Tag Archives: universe

Selfish Snowflake

Creation is a process of separation.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

In the grand scheme, we can view all of physical reality, Creation, as separation from God.

When my daughter experienced a miscarriage, she wondered what happened to that soul. I suggested that was like asking what happens to a raindrop when it returns to the sea.

A raindrop is the result of separation of water molecules from the gas phase of the solution that is our atmosphere. Each raindrop possesses an identity separate from the rest of the world, with a boundary that defines inside from outside; however, it lacks recognizable individuality.

A snowflake is iconic individuality. Not only are snowflakes particularly unique, but they are products of a process some claim to be physically impossible: the spontaneous change from disorder to order. The exquisite structure of solid crystal lattice geometry springs forth from the relative chaos of a gaseous mixture without effort of energy.

Snowflakes are proof that order is built into the Laws of Creation.

So are we, you and me. We are separate individuals, unique in our own special ways, and that is okay. It really is.

There is no need to find the prettiest snowflake, the largest, the most ornate, symmetrical, or intricate.

There is no need to contrast the complicated snowflake with the simple raindrop, the peacock with the sparrow, the bramble with the oak, or the lion with the shrew.

So why do we do that to ourselves?

Ego is just another word for self much maligned in quotes from wounded egos blaming the wounding on other egos, and that’s okay, too. The separation that is our creation isolates us and frightens us. It threatens our existence as individuals.

It’s rather amusing. The separation that creates and defines our individuality is the same separation that threatens the survival of that individuality. Then we blame it on Freud’s creation, ego, which is actually blaming it on…wait for it…ourselves.

I have an idea: Let’s accept our egos because without an ego, individuals quite literally cease to exist. No, we do not have to be egoists or self-centered in any way. When we accept individual ego, we can become our true, complete self.

Charity is nothing more than sharing ourselves with others, but first, we have to accept ourselves so that we might become the best inchworm, teacher, salesman, or soldier we can be. We just have to be ourselves, and we do that by finding our own uniqueness, our gifts, our talents, our beauty.

Happy Tracking!

Suns of Orion

By the dying embers in the darkening forest midway between equator and pole on a tiny blue marble in Constellation Orion of the Milky Way Galaxy, somewhere in the everness, sits a soul wearing a young man’s clothes and contemplating his place, his role, his relevance.

In a few short laps of the marble about the nearest star, he sits by dying embers in the same forest, wearing a much older man’s clothes and contemplating his loss of place, role, and relevance.

Combat ages men and women at the speed of death—which is much quicker than the speed of life.

“Sixty five years. Doesn’t it go by in a blink?” (Bill in Meet Joe Black)

Reminder: For the next few months, this blog is dedicated to my reflections on a book by Ashley B. Hart II, PhD, called An Operators Manual for Combat PTSD: Essays for Coping.

Vietnam was an interruption of my quest for relevance, my study of how the universe works, my path to greatness. Yet, in service to my country, I found another form of relevance and wore it on my sleeve, collar, chest, and head. A Special Forces unit patch, Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star for Service testified to my sacrifice. A Green Beret spoke of my specialness. A “thousand mile stare” over tight lips whispered my experience.

Then I came home.

I returned to family, friends, and a place of relevance on campus of the University of Wisconsin. My destiny was in my grasp, again, but it slipped away.
I had changed. America had changed. And, we had not done so together. Dr. Hart calls it the Rip van Winkle effect.

The Veteran separated from his/her duty, back in a world focused on things that seem trivial against the experience of combat, a world that seemed to go on in her/his absence, feels out of place, unnecessary, strange, and even disenfranchised.

It is a feeling of being discarded and of being worthy of being discarded. We have lost our way.

In combat, our presence meant life or death to those around us. Our actions were not only relevant, they were all that separated vulnerability from extinction. We were survival to each other, to our teammates.

Back at home, we became decoration, nuisance, and the painful reminder of America’s choice for war. We complicate families and communities that seemed to function better without us. We struggle to find something to do that might be relevant, meaningful, useful, and positive, but we don’t seem to fit, anymore.

Aging accentuates the mortality, the vulnerability, the reality of life, and we long to leave something of ourselves for posterity.

Our little star is a son of the Orion Nebula, our planet recycled stardust. That is all we want—to be recycled stardust finding something important to do with our lives.

Support Troops After Return. Help us find something to do to serve America at home.

God’s Art: Choice Freedom

For years, every test I gave to 9th grade science students had this question: True or False—The meaning of life is choice. Now, before you get excited, let me tell you two things about my tests. First, students were always invited to explain their answers on the test papers. Second, I gave them credit for any reasonable explanation. If a student chose false, I marked it wrong. If s/he gave a reason, such as, “I believe the meaning of life is Jesus Christ,” I changed the mark to correct. It was one of my ways of helping students from three different 8th grade schools to adjust to the realities of high school, the responsibility of
consequences of our choices.

In preparation for this post, I did a little “content” research on the topic of free will and quickly concluded I wanted no part of it. Western philosophy seems to dwell on hypothetical conjecture like postulating that if God is omniscient, then He knows what I will choose, and therefore, I really only imagine a choice. I choose to not pursue a Western philosophical content, today—at least it felt like a choice. Maybe it is a form of relativity.

Hartley Peavey believes he made a choice, or a series of choices. He chose to become a rock star with a guitar. When evidence convinced him that it would never happen, he made another choice, the one to stay involved in music by doing something he had already learned to do. He built amplifiers. Serendipity brought a salesman to his door who sold them. When retail sales were restricted by guitar manufacturers’ policies, he chose to build guitars as well. His choices resulted in the international multi-million dollar Peavey Electronics Corporation.

This “God’s Art” blog section is predicated on my choice to look for evidence of the nature of the universe, particularly the nature of the mystery, design, or principles, by looking at the physical evidence in Nature. Man is part of Nature. Man’s behavior, even as studied by psychology, is a part of Nature. In my mind, the ways we humans think, cognition, is a medium of God’s Art. We make choices. Therefore, God made us with the ability and propensity for choice.

True, not everything I am results from choice. I did not choose (as I recall) to be a WASP, but I was born into a poor, white Anglo-Saxon protestant farm family. I did not choose to be male or straight. I did not choose to be a reflective introvert, either. I don’t even believe I chose to be a liberal thinker. The combination of my personal nature and my experiences, many of them shaped by my early choices, causes me to evolve in a certain way, and here I am. Am I responsible for the way I am?

Yes. And, no. I can choose to accept me as I am, deny that I am this way, or work to grow into something different. I will never be a rock star. I will never be President of the United States. I will probably never be a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winner. My beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever, Serenity, will never be a guard dog—she loves and trusts people too much.

Some people ponder and argue about whether or not humans have free will. Not me. I was once called a pragmatist, in a derogatory way, by a fellow graduate student in science. I guess I am. That’s why I look for God in Her art of Nature.

I look now at Serenity, curled comfortably on the carpet, and know that I have a choice to make because she is not at all comfortable. She is confused and in pain. Even if she recovers from this episode, her age, alone, is proof that a choice is imminent because our ethics do not permit us to watch our pets suffer the way I watched my mother suffer. The day will come, probably very soon, when Nancy and I will choose.

Not choosing is, itself, a choice. We have no choice about whether or not we choose.

I had wanted this blog to be fun and funny, especially after the last few downers, but life happens. I chose to share it with you. Choices about stuff in space and time define life.

Re Quest: Material Instructions

Many years ago, Charles Kuralt on a Sunday Morning show introduced a book called The Wisdom Keepers. It is a collection of interviews with Native American elders. I do not have a copy with me, but here is my recollection. When they approached one elder, he held up his hand to stop them. “Stop,” he said. “I know why you are here. When you came to this land, you forgot your instructions. We have never forgotten ours.”

Do we remember our instructions on how to take care of this land?

I picture a young couple with a large and growing family. The parents provide for all the children’s needs with shelter (including clothes), water, fire, and food. They hunt and gather materials. They even grow and harvest their own. As the children grow, the parents teach them how to spin and weave clothing, tan hides, make tools, and create art in pottery and baskets. The children learn to hunt, gather, grow, and harvest. They learn to make their own tools and weapons: knives, clubs, axes, atlatls, darts, bows, and arrows.

Some children turn the weapons on their brothers and sisters, claiming power and dominion over them.

Do I exaggerate? One day in 1941, bombs killed 1500 men in Pearl Harbor. Four years later, one bomb killed perhaps a hundred thousand men, women, and children in Hiroshima. Years later, a decade of war killed some 3 million people in Southeast Asia. We now have the capacity to kill that many with the push of one button.

We learned to make hotter fires from coal and oil—fires hot enough to turn rocks into steel. We learned to turn crude oil into kerosene and gasoline, creating byproducts of chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons not usually found in nature. We learned these new hydrocarbons are especially good at killing pesty things, and we had herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, carcinogens, and teratogens such as PCBs, Dioxins, and Furans. We created the most poisonous chemical known to man: 2,3,7,8, tetrachlorodibenzodioxin.

We learned to make explosive white putty. One little piece the size of a wad of bubble gum would heat my canteen cup of water in half a minute instead of half an hour with the alcohol fuel in C-rations. We learned to make plastic hips and plastic lips and plastic works of art.

We learned to steal energy not only from the electrons of atoms, but from the nuclei, also, in the fission process. Still, we want more, and we yearn for man-controlled nuclear fusion—more energy, more power, greater dominion.

We have taken a bite of the apple.

God-like power requires God-like wisdom.

Over two thousand years, many trillions of dollars, and political wills of nations—and against winds of heresy, persecution, prosecution, and excommunication—we have discerned many laws of the material universe. How do we like us, now?

How dare we employ the tools and weapons of material research without the tools and weapons of moral research? Where are our discussions of ethics? Have we not only forgotten our instructions, but abandoned all interest in them in the pursuit of greater glory and dominion?

A view of freedom as the absence of rules is the folly of adolescent bullys.

Where and when will we discuss our rules for caring for this land and each other?

God’s Art: Intelligent Design

An imagined prehistoric fireside conversation on the kindness of stuff…

“Hey, Org, there’s a lot of stuff around here.”

Org looks around at the fire, rocks, and pieces of wood. “What do you mean?”

Nog picks up a small piece of wood and tosses it at Org. “Feel that? Stuff takes up space.”

Org rubs the bump on his head and picks up a rock. “Stuff can be heavy, too.”

Nog pulls a long, burning stick from the fire. “Some stuff is hot, too, Org.”

Org drops the rock, staring at the fire. “What about fire, Nog? It’s not heavy.” He passes a stick through the fire. “Doesn’t take up space, either.”

“Hmm,” Nog says, “different kind of stuff.” The two look at each other.

“Nog?” Org says, picking up a rock and a stick, “this stuff is….”

“Is Stuff,” Nog says, gazing at the fire. “Fire isn’t,” he adds, throwing a stick into the fire.

“Fire isn’t,” Org says, “but it does.”

“Does Stuff,” Nog says.

“Is Stuff,” Org says, holding a rock and a stick.

“Does stuff,” Nog adds, stirring the fire.

 

E = mc2

Elegant Parsimony. Our universe is governed by immutable laws that can be discerned through disciplined human inquiry. All laws are relationships. This one quantifies a relationship between two kinds of stuff observed by Org and Nog.

Have you heard that systems spontaneously move toward chaos, from order toward disorder? This is half-true at most, and the next law explains why.

∆G = ∆H – T∆S     where represents quantified change.

You might find information by searching The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Free Energy, or Gibbs-Helmholtz Equation. Basically, it says that disorder (entropy, S) is but one component of spontaneous change, the other being energy released in stability of chemical bonds (enthalpy, H). T is temperature in Kelvins.

The secret is in the atoms. Most of them are unhappy, thermodynamically unstable, and react with other atoms. Sometimes these reactions spontaneously increase structure or order in creating more stable stuff such as water, one of God’s delightful miracles.

Life on Earth is unimaginable without all of the physical and chemical properties of water. Here are a few:

1)      Water is a heat sponge allowing livable temperatures over most of our planet;

2)      Water exists in three physical states at Earth temperatures, contributing to # 1;

3)      Water is transparent, conducting light to feed aquatic and marine plants;

4)      Water reflects light in diamond sparkles, sky-blue oceans, and mirror pools;

5)      Water refracts light, giving us rainbows;

6)      Ice floats–else fish would not survive most Wisconsin winters;

7)      Water is most dense at 4oC rather than at freezing, so ice forms on top of the water rather than the bottom, which is really nice since ice floats.

There are more, but you get the idea. Water is really cool stuff. So are carbon dioxide, native copper, and DNA.

Yes, I studied Genetics and have a special fondness for DNA, another miracle that could not exist without the special polar nature of the water molecule. The coolest thing about DNA is that it replicates with almost perfect fidelity. The miracle is in the slight infidelity in replication which produces mutations. Here I see the genius of design.

Intelligent Design is not in the creation of kindness in flowers and bees, but in the physical and chemical laws that make evolution not only possible, but inevitable. All of Creation is the result of laws governing atoms and stars, space and time, and you and me. The artist that creates the universe is a lover of math and science.

Time Defined

Time, itself, does not exist.

It is as imaginary as angels, demons, muses, and ideas.

Time is one component of the medium in which our physical world exists, the other being the subject of next month’s blog, space.

So, how is it that we can measure a thing that does not exist? It is a matter of relationship. As a medium component, time is intimately related to all existence. Why? Because existence is change.

We perceive existence only by way of physical, chemical, or nuclear change. We see light from fusion that is a star. We hear sound that is displacement of atoms, ions, or molecules. We even feel changes in pressure. All change happens only through time.

Our moon moves through space and time in patterns that allow us to “tell time”.

  1. New Moon rises and sets with the sun;
  2. Each day the moon rises and sets later (some 50 minutes);
  3. Waxing moon gets brighter on the sun (right) side, waning stays brighter on the sun (left) side;
  4. The photo is a waxing crescent moon with the sun to the right and below the moon soon after sunset;
  5. The sun sets north of west in summer—to the right of the moon in the photo. That gives the crescent moon the appearance of pouring water rather than
    holding it. Some call this a dry (no water) moon and a cup crescent that appears to hold water a wet moon. I would reverse that, calling this moon wet because it pours the water out. In any case, it is a summer moon.
  6. This photo is a waxing crescent summer moon taken after sunset (around 9 p.m.) in early June.

I believe my conclusion is unambiguous; however, I welcome corrections and reflections. I could be wrong.

All existence (of the physical world) is change is matter and/or energy through space and time.

E = mc­2

Don’t see time in this relationship? It’s hidden in the c, the speed of light, which is a ratio of change in space (distance) to change in time, or distance divided by time.

Time, itself, may not exist, but it is still as real as angels, demons, muses, and ideas.