22 May 2014

I don't want to hear that

In his book, Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, Peter Steinke talks about the effect of anxiety on our thinking process.  He discusses two parts of the brain that especially are involved.  There is the amygdala, in the lower part of the brain.  When we perceive danger, it kicks into action.  It doesn’t take the time to weigh alternatives; it demands quick response.

Steinke also looks at the left prefrontal cortex, which is most fully developed in humans.  He calls it “holy tissue.”  This is the part of the brain that can envision the sacred, the highest level of consciousness.  Unfortunately, the amygdala, for a number of reasons, can overwhelm the left prefrontal cortex.  Anxiety can hinder our ability to reason.  He has this reflection:

“Early in my consulting work, I made the mistake of thinking that if I presented issues to a congregation clearly, the people would respond appropriately.  What I discovered is that not all people in a given situation will find clarity comforting.  Even if the information is quite clear, if it runs contrary to someone’s viewpoint, they will contest it.  Their own emotionality overrides their thinking capacity.  Their emotionality limits the thinking brain’s capacity to focus on the facts.  The survival brain will protect us not only from bodily harm but also to challenges to our world of insight and meaning.” (63)

I suppose we all have had our moments when we could say, “I don’t want to hear that!” 

(The image is from www.eddycrosby.com/2010/01/18/emotions)

08 May 2014

cosmically uncontrolled

I’ve been thinking about the conversion of Saul in Acts 9, in particular where he is literally led by the hand after being blinded by the light.  He is not in control.

I’ve also been watching the wonderful TV show Cosmos, in which Neil deGrasse Tyson picks up the mantle of Carl Sagan.  I especially liked the most recent episode, “The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth.”  Our friend Neil takes his ship of the imagination to the ocean floor, and he explores the deep time of the past.  Earth has been many different planets—and still is.  It will continue to evolve into different planets in the future.

Life on Earth has, at times, been a questionable proposition.  Asteroid strikes, toxic gases spewing from beneath the surface, ice ages, and other events that we would call hazardous have been part of the biography of our planet.

The scientist Stephen Jay Gould once spoke of the 60 trillion contingent events that eventually led to the emergence of Homo sapiens.”  (I’m not sure where he got that number, but it’s probably as good as anything else.)  The episode of Cosmos mentions the effects of the Sun and the other planets.  The gravity of Venus and Jupiter affect the Earth’s orbit.  A multitude of other factors have had, and continue to have, their say. 

Ultimately, we have very little control.