In the Beginning, Part II

Voice of God whispers in Adam’s ear.

“Wake up Adam, wake up.  God has a surprise for you!”

Adam groggy from the divine anesthetic, “What?  What’s going on?”

Well all those animals seemed to be rather interested in their own affairs, and quite frankly, with the exception of may be the…” consults stone tablets written by Adam…”the chimpanzee and the…er…dog,” God ponders for a moment wondering what God spelled backwards is,”really didn’t seem like a great helper worthy of the impeccable qualities imparted to you by your creator.” God gives an imaginary tip of the hat, “So here you are….yooooooouuuur helper!!!”  God had a little light shine down from above in a rather showmanshippy sort of way.

Adam is a bit stunned, and upon seeing the first naked person of the opposite sex, he learns a little bit about a previous dangly body part.  Fortunately, shame hasn’t entered into the picture.

“Name her Adam, name her as you did the animals!”

The newly created being seems to demonstrate a mixture of frustration, and fear.

“Um…okay…but er, can you tell me why my abdomen is hurting?”

“Oh that’s just a little leftover pain from the rib I took out of you.  Let me take care of that.”  God sends a warm glow of light towards Adam and after it passes into his abdomen, the pain is gone. “Do you like that effect? I’m working on how best to impress people with my awesome powers.”

“Yeah.  Impressive.  Listen before I name this helper over here.”  Points to helper, helper has an I’ll give you a piece of my mind look, “I’m a bit concerned that you’re taking body parts of mine to make new people.  Why didn’t you just create this person from the dirt like me?”

“Symbolism!”

“What?  What does that mean?!”

“I want you two to have a special connection.  A piece of you, to make her.”

“But why a rib?”

“Because you have lots!  Well 12 pairs.  It varies a bit.”

“But I think I’m having trouble breathing.  You might have nicked my diaphragm”

“Nope you’re fine.

“How many more people are you going to make like this? I assume all my parts aren’t expendable.”

“Nope this is the only one I’m making from a body part.  She’s special. I wanted her to share your genetic code.  Symbolism!!”

“Yes, well I still don’t quite get that.  So anyway, how are we going to make more people?”

“You are going to love it, and so is she!  You see that bit down there that stood at attention like a worshipper obeying his Lord God?  Well you are going to put that thing inside of her?”

God points to the nether regions of the newly created being and a little light begins to glow like a little star.  The new being looks a bit stunned and frightened.

“Is there some sort of hole there?  I don’t really see anything.”

“Of course there is…it’s um…well…don’t worry, when the time comes you’ll figure it out.  Insert tab A into slot B.  Pretty straightforward.”

“And that act just makes more people like us?  Do they pop out from behind bushes or something?”

“No no, it’s much more fascinating than that.  See you have this fluid inside of you and when you put your bit there, into her bit there,” more starlight twinkling on the requisite body parts, “it’s going to feel great.  Then you are going to reach this amazing moment, say my name a lot, and in the height of ecstasy expel this fluid into her.  There are these little swimming things in your fluid you see, and they are going swim and find this egg in her, fertilize it, and about 9 lunar months later, you are going to have this tiny baby pop out.”

Newly created being looks horrified.

“Does she also reach the height of ecstasy at the same time, because that would be pretty awesome?!”

“Um…well no.  I mean she could, but really she’s quite complicated, and you know as long as your…er…fluid gets in there.  You get to have a baby! Or well she does technically.”

And so what is this baby thing?”

“Well it’s like you, but at a very early stage of development, so it has to learn and grow up into you…or…er…her over there.”

“So does this baby talk or anything?”

“Not at first. It learns to talk!”  Good looks quite impressed with himself.

“Okay, but it’s able to like go around the garden and feed itself though right?”

“Well no.  It can’t really walk at first.  Or grasp anything.  Can’t really see more than 3 inches in front of its face, and it will take a good month or two before its eyes can follow objects around. Oh also it can’t chew, owing to not having any teeth. It will be quite a few years before it can really fend for itself reliably.”

“That’s horrible! Well what I’m supposed do with it?!  How do I feed it!?”

“Well see those two lumpy bits on her chest?” God makes her nipples begin to twinkle.

“Yeah I quite like those.” Adam gives the newly created being a toothy grin.

“Well when the baby is born, they produce milk and she just gets the baby to latch on to the nipples and, pardon the expression, those babies can suck like a demon.”

Both Adam and the newly created being look at the breasts with a completely disgusted look on their face.

“Oh stop it you two…it’s a beautiful experience, just you wait.”

“Alright, so what we can make a baby any time I put my thing into her?”

“Um…sure.  Don’t worry about the details yet.”

“And so this thing, it like grows in some sort of a pouch or something?”

“Yeah…I guess. Sort of.” God points to the abdomen of the newly created being and makes an nice red glowy area. “You see it’s going to grow right around here and her belly is going to get bigger and bigger.  Inside her is something called a womb, where the baby develops.”

“And so it grows until what? It just sort pops out of her?”

“Nope…it just sluices out her, easy-peasy.  In the same place where you put your thing in to make it.  That’s efficiency!”

“So 9 months of gestation and several years of basic doing every little thing for this thing is more efficient than just popping new people out of the dirt?”

“Adam! It’s a miracle!”, rebukes God.

“Sorry Father.  Okay, well…this all sounds like a lot of responsibility.  Maybe we should get to know each other a bit better first.”

“Alright, alright, well listen, you need to name her.”

“Hmmm…well she’s made from me, and I’m a man.  But she’s got a womb.  So wombman?  No, I don’t really like the phonetics there.  How about woman?”

God rolls his eyes, “That’s the type of naming creativity usually attributed to me.  Okay, well I guess let’s go with it.  But I still think you are missing out on the whole symbolism part here, but in any case, now that you have woman, you may leave your father and unite with her as one.  That’s what I was getting at here.  Wish you were a little brighter, but I guess subtlety is learned.”

“Okay, well this all great Father, but does she talk, she really hasn’t said anything thus far.”

“Well I created her to be a helper, I didn’t think she needed to talk.  She just needs to do what you tell her to.”

Woman looks back at God incredulous.

“Don’t get me wrong Father, I appreciate the thought, but you’ve given me the ability to choose, I think she should have it too.”

“Are you sure? Because you know life is pretty confusing as it is?”

“I’m sure Father, and give her a voice too.”

“Okay, but listen as soon as I give her free will and a voice, I’m going to hit the road.  I know anger. I’ve been in some pretty good rages myself, and she looks like she’s about to burst.  I prefer to think of this garden as a peaceful place, so I’m going to shape some glaciers or something.  I’ll check back with you later.”

God creates a little ball of light that travels quickly towards woman and as soon as it hits her it envelops her body.  Then with fire in her eyes she looks at Adam and then over to God and starts walking over to God.

“Explain the rules to her Adam.  Byeeeee!” and quickly vanishes.

Woman has arrived.

In the Beginning. Part I.

“So, um…Lord?  God?  Sounds a bit formal.  But I mean you created me from dust and all, so dad doesn’t sound great either.  Father…er…hey thanks for putting me in this garden.  It’s gorgeous I have to say.  I mean I don’t know much about…well anything yet, but I imagine it has everything a guy could need.”

“Yeah don’t worry about that Adam you’re set up pretty good here.  This is basically paradise.  I’ve put the Tree of Life here, you will literally never die here and you can just enjoy it forever.  Oh and I also put the…” God speaks really low in a mumble, “…ledge here as well…ood…evil” mumble mumble, “…perish..”, speaks really fast, “Don’t touch it.  Okay and moving on.”

“Lord. God.  I…er, didn’t catch what you just said there.  What else did you put here.  It sort of fell apart after you told me about the Tree of Life.”

“The Tree of Good and, er, Evil.” God looks sideways with feigned innocence.

“The what?  Good and Evil?”

“Yeah, bit of a nasty tree really.  I know seems a bit incongruous with the whole everlasting life and paradise vibe, but it sort of contains wisdom, knowledge, sort of gives you a lot of my ability to learn from your mistakes and improve and get smarter over time so you’ll become more and more like me.  Listen, I don’t recommend it.  You eat the fruit and you’ll die.  Really moving on.”

“But!”

In the commanding voice of God, “MOVING ON!

“Alright, alright.” Adam hangs his head down.

God shifts uncomfortably, “Sorry about that, but the truth is that we really have…or er…rather you have a lot of work to do.  Okay, confession time.  You know how I’m all-powerful and all-knowing yeah?  I mean I can literally make anything happen.  But, the thing is, I’m not exactly good at everything.  Does that make sense?”

“No, but I was literally just created, and I’m not allowed to eat from a certain tree.”

Alright, alright, point taken.  Well let’s say you know a lot of stuff, but even knowing all that stuff it can be hard to convince somebody of your point of view.  Oh or, let’s say I know everything there is to know about carpentry, you know like I read all about it in a book, you know…book smart, but in general I’m just not very good at it.  Can’t build a table to save my life.  Fortunately I can just think it into existence and it happens, thus I appear to be a master carpenter, but if I actually had to do the work, the results would be terrible.”

Adam with all the confidence of a young child who wants his father to think he is smart replies, “I think I understand, especially if I knew what carpentry was!  Or a book!”

Yeah, um…well one thing I’m very good at is creating.  I’ve created a lot of things on this planet, beasts of burden, all manner of wild animals, birds.  I’m pretty certain I made the insects too, it just doesn’t seem to have been overly intentional. Well anyway, here’s the thing Adam.  Your Lord and God, just isn’t very good at deciding what they should be called.  And if I’m completely honest, I kind of feel my time is better spent thinking about other things.  I mean my consciousness is pretty massive and can do a lot of important stuff.  Do you know what I’m getting at son?”

Adam smiles sweetly and shakes his head.

“Well Adam, you are going to have to name every living thing I created.”

Adam’s jaw drops. “Wait…Father.  This doesn’t make any sense.  You named me just fine!”

“Actually your name is just a bit of word play, it actually means ‘earth’ as I made you out of dirt.  You see? Not terribly inventive.”

“Wait my name means dirt!?”

“Well it also mean red-skin, for the color of your skin.  Words sort of have lots of meaning. Ambiguity is something you are going to LOVE!  Either way, you’ll admit that my names are far too logical and less than inspirational.  So anyway, here’s your etching tool,” God blinks his eyes in a fun and magical way, “and there is a pile of stone tablets to write on.  In case you want to make any notes.”

“Oh my, God, there are thousands of tablets there!”

“Yeah, well you know everything is provided for you.  And everybody needs a job. Purpose is important Adam.  I created this whole universe for you, so it seems only reasonable that you could do this for me.  Right?”  God grins unconvincingly.

“I don’t know anything about naming either!”

“Hey I’m not completely abandoning you, you don’t have to go and find all the creatures.  I’ll bring them before you.  Watch them behave a little bit and I have a feeling that your creativity will kick in and you’ll come up with a great name.  You’re my greatest creation after all.  I know you won’t let me down.  Consider yourself the first biologist!”

“Alright, enough with the pep talk Father. Let’s get to work.”

After several days…

“May fly, fruit fly, black fly, horse fly…”

“Why horse fly?”

“Don’t know, don’t care.  Tsetse fly, dragon fly…”

“What is a dragon?”

“No idea. Crane fly, sandfly, mosquito, midge”

Several more days…

“Oryx, lynx, ibex, fox, minx…”

“You seem to be using a lot of x’s there.”

“Yeah, I get on a streak, it flows.”

“But that doesn’t sound all too inspired.  I mean I could have done that.”

“The thought never occurred to me Father.  Pelican, Pigeon, Penguin, Puffin.”

Several more days…

“Weasel, beaver, otter…”

“Great pace Adam.  You’re knocking them down one every 10 seconds we’ve hit near 300,000 of these things, we should be done, in about a week or two.”

“Father, I’m running out of names.  I’m literally just trying to alternate vowel and consonant sounds to come up with names.  I just called something an el-eph-ant.  I’m lost at sea over here.”

A look of “Uh oh” washes over God’s face.

“What!?”

“Well as it turns out, I completely forgot about all the animals in the sea.  I’m think it might be a bit longer than week or two.”  God gives a sheepish grin, which he can now do since Adam already named one of the animals a sheep.

A couple of months go by (It is not clear that months had been defined for the lunar or solar calendar at this point, but one can be certain that for Adam it was a very, very, long 2 months).

“Well done Adam!”  God quickly reads through all the tablets and makes a mental note (God can do those sorts of things and remember it)

Adam asks in a beleaguered voice, “So what now father.  Do I get to wander the world and see these animals in their native habitats?”

“Er, no, you’ll be staying here. But you’ll get to hang out with the near 100 species that are in the garden!”

“One hundred?!  Well why did I bother naming all these animals I won’t even see?  I’m the only person around to even see ANY animal!”

“Calm down.  I’ve got great news for you, quite related to that point actually.  I’m going to make you a helper!”

“I just named like 8 million animals, and NOW you decide to bring me a helper!?”

The stress is getting to you son.  Probably should have let you have a day of rest.  I did give myself one after all.  I might be omnipotent, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good nap.  Although I can assure you that creating the universe was much harder.  Anyway, yes in retrospect it would have been more useful to do this last task as a bigger team, but I assure you, you’ll forget all about that when you see her!”

“Her?”

“Quiet son, your Lord God is going to do a little surgery.”

God applies His divine anesthetic and Adam falls into a deep sleep.

What Makes A Good Human?: Solitude

From http:///www.markg.com.au

The last in this series, comes late for several reasons. For one, I am Poland, and have been enjoying my vacation. But largely it is because this last quality has needed many if not all of the things I am going to talk about under this heading. The time change has left me less than well rested and it has taken about a week to really feel like myself again. It has taken also some time for me to find enough time to myself, in which I haven’t needed to take care of my son, and haven’t been surrounded by family. My in-laws live in a small apartment and it has felt uncomfortable for me to spend a lot of time writing around others. Finally it has taken a lot of thought, deep thinking, introspection and perhaps a little creativity to nail down what I wanted for this last quality. It also took some humility as I had to bounce this creation off my wife because I was rather unsure if I had a cogent post here or whether I might need to make a 9th quality. What I thought was going to be my 8th quality changed as I realized there were other things that I wanted to write about that I felt were linked together but unsure how. And there may be some debate as to whether or not I was successful here putting all of these under the same umbrella.  In the end I’ve decided the number of qualities isn’t as important as saying what I wanted to say. My wife also told me that I was quite clever in my solution to the final quality being solitude. She almost never tells me I’m clever even when I think I’m being clever so that has me feeling really positive about this post. 🙂 With that said, let’s delve into solitude.

I am going to break this down in a more organized way, but let’s talk about some general things first. You might first think that, “Hey aren’t we humans social animals? You’ve been going on a lot in this series about how we can all better get along and have empathy, so why should solitude be so important?” If you’ve raised a child you of course have seen the changes from a baby still thinking it’s in the womb and not knowing it is separate from the mother, to a slow buildup of a sense of self. From then on as parents we try to help the child along to develop a sense of independence. To sleep alone, to be able to do simple physical tasks and to enjoy playing on their own as they gain more and more self-sufficiently. And as a child I remember not only being proud as I could do more things on my own, but actually growing to appreciate and like having time to myself, free from responsibilities to anyone. It seems to me that everybody, no matter how social they might be, to be healthy, need some alone time. Healthy relationships often aren’t ones where both people spend every single moment together, but where each have some hobbies and things that they like to do on their own. Everybody needs their space. What we do in this solitude varies and I am going to talk about 3 different facets of solitude that I think are all important, and I do think have a common thread. So let’s begin:

Creation

It takes a little more humility to mention that I owe this important aspect of solitude to my wife. I am not an overly creative person, but when she mentioned the importance of solitude to the creative process I realized she was right. While artists and musicians certainly collaborate, the initiation of that creative process is usually done alone and then ideas are bounced back and forth with those that are collaborating. Walk into any museum and count how many pieces in that museum have more than one artist listed there. You won’t find many. How many of your favorite novels have multiple authors on the front cover? How many of your favorite poems are written by more than one person? We may be inspired by others when we create, but ultimately what we create is done I solitude. I also don’t want to arbitrarily separate the arts and sciences, it is just generally more easily seen in the arts. Collaboration and feedback is a very important part of the scientific process, but often the vision and inspiration that starts a new idea is formed through thinking in solitude. Scientific history is littered with important scientists whose vision and inspiration excited the scientific community and progressed their respective fields forward. My blog posts are often inspired by conversations, articles or books.  However it often takes some solitude to think about what I want to say and write. Even if during that process I talk it over with others as I have done with this blog post, in the end solitude has played an important part in the creative process.

Recharge

Regardless of the seemingly infinite things we can think of to do, we are sadly quite finite creatures. Our time and energy have limits and many of us are constantly trying to get the most amount out of our day and not getting enough down time. I’ve already discussed the importance of play, and certainly this is important in reducing stress and giving us more strength face to the challenges of life, but there is also the simple act of rest. Resting your muscles and resting your mind. One of the ways we do this of course is simply through sleep. I know few people who don’t love a good night’s rest, and more and more I hear many people wishing they could have more (including myself). According to the National Sleep Foundation, we aren’t getting enough, and this leads to all sorts of problems such as increased weight gain, loss of focus, anxiety, and overall being less efficient as we could be. Whether you are sleeping with someone or not, sleeping is an activity that is done in solitude. It is your time to be unconscious and recharging your “energy cells” and freshening the mind. Getting better sleep may give you less waking hours in the day, but chances are you will be more focused and efficient during those hours such that time will not be lost and may actually be gained.

Meditation

Sleep, however, is not the only way in which we can rest and recharge. One of the other ways in which we can gain energy is through meditation. Now meditation can be defined in a number of different ways, but all of them have benefits and I will talk a little bit about them throughout this post, but for now when many people think of meditation they think of some bald headed person in a robe sitting down in a lotus position and saying ‘om’ a lot, and I admit I used to be from this camp too at one point. And that type of meditation is beneficial, as it clears the mind and rests the body. By focusing on sound, or your own breathing you can rest and recharge. Recent studies have shown meditation to actually change the brain in a positive way.  Daily meditations may also simply involve sitting on your patio drinking a cup of tea while you look at your garden, going on a walk as you take in the sights and sounds of the moment, and it can also involve repetitive activities such as exercise. Repetitive actions keep you focused on the task at hand keeping you in the moment. Exercise is one of the better ways to do this of course because you must focus on the movements and muscles needed to perform the task and this is actually restful to the mind as much of the clutter and stresses of our everyday life can fade away. The well-known “runner’s high” is a good example of this. Of course when you first start to exercise this may be difficult as your body adjust itself to the activity as you may actually experience a lot of pain and/or be uncomfortable and this can be distracting. But this is why meditative activities require regular practice. You aren’t going to be good at it right away and the health benefits take time to come to fruition. I feel that one of the hardest things for people who begin to exercise is they never push through the phase in which it is painful, and tiring as they find they have less energy. But it does get better, and I’ve seen it happen for myself and for others.

If you exercise at a busy gym, or listen to music while exercise this may actually diminish some of the meditative aspects of the exercise as you may start to focus on other things and become distracted. I’ve seen many people pause their treadmill just to text somebody and so I doubt they are getting much of the meditative benefits of exercise, but exercise is still good of course. Being physically healthy gives you more energy and helps you recharge more effectively. Being physically tired is also an aid in getting better sleep which is important as mentioned above. Silence is also a helpful part of the meditative process. Of course complete silence is difficult, but relative quiet may help you pay attention to sounds you don’t often notice like the sound of your own breathing, the babbling of a brook, or the twitter of birds. In previous posts I have talked a lot about the importance of being in the present and this is the one the great advantages of meditation. We can’t always be serene and peaceful, but taking time out of our day to quiet the noise of our everyday lives is important and is something we do in solitude.

introspection2The dictionary also defines meditation as continued or extended thought, reflection and contemplation. This is the sort of meditation I do a lot. For better or worse I suppose as I am frequently lost in thought unaware of what’s  going on, which is bad for activities like driving, or paying attention to your spouse when she is talking to you. This type of meditation is our natural scientist at work. Whether we are reflecting on our own actions, searching through the past for understanding, issues of the day, or just things that we’re learning, thinking deeply about things is a positive activity.  It is our way of helping us see how we can do things better in our lives (humility), what changes we like to make about ourselves (courage), what questions we still have and thus areas we need to understand better (curiosity), trying to understand the actions of others (love/empathy), or setting aside our worries and stresses about future events (faith). In the scientific method it is the final stage that allows us to make adjustments to our original hypothesis and form new ones. Thus our introspection, outrospection, and contemplation ensures that we continue to grow and change in an ever changing world. We may even may take time to plan activities that are both fun, and those that help us better have time to ourselves (play and solitude). And meditation like this and what I described above is something we should try to do every day (vigilance/perseverance).

These meditative activities are all performed in solitude. Even if we don’t get much alone time during the day, 15-30 minutes of meditation can be an important part of good health and if needed, keep the creative juices flowing. If you are constantly surrounded by people your only time for this might just be a nice long shower, or a satisfying crap on the toilet, but in all likelihood you appreciate that time to be alone with your thoughts. Mix that all in with a good night’s sleep and conquering the day may not be seem so daunting, even if it isn’t easy. The amount of solitude that everyone needs for a good sense of well-being I’m sure varies, but I think it’s important that we try to give ourselves that time if possible. In doing so we can gain increased feelings of serenity, understanding, and peace which will help us fight battles in the present instead of the impossible task of winning future ones. The dark side of solitude in the extreme is known, I’m sure, to all. We are a social species and whether you want just a few good friends, or be the life of a party we shine the most in the company of others. Few of us could live the life of a hermit.  We do best when we are cooperating, collaborating, and helping. Too much solitude can make us feel lonely, often worse is that feeling of solitude when surrounded by others. Like the other qualities the down side of solitude comes to fruition when we don’t practice the other 7 qualities in this series in some balanced way. And it is possible that what makes solitude good is some security in knowing that solitude isn’t our only option. That we have other treasured people in our life that we can depend on when we no longer wish to be alone.

This series has been long and if you’ve taken the time to read all of it, I do thank you, but I cannot sum it all up in just a sentence or two so I will have one more post in which I will try to take a more holistic view of them all, and take a critical look at how this intellectual exercise of mine doesn’t always mesh well with reality.