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Archive for the ‘Faith and doubt’ Category

So while I was writing a song a week last year and devoting my blog pretty much exclusively to that effort, I was coming across an increasing pile of articles about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), and why everyone should at least try to understand what’s going on and what may be coming down the pike.

Tim Urban at Wait But Why did some pretty substantial summing up in two posts – The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence and The AI Revolution: Our Immortality or Extinction. This two-part series is a long read but worth it if you want to get some background and do some thinking on this topic.

Which might get you scared or excited at what could happen within your lifetime. I mean, immortality or extinction?! That’s kind of a big deal.

But then for some humanizing balance, I recommend Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People. Its author, Maciej Cegłowski, points out that those espousing AI’s potential to immortalize or annihilate our species are making some pretty bold assumptions about what intelligence ultimately is, and that some of this smells a bit megalomaniacal.

A story about computers taking over the universe (and then either saving or destroying humanity as we know it) captures our imagination more than a story about technocrats gradually sucking the soul out of human society by pushing for increased levels of surveillance and invasive technologies in their quest to prepare for the anticipated AI revolution.

Ceglowski’s article includes a quote I fell in love with: “If everybody contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains, many of us will die of cholera.” A search for the author of the quote, John Rich, turns up that he’s a country music singer/songwriter.

Superintelligence, I would like to believe, if and when it does arise, will not be supercerebral. It won’t just encompass the intelligence of computer geeks, but also musicians and plumbers and the infinite depth and breadth of being – of which we humans have only a limited understanding and a small share.

Which spins everything back around for me. Religious and spiritual traditions tell us that a superintelligence like that has already arisen – in what we call God or whatever other name has been given to the supreme being – and that this God brought all we know into being.

So ultimate being, superintelligence – do we project this back to before life began, or forward in time? Do we give rise to it, or did it give rise to us?

Or is this all my less-than-superintelligence asking all the wrong questions, thinking in a linear timeframe, boxed in by the laws of whatever computer simulation or created universe this is?

Thinking is fun!

 

 

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It’s the last day of another year, and here is my last song for #songaweek2016.

In the middle of writing it, I realized I was quoting from the Bible, the gospel of John, when Jesus is talking to his disciples about getting ready to say goodbye, and he leads up to something I hold as central to my faith – that his followers will be known by their love.

Here’s hoping that maybe in 2017, that can become a little more true.

It’s been an amazing year of songwriting, and I look forward to reflecting on it a bit in another post, as well as making a central list of all the songs and highlighting some of my favorites.

Here’s my song for week 52 of #songaweek2016. Oh, and PS – if you or someone you know might enjoy trying this challenge, check out #songaweek2017.

I go out into the night
I go out I go out like a light

In a little while
you will look for me
you will look for me
and I won’t be there

I go out into the night
I go out I go out like a light

In a stranger’s face
in your daughter’s voice
in the love you share
you’ll know me there

I go out into the night
I go out I go out like a light

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I wasn’t only thinking about Aleppo when I wrote this song. Christmas doggedly returns at the darkest time of the year, and sometimes it feels nearly impossible – or insincere, or inconsiderate – to celebrate when so many people are suffering.

But I think that tears of compassion and even deep personal suffering can coexist with tidings of comfort and joy. And the longer I live, the more that is what Christmas – and life in general – is about for me.

So let’s sing and celebrate – and mourn and grieve. Let’s be fully alive and unafraid this Christmas season. True “Christmas spirit” is not a mask that must pretend everything is okay in order to start the festivities, but a wholehearted embrace of the world and the people in it, just as I find them.

I’m not saying I know much about how to do this, or can even possibly begin to understand what so many people have experienced or are going through right now. But I do know that I’d rather practice listening and opening my heart to people – and risk making mistakes – than ignore and pretend – and shrink my world down to what feels manageable.

Once more, with feeling.

Here’s my song for week 50 of #songaweek2016:

it’s an old weathered song
at the darkest time of the year
merry christmas, merry christmas once more
we raise up a toast
and we try to drum up the cheer
merry christmas, merry christmas once more

while the bombs keep on dropping
and nobody’s stopping to cry

it’s a tired refrain
that keeps proclaiming peace and good will
merry christmas, merry christmas once more
and the stars keep their watch
and the snow lies cold and still
merry christmas, merry christmas once more

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This week in the Christian church season of Advent centers on love. I didn’t even think about that when I wrote this song for my dad’s birthday, which also happened to be this week (and for week 48 of #songaweek2016). But here we have it, an accidental tie-in:

The road you walk is a pulsing clock
Each day you live shapes the world
we are all making
These things are relative
and it’s love that moves them on

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

The faith you keep needn’t fear the dark
Each word you choose shapes the silence
we are all breathing
These things are relative
and it’s love that holds them together

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

Each moment we are standing
at a gracious convergence
of who we were and who we are and who we can be

The rocks you climb hardly feel you there
Each hand you hold will eventually
let go
These things are relative
and it’s love that outlives them all

Keep the fires of faith hope and love alive
and follow the giver of dreams

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Be the love you wish to feel in the world.

I believe in the infinite power of love, and I also believe that I can’t just wait around for love to rise and save the world. Love will always rise again. And I can be one of many who give it legs. Even when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. Especially then.

Here’s my song for week 47 of #songaweek2016. Apologies for its very rough draftiness. I wanted to finish early this past week so I could enjoy my parents’ visit for Thanksgiving (which I did!).

When the ugly words of angry men come screaming on the wind
Love’s gonna rise again
When the comfortable complacent ones keep keeping quiet
love’s gonna rise again
when you can barely believe it, keep singing anyway
love’s got to rise again
when you can’t really feel it, keep hanging on anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

out of the mud, out of the ruins
out of the rotten remains
love’s gonna rise again

when you lay her down into the ground and feel your heart stop
love’s gonna rise again
when days are dark and nights are long and cold sets in
love’s gonna rise again
when you can’t see the point, get out of bed anyway
love’s got to rise again
when all seems lost, keep reaching out anyway
love’s got to rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

love paints the world in vibrant colors and sings in many voices
love’s gonna rise again

love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again
love’s gonna rise
love’s gonna rise
love’s got to rise again

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A good bit of this song for week 41 of #songaweek2016 was inspired by this poignant article by Andrew Sullivan, which was the cover story for the print version of New York magazine, which was sitting on my coffee table when I wrote the song. The headline on the cover reads “Put Down Your Phone.” The article discusses Sullivan’s identification of and struggle with his own “distraction sickness,” and its title and subtext read, “I Used to Be a Human Being: An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too.”

And I was thinking about fall, this seasonal descent into dark and cold and emptiness, when organisms break down and fall asleep, and look dead, come so apparently close to death, but somewhere deep inside there’s a dream of spring, of impossible things happening, of starting over, giving it all another go.

Put your phone down, take it easy
sing a song with me
what is this old world coming to anyway?
When you think you’ve got it made cause you’re the top of the heap
of the people all sleeping their lives away

It’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and summer’s a fading memory
it’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and spring’s an impossible dream

Hold your hand out, let me touch it
let me know there’s life
out beyond my self-contained planet
all those dreams they made us dream when we were only sixteen
are now battered and broken to bits

somewhere there’s somebody, something, somehow
and nowhere there’s nothing at all

keep your faith in evolution
let your life unfold
give it time and anything can happen
from the ashes of the past rises new and resilienter
you even brillianter now

It’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and summer’s a fading memory
it’s a long hard fall into lonely winter
and spring’s an impossible – springs an impossible,
ever, eternally, springs an impossible dream

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My song for week 36 of #songaweek2016 is in memory of Jacob Wetterling. There are no words for this . . .

 

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