Monday, July 18, 2005
Alfred North Whitehead watch, Pete Seeger edition.
It's not every day that my favorite philosopher shows up in a daily newspaper — much less in an interview with a folk singer! The Dallas Morning News interviewed Pete Seeger in connection with the 86-year-old political activist and folk legend's visit to Fort Worth for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
Seeger says he's a Unitarian "[i]n the sense of thinking of Jesus as surely one of the most wonderful and extraordinary human beings that God ever put on earth. And taking a dim view of how his words are twisted and misused." He invokes Whitehead in his definition of God and religion:
It doesn't make sense to think that something can come out of nothing. I frequently use, "God only knows what the future may be." In fact, I put that in another song.
I'd say my definition goes more to Alfred North Whitehead, the British philosopher. He says: "A religious education is one that inculcates duty and reverence." Now, isn't that a good definition of religion? There's hardly a religion in the world that doesn't have duty and reverence as part of it.
Here's his definition, though: "Duty results from our potential control over the course of events." We have within us the ability to change the future in some little way.
Of course, some religions say your duty is to pray 10 times a day. But I think, for Unitarians, your duty is to do something right to help make this a better country, to make this a better world.
Whitehead goes on: "The source of reverence lies in this perception. That the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, forwards and backwards. That great amplitude of time which is eternity."
In other words, I snap my fingers; that's because of cause and effect for all eternity. And snapping my fingers will disturb molecules that will disturb molecules that will disturb molecules for all eternity to come.
I think that can make you reverent.
("Q. & A. with Pete Seeger," Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News 7.16.05, reg req'd)
On Sunday, the newspaper published portions of the interview that focused on Seeger's politics and his appearance fifty years ago this summer before the House Un-American Activities Committee: "Life from the Left" (Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News 7.17.05, reg req'd). Thanks to Philocrites correspondent Eric Posa for the tip!
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 18 July 2005 at 8:03 AM