to the never-give-up one). Let me reiterate, however, my idea of really being tough. It is: when you yourself are hurting (for one reason or another), nonetheless still reach out to help others that are hurting. Now that, in my mind, takes guts. Okay, maybe I am being pollyannish, but maybe, just maybe, as more and more people begin to reach out to help others, this way of living will begin to catch on. Even the selfserving (all-about-me) element of society, when they observe this trend, will begin to wonder about themselves. The rational/positive brain cells may kick in and the primeval factor will fade into the distant past. On a grander scale, this concept of ―reaching out to help‖ may become the standard operating mode of governmental bodies throughout the world. Instead of warring against each other, as some do today, nations will become more responsive to each others‘ crises, as they occur. O‘ what a beautiful world this will be. I wouldn‘t mind signing up for another ―tour of duty.‖ Towards this end, in the following pages, I offer another "epistle" from my son Mike describing a very special happening.
Celestial Quest TEAM TRIPLE NICHOLS TRIATLON RACE REPORT Here I sit, sipping my beer as I listen to the chatter of Stephanie‘s ―Tri Crew‖ as they have come to be known. It‘s a cool spring evening at the Green Turtle Inn. A small cozy bar, tucked away down a side street, in old downtown. This place has become the regular meeting grounds for the tri crew to gather every few weeks to talk everything ―Tri‖; how‘s your training going? When‘s your next race? How‘s the ankle strain? There is also a fair bit of friendly trash talk coming from the competitive spirit of the group… still all things said, I try to stay in tune but usually find myself drifting off, sipping my beer and enjoying the nice Fernandina Beach evenings. But this evening I catch bits of the Tri conversation that I had no idea would impact me in the way it did. It seems this small but determined group was putting the wheels in motion to have a triathlon event held right here on Amelia Island… that‘s right Fernandina Beach. There was still a lot of work to be done; find event coordinators, meet with city officials, get sponsors, all sorts of things you never imagined is needed but key to putting on such an event. So much to do but this was a determined bunch…. Six months later and the Atlantic Coast Triathlon (ACT as it will be know from here on out) is now a reality. Everything is falling into place. The venue has been mapped, the city is on board, and DRC Sports will host the event. All is good in Fernandina Beach Tri land! Me, I‘m sipping my beer and drifting in and out of the fringes of the Tri Crew conversations as I enjoy the evening at the Green Turtle Inn! Still clueless of what the future has in store. All these channels and still nothing to watch; at least the beer is cold. I am in some sort of warp speed channel surfing mode flipping through over 200 channels of nothing when I overhear Shawn, one of the Tri Crew Members, convince Stephanie that she is the right person for the job. It seems Shawn has somehow persuaded Stephanie to be the volunteer coordinator for the first ever ACT. I believe if Stephanie really understood what this meant she may have run right then and there. But being the sport she is she took on the challenge to find over 300 volunteers for this event. This meant scouring every nook and cranny on this small island to come up with enough people to support an event of this magnitude. I have to say it was a bit ironic that usually Stephanie is yelling at me to not stay up late as I work away on my computer. Well during this period there were many a night that I‘d stroll past ―Hey, turn off the light before you go to bed‖ as she sat in front of the computer crafting emails, working schedules, planning meetings and just plain trying to find all those people. In the end the success of the ACT owes a lot of credit to Stephanie for coming through with 300 plus volunteers. I can vouch for the long days she put in to pull it off! October 4th the flyer read! ―October 4th, Stephanie is this the date of the ACT is going to be held?‖ Confirmed – October 4th is the date, why does that date ring a bell for me… oh yes of course that Dad‘s birthday. So at this point all I think is cool coincidence, but no more. I am still in beer sipping mode at the Green Turtle Inn… BUT Stephanie has already accelerated into a higher gear and with a whirl and a few words it became clear how the ACT coming to Fernandina Beach will impact not only me but at this time my unknowing family. ―You know Mike, you and your brother and your Dad should do the ACT relay in celebration of your Dad‘s 70th birthday‖ 167
Celestial Quest OK.. that did not sound too bad, but let me think this over a bit, me, my brother and my Dad do the ACT relay. Is this doable… 1.2 mile swim – ok that would have to be Dad.. heck he just finished a 15 mile odyssey how bad can 1.2 be for him, besides at 70 he is probably a better swimmer then either me or my brother. That leaves the 56 mile bike and 13 mile run. I know Nelson‘s knees have been hurting him lately so, yep Nelson will have to do the bike, When did he bike last? Heck I‘ve heard people say something like ―it‘s like riding a bike‖ which I think infers that once you know how to ride a bike you never forget. OK, that‘s it Nelson will do the bike. That leaves me for the half marathon. Well I just did a marathon.. ok, that was eight months ago and since then I think all I have been doing is sipping beer. So here‘s the deal, I won‘t be the one to say ―No‖. I will carry the message forward as Stephanie‘s doing and let the chips fall where they may. Besides Nelson Eric is a very busy person and for sure that particular weekend will be booked. ―Hello, Nelson you busy October 4th because we‘re doing a triathlon with Dad?‖ Well the discussion went a little longer but it just so happened that October 4th was the one weekend Nelson had open. Two Nichols down and one to go. Now to call Dad and let him know what ―Stephanie‖ has gotten him into. ―Hello Dad, you busy October 4th because we‘re doing a triathlon with Nelson?‖ Well the discussion went a little longer but in the end with a little squirming all parties agreed, hesitations for sure but agreed with Stephanie‘s crazy ideas. Dad, Nelson and I will compete as a relay team in the ACT of Fernandina Beach. Mom quickly comes up with the team name of ―The Triple Nichols‖... I inform her that is really just 15 cents but we stick with Team Triple Nichols. Training days – So when I said it‘s like riding a bike, for Nelson it was more appropriate then you may think. For Nelson it‘s been about 20 years since he rode a bike. He defiantly needs some time in the saddle before the race. Nelson‘s training plan at this point included 30 minutes of stationary bike training in the gym. I sense that there is some flaw to this training plan. Thirty minutes on a comfy seated stationary bike did not ring well with me. Drastic actions needed to take place. How can I get Nelson ready for 56 miles of biking? Project Bike delivery is now in action... I packed up the car with my road bike and an assortment of goods to head down to Nelson for deliver and get him on the ―Road‖ to success. It‘s an early sunny Sunday morning as Nelson and I look over the road bike I arrived with the evening before. It is time to get Nelson prepped and ready for his first venture out on the road on a BIKE in around 20 years. First things first let‘s get the bike sized for Nelson. This requires little adjustments here and there... primarily the seat... besides I am the tallest in the family and although only a couple inches taller then Nelson this makes a big difference in making sure Nelson is properly fitted. The seat will have to be lowered so Nelson has a comfortable and efficient peddled stoke. ―Nelson I forgot my Allen wrench can I use yours to set the seat?‖ Nelson, ―I don‘t have an Allen wrench...‖ Ok... Nelson will just need to ride until he can get one to set the seat but training waits for no Allen wrench. Opps... looks like bike training waits for no helmet either… I totally forgot that one as well.
Celestial Quest Nelson seems ready for his first road ride in many a years… looking bit nervous yet composed in the same light. Not quite dressed the part of a sleek road racer with his baggy gym shorts, loose fitting cotton shirt and lack of any type of noggin protection! Yet he rides away around the corner only to return some 30 minutes later looking the part of a ravaged road warrior. As he gingerly walked up the stairs, the effects of just 30 minutes in the small saddle of a road bike are quite evident. My care package I will send to him upon my return home will not only include a bike helmet, but a sleek shirt and some tight and PADDED bike shorts... if he does not ride like Lance he will look the part! Then there is the champion swimmer of the family, the lead off leg of the Triathlon. I keep telling Dad he is going to be the cornerstone to our success. The way I look at this is Dad can give us a big lead, Nelson can expand the dominance and I can coast it home. Still Dad has not done much in the way of swim training since the big Swim for Debbie event. You would think after a 15 mile swim a 1.2 mile swim would seem like a walk in the park. But for those who know... the ocean can be no walk in the park and the farthest from it. As you have figured out at this point, the swim is going to be an open ocean swim against all mother ocean can throw at you; rough surf, extreme currents, and a variety of sea creatures. Up to this point Dad has been mulling around in the local pools up in Franklin, even going as much as delaying the closing of a local pool so he can continue to train. One advantage this has provided was to get Dad adapt to cold water swimming. As it seems the local Franklin pool was not heated and since the mountain evenings have now started to dip the temperature of the pool was a bit on the chilly side during Dads training laps. If anything he will be well prepared for the cooler ocean temps of Fernandina this time of year. I suspect all the other racers will be wearing a wetsuit, but not Dad... you really have to reference my Swim for Debbie report I wrote earlier this year to totally understand my Dad‘s position with wearing wetsuits,, let‘s just say I am not going to even bother to try and convince him to wear one this time. It just so happens that Dad was already in Florida the week prior to the race. This was actually very good timing and allows Dad to swing by a couple days early to the race and get a taste of the ocean. I awake the first morning after my Dad‘s arrival to find him coming in from an early morning ocean swim. He was glad he came early to get that experience. This day was even better for his training; with a small nor‘easter blowing for the last couple days there was ample surf action, currents, surface chop and critters to make his first practice ocean swim a memorable one. Most memorable were the red and inflamed jelly fish stinger marks on the side of his arm. A little treat that one does not get to experience swimming laps in a calm pool. Nothing like getting lit up by a jelly fish when you least expect it. Yet this did not deter him, he headed out for several more practice swims trying to perfect his approach, things that you would never take into account, like what is the best way to get through the surf to open water, can I swim through the waves, should I walk as far as possible, will a slight skip get me through the shallow water faster, maybe dive deeper under the waves to avoid the rush of surface water… I think he is glad he did not try to figure out the day of the race. For me training for a run is about as fun as a root canal. But I know I could not let Team Triple Nichols down. From the couch with a beer to running every other day went pretty quick... at first I figured I‘d ease back into since I had not run since the Disney Marathon 8 months prior... right out of the gates on my first run back into training I quickly 169
Celestial Quest remember I‘d rather be in that dentist chair. Hammering along the road logging the miles day after day I had to remind myself that Dad was going to give us a big lead, Nelson was going to extend our dominance and I, Well I just had to coast to the finish. With that in mind, I ran knowing that I anchored a team that were themselves training to become as one. In the early hours of October 4th, Team Triple Nichols converges for last minute strategies, a hearty breakfast and team jerseys for the athletes and support crew. As this day it was more than just Team Triple Nichols, the entire Nichols clan had come together in support of the event. All sporting their official team jersey numbers 1 through 8 all lined up. Nelson Sr Number 1, Nelson Jr Number 2, Myself Number 3, Mom Number 4, Stephanie Number 5, Jennifer Number 6, Nick Number 7, Lisa Number 8 and of course Mikaela number ½ all there and accounted for… so let the games begin! Off we go and head on down to the ACT staging area, first order of business is to get checked in and processed. With athletes from all over converging on this small island the excitement of the race begins to build. We work our way through the tagging area where we are marked with our team number, this day we will be team number 101. Each of us is clearly marked on our arms and legs the number 101 with a marker in preparation for the race. This is followed by some announcements over the loud speaker regarding some race logistics and confirmation of race wave start times. That‘s it, our waves start time is 7:20am. Race start is quickly approaching. I myself having also been corralled into a volunteer role… figured it would be hard to say no to the event volunteer coordinator since I would have to live with my decision. Will also be providing water support for the swim stage from my stand up paddle board – for those who read my Swim For Debbie Report... yes, I will be walking on water again! So after a few team pictures, I grab my board and start my paddle off shore in preparation for the start of the race. The sun is just breaking the horizon as it glimmers across the water it‘s a beautiful day and anticipation of the starter‘s gun is in the air. With a bang and a cheer the first wave of racers are off. It‘s a controlled chaos as the swimmers rush into the breakers trying to maneuver for position as they work their way to open waters. I position myself to lead the pack as they clear the surf and a steady stream of swimmers begin their journey that will on this day take them over 70 miles. All the time I keep a watchful eye over the stage; ensuring safety and support for the swimmers as they battle the ocean on this first leg of their journey. While I am busy tending the stage the gun goes off or the Team Triple Nichols wave, and with the same fury of action as seen in the previous wave, the swimmers are off again fighting for position all the while trying to clear the surf for the water... all that is with the exception of one swimmer... you guessed it. Dads with all his zeal, in his later years he has become quite the social butterfly. Striking up conversations with anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. Well this day it seems he has a captive audience as he goes on with some of the locals about who knows what, he fails to recognize that his fellow competitors had just taken off without him. If it were not for some observant folks he would still be standing there, I believe we have Stephanie to thank here, but the announcer promptly proclaimed over the loud speaker ―Nelson, you are wanted in the water to start your race‖ With that Dad said his good bye to his adoring fans and quickly 170
Celestial Quest maneuvered his way down to the ocean and quietly slipped into the surf to find his way into the open water. Team Triple Nichols had officially started the day. Dad swan with great conviction as he promptly got into his rhythm and started to make up for time lost while yapping with the fans. He was now passing people and making great strides to build that lead I needed to coast to the finish. Then it struck without warning, that ever familiar pain. Like a hot poker being seared to the skin. A jelly fish nails Dad causing him to rethink his decision not to wear a wetsuit... you know it may not have been such a bad idea your son had there. A wet suit can provide some protection from those jelly fish stings... well too late now. Dad just has to swim through the pain and swim he did. A competitor of 70 years old amongst the many more than half his age and yet here he is passing the many and not being passed by the few. As he comes from the depths and approaches land it becomes clear that Dad is now much more adapt at being some sort of sea life as opposed to a land animal. He promptly exits the water only to immediately tumble forward face down in the sand, As if to kiss the graces of the earth for his safe return. Only this was actually due to his hamstring locking up and sending him into an unwanted face plant for all to see. As quickly as he was down he was recovering and back to his feet to with the cheer of the fans as he made his way to the transition area where Nelson waits for the exchange and the start of the bike portion of the event. Nelson‘s been biking for two weeks now and at least looking the part in his bike outfit. Unfortunately, one area we did not cover was how to get in and out of the transition area. For the out part Nelson quickly makes the chip exchange with Dad, mounts the bike and he is off. But as soon as he is off someone is yelling at him fiercely, ―hey number 101 get off your bike… stop riding, get off your bike!!‖ Nelson startled and unsure what is wrong attempts a quick stop and dismount. For those familiar with these bikes sudden stops can be a bit precarious, for one road bikes utilized very thin large circumference wheels which are quite unstable when coming to a stop, two your feet are attached to the peddles and if you don‘t disengage them properly it prevents you from putting your foot on the ground to stabilize the bike and of course the rider. Well this all added up to Nelson‘s first accident. After the transition official started to yell at Nelson it was quickly followed with nelson lying on his back looking at the sky thinking this has not started as planned. After getting himself and his pride back in order the transition official explained that you have to walk your bike out of the transition area before you can mount to ride. Great, Nelson was back on his bike and just exiting the parking area to head for the road... not more than 5 seconds of riding was underway when he hears more screaming directed right at him... ―Come on nelson you have to ride faster than that... pick it up… GO FASTER, FASTER, FASTER!!!‖ Here poor Nelson just wrecked in front of the entire transition area gather himself got back on and within 5 seconds of riding he is being told he was going WAY TOO SLOW… Of course this was Stephanie providing some Team Triple Nichols support… Thanks for the support Stephanie. Hurry up and wait... that seems to be the theme of the Nichols support crew as we gather near the transition area in anticipation Nelson‘s triumphant arrival. The way I calculated it and if Nelson has a really good and problem free ride, with no wrecks, no flats, no issues; I figured it will take him just over 3 hours to complete the 56 mile course. Anything close to 3 hours would be a great accomplishment for anyone, let alone 171
Celestial Quest someone who just got back on a bike after a 20 year hiatus. I check my watch and calculate the 3 hour mark has just passed and as soon as I think Nelson could be arriving at any time here he comes. The Scottish flyer moving fast with seemingly no intent on slowing down as head heads for the finish line in front of the transition area, remember my earlier comment on going over the in and out of transition. The transition officials are yelling to slow down as he flies past the officials, across the timing mat and catapults into the transition area. With brakes squealing and tires skidding, Nelson attempts to disengage his shoes from the peddles for a last minute attempt to save both the bike and himself from the inevitable destiny of laying on his back again, looking at the sky.. BUT at the very last minute and with the style and grace of a hippo in tap shoes, Nelson miraculously gets his foot out, plants it firmly on the curb and tries to act cool and nonchalant about his finish to the bikes stage. All in all a highly successful ride just a hair over 3 hours. Nelson held up his end of the bargain. The noon hour approaches and the heat of the day is in front of me as we quickly exchange the timing chip and some team congratulatory. With that I am off running with a spring in my step. Both Dad and Nelson did their part., now it was up to me the anchor leg of the team. My exit was much less grand then Dad‘s call to start from the loud speakers nor as eventful as Nelson‘s tumble to the turf. I slip out the back of the transition area and head north along the beach trying run hard but settle in a pace that I can maintain for the duration. As I run I past aid station after aid station. I think what a great job Stephanie did to organize so many folks to support this event. And these people took the time to really support the event. Most have themes to their stations, whether it is 60‘s hippies or a Hawaiian luau each aid station was great in providing not only water and food to help sustain your energy level, they were always cheering you on to help keep you motivated… a big congratulations to all those people who took the time to help out with this event. As you can tell I consider running to be a bit boring, your mind wonders and thinks of all kinds of crazy things to pass the time, like how could I have forgotten my iPod? This is going to be a long run without the tunes. Anyway the first half of the race was basically in the full force of the afternoon sun. I grab two waters at ever aid station. One for inside the body and one for outside the body to keep things cool. My pace is off a bit but this was to be expected in the heat. What I did know is the second half of the race worked its way through Fort Clinch State Park. What this really meant is the cool cover of an oak hammock road. I enter the park and almost immediately I find my pace picking up. It truly is amazing how much your body can react to the most subtle changes; just moments before I felt like I could run no more and now in the shade of the oak hammock I was running stronger than ever. I run past aid stations grateful for the support, I cheer them on as they cheer me on. My stride is strong and I am passing people and never being passed. Keep in mind I have a HUGH advantage over most of these people. The real magnitude is all these people just finished a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike and were now having to run 13 miles. My goal this day was to do a my PR in the half marathon but I think the heat got the most of me on the first half of the race as I fall short of that time when I come across the finish line in 1 hour and 45 minutes. But this is a respectable time none the less given the time I had to train for the run and having to run in the heat of the day.
Celestial Quest The rest of Team Triple Nichols was at the finish to greet me as I crossed and were cheering our success. This day the old man, the older brother and I finished the ACT in one piece, unhurt and in a much respected manner. This day we would be crowned ACT Relay Team Champions with a 1st place in our category. Not bad for a 70th birthday celebration. After all has settled the whole Team Triple Nichols gang is sitting on the outside deck at the Surf Restaurant, eating and telling stories of the day‘s events. Like how Uncle Charlie just can‘t understand that when we decided to have a family outing, it can‘t be like most normal families, maybe a barbeque. As we talk I am think this was one of our best outings as a family in recent memory. We all really did come together as a team, cheered each other on and had a great time. I figured that was it for Team Triple Nichols, we would retire champions, you know go out on top. Then Dad leans in and says ―You Know, I really think our next race as a team should be the FULL IRONMAN and not the half, I really feel I am just getting into my stroke at around a mile and I think I can take over a lot more people if I had that extra mile to swim!‖ Cheers and see you all at the next race, Mike The only addition to this epistle would be in the Franklin Press coverage, a copy of which are included in the Appendix.
Figure 77 - Team Triple Nichols
Celestial Quest Art References The Winning Edge On Deck Striving Dynamics of Sports
Figure 78 - The Winning Edge (Buckeye – 22” x 13”)
Well, my two sons and I certainly had the ―winning edge‖ in this athletic competition. Since both my sons were champion wrestlers in their scholastic period. I think this sculpture captures the moment quite effectively. In fact, I did my studies for this work at one of their high school wrestling practices.
Figure 79 - On Deck (Buckeye and Black Walnut – 40” x 24”)
A somewhat abstract rendition of a baseball player waiting (and readying himself) to be called up to bat. I like to think that I‘m on deck waiting for my next assignment from above.
Figure 80 â€“ Striving (Buckeye)
An athlete (runner) giving it his all in the race. We all, in this life of ours, should feel that we have done our best, have given a 110%
Figure 81 - Dynamics of Sports (30â€? x 24â€?)
A montage of athletes I created years ago during the world Olympics time period. It seems that during this international sports competition the nations of the world come together in harmony, fellowship and goodwill. Why is it that this same spirit cannot carry over to other aspects of international relations? (The surfer is Mike and the wrestler is Nelson Eric)
APPENDIX I. One to Another The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) – Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you do ye even to them.‖ (This is the Universal Code of Ethics recognized in comparable phraseology, by all world religions and philosophical schools of thought.) Second Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:39) – Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: there love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10) Let love be without dissimulation. (Romans 12:9) Love must be sincere. (Mark 12:29) Compassion (Colossians 3:12) – Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering. Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7) Forgiveness (Matthew 6:12) – And forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive our debtors (those trespassing). Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother‘s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye. (Matthew 7:13) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ‘s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) Peace and Love If at all possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18) Have peace one with another (Mark 9:50) Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another (Romans 14:19) Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9) (turn the other cheek; walk the extra mile; have my cloak also) Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good. (Romans 12:21) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44) Bless them which persecute you, bless and curse not. (Romans 12:14) Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (Romans 12:17) (All the above references are from King James version)
Celestial Quest II. Photo Illustration of our Universe
Celestial Quest III. The Impossible Dream The Macon County News By Marla Dalrymple Staff Writer
Nelson Nichols, 70, completed a daring 15-mile swim of Lake Chatuge on Saturday in honor of his niece, Debbie.
On Saturday June 14, Nelson Nichols achieved his impossible dream. Inspired by the physical challenges of his disabled niece, Nichols swam non-stop and unassisted the 15mile distance of the Tennessee Valley Authority‘s Lake Chatuge Reservoir. Braving strong currents, chilling channel waters, rains, winds, dangerous speed boat traffic and blinding gasoline residue, 70-year-old Nichols accomplished the swim in a remarkable time of nine hours. Nichols‘ dream is to raise funds for the Allied Skills Nursing Center in Scranton, Pa. The center cares for his niece, Debbie, as well as many others who persevere with extreme disability. Debbie, paralyzed from the waist down, had a leg amputated last month and is scheduled to have the other one removed soon. Having trained for months at the Cherokee Aquatic Center, Nichols said his confidence only wavered once the night before the challenge when he was awakened by extreme back pain. He said he realized then that it would take divine intervention to achieve what he called his impossible dream — a 15- mile swim in honor of Debbie.
Nichols’ support staff included his son, Mike on the paddleboard, and childhood friend Terry Preston.
Nichols said all of the prayers for his dream to be realized must have been heard, for as soon as he entered the foreboding waters to begin the historical swim, the pain lifted from 181
Celestial Quest his body and all he knew was to swim. If at any time he felt a degree of weariness, chill or cramping, he said he would think of his heroic niece and how she has faced adversity, and he would keep swimming. During the long plight, Nichols said he thought not only of Debbie, but also of the nation‘s brave military and others enduring hardship and suffering around the world. According to Nichols, this helped him endure and keep swimming. Following along to protect him from speedboats and jet skis was his son, Mike, on a homemade, stand-up paddleboard. Mike provided GPS navigational directions and sustenance. Nichols‘ childhood friend Terry Preston from Scranton also kept watch over him, protecting his right side from the crashing waves made by large watercraft. Nichols called his small party the ―Dream Team.‖ He said that aside from making history, they ―are making all aware of the many in our society that are suffering and facing extreme adversities in their everyday life.‖ Nichols said he hopes his achievement of this ―impossible dream‖ will make others want to reach out and help those in society that are enduring difficulty and hardship.
Celestial Quest IV. A Victorious Family Outing A victorious family outing By Andy Scheidler firstname.lastname@example.org Nelson Nichols has ruptured disks in his back. He has metal clamps attached to his spinal column, applied during one of the four surgeries he's had on his beleaguered back. So at age 70, why would Nichols want to participate in the swimming portion of a triathlon? Because he's a softie when it comes to family, and will go to great physical lengths to honor or spend time with loved ones. He's also stubborn and determined when it comes to swimming, trying to relive his glory days when he competed for the University of Miami swim team. Nichols and his two sons competed in a triathlon Oct. 4 in Amelia Island, Fla., with Nelson doing the swim (1.2 miles), the younger Nelson riding a bike (56 miles) and Mike competing in the run (13.1 miles).
Photo provided Team Triple Nichols display their awards for winning the team relay group at the Atlantic Coast Triathlon held in Amelia Island, Fla. From left to right: sons Nelson Nichols and Mike Nichols, father Nelson Nichols.
Team Triple Nichols completed the Atlantic Coast Triathlon in five hours and 38 minutes, taking first place out of group relay teams. Background
Nichols is a classical sculptor and resident of Franklin for 15 years. His artwork has gained acclaim nationwide. But he also takes great pride in completing an honorary swim challenge this summer. Nichols swam the Tennessee Valley Authority Chatuge Reservoir in June, completing a 15-mile nonstop swim. The reason for the swim was to raise awareness for his niece Debbie Bordeos, who was paralyzed from the waist down following childbirth complications 25 years ago.
Celestial Quest Nichols' effort helped raised money for Debbie and the Allied Services Skilled Nursing Center in Scranton, Pa. The setup About two months ago, Nichols received a phone call from his son Mike. His wife, Stephanie, was helping coordinate volunteers for a newly created triathlon in Amelia Island, located near the Florida-Georgia border. Mike sold his father on competing in the event as a "family outing," as the date of the triathlon also coincided with Nelson's 70th birthday. It had been a couple months since Nelson swam for his niece. But with his wife Linda's encouragement, and feeling honored that his sons would ask him to compete with them, he agreed. Ocean swimming With the sun yet to crest over the horizon, the ocean waves crashed onto the beach. Nelson Nichols watched from the dunes, debating his strategy for the 1.2-mile swim. When it comes to swimming in pools, lakes or reservoirs, Nichols is an expert. But he quickly realized that ocean swimming is a whole new ballgame. The waves were intensified thanks to a Nor'eastern, making the conditions even more challenging for the tri-athletes. The current was so strong that many of the early competitors were being swept off course inside the buoys that marked the inside boundary. Nichols watched this while waiting his turn. While debating his course of action, Nichols didn't notice it was his time to enter the ocean. An official snapped him out of trance. "Mr. Nichols, you're due in the ocean right now." Nichols took off running toward the cool water, struggling to get his swim cap and goggles adjusted. Entering the water behind the rest of the group, Nichols knew he'd have to swim vigorously to make up the ground. He also quickly realized the difficulty of swimming in the ocean. The waves made it tricky to see what directions to proceed, plus fellow competitors surrounded him. As the first couple of waves hit, Nichols thought to himself, "This is not a swimming competition, this is a disaster." 184
Celestial Quest He also knew calmer water awaited the further out he went. He quickly caught his stride, when a terrible stinging sensation struck his right arm. Unlike nearly every other person in the water, Nichols wasn't wearing a wet suit. His old school mentality, plus with his experience swimming in cold water, he thought there was no need. The wet suit would have prevented him from getting stung, plus aids with flotation. But it was way too late now. The pain felt like a dozen bees had stung his arm. Nichols figured it was either a jellyfish or Portuguese man-of-war that was causing his discomfort. With 2/3 of the race left, Nichols was determined to finish. He ignored the pain and told himself to get going. He noticed he was passing people and knew he was making up a lot of ground. The large waves that were a deterrent at the start of the swim now aided Nichols as he came to shore. As he approached the sand with spectators clapping, Nichols attempted to stand up when a hamstring cramp stuck like a bolt of lightning. He immediately collapsed, falling headfirst into the sand. Nichols got up covered in sand, and ran the 300 yards needed to reach the staging area where his son Nelson awaited on his bike. Bike and run The younger Nelson Nichols, 48, took off on the bicycle. It was a bit unfamiliar even though he'd spent three weeks training for the ride. That's because his previous competitive juices had been spent running. The years of running have started to catch up to Nichols, as his bad knees forced him to take on the 56-mile bike ride. The ride was easier than expected at the start, he thought, but that changed toward the end. The last five miles were grueling. "I felt like I was peddling uphill all the time," he said. "It was just a matter of being fatigued." Nelson completed the ride, sending his younger brother by four years off on the 13.1-mile run.
Celestial Quest Being the run was the last part of the triathlon, the heat of the day had set in. It was a warm day, but a good portion of the race went by a skate park surrounded by trees that offered shade. Mike completed his portion in a "respectable" time. And combined with the times of his father and brother, Team Triple Nichols had completed the half-iron man quicker than other group relay team. "For a bunch - we're not tri-athletes by any means - together we did pretty well and motivated each other," Mike Nichols said. "It was a very hard accomplishment," the younger Nelson Nichols said. "The biggest thing is we did it together as a family." Family inspiration Mike's wife Stephanie also had a hand in the competition. She helped coordinate 300 volunteers for the event. "I had people coming up to me the day of the race with words of encouragement for the team as word got around about Team Triple Nichols," she said via e-mail. "I also got a call the day after the race from someone who wanted to put together a family team after being inspired by Team Triple Nichols." Though exhausted from a long day, the family went to dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate the accomplishment and Nelson Nichols' 70th birthday. The self-proclaimed "busted up old man" was delighted after a great family outing. "I'm glad I did it," he said. "Even if I am hurting, I'm glad I did it now. I'm glad I made the decision to support them. They were really pleased." Nelson Nichols doesn't have any plans for another physical challenge. But if he were to do it again, he'd make sure to spend a few weeks training for the ocean swimming. Maybe the next time there is a family outing planned Nichols will take the advice of his brother-in-law: have a barbecue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nelson John Nichols Though a painter and graphics artist throughout his life, Nelson‘s primary art form is sculpture. His sculptural body of work, executed in stone, wood, and bronze encompasses: anatomical/figurative pieces in classical realism; a series of abstract interpretations; an environmentally inspired series; and an extensive series in his own unique art form he calls ―Spiritual Expressionism.‖ His work has been exhibited in numerous one-man and juried group shows, in museums, galleries and public buildings in the United States and Canada, and is part of permanent collections both private and public throughout the U.S. and in Japan. His 600 lb. Carrera marble sculpture ―Ascension of Venus‖ was featured by the National Sculpture Society at their Park Ave. (N.Y.C) gallery/museum. He has won numerous awards and honors and has been featured in nearly 40 newspapers, magazines (e.g. Southern Living, etc.) and art journals throughout the country. He is frequently called on by various organizations to lecture on art/sculpture and has instructed in the concepts/processes of the sculptural art form. Prior to going to full-time artist, he served for nearly 20 years in long-range strategic planning and management systems positions with NASA. He was at the launch site for all Apollo lunar launches. Prior to his NASA career, he served as an agent in the U.S. Treasury Department. During this overall time frame, he was also co-owner and Black Belt instructor at the Space Coast School of Aikido (traditional Japanese martial art). He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Miami, attending on an athletic scholarship, and has done graduate work at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Florida. Additionally, as a youth he studied on a non-degree basis the basics of art at the University of Scranton, as the protégé of the then Director of Art and nationally acclaimed artist. Nelson John was born in Scranton, Pa., to the late Nelson and Dorothy Elizabeth Nichols. He is married to Linda Carole (also of Scranton) and they have two sons, Nelson Eric and Michael Harrison.
Figure 82 - Self Portrait (After hard day work)
Figure 83 - Sculptor's Logo (American Holly)
In the rough, but skillful hands of the shrouded sculptor are the basic tools of this art form.
Figure 84 â€“ Prayer (Green Tale)
MY PRAYER Thank you my lord Jesus for having blessed me with a very full and active life, abundant in opportunities to â€œmake a differenceâ€? and in this way to serve you. Though I long for even greater insight into the mysteries of your heavenly being, as well as deeper penetration of your life here on earth I, in my own capacity, am committed to your service. Give me the strength and moral courage to always comply with your beautiful message of love, compassion and forgiveness for all people, even those that are intolerant and do us harm. I further ask for your help in coming to grips with the much broader concept of the universe, its origin and our earthly place within the vast, mind-boggling galactic realm. If, however, this knowledge is not forthcoming in the time remaining, let me finish out my days content in the knowledge that I have in this blessed life, given my all and that your love, and my strong faith, will sustain me in whatever difficulties and challenges lie ahead. Nelson J. Nichols
Celestial Quest FIGURE 1 - ASCENSION OF VENUS ............................................................................................................................ 2 FIGURE 2 - CELESTIAL QUEST .................................................................................................................................. 3 FIGURE 3 - ASCENT OF WOMAN .............................................................................................................................. 8 FIGURE 4 - DIVINE LOVE ......................................................................................................................................... 9 FIGURE 5 – DIVINE LOVE (PAINTING)...................................................................................................................... 10 FIGURE 6 - WITH DEBBIE AT ALLIED SERVICES .......................................................................................................... 12 FIGURE 7 - AQUATIC LOVE .................................................................................................................................... 20 FIGURE 8 - THE SURFER ....................................................................................................................................... 21 FIGURE 9 - LAGOONAL BLISS ................................................................................................................................. 22 FIGURE 10 - NAUTICAL BLISS ................................................................................................................................ 23 FIGURE 11 - NATURES WAY.................................................................................................................................. 24 FIGURE 12 - MOTHER OCEAN BY MIKE NICHOLS ...................................................................................................... 25 FIGURE 13 - THE AWAKENING............................................................................................................................... 31 FIGURE 14 - ALPHA AND OMEGA ........................................................................................................................... 32 FIGURE 15 - THE DANCE OF LIFE............................................................................................................................ 33 FIGURE 16 - THE DANCE ...................................................................................................................................... 33 FIGURE 17 - AND GOD CREATED ........................................................................................................................... 34 FIGURE 18 - PRIMAL FURY.................................................................................................................................... 35 FIGURE 19 - JUNGLE MIST .................................................................................................................................... 36 FIGURE 20 – OMNIPRESENCE ................................................................................................................................ 37 FIGURE 21 - NATURE'S DESIGN ............................................................................................................................. 38 FIGURE 22 – REMEMBRANCE ................................................................................................................................ 39 FIGURE 23 - THE FORBIDDEN ................................................................................................................................ 53 FIGURE 24 - EDEN LOST ....................................................................................................................................... 54 FIGURE 25 - ISAAC'S RAM .................................................................................................................................... 55 FIGURE 26- THE STRUGGLE .................................................................................................................................. 56 FIGURE 27 - THE RAPTURE ................................................................................................................................... 57 FIGURE 28 - QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE .................................................................................................................... 58 FIGURE 29 - BIBLE STUDY ..................................................................................................................................... 59 FIGURE 30 – SOLITUDE ........................................................................................................................................ 60 FIGURE 31 - REVERENCE ...................................................................................................................................... 61 FIGURE 32 - THE ORIGIN ...................................................................................................................................... 70 FIGURE 33 – GENESIS .......................................................................................................................................... 71 FIGURE 34 - OLYMPUS UNRAVELING ...................................................................................................................... 72 FIGURE 35 - FRACTURED WORLD........................................................................................................................... 73 FIGURE 36 - UNIVERSAL FORCES ............................................................................................................................ 89 FIGURE 37 - FREE SPIRIT ...................................................................................................................................... 90 FIGURE 38 – SYMBIOUN ...................................................................................................................................... 91 FIGURE 39 - HANDS OF PEACE .............................................................................................................................. 92 FIGURE 40 - THE GOOD SAMARITAN ...................................................................................................................... 93 FIGURE 41 - BREATH OF LIFE................................................................................................................................. 94 FIGURE 42 – LOVE .............................................................................................................................................. 95 FIGURE 43 - UNIVERSAL LOVE ............................................................................................................................... 96 FIGURE 44 – EROS .............................................................................................................................................. 97 FIGURE 45 - AGED KISS ........................................................................................................................................ 98 FIGURE 46 - COSMIC WEDDING ............................................................................................................................ 99 FIGURE 47 - GOD SO LOVED ............................................................................................................................... 113 FIGURE 48 - DIVINE GIFT ................................................................................................................................... 114 FIGURE 49 - THE LAMB ...................................................................................................................................... 115 FIGURE 50 - THE MAGDALENE ............................................................................................................................ 116 FIGURE 51 – ETERNITY ...................................................................................................................................... 117 FIGURE 52 – PURITY.......................................................................................................................................... 118
Celestial Quest FIGURE 53 - BROKE DREAMS .............................................................................................................................. 128 FIGURE 54 – LOSING ......................................................................................................................................... 129 FIGURE 55 - THE FORGOTTEN ............................................................................................................................. 130 FIGURE 56 – HELP ............................................................................................................................................ 131 FIGURE 57 - THE CLIMB ..................................................................................................................................... 132 FIGURE 58 - THOUGHTS OF STARDOM .................................................................................................................. 133 FIGURE 59 – HEATHER....................................................................................................................................... 134 FIGURE 60 - THE WAY ....................................................................................................................................... 135 FIGURE 61 - HEAVEN'S CATHEDRAL ...................................................................................................................... 136 FIGURE 62 - LIFE'S EQUATION ............................................................................................................................. 147 FIGURE 63 - LIFE'S PASSAGEWAYS ....................................................................................................................... 148 FIGURE 64 - RHYTHMIC SOULS ............................................................................................................................ 149 FIGURE 65 - KINDRED SOULS .............................................................................................................................. 150 FIGURE 66 – EMOTION ...................................................................................................................................... 151 FIGURE 67 - THE CHEETAH DANCE ....................................................................................................................... 152 FIGURE 68 – HARMONY ..................................................................................................................................... 153 FIGURE 69 – COMPASSION ................................................................................................................................. 154 FIGURE 70 - WINGS OF LOVE .............................................................................................................................. 155 FIGURE 71 - ETERNAL VIGIL ................................................................................................................................ 156 FIGURE 72 - FLORIDA PANTHER ........................................................................................................................... 157 FIGURE 73 – PALS............................................................................................................................................. 158 FIGURE 74 – JENNIFER ....................................................................................................................................... 159 FIGURE 75 – REFLECTING ................................................................................................................................... 160 FIGURE 76 - DIXIE CUBE..................................................................................................................................... 161 FIGURE 77 - TEAM TRIPLE NICHOLS ..................................................................................................................... 173 FIGURE 78 - THE WINNING EDGE ........................................................................................................................ 175 FIGURE 79 - ON DECK ....................................................................................................................................... 176 FIGURE 80 – STRIVING ....................................................................................................................................... 177 FIGURE 81 - DYNAMICS OF SPORTS ...................................................................................................................... 178 FIGURE 82 - SELF PORTRAIT ................................................................................................................................ 188 FIGURE 83 - SCULPTOR'S LOGO ........................................................................................................................... 189 FIGURE 84 – PRAYER ......................................................................................................................................... 190