Author Topic: A place for exploration  (Read 3605 times)

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David Pinnegar

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A place for exploration
« on: August 14, 2012, 12:14:49 PM »
Hi!

A client writes:
Quote
I worked as a C of E minister in the countryiside and know about small congregations BUT it seems the church is growing, even the church of england. Sadly we may have too many organs as well as too many Churches. The problem can be finding an organist. I used an electronic system to overcome this tho it was not well liked. The C of E plants a new church every fortnight - because populations have moved away from inner city churches and countryside. The best organs should be kept and moved to the most suitable places. In one of my three churches there was an organ transplanted from some large drawing room in a stately home - it could/should be sold on and moved back. This was St Helen;s Colne, in Cambs.

No doubt the above will provide inspiration for discussions on other threads but the assertion that the church is growing is not within my personal experience. Instruments on http://www.organmatters.co.uk/redundant-organs-for-sale/ are within areas of population large enough for a church to be supported were the church able to be seen to be relevant to them.

In academic circles whilst in times past the bible provided a common language for literary and visual symbolism, universities are now having to make special arrangements to bring biblical allusions to comprehension of the current generation and the Fine Art market is being skewed on account of no-one knowing or understanding the subject matter of the old master painters.

With the loss of understanding of the bible, christianity, a faith providing direction and certainty, and the mental processes of prayer and ritual, perhaps it is appropriate to consider whether modern humanity is losing out? If so, just as research has demonstrated that listening to Mozart is good for mental development, stimulation and health, then perhaps what happens in Church is likewise, as I believe also is the stretching of the intellect necessary to play the Organ.

The current young generation in Britain were shortchanged in the 1990s in schools teaching ICT as computer studies. This tended to go no further than how to use Microsoft Office suite of programmes. The youth of the 1970s and early 80s had grown up with computers on which machine code or assembly language was very apparent in its power to get machines moving speedily, hampered by the interpreter language, such as FORTRAN and its derivative BASIC, necessary for ordinary mortals to programme them. Such programming was an academically instructive exercise.

The relevance of this is that our brains have developed in a similar way. There are sub-processes going on which we share with animals and other processes of greater complexity which make us more clever. Common to all biology, there are brain processes concerning consumption of food and others associated with movement controlled by sensory feedback from our surroundings. The primary sensory feedback is that of vision.

Those of us who keep dogs are often aware of these animals dreaming. One assumes that like us they dream in pictures. Of other mammals, which dream? Horses, cows, pigs, sheep, cats, primates? Dreaming must be one of the indications of higher mental capabilities. It is an important function in our brain regulation. Despite complexities of academic studies such as http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/08/13/the-twenty-four-hour-mind-rosalind-cartwright/ examining sleep patterns and depression, I'm not sure that dreaming is properly understood.

Dreaming in pictures may well simply indicate the biological "machine code" to which the brain reverts at night when literary functions, the "interpreter language" and associated logic are switched off. The sequences and pictures we see in dreams may well be the memory filing process relating to literary decsriptions of what we experience during the day. The ancients studied dreams, and traditional explanations of, for instance, turbulent or stagnant water, serpents etc have certainly struck an accord with my own experience in identifying sources of danger in my day life. To that extent there is an element of "machine code" processing going on where the dream is not merely a passive experience of past refractions of memory but an active process in guidance for the future.

The interesting thing about the brain is the way in which the neurons work, one property being most important, that they prefer to fire in directions that they have fired before.

This means therefore that our nighttime thoughts and pictorial dreams, which are often locked away and blocked to our conscious even within a period of minutes, can be a pictorial reflection of the directions in which our neurons have fired during the day. Likewise, our day thoughts will have been guided by the directions in which our neurons have fired during the night. It is as though our brains live two separate lives, during the day, and during the night.

It's for this reason that there may well be much greater wisdom in the rituals of church services, and prayers and the converse of extreme folly in people playing repetitive violent computer games. The latter may have been demonstrated by the Batman shooting and other shooting sprees in USA.

That prayer at Evensong in which we ask for protection from the perils and dangers of the night might have lost apparent relevance with our apparent control of the night, the eradication of predators, wolves and lions, and above all electic light . . . but night has that other meaning. . . . The time when we sleep. Apparently we are dead . . . and certainly the Egyptians believed that the Sun died every night and was resurrected every morning, a concept similar to the ancient Greeks relating to winter, the earth dying, Persephone being kept in Hades for 6 months of the year, and the solar solstice alignments of the tempes on Malta.

Is heaven and hell to which we go when we die in our afterlife merely referring to when we die every night and our thoughts during which over which we have no control? Putting issues of dogma aside, such an explanation could be demonstrated to be of value in mental health, as well as to Islamic suicide bombers.

Because rituals and prayers are repeated, do not all of the factors that we experience though a church service assist in regulating our thoughts when we are unconscious and conscious too? By regulating, I don't mean controlling. Merely ensuring that our penduli tick smoothly without going wild . . .

L'Oreal - because you're worth it. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Guinness is good for you . . . can we not say that too of organs and churches?

Best wishes

David P
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 02:38:12 PM by David Pinnegar »
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

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Re: A place for exploration
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2012, 02:34:26 PM »
Dear David,

I know you are making a number of serious points, but I just have to share my observations about my cat "Freckle". (He has a black spot on his nose).

Many is the time he curls up and goes to sleep on the floor, and suddenly, he will start to twitch, miaow, whimper and appear very distressed. Most times, he reverts to peaceful slumber, but from time to time, he will wake and look around with mad, staring eyes, like he's just emerged from the worst horror film imaginable.

I wonder what he dreams about that could be so terrible?

:)

Best,

MM

David Pinnegar

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Re: A place for exploration
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2012, 01:09:59 PM »
Dear MM

Your cat probably dreams of being chased by one of my dogs who, despite being adequately fed, chased, killed and solemnly ate a tasty tender baby rabbit this morning . . .

But this thread contains some suggestions, as you say, worthy of graver consideration.

Can we say that the mental processes engaged in church are helpful to the psyche. Can the priest be more effective than the psychiastrist who seems to have replaced him in society? Are the rituals and practices of prayer good for the wellbeing of society?

Just as in other times, as explored on another thread, Son of God meant something rather different to the biological son of Big Daddy sort of interpretation to which it has sunk now, are our brains merely biological computers that are mere rotting meat when we die, might heaven and hell be  functions experienced during our dead time every night that set the patterns for resurrection every day?

Of course there's more to this thread than merely that of dreams and sleep but brainstorming all these issues may be good for the church, the living body of Christ, and for organs within :-)

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

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Re: A place for exploration
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 04:10:09 PM »
Dear David,

I donít actually have many answers to any of this, but I wonder if dreaming isnít simply a symptom of memories being transferred from one part of the brain to another?

I shall have to re-read some of the things I once read in psychology, but I seem to recall that memory transfers information from one side of the brain to the other.

Something which I always find fascinating is the way that it is actually impossible to recall specific events as they happened in the same way that a video recording replays events. Itís not a accurate process, and this is why witnesses are often unreliable after the event.
Take a familiar face and try to imagine how the person looks, when you havenít cast eyes on them for a long time. Itís actually very difficult to do, but we may be able to think of a single image or a very brief flash of action. Itís as if the brain prioritises events, and retains just enough information necessary to recall people or specific events.

Show anyone in the organ world a photograph of Virgil Fox or a bust or print of J S Bach, and they would recognise them instantly, but if asked to describe what they looked like or perhaps asked to sketch their faces, I suspect that very few would be able to do so. This is quite different from the way that computers work. I suspect that the same is true of remembering music, when faced with a lay-off from the keyboard. Yes, you would recognise the tune or the piece, but could you play it without keeping in practice?

The last time I had a lay-off from playing anything, in excess of a year, I thought Iíd forgotten all I knew. Two weeks later, it was as if I had never stopped.

Memories and dreaming must be closely linked, and I suspect that sleep is the time when the brain, free of real time, waking-state input, consolidates everything and shunts the most important bits into more or less permanent memory.

Another curious ting concerns music, for although we all know BWV565 (the D minor), could we recall how it sounded on a particular instrument and played by a particular performer from memory?

Hear a recording of the same thing, and itís often possible to tell the who, where and when of something   that was recorded, and with great accuracy; quite unaware that we actually have some degree of memory of a specific event.

Who, for instance, would not immediately recognise that unique combination of Francis Jackson, York Minster and the Cocker ĎTuba Tuneí?

This is why we have recordings and videos of things, because we are not programmed the same way as computers or digital recorders, and linking each to the human mind as a concept, is actually quite a dubious undertaking.

Itís all very curious and even mysterious. 

Best,

MM

David Pinnegar

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Re: A place for exploration
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2012, 11:56:31 PM »
Dear MM

What I am saying is somewhat more fundamental than standard views of memory passing from one side of the brain to the other: the rituals of service, of prayer, of thought self-discipline involved in religious practice, set up patterns in the brain. Neurons preferring to fire in directions they have fired before replay these patterns, but often without the linguistic high level language that accompanies the pictures of the machine-code fundamental to animal thought.

Patterns of thought set up during the day are thereby repeated in our dead-space when we sleep, and variations of those patterns experienced during the night, influence patterns of thought in subsequent day consciousness.

In our secular society in which religion is decreasingly allowed to play a part, the function of church worship on thought patterns leading to settling the psyche and leading to better mental health does not appear to be attaining a high profile in academic research or given appropriate acknowledgement.

Perhaps such research would be worthy of sponsorship? The result might bring about a melting of attitudes to buildings in which organs are customarily found . . .

Whilst above, I have gone out of my way to present the view of biological meat of the brain and the function and benefit of ceremony and prayer to that, if one's psyche is sufficiently in heaven in one's nightly sleep, no doubt it can be in the longer sleep also . . . A conventional view of heaven is not precluded.

Best wishes

David P
« Last Edit: August 22, 2012, 01:36:45 PM by David Pinnegar »
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

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Re: A place for exploration
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2012, 03:21:28 PM »
Dear David,

I think I would baulk from  entering into discussion about brain physiology, chemistry and neurons, for fear of getting it hopelessly wrong.
You wrote:-

In our secular society in which religion is decreasingly allowed to play a part, the function of church worship on thought patterns leading to settling the psyche and leading to better mental health does not appear to be attaining a high profile in academic research or given appropriate acknowledgement.

 A cursory glance through this passage seems to suggest that it makes sense, but the more I read and re-read it, the more I realise that it may be a bit of a mulch sentence, where different strands of thought coalesce into a single statement and thus only allude to certain things. However, on the positive side, it does make me think, ďI know what he means, but.....Ē

In the past, religion was certainly a very powerful thing. Even to-day, I see old catholics with their rosary beads, praying in front of rather garish statues and pictures, reciting bits of catechism or repeating the Lordís Prayer. I suppose itís a way of offloading their uncertainties and fears, and finding some degree of certainty and comfort in the security of religion, which includes things ritualistic, visual and verbal. Certainly, for the oldest surviving generation, who often came from very deprived areas and large families, the local priest and the Holy Family were certainly a part of extended familial influence.   Furthermore, long before literacy became commonplace, it was the imagery of religion and the recitation of the mass which provided an anchor to life. We can still see that to-day in the Muslim faith, where ritual and the rote learning and repetition of Qíuranic scripture is at the heart of faith. Similarly, the Jews and the Hindus, (to name but two other religions), have similar rituals based on what they regard as sacred texts.

How all this ties in with  ďsettling the psycheĒ I am not sure, but certainly, faith of any kind can act in a way that is similar to ontological security, on which sound mental health is built. It can also act as an acceptable substitute for those who were orphaned or who suffered at the hands of dysfunctional/alcoholic/ drug addicted and abusive families; sometimes all four simultaneously. There is little doubt that getting to the root causes of ontological insecurity is the greatest challenge in psychiatry and mental health counselling, which can take months and even years to resolve.

So to comment on the proposition that there is a useful link between religious ritual and mental health, I would suggest that there may well be, but then one has to consider the alternatives of gang culture and ethnic groupings, which are often very corrosive and destructive.

Best,

MM

 


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