Future-Present Singularity

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In another example of Present-Future Singularity, Tom Friedman writes in the November 19, 2014 New York Times, about those Mid-East countries which have been successful in contrast to those who have been unsuccessful. He writes, “When change starts or depends [on our American rather than] their own staying power, it is not self-sustaining — the most important value in international relations.”  He continues, “David Kilcullen, the Australian counterinsurgency expert who served with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, told me: “Just like there is a spark of life in a physical body, there has to be a spark of legitimacy and coherence in a body politic. And, if it is not there, trying to substitute for it is like putting a cadaver on a slab and harnessing a lightning bolt to it to bring it back to life. You end up with Dr. Frankenstein. You can animate a corpse and make it walk and talk, but sooner or later it’s going to go rogue… When you don’t have the local leadership, invading does not make things better. It makes them worse.”

A deeply moving example of Present-Future Singularity comes from Peter Stanford’s Guardian article of November 6, 2014. It was the obituary of 90-year old Scottish Jesuit Priest, Gerard Hughes, a writer whose book, God of Surprises, persuaded many to stay within the Church.  At last month’s Vatican synod on the family, with the eyes of the world on him, Pope Francis more than once reached for the image of a “God of Surprises” as he tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade his fellow bishops towards a modest relaxation in Catholicism’s doctrinal rules.

Key to Gerard Hughes’ appeal was that he neither preached perfection nor held himself up as anything special. He was, in his own words, one of the many “bewildered, confused or disillusioned Christians who have a love-hate relationship with the church to which they belong, or once belonged. His winning ability to see God in everyday life was complemented by his refusal to be bound by dogma or denomination.

While Catholic chaplain at Glasgow University from 1967-75, his record of being twice dismissed and twice reinstated by the local archbishop made him something of a hero figure for those battling to promote discussion and debate within an authoritarian church.  Hughes’ own spiritual hunger was not satisfied, however, by ministering to others and in 1983 he left to embark on the process of introspection, first in Ireland and then on the Isle of Skye.  Two years later he published his best-known book, God of Surprises. It was a word-of-mouth success which he described as, “a guidebook for the inner journey in which we are all engaged”.

He remained, to the end, unafraid of speaking his mind, telling an interviewer in 2014 that too many spiritual books were “destructive” and “an easy way to make money”.   He went on to say, “There are lots of beautiful words. God is here and Our Lady is there, so all will be well. ‘Just trust,’ they [readers] are told. Trust in what? ‘Just trust in what I am telling you’ is the message. There is very little attempt to encourage people to listen to their own experience, to discover things for themselves.”

Gerard Hughes is a real-life example of the truth of Present-Future Singularity.  What a noble life.., what a hero.., what an impact he had in the lives of the people and institutions he touched! He must have felt his actions in the present as real and sacred, with a personal inner reality of a future in the Church that was nonhierarchical and compassionate. He was a living example, even with his own moments of despair, depression, conflict, disagreement and success, of trust in the power of Present-Future Singularity.

Now is the future and the future is now.

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