Palmyra Temple Dedication
Dear Paul, Melanie and Jared Wright, Bridget, Rob, Ben and Sarah, Sara, Heather and Nate Pace, Audrey, Rachel, and Matt via hardcopy,
cc: file, Tony Hafen, Pauline Nelson via mail.,
Sara and Des Penny, Claude and Katherine Warner, Lloyd and Luana
Warner, Diane Cluff, Maxine Shirts via mail.
Welcome to "Thoughtlets." This is a weekly review of an idea,
belief, thought, or words that will hopefully be of some benefit
to you, my children, with an electronic copy to on-line extended
family members. Any of you can ask me not to clutter your mail
box at any time.
"Thursday morning was the first live broadcast of a temple dedication.
The Palmyra Temple Dedication was encrypted yet it was broadcast on
the church satellite system. Andrea and I arrived at the Stake
Center at 7:20, and were still able to get a seat in the chapel.
In fact, I could not believe how few members took advantage of this
remarkable event. I guess we get our testimony of different aspects
of the gospel at different times, and some never understand nor
accept the signifigance of temple ordinances.
I remember my first exposure to the temple. It was the fall of 1970,
I was 20, and had just got home from my summer of working in Denver
for Pan American, now Amoco, and at nights at The Red Barn across
from Mammoth Gardens. I had my mission call to The British Mission,
and although I still felt like I had failed the language test, I was
excited to serve as a missionary. Mom had purchased temple garments
for me, and handed me a bag with them in as I left to go down to
St. George. I have always been somewhat blind to things around me,
and I didn't even know what temple garments were, nor that I would
be wearing them for the rest of my life. They were not part of my
growing up years.
Bishop Overson, who owned Overson Farm Center where we bought seeds
and such, had made arrangements to take me down to St. George.
There was no temple preparation classes like we have today. So I
was just following instructions. I left the temple completely
overwhelmed, confused, and for one of the few times since Corvalis
(../9748.html) questioning whether my prayers really had been
answered. The issue was the overlap between the temple endowment
and the Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity (../9728.html, ../9732.html,
../9832.html, and 0007.html) iniation ceremony. As a benchmark,
the overlap in ceremonies was sufficiently strong it became a
factor in Ray Gardner's involvement in the church after getting
sealed in the temple. My perception is there were two differences:
first I had sincerely searched for an answer in Corvalis and based
on the answer I received I had a testimony about the restoration,
and second I went to the temple fasting. I didn't say much about
my first trip to the temple, and when I got home I walked down
past the Lower Plant to the old cottonwood tree halfway to the bottom
of Dad's fields and spent some time on my knees. I got up from that
prayer with a conviction to not to worry about it, and I would come
to an understanding in due time.
A few months later, in the first area I served, we had a meeting
with a member family. He was a Third Degree Mason before joining
the church, and he had just taken his family through the London
Temple. He explained to us how Masonry has a direct lineage from
the Temple of Solomon, how college fraternities were organizations
which derived from the Masons, he showed us the robes of a Master
Mason, and talked about some common characteristics between
the temple endowment and Masonic ceremonies. I recognized a direct
answer to the prayer by the old cottonwood tree after a very
confusing experience. He recommended I get the book `Mormonism and
Masonry' by E. Cecil McGavin, which is still in my library if any
of you want to check it out. As a result of this trial of my faith
the temple became a very special place for me. About the next time
I went to the temple was with Rick and Pat Hawthorne about a year
and a half later. The spirit bore witness to me of the importance
of the temple ceremony and the sealing ordinances.
As a result, I have always gone to the temple as often as possible.
Once we accepted a job with Mobil and realized how far we were
going to be from a temple when we moved to Dallas, Marti and I
would go to the temple almost every Thursday night. She never did
like the temple, and went with me because it was important to me.
One night when we came out there was a young black boy standing by
our car staring up at the brightly lit spires of the Salt Lake
Temple. Being full of the spirit we asked him if he was lost and
if we could help. We ended up taking him to Snelgrove's for ice
cream. His name was Alex Stamper and he was from Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania. He was in a government sponsored camp for inner
city kids, and was on his night out in Salt Lake. We became
friends, and did things with him several times over the coming
months. It was a sufficiently touching experience I wrote a song:
`Alex' Unspoken Prayer, 17 February 1974
Take my hand, I promise I'll understand
There's so much to learn, I don't know which way to turn
Show me a mountain top that's caped white with snow
Where the sun shines down on me, to show me where to go
Open my eyes, that I might see who I am
And realize, what's in store if I do all I can
Like the blossoms budding in the spring of the year
When life begins again, and brings to me a tear
As days pass bye, Help me to learn to live
With a love that abides, So I may always give
Comfort to others, like a green carpeted hill
Strength and a purpose, that is quiet and is still
As the seasons turn to years, may I overcome my fears
And learn of Thee, and what thou wants me to be
That I might help when others have trouble and strive
And learn to share myself past the autumn of my life
Take my hand, I promise I'll understand
Take my hand, I promise I'll understand'
We moved into the Maplewood 2nd Ward about a year before the Dallas
temple was announced. I was the Elder's Quorum President, and Marti
had just been released from being the Primary President. The Bishop
announced the new temple being built in Dallas and gave a formula
for helping fund the temple. It was a percentage of annual income.
I took out a piece of paper, calculated what our share was, doubled
this amount, asked Marti if this was OK with her, then as we left
the sacrament meeting I went up to the Bishop and made our pledge.
I was consulting for Wulf Massell at Geosource one day a week and
this gave us some extra money. I believe we had just finished
paying for Sara's birth, and so this was where the extra money was
coming from. After the temple fund raising was finished, the Bishop
had us walk up front in sacrament meeting and receive a certificate
or something. I was really embarassed.
Marti didn't really want to go to the temple dedication. I talked
her into going, fasted, and we drove up to Dallas. We got there
when we were supposed to and were seated in an endowment room behind
a pillar so we could not see the video projection of the ceremony.
Marti was less than enthusiastic. Then a few minutes before the
ceremony started, an usher came, looked at us, and said would you
two come with me. We were taken to the Celestial Room, and seated
on the second row just in back of where President Hinkley and the
other authorities were sitting. It was a powerful experience. As
we left Marti turned to me and said `It is so nice to have a prayer
answered.' I said `Yes it is.' She said, `You were praying for
me to have a good experience?' I answered in the affirmative, and
she said `I didn't realize before that other people's prayers for
you could be answered so dramatically.' That was one of the last
times Marti and I went to the temple together. It is the only
temple dedication I have had the opportunity to participate in
prior to the Palmyra Temple Dedication last Thursday morning.
Since we were supposed to be in our seats a half-hour early, when
Andrea and I got to the church, we found we had both brought
reading material. Andrea had the latest Ensign, I had brought the
paperback `Why? Science Unveiling the Mind,' by R Colin Johnson.
As we showed our special temple recommends to enter the Katy Stake
Center, temporarily an extension of the Palmyra Temple, I felt a
little awkward with my choice of reading material. It didn't last
long. As I settled in on a comfortable bench pew, with the sound
of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the background, it was easy to
start reading. I was just starting Chapter 10, titled `My Personal
Philosophy.' Good words. In fact, I was so impressed with the four
pages I ended up reading, I typed them out for you as a P.S. to this
Thoughtlet. Most of you kids are at a stage in your life you should
be thinking about these kinds of `Why? question, and this one of the
best philosophical summaries I have yet found. As philosophy, in my
mind, the words are secondary to doctrine. However, the extension
of his words about disparities as patterns across time that define
our mind, as quoted in the last Thoughtlet (0014.html), fits right
with doctrine in Doctrine & Covenants 93. It was a special time
sitting in a special place listening to special music next to a
special person who I have come to love and reading special words
which help explain mind and thus life.
The Palmyra Temple Dedication was wonderful. Tears flowed often.
The spirit was in the room so thick I felt like I could see it or
touch it. I know Melanie went to the Thursday evening rebroadcast,
and I expect some of the rest of you were able to attend. For those
who did not attend, the agenda was quite simple. President Hinkley
welcomed everyone in the Celestial Room, where they had, I assume,
temporarily placed an organ. There was a choir from the Rochester
Stake. Then an opening prayer and a talk. Then several went outside
to seal the cornerstone, which had artifacts from our time enclosed.
President Hinkley's natural humor was in good stead. President
Boyd K. Packer of the Council of Twelve Apostles spoke, President
Hinkley spoke, and then he offered the dedicatory prayer. There
were musical numbers from an outside and the inside choir, and a
closing prayer. The words resonated with me, and the spirit bore
witness yet again of the truthfulness of the work of the restoration.
I had fasted since breakfast Wednesday, and so after the meeting
I stopped and ate an early lunch prior to going back to work. I
was in the office by 10:00 Thursday morning, and other than my
having a suit on, no one knew of the wonderful experience of earlier
in the morning.
As I participated in the Palmyra Temple Dedication, I could not
help but think about Paul and Kate, and about Melanie and Jared,
and about their upcoming weddings. In fact, this is a great time
to share Jared's proposal to Melanie, from Melanie's viewpoint:
`I want to start at the beginning, because I really think it is fun
the way that me and Jared met. One of my best friends up here in
Austin is Naomi Wright, who is Jared's cousin. I remember talking
to her one day last January or so about what we thought we "liked
in guys". I told her that for some reason I had always been
attracted to guys with curly hair. She said, "well, my cousin
Jared has curly hair!!" So that's how it all started!! After that
she talked a little about Jared to me and about me to Jared.
Another of my good friends, Kinsey, dated Jared's brother for a
little while. She flew up to Utah to visit him one weekend and
brought pictures of me to show Jared. So, Jared knew what I looked
like, but I didn't know what he looked like. Kinsey told me that
he kind of looked like Harry Connick, Jr., who I don't think is
cute at all. For some reason I got really excited about meeting
Jared. My friends in Austin knew about him and I had never even
seen a picture of him or talked to him at this point. (Remember
at this time I was pretty anti-men and so it was rare for me to
even express an interest in dating/meeting someone).
Over the next few months, it was talked about a little here and
there. In May of last year, Naomi called me on a Friday night and
told me to come over because Jared was in town. That was when I
met him for the first time. There was an immediate connection and
I felt so comfortable around him from the very start (which is
pretty rare for me too, around boys that I think are cute). I was
planning on visiting Vidor with Naomi's family for July 4th where
I knew I would see him again. He called me very unexpectedly the
Tuesday before I went down there. And ever since we have been
exchanging regualar phone calls and emails and visits.
We had been dating for six and a half months at the time of the
proposal, I know not a very long time... but as many people will
tell you, sometimes you know in just the first couple of months
of dating. I remember coming home from that weekend on the 4th of
July and telling mom, who was visiting me, that he was the kind of
person that I wanted to marry.
Naomi told me to "hold off there". But I knew that he was
definitely different from the start. He is 23 and he is from
Vidor, TX which is a small town east of Beaumont. He comes from
an incredible family.... also an extremely large family. He has
7 brothers and 3 sisters!!!! He is the fifth child and fifth boy.
He served a mission in Puerto Rico and he has his associates degree
in business. His family also loved me from the start. His nanny
(his dad's mom) was referring to me as his girlfriend the first
time that I met him (he was dating someone else at the time, so
it was really funny).
I'm sure your more interested to know how he proposed, so I will
tell that story now. So, let's see. Well, he wasn't living in
Austin at the time... he was in Vidor and so I didn't know that
he was going to be here that weekend because he had told me earlier
that he couldn't come. Naomi took me out to dinner and we hung out
for a little while so that she could get me out of my house. When
I came home I saw a blue light coming from my room and I was
completely confused so I hurried back there to see what it was.
I heard our song playing from the closet. There was a TV sitting
on the dresser (the blue light) and a picture of us was next to
that by a candle. There was also a sign underneath the TV that
told me to press play. The TV was cued to a part in "Sleepless
in Seattle" (which is my all-time favorite movie). It was the
part where Tom Hanks is talking about how perfect his wife is to
the psychiatrist. He says something about how he knew, from the
very moment he first laid eyes on her. "I was taking her hand to
help her out of a car... and I knew. It was like.... magic!"
Anyway, Jared had been hiding, dressed in his suit, in my closet
and when he came out, he handed me one end of a piece of dental
floss (improvision for a piece of string) and then he said
something about how since we had started to date we had formed a
very special bond, one that is never going to break. He promised
to love me forever and then he got on his knee and he asked me to
be his wife!!!! The ring is beautiful too! So, there it is.
Dad, you also asked for us to include "thoughts and feelings,
hopes and fears, what happened the way you wanted, and what didn't."
I really appreciated the things that Sarah talked about in her email
last week. She talked about the three years that her and Ben dated
and were engaged before the words, "I do" and how that was very
beneficial for them as a couple (the time involved).
It was different, however, in Jared and mine's case and time
obviously wasn't what helped us realize the significance of the
eternal commitment that we were making to each other, as we had
only been dating for 6 1/2 months. I have to admit that I am a
whole lot younger than I had imagined I would be when the time
came for me to get married. But I also imagined that I would be
scared to death to get married. The effects of a divorce had a
really large impact on me, as you know. Plus, I keep hearing all
of these statistices in my classes and in everywhere about marraiges
and how so many of them don't work and blah blah blah... and
sometimes I feel like all they do is undermine the significance of
my relationship with Jared and that they almost tell me to be
apprehensive about getting married. Almost as if these statistics
in the smallest way are trying to hold me back from being completely
elated about our decision.
As Jared and I became closer and the intention of marraige became
more and more a reality, the less scared I became. There are a lot
of factors that played into that, but I think that the main reason
was that we have relied on Heavenly Father for help throughout our
entire relationship. We have included him in our courtship and when
it came time for us to decide whether it was right for us to get
engaged or not, He was our source. We both love the Lord and we
love his church and we will have him to rely on for the rest of our
lives if He is where we choose to go for guidance. I could write
forever about my hopes and feelings, but as for fears, ...(I know
I worry about having to learn everything I need to know about
insurance and all of the technical things I haven't never thought
about before), but I don't fear getting married to Jared. And that
is how I know that it is right.
Well Dad, I discovered something writing this email. I have another
characteristic that is like you. Sara said the other day that
sometimes when I am talking, I will talk through my thoughts to
someone and she said, "kind of like dad in his thoughtlets"... anyway,
I just went off for a little while there and now I can see why it is
so easy for you to write so much sometimes in your thoughtlets.'
These words are the words the Palmyra Temple Dedication, or any other
temple dedication, are all about. Melanie, thanks for sharing your
story. Every once in a while I look over at the videos in the video
cases by the TV and see the movie Armaggedon. I remember the one time
I saw this movie (../9829.html). I remember when I heard the young
dark haired girl say `Dad, I don't blame you for Mom leaving you. She
left me too.' I get angry about the impact of the divorce on each of
you. And then I sit back and listen to Dr. Nancy White's words at
PAIRS, and realize I had lessons I needed to learn, and so do each
of you. Maybe sometime I can watch that movie again. In the meantime
it is absolutely wonderful to see you kids making good choices, and
to see the wonderful fruits of striving to do what is right. Two
temple marriages and a first Grandson over just a couple of months.
Life doesn't get any better than this. Sara (and others), I'm sorry
I go on and on. I guess it is just this has proven to be a safe
medium for me. No one talks back, nor interrupts before I can find
the words I often have to search so hard for. Thanks for your
patience with me, and I hope there is some quality of benefit in
the quanity of words that sometimes, like today, get typed out.
As far as how the week went, it was busy and yet quiet. On Monday
there was a meeting with an investor. We were too little and he
was not interested. I thought he was an investment banker, and
made a couple of bho-bho's in what I said to him. Oh well! Rachel,
your family home evening was very touching. I saw myself as the
father who lost his temper with kids and remembered too many times
making this mistake. I also do not remember doing as good as the
father in the video in making up with the child. Roice, Ben, Paul,
Melanie, Sara, and Rob, I'm sorry. We are doing better on this
front now, with Rachel and Matt. I wished I would have known what
I know now back when I needed to know it. Don't we all find
ourselves in this circumstance? Tuesday I met with Mike Dunn of
GDC and his New York investor. It went well, and as always, will
not progress nearly as fast as I would like to see it go. We had
the missionaries over to dinner again in the evening. I had signed
up and didn't know Andrea had signed up for last week. Lucien
Lemieux came by as we were fininshing dinner and we talked about
some of his antiques and paintings which we are advertising at
Heritage Galleries Online (http://www.walden3d.com/hgol/Lemieux).
Wednesday night our Venturing Activity had been cancelled because
of Youth Conference later in the week. However, I took Matt over
to the Deacon Quorum / Beehives Combined Activity. There were
three of my guys and a friend there, and we talked for 45 minutes.
Thursday morning was the Palmyra Temple Dedication. I had to be
up at Anadarko for the monthly RC-SIG Teleconference at 12:00.
Both Gary Crouse and I were about 5 minutes late. The call went
well and the September 14-15 meeting in London, Ontario, Canada,
is coming together very nicely. Matt had a baseball game in the
evening, which they won. Andrea went to Suzette Steward's powder
puff football game after the baseball game. Friday was bounded
with the Developer's Meeting and CoReExchange. Between these
meetings there were calls about Exxon-Mobil, the GCAGS Technical
Forum, and several other projects I am working on. In addition,
I'm still attempting to get my call report for the GeoQuest 2000
Technical Forum (0013.html) written up. Richard Uden and Linda
Renner gave the CoReExchange presentation. It was a model they
have built this week for a Dow Chemical petroleum storage facility
in Alberta, Canada, where they have solution mined several spool
shaped storage caverns out of salt beds. Really interesting
pictures, and a very exciting project. Friday evening Andrea
and I were chaperones at the Youth Conference Dance. We danced
the last two dances of the evening. It was the first time we
danced since the Continuum Christmas Party when Andrea first
came to Houston (../9851.html). We both joked about not dancing
at our reception, and how upset Sarah seemed to be with us. We
had a couple of girls from Sealy Branch spend the night with us.
Saturday Andrea took a carload of girls down to the fifth ward to
work on cleaning up part of the city. Rachel is still feeling
ill and so she didn't go. Based on the testimonies it was a very
good service project. Later in the day Andrea went to Sarah's
baby shower. It was awkward for her and she wanted to support
Sarah. Based on what she, Melanie, and Sara told me, it sounds
like everything turned out OK. After the shower Andrea went back
down to Youth Conference. Rachel had wanted to go to the shower,
and also wanted to go to Youth Conference. Youth Conference won.
I went for a run with my `Original Running Companion(SM).' It
is amazing to me how much more winded one gets when running
dribbling a golf ball. Maybe it is all of the times I drop it
and have to go catch it. Once it went out into Kingsland, a car
hit it and it popped back up by the trail and another car hit a
big puddle of water because of a rainstorm on Friday night. If
we do distribute these golf balls, I wonder what kind of
liability comes if someone drops one, a car runs over it,
flipping it into the window of another car? Oh well!
I took Matt and Patrick out to Matt's baseball game. Because of
the rain, the game before Matt's was delayed an hour. I took
Patrick home and got a wind breaker and cap. It was cold and
windy, which seems unusual. Matt's team was ahead 5 to 0, and
it ended up being their first loss at 5 to 8. Oh well! The
lawn edger broke. The broom to sweep up from the lawn edger
broke. It was 6:00 PM by the time I made it into the house to
have a bath and shave. Jeff called from Australia just as I
got in the bath tub. Oh well! Guess we need these experiences
to keep appreciative of the good times. I did go over to Youth
Conference and steal Andrea away to go to a movie with me. We
went to see `Return to Me.' Outstanding. I encourage each
of you to go see it. The story is a little far fetched, and
the acting and comedy is wonderful. The pain the lead actor
felt about the loss of his wife to death in a car accident
resonated with me. I had a reasonable talk with Marti the other
day. One of the things I said is that I believe it is hard for
the two of us to talk because I still love her and always will.
Although I have come to realize our relationship changed after
Marti left. I hope we are going to be able to talk, and not let
the anger get in the way, particularly of working together to
help Rob. These words do not mean I do not love Andrea, any
more than if parents have a second child it means they love the
first less. Andrea, you are the best thing that has ever
happened to and for me, and I love you with all my heart. Maybe
I liked the movie because I see similarities between the story
and my life.
Today Melanie and Sara came over for lunch. Rob was staying at
a friends and was not home yet. Andrea fixed baked chicken,
frog-eye salad, Waldorf salad, and scalloped potatoes. Because
General Conference was last week, this week was Fast and Testimony
Meeting. We didn't fast because Sara needed to be back in Austin
by 6:00 and so they could not stay for dinner after church. Also
I had fasted earlier in the week for the Palmyra Temple Dedication,
and so I wasn't particularly bothered to not fast again. Melanie
and Sara went to sacrament meeting with us. Melanie bore her
testimony. Melanie, as you mentioned, it was the first time I
have heard you bear your testimony. I expect the tears showed
how touched I was by your words. I am very proud of you, of your
choices, and that you took the initiative to go to the encrypted
broadcast of the Palmyra Temple Dedication. What a wonderful week.
I hope everyone else's week was even a fraction as wonderful as mine."
I'm interested in sharing weekly a "thoughtlet" (little statements
of big thoughts which mean a lot to me) with you because I know how
important the written word can be. I am concerned about how easy
it is to drift and forget our roots and our potential among all of
distractions of daily life. To download any of these thoughtlets
go to http://www.walden3d.com/thoughtlets or e-mail me at
With all my love,
P.S. The text I read and referred to above is from:
Why? Science Unveiling the Mind, by R Colin Johnson,
BookMasters (Ashland, Ohio) for Cognizer Connection
(Portland, Oregon) 1.800.247.6553, 1997. Pages 95-98:
`My Personal Philosophy
Soon after I entered graduate school at Washington University, one of
my professors called philosophy 'the history of ideas.' I learned a
great many supposedly great ideas there, but not all of them seemed
What I personally considered the greatest ideas of all time numbered three:
(1) The first was 'ontology' - the metaphysics of what exists. Without
a reasonable ontology, my philosophy professor taught, I could not
reliable discern between reality and chimera. For instance, I
learned that a wildly successful ontology popular among contemporary
scientists was called 'materialism,' which asserted that only
measurable physical matter is real.
(2) The second was 'epistemology' - a theory about how I gain knowledge
of what exists. Epistemology encompasses the nature of knowledge,
its foundations, extent and validity. For example, 'Pavlovian
classical conditioning' is an epistemological claim that animals
learn by association.
(3) The third was ethics - a belief in how people should behave toward
one another. For example, Buddhism teaches an ethic of showing
compassion to all living things, and 'Turn the other cheek,' is a
part of the Christian ethic.
In all my studies, I found that very few of the greatest minds had
attempted to circumscribe all three of these notions in a single
'universal' philosophy - principally Plato and Aristotle among the
ancients, and representing the moderns, Immanuel Kant and Alfred
Most philosophers contend themselves with proposing solutions to the
problems of only one of these three - still a formidable task since
each addresses age-old questions that remain unresolved.
As I studied the greatest ideas of all time, something that none of
my professors had ever mentioned gradually crystallized in my mind
- namely, that the three ideas of ontology, epistemology and ethics
formed a kind of three-legged substructure throughout history. My
undergraduate work in philosophy concentrated on the history of
philosophy starting with the ancient Greek classics and extending
to the modern philosophy of science. In each era one leg was always
overdeveloped, thereby withering the other two. For instance, the
ancient Greeks emphasized ontology. Plato advocated what has become
known as Platonic Heaven, where each individual thing was as perfect
as a Greek sculpture. People's puny existence down here in the real
world were only shadows of the glorious unknowable realities in
This emphasis on the perfection of the afterlife, my professors
taught me, led to a degenerative ethic where the tragedy of life -
memorialized in Greek theater - outshone the betrayal, murder,
infanticide and worse committed by their many gods. Greek gods did
not set a very high example, ethically for their people.
Epistemology, I was taught, fared even worse in Greek thought,
because the natural world was deemed an unfit subject of study -
except perhaps to categorize it like butterflies under glass
a' la Aristotle.
After the fall of the Roman empire and the amalgamation of the
many lowercase gods into the one uppercase God, the ethical leg
grew elephantine. My history-of-philosophy classes taught that
during the Middle Ages ontology became cloaked in unquestioning
secrecy, and only the chosen few were privy to it. The third leg,
epistemology, was all but banned during the Middle Ages, because
nothing more need be known except the Word of the one God.
After the Renaissance, which marked the transition from medieval
to modern times, a successful new epistemology - called the
'scientific method' - slingshot past the ethical monarchies that
had held it back during the Middle Ages. As a result, my
professors taught, ethics was largely ignored in the scientific
age, except perhaps when practicality required it. (After all,
how could a scientist continue his life's work uninterrupted if
the enemy kept dropping nuclear devices nearby?)
Ontology fared worst in modern times, worse even than ethics in
the age of science. Where ethics was made practical, ontology
was made superfluous.
Science became so successful with epistemology alone - the
scientific method - that the original search for the ultimate
constituents of matter have become irrelevant. The ontology of
materialism atrophied as scientists repeatedly failed to find
the essential building blocks of matter, but saw only more and
more subatomic particles the closer they looked.
Perhaps the material world is like a fractal, some materialist
apologists have argued, revealing unending layers of detail, but
never arriving at a core, no matter how many onion skins are shed.
These more cavalier materialists seemed to say, 'Who needs to
know reality from chimera as long as technology makes life so
My professors were quick to point out the folly of strict
materialism, but failed to offer any suitable substitute. They
certainly didn't teach me that the mind is a pattern of
disparities that could scientifically bridge the gap between
epistemology and ethics, forming a three-legged structure where
no leg dominated the other two.
I learned instead how modern scientific philosophers had
demolished the old ontological foundations of reality. I was
taught that the English philosopher John Locke began this
process by making the remarkable observation that secondary
properties of material objects - for instance, colors - are
not part of the object. Science eventually proved that this
is true. For instance, color is imbued by light, not by the
object itself, which is colorless in the absence of light.
The discovery that objects are colorless, my professors taught,
resulted in a cascade of further revelations that toppled all
known ontologies. For instance, color is not 'in' the light
the way it appears to be 'in' material objects, either. Rather,
the color I know as 'red' is actually just my brain's way of
marking disparities among objects. The color that different
people call red actually appears different to each person - my
blue might be your red, and vice versa. Finally, there is no
way to ever know which colors you and I see the same.
All the brain learns is what it observes on its internal stage
in the brain. Color is merely the brain's way of identifying
which wavelengths of light are reflected from objects and which
are absorbed. To see in color is to be able to detect these
different wavelengths of light, not directly from the sun,
which could damage the eye, but after they have reflected off
an object. Some are absorbed, some are reflected and some are
emitted from luminous objects. We see the various wavelengths,
and our brain communicates that knowledge to us by coloring in
the objects on our internal coloring book.
To see in black and white - which people's eyes shift to at
night - is to become insensitive to the wavelengths of light
reflecting off objects. In other words, color is an
enhancement added by the brain to supply more information about
which wavelengths of light are reflected from basically
colorless objects. (Most birds, incidentally, don't have the
kind of eyes that can switch to black-and-white at night.
That's why they usually go to bed ad dusk. Most can't see
black and white in the dark as we can; to them night is
absolute and final.)
Once my professors taught me about the insubstantial nature
of color, they threw in all the 'secondary' properties from the
other senses - sound, touch, taste and smell. These too are
merely enhancements added my the brain to mark the disparities
detected by the ears, skin, tongue and nose.
With all my senses now suspect, I began tearing down all my
ontological walls. My world view came apart at the seams. All
that before seemed solid and stationary became mere shadows of
Next I discovered how the British philosopher David Hume
demonstrated that the fabric of causal connections was imposed
on the world by the mind, too. I learned that Hume's genius
culminated in the insight that all people ever observe is the
constant one-after-the-other occurrences of causal events - no
extra thing called a cause.
For instance, I say that objects fall to the ground because of
gravity, but in reality I see no such cause -only the objects,
the falling, and the ground. My mind imposes the causal
connection from what it learned in the past about falling objects.
What my professor's hadn't taught me was that causation is a
disparity pattern that exists only over time. Causation is as
real as velocity, anxiety and the mind - all those three
familiar things are real and yet not material substances.
Rather, causation is just another disparity pattern that defines
my constantly adjusting world view - a base from which I plan
for the future, react to the present and adapt from past
experience - nothing more.
After my teachers demoted the ontological status of causation,
I was taught that the shape, size and the existence of physical
objects themselves are potentially as insubstantial. The Irish
philosopher George Berkeley made this observation, which
epitomized what my professors told me: Appearances of objects
are all we truly experience. The objects themselves are
constructed by the mind as a mental filing system.
These solid concrete objects I imagine to be all around me are
actually mostly empty space shot through with insubstantial
particles having ephemeral names like 'top-quark.'
I never experience any underlying reality - only colors and
textures and sounds and tastes and smells. All of these are
separate when they impinge on my senses, but the mind
amalgamates them into t he objects I observe around me. What
appears, appears by virtue of the disparity patterns with
which my mind organizes the material universe.
With matter potentially mere mind stuff, too, I was not surprised
when the space-and-time continuum itself was made subjective.
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant razed the last vestiges of
my ontological hope when he vaporized space and time themselves,
arguing that both are merely projections from the mind's
relentless bent to organize experience. Space allows room for
simultaneous occurrences by creating a dimensional rift in my
attention. Time heals the dimensional rift caused by space,
allowing things to occupy the same space - albeit at different times.
For me, my ontological depression had but a single bright light
shining up from its recesses. That was the British philosopher
Alfred North Whitehead's assertion that 'all things flow.'
Unadorned by theory, it was the only idea that I could trust.'
(H. Roice Nelson, Jr.)