Mind Matters

by the Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 412
August 20, 2001


Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886


It was a truism that the only way to get outstanding sound from a stereo system was to have big floor-standing loudspeakers. Now audio technology has made bookshelf speakers equal in delivering the thump of the bass and the tinkle of the triangle. Still, Consumer Reports warns, "Ideally, speakers should reproduce every sound exactly as recorded or broadcast. But every type of speaker alters music to some degree."

We have always recognized that the spoken word can alter reality. In the game of rumor, a message is whispered from one person to another around a circle. What was said to the first person and what the final person reports is not the same--neither in subtle nor in more significant ways.

Thwarted in obtaining truth through hearing, we emphasized sight--seeing is believing.  However, that certainty also has eroded. In one experiment, a person burst into a law school classroom, quickly 'assaulted' the professor and then ran out. Immediately the students were isolated and asked to write what they observed. The variance, both in describing the intruder and in relating what happened, was dramatic. I often wondered how those students, after that experience, viewed eye-witness accounts in court. Even the ever-so-realistic battle scenes in the movie Pearl Harbor were not real, being computer generated.

If we cannot obtain certain reality through the ear or eye, perhaps we can through the objectivity of the scholarly mind.

Currently, I am reading the bestseller John Adams by David McCullough. As interesting as his story is, I am aware there are other scholarly books on John Adams, books that have a much different perspective. Always, facts are selected, given various weight and then organized in a manner to serve the author's point of view.

This same process operates in the world of religion. The four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--are a prime example. Each author tells the story of Jesus from a different viewpoint, so that, even when referring to the same incident, there are differences in the reports.

Can we ever know what is real and true, or must we forever remain skeptical? It is a poor life that allows skepticism to reign supreme. Yet, so much of what we experience is not what it presents itself to be. Thus, I find Emily Dickinson helpful.

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness....

The discerning Eye, the discerning Ear, the discerning Mind, and a dash of the discerning Heart help me in wending my way through the days.

--Robert H. Tucker
20 August 2001
© Robert H. Tucker, 2001.

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