Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sedona, Arizona

I just got back from Sedona, Arizona yesterday. My main reason for going was the scenery, and my desire to go somewhere cool for my 40th birthday instead of dodging surprise parties. The flight arrived at about 6, and it was close to 7 by the time we got our luggage and the rental car. After a two-hour drive in almost total darkness (once we got out of Phoenix there were no streetlights), we arrived at the hotel. We couldn't see much except for a few stores across the street. The next morning, however, I stepped out of the hotel for a smoke and was treated to a sight similar to what you see next to this article.

Once we got into town, I saw a few new age stores and crystal shops, and downtown has some nice restaurants and stores. I also saw a sign for "Vortex tours." After seeing a few more references to vortexes, I decided that some investigation was in order. Apparently vortexes are centers of spiritual energy often associated with scenic locations. A recovering materialist will take that with a grain of salt, but not dismiss it entirely. Certainly, looking at the mountains was an uplifting experience, especially on the jeep tour that we took. The tour guide told us that so far the only scientific evidence about vortexes was a 2% increase in the magnetic field. We recovering materialists know, however, that science has a major blind spot in that only things that can be measured by our scientific instruments count for anything. Does that mean that there's really something to these vortexes? I'm reserving judgement.

While we were there, I picked up a copy of Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach (ISBN 0-440-20488-7). The book is about a modern-day adept. I'm not using the word messiah because it has too much baggage associated with it, which is probably why the author did use it. The word adept is more accurate to describe the two main characters of the book, who give rides on old airplanes to people for a living. I assume here that the book is a work of fiction possibly based on a true story, and that the two main characters didn't really walk on water. The important thing is the message of the book: that anyone can become an adept by letting go of their baggage and expanding their imaginations.

The book raises an interesting issue which I've touched on before. It offers a new translation of Jesus' parable of the mustard seed: "If you have imagination as a grain of sesame seed...all things are possible to you." The explanation given in the book is that they didn't have a word for imagination back then, and faith was the closest word that seemed to match. When I read that, I wondered if that was a common problem with books written back then. Of course, it could simply have been a mistranslation, or some scribe who was copying the text thought "they couldn't possibly mean that" and changed it into something that made more sense. This again highlights the need for a symbol system. The word "faith" can be translated many ways, but a blue feather is always a blue feather.

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