Two Roads

Today we have come to a fork in the road:… 


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost


As we chart a new course, let’s use Robert Frost’s  poem: 

One road is old, reaching back thousands of years to the bronze or even stone age, with gods and goddesses, angels and demons,  elves and fairies, griffins and dragons and unicorns. Unfortunately this road will not take us to the stars, even though it has been taken by many people in the past and is well trodden.

At right: Unicorn tapestry from the Cloisters.


At left, M31 the Andromeda galaxy,
two million light years away, hundreds of billions of stars.

The other road is new, not well used yet, but it leads to our modern world of galaxies, physics and computers, cells and DNA. This road is not well worn so far, but many now go this way.

And yet, once we have chosen our new path, human feelings still come with us from the past.

 Here is the ancient Egyptian ceremony of the weighing of the heart after life, comparing it to a feather to see if one has a heavy heart from misdeeds in life. Although it is now mythology to us, we understand the issue presented here, even though the lesson comes to us from thousands of years ago and another culture.

Weighing of the Heart

An important distinction:

Science, or knowledge, is about facts, such as gravity and evolution or the motion of stars and planets. Theories are our attempts to explain those facts, such as Darwin’s theory of natural selection, or Newton’s laws of motion, or Einstein’s theory of relativity. 

Myths are about human experiences, often exemplified in legendary stories. Because of the mistaken assumption that stories such as creations, origins and miracles are supposed to be facts, myth often means false. But a more proper use of the term myth is that it is an epic, often dramatic, overview of the place of humans in the universe, the role of our lives in this drama, and the meaning it has to us. Myths are the source of the similes and metaphors we use in our everyday expressions about how we feel about our experiences.

If you focus too much on looking for fact in myth, you will miss the experience, and the lesson it has to teach. This is why Jesus’ use of stories - parables, reaches into the true motives of each of us across thousands of years and asks the question: Is it more important to conform to the rules of society and religion, stoning to death the returning prodigal son, or to meet him with love and joy at his safe return? Jesus' parable makes the point. That is why it has been said about us humans that:

We seek not knowledge, but experience.

For example, when we take a trip, it makes little difference whether we measure distance using miles or kilometers. the experience is the same. 
                   Whether we measure distance one way or the other, we experience the same trip. 

So now our question is:
Can we translate from an ancient world view:
1 - the old world view of the Egyptians, Hindus and Buddhists, or Jews, Christians and Muslims
           and of course the Greeks and Mesopotamians
2 - to our modern world of stars and galaxies, computers and DNA? 

I say YES, because the experiences are still the same:
          good and evil,    life and death,    love and hate      - still the same.

My contention is that there are many great lessons for modern atheists like me from ancient masters like Jesus and Buddha, Hillel and Rumi. To rescue their teachings from religion, I have to translate from their world view to mine, from their measurement system to mine. I have to learn to go back and forth  - back and forth between miles and kilometers. It is like speaking more than one language or liking more than one type of music or food.

I call this rescuing our valuables from religion. Many of these lessons are in the form of stories. Let’s start there.

Next >>>>> The Storyteller

© Gareth Harris 2017       --------        Contact email:        --------         see also: