Friday, February 17, 2017

(From) Path to Platform

I went to a 'path to platform' meeting last night.
Small crowd, cookies provided. (I had one, though i rarely eat them for  health reasons---sugar).

This was an informational discussion  about membership in the 'ethical society' --a sort of church, associated with unitarian universalists (UU), but one that admits people of any religious faith, or none at all, or undecided (agnostic).

A large part of discussion (about 2 hours) was the history of the ethical society. It was founded in 1800's by  Felix Adler.  (I had heard of Mortimer Adler, founder of great books program at U Chicago, and a free university in NY public library in 1920's--mostly for poor people , and many immigrants, who couldn't afford going to a university. That free university actually had courses at any level, including ones similar to those at the most elite grad schools---Einstein's theory of relativity, for example. Felix seems to be unrelated to Mortimer).

There is a somewhat large and complex history of the ethical society---there are only 24 congregations in the USA. The one I was at is the only one which is affiliated with UU---which i think has iver 1000.    The one basic principle they seem to have is 'belief in the intrinsic worth of all people'.   They are what would be termed liberal or progressive, and they support many of current 'hot issues' such as Black Lives Matter movement, womyn, immigrant, indigenous people's and gay rights, and 'green' or environmental values (eg how to deal with anthropogenic global warming, and support for Sioux indians fighting DAPL---dakota access (oil) pipeline).

They also discussed the challenges they face, and various programs they offer. Some challenges include maintaining a congregation (though they seem to be doing fine on this issue) and financing their operations (which they partly do by renting their space to other groups with related principles---AA groups, immigrant groups, other faith groups which don't have a building to meet in, day care centers etc.) .  Anyone can attend their 'platform services' (the term they use for their variant of a Sunday morning church service), but some of their financing comes from donations (eg tithes) at the service (any amount) and also if people become members, some sort of financial commitment , but on a sliding scale---what  people can afford.  (Some of their contributions are allocated to programs they support---for homeless people, victims of violence, etc.)

The minister (female) leading the discussion also took us on a tour of their place---quite extensive. They have classrooms, libraries, kitchens, playgrounds, everything.

 She  also asked each participant in the group to 'talk to your neighbor at the table'. My neighbor was from Baltimore, so we shared notes since I've been there a few times. (I once walked from Morgan State U all the way downtown to the bus/train station through Herring run park---first half was no trails---had to walk  in the creek, but it was 90 degrees so that was good. Found a den of wild foxes too. About an 8 mile walk----half in the city---lots of boarded up buildings and heroin addicts, but nobody messed with me--some actually laughed since i was wet and rumpled after my walk along herring run).    Interestingly the term 'gangsta rap' came up---partly because there is alot of that in Baltimore, some of which I am familiar with. My neighbor and I shared  an interest in that--i like the music, but the lyrics are problematic.

She also asked us to write down how we came to be at the path to platform meeting and the ethical society.   I actually didn't quite get what she was asking. I figured she was saying just write something,  which i did. (They provided pencil  and paper, and actually, usually i doodle during meetings.) My path to ethical society  included that I'd been there in the 70's for something I don't remember apart from the building, and had been there for a WPFW radio meeting before, and then learned of a science book club there which was discussing a book by Brian Goodwin which is a sort of classic (its based on Alan Turing's mathematical model of biological morphogenesis). I missed that meeting but caught some others on evolutionary theory.

I wrote down what I could remember at the time of some basic science equations---Shrodinger's and Heisenberg's equations of quantum theory,  a little special relativity, and statistical mechanics (Boltzmann's distribution) and Cantor's theorem in math, . (I would have included some ones from populations genetics and ecology if i had thought of  it.) I also did a picture of 'casper the ghost' and 'the scream' by E Munch (a painting that sold for millions$)..

Then I walked home, and maybe did a bad thing. As usual about 2 am i get a phone call from someone asking if they can sleep there. I was asleep and didnt answer the phone. I had told the person that he could sleep on my floor occassionaly but not when I am busy. If he sleeps here, he may sleep all day, and when I'm asleep use my kitchen and food, and once my computer---which he basically destroyed.    He knows alot of people around here, has family in DC, but basically they don't let him stay with them.  He can get to a shelter anytime but prefers my area since he has a drug habit and dealers are close.   He has a few odd jobs around here but I think mostly spends time hanging out  with friends, and then shows up here at midnite or later and wants inside.

Also, I've slept outside in cold weather and snow so many times in DC (and i've been 'homeless' in Egypt, Mexico, India, Alaska and all over the USA so much that i don't have alot of respect for people who can't sleep outside, especially when they have been on the street for years and spend most of their time looking for people who will help them out unconditionally--I'm always told 'its better to give than receive' but people saying that give very little and just receive, sometimes quite alot)  .

I do think all people have some intrinsic worth, but they also have to respect others. My 'worth' includes my computer--alot of work I had on that--and peace of mind, and sleep. . If you lose that, your worth goes towards nothing.)

Today I remembered another way I got into 'ethics'. Its a term in moral philosophy. The best book on that was Ethics:Origin and Development by anarchist P Kropotkin , from 1920 or so. Its very outdated but still quite interesting. Philosophers like Rawls, Nozick, Parfit, also discuss ethics, or justice---a related term  (typically from an ivory tower--its easy to argue for say 'open borders' when you have a door you can lock and close).

While walking back from ethical society, I was thinking about 'path integrals' (a mathematical term due to Richard Feynman in physics). That is one more equation I would have written down. It includes both classical, quantum and stochastic dynamics.