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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Pearl of Great Price - Chapter 3

The ongoing saga of a religious quest...

Chapter 3

As John David jogged he had a certain comfort in having made a decision, even if he wasn’t quite sure what that decision would lead to or where it would take him. But regardless of the outside world, when he jogged he was in a different dimension.

He was running on the trails now, weaving his way through the trees and the bushes and brush of the forest that covered many miles within the park.

He took his time when he ran. He preferred a steady pace and a long job rather than a short
sprint. As his body began to establish the perfect rhythm he began to completely lose himself in the beauty of the trees and trails of the park. He felt his body move and his feet beating against the trails and the ground. His body responded to the trails in the park and he began to lose himself as he began to focus more, now on the steady syncopated rhythms of the jazz giants from ages past.

As he was running the music seemed to soak into his very soul. It was the music of the ancients, the classics of jazz, that swept John David’s whole being away to another planet – another solar system! Sometimes it was the vulnerable ballads of Miles Davis with his ability to simultaneously play something so perfect and yet so incomplete that he absolutely forced you to enter into the music and finish it yourself. A music that seemed to speak to something so deep that it almost seemed that the technicalities of the music didn’t even matter.

Or it might be John Coltrane with his ability to single-handedly surround the fortresses of your soul with sheets of sound. The music was raw and it was polished, all at the same time. It was free and spontaneous and yet it was still so perfect and coordinated: A group of musicians in dialogue with each other. But it was the sheer force of Coltrane, his passionate energy that ultimately made his music truly timeless.

And so John David slipped away.

Only a few blocks away from the park was the University of Saint Augustine. The lecture in progress was in regards to the Literature of the Twentieth Century and the particular piece under discussion was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

University education in the arts is centered on a multi-form approach that utilizes skilled lecturers, small group discussions, individual tutoring, and independent investigation and research. All lectures are delivered with great skill and are highly stimulating. This is due, in part, to the high skill level of the lecturers, but also to the fact that technology has the ability to amplify main points and highlight key thoughts by appealing to the senses of sight, touch, sound, and even smell. For example, the room is actually colored, ever so slightly, according to the speaker’s tone. The room is also very subtly scented in accordance with the manner in which the lecturer is delivering the speech. The main points appear on a student’s screen and allow them to type their notes as the Professor moves through the lecture. To the left of the student’s notes the words and sentences of the lecture appear only brief seconds after those very words are spoken, and the words always appears precisely as they are spoken.

“Therefore, in today’s age it is a new world, but certainly not Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,” the Professor’s voice resonated. He had turned 118 years old only a few days earlier, and would be semi-retiring in a few months. The typical lifespan for a male in the St. Augustine geographic area is 147 years.

“We have, many centuries ago moved beyond the model of simply making a person feel good,” he stated, speaking the last two words in a deliberate manner.

“Ours is not a doped up, overmedicated society,” he allowed himself to chuckle ever so slightly. “Drugs are used to control, of course, but they are always used appropriately, and the fact is that drugs are rarely needed at all because society has produced people who understand themselves.”

The Professor was on the last point of his outline for this particularly engaging lecture, and had drawn his audience into his subject matter by emphasizing his words in a measured and reflective manner. His voice was intelligent and insightful, but at the same time it had an almost musical quality to it. The Professor’s words were spoken almost as though he were the master of an instrument, with each note being played in such a way as to move the hearer into the heart and soul of the sound. It was stimulating.

“We know how to control unhealthy addictions,” he continued. “And we don’t need to control additions because we can understand the cause of addictions and hence we can stop them before they start. We know how to develop relationships that are both stable and meaningful. In short, we have both passion and stability. We do not have to choose. Our world is no strange, science fiction novel. It is something simple: A thorough understanding of human behavior.”

The Professor was now nearing the end of the final point on his outline. “Science and technology cannot save the human soul. This we know. Salvation comes from true knowledge of self. With true knowledge of the self and how the self is engaged in its society we no longer need to make strange speculations. And so, over the course of human history, psychology gradually replaced philosophy. Humanity has the solutions for living in our world. There is no need for the theologian because humanity can cope – we can cope and we can flourish.” The Professor paused with his arms half extended.

“The study of things like theology and original sin,” he continued, “are reserved for an academic study of the history of human thought. Sin is now the curious metaphor,” he paused, “that the ancient peoples had invented to explain the abnormal – to explain that which we did not understand. But who needs wild, religious speculation anymore? Who needs such lofty, metaphysical rhetoric when you have the answers to humanities “deepest” needs? These so-called deepest needs are now understood. It was coping with the everyday issue of real life that has provided the real answers: Coping and flourishing. After generations of psychological research and counseling humanity is finally at the point to research her highest potential. Gradually, over time, the Genesis curse has been reversed, and we have finally returned to Eden.”

The Professor paused for the brief applause of appreciation, and then proceeded to summarize and conclude the lecture.

[These are the first few chapters of more to follow...stay tuned...]