Friday, August 31, 2007

109 is a big number today

I was wearing my woven yucca wide-rim hat just to make a quick dash out to the thermometer that is nailed to the honey mesquite, and it read 109 in the shade of that tree. That was enough outdoors for me. Then back inside to the drone of the swamp cooler and the fictional world of Yann Martel's "Life of Pi." I would guess the most popular reading material in the world is fiction, for the novel fascinates most of us, with the better ones creating imaginary worlds that for hours on end we are pulled into, yet this or that distraction can bring us back to the reality of the moment and the magic is gone. For me it was replaced with another magical moment, for Bro. Simon came to show me a copy of Marc Chagall's "White Crucifixion" which I must admit had me mesmerized, for it has been awhile since I have really studied and felt a painting by Chagall. And what a master of fantasy he is, his images evoke wonders beyond what words can describe. We decided to hang the reproduction in the dining room beside a reproduction of van Gogh's "Olive Trees." I suppose saying they are reproductions means that you may have thought they the originals? Today the only original is atop my head, an original Bro. Clarence woven yucca fiber hat.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Let it be

Just a bit ago I took a lantern outside and headed for the unfinished labyrinth. Still hot in the desert darkness, yet the canopy of stars lit my every glance upwards, and being alone I found myself humming, then singing that old Beatle tune, "Let it Be.” And isn't it interesting that a piano was playing inside my head. Soon I found myself laying in the center of the labyrinth, that area somewhat complete, complete enough that I had a rather flat stone for a pillow, and above I took in the universe. Instead of rhapsodizing about the stars, I simply chewed on some beef jerky that Bro. Simon made last week. Very spicy. Then I thought of everything that seems to be, yet is completely different. Bro. Juniper brought back some newspapers from his trip to Barstow and the Los Angeles Times had a story on memory that I found interesting. A scientist attempting to figure out exactly how memory works. And then to zoom in and watch memory working on slices of rat's brain. And it comes down to very tiny bits of this and that inside the brain. Of course I want them to find a grand ballroom, with huge movie screen, sound system, something for smells, and in the middle MY reclining chair. But no, all the senses send their various signals and before entering the brain, they are converted to electrochemical codes that make their way to the part of the brain that knows how to decode the codes. And then what? Here I was, looking straight up, the photons of countless stars that have been traveling for countless years, finally reach Earth and finally reach my opened eyes and are focused and hit the retina and ... and in the grand ballroom that I imagine, I see the Milky Way. See? Not only is my brain decoding the codes send to it, but is creating this image of the Milky Way, not in my head, but countless light years above my head! I think what I see is actually up there! When I know it is actually inside here! Inside my brain. My whole life is inside my head! But that brain is busy projecting, tossing out before my nose, the whole recreated world that was made from bits and pieces of codes inside my noggin. I think Bro. Simon used too much cayenne, for my tongue was burning ... or was it? I thought it was, but really I know that the burning is taking place deep inside my brain, along with images of countless stars, and a piano with Paul McCartney playing “Let It Be” just for me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

We foregathered and captured star light

Late last evening a few of us were gathered around the dining table discussing some recent celestial observations, last week found some of us watching 'shooting stars' in the wee hours, and last night Bro. Clarence set up his telescope and we had a grand time viewing that which is beyond even our imagination. Can you imagine eyes bombarded with photons that have been traveling through space for countless light-years from distant stars? Can you imagine being touched by a star? Yet we were, really touched, by real photons -- light -- star light captured by our open eyes! The following is what I remember of our post-stargazing dining table discussion.

I think the times are a changing. The religions or belief systems that refuse to awaken to how science works and the 'truths' discovered by the scientific method will go the way of the Dodo (I believe). Truth trumps all. I personally believe in a Creator of ALL, and for me to dismiss the scientific method in its discovery of truths, would be for me to misunderstand and deny the grand Truth. Yet I do not confuse science with scientist, or the practitioners of science, for the irony is that truths revealed care not who reveal them, be they someone moral, amoral, or immoral. Today computers are discovering truths. Truth cares not that a machine reveals a bit more to change some of the unknown into the known. Now we all can have a knapsack filled with truths, truths that our ancestors never imagined, so here we are, the load upon our backs, will we find happiness easier to come by, or kindness towards others easier, or empathy for those hurting around us, an empathy that translates into actions, actions to make wrongs right? Science gives us this knapsack filled with tools, but can we be wise using them when it becomes so easy to exploit the entire earth for the sake of our short-lived comfort? Science can't answer these ultimate questions of human motives, for science doesn't care. Gratefully many scientist do care, but if as some wish for the future a world without religion, then I wonder, will any then be left that remember what caring actually means?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rambling on a hot night in the Mojave

Exploiting potentiality with imagination to nurture empathy.

I view all life infused, if you will, with potential, much of the inorganic too is infused with potential, potential in that elements can and will combine to create compounds, in physics we postulate that fundamental matter particles (quarks) combine to create protons, neutrons and hadrons. This 'potential' seems to be the given in the cosmos, we don't see a Big Bang exploding with a bunch of 'somethings' that forever remain separate 'somethings', but we do see a bunch of 'somethings' interacting, combining, mutating, structuring, building upon one another to create new 'somethings' that never existed before (or so we think). Darwinian Evolution is all about potential. When you awake in the morning, once you open your eyes the world bursts forth into potential. We even speak of 'latent potential' to refer to that which does not presently exist. So, 'exploiting potentiality' means mindfully being aware of your own state of potential. And what about imagination? Is it really so uniquely human? I think so. To imagine what does not exist as if it did exist and further to exploit your potential to make that imagination a reality. Who else can claim that? Yes, chimps and dogs can be clever, but don't mistake cleverness for imagination -- big imagination. And finally empathy. We can read, if you will, another's feelings and emotional state and physical situation, and somehow transferring their state of being to oneself, it becomes the proverbial walking two moons in your neighbor's moccasins before passing judgment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The formula

Exploiting potentiality with imagination to nurture empathy. That puts us at the intersection of the cross. From there all things are possible.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Do something about it

Bro. Clarence filled me in on a bit of the mystery of Cargo Pants Man. After meeting up with him today, Bro. Clarence showed him to the petroglyphs, and during their stroll to the site Bro. Clarence asked if he could turn on his tiny recorder, and for the remainder of the hike they discussed the early Mojave Indians and how these ancient people considered the dream world as real and perhaps even more important than the physical world. Dreams gave them power and knowledge. It was then that our visitor told of his early betrayal by the church. I won't go into details, for I respect the special relationship between the two men as they both sought to understand through reason an ancient world of dreams and visions as well as the messiness of their own worlds. I transcribed the following (after getting an okay), here our visiting friend speaks of betrayal.

"The worst disapointment in life is when one discovers that someone that one holds special or in high esteem proves to be far less than honorable. And when that person also holds a position of family or community trust, then disappointment is too mild a reaction, normally one is disgusted and further, wants to make things right and hold that person accountable for their breaking of the trust. Trust is fragile yet necessary for we as humans to maintain community, be it a community of two or two million, as well trust granted and received maintains our sanity. Without trust one finds oneself in a very scary world, and then the only option is retreat, which is often the state of being for those homeless. Yes, the human condition is far too often messy, and we all find ways to deal with this messiness, often it is to ignore it, much harder is to attempt to understand it, and much much harder is to do something about it."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Uncommon wisdom

Last night I told Bro. Clarence about my encounter with Cargo Pants Man (for some reason he didn't want to give his name, so as a bit of jest I called him Cargo Pants Man, and he quickly replied he liked his new nickname). Because of Bro. Clarence's science background, he said he will seek out the anthropologist today in hopes of sharing a discovery, some petroglyphs that he believes were made by the early Mojave Indians. I shared from my notebook with Bro. Clarence and he was particularly intrigued with this quote from Cargo Pants Man:

"I do think humanity lost its sense of community when we left tribalism, then each felt very personally the decisions of each and every other member of the tribe, so I find it no mystery that today war can be 'played out' in far away places, yet 'we' go about our own business in our own microcosm, when we should, as a society/community, all feel personally the decisions of those we elect to lord over us. Iraq War? We should have the military draft, and not just draft the youth, but draft across the board, everyone gets an equal chance to go to war. You have issues about 'fighting', well I would allow you to serve your time as a prison guard in any one of the many prisons. Or pull neighborhood watch in the inner cities. All kinds of honest work that would transform us all, for the better, to be citizens of a society/community that would take care in making decisions, for each decision would have realtime and personal consequences."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cargo pants man

Dawn split heaven from earth this morning as a long-shadowed figure walked toward me silhouetted by the rising sun -- cargo pants man greeted me with a smile -- he with knapsack filled with tools to record the mysteries of the prehistoric desert peoples he told me of -- a laptop notebook to capture thoughts, a Nikon to record burnt fire rings left by Paleo Indians and maybe a Clovis Point would be the jackpot for cargo pants man -- in his quest to imagine rituals and ceremonies that excited his speech in a mysterious sort of way -- his excitement suddenly turned to sobriety when I told of my quest to imagine this fellow called Jesus, he too from a desert clime -- seated atop large boulders he shared tales of Anasazi and Hohokam and Mogollon and I shared my tuna sandwich when he unexpectedly cracked a smile when I imagined Jesus wearing a pair of cargo pants just like those of cargo pants man.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Like pirates,
farmers bury
treasures in the earth

Monday, August 06, 2007

100, a really hot number

It has cooled a bit, the mercury hovering around 100 Fahrenheit. I like Fahrenheit, the scale of measurement of temperature that is, for I don't know much about Gabriel Fahrenheit, except for what Bro. Clarence told me this evening. It was Fahrenheit who came up with the glass tube filled with mercury, for the predictable expansion of mercury made for an accurate thermometer. It was 1714 when Fahrenheit came up with the scale for his mercury thermometer, with 32 as the freezing point of water and 212 at the boiling point. And when someone says the mercury is hovering around 100, I know exactly what that means. 100 is a nice, big, and hot number. I mean, 37.7C just isn't a very telling number, no impact, no hotness to it at all.

And later I took some notes after a discussion around the dining table. With Bro. Clarence back, it seems science is the topic of the day, or how science relates to the human condition, or put another way, as a person of faith, how do I react to the modern world where science, or I should say the byproducts of science, have consumed those who find themselves in the middle of modernity. So forgive me if you've heard much of this before.

Science is amoral, the scientist can be moral, amoral, immoral. Science itself does not question the morals of the scientist. Of course society attempts to hold the scientist to whatever ethics and morals that they deem right. The question becomes, what is "right"? Science gives an answer that is relative to each and ever entity, what is "right" for the gazelle is "wrong" for the lion. "Rightness" for the gazelle is survival, "rightness" for the lion is eating the gazelle, for survival.

" I'm uncertain whether or not science embraces any particular economic or political system. I'd be curious for you to elaborate."

Obviously the R&D of any company is where you will find scientist doing scientific things, so no question about science and business working hand in hand, that's what modern economics is all about, invention for fun and profit and a more comfortable life for all. Right? Without this economic system that embraces science, scientist would be out chopping wood and milking cows, and so would everyone else, for without scientist getting paid to discover and invent and make things that others can use, then the scientist is not a working member of the tribe, somewhat like the shaman, or priest. Now what about the university, that world apart from the messiness of the business world, how about the sanctity of the research lab? Surprise, surprise, research labs are funded, for the most part, by government and business. The "military-industrial complex" that Ike warned about is what helps fund many university research labs today.

"In the 20th century, a variety of sources, from government organizations to military funding to patent profits to corporate sponsorship to private philanthropies, have shaped scientific research."

So I would say that amoral science "embraces" anyone that does it. The religious (scientist and nonscientist) can attempt to add morality to the mix. The non-religious scientist can attempt to add his or her own personal morality to the mix. But sometimes morality is left by the wayside. Thomas Edison attempted to demonstrate the safety of DC electricity (and corner the market) by electrocuting animals using Tesla's AC electricity as promoted by his rival George Westinghouse. In NYC he electrocuted "Topsy" the elephant to prove his point that his competitor's brand of electricity was dangerous. But in the end, "science" doesn't care, for science is merely a tool for discovering truths -- one truth is AC electricity can kill an elephant. Science, an amoral tool in an amoral universe.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Was he sad too?

Sometimes I wonder ... when the unholy are the holy and the holy are the unholy ... and all the others that are the neither nor ... and this morning I saw a rattlesnake with a lump in its throat.

And a bit more ...

Sometimes (often?) appearance fools me, especially when folks camouflage their true appearance with the dress or guise of what they want to be, or think they be, or what they think others think them to be, yet hidden within is often something quite differen, perhaps undiscovered to the very person that confuses others with their persona. Especially disturbing are those that we think are spiritually in a right place, yet we discover they are not. As for the Mojave rattlesnake, a lump in our throat may indicate deep feelings and mind halting our speech for the moment (wise mind!), but for the rattlesnake that I stumbled upon, and by the size of the lump in the throat, I would guess a rabbit. A whole rabbit swallowed! Sometimes the dangerous do dangerous things, especially to the meek and timid -- the rabbits.