This was the year where the fabric showed the fray.
Yesterday’s fine remnants will by tonight disintegrate;
watch the sepia and technicolor memory tatters fall away
to reveal the high definition empty clutter of today.
Eras have moved, the world has changed, and Lou Reed is dead.
The Prophesy of St Malachi has come to be;
the Last Catholic Pope resigned; the First Christian Pope sits in his stead.
And blind justice was assaulted and shot in the head
by thugs wrapped in patriotic rags screaming liberty
marching to tinkling spent shells
through elementary school halls become hells.
The broken sky is showing its cracks
as the storms are growing in stacks;
and as they deny it is happening they are gleefully mapping
the coming Northwest Passage and the business it will bring.
While glaciers older than agriculture become evaporate,
unveiling ancestors who perished in the last shift of climate
our heads buzz with news of sassy singers and their sexy shenanigans.
Our children turn inward as artificial environments trigger epigenetic autism;
Unresisting inmates doing hard time in candy crush prison,
clever screens are more charming than what lies outside them
These magic toys disconnect everyone through desire and games,
and soon daydreaming will be measured for commercial gains.
Archive for the Science Category
This was the year where the fabric showed the fray.
Throughout my life I have had been lucky enough to have brief but vivid encounters and conversations with some of my favorite authors. I have bought Ray Bradbury a taco, bummed cigarettes to Tim O’Brien, and fetched Gwendolyn Brooks hot coffee; and then there was my lunch with Fred Pohl. At the time I was probably twenty three or so, taking a class in science fiction literature that he had come to speak at; he was in his late sixties or early seventies at the time but had the energy of a man my age. The lecture was fantastic and the discussion spilled out after class into the cafeteria, where he and I ended up talking over plastic wrapped sandwiches for another hour or so.
I remembered vividly talking at lengths about the theater; although he was not a playwright he and his wife enjoyed attending plays and at the time he was working on a novella where one of the characters was an actor. I remembered how encouraging and positive he was, and how affectionate he and his wife were. He told me a funny story about how Isaac Asimov had relentlessly mocked L Ron Hubbards’ terrible writing and his bizarre cult, and he pointed me towards a really difficult to find short story where Asimov takes a hilarious shot at Scientology in the form of a ladies’ knitting circle that takes over the world.
His writing was better than good; his stories are a foundation upon which much of modern sf and pop culture at large is built. Novels like ‘Gateway’ are so well written and prescient that it is hard to believe they were written decades ago. If you haven’t made his acquaintance, I urge you to introduce yourself to my departed friend, Fred Pohl.
We are moving into the Deeps of Summer
where magic can still be found sparking in the hot nights and long afternoons of adventure lurk in the heat;
music and art and Shakespeare in the Park, fire seared meat and laughter in the dark.
The Moons of Summer hang huge and near
in the star speckled skies of infinite spectacle flecked with new comets and flickering aurorae
over the humming buzz of cicada broods, shining silver wash across the world.
The fruitful Life of Summer multiplies
itself by itself radiating outward into every crevice throughout existence from mere elements
what about a mountain is inanimate? what about a molecule is alive?
According to this FOX guest, ‘Reason’ is the reason for the Holocaust.
Conspiracy Theorists: This is how stupid you sound. No, wait, you sound this stupid.
Have a happy Friday.
No need for apologies between us. I know what you mean. I also apologize for continually responding with new posts, but as my responses take a moment to compose I need to jump between computers and that makes writing in the comment blocks pointless.
When I wrote, “Both of these documents probably came into being within fifty years of the Truth Event.” referring to Mark and Matthew, I was placing the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the early-30’s CE, so that would place these documents sometime around 80 CE. Of course, this is all up for debate to one degree or another-while most place Mark first (which I agree with) there are perfectly reasonable people who argue for Matthew and since there is no definitive evidence the truth in this case remains undefinable.
(see what I did there?) 😉
While I would agree that Christianity was ultimately strengthened by its response to the sack of Jerusalem, it must have been a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After all, the very event they were expecting to precipitate the return of the Messiah was the destruction of the Temple and it absolutely did not happen. This is why I think any date before 70 CE is unlikely; the appearance of the Gospels must be a response to an existential threat because if the principle of equal and opposite reaction applies, the Gospels are like nothing else in human writing and could not have been brought about as an afterthought. If we are to speak of the inspiration behind these texts, imagine the urgency those elderly Apostles felt when they realized the gift of the Good News could be lost to the world. Becoming the state religion of the Roman Empire was a result and vindication of their efforts; the purpose of His Ministry was always to transform the world, not to make a perfect church of united catechism. The religious apparatus was the only thing to survive the fall of the Western Empire, and the Church enabled the Renaissance to incubate in a Europe darkened for a thousand years, ultimately bringing with it the Scientific Method and all the fruits of the modern world into being. (Even as the Church had its own share of the responsibility in bringing the Dark Ages into being by burning all of the ‘pagan’ literature they could get their hands on.)
In terms of ‘believing’ in the Resurrection and my status as a ‘Christian’; I suppose that what I have difficulty expressing is that I don’t know what people are talking about when they talk about ‘believing’ in things like miracles that happened two thousand years ago. There was a day in Rome when I walked through the Porta Sancta during the last Jubilee when I had a powerful spiritual experience that I have written about before and I think it is the sort of thing you are talking about. However, I don’t understand the significance of attesting to my absolute certainty of an event that even the eyewitnesses to could not agree upon; I don’t understand what such an act signifies spiritually or why the condition of my soul depends on whether or not I can vividly imagine Jesus rising from the grave. My answer to the question of the Resurrection is a sturdy ‘I don’t know’; I’m sure that this puts me in the wrong from the point of view of most Christians, but to be fair, if I had a message for the bulk of Christians, it would simply be, ‘You’re doing it wrong’. I’m fine with being excluded from my local chapter of the Jesus Christ Show Club according to the bylaws of whatever Holy Order of Christketeers has determined me ineligible for membership. The Creeds and Councils of Nicene and Constantinople bind me no more than the oath the Boy Scouts tried to get me to say; I am not following Christ along a path set by those who are lost themselves. On the other hand, everyone is included in my club so it’s all good in the hood, homes. I got you guys covered.
These discourses are a spiritual experience for me as well.
Recently I was discussing politics with friends and the conversation turned into one of intelligence, with the predictable bias towards conservatism being associated with stupidity and progressives being the smart crowd. I refuse to accept the premise as is it absurd on every level and in direct conflict with the evidence. Furthermore, intelligence isn’t what we think it is; it gets complicated when we’re talking about ‘smart’ and ‘stupid’, especially in regards to politics. To begin with, there is the obvious problem of subjectivity; it is very easy to regard people who agree with us as smart and the people who disagree as stupid, but to do so is to indulge in self-indulgent fallacies that only lead into deeper confusion and error. Then there is the problem of determining what it is we mean by ‘smart’ and what yardsticks we use to measure intelligence. It is at this point that I must acknowledge my own subjectivity on this matter; I love sushi, prefer a Bass to a Bud, and am a union member from a union family. Everyone has a vested interest in politics even if they don’t understand what it is, which leads to the problem of dishonest cynicism being mistaken for an equivalent ‘side’ in a debate; it is very difficult for someone to understand something when they are being paid not to.
That being said, a lot of people have real trouble grasping complex ideas that require accepting ambiguity and uncertainty as principles that seem to be essential to the operation of the universe. This is why some people are absolutely horrified by the idea of transgendered people or that the Earth hasn’t always been exactly the way it looks right now. Creative and curious people are drawn to ambiguity and uncertainty because that’s where the interesting opportunities for novel experience are; conversely, conservative personalities are repelled by ambiguity and are made anxious by uncertainty. It’s why the notion that things were once better than they are now pervades this worldview; conservatives see the ambiguity and uncertainty around them as an aberration rather than a norm and refuse to accept it. From their point of view, it is preferable to stamp out ambiguity when it is found than to engage with it.
There is science that suggests that this sort of difference in thinking styles may have something to do with brain structure; I would suggest that thinking style affects the development of brain structure. In the nature and nurture debate I come in right around the middle; there is evidence that the brain is plastic and that the way we exercise it can shape its’ development. What the political/brain structure correlation study is evidence of is that the minds of conservatives and progressives perceive and process their worldviews differently, not that either of them is somehow smarter than the other. Science is a philosophical tool that has allowed humans to do amazing things; it is a self-correcting system that requires ambiguity and uncertainty be engaged head on in order to function properly. Religion is not a philosophical tool, it is far more primal than that; it is the tool that separated us from the animals. The unique creative capacity for abstract thinking of the human brain generated a kind of consciousness that never existed before on Earth, that could imagine existence beyond this life and consciousnesses greater than our own; it was a consciousness that could perceive the inevitability of its own mortality and wonder about the mysterious world it inhabited. Religion was the first response of the awakened human mind to the universe.
I’m rereading Julian Jaynes ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind‘, which, despite its unwieldy title, is an eminently readable, fascinating, and thoughtful book that presents one of the best arguments for what the phenomena of consciousness is. His ideas about the development of modern consciousness as occurring as recently as 3000 years ago are daring yet explain many questions about evidence from antiquity, as well as questions about our own situation in the modern world. Perhaps liberals and conservatives have such difficulty talking to each other because they truly are operating in different states of consciousness; perhaps it is because they are different facets of the same jewel that prevents them from seeing eye to eye. When talking about politics and intelligence it is helpful to remember that our own brains are split into bicameral hemispheres in much the same way our politics and political organs are; like Whitman singing of himself, we all contain contradictory multitudes.
I finished the above painting a few weeks back. I still have touching up and to do something with the border, but that’s more or less it. I don’t think the message is too subtle.
If you are reading this you must have already seen footage of the Chelyabinsk Event. Simply watching it is the single best argument for the continued exploration and occupation of our Solar System that can be imagined. Our Solar System is real estate that is ours to claim as well as maintain; the errant excelsior of its creation still pose a serious threat to not only our civilizations but the entire ecosystem, an extinction event of tragic finality that is as inevitable as it is preventable. We are not dinosaurs; we understand our own biology and the physical nature of the world. We understand mathematics and chemistry and have used them to travel to other worlds. We are in a moment of brief opportunity, an enlightenment undreamt of by most of the humans that ever lived, but it teeters more precariously than Camelot. What is demanded is a recognition of the spiritual significance of these events. As the Pope abdicated this week, I will assume responsibility for speaking infallibly on this matter.
Our bicameral collective unconsciousness argues over our fate, and the anxious fantasies of apocalyptic Armageddon dominate our imagination; fundamentalist theologies revolve around the end of the world and demand it’s imminent arrival. If one can draw a connection between the Chelyabinsk Event and the Chicxulub Crater, it is frightening to admit that the fundamentalists may be on to something; the rock that caused that blast was only about fifty feet across and fell through ice leaving no crater, in other words, it was a commonly small bit of rock. If that same commonly small bit of rock had fallen in the same place thirty years ago, it might have triggered a military response from the Soviets. A rock only three times that size was responsible for the Tunguska Event. Chicxculub Crater was made by an object about six miles across; we do not know the minimum size of an impacting object our species could survive but it would not seem to be a six mile wide asteroid. The apocalypse of the fundamentalists is lurking in the chaotic rubble of our Solar System, perhaps even now it is jostling into an intercepting arc, but we have technology and knowledge that no species or society on Earth has known before now, and we can effect our fate.
Fundamentalists fantasize about apocalypse because they despise the modern world, and realizing that they cannot force it back into some imagined perfect past, they wish and pray for its destruction and their subsequent deliverance. The theology of Heaven and hell is a belief where the believer is given every imaginable material comfort while they dangle their feet over the clouds and laugh at the suffering of all the people they didn’t like; it is not a terribly sophisticated vision of eternity or what constitutes paradise, for that matter. The Rapture is a modern add-on, a half-baked bit of 19th Century theology that became a 20th Century accepted truth as well as a cash cow for those who popularized the idea. Wishing for the destruction of this world strikes me as insane, but then, I’m not a fundamentalist. This does not mean I am irreligious, by any means, however, science cannot replace religion as the greatest tool in the arsenal of humanity because religion is a different tool entirely whose function made the development of science possible; while prayer and meditation is ideal for exploring the depths of the human soul, telescopes and spaceships will be far more effective for locating and deflecting incoming asteroids.
If you believe in the Rapture or otherwise think that God is actively testing humanity, consider this:
God does not wish the world to end. God wants humans to be fruitful and multiply throughout the universe because humanity is God’s favorite way of experiencing reality; this is infinitely better than gazing at the stars through trilobite eyes.
Think of an ocean which is Eternity, or God. and think of Time as the evaporated essence of the ocean, clouds in the atmosphere which is a place of constant change and little substance, and from these clouds precipitate little droplets and flakes that fall toward the ocean. These droplets and flakes are our brief lives. Can the raindrop remember it is the Ocean while it falls? As raindrops, it is difficult to know the intentions of the Ocean, but it does seem strange to believe that the Ocean wants to shut down the atmosphere and freeze it’s surface.
God delights in humanity and wishes us to live in prosperous peaceful harmony for a multitude of reasons, but not the least of which is that we are the first of the creations to speak to God. We make art and song and understand beauty and have discovered to see beyond our eyes and peer into the depths of the universe. The dinosaurs would have held this world forever if it weren’t for the Chicxulub impact and there were mass extinctions before that, resetting the slate every time. It is only in the past few generations that this pattern has been observed and only in the past few decades has the evidence of the real threat of an asteroid or cometary impact become apparent. This is not to suggest that my painting should be taken literally in any sense but rather that if any of our achievements as a species are to mean anything, we must solve the engineering problem of deflecting dangerous objects from striking the Earth, and to tame, exploit, and colonize our Solar System.
Asteroids are rich in rare metals, and the planet Mercury may be a source of heavy elements far greater than previously thought. Mars could be habitable with more water, and there is more water to be found on Europa than in any other single place in the Solar System, including Earth. Then there is all of the water in the comets, which is where the waters of Earth came from in the first place; in a very real sense, the Oort Cloud is the ocean of chaos spoken of in Genesis, the ocean that existed before the world. There are oceans of hydrocarbons across Titan and the atmospheres of the outer giants are rich in helium 3, the ideal fuel of fusion. It is as if all the raw materials have been left for us to claim; while the commercial implications of this are tantalizing, the spiritual ones are staggering.
God wants us to go forth from this planet, to spread the seed of life and bring His Image to other worlds. God wants us to protect this cradle and to exploit the bounty of other worlds to ensure that the human family should live on for all time. God wants the meek to inherit the Earth and the bold to claim the stars. God does not want us to prepare for the End but to begin building tomorrow.
The Furious Buddha