It’s Not Obvious

it’s not obvious
that the stars aren’t revolving around me
it’s not obvious that I’m the one
who’s actually moving
even when I’m sitting here
there is no disproving.
and you’re moving too

it’s not obvious
that I’m not static
as life evolves around me
that time’s dissolving into me
that I too am just another object
subject to vast forces
shaping me at some point
in a universal scaffold.
that is shaping itself

it’s not obvious
that my life isn’t planned
that it isn’t canned
how is it not a map
when there is seemingly no event
in my life that didn’t depend
on an amazing number of
low probability occurrences
subject to the subtlest
of disturbances
making each moment a miracle
in a myriad of possible timelines

I want things to be clearer
maybe hold things nearer
I’m happy and willing
to be the first one
to try and really look at themselves
in the mirror

why is it when one person has a bad day
he’s able to tuck it away
another wants to do good to compensate
and yet another spits bile
and hate
is it all just too late?
or did we never really stand a chance?

because it should be all a
little easier to follow
but there are sharp turns
and hard truths to swallow
with little time to wallow
so if I say
that I want to sit here
and pretend that the stars are going by
and that the moon is smiling
beaming
radiating not reflecting
and that
I like it that way
because it makes beautiful poetry

then
let me

because it’s not obvious to me
that that’s a bad idea

The Necessary Delusion

a bird may soar
to 30,000 feet
but eventually
must stop to eat

this freedom we chase
is only found in delusion
imagine until you sleep
there is no other conclusion

free is a bungee jump
fleeting as you fall
until the cord reminds
you’re tethered to the wall

we are all bound
equally by physical laws
and time has no mercy
on our physical flaws

we are all bound
to consider adjacent souls
each swish of our tail
affects the shoal

maybe being free
is a life without selfishness
growing your compassion
alleviating helplessness

is it possible to find freedom
living within boundaries?
can life break the moulds
forged in nature’s foundries?

maybe we can
for a time
and find
a new kind of rhyme

the burdens
we face
so real
we scrape for escape
from this oppression we feel
and so maybe freedom
is just striking a deal

because surely if we
don’t feel free
for a few moments
and lave in the stream
of a dream
while our spirit foments
life will be drudgery
with nothing but suffering
freedom is our interface
from a reality we’re buffering

and maybe without
this ability
to self-deceive
we would never know
what we could ever achieve

My Eternity

energy and chaos churning
I blink, what is my quantum state?
no form for eyes discerning
I can do nothing but wait for weight

with muons and gluons burning
no demon full of hellish fury
or soul worth grievous spurning
knows the heat that starts my journey

in fractured temporal storming
fragile existence expanding
my protons and electrons forming
the universe is grandstanding

opposites attract, particles conforming
to find orbits in that quantum foam
the first of all elements is swarming
looking for a nebula to be my home

thick and thin gasses, uneven masses
gravity sorts out the cloud’s confusion
swept and swirled in stellar morasses
the pressure builds in cores of fusion

my life is nuclear, neutrons are made
I’m turned into carbon at six and six
a supernova ensues as energy fades
I explode into the hydrogen mix

and on and on, star to dust to star
until finally shaped in molten sphere
cooling crystals of quartz and feldspar
this is my planet I’m finally here

hard rock lies still while water flows
molecules of simple protein grow fatter
bathed in the warmth of geothermal glow
base pairs twist to form that helical ladder

then in each successive replication
a fight to survive the natural selection
copies borne with random mutations
fear to be subjects of nature’s rejection

smell, sight and sound – sharpening senses
growing complexity – evolutionary connection
avoiding predation – gaining defenses
the building of immunity to combat infection

here I stand, human, against all odds
limping to the present, eyes with dried tears
the winner of the day, no need of gods
my prize a lucky seventy or eighty years

when it’s time, Death’s touch does freeze
atop flaming pyre my body resides
my ashes blow away with the breeze
some parts of me become lithified
my carbon is breathed in by the trees
a deer eats grass, that has me inside
I glide through time with magnificent ease
I always have lived, and never have died

in my shoes

You claim my shoes

It wasn’t so long ago
excitement and shock
the look on your face
when you learned to talk

You will stumble
fall in those boats
while your ambition
carelessly floats

Before you go far
You must know laces
Crisses and crosses
Loops and the chases

You’re going to wander
so learn about soles
they gotta be comfy
always do a test stroll

then you need to know
when to walk when to run
when to take them out dancing
shoes are meant to be fun

You claim my shoes
and all I have
will be yours
in time
but
I dream
I rue
happy
and
trying
not
to
think
about
the day
you fill
my shoes

Time and Space

when time was time,
and space was space,
we couldn’t move from place to place,
a window on a distant view,
that is when I first saw you

when the past was passed
and there was no future
the moments didn’t need a suture,
raindrops pattered on leaves of trees
and gently did you fall on me

when dreams and fantasy,
met at the nexus,
we drove to the restaurant in my brand new Lexus
under alluring gaze I could not wait,
and paid and left before we ate

when love was love,
and muses were muses,
we didn’t seem to have short fuses,
but reaching arms across the distance,
takes its toll on your resistance

when cold was cold
and hard was hard,
all I could do was mow the yard,
and if I stopped, the tears just fell,
Imprisoned in my private hell

when peace was peace,
and breath was breath,
I buried though there was no death,
all it took was a little liquor,
to close my eyes and see the flicker

when I was me,
and you were you,
that’s all there ever is to do,
hearts will rise and hearts will fall,
there is truth and beauty in it all

wild spring

though the burst of spring fills eyes
loss is no small part of this season
testament to winter’s bite
some eggs died in the cold
a squirrel didn’t store enough
seeds damaged by frost

life competes and scrapes
building the colorful tapestry
plants will have lost ground
while others flourish
life takes quickly, others lose the fight
I am a player not an observer

the cherry blossom is still sweet
magnolia blooms with pageantry
shadows shorten in the sun
energy that sustains us all
I try to forget about dark winter
in deep silence I watch things grow

Since leaving Facebook

It’s been awhile since I did a blog post, but I would say it’s safe to say I’m officially back, and before I launch into other more interesting topics I thought I would start with a little update on where I’m at in life, and how I’ve been feeling since leaving Facebook.

I am not sure how many of you know but I teach at a university where we are literally under a 9 month contract and so I do have the summer’s off.  Now that I am department chair it is not quite true, but summer is still a time where I tend to shut down from communication in general.  This summer it is a confluence of factors that have led me to disappear for awhile.  The respite, I feel, has overall been a benefit.

I guess I’ll start with my leaving Facebook.  I said a lot of things about how I thought it would benefit me.  An important piece of wisdom that I’ve gained later in life is that it is important to change things up, to get out of habits as best as possible.  Habitual behavior tends to be what makes time go by more quickly and also I think has diminishing returns for things that even initially made you feel good.  So I’ll start by saying that I certainly don’t regret leaving Facebook one bit if not simply for the sake of just seeing how life would change.  And there is no question in my mind that it was in fact a habit, and that there were some signs of addiction.

When I left Facebook I deleted the app from my phone, and I was shocked to find out how many times I would pick up my phone to get on Facebook, only to stare blankly at my phone at an app that wasn’t there, and it took me a couple of seconds to remember that I wasn’t on Facebook anymore.  Despite consciously knowing that I left, my unconscious movements to reach for my phone and look really gave me some insight as to how much time I spent checking Facebook.  This made me happier that I left, but there was still this feeling of frustration that I assume to be akin to withdrawal symptoms.  Fortunately, after a month or so this diminished.  I’m in a place now where I spend very little time on my phone.  Sometimes now I forget to look at it for entire half days.  I also find that I spend much more time looking for my phone (which is annoying) but I think this is because I am not always looking at it.  It’s hard to lose something you are checking frequently and always have near you.  I don’t like wasting time looking for my phone, but overall I’d say it’s not a bad thing that I am away from it enough to misplace it.

One thing I expected, that didn’t happen, was having extra time.  I think this can largely explained by having another child.  We’ve had a lot of family visiting as well, so things have been a little hectic at times over the summer.  I guess I do feel like I have had more time, but that time has been filled and so I woudn’t say that I have had more time to relax.  I will say that overall, I feel a better sense of fulfillment with what I spend my time doing, even if it isn’t always fun.  There is a solidity to life now that I have a hard time explaining clearly, but overall I like it.

I think it was pretty clear that when I left Facebook that I was experiencing some depression.  I didn’t think that Facebook was necessarily the cause of it, but I didn’t feel like it was helping me overcome it either, and if anything exacerbating it.  Having left Facebook I have to say there are still times that I feel depressed about where our society, particularly in America, is going and I’m not sure how to make that go away.  I mean I could simply choose to be more optimistic and focus on that, but I somehow worry that this will make me less vigilant.  I feel this is a time for vigilance.  You can of course be so depressed to the point of apathy, but I think you can also be to cheerful and optimistic to the point of ignorance.  Neither of those are where I want to be.  Trying to find a state of mind that makes me feel strong without depression but without some sort of drug-like optimism is challenging.  Overall though I would say that leaving Facebook has helped me compartmentalize better, has allowed me to say, “Alright right now I have to focus on this…” and I am able to do so. There are times that I spend worrying as well, but I don’t think I do it as much, and sometimes I feel like I am able to filter out the noise much better and really think about, even some of the bad things, in a meaningful and deeper way.  This is something that I hoped for leaving Facebook.  The biggest thing for me is how noisy life felt and that I really couldn’t think deeply about things very well.  So maybe I’m not free completely from the state of mind I was in before, but I feel like I am progressing, and that is something.  Facebook seemed like a fairly endless stream of bad news, and people fighting, and being free from that, as often as I was on it, has been restful…peaceful…and given me more moments of contentedness.

There were many people who felt like was bashing Facebook when I left (there are reasons to be concerned of course about Facebook’s ethics) but my leaving was more a reflection of my personal relationship to it.  It wasn’t healthy for me, and I still maintain that can be used beneficially.  I know many people who aren’t on Facebook who are still as confused about facts from the media they consume, and so I certainly don’t see it as a soul source of how we can be misled in our society.  There is a larger problem with all sorts of media which has been discussed by ethicists like Tristan Harris on the “attention economy“.  This is something we all have to be mindful of, and getting off Facebook is no solution there.  The important thing to recognize also is that we are all being unconsciously influenced by the media we consume, and it’s important to be aware of that and be aware of how that’s affecting your life.  Think seriously about it all, weigh the pros and cons, and ask yourself are you as happy, courageous, and effective as you can be being plugged in all the time.  In a podcast I listened to recently a doctor was saying how boring the message of moderation is, and yet it’s probably the one we should be hearing the most.

My world has certainly gotten smaller, but I think there is just as much value at making the 10 mile radius around you a better place as trying to make the world a better place.  Moving the world requires a much greater force, and as an individual I constantly feel like I am inadequate to the task, and Facebook was a constant reminder of that fact, just as it was also a constant reminder of all the things that we need to make better in this world.  It’s important to know all of that, but it’s also important to recognize your limits.

There is much that I miss too, I knew this would be the case.  I wonder how a lot of the good people I got to know on Facebook, and think of them often.  But I have gotten to interact with more friends and people in my community than before.  There are a lot of people in my city who probably have quite different political views from me, but I haven’t talked politics with them, but I am getting to know them, and I haven’t met a bad person yet.  Maybe they voted for Trump, or maybe they are very religious, or maybe they have no problem with guns…I don’t know, but I think it’s important that we really get to know people first before judge the entirety of their being based on who they voted for, or what they believe.  There’s much more humanity there that I think we miss on social media.  There’s value in understanding where people are really coming from and recognizing their common humanity.  There may come a day when the truth of our political views comes out, but maybe then it will be a better conversation, maybe then there own beliefs will be as challenged as mine our and maybe even if we can’t be friends we walk away being better people than we were.  I don’t think this is possible on Facebook as we just tend to get to know the people who agree with us, and fight with the ones we don’t.

Well this is already a bit long, but I just want to say that, at best I can say that I am spending more time with my children and more time just enjoying a breath of fresh air.  I think that I will one day be able to return to Facebook and use it in a better way, but I don’t think I’m there yet.  I am thankful for all the good people I know and have known in this world even if there isn’t enough time to stay in touch as frequently as I’d like.  I wish all the best.

Discussion: Is your life a story?

The importance of stories to humans cannot be overstated.  Well perhaps it can, but I’ve yet to see anybody succeed yet. 🙂  I’ve written about the importance of stories before.  My interest in the subject began when reading the novels Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.  It is clear that we learn from stories.  In fact it is often suggested that as a method of pedagogy that we try to create narratives, try to use storytelling to teach.  I’ve yet to find a way to do this with fluid dynamics, but when I think about how I retain knowledge best, it is certainly the ability to think in terms of stories, rather than a lose collection of facts.  When teaching, even if you don’t have a story to tell, trying to create a common thread through your lessons does help.

A former student, and now friend, would often start a conversation with people she was just meeting and getting to know with the question “Tell me the story of your life.”  I think it’s pretty easy to see our lives as a story.  I am not sure though that this is something we do when we are adolescents.  Perhaps we haven’t lived long enough, and it is unclear when this process begins, but at some point you will look at the past and forecast into the future and there will seem to be this story you are playing out.

But is this a good way of thinking about our lives?  Sometimes I think we do this because it seems more interesting, and even though I still think there is a lot of values to stories, perhaps we shouldn’t be seeing our own life as a story.

Some philosophical meat to think about here is are you the same person in the past as you are in the future?  Stories tend to follow a particular character who may change, but rarely as much as actual humans do.  Is your 20 year old self the same as your 60 year old self?  Maybe at best we are a series of shorter stories instead of one long story.  Our desire for continuity and cause and effect perhaps extends the narrative for longer than it perhaps should.

More importantly when we think our life in terms of a story do we then sometimes predict the ending?  Do we limit ourselves by having expectations based on this narrative we have about our lives?  In a recent podcast I listened too, they profiled a family who had a story of their life.  They were beekeepers, and when tragedy struck and it all came to an end, they could see themselves any other way.  What they had been doing for 40 years was who they were.  Their house decorated with bees.  How do you change the story when life takes an unexpected turn?  It can be very difficult to find happiness or contentedness when expectations do not match the reality of your situation.  This podcast also did another episode where they talked about changing your story and how doing that can help us move on.  We might find inspiration in others who have changed the story of their lives, we may also become limited by others who assume that we can’t change our story.  Perhaps we have no choice but to see our lives as a story, and if we are going to do that, perhaps we just need to learn how to better hijack that process to write those new chapters that can take the story into a different direction.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject?  Do you think of your life as a story?  Do you think it’s good or bad that you do?  Have you had to change your story unexpectedly?  Was it difficult?

There is a nice discussion on the topic on another podcast I listen to if you are interested in thinking about this subject more.

The Same and Not Quite the Same

Wake up, time to get up,
Make some tea,
Flossing, flossing,
The sun is out, that’s nice.
Brushing my teeth
Should I shave today?
Yes, no avoiding it.
A bite to eat
Go to the gym for a bit
The dew is gone, better mow that lawn
Lunch
Take my son for a walk
Nap time for him now
Fold some laundry with Maggie
He’s up, dinner.
Bed and bath for the little one
Some TV, some computer time
Off to bed

Repeat the next day

Wake up, time to get up,
Make some tea,
Flossing, flossing,
The clouds are pretty, that’s nice.
Brushing my teeth,
Don’t need to shave today
A bite to eat
Off to work, same route
Lunch
Driving home, same route
Hit the gym
Take my son for a walk
Empty the dishwasher
Cook some dinner
Bed and bath for the little one
Sneak in a bowl of ice cream
Read and fall asleep

Repeat the next day

Wake up, time to get up,
Make some tea,
Flossing, flossing,
Looks like rain today.
Brushing my teeth,
Shave again?
Yep, beard is pretty grey
A bite to eat
Off to work, same route
Lunch
Driving home, same route

Hit the gym
Lot’s of rain, staying in
Grass is going to grow faster
Wash some dishes
Start the grill for dinner
Skyping with family
Bed and bath for the little one
Read and fall asleep

That Which Survives

I was thrust into a conversation recently where I debated a Christian fundamentalist on morality.  Particular why would we care about well-being, that only an existing divine moral authority would give us that imperative.

It seems obvious to me that morality is born out of need to learn how to survive best.   And this of course would be different for different species.  An intelligent life that evolved from frogs might simply have large litters and leave them all to fend for themselves and have completely different morals that made sense for their particular mode of survival.  For us as social primates we have our own set of behaviors that make us most successful.  I was then asked over and over again, “Why survive?”  As if the answer could only be some supernatural force at worked.  And yet it seems to me that survival is just the nature of life.  I would go so far as to say if the nature of life was not to survive, there wouldn’t be life.  It’s sort of the very definition of life.  I would imagine that this is part of the definition of life we can most agree on.

Thus it also seems obvious to me that as a species of primates who have evolved to survive rather well through cooperation, we survive best when we are compassionate and kind to others.  Building bonds of trust and empathy are not only some of the most long lasting relationships, but also the most gratifying to our own well being.  But clearly it can’t be so obvious, because there is a lot of the opposite going around.

I started to think that maybe there are two extremes of the type of person you can be.  You can be one who thinks the least of us slow us down and prevent us from living in that wonderful future utopia, or you can one who thinks that it difficult to know who the least of us is.  And that everybody, to a certain extent, has something to teach.  Hopefully, that thing they have to teach isn’t what not to do.  But even those are lessons well learned.  Of course most of us are not those extremes.  But we’re all hoping to be more like one than the other.  I think the former can be measurable shown to be illusion, but if you think the latter is easy to achieve you’d be fooling yourself just as much.    I can personally say that there are moments when the illusion seems simpler, and you find the appeal of the black and white view, even if you know that could never be you.  The latter is the path of humility, a path that asks you to accept uncertainty as property of nature.  Not only must you tolerate it, you must actually welcome it and embrace it.  Such a path can be a painful journey, but the well-being you gain from prostrating yourself under the endless sky of uncertainty, baring your soul to the universe, is immense.  Because it really is the best way to see the stars.   It’s always just seemed apparent to me that humans were naturally kind creatures, because it always seemed to me the reason why we’ve survived until now.  I hope I’m not wrong.