Miscellany

General topics with no specific theme.

How Einstein Saw the World

Nutritious food for thought.

Creative by Nature

Albert

“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave.

This was a Catholic School in Munich. I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system?

From the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers. I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy.

The more I read, the more puzzled I was…

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How We Participate in the Creative Experience of the Universe

Creative by Nature

cosmic owl

We live in a Universe that is creative by nature. Each living being is a unique expression of that creativity, and participates in the Life of the Cosmos in at least four ways.

The first creative act begins with our conception, the merging of sperm and egg from our father and mother. From that combining of ancestral DNA, each being successfully constructs a physical body built up of molecules and atoms, the “star dust” of our Universe. We take many months engaging in this first creative act, prior to even being born. For many, this is seen as a kind of miracle, as there has never been and never will be another “you” or “I” in the history of the Cosmos. 

The second act of creation that we partake in is that of sensory perception and consciousness, our subjective experience. Each morning, after we awaken from sleep, our brain immediately begins to weave sensory input into the unique experience of being…

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Six Words and a Melody

“No more war. No more bloodshed.”

The plea of a human heart.

What can change the hearts and minds of those who have determined violence is the way? Those to whom violence gives a sense of power? Those who feel justified in killing and maiming based on ideology or personal loss?

I do not know. The dreamer in me thinks it could be a melody. A simple vibration in the universe that pleases the ear and quiets the mind. What if a a song could defeat ego? After all, a tank can be turned into a beautiful melody.

What do I know? I am only a dreamer.

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A Declaration of Peace

I have been reading a biography of Sitting Bull, the famous Lakota leader. Like most good books it is interfering with my official duties though only a few chapters in. It’s an enjoyable read, but one aspect is unsettling though not unexpected. The narrative is steeped in war, as was the Lakota culture of the time (and as much of my culture is still today). Truly, most human cultures are steeped in war.

Hence, war is very much on my mind today, and I haven’t even read the most recent headlines concerning the Levant. This is a strange wheel we ride. War brings death and pain and suffering. It rends hearts and bodies. We honor those who sacrifice themselves in its fire and foster aid societies for their relief. We speak of the awfulness of it and how it is to be avoided if at all possible. We even give lip service to the idea of avoiding “unnecessary casualties”.

Still, we don’t get off the wheel. We never fight the war to end all wars. Seemingly, that war can’t be fought with any weapon we can fashion outside of the human heart, and perhaps it is just too painful for most of us to fashion the weapons that could fight that war. So we have the paradox of accepting the horror of war as being less horrible than the hard work and sacrifice that would be required to end it.

Instead, we feed the fire. We rationalize that “Such is the way of the world” without due acknowledgement that this is only so because humans choose it to be so. We argue of who started what when that is really no longer even relevant. Offense has piled upon offense, vengeance upon vengeance, to the point there is more responsibility and injury to go around. Like little children on the playground merry-go-round, we kick and kick to keep the wheel spinning to the point we are sick, but we keep kicking anyway.

Well I am sick of being sick. It is possible to turn the other cheek. It might get one punched yet again. It might get one killed. But the only way to stop the war wheel from turning is for enough individuals to decide to stop feeding it and just step off. Its energy comes from human beings so human beings can starve it of that energy.

I know what is coming. “That’s easy for you to say! You don’t live in a place of conflict. You haven’t lost friends and family to a hardened enemy.” Guilty as charged. So please know I’m not judging anyone who does live in such a situation. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do, only observe what the effect of justifying war and violence has been and suggest–as have much greater hearts and minds than my own–that there is another way. A way hard in its own right, to be sure. A road less-traveled. Still, a road none-the-less.

I will ask something of those participating in or fostering violence and war as a solution to our conflicts. Do you think this one is the one? Is this bomb or bullet or rocket or stone the one that will finally do it? That will turn the tide and bring about the actual end of violence and killing? Is it the one that will soothe the human heart of the pain and grief of losing lives and limbs and family in war? Will it actually right the wrongs? Will it bring back the dead? Because if it is not the one, then it is very likely just one more kick to keep the wheel of violence spinning on. It is very simple human mathematics. Death and destruction produce death and destruction. Vengeance produces vengeance. Like begets like. Killing enemies creates more enemies from the friends and family of the one who has been killed. Isn’t that why you justify killing? Why would the other side be any different?

It will never stop unless we stop it. So this is my declaration of peace.

This post is dedicated to those fighting in Palestine and Israel, not for Palestine and Israel, but for the shared human dignity of peace; and to those like them in places of conflict all around the world.

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Into the Wild

My apologies to Jon Krakauer. I am unabashedly stealing his title for my own non-commercial use. I won’t do so without giving him due credit, nor for that matter without recommending you read his (to me) wonderful little book about the life and passing of Christopher McCandless. It’s the sort of book that could change your life if you allow it.

I commandeer the title though because of something it implies, mainly that “the wild” is something that can be gone into and out of. From the perspective of civilization, I suppose there is a certain amount of truth in this. My home to the naked eye is more domestic than the hillside behind it, which itself is more domestic than the larger expanses of forest in the mountains to the east, which are more domestic than the great expanses of “wilderness” in Canada, etc. “Wild” in this sense means a place inhabited by no or few people or at least less-impacted by the hand of humanity. Fair enough.

However, this seems to me a terribly misleading idea. Certainly what we humans do tends to leave a footprint. Often a big muddy one all over Ma Nature’s pretty carpet. We don’t like admitting that we have the tendency to muck up the joint but only the most delusional truly deny it. It’s obvious just about everywhere one looks. Even those “wild” places often carry the marks of our passing. My favorite trout streams are wreathed by railroad beds of past industry and often harbor fish not native to the region. We are a herd of bulls in a very small china shop.

Still, to impact something is not the same as controlling it. The processes (and ultimately “laws”) of the natural world remain intact. Dammed (damned?) rivers still have a way of finding the sea or evaporating into the air. Deserts blooming with the desired produce of mankind stop blooming as soon as the water supply is cut off. Weeds pulled from my garden have a way of coming back. Again and again and again. We may channel certain natural forces, even alter them incredibly, but in the end we never really control them. Reality remains undomesticated and our attempts to domesticate it are futile at best or self-destructive at worst (and unfortunately, destructive to other creatures as well).

I am trying to shift my paradigm. To see the world as it is. To see that “the wild” may be altered but not conquered. To see that my domesticated home is filled with wild creatures–from the birds that nest on it to bees that nest in it to the billions of unseen creepy crawlies that as I type are swarming over my keyboard and desk and hands and all the rest of my body. To see that I need what they need–air and water and habitat. To see that the physical and chemical and organic processes that govern them also govern me and all my kind. To see that I have made my home in the Great Wild. I cannot go into the wild because I am already there. I was born into it and so were you. It is to our mutual peril when we think otherwise.

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WHAT THE CORMORANT TOLD ME

Spendid

rageagainstthedams

The cormorant swims upstream past the canoe launch on the Indian Head River, occasionally poking his head beneath the river’s slick surface as he paddles by me. Upon reaching the bend some fifty yards up current, he turns and allows the flow to carry him back past where I’m standing at the ramp. Then he turns and repeats his upstream search. We’re here, the cormorant and I, for the same reason. We’re looking for trout. To be more precise, we’re waiting for trout. The hatchery truck hasn’t arrived yet, but we remember that at this time last year the river was full of trout.

The annual trout migration, via state owned tank trucks, has been delayed by a long winter and a late spring. The cormorant and I have been conditioned to arrive at the river at about this time every year with the expectation of finding a stream full…

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Not Always So Serious

A sense of mission can be a blessing in life. Like most blessings, it can also be a curse. Single-mindedness can lead to tunnel vision. Failing to lift our eyes from the path we doggedly pursue, we can miss some lovely sights along the way.

I am usually not so serious as many of my posts. I laugh. A lot. I watch silly shows. Sure, I’m interested in “deep” topics and philosophy and spirituality and the meaning of it all, but sometimes I just want a chocolate chip cookie. One made by my wife. In fact, forget the cookie–just give me a bowl and a spoon and the dough. Save a step and some energy and help the environment, right? No fossil fuels required to just eat the dough. But there I go getting serious again.

I like to watch my chickens rove about the yard. I can’t decide whether they are very serious or not serious at all. They seem to take themselves pretty seriously, but the way they mingle with my cats shouts absurdity. It doesn’t help that they are naturally humorous in their locomotion, and victims of  a great existential practical joke, what with having wings and all but being unable to truly fly. Do they watch the sparrows and finches and crows that often visit with a touch of envy? Do they get the joke? One wonders.

I love to get lost in music, or the sound of a mountain stream, or the sighing of the wind in lonely high places. If feel so small and absurd myself in such places, a tiny bit of cosmic flotsam deposited by currents far beyond my little brain’s ability to conceive. Somehow, feeling so small feels grand and feeling grand breeds laughter and silliness.

To be honest, most days I’d rather spend holding hands with my wife or catching a fish or just sitting around a fire with a friend or three as opposed to “doing something important”. Accomplishment seems so powerful in the moment, but at the end of my journey I don’t see it mattering much. My, there I go again. The serious just refuses to surrender the spotlight doesn’t it?

Well today, it isn’t getting it. It’s April Fools Day…a salute to pranksters and jokers and yes, just plain fools among us. Within us. So today I shall let a bit hilarity rule. I will take my work seriously but not SO seriously. I will look at all the reasons to laugh and maybe just do something for fun. Because I can. Because I am alive.

 

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First Aid Kit “Silver Lining”

First Aid Kit “Silver Lining”

I stand in awe of the soulful talent of First Aid Kit.The song fills some sort of musical hole in my being. Well done, ladies. Well done…

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We Are All Gods, Every One…

Now, before my theist friends begin formally filing charges of blasphemy and my atheist friends just roll their eyes (yes, I have atheist friends!), please hear me out.

I am not saying any one of us bundles of mental energy wrapped in dust is THE God or that you have to even believe THE God exists (though I myself do). We’ll save that discussion for a mountain hike or trout stream or over beer and pizza.

What I do mean is this–every last one of us is creative. Some of you are going “Not me…I’m about as creative as a rock.” Well first of all, how do you really “know” that rock isn’t creative? But that too is another discussion for another time. I assure you however, you ARE in fact creative. You may not be an artist or musician or poet or novelist but you are creative.

In fact you are creating right now. You are creating thoughts about this blog post or God or beer and pizza or something else. Those thoughts are jostling their way in among the myriad other thoughts dancing about your mind. Some of those thoughts will dance enthusiastically enough to really get your attention. They will grow and take on a life of their own by spawning other thoughts and captivating your focus. Most importantly, some of those thoughts will be be spawning actions (or non-actions). Those actions and non-actions will then have much to do with what happens in your life. In a most very real sense, you are creating your own life. Right now. Moment by moment, thought by thought, deed by deed.

Why not create something beautiful?

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You Need You to Shut Up Right Now

Yes you. Please shut up.

I am talking to you:

You, the Chicken Little screeching “The sky is falling!”

You, in the midst of your tirade against the evil who ever it is that you are certain is evil and is going to be the downfall of tribe, nation, or world.

You, so wed to your ideology, philosophy, theology, or maybe just the lovely sound of your own incessant chirping that you can’t see outside the walls of the nice little nesting box you have built for yourself.

You, who is certain that naysayers against your near-divine diatribes must be utterly and likely irrevocably stupid to dare have a different opinion than your own.

You, who are certain the brown people or white people or liberal people or conservative people or the rich people or the poor people or Muslim people or Christian people or secular people are the problem.

You, who are certain that whatever the problem you are not it.

WAIT! Some days that is me. I chirp and moan and whine and point fingers. I look down on difference in behavior and perspective and opinion. I open my mouth instead of my ears…and more importantly my heart.

There are problems in the world for certain–human, environmental, economic. Ignoring them isn’t helpful. Neither generally is our name-calling, finger-pointing, and pontificating. And most certainly our fear-mongering, self-obsession, and close-mindedness not only do not help us find solutions but create even more problems.

So, if all we can do is any of the above, we really do need to just shut up. But if we have something positive to contribute, a potential solution to a problem, a success to share, let’s do that. Over a beer or a glass of tea. With an awareness that whatever the negative circumstance we are dealing with, more negativity is unlikely to solve it. If we can open our mouths, then surely we can open our eyes and ears and minds and hearts as well. Yeah. Let’s do that.

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