Understanding the world

The world is structured and ordered in a very particular way. What we know of it isn’t the way itself. Rather, it is our interpretation and narrative of what we can understand. 

This is similar to the Tao of Eastern philosophy. According to Lao Tzu: “The Way that can be named is not the Eternal Way.”

What we try doing by understanding – mostly through the sciences – is to shine a light on the potentially unknowable. The closer we get to the understanding of all things, the more complicated and in-depth the answers seem to become. 

For instance, one philosophy class I had considered the creation of the Universe in such a way:

Querent 1: The universe was formed during the Big Bang. There was no god necessary.
Querent 2: But what caused the Big Bang?
Querent 1: At the singularity, where all matter was densely gathered, a quantum event caused the matter to explode outward and form the mass and matter of the universe.
Querent 2: So what caused this quantum event?

And so on, and so on…

It’s like the joke of the astrophysicist told by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time:

“A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever”, said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

And you know what? Maybe it really is turtles all the way down.

To infinity, and beyond

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine suggested on Saturday that the SpaceX launch carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, from US soil no less, would encourage kids to want to become ‘the next Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Richard Branson’. Jenny List, writing on Hackaday, felt something was amiss.

“I was slightly shocked and saddened to hear this from the NASA administrator, because to my mind the careers of Musk, Bezos, or Branson should not be the ones first brought to mind by a space launch. This isn’t a comment on those three in themselves; although they have many critics it is undeniable that they have each through their respective space companies brought much to the world of space flight. Instead it’s a comment on what a NASA administrator should be trying to inspire in kids.

Ask yourself how many billionaire masters-of-the-universe it takes for a successful space race compared to the number of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, technicians, physicists, et al. From the anecdote of the NASA administrator it takes about three, but if he is to make good on his goal of returning to the Moon in 2024 and then eventually taking humanity to Mars it will take a generation packed full of those other roles.”

I wasn’t born when Armstrong first stepped on the moon. But I’ve seen the video. I’d wager that the majority of humankind has seen that footage. And behind that walk was a technological feat like no other before it. In the July 21st, 1969 edition of the New York Times, Glenn Seaborg, then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, is quoted:

Even as a scientist who has spent a good deal of his life involved in large-scale technological projects, I find the moon landing an amazing scientific and engineering feat. It personally reinforces my feeling about the great power and potential of science and technology and my belief that through cooperation and concerted efforts man is capable of solving almost any problem, of meeting almost any challenge. I hope the moon landing will have such an uplifting effect on people all over the world and help united us toward meeting some of our goals here on earth.”

Ornithology

Back in my early-twenties (or was it late teens? For the sake of legality, let’s assume I was at least twenty-one), I had an off-night at a bar. I was intoxicated, and I ended up roaming around town, no car, and no real idea where I was.

(Side note: this, in retrospect, not the best idea. I don’t recommend it. Be safe out there.)

Anyway, I call up a friend who’s in college in this town. I tell him the rough idea of where I’m at, street names and such. He comes and picks me up, let’s me sleep on a couch.

Now the next morning I’m faced with two choices – I can either stay there, subject to the whims of the others in the house, or I can go with my friend to his classes. I opt for the latter.

And the only thing I remember from that day of quasi-auditing was something about birds. There was a whole session of biology devoted to ornithology.

I didn’t necessarily have a problem with birds, but I didn’t particularly like them. At the time I was a meat-eater, and I did enjoy my chicken wings.

It was years later when I met a girl who would have rather been a bird. Or at least been able to turn into one. The dream of flight and freedom. That’s something I can understand.

This comes to mind because there are a lot of ravens up here I’ve noticed. Ravens, order Passeriformes, of the family Corvidae, are the largest of the corvids. The Raven, to the seven nations of the Northwestern tribes, is the trickster god, bringer of light, and creator of Earth.

I’ve seen them all over the shoreline and inland. They are loud birds, with a plethora of sounds that they can choose from. Somehow, leaving Alaska, I feel I’ll miss their bird song.

One small step

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing. I’ve been thinking about that for most of the week, and just how miraculous that is. That the first human being to leave the planet of his birth and step foot on another mass in space was just fifty years ago. After millions upon millions of years of this world, just a single generation ago humanity made new steps into the universe.

Have we done much since? Maybe not. But in the vast scope of how long it took us to get there in the first place, fifty years isn’t so long.

Ending 2018

To close out 2015, I had been listening to Inside Acting, a podcast out of LA. Their end-of-year episode did a year-in-review, and they gave focus words for 2016. I decided that I would do that as well.

For 2016 my focus words were distance and serenity.

Honestly I was met with mixed success. In Feb. 2016 my engagement ended. I did put distance between me and “here”, and spent a month wandering around the UK and Ireland. I returned, and spiraled into what I wrote about, my Dark Night of the Soul. I don’t know that I’ve fully comprehended the enormity of that period in my life. I feel that maybe serenity would/could have arisen out of it.

However, I left my job, moved, and started carving out new places in for me to live my life.

For 2017, I did not wish for any words to transform my life. Nor for 2018.

Now, though, I realize that it’s time to change how I’m doing things. How I’m living life. When I put distance and serenity out into the Universe, the Universe answered. Frighteningly so.

So, mere days away from my 35th birthday, and preparing to ring in 2019, I’m prepared to ask of the Universe another change of pace.

My two words, which will be my focus and energy for 2019, are:

  1. Success
  2. Harmony

Asking for these things, I put no expectation of result. I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated the ways in which my words for 2016 were received or acknowledged. However this coming year plays out, I trust in the results and will remain focused on living my life in the now.

 

Purpose

A podcast host said in a recent episode that I was listening to that “there are over one-hundred fifty-thousand books on Amazon about how to find your way in life.”

Are we truly that lost? I mean, granted, at times I feel as if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. We all do. But, we’re it.

The bird doesn’t question what it means to be a bird. It doesn’t wonder as to the meaning of its flight. It just flies.

Man alone questions the nature of existence, and our place in the world.

That is our blessing. And our curse.

An unfinished symphony

I come back to my questions, the uncertainty of who I am, what I see around me, and my place in the world. The great symphony that is creation is confusing, and I’ve no idea what instrument I am, nor do I know the notes to play.

An actor’s nightmare is showing up onstage unfamiliar with the show and not knowing the lines.

Showing up to class naked is another common nightmare.

But isn’t that what happens to all of us? We show up here on Earth to learn, to love, to fail. And we’re naked and uncertain. As we age, we think that we’re the only one unprepared, but that’s not the case. Everyone else is just as uncertain.

The great showmen, the sales team, marketers, educators – they’d have you believe that they had it all figured out. But it’s a ruse. What do they have figured out?

Time and again, technology shifts industry. Discovery shifts learning. Goods and services are transitory, as are we all.

I guess all we can do is a pick a note and play it loud. If it doesn’t happen to sound good, play another.

Can’t sleep, vol. 2

The light from the screen is blinding my near-darkness-adjsuted eyes. I’m having trouble falling asleep again.

I’m thinking about the On Being interview with physicist Brian Greene. And about the book Do the Work! by Steven Pressfield. (I’m also thinking how much computers, for all their infinite wisdom, can’t tell when something should be capitalized or not, damn autocorrect!)

In the book, Pressfield talks about thoughts. About what Buddhists call “monkey-thoughts”, or all that noise that occurs in the primitive lobes of the brain. And about the other thoughts we regurgitate from sources. 

What has me up tonight is, where do my thoughts, if any are original, come from? I’m laying in bed, and I’m hearing Brian Greene talk about string theory and quantum mechanics. I’m thinking about the origins of the Universe, as I’ve learned from theology, spirituality, Darwin and physics. I’m wondering, what the bleep do I actually know?

Perhaps this is all a bit heavy for midnight contemplation on a Sunday/Monday post-meridian interchange. But I’m just so darned perplexed. My feet won’t stop shaking, and my brain is going a mile a minute. Hence just plopping some thought vomit out on the internets. 

I’m working on a short document, exploring where I believe thoughts to come from. I doubt I’ll get to any firm answer, but at least I can muddle through these thoughts I’m having on thoughts. 

Good night… I hope.

9P(R)

My shorthand for tarot readings, Nine of Pentacles Reversed. I had a rough day at work, and decided it was time to move on; time to leave there and find a new job. I wanted to ask the Universe what today taught me. This was the card I drew.

“This card in reverse may be telling you that something you are spending a lot of time on will not yield financial or personal gain. You may be wasting effort. Consider if it’s time to throw in the towel on something that is not giving you the results you had hoped for.”

Thank you Universe.

I’m listening to Dvorak’s New World Symphony right now, to relax. I picked up a used album at a library sale a few weeks back. I’ve been wearing that vinyl down. There’s something supremely reassuring about the notes of No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95.

I had listened to a Chamber Ensemble in Prague, and the Second Movement of this symphony was played. It’s one of my all time favorites.

The title of this blog post comes courtesy of watching Shut Eye, on Hulu. I just got around to seeing it, and really enjoyed. Each episode was titled after a Tarot card, and was relevant to the plot.

The overall thoughts on my mind are new beginnings. Learning that life has a path, a plan. To quote Tosha Silver, “Let what wants to come, come. Let what wants to go, go.”

Amen!

On Heavenly Spheres

Where are we going?

This great spinning rock carrying us along?

Could it have a destination?

Does this globe know its course?

This dance with its sisters, and with the sun; an endless, graceful performance piece with music from the stars.

What are we, then, both onlookers and passengers?

Looking up, we know that beyond the veil there is something more.

A choreographer, who created these steps long ago. Also, as architect, built the floor for our waltz through the sky; set these heavenly spheres on their course, and insisted we hang on for the ride.

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