Friday, February 16, 2018

Back on Bear Creek

After my disastrous end of the year, I am back on the trail. I don't have nearly the endurance I used to have but that will come. I've figured out how to halve the trail, though. If I just walk the section from River Point to Wadsworth, I can catch buses back home on Yale; then, if I want to walk the other half, I take the Yale buses there, walk to Morrison and backtrack.

Back on the trail


                                                   An unintended ice sculpture

The trail has changed a little. They have a large portion, between Sheridan and Wadsworth blocked. It looks (and smells) like they're putting a sewage line in. The trails that follow Dartmouth are still serviceable.

The Bear Creek Coffee Company is no longer at Dartmouth Plaza but has been replaced by Java on the Creek - also a nice place to take a break from a long hike. Their signature chai was well worth the stop, and the have a fireplace (digital, but perty). If you want to check them out, they have a website:

www.JavaOnTheCreek.coffee

I'll be making a longer report after I go back for the rest of the trail next month. There's a straight shot trail that I want to try that might cut some considerable distance off between Fox Hollow Golf Course and Morrison. I'm looking at signs on the trail, rules and regulations, and where they come from.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


--- Books I like ---

It suddenly struck me (Whack!) that putting the reference blogs at the end of a section is sorta like putting the cart before the horse. So, I'll remedy that.

If you're going to sample the variety of religions in your area, two references are a must - an extensive reference of denominations, and an extensive reference of religions.

A great reference for world religions is the Adherents website, but I'll discuss that in the next religion blog. A good "book" is the Handbook of Religious Beliefs and Practices, a manual used by the State of Washington Department of Corrections. Evidently Washington state is serious about religious freedom in their prisons and they actually consulted people who practice various religions - both major and minor. This manual has been through several revisions - the copy I have is 2012 and is available at www.doc.wa.gov/docs/publications/500-HA001.pdf

For a complete rundown of denominations (Christian and other), I haven't found a better reference than Frank Mead's Handbook of Denominations. The 13th edition is by Craig D. Atwood, Frank S. Mead, and Samuel S. Hill (2010 Abingdon Press, Nashville).

World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts by Andrew Wilson (ed.) is an interesting topical comparison of various sacred texts. It was published in 1991 by the International Religious Foundation and can be accessed here: https://www.tparents.org/Library/Unification/Books/World-S/WS-01.pdf (accessed 2/14/18).

Modern religion can be dizzying in it's diversity. If you want a field guide to new religions, I would recommend the Encyclopedia of New Religions edited by Peter B. Clarke and published by Routledge (2006).

A fascinating read is the Magico-Religious Groups and Ritualistic Activities: A Guide for First Responders by Tony M. Kail. (2008 CRC Press). The title says it all.

If you want to do an in depth study of a specific religion you might want to track down a sample of their major sacred texts and read them. But be forewarned, some religions do not have texts, they have libraries.



--- Religions in the Denver area ---

I grew up in Alabama, deep in the Bible Belt. When I was a child, the church was the center of community life. That was where you met everyone that was anyone. And inclusion in the community was inclusion in a church. As I became older, other centers formed - the country club, the office - but the church retained prominence in the Southeast. It was an important fact that I was a member of the church that the administrator of the facility where I worked attended. My immediate supervisor went to a sister church. I can't think of anyone offhand that I worked with that was not a member of some church or another.

So it was an adventure when I spent a week in Denver with a friend in the 80s and never saw a church the whole time I was there. Later, I returned for an interview in Denver and, again, never saw a church. An acquaintance was speaking at a church several miles away, but I couldn't work things out to attend. And, yet again, I visited other friends in Denver and never saw a church.

When I moved to Broomfield in 2013, I found a couple of churches close to where I lived. Both were Calvinist. While I would gladly visit a Calvinist church; I couldn't be comfortable as a member. That's a big difference between the church crowded Bible Belt and the secular Denver area.

In Selma, I was a member of a Baptist church. Next door on one side was an Episcopal church. On the other side was a Presbyterian church. Across the street was a Methodist church. If you couldn't find a church of your particular flavor, turn around and you'd be staring right at the very one for you.

In Broomfield, if you found the right one, you'd best grab it. Of course, when churches are isolated, they tend to hold on to their peculiar distinctions tightly.

Did I say that Denver is "secular"? Well, in a way it is. Being a member of a church isn't a necessary prerequisite for belonging in the community. It's an option. A person isn't looked down on for being a church goer, but outdoor activities are also a definite option, or work, or sleeping in.

On the other hand, Denver is a very religious community, or spiritual. You can easily find the organized versions, or the "metaphysical" ones.

When I moved to south Denver, I found myself in the middle of a plethora of diverse churches - no Baptist churches close by, but I'm not that picky. In fact, I was looking at a small church that made me feel quite comfortable...when we moved again. Let me see. In that neighborhood was an Independent church, a Christian Church, an Episcopal church, a Presbyterian church, Anglican, Lutheran...

Where we moved, there was an Episcopal church across the street and a Unity Fellowship a block over. Within walking distance were Dutch Reformed, Church of Christ Scientists, a biiiiig Baptist, Quaker, Russian Orthodox, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist...oh, Unitarian Universalist, Nazarene, Jewish....I started going to the Episcopal across the street.

Every major world religion is represented in Denver and many (many!) minor ones. I've visited several Christian churches and one Buddhist and plan to visit many more. And there is a large school of theology at Denver University, just down the street, and Denver Seminary a bus ride away. Here is plenty of diversity and much adventure. Then there are the "metaphysical" shops.

My past ministries - including two gospel groups and membership in a chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association - has carried me into many churches and many different kinds of churches and I've always enjoyed the visits. Now I find that Denver is paradise for the student of religion.

Here are a few of the many churches in Denver.









What are your past experiences with organized religions? Were they positive or negative?
How many different religious institutions are there in your area? You can probably use Google Maps to find churches in your area. Just search on your address and then click NEARBY and,  in the Nearby bar, type "churches" or "religions". Use the zoom bar in the lower right corner to zoom in and out for more or less detail.
If you have never visited a church, here are some tips for doing so.

If your purpose is to learn - about cultures, about beliefs - then respect others beliefs, otherwise you will find the door shut in your face.

Sharing your own beliefs may be counterproductive. The people you're visiting don't have the goal of learning about you and they may even be hostile to others' ideas. Keep your own goals in mind.

A good position for observers is the back of a sanctuary, on the lower level if there's a balcony. Often, it's hard to get a full view of everything from a balcony.

Suspend disbelief. You're not seeking for truth, here. You should be a passive observer of others' beliefs.

If possible, don't take notes or record sounds (and, if you do be very open to the pastor about what you're doing and ask permission first). The congregation isn't going to be very happy about "being studied."

Absorb the experience. Don't be analytic until after you leave and then, as soon as you can, sit down somewhere and take notes. Memory isn't nearly as reliable as some folks think.

Study the situation before hand and look for information afterward to help you answer your questions. Don't just come up with your own explanation. The real facts may be quite different from the obvious "facts". Often a church will provide a visitor's guide that explains what the church does during a service. The church I attends provides a good play-by-play explanation of what a visitor will see and why they will see it.

Some practices are sacrosanct. In a Christian church, nonChristians are not welcome to take communion. Understanding what people believe and why they believe it will provide understanding about these "odd" practices. Don't take anything personally. In a small, country church, where the gospel group I was a member of was performing, we were breaking down our equipment when an elderly lady tottled up and said, "I sure enjoyed you boys' singin'. It's just too bad that you're going to hell because you're a Baptist." I just smiled and said, "Thank y', ma'am."

"Religion" doesn't just mean "church". I mentioned "metaphysical" shops above. You can often find out lesser held beliefs in such places. Religious schools and seminaries might also be productive places to visit.

Every adventure has it's own dangers. If you're a Christian, then you might believe in demonic influences and things like palm reading businesses and metaphysical shops may be dangerous for you. If you're a Buddhist, even the driving desire to get new knowledge might be seen as dangerous. If you belong to a church, you might meet some resistance from them toward you visiting other churches. If you're going to have adventures, then you are going to meet with dangerous situations. Educate yourself before each adventure and evaluate, not only the situation, but your own performance in it afterward.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Something new - recommendations

My purpose for posting these blogs is not to brag about my own exploits. It's to encourage others to go out and experience their own worlds. To emphasize that, I will begin putting suggestions for others that want to explore some of the topics in their areas.

That sounds a little pompous to me. Who am I to tell you how to explore your world? There are parts of the world where I would be lost, without a clue as to what's going on. With that in mind, I don't take my suggestions and necessary or sufficient.

They're not necessary because your own creativity is your best guide. These are just some ideas that might give you inspiration or somewhere to start. There are so many other ways to approach these subjects, I couldn't hope to scratch the surface.

They're not sufficient because I can't hope to encapsulate everything about any topic. You might start where I left off and go in a completely different direction.

And remember, you can post comments. Adventure can be in interaction with others. I like diversity. I would like to hear other's ideas. I would like to see people disagree with me (and why). And, especially, I would like to read others' stories.

It's a new year and I'm looking at new things. I hope you stay with me and go much farther than I have. Explore your world - and, maybe, even change it.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


--- Me and religion ---

I was born into a Christian family. You would think that explains my Christianity. Ehhhh, not so fast. In a 2009 study by The Barna Group (https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids, accessed 2/4/18), based on two nationwide telephone surveys and a nationwide online survey of 2632 adults, 992 of them self reporting as "born again Christians", only 64% became Christian before the age of 18, and of those, only half were led to Christ by their parents and one in five were evangelized by some other friend or relative. (And, since I'm a statistician, I will add that the error in this survey was a maximum of +- 2.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level for the whole sample and +- 3.2 percentage points for the born again Christians.)

I'm a werewolf. My primary source of belief is experience. Beliefs aren't as "sticky" for me as it is for other folks. I have to have a reason to believe something - and I'm very suspicious of apologetics (more about that in a later blog.)

But, it's important that I come clean about my position in religion before I start blogging you. I will not use this blog as an evangelism tool - that's not what it's for. I will not criticize any other religion in it (unless someone beats me up for asking). My goal is to encourage you to ask questions and to get out and find the answers in the real world, and my primary target here is what schools call "religious studies". You might call it "religious philosophy". It is important.

You can't even talk about the history of any field of learning without talking about religion. For instance, Sir Isaac Newton was a devout Christian and much of his motivation for writing the Pricipia, in which he detailed his theory of mechanics including his famous "Three Laws", was motivated by his religious fervor, as is indicated in a letter he wrote to Richard Bentley and which is available on the Newton Project website (http://www.newtonproject.ox.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/THEM00254 accessed 2/4/18). Most art before the Renaissance was motivated by religion. Most early philosophy was informed by the religious beliefs of the philosopher. The impetus of early classical music was religion. and so on.

So, yes, I am a devout Christian, a pandenominationalist because I hold to a very core system of Christianity, pretty much that expressed by the Apostles' Creed, that allows me to navigate most denominations but I am also very interested in both the philosophy of religion and the wide scope of world religions. In other words, I  have been studying the Bible and the history of the Christian religion since my early 20s, but I have also studied most of the major religions and many of the minor ones. I''ve even read some of the scriptures.

As a therianthrope, I've had shamanistic experiences since childhood which, although it doesn't seem to have subtracted from my Christian faith, I'm sure they have colored it. If anything, I recon that my experience of the Holy Spirit as a spirit guide has rather solidified my faith in Christ.

I respect other religions in that they have emphasized various facets of reality in more detail than my own. For instance, Buddhism's close evaluation of desire, though not missing in Christianity, is certainly scrutinized in much more detail. The modern fear in the church of anything different (I have heard church leaders warn their congregations to avoid yoga because it derived from Hindu beliefs,) was not a part of early Christianity. Even Paul quotes from pagan philosophers (Acts 17:28).

So I look forward to further adventures in religion in the Denver area and I hope you will join me in your own parts of the world.


Friday, February 2, 2018


--- Video adventuring ---

Again, although this blog primarily urges the reader to get away from their TVs and computers and experience their world actively as immersive adventures, we can't get away from the fact that, today, cyberspace is part of our world. I've talked about programming and using software to explore concepts and I've talked about opencourseware and other video lectures as fun and interesting ways to learn and to prepare for real world adventures.

Documentaries offer another form of learning, usually a little lighter than the extensive lectures and courses. They can also present another kind of adventure.

TV offers a variety of documentary venues - channels like the National Geographic, Discovery, and History channels, to name a few, but I like the Internet sources. Several websites provide access to documentary films that you can "surf" through and find surprising gems. I've noted that MIT uses the Internet Archive as a repository of video lectures. It also uses iTunes U. I might add that YouTube also hosts a huge variety of educational features.

Here are some addresses:

Internet Archive https://archive.org
iTunes U - You have to have iTunes and you can access iTunes U from there.
YouTube https://www.youtube.com

Repositories will often have a search bar. Internet Archives let's you filter a search for particular kinds of media. That's really helpful when you're looking for films and there are thousands of items to scan through.

If you go to the Internet Archives and just type, say, "psychology" into the search bar, you're going to get all the video lectures available and a lot of other stuff, even if you filter out everything but films. To surf through the documentaries, search on "psychology documentary" and "psychology documentaries".

Video lectures offer in depth presentations of topics. Documentaries tend to be narrow in scope and, usually, geared toward general audiences, but can be surprisingly entertaining.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018


--- The bookshelf ---

My dyslexia wears me out. It took me three years to read Lord of the Rings. I can read 10 pages of a book and, regardless of how enthralling the story is, I have to stop and do something else. And I read sloooooowly.

So I do my best to find a digital copy and use my screen reader to listen to the book. LibriVox is a godsend.

But reference books are different. I keep them around for, well, referencing. For adventuring, I preview he topic I'm studying and books play a big part in that.

Let me tell you about some of my favorite philosophy and psychology books.

Top of the list - Will Durant's, The Story of Philosophy (1926, Simon and Schuster, Inc.). It's the most readable introduction to philosophy I know of, which is surprising since it's not a lightweight. It really gives you a good overview of psychology.

If you want depth (great depth - and don't expect it to be easy going), check out the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://plato.stanford.edu). This is for advanced, serious reading and it is my vote for the best philosophy reference source.

The classic college text of logic is also a pleasant read - Irving Copi's, Introduction to logic. If you want to learn about logic, it's a clear presentation with lots of examples to show you how it's done. There's about a million editions out so just find one and read it. The 14th edition was published by Routledge in 2013.

I'll strongly recommend three books on problem solving. They are fun and informative.

Conceptual Blockbusting, by James Adams gives you tips on what to do when your brain freezes up and just refuses to work. The fourth edition was published in 2008 by Basic Books.

Wayne Wickelgren's, How to Solve Problems (1977, W. H. Freeman and Co.), goes way deep into problem solving theory and leaves the reader amazingly able to understand what they read.

The absolute classic text for problem solving and teaching problem solving is George Polya's, How to Solve It (1945, Princeton University Press - they keep coming out with new editions with various introductions and prefaces, but I sorta like the antique.). It's a tiny book that manages to encapsulate just about everything anyone really needs to know about how to solve problems and does it in a clear, engaging, and fun manner.

If you want an understandable introduction to symbolic logic, try the online text Forallx, by P. D. Magnus, which can be had here: https://www.fecundity.com/logic.

If you want to go so deep that you get a nose bleed, I heartily recommend Rudolf Carnap's, Introduction to Symbolic Logic and it's Applications (It's available in English as a Dover addition). Expect a challenge.

In psychology, I think a required text for every person on the globe should be Eric Berne's, The Games People Play (1996, Ballantine Books). It's a great read, but be careful, you might realize that he's talking about you.

The other must read in psychology is Desmond Morris' Peoplewatching (2002, Vintage Books). It's like a field guide to human beings.

If you want to read some classic papers in psychology, check out the website, Classics in the History of Psychology, http://psychclassics.yorku.ca .

But, honestly, I don't have many recommendations for psychology. Psychology texts tend to be blah, sensationalistic, or shallow.


Sunday, January 28, 2018


--- Best laid plans and a new beginning ---

If you're keeping up with this blog, you know that the blogs have been appearing slowly lately. Well, I've been learning. There's been some rather harsh lessons, from which I might just draw from in later blogs. It's been a wild season.

In July, I learned about zoning laws and moving into a new house (see the July 14 blog, "A moving experience"), then in September I got a job and learned that you should be careful if you are retired and decide to pick up some work (according to how your benefits operate), and then I spent October getting over the pinched nerves in my back and refurbishing my benefits. Some walking tours in November taught me that I am no longer in my thirties. You can read about some of that and the after effects in December in the January 12 blog, "Notes on life and death." That pretty much took care of December 2017 and January 2018 for me - learning, indeed.

But here, on January 28, with some fatigue left after sitting around for two months, I'm almost back to normal (whatever that is) and am looking forward to a year of looking deeper into what it means to not be 32 any more (I'll have to experiment some more to really find the limits.)

What's coming up?

I was hoping to be through with this pass through psychology and philosophy (I may make it back around to them  again) by the end of the year (I was also hoping to hike Waterton Canyon, but that, too, is put off until a later date.) but I have another couple of posts, tying up loose ends, actually. Then, next year, I plan to address religion and social sciences - there's plenty of grist in this area for these mills, and I suspect you have many opportunities for adventure in your areas also.

Denver has an astounding variety of religions for a "secular" area. In fact, the recent influx of people from all parts of the country and the world has brought a new interest in spirituality and religion. Being a lifelong church-goer, I was delighted to find a friendly church that has recently found a new impetus forward right across the street from our new home. Churches that are in the process of picking up after a dry or traumatic period are often some of the most exciting and vital of churches. I'm pretty much set for an adventure in religion.

And society in Denver is in the process of flux. The opportunities here are vast and the barriers are frightening. Regular people are becoming aware of a harsh underbelly in the city (admit it, your city has one too. They all do. Believe it, we all do float down here.) and many want to do something about it. For a sociologist, times are fascinating. What's gonna happen? Stay tuned!


Tuesday, January 23, 2018


--- Notes on wisdom ---

If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

St. Paul

Philosophy is a fool's endeavour. Socrates said so. He wondered at the Delphi sibyl's contention that he was the wisest person in the world until he realized that he was only wise because he knew that he knew nothing.

You can absorb all the knowledge in the world and become very, very smart, but to be wise, you have to question all of it and craftily figure it all out for yourself because there are no cut and dry answers for the questions that wisdom addresses.

Knowledge is data, but wisdom is the effective use of the data to attain life goals - to attain life goals that bring you out of yourself and other out of themselves into a greater sphere of reality. It is the path to ascendancy.



--- Links and lectures ---

This blog is about active lifelong learning - getting out and experiencing your world - but I don't want to completely dismiss audiovisual and other kinds of more passive experience. After all, opencourseware and other Internet resources, lectures, books, and documentaries can certainly prepare us for real life adventures and enrich our activities. Here, I'd like to tell you about some of my favorite podcasts and lecture from the Internet and commercial sources.

Let me first dispense with my favorite commercial source of audiovisual lectures. The Teaching Company provides college (and some high school) level courses. The lecturers are auditioned and, typically, I would call the some of the best I have ever seen and heard. More recently, they have partnered with organizations such as National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institute to offer visually rich, fascinating, and informative series. One thing I like about these lectures is that most tell me quite a lot that I have never heard before and the lecturers are active in their fields so that much of the information is current.

On scanning their website (https://www.thegreatcourses.com) the prices seem pretty steep. A course on photography is listed at $234.05, but there are 24 half hour lectures. A new movie costs $20 or more. It's like 6 movies. Still a little steep. On sale the lecture series is only $59.95 and every title goes on sale at least once every year.

In psychology and philosophy, the Teaching Company has The Great Ideas of Psychology, presented by Professor Daniel Robinson. My1997 copy is a little out of date but is still a great introduction to the subject.

The Great Ideas of Philosophy is presented by the same instructor. He does quite well in both fields.

Plato, Socrates, and the Dialogues is narrated by Professor Michael Sagrue. This is one of my favorite lecture series in philosophy. I always enjoy hearing a presenter who is passionate about their subject.

There are several series on logic and problem solving that make the difficult subjects clear. The Art of Critical Decision Making, presented by Professor Michael Roberto of Bryant University is sold as a business course but provides a useful coverage of decision making strategies for any field including everyday life.

Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning, presented by David Zarefsky, and Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World Through Experience and Reasoning, presented by Professor James Hall of the University of Richmond would be a great start for anyone interested in sharpening their reasoning skills.

Now, on the free download side, one of my favorite series in philosophy is Peter Adamson's, The History of Philosophy without Any Gaps. Professor Adamson is the Professor of Philosophy at the LMU in Munich and King's College in London. When he says "no gaps" he means "no gaps". This is the most complete presentation of philosophy I have ever seen (well, up to the Renaissance, anyway. It's an on going project). The website is at https://www.historyofphilosophy.net .

Academic Earth (http://academicearth.org) is an excellent website for lifelong learners. Like The Teaching Company, they look for the best video college courses. Unlike The Teaching Company, they are mostly filmed in classrooms so you generally won't see many of the beautiful cinematographic bells and whistles on Academic Earth, but they're free downloads! I don't want t give you too much in the way of recommendations. All the courses are great and you'll want to look through them. But I do have some favorites.

By far, my favorite psychology course is Yale's Introduction to Psychology presented by Professor Paul Bloom. Professor Bloom's presentation is insightful and surprisingly humorous. Just go to the Academic Earth website, open the "Psychology" list form the "Course" menu from the top of the page, and find Yale's Introduction to Psychology course on the alphabetical list that appears.

You won't see philosophy courses in the Courses menu - you have to use the Search box, but there are some good philosophy courses. Peter Mullican of the University of Oxford presents a great series of lectures on the Introduction to General Philosophy.

I keep an eye on MIT's opencourseware (https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm) and occasionally donate because...whoa! The courses are absolutely up to date and range from web pages that tell you what books they use - go read them - to full, everything-you-need assemblages of video classes, printed materials, complete textbooks - the whole shebang.

Professor John Gabrieli presents a great Introduction to Psychology complete with video classes and transcripts, lecture notes, problems to solve and their solutions, and more.

If you want a good overview of ethology (animal psychology and sociology) and biological anthropology, take a look at Professor Gerald E. Schneider's class, Animal Behavior.

The philosophy courses tend to vary widely in subject and not be very introductory, but there are some enthralling courses, such as the several courses in logic. If you want to dig deeper just look through the philosophy courses and select one. And if you ever decide to devote the time and effort to fight your way through the adventure of Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, certainly check out Robert Speer's presentation - It'll make the fight considerably easier.