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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Witness

In 1962 I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Mathematics
In 1964, with nothing better to do, I joined the Peace Corps.
After 8 weeks of intense training,
The PC sent me, along with our group of 58 volunteers,
 to Ghana, West Africa
(not to be confused with Guyana in South America),
to teach secondary school mathematics.
During those two years, I learned far more than I taught.
Since I was there as a teacher not as a missionary, I never brought up the subject of religion. I didn’t need to.
The Africans are very spiritual people, and they were very curious about what I believed.
There were numerous instances when they would ask such things as
‘Do you believe in ghosts?’
‘Do you believe in juju?’
‘Do you believe in black magic?’
‘Do you believe in witchcraft?’
We believe that the spirit goes across the river when the body dies. Do you believe that as well?’
One time there was an article in the Ghanaian Times where a night watchman for a large bank was attacked by a thief. The night watchman called the police and the thief ran off into the bushes towards the beach. As they chased him, the thief disappeared, but they found a large python which they captured and killed by cutting off its head. In its throat they found the key to the bank. Their only logical conclusion was that the thief had very powerful juju and turned himself into the snake.
 Case closed.
Some students showed me this article and asked me, ‘Do you believe this?’  I said that I didn’t, and they all said ‘Oh we do, we do.’  

An African teacher, (I am tempted to tell you that his name was Kwame, or Kwaku, or Tetteh, but I am afraid I must tell you the truth, his name was Richard).  Richard, once told me, “We can accept your Jesus, but we cannot give up our pagan religion, because it is a part of our lives; our culture”
Being the school teacher that I was and not the missionary they perceived me to be, I told Richard, ‘that is fine with me’.
To myself I thought ‘Something is better than nothing’.
Instead, I told him about an experience I had.
I said, “Three years ago while I was still in college,
 I had an out of body experience.
 From that I learned beyond all question that I have a soul
that can exist outside of this body,
 and since I don’t just believe, but I know I have a soul,
I also know that we all have souls.”
And I said, “it is clear to me that when this body dies the soul emerges into a whole new realm of existence. It is like being born into a tropical jungle full of both wonderful and dangerous plants and animals.
For a stranger to survive in such a strange environment, a person needs a guide, and for me that guide is Jesus”.

I have a lot of regrets, which, thankfully, I am not about enumerate,
 but I do have one I would like to share with you.
 After that conversation, Richard told me that there was a witch doctor just down the road who was curing a very sick young boy. Richard asked me if I would like to go with him and watch;
a once in a lifetime experience ,
 and I declined.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Belief and Faith

Consider the difference between belief and faith.
 I believe that the sun is a star 93 million miles away,
 because I have faith in the astronomers' observations and calculations.
 Most of what we think we know
 is actually belief
 based on faith in something.
And when that something is science
We need to bear in mind that
Our science is continually being
The science of today
Is very different
from the science of a hundred years ago,
when Einstein was still working on his
theories of Relativity.
And when that something is the Bible,
(unless we are reading the original Hebrew text)
It is continually being re-translated.
Consequently, no matter what we are studying,
We need to rely on our own ability
To think and reason
Rather than blindly accept the author’s view.
For example, I find it difficult to believe
That the universe was created in seven earth days,
 so it occurred to me that perhaps the problem
lies in our understanding;
perhaps the seven days of creation are universal days,
where the universe turns on its axis
every two billion Earth years.
It sounds reasonable, logical, and believable to me.
Now if you are a cosmologist
You may think this idea is totally ludicrous,
which is perfectly OK with me.
On the other hand, if you are a die-hard Bible thumper and
You insist that the days of creation can only be Earth days
Then that is OK with me too.
I will not argue the point either way,
Because I don’t like to argue and
 I am happy with my reasoning,
And I truly want you to be happy with yours.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

I believe in Verbs

I believe in verbs
Believing is a verb
Knowing is a verb
Education is a verb
The content of the bible is a verb
The teaching of Jesus is a verb
Our Creator is a verb
“God is a Verb” by David Cooper (A very good book; I had to read it twice)
When science seems to contradict the Bible, we need to reexamine our understanding of the Bible. For example, in the beginning the earth did not exist. All that existed was our infant universe turning on its axis. So the days of creation could only be universal days. It makes sense to me that the universal day is in the magnitude of 2 billion earth years. In my mind this resolves that difference between science and the Bible.

The Bible is not about our physical universe; it is about our Spiritual Universe. It was Our Creator’s best effort to communicate with stone age people (how many thousands of years ago?). Many people today still do not understand much more than those early people.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Box of Knowledge

Many thousands of years ago, when people were much more ignorant than they are today, there lived a boy who wanted to know all there was to learn about everything. After all, his grandfather was a sorcerer who could perform many wonderful miracles and see into the future. His grandfather could make fire and turn water into stone. But this wasn’t enough for Caleb (The boy’s name was Caleb, you may have guessed). He wanted to know EVERYthing.

His father called him foolish, because his goal was far too ambitious. His father told him, “Your grandfather has had many wonderful visions of things I cannot explain. And if I could explain them, you would never be able to understand them. To realize your ambitions, you would have to travel all over the world and learn from the very wisest of men in each country you visit. And even then you would not be able to learn all there is to learn, because even the wisest of men are still learning. Besides, it takes great wealth to travel, and you are penniless. I am too poor to even buy you proper clothes, not to mention furnish
 the means to travel.”

Caleb’s grandfather was Walter the Wizard! Walter had the power to leave his body and travel anywhere he wanted. In his travels, he had accumulated many wonderful gifts from the most wealthy of kings, sultans, potentates, shamans and seers, as well as from prophets. When he heard of Caleb’s ambition, he smiled, for he himself had had such an ambition in his youth. It reminded him of a gift he had received from a powerful Pasha in Persia. It was nothing more than a trinket really, but it might be a useful learning lesson for Caleb. It was a little brass lamp containing some very pungent oil, and according to the Pasha, the fragrance from the burning oil had magical properties. Walter had lit it a few times, but was never able to get it to work, which may have been because he found the odor from the burning oil revolting. Now he had to conjure up a vision of which pile of stuff he had put it in.

Finally, after wracking his brain and performing his ancient incantations, he had the tiny lamp in his hands. It was tarnished and in need of polishing, but he would leave that for Caleb to do. He had some very fine powder that could cause the brass to glimmer like gold along with a bit of lamb’s wool which he would also give to his grandson. Walter sniffed the wick to see if there was still some oil remaining in the lamp, and winced. Clearly, there was.  
Caleb was thrilled to receive this gift from his grandfather, even though it was tiny, and tarnished and dirty. It was the only thing he had ever remembered receiving from anyone. Well, from anyone of importance that is. He had received a bouquet of red and purple flowers, one time, from Hannah, but that was not nearly as important as this lamp from his grandfather. Well sure, his sister, Hannah, was very good looking, in fact she was downright gorgeous, but what good was that if she didn’t have a brain in her head. It seemed like she was always babbling about stuff that didn’t make any sense.

That evening, Caleb took the lamp up to his room in the hayloft along with the powder and lamb’s wool that his grandfather had given him and proceeded to polish the lamp. As he rubbed the lamp the tarnish began to fade and the brass began to gleam like gold. It was hard work, because the little lamp had been left to gather a lot of tarnish for many centuries. Caleb was determined to finish the job before going to bed, so that in the morning he could proudly show it to his grandfather. It was just before midnight, when he finally removed the last bit of tarnish, and his parents were already asleep by then.

As he rubbed the lamp one final time, to his tremendous awe and amazement, a great cloud rose out of the lamp; swirled around the loft and transformed into a mighty genie! Now Caleb had heard about genies before in stories but never did he ever suppose that he would actually see one! This was astonishing!!! The genie spoke to him in a very loud voice, “Master, you have summoned me. What do you wish? You have only one.”

Caleb stammered. He was not prepared for this.

The genie spoke again, “Take your time, Master, to gather your thoughts. Unlike humans, I have great patience.”

After 37 and a half seconds the genie spoke again, “Well! Have you gathered your thoughts? Do you have a request for me? You have only until sunrise, at which time I shall return to the lamp, never to be roused for another thousand years.”

Caleb replied, “Yes, I have just one wish; I want to have access to all of the knowledge and wisdom of the universe.”

Now it was the genie’s turn to be astonished. He didn’t anticipate such a great request from one so young. Instantly, the genie produced a many sided metal box with strange symbols on each side. It was very heavy and had a strange glow. On the top was a slit with a piece of silk ribbon protruding from it. The genie said nothing, but watched with a feint quizzical smile as Caleb examined the box.

Finally Caleb said, “What is this? I asked for access to all of the knowledge and wisdom of the universe, and you give me a useless box of ribbon. 

This, of course was exactly the reaction the genie expected. “Pull on the ribbon, and read what it says”.

“Ok, it says a square has four equal sides, a pentagon has five equal sides, and so what is that all about?” Caleb asked, pulling the ribbon some more. “Hey, this time it says INFINITY means forever, without end, unlimited.”

“Yes.”, said the genie, “Look at the symbols on the sides of the box. The one that looks like an eight on its side is the symbol for infinity. The ribbon you pull out of the box, no matter how much is finite, as it has a measureable length. The ribbon remaining inside the box is infinite…”

“So what does that mean?” asked Caleb.

“You would be wise to ask your sister”, said the genie, “she is older and understands certain things better than you do”. 

“What? Ask my dumb sister, Hannah?” asked Caleb in a high pitched excited voice. 

But at that moment the sun began to rise, and the genie disappeared in a great puff of smoke and returned to the little lamp.

And in the following moment, Hannah poked her head up into the loft to tell Caleb that breakfast was ready. When she saw the box, she was totally engrossed. “Wow, what is that? Caleb, where did you get it? What a beautiful ribbon it is! Is it magical? Does it play music?”

So Caleb told her everything that had happened. “The genie told me that the ribbon is the source of all Knowledge and wisdom, and the more ribbon we pull out the more we learn. He told me that the ribbon outside the box represents all of our knowledge and the ribbon inside the box is infinite”.

“Ah, I see”, said Hannah. “So the ribbon inside the box is our ignorance, and it will always be greater than our knowledge, no matter how much ribbon we pull out, no matter how much we learn”.

“Yeah”, mumbled Caleb, “something like that. Hannah wasn’t as dumb as he thought”,
he thought.

Every day, Caleb pulled out more and more ribbon and as he read what was on the ribbon he learned more and more wonderful things and he also gained much wisdom. As he grew older he passed the box of ribbon on to his sons and daughters and they in turn passed it on to their sons and daughters. Until it seemed like there was miles and miles of ribbon and knowledge and wisdom, until now to this day there is enough ribbon to reach to the moon and back, and yet there remains an endless supply of ribbon inside the box.

©By Harold Gower   December 2009

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Writing on Writing

Writing on Writing

I use writing as a diversion from stress and worry. It helps me clear my mind. Sometimes I try to describe places and people or incidents. Much of what I write is not intended for others to read. Of course I can pick and choose what I want to share. I like to introduce others to the pleasures and benefits that writing provides and encourage them to give it a whirl.

Writing is a chore for me; it doesn’t flow easily; I have to work at it; I am not prolific. One of my stumbling blocks is trying to edit before I write. It is much better if I just start writing random thoughts without any particular order, grammar or spelling. Once I get the thoughts down I can always go back and edit, organize, rearrange, add and delete.

If I can’t think of lines of poetry, I simply write a short story, and then sometimes, later on, a poem will develop from the short story. Other times, a couple of lines will just enter my head and if I have the presence of mind to write them down before they are lost, other lines will follow, usually not in the proper order.

I try to write as though I were talking to someone, which is usually myself.  Abby would often bark at me, I suppose to bring me back to reality.

When I start a story, I seldom know where it is going to lead. If it has a few characters carrying on a conversation, I may add more characters, as the story progresses. And it is much the same with a poem.    

I like to write short little vignettes about family members because as I get older I tend to forget incidents that are interesting to me. And also, I like to just record my memories of aunts and uncles and cousins so that children and grandchildren will have  something more than just an old photograph of Aunt Katy or Uncle John.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

a Cure for the Drought

February 2, 2014
The ultimate weapon; with this weapon we can destroy all of our enemies (provided we stop bombing the hell out of them). Far greater than all of the war planes and ships and missiles, because instead of delivering warheads, it will deliver fresh water anywhere in the world. It can turn every desert into farmland, and every enemy into a friend by ending world hunger.

The drought is upon us. Our Creator has supplied us with amazing gifts; the sun, gravity, this earth we live upon, a huge reservoir of sea water, and to each of us a brain to think with. We need only use these gifts to solve our problems.

Build a structure in the shape of an inverted black funnel one mile in diameter.  In the center put a tower 2000 feet high. Above it install a white superdome. Below the geodesic dome build a structure to funnel the condensed water into the tank. Water tower might best be located outside the dome.
During the day, the sun will evaporate the sea water which will rise into the G. Dome, and during the night the cool air will condense the water. The structure will also collect rain water.  By locating the tank and the dome at a high enough elevation, gravity will distribute the water to every city, town and farm west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, requiring NO ELECTRICAL POWER AND NO GAS HEAT.    It will not only desalinate sea water but it can be used elevate fresh lake water without the use of pumps.

Build a prototype in a sheltered bay such as Tomales Bay or San Francisco Bay or the Sea of Cortez. Determine how many of these structures we will need to supply our usage, and BUILD THEM. If the prototype can produce 20 acre feet of water a day and California uses 20,000 af per day then build a thousand structures. Build them around the world.
If it doesn’t work then change the design to make it work.

The Red Sea could supply fresh water to Saudi Arabia.
The Mediterranean Sea could supply fresh water to North Africa.
The Gulf of California  could supply the desert land of Mexico.
Every desert in the world could be turned into farm land.

A few fact and figures:
California uses 118,000 acre-feet of water per day.

One dome might produce 24, acre-feet of water per day, which would require 4,100 domes to supply the entire state of California, which might be a bit too ambitious. But a thousand domes would help a lot.