Changes for the Better: As we each come out of the starting gate, for each of us, Life is On! The Evolution Marvel is for real and Life, multiple brains, action, freedom, evaluation, interaction, and change, are vital elements of this essential process!
Changes – Phil Ochs / Gordon Lightfoot
Sit by my side come as close as the air.
Share in a memory of grey.
And wander in my words,
And dream about the pictures that I play -
Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall.
To brown and to yellow they fade.
But then they have to die,
Trapped within the circle time parade -
Moments of magic will glow in the night.
All fears of the forest are gone.
And when the morning breaks,
They’re swept away by golden drops of dawn -
Passions will part to a warm melody,
As fires will sometimes turn cold.
Like petals in the wind,
We’re puppets to the silver strings of souls -
Your tears will be trembling now we’re somewhere else.
One last cup of wine we will pour.
I’ll kiss you one more time,
And leave you on the rolling river shore -
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Changes: We are here to live and to learn how to live, with ourselves and with others and with our Creator (Dad). We are in a designed school setting – The Big School. When we are born, we are suddenly off on a wild toboggan ride that will take us through ups and downs and twists and loops, along with the rest of the humanity gang. “Mix it up”, is the norm! It’s not a straight smooth path and there is no reverse! In describing a central educational tactic used in the Big School, one word that would repeatedly come to mind would be “Changes”! Exciting Educational Events! Upgrade motivators! Never a dull moment. No chance for stagnation or boredom! We are constantly being pushed ahead and forced to learn as our world unfolds. Many events are predictable. Some events are surprises, often linked to voluntary ignorance. Many try to sit down and rest but the tactic doesn’t work – the automatic truancy officer, eventually, is sure to kick butt and keep the crowd moving!
I am out to toss out some thoughts on the brilliant educational tools that I see as being touched on, perhaps unknowingly, in the Phil Ochs/Gordon Lightfoot song.
But first, some other poetic expressions describing the remarkable environment we find ourselves in. Pete Seeger plagiarized Ecclesiastes for his 1962 “Turn, Turn, Turn” song and no one nailed him for copyright violation. Seeger himself freely admitted that the tune and some minor word changes were his only contribution! The content is quite brilliant and worth repeating, so plagiarizing, in this case, is a positive thing. And I see some similarity to the “Changes” composition. Our lives are a process; a multi facet process spread over time.
Ecc 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
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The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz - May 28, 1857 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a close friend of Louis Agassiz and was able to craft a birthday tribute poem that was a brilliant reflection on the life of a brilliant man. Agassiz, in many ways was ahead of his time, and then, after he managed to pull the world in the direction of his thinking, he was put on the shelf, and then buried in the bad books. His situation is unusual! Agassiz had the wit to recognize that we live in a complex “designed” environment and it seems almost unbelievable that forces could build that would so effectively blind humanity to that simple and obvious fact. Segments of his advanced thinking were hijacked, morphed, and crafted to sideline his impact. He caught flak from both the religious and secular establishments. Agassiz went from being hailed as a world hero to being portrayed as a modern day ogre, without any change in his position on what he saw as facts. I see a connection between Agassiz’s thinking and the “Changes” composition. Truly we are living in “pictures that are being played”! Agassiz appreciate the fact and, because each of us is free to think, rather than being stampeded by warped herd thinking, any one of us can apply this vital understanding as well! Hopefully "herd immunity" won't prevent you from catching this wonderful "truth virus" from Agassiz!
Darwin, a contemporary of Agassiz, effectively reeled in the “scientific wisdom/common sense” thread and sent society back to dreamland and Agassiz to infamy. Darwin may well qualify as one of the world’s greatest illusionist! Darwin managed to turn time into smoke and convinced the masses that huge blocks of time could account for complex systems that survive by the second. Life, which can’t wait for hours, let alone eons, had its marvelous lessons and mysteries concealed in Darwin’s smoke of time! And the cloud is as thick now as it has ever been and the resulting lack of vision is getting us all into desperate troubles.
Again, Agassiz recognized that we are immersed in pictures that are being played. Here is Longfellow’s poem about Louis Agassiz, the foremost natural history authority of his day, and about the outlook that Agassiz applied; (If you have never heard of Louis, check him out on the internet, and ask yourself - Is there a "solid" reason this man has been "systematically evaporated" from current view?")
It was fifty years ago
In the pleasant month of May,
In the beautiful Pays de Vaud,
A child in its cradle lay.
And Nature, the old nurse, took
The child upon her knee,
Saying: "Here is a story-book
Thy Father has written for thee."
"Come, wander with me," she said,
"Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God."
And he wandered away and away
With Nature, the dear old nurse,
Who sang to him night and day
The rhymes of the universe.
And whenever the way seemed long,
Or his heart began to fail,
She would sing a more wonderful song,
Or tell a more marvellous tale.
Here are some quotes from and about Louis Agassiz; brilliant observations that have been effectively dumped into the trash can of more “modern” times! But check it out – this is high class “garbage”; incredibly valuable treasures for the taking for those with simple common sense!
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The resources of the Deity cannot be so meagre, that, in order to create a human being endowed with reason, he must change a monkey into a man.
The study of Nature is intercourse with the highest mind. You should never trifle with Nature. At her lowest her works are the works of the Highest Powers, the Highest something in the universe, in whichever way we look at it… This is the charm of Study from Nature itself; she brings us back to absolute truth whenever we wander.
[Concerning the former belief that there were no genetic connections among species:] This view, as a rounded whole and in all its essential elements, has very recently disappeared from science. It died a royal death with Agassiz. (Asa Gray)
I sometimes hear preachers speak of the sad condition of men who live without God in the world, but a scientist who lives without God in the world seems to me worse off than ordinary men.
I will frankly tell you that my experience in prolonged scientific investigations convinces me that a belief in God – a God who is behind and within the chaos of vanishing points of human knowledge – adds a wonderful stimulus to the man who attempts to penetrate into the regions of the unknown.
The combination in time and space of all these thoughtful conceptions of Nature exhibits not only thought, it shows also premeditation, power, wisdom, greatness, prescience, omniscience, providence. In one word, all these facts in their natural connection proclaim aloud the One God, whom man may know, adore, and love; and Natural History must in good time become the analysis of the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe . .
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And why not snag some statements from the Manual for the Incredible Human Machine? Here are points with huge credibility vs any “johnny come lately” observations.
Acts 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Romans 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead;
Does it not make sense that if the information of the Bible is valid, then there should be a compatibility of that information with the lessons that are under our noses, built into the environment in which we exist. Is the Author of physical reality also the Author of the Book, printed on paper or whatever material, that is also part of physical reality? My observation is that there is compatibility and that the illusion that such is not the case, is just that – an illusion, that, like any “magic trick” can be understood by an intelligent and sceptical mind.
Why are things the way they are? Given the unimaginable magnitude of observable matter, why is there no evidence of multi-universe scenarios – multiple worlds with a wild assortment of differing physical laws and life forms? Why do we not see examples of Star Wars style “intergalactic bars”, full of all sorts of diverse yet intelligent creatures? Why is life and physical law on planet earth so amazingly diverse yet so fixed and so stable? Why does human exploration reveal such similarity of physical law no matter how far we can reach out into the space surrounding the Earth? If evolution** is true, the reality we observe is far from what we would expect. Do you smell the coffee?
Why are so many aspects of life on Earth so unique yet standardized and unchanging? For example – the two sexes, the aging process, birth-growth-death-decay, sleep and wakefulness, adaptation to seasons, hydrologic cycles, the stability of sun rise and sunset times, atomic level function, the gap between animal and human mental capacity, the stability of the environment at supporting life as we know it – so often with razor sharp limits that seem totally improbable, even if everything is planned by a super mind.
Are all these things simply, duh - “there”? Is there no need to ponder the how and why because there are no answers and such questions are nonsensical? What about it? These ARE IMPORTANT questions with major implications! Ignoring them is convenient, but very stupid!
Why don’t living things start and never end? Why are there cycles and checks and balances? Why doesn’t the earth overload with dead biologic material or with living biologic material or with specific invasive plants and animals?
Why do humans spring from such a small beginning, only made possible by two quite different individuals, and then go through the amazing process of growth only to gradually mature and fade and shrivel away to death and decay?
Why does the complex sexual system exist with its interwoven physical structures and mental programming complexities?
Everything we see and can detect is designed. That is a common sense given. The nature of matter is such that men know that it is not eternal and that it has interconnected / planned / created characteristics. We know that matter in all its forms came from somewhere. We know that matter had a beginning. Thinking people know that there was a Mind involved. - - - There is a Big Footprint on the Island and the Maker is obviously Big enough to have made things any way He felt like making them! Evolution** dreamland is a mental cave disconnected from Reality – a type of sand pile where the foolish can immerse their heads and where huge numbers seem to find irrational comfort via this strange tactic. Amazingly, previous generations with drastically lower levels of technical information, were, in many ways, less ignorant.
Lesson Time – a sunny, calm, spring day – what is more appealing than getting outside, “doing” things, ideally with others – and not having fears nor friction nor grudges, but being able to blend your efforts and enthusiasm with the efforts and enthusiasm of others – especially with those who you have come to know and understand and love? Seems rather basic and also rather desirable! And not being threatened with an unwanted termination of this situation would also be nice.
How does this scenario stack up against a monk in a monastery or an acetic crawling on his knees or a mass of humans chanting or bowing in some standardized, boring, and oft repeated ritual? Consider a political or religious crowd being whipped up with zeal to solve some claimed injustice or to wipe out some group of deviant infidels. Or what about religious folk who have been programmed to straddle a line between not really wanting to die yet sort of looking unfavourably on the present and favourably on a dreamworld of the future and the "end of the age". How do each of the minds involved compare to the mind of our sunny spring day, harmony oriented “doer”?
Sit back and think in Big and Simple terms; for anyone, Life is all there is and if certain basic groundwork is in place, it is a wonderful state. The alternatives are the hell of a bad Life or non existence. We have a Designer/Father. Is he a Jerk or a Good Guy? Does He want us to have a successful and happy Life, given that He has provided the gift of Life in the first place? Does he want the kids to get along? Does He want each “doer” to be able to “do” without problems of another of the kids creating trouble? If there is some sort of “after life”, the same issues will still be there? The issue has to be confronted if each personal Life choice is to stay on the table.
What I am trying to illustrate is common sense “basic”. Theology and philosophy types jamb the airwaves with disruptive static and imaginative, often irrelevant and often false details that cloud basic reality in fog. Life is in front of the nose of every recipient and if there is no fog to blind one, the reality is simple and clear. Life has exciting options, and company, that is good company, is enjoyable. We came from somewhere and a good Father who is smart and powerful and on our side and concerned about us, is a wonderful aspect of Life. It all has to be done right (an exciting challenge!) for it to work, but if it is, wow – good times!
Why do I think that we are in a Big School setting? Combining three information sources, sources available to all, pushes me to that conclusion. (1) What I personally observe around me now and have observed during my life (having lived for a stretch sure helps!). (2) What others have observed and experienced and recorded over the history of humanity. (3) And vital information from the Bible, arguably the only authoritative book of its type in existence. Take away any one of the three elements and I would feel that there would be a very shaky argument for my view, but in combination, I feel comfortable that I have a reliable framework for running my life.
So, right or wrong (you can decide) I am going to build a stack of thoughts on a confident base that humanity consists of a large number of children/students in a huge, totally designed physical school system that is training all of us how to practice “Sustainable Living”. There is a single source for each of our lives and that source is a Spiritual Father who is brilliant and is very aware of the complexity of developing children who have the capacity to achieve a state of “Sustainable Life”. Robotic life (programmed with no free will – i.e. - animals) and even temporary Life with total freedom (i.e. – Us!), are not a challenge for Him. But the combination of freedom and “Sustainable Life” is not a quick nor simple matter to provide. The “Changes” song is a wonderful carrier to discuss the tactics that God uses to advance His purposes and to advance our long term welfare!
A central lesson of the Big School is to learn to worry less about the details of “how”. We need to primarily appreciate the brilliance of the Designer/Builder who has figured thing out, and then primarily focus on trying to understand the “Why Factors”? Let’s dream about the Pictures that He plays! The complete details of "how" can be learned about later - when there is lots of time!
The Bible is full of details of déjà vu analogies, lesson charged rituals, scenarios games, and romantic love stories. Perhaps dozens of story lines are intertwined in the Manual for the Human Experience. It is a complex book that is linked to the planned and complex experience of Human Life on Planet Earth. Is Life good? Is Life exciting? It sure can be! Is Life bad? Sometimes, but arguably there are reasons why. Are there details and principles that need to be learned and applied to make Life work for the better? Sure are! And, generally; what about this sparkling gem called Life? Is it connected to a love story where a suitor is out to win the heart of a lady? Is there a Major Personality who fills many roles, one of which is a Father and one of which is a Suitor who is out to get every minor personality to fall in love with Life and with Himself? Loving Life seems pretty basic to eternal existence! Is suicide an educated choice or some sort of short sighted misunderstanding and aberration or perhaps a symptom of a chain of underlying mistakes?
If you visualize that God is singing the song “Changes”, what He is saying in the first verse is;
Cuddle up to me and share in a scenario experience that illustrates what can go wrong if you get infected by a spiritual disease pathogen. In effect you are getting a vaccination so that when you confront the real, death dealing hazard, you will have developed an immunity. Things went wrong eons back. I want you to learn from that disaster so that it doesn’t happen again. But as well as getting this vital immunization, I want you to be totally involved in my educational project that will teach you and guide you progressively to an educated state so that you can eventually achieve eternal life with total freedom. You are going to change for the better with every day that passes, even if there appear to be temporary setbacks. Change for the better – education in Living – is what all this is about. Many of the lessons you learn will not be apparent to you until after the fact but you truly will be as close as the air, and learning every moment of your physical life!
Verse two deals with the ingenious educational tools of “experiencing both sides of the fence”, “looking yourself in the face”, and “getting to walk in the shoes of the other guy”. And to make the experience really bite – you sort of play the roll of all of the participants – over time – one by one! You become the fellow who was not nice to you when you were young and he was old! And in memory, you may suddenly envision a little rat who pressed your historic oppressor’s hot button!
When you are very young, what is your view of older people – parents, siblings, relatives, acquaintances? How would you like them to treat you? How do you treat them? How do you view their advantages that come with age and growth and learning?
Well, when you are 10 or 12 years old, how do you look on babies and the childhood stages that you just left? And how do you view your elders? Do you respect them? Are some of them jerks that you hate? It's a good educational position to be in because now you can look up and down! You know where you came from and you can think about where you are going.
Suddenly you are 16 years old and are in a different vantage point for looking up and down. Again, what are your thoughts of your past attitudes? Are you learning? Have you achieved a level of knowledge and capability that you no longer have need of advice of others? Do you have compassion for those below you and respect for those older or not? Are you at your peak of capability and being held back by those around you? Are you actually in touch with your capacities and potentials?
Even more suddenly you are 21 years old and increasingly you are not only aware of those above and below you in age, those close at hand, but you are becoming more aware of the rest of humanity and the positive and negative capacities and outlooks that are apparent in the broader world. Some things you observe are truly inspiring and some things are very depressing. And you are having your nose rubbed in the realities of the Big School setting.
And the circle time parade continues and you become a parent able to observe and interact with a growing child who repeats the process you have experience a very short time ago. How should a parent treat a child? How would you like a child to treat a parent? The “changes” process is rapidly kicking out lessons and you definitely have been given the opportunity to know more than you did at the start of the Life process! And how is your view doing with regard to your older parents and their current reactions to you and to your children? What would you like from them and what do you think of their conduct?
So the process moves smoothly along and your parents grow old and may, in certain ways, slide back toward childhood dependence. Are they problem cases or an inspiration of conduct? How are their minds changing and what are they learning about life and relations with others? And you pick up thoughts from them and before too long you take their place. The deck is cleared and the progressive educational process keeps processing students of the Big School!
Brilliant! The School doesn’t get overcrowded. Everyone gets the same basic course. Everyone gets to observe others living and to live themselves. When the circle time parade ends for you, you have seen life from a constantly changing vantage point and who can argue that you have not had a highly educational run. Some make better use of the ride than others. But even the worst student has received a solid basic education that sets him up for further stages of the educational process. Every student in the Big School learns something from every moment that they are alive. They have lived. Some, perhaps many, have LIVED! And even the lowest level of existence is a huge experience vs. non existence. The Gift of human life is no small thing!
Alright – Verse 3 – if you are young, think about your dreams. If you are old, think about your memories and good and bad times. We may be in a world with some really terrible aspects, those facets being associated with the “memory of grey inoculation factor” but there is a love story blended into the physical scenario setting as well. I love the song about the whistling gypsy (check out the Seekers verion) who “came over the hill, down to the valley so shady. He whistled and he sang till the green woods rang, and he won the heart of a lady”. The gal runs off with the gypsy, much to everyone’s shocked surprise. But it turns out that the gypsy is in fact “Lord of these lands all over. And the gal will stay till her dying day, with her Whistling Gypsy Rover”! Sweet! But it is another song that can be ranked higher than a lot of surpy religious hymns in that in fact, it paints an emotionally positive picture of exactly what is going on in the Big School.
No matter what troubling negatives are bursting through the fan of life, there are lots of really good moments and good runs. For most people, these “moments of magic” are sufficiently frequent and prolonged to make them fall in love with life. Even when clouds roll in, we know the sun can and will shine again. Death, which is clearly on everyone’s calendar, is usually pushed into the background. But the good times, in a way, are a dream, simply due to the finite nature of our physical life. But having the taste of "moments of magic" against the backdrop of the circle time parade, is an education experience. The changes and the progression in our education move forward. What is the purpose of life? Why are we going through this scenario? What are we learning? What should we be learning? Where does it all lead? How can we effectively capture and maintain the highs? The golden drops of dawn stimulate our minds to quest and ponder the pictures that are being played!
Verse 4. Everyone who lives has passions and those who LIVE have even greater passions! Love connections of all types, interests, vocations, projects, adventures, challenges, causes. Some passions are prolonged over a life time. Some are flash events. Some explode and some fade like fires burning out. But life and LIFE are stacked with passions! And all these intense moments eventually pass and age slows everyone down unless the person drops unexpectedly. But the taste of true passion never goes bad. The circle time parade and the silver strings of souls move us along like petals in the wind. The School course has a time limit. But the positive habits and tastes are internalized and the changes from ignorance to knowledge and appreciation become part of our being.
Verse 5, to me, rings a bell that not everyone hears. A central ritual in the Bible is the Passover ritual which I feel has a massive connection to the Big School concept. Ignorance of this ritual is Major Ignorance! The Bible states that humanity has had negligible direct contact with the personality known as the Father. Christ, the son of the Father, is arguably the God of the Old Testament and the direct Creator of mankind and also the Being who took on human form and died at the hands of His created humans, thus providing a legal negation of the mass failings of mankind. In future, no man will be in a position to gripe about past injustices when his Creator and Leader voluntarily took an undeserved, high intensity beating on behalf of each of His created followers. A brilliant, altruistic, and essential leadership move!
Only one Personality is in a position to say "Look guys, no griping, suck up the past, follow me, and let's get on the future road to total success!" The scenario game you have been through was planned for your eternal good. That chapter is over. Now, let's get on with Reality!
In the real fulfilment of the Passover ritual, the Son of God the Father is killed, earlier represented by the death of a lamb. It was a shocking event for those close to Christ at the time of his human death. A wine symbol was a major element of the Passover ritual and then Christ departed. Those close to Him clearly thought He would be back shortly but they misread the situation. There was good reason why they were left in the dark. Obviously the plan was for the Big School to move on and for the close followers of Christ and everyone else to simply continued their courses in the Big School. The rolling river shore and changes moved the students along in the educational process. And that process is still in effect.
The total educational process is far from over. The Bible shows that it will go through numerous future stages. But the current stage is in full swing and we still have the circle time parade, moments of magic, and passion experiences to navigate prior to the current session coming to an end!
So that is my quick take on the Changes song and why I think it is such an amazing composition. It fits reality so well and there is not a chance that Phil Ochs nor Gordon Lightfoot saw the meaning in it that I am putting forward. My take is that, like all sorts of day to day creations and expressions, there had to be an unseen inspiration involved.
But the list of educational tactics utilized in the Big School is perhaps endless. The Changes song is an excuse for a short overview.
I am going to ramble for a bit on this marvellous topic. I can think of a one word summary of the whole package. My simple summary is really of little value. The one word is “Wow!” But to expand that realization becomes the topic for a book or a library or a cargo ship of CDs, or - - - ??!!!! It won’t be hard to generate a few thoughts.
On Page 25, I will make my plug for the concept that Life is far more exciting and positive (and in our face!) than the vast majority of people realize. Most religious and secular folk are stiffled dreamers when it comes to appreciating the wild ride that we have been provided with!