Monday, December 31, 2007

Catching our tail

We're almost there, still nipping at our own tail, so the annual journey around the sun is almost complete, 364-1/4 days we have been traveling the more or less circuitous route, only to arrive at our beginning. Well, not quite, perhaps arriving at the beginning of one circle, yet we and the sun have been together on another journey. Together with 200 billion other suns we are swirling around within our Milky Way galaxy. And the Milky Way galaxy is heading ... where? Some astronomers think on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy. In 3 billion years. Be ready.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Contemplating the debris

I took a walk this evening with a flashlight, and the full moon, and my breath guiding my way, it was cold. And I didn't look up much at first, for I read once about the dark matter of that overhead in the night sky, the great majority of the universe, that called the dark matter (or dark matter and dark energy), accounts for 97 percent of all the universe, yet even calling it dark matter is a bit misleading, for the term "dark matter" is really a place holder, it is a made up term to describe that which cannot be described. Dark matter really means, "I don't know." Plain and simply. The great "huh?" that we dignify with "dark matter." After all the calculations are done, we are left with a remainder of 96% unaccounted for. Meaning that everything we see, the material world (which includes a whole bunch that our eyes don't see, such as infrared light, but with instruments we can "see") is 4% of the whole. Four percent! (give or take a few percent, depending on where you gather these kinds of facts). But what is 4% of anything? Not very much. Fill a glass with 96% water and 4% sand. Stir it up and see the bits swirl about the great volume of water, all the stars and galaxies of the universe swirling about in that glass nearly full of water. One cosmos theorist calls the 4% of the known universe the debris. He calls it something so unimportant that when you remove it, you will not miss it. Huh? Okay, take our glass of water with the bits of sand swirling in it, now with a filter, filter out all the sand, the 4% of the total volume. Now hold up the glass of water, the glass 96% full. Nearly full. All the stars and the galaxies and you and me gone. Yet the glass doesn't even seem to miss them. It still looks full. That is why the theorist laughs when someone looks up into the night sky and makes poetic statements about looking into the universe. He laughs because what you really are seeing is the "mere" 4% of the total. That night sky ablaze with countless stars. Is the mere 4% of the total. So tonight as I was walking in the moon lit desert, with flashlight in hand, I was thinking about the 96% that my eyes couldn't see. I switched off the flashlight and even with the full moon, the landscape was still dark, dark enough that the difference between noontime and full moon time were, I think, similar to the 96% and 4%. I then looked straight up and as always, the desert night sky is a blaze of twinkles, and I had a hard time thinking this but 4% of the whole. And of course I had to include myself and the surrounding desert in that 4%. Yes, everything on this planet Earth is included in the 4%. Then I reached down, the flashlight beam making a yellow circle on the sand, and I took a handful of sand, cold in my clenched hand, and flung it into the air, and with the beam of the flashlight watched the grains of sand interrupt the darkness, for without the sand in the air, my flashlight beam had nothing to deflect the photons. Are the stars about just so much sand flung across the universe? Or simply, as the theorist said, mere debris? We too the debris of the universe? Turning back, with the flashlight beam sweeping the path before me, I thought of the 4% as not debris, but that little of great value. And why? For hidden inside this 4% is what I think of as potential. That mysterious force call potential. And it is this force that breaks through the unknown to become ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Did God cry?

The Mayo Clinic has a resource for new parents and some answers to the question: why do newborns cry a lot? Of course the reasons are varied and many and it is the job of the new parents to figure out the immediate cause so that an immediate solution can be found. I wonder who helped Mary and Joseph with newborn baby care tips? Without the Mayo Clinic, and in the culture of those times, I'm sure Mary had to rely on the goodness and compassion of the women surrounding her (while Joseph handed out cigars?), but if she did have the Mayo Clinic, then she would have consider the following whenever baby Jesus cried.

I'm hungry.
I need to burp.
I pooped.
I'm tired.
I'd rather be bundled.
I want to move.
I'm lonely.
I'm hot.
I want to suck on something.
I've had enough.
It's just that time of day.
My tummy hurts.

Now, after considering this list, I really don't think Mary needed the Mayo Clinic. I think the women about her didn't need any list, they just knew what to do.

And what did God think of all this?
A new experience?
That we all went through.
We're not alone.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mail order Yucca

Bro. Clarence said he discovered on the web a nursery in Texas that specializes in cacti and other heat and drought resistant plants. I can't tell you how excited he is, he was outdoors all day making sketches of what plants would best fit in this or that area, and then back to the Macintosh to check the website again to determine the size and habits of this or that bush or cacti and of course the cost of his now imaginary desert garden. Well, I will wait and see if this all comes to pass, for I'm afraid our labyrinth remains undone, and so it goes sometimes, that we need to become verbs in order to create nouns. Yet isn't it more comfortable to be a noun?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The naturally unnatural future -- Returning to Eden?

"Let's start thinking about what sort of Earth we want our descendants to inherit."

What a big and difficult question. For some (or most?) it seems a simply question. But when we look around and see what our builders of the future are building, we see oodles of "artificial" mammoth structures growing in China with a gravity defying skyscraper as the most recent example, continuing the trend of "making room" with clever and interesting boxes to shelter the forever increasing numbers of humans ever more unchecked by prior evolutionary checks, so it seems that humans are restructuring the entire planet into a willy-nilly patchwork of habitats that attempt to provide creature comforts to humans, and in the process are trading the unknown for the known. Or our notion for the "known." The old notion of the "natural" is rapidly becoming the new notion of the sacred. And as our ancestors built cathedrals to house the "spirit of the sacred," the future seems wanting to save the untouched and unspoiled remaining nature and keeping it untainted forever by human touch. Have we finally found Eden? (and it was here all the time?) And this time we willingly stand outside and look in, in awe. Finally knowing that we, the once ejected, are again given the chance to be the keepers?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Writing in the sand with my index finger

Stars decorate
the sky
under I snore

Forever time stands
still waiting waiting
A baby cries

Beyond the Joshua tree
rain drops
lightning dances

A lizard waits
and listens too
the old man snores

A million snores
half a world asleep
lunch in Kyoto

A child is born
again and again and again
Right now!

Bare-bones natural and fleshy artificial?

Erase humans from the grand picture, and all is natural. Erase humans from the grand picture, good and evil disappear. This self-aware being with imagination that can be acted upon changes nature as it is and was. This being with the ability to gain insight through symbols (language) can transform imagination into acts that can reconstruct nature, which therefore makes us humans, little creators. So with our limited storehouse of precise words, we use artificial to describe creations created by little creators, and natural to describe Creation. Yes, Big Creation, which of course includes the creation of ALL, including the little creators and their little creations. So you might think the word artificial a bit artificial, for it attempts to elevate us humans into creators, when as Bro. Chet* has shown, the Tinker-toy set is already in place (and who made the Tinker-toy set?), we human after forever time have discovered we too are constructed Tinker toys!? And, all our little creations are but humans playing with the Tinker-toy set.

*see How do you make a universe? (Tinker toys)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To destinations unknown

Maybe a scientist is like a bicycle rider, and telling everyone that a destination is the goal, yet secretly the bicycle rider just loves riding the bike, and if the stated destination is reached, then hurriedly a new destination is announced, for riding the bike is what it's all about. Then over the years all these bicycle riders have little accidents here and there, making ruts in the once pristine landscape, but quickly seek atonement by announcing the bicycle rides are for humanity, they at the same time create innumerable problems for all, and create comforts and well-being too, a mixed bag that keeps them pedaling and keeps the sitters and walkers thinking we all are heading somewhere, somewhere together to an unknown destination, a destination that only the bicycle riders know where. Or do they?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A letter to my past self

I would tell my younger self that you haven't arrived yet, so instead of chiseling youthful wisdom into stone, write it in a paper journal with a yellow pencil that has a big eraser, and too, instead of planting intellectual roots, continue the journey, and when you pass fellow beings that have planted their roots, be not troubled and too quick with judgment, and finally, in the long run, kindness to others is best, even when that kindness isn't returned, and when the olive branch offered is refused with a volley of arrows, then return to the path and make haste, for another day is straight ahead, just beyond the daybreak, with always a hint of promise in the air.


From a "Calvin and Hobbs" comic strip (from the past).

Calvin: "Ah, I got the letter I wrote to myself."

Hobbes: "What did you write?"

Calvin: "Dear Calvin -- Hi! I'm writing this on Monday. What day is it now? How are things going? Your pal. Calvin."

Calvin: "My past self is corresponding with my future self."

Hobbes: "Too bad you can't write back."

Calvin (next day): "I got a letter from my past self."

Hobbes: "What's it say?"

Calvin: "Dear Future Calvin -- I wrote this several days before you will receive it. You've done things I haven't done. You've seen things I haven't seen. You know things I don't know. You lucky dog. Your pal. Calvin."

Calvin (sniffing): "I feel so sorry for myself two days ago."

Hobbes: "Poor him. He wasn't you."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Deal with it. Think about it.

"Deal with it. Think about it."*
Almost the exact words that a dear old pastor used to explain what "those old men" of the Council of Nicea handed us in 325 AD, a creed that is recited as though it were a theorem, yet in fact is a most puzzling poem. Of course a "youthful" me rebelled at the thought of sheepishly reciting anything that isn't "clear" and unambiguous and fact. He said it was the early Church Fathers way of saying that we too were to deal with what they were dealing with, so across the ages it is: "Deal with it. Think about it." A youthful me was disgusted by sheep. And now? Sheep compose most of the world. I've dealt with it. I've thought about it. Most folks just want to get by, to survive, and in the arena of ultimate questions with no simply unambiguous answers, I think most are simply too exhausted to expend an ounce of strength pondering doctrine and dogma when all they want is community and friendship and love and want most from religion is answers to how one lives peacefully in community with real friendships and how to live life lovingly.

*Today Chet Raymos writes on "Science Musings Blog" about Wallace Stevens' poem, "Man Carrying Thing" which has these line, "Deal with it. Think about it." Which sparked my memory of those words, but not from the poem.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

With eyes closed

After a late meal this evening Bro. Juniper was telling of a trip long ago to Japan and while hiking in a mountainous area he came upon a small building and thought it to be a Buddhist place for meditation. It seemed deserted so he peeked inside and was surprised to find a Christian cross on the wall. Then he heard a voice, and not understanding Japanese, he quickly shut the door, feeling a bit guilty for trespassing, but coming toward him was an elderly Japanese fellow with a long white beard. He did speak English, much to Bro. Juniper's relief, and after bowing and a hardy handshake Bro. Juniper was ushered inside. He said the floor was some sort of stone, perhaps sandstone, and even though outside it was a warm and humid day, the stone floor was cool and a welcomed seat to enjoy a cup of green tea. Soon it became apparent that the elderly gentleman was most hungry for someone to share talk of the Bible with, and what Bro. Juniper remembers most was a discussion about the meaning of Matthew 6:22, and the gentleman's interpretation of "if therefore thine eye be single."

Matthew 6:22-24 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

He explained to Bro. Juniper that the "eye be single" was the third eye of meditation, and he repeatedly touched his index finger to his forehead, emphasizing where the third eye is located. He went on with comparisons of Buddhist meditation, and even the Hindu concept of the inner eye. He said Jesus didn't use the plural "eyes" but the singular "eye" and how that means the inner eye and how Jesus was teaching how the inner eye guides the whole body to be light, to be pure. Bro. Juniper remained there for a few days, and quickly learned the discipline of awakening for pre-dawn meditation. He said he left with a greater desire to somehow wed the Eastern "inner-eye" meditation with his more traditional Christian meditative prayer. During this storytelling we all listened with keen interest, many of us nodding as though that is how we understand this scripture, but then Bro. Sedwick said he didn't agree. It was his understanding that in the 1st Century a common Hebrew idiom was "eye be single" or "good eye" (as well as various translations: "if your eye be clear" and "if your eye be whole" and "if your eye be healthy") and meant someone being generous. Someone with a "bad eye" was greedy. Then with a bit of deductive reasoning, Bro. Sedwich noted that Proverbs 22:9 reads, "The person who has a good eye is blessed, because he is generous and gives to the poor." And with a bit of finality in his voice, thumbed through his Bible and then read Proverbs 23:6, "Beware of the man with the evil eye, he knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing." Bro. Clarence then entered the discussion saying he can easily think of the meditative "inner eye" as being an eye that sees the light in the darkness, and therefore sees the true value of generosity and the ultimate inhumanity of greed. I nodding in agreement to that too as I departed for a short stroll in the now very chilly desert night. Then after a bit and with two eyes closed, I aimed my third eye to heaven. And something funny happened. Inside my head I imagined the Milky Way overhead and could only think of how generous God is to a mere human staring up with eyes closed. But still seeing.