Larry Newman

"How Big is Big?" by Larry Newman (from "AS WE AWAKEN" website)

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Humanity has thrown around the words “infinite” and “eternal” for ages. Due to our perspective we have held about as much regard for the words as we do for “beautiful” or “intelligent”. We have casually used the words for both the Creator as well as creation. With little more than our own lives and the world we live in for context we have felt comfortable with both the words and their use because telling God that we believe He is bigger than we are or that His influence is greater than the Earth or the sky we see above us is really not a stretch. Such thoughts keep God close and our ability to personalize Him is only slightly more challenged than the efforts of the ancient Greeks or Romans or Norsemen. We have become comfortable with that. So much so we try to use our primitive understanding as a definition of God and resist anything that would try to change that.

Enter modern science and the context of the words begin, whether we like it or not, to change dramatically! Now grains of sand can no longer be seen as merely ‘small’. Now we can move our understanding and perceptions into more precise and intricate building blocks only to find that each has more confounding components. We think of microbes, then molecules, atoms, quantum particles and maybe that is only the beginning. A measurement that is larger than mankind’s thoughts of infinity seems to fill our understanding of just one grain of sand as it sparkles on our fingertip. And then we look outward …

The context of us and the world we live in stretches. The scale of things quickly reduces us to the imperceptible; hardly larger than the atoms hidden beneath us. The distance just keeps stretching: our planet, the moon and its orbit, our place in the solar system circling our sun, the outer reaches of our solar system, our ‘local’ neighborhood of stars, our galaxy, the ‘local’ neighborhood of galaxies, our galactic cluster, the cluster of clusters, stretching fields and spheres of superclusters finally filling a universe that is reaching beyond our ability to see or guess at. Then astronomers and physicists guess anyway, “Why just one? Maybe there are more universes beyond our own and maybe clusters of universes and superclusters of clusters and …”

Is it any wonder that ‘modern’ man looks inward and then outward and says, “Wow! Infinity is REALLY big! Eternity is must be REALLY long!” at which point they have a new context for the words. Infinity becomes TOO big for our provincial idea of God to handle. “How can the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob encompass the entirety of infinity? How can I believe (if He IS that big) that He can still take notice of me and my small life?”

We find ourselves in the midst of a paradigm shift of the spirit and we wonder, “How can it be?”

It helps a little to realize that Infinity hasn’t changed, only our conceptions of it. Our old conceptions limited our understanding of how the words applied to God but our old conceptions didn’t change who or what God is. As our understanding of the infinite changes we have to remember that our understanding of God has to change as well. While the questions get bigger as our understanding expands it doesn’t change that it has always been an infinite and eternal God that has heard our prayers. The difference now is how much more wondrous that has become.

Oh Lord, my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art*
It’s okay to ask, “How can this be?” We have always asked that. It is also okay to stand in awe when no answer is forthcoming.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?”
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Self ---ish by Larry Newman

CharlieChaplin
Self ---ish
by Larry Newman


Regardless of what teaching heritage you follow or how your faith shapes your beliefs sooner or later you will have to settle in to deal with the matter of
‘self’.

I grew up with an Evangelical Christian background and part and parcel to the teachings was our being saved and going to heaven when we die. From the beginning, for even then I was a bit odd, not assuming what I was told was the whole story, I wondered: What part of me goes to heaven?It was pretty clear that it wasn’t my flesh and bones body. Dust to dust and all that. But within me there was a non- material nature and part of that was continually being preached about as not being an acceptable aspect of the Christian life. The self had to be put down, denied, crucified, and all manner of final things so that the life of Christ, the mind of Christ, the Spirit of Christ could become dominant and a
self-less life could be lived.

All well and good but the question still remained: if the self wasn’t signed up for the trip what in me that was ‘me’ …was?

Time passed. As a young man attending Bible College I was less than satisfied with the teachings I was receiving on the nature of Humankind. It was often a matter of theological debate as to the actual make up of our human condition. It was obvious that we were comprised of two basic aspects: material and non-material. That much was pretty much agreed on. When it came to understanding the non-material, or spiritual, part of us the waters became somewhat muddied. I have no doubt that somewhere someone has dealt with this matter in a satisfactory manner but I hadn’t come across it so I had to find my own way for the most part. Part of the confusion came from sloppy semantics. The words “soul” and “spirit” were often used in discussions regarding our spiritual nature but so often used ambiguously or interchangeably as to be rendered useless. So I did what I usually do, I made up stuff.

Okay, not really, but I did assign working definitions to keep the concepts separate and distinct. They are a bit arbitrary (like my definitions of faith and belief, two other frustrating words made more so by their sloppy semantics) but I think the ideas are sound. The
“soul” I define as that aspect of our spiritual nature that deals with the material world we live in. The “spirit” is another aspect that deals or interacts with the non-material world. Seeing us in this light actually began to make sense of what I was seeing as our lives are played out in this world.

The soul has access to nearly overwhelming stimuli. It works through the senses seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. Moreover it has access to the mind to process the sensory input, assign value judgments based on pleasure and desire and to engage the imagination forming thoughts, imagery, dreams and delusions. As our non-material, our spiritual resources are more and more commandeered by the soul the spirit seems to become little more than a nagging presence and reminder of the Eternal. As the soul is allowed free reign in this carnival of material existence it becomes very loud and dominant …and willful …in its role of provider and protector. It becomes so engaged, so involved that it begins to identify with the objects it discerns in the world around it.

I think it is good to interject here that I believe that our spiritual nature is not a real dichotomy with distinct separation, two spiritual forces residing within us, but rather one nature with two needed jobs: maintaining our connection with the source of all existence and maintaining our existence in the material world in our material body. The problem develops when, ignorant of our true nature, and devoid of balance we are deluded into believing that where we connect with the world is who we are.

Enter …the Self.

Here we are with a spiritual nature that is tasked with eternal connection and mortal maintenance that has become so distorted (the Buddhists say insane) that we have lost all perspective. Our soulish aspect goes ‘native’ and becomes so attached and identified with the sensual world around us that we come to believe that connection defines us. We feel so the feelings are us. We think so the thoughts are us. We cling, we grasp, we own, we possess, we desire, we hate, we abhor, we fear, we need and all these things and more are ‘us’. We see any threat to this convention of the worldly components of our identity as a threat to who we are, to our very existence. This constructed illusion of who we are, this
self, is as mortal as footprints on the beach and seeing ourselves thus we find our greatest fear looming before us: death.

And, finally, I understand what is meant by ‘redeeming the soul’. The soul
is lost, lost midst the sensual overload of mortal existence. Deluded into believing the lie that the false self is real and allowing all the energies of our existence to be spent serving the self, protecting the self, glorifying the self. And it is here that truth must prevail. It is here that eyes must be opened and the heart awakened. It is here that the words come true: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” Self must die and our true identity be allowed to step into the light.

And how do we do this?

It begins with our finding a ‘new’ paradigm in our understanding of the nature of the world and our association with it. This world view is found in the teachings of Jesus. It is also found in the teachings of Buddha as well as those of Lao Tsu.
This is not an endorsement of one system of belief over another ( I have my preferences but I am not evangelizing here) this is, hopefully, a beam of light into the process of ending the false self and centering in our true being. This world view is that this world contains nothing permanent. Nothing. Change is the name of the game and we have to play by the rules that are set. If everything is changing then its hands off, no clinging, no attaching! We can no more attach to the things of this world with impunity than we can take a flaming brand into our hands without being burned. We are in the world but not of it. Our identity is not to be found in any element of this world or any place we interact with it.


To come to this realization is at first (and to some extent continually) unsettling. All of our conscious lives we have found our solid ground in this present world. To detach from that, to accept that nothing is solid and unchanging, is to find a sense of groundlessness and emptiness that is as unnerving as sudden free fall.

That fear is centered in the ‘self’ and is not real. That ‘free fall’ is our natural state, our true state of being. If it were at all threatening to our true existence then we would be in deep trouble. But we aren’t. What seems like free fall is in fact the spacious openness of infinite potential. That everything is changing means anything is possible. The self needs certainty to have identity. To walk in truth is to know there is no certainty in this world. Where the self sees change as death and ending …the truth reveals infinite new beginnings.

There is more of course, the Universe is big and existence is …well, bigger. What continues on after death? Me, but not me as in ‘self’. Me as in spirit forever connected to my Source. Jesus said, “My Father in me, I in you…”. Connection and continuation. Selfless and free falling, forever at home. That takes faith I suppose. But doesn’t everything?


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“Being” By Larry Newman

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Painting by Beverly Davis


“Being”
By Larry Newman
January 24, 2013

What can an oak tree do to be more oak? More tree? Can it be less, standing there in the back yard silent before the sun? No, it can only be itself. Being is not something that can be improved or lessened; only found or hidden. A knife can be sharpened or dulled but it is still a knife. Its being does not define its usefulness any more than usefulness can define being.  Usefulness can be honed but it does not change what something truly is.


We try to make it complicated, we humans. We gather titles like a stamp collection hoping to lick-n-stick something that will tell us what we are. I am a grandfather, a father, a son, a husband, a brother, a friend, a businessman, a photographer, a poet, a boss, a servant, a mower of lawns, a shoveller of snow, a walker, a biker, a vegetarian … the list goes on and on. Attempting to express what I am yields all these things yet none of them is me. At times not really knowing I express myself with all the focus of a blindfolded child swinging at a birthday piñata.

Then where am “I”? I cannot even point at my own flesh and say, “Here am I!” Since my birth nearly every living cell in my body has died and been replaced with new ones. Every molecule that forms me is borrowed from a previous existence of some other form. From the first two cells donated by my parents to the water I drink, the minerals and fuels I consume, everything is borrowed and will one day be returned to the blending of the universe to be used over and over. “I” must be found elsewhere than my ever-changing physicality.


My thoughts are no less, and indeed, considerably more ephemeral than my body. Like sunlight on the waves of the lake my thoughts glimmer and gleam, dance and dazzle but they are only reactions to stimuli. Voices in the mist chatting to themselves about whatever stirs them. Wind on the water, sunlight on the waves are an intriguing sight but nothing that captures our attention is really the water, only reactions to stimuli. We must be more than our chaotic thoughts if we are truly more than the changing wind and fading sunlight. It is comforting, and perhaps a clue, to understand that when the wind is still and the sun is down … the lake remains.

Everything in existence changes. Some things slowly like mountains and stars, some quickly like mayflies and the wind in the trees. Everything that is integral to our existence is mutable and temporary. That being true, where are we?  If not our body, if not our thoughts, then what is it that we can point at and say, “Here! Here I am!”


Perhaps, the need to point is part of the problem and the ability to point is the heart of the solution. Naming and defining has been a part of the human paradigm since the Garden. But ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ so it is not the title or titles we cling to that define us. In wanting to point and breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Ah. There I am.” we try to objectify our existence. And fail in the trying. How do you know a knife is a knife and not a cup? How do you know a tree is a tree and not just a grouping of sunlight, water, earth and air? How is it that wind is wind and not rain? It is not just the names that define them. It is their place in the mozaic of creation, their purpose.


Creation is very much like a painting being expressed by the hand of God. Different pigments, different shapes, different forms of light and shadow all being applied by His brushstrokes. Pigment is only pigment until a master’s hand uses it to create beauty. When is red not a color but a flower? When it is placed on the canvas with purpose. And there is the light. We know a knife is a knife because we recognise its purpose. A tree is more than its constituent elements because its life and form have a purpose. We are beings of ephemeral thoughts and transient elements but we are more when we find our purpose.


The pigment does not decide to be a flower, or a sky or water. Its purpose is defined by its place in the Artists creation. We are more than the pigment of our existence.

Enamored with the sound of our thoughts we think thinking is us but who is listening? Aware of our body we see our place in the world and fear that it will die but who is aware? Who sees? Who fears? There is that which needs no voice, does not need to speak to be. There is that which does not need to see to be. The knife does not need to be cutting to be a knife. We are not in the voices, we are not in the seeing, we are not in the doing. As the presence of God can be found in silence it is important to know that that which is truly us is like Him. We must find the silence (“Be still, and know that I am God&rdquoWinking and there, in the stillness where only being dwells we will find that the searcher has been found. In the Spirit of the Artist from who’s hand we are formed we will find our purpose. In the finding we should smile that we have been asking the wrong question all along. It is not “Who am I”  or “What am I” or even “Where am I” but rather … Why.

WEBSITE: As We Awaken
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"What is Truth" by Larry Newman


What is Truth
by Larry Newman
Website: As We Awaken

How do you explain color to a blind person? In point of fact you cannot. It must be experienced. While colors are based in the objective world for color to be color it must be internalized and made a subjective experience. God inspired truth is like that
.

Scientists can detect, measure and quantify the exact wavelengths of the color green in the spectrum. They can explain how the wavelength impacts the rods and cones in the eye’s retina and the bio-electrical reaction to the light. They can trace the signal from the retina through the optic nerve to specific centers in the brain and they can map the neural responses to the optic signal. What they cannot grasp, account for or explain is the phenomenon of ‘greenness’ that occurs in the human consciousness. In the myriad aspects of interconnected steps that occur to place the knowledge that something is green into our awareness the one spiritual and purely human act is that of giving meaning. It is not just light and chemicals and electrical stimuli. It’s a leaf, and its GREEN!

We can add “color” to things, indeed, we can’t help but do it. A tree growing behind your house is an objective reality. It exists. It can be measured and studied. Its’ growth can be tracked and graphed, its’ height and breadth known. With effort even its weight and the depth of the roots can be determined along with the amount of carbon dioxide it consumes and oxygen expelled. But when you look at it you see the tree your great-grandfather planted. You see the shading limbs your parents were married under. You see the place you declared your undying love for Martha Mallone and carved  initials inside a heart. It is just a tree, an objective thing, but when you look at it … it is more. The subjective reality of the tree, what it means to you, is an integral part of its perceived existence and yours.

Subjective reality is what we do. As human beings we are more than the sum of our constituent parts. There is something within us that creates meaning. We personalize existence. We have being, and being is more than existence. It is existence with perspective.

Truth can be an objective reality. It can be seen, understood and verified. It can be quantified as to its origins, the modality of its continued existence and its impact in the future. That is what could be called empirical truth: the hard truth. 1+1=2. This arena of reality does not need us to be truth. When a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around, does it make a sound? No. It creates vibrations in the air and earth but without a person there to give meaning to the vibrations there is no ‘sound’. But the tree still falls.

Spiritual truth is a bit more difficult to nail down. While still objective, existing independently of our perception, spiritual truth requires our participation.

Spirit, by its nature, is the breath of life.  Spiritual truth isn’t passive like a tree or a rock, it is dynamic.  Spiritual truth is God communicating his life to us. It is truth with a purpose. Like a seed that is preserved, waiting to be placed in an environment where it can grow, truth is the seed of God’s life waiting for fertile ground. That is the point where our participation is needed. It is where our unique talent is required. That is where purpose becomes meaning. It is in us that the seed sprouts and truth becomes life.

This is also where it is important to keep the distinction between empirical truth and spiritual truth. With empirical truth, like a tree in our yard, we can impart meaning and the meaning is purely subjective, it is us overlaying the colors of our perceptions on the tree. With spiritual truth meaning is inspired {great word ‘inspired’ — it means ‘breathed in’}. Spiritual truth is life waiting to take hold. Our talent for meaning is a natural receptor for seeds that are designed to become meaning. The care that must accompany us in our encounters with spiritual truth is to find the color of the intended meaning and not just supply our own.

Spiritual truth is not something that we can be sentimental or romantic about. We do not memorialize truth or encamp around it. We also cannot treat truth in a way that maintains its ‘objective’ status when we receive it. It must become subjective. It must interact with us, change us, create in us meaning and life. We cannot just be a fan of the truth. We cannot even worship it. Truth is not an end in itself. Truth is a means whereby the life of God is created in us. When we encounter spiritual truth we do not then possess the truth. The truth must possess us.

If we are presented with ‘Peace’ as a spiritual truth, we understand it to be an aspect of God that he is communicating to us. We cannot just love peace. We cannot just respect peace. We cannot desire it, or work for it, or try to create it. If peace is spiritual truth communicating the nature of God to us we must BECOME peace. That which is presented to us as objective truth must find root in us and create the life of God within us. It must become subjective, personal, living reality molded in the image of God.

While some forms taken by spiritual truth are more direct and easily discerned, truth can take many forms. The form really matters little. The vital aspect of spiritual truth is spirit. Whether it be the words of Christ or an object lesson in daily life if the Spirit of God choses to be involved and uses the truth to inspire, life will result.
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"Yin/Yang" by Larry Newman

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