Dogma


From the Air section of my forthcoming book The Elemental Path:

I am never going to say that this is how it is and should always be, and neither should you. That path leads only to obsession and dogma. While I am a firm believer in the scientific method, I also believe that there is no one right answer to everything. Of course, I may be wrong about that too.

In his short story, “The Nine Billion Names of God,” the late Arthur C. Clarke writes about a lama from Tibet who approaches a computer company to design a machine to finish the task his lamasery has been working on for hundreds of years: completing a list of all the names of God.

The scientists in question look at the project as a challenge, never considering what may happen if the program succeeds in finding all the names. The lamas looked at it in an entirely different way, and they eagerly look forward to the outcome they are expecting. All of them looked at it as a mystery to be solved. Neither group would admit to the other that they were both seeking the same thing: meaning and fulfillment. They were stuck in their own viewpoints and paradigms.

The next time you watch a sporting event coming to you from a country halfway across the globe, transmitted via communications satellites (and communication is one of the generally accepted aspects of Air), you can thank Arthur C. Clarke. While he insisted that he did not come up with the idea, he certainly pushed it forward. He had a great scientific mind and, as his writing proves, he had a spiritual side as well. The resultant melding of the two different philosophies resulted in some of the greatest works of science fiction literature ever written.

I’m not going to tell you how the story ends (read it yourself if you’re curious), because that is not the point of my mentioning it. The point is that when you cease believing in the fluidity and the dynamic nature of the worlds around you, and surrender to a single point of view, you also lose part of the core of what it means to be human: the wonder and curiosity about the world around you.

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