Life, the Universe, and Everything

“And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

It is today my 42nd birthday and I decided this would be a good year to reflect.  Why 42, why not 40 like any other normal person with a penchant for round numbers?  According Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series a supercomputer was asked to come up with the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything and 42 was that answer.  So I am at the age which is the answer, but of course if you read the series you know that while the answer was determined a more powerful supercomputer had to be created to determine the question (which turned out to be the planet Earth).  So 42 seems like a great age to think about answers and questions.

This is also the year that I often joked would be when I started my own cult.  This was supposed to be easy as I was going to have a good portion of Twitter followers, find myself a good compound with fertile soil and enjoy the good life.  Extra wives would have been optional.  It’s weird how as I get older there seems to be more of a drive to keep life simple and surround yourself by like minded people.  Anyway, Twitter really doesn’t suit me, for as you can see, I don’t say many things in 140 words or less so my followers are few, and I think life is better that way, and also I’m not a very proficient gardener, so I’m probably better off living close to the farmer’s market.  So here I am, nobody famous and nobody to follow, and a mini essay of reflection is probably more suited to greater personalities, but hey, it’s the age of information and I have a blog, so why not write? 🙂

Life

I think what makes being a teenager so difficult is that this is the time in your life when you start to self-actualize a lot more and really think about the future.  It’s a terrible thing really, because you are also still young enough where you really don’t know shit.  I remember thinking a lot about the type of person I wanted to be.  My dad was (and still is) an alcoholic and as a teenager I knew that I didn’t want to be like my dad.  Kids respond to those who are consistently there for them, and my mom was that person.  Of course I’ve come to realize many positives about my dad as well, but as a kid I knew that whatever way my dad was, wasn’t working.  My mom was loving, supporting, nurturing, and always there.  At the time I never really looked at my mom and dad’s personalities as related gender, but more as what are the behaviors that lead to increased happiness and that bring increased happiness to others.  I am sure it did in many ways shape why I’ve always felt more free to be myself more in front of women than men, and why I look beyond arbitrary categorizations of people and simply try to stick to values that bring happiness.

I also remember thinking that I was not the person I wanted to be.  I felt like I was this amazing person who was trapped inside myself. Inside a shell that I needed to break out of.  I know now that there is a certain element of being a child of an alcoholic that makes us more fearful of self-expression because of how we internalize our parents’ addiction, but I think teenagers can simply be apprehensive about inserting themselves in the world no matter how much they want to.  I know I am a person who leans toward safety over risk, and that was one of the things I wanted to get better at as I got older which was to be bold.  It’s still the quality I struggle with the most, but I’m proud to say that the vision I had for myself at around the age of 16 isn’t far off the mark.  The compliment that I have received several times and means the most to me is when people tell me that they can tell immediately the type of person that I am because I am so open and.  It is the part I like about myself the most especially because I think life is too short to pretend with people.   I am proud that I have reached a point in life where I am comfortable in my own skin, and it is something that has always seemed like a necessary way to be, but I in no way want to imply that I have go there solely on my own.

Another thing I worried about when I was young was that I wasn’t original.  I felt like everything I was, was copied from somebody else.  I didn’t have any original ideas, I wasn’t creative.  As I was thinking about what to write in this post yesterday I was wondering if I should say that the meaning of life is “theft”.  We are born as absolutely blanks and while genetics may texture our canvas to a certain respect we are painted on by the many people we come to know in life, our culture and society also paints broad brushes over us too.  Of course theft isn’t really the right word.  People and society paint things upon us and we have little say in that.  And in most other cases it is people who in my life who have given, and I have taken, and I would like to believe that with time I have been better about showing my gratitude.  It would not be until a certain Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode that I felt better about my lack of originality.  Here Captain Picard comments on the emotionless android Data’s violin playing.

PICARD: The good doctor was kind enough to provide me with a recording of your concert. Your performance shows feeling.
DATA: As I have recently reminded others, sir, I have no feeling.
PICARD: It’s hard to believe. Your playing is quite beautiful.
DATA: Strictly speaking, sir, it is not my playing. It is a precise imitation of the techniques of Jascha Heifetz and Trenka Bronken.
PICARD: Is there nothing of Data in what I’m hearing? You see, you chose the violinists. Heifetz and Bronken have radically different styles, different techniques, yet you combined them successfully.
DATA: I suppose I have learned to be creative, sir, when necessary.
PICARD: Mister Data, I look forward to your next concert.

So yes, I now feel original, thanks to lines written by somebody else.  Star Trek has actually taught me quite a bit now that I think about it. 🙂 Life is also full of irony and paradoxes enough to make you scratch your head for a lifetime.  In the end though, isn’t this what we really are…a product of others, both biologically and environmentally with a unique level of proportions such that we are originals? What I really mean to say about all this is that I feel really grateful to all those who have given and for what I have taken.  I have taken the best of you to the very heart of me and a result carry you everywhere.  Some I’ve not seen or talked to in some time, some it may have only been a brief time in which we knew each other, or perhaps were not even very close friends, but I saw what was good in you, I smiled at it, and celebrated it and let it course through my arteries.  I am thankful for all the love, the friendship, the inspiration, the memories, the lessons taught, and yes even the criticism and in some cases hurt.  I am unique and original because of all of you and there is no other way I’d rather be.

The Universe

Growing older also means growing more aware as you continue to experience and learn in life.  As someone who is strongly committed to learning as awareness grows so does the burden of that knowledge.  It is only in the most recent years that I have truly understood the expression ignorance is bliss.  However, it is also important to remember that your own bliss is of little value to anybody else but yourself, and we are a social species.  As I’ve learned I continued to have more awe for this amazing universe we live in, uncovering the darkness that shrouds knowledge also means discovering the horrors, the malice, the pain, and the suffering.  It is all the worse when you are one of the lucky ones to have things far better than so many.  It makes you question the very right to feel happy.  And when it comes down to it, it makes me feel bad just complain about how heavy the thoughts are sometimes, because I am so fortunate to just have to think about it and not actually experience the hardships so many bear.  I am fortunate that I can put those thoughts to the side at times. However, I also know there is no denying it either.  And I know that just feeling sad and depressed all the time would be debilitating so there is nothing for it but to do something about it. I am not helpless under this weight although sometimes it can feel that way.  So I try, and I let myself feel happiness for all the beauty that exists as well.  There is much to fight against in this world, but I feel if we forget what we’re fighting for, it’s easy to get lost in the darkness.

The cosmic glow of the Carina Nebula as seen in a stunning 3D reconstruction in Hidden Universe, released in IMAX® theatres and giant-screen cinemas around the globe and produced by the Australian production company December Media in association with Film Victoria, Swinburne University of Technology, MacGillivray Freeman Films and ESO. The Carina Nebula contains two of the most massive and luminous stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The original image was taken by ESO's Very Large Telescope.

I believe that it is this mixture of awe-inspiring beauty and soul-draining horror that drives us.  I think we can’t help but feel small in the face of it.  Some try to conquer it by building belief systems that explain it all, some try to chip away at the answer slowly through careful investigation, and some just turn to vices to distract themselves and to numb themselves.  However, from what I’ve seen, the true winners in this world are always the ones who accept how small they are in the face of it all.  It’s bigger than any one individual and it’s the one thing we all have in common.  It is enough to make you just sit there and think “Why can’t we just all get along? It really does seem so simple to just be nice to each other.  Nobody has to get nailed to anything.

As I look forward the things on the horizon are amazing.  Just as there are things in my young life I never thought possible but exist now, I know there are many unknown wonders that await me for the rest of my life.  I like being this age and knowing all the things that I know.  Wisdom comes to you without even knowing it, and I like it. I admit that I am not a big fan of leaving this existence.  I see us getting closer to things like unlocking the mysteries of aging, replacing organs, interfacing the computer to the brain and I wonder if in the not too distant future we might have a choice to live far longer than we do to do.  I am jealous quite frankly.  As someone who embraces change and has seen how changes occur over time spans far greater than our human lives I would like to experience it.  I want to choose when I want to leave this existence and have a shot at deepening that well of wisdom beyond this short time on Earth.  When I think of all the change that has occurred over 1000 years, 10,000 years and so on…I wonder what it would be like to see it…what perspective that would give you…how you would look at the universe differently.  I suppose such a chance will not happen, but I keep the dream alive only because it is at times helpful to remember that we are not only small in terms of the vastness of space, but also the vastness of time.  I can’t be expected to figure it all out, and that’s okay.

And Everything

Mommy_DhyanThere isn’t much more to say here.  Of course there is more to life I suppose, but it’s amazing how important some people become so that even the other things seem to tendril out from it.   I know that there are no guarantees in life, but that’s why living in the moment is so important. I am lucky that I have a life where I can take care of them just as much as they take care of me. The fact that our love can put some things at the center of our life, at the center of our universe, is amazing  What more could I want?  I do have everything.

To Dhyan: Year 1

Dear Dhyan,

I write this letter to you because I know that time changes our memories and feelings about events, and I wanted you to know what I was feeling in the first year of your life.  I also wanted to let you know who I am now, and maybe what I’ve become as a result of you being in my life.

I will begin with the day you were born.  We were at the hospital already.  One of many trips we had taken in the Dhyan_4weeklast couple weeks as your mother’s blood was racing in excitement for you being born.  Well that’s a nicer way of saying she had abnormally high blood pressure and we need to check her health and yours.  We knew that day, which was 3 weeks before your due date, there was a possibility they would want to take you out to make sure she was safe, and that is exactly what ended up happening.  I’ll proudly admit that I was rather calm.  Perhaps because I had to do none of the hard work, but I also have a lot of faith in statistics. Problems with deliveries in our part of the world are rare, and we were at one of the best hospitals in the area with excellent doctors and nurses.  I just knew everything was going to be alright, and I just wanted to make sure that your mother and you were fine and be calm and as in control for her as I could be.  Since all the hard work was your mothers, my panicking would have served little purpose anyways.  As they induced labor on your mother she got contractions quickly, and they started to impact your heart rate and so they decided that a cesarean section was necessary.  They wheeled your mother away and got me suited up so that I was sanitary and when they let me into the operating room they told me to not touch anything covered in blue.  The whole room seemed to be covered in blue and it was frightening obstacle course to get to the small stool next to your mother.  I held her hand and she smiled at me.  There was a large curtain separating the bottom half of your mother from our eyes so I couldn’t tell what they were doing.  Apparently they were making a big slice into your mother and taking you out.  The nurse handed you to me, all swaddled in apparently the same towel design they use in every hospital in the United States.  You were born at 9:59 pm on Dec. 27th, 2014 at 5 pounds 5 ounces, 19 inches long. You were so light and I looked at you and said to myself “So that’s it then?”  But your mom was tearing and she was too drugged up to really hold you.  You were so light and I brought your face close to hers and she smiled and cried at how beautiful you were.  I think it was a different experience for her.  She carried you around for almost 9 months and could feel her body change and feel you grow.  I would say at first I was more like a curious scientist, observing the whole process.  It did not feel like you were my son yet.  I hope that this doesn’t make you sad if you read this someday.  I was emotional because your mom was, but I have to say I didn’t feel like a father yet.

For the rest of that evening I continued to play the scientist as I watched them put you in a little warmer since you were so tiny, and found it humorous that you were under a heat lamp like a burger at a restaurant.  My feeling of being a father wouldn’t come until the next day when you didn’t have to be in the warmer anymore and we had be moved to our post delivery room and you were being fussy and unhappy and I picked you up and you quieted right down and became peaceful in my arms.  It was at that moment that my eyes begin to water.  I felt like you knew you were safe.   And I felt like you knew you were with your daddy and I knew you were my son.  And I knew that once someone feels safe with you, that you must be responsible so that they always feel that way.  I began to feel this surge within me out of nowhere, wanting you to be healthy and strong, wanting to make sure that I safely guided you to be someone that could handle this world that can be both terrifying and wondrous at the same time.  My head began to fill with dreams of what you would look like walking and talking, and questions you might ask, advice that I would give you, nursing tears and sharing joys.  That’s when you know you are in love, and that’s when I knew I was in love with you.

Dhyan_6monthBut time teaches you patience.  Perhaps that’s one advantage of having a 40 year old father.  As I process this past year I think about all the amazing moments I’ve been able to see.  These moments are small in comparison to what any human is capable of, but they remind me that in the process of growth even the most insignificant things can be great triumph because they happen along the way of great journeys.  And you have a great journey ahead of you.  I remember your first smile, the first time you opened your hands, your eyes following an object around the room for the first time, your first steps, your first crawl.  However, if I were to pick a favorite moment, when I think of your first year, is the first time you made vocalizations.  It happened one evening in between the age of 2 and 3 months.  It was like for the first time you wanted to greet the world.  It’s like you suddenly realized that you were no longer an extension of your mother, but you realized you were a separate individual entity and you wanted to announce your presence.  Or perhaps it was that for the first time you realized that the world wasn’t just happening to you, you could happen to the world and you were just glad to be alive. You made the cutest gurgling noises, and were smiling and waving your little arms about.  Your mother and I laid at your side on the bed and we just watched you.  It was the most entertaining and amazing thing I’ve ever seen and your mother and I were incurably happy next to you.  We would look at each other and just knew that as tiring as this might be some times it was also going to be incredibly rewarding and full of joy.  We knew what family meant, and we felt an incredible amount of love for you and each other.

Tomorrow you will be a year old.  You are now eagerly walking around and getting into all sorts of trouble.  You are curious and exploring and it reminds me how important the process of movement is to discovery.  In human history, the building of boats, cars, rockets, they all have allowed us to discover and learn more.  Now that you can move the rate in which you will discover grows exponentially and I find myself continually blown away at how quickly your strength, dexterity, and intelligence grows.  As I look back on the day I first fell in love with you I realize that my love was a beautiful house that is empty on the inside, and each day you fill that house with amazing memories.  That love is now a home, and we are happy there, and excited for all the new memories that will fill that home.  Sometimes I get really scared that something might happen to you, and that being in that home alone without you, with only those memories to look at, would be the saddest thing imaginable.  But I would not dishonor your joy by getting lost in those fears.  I keep in the back to keep you as safe as possible without taking away from your desire for self-determination and knowing that ultimately what we learn from risk and failure is as important as any other way there is to learn.

Dhyan_me_1year

My heart is full of love and excitement because as your development continues I can show my love for you in so many new ways and I am anxious for you to experience it.  I am also anxious to experience your love in new ways also.  Though my appearance may change little, make no mistake that we are growing together.  And as I sit here and write this I know one thing for certain.  There are no words to express how much of a gift you truly are to my soul.  It will take a lifetime together as father and son for those words to manifest and even then it will be in no language that can be spoken, but I guarantee that you will know it.

Love,

Your Father

The Perfect Blog Post

From http://www.allposters.com

A concept that has fascinated me for some time is that of perfection.  People will say something is perfect, but what does that really mean?  If we look at the dictionary definition we see that perfect means having no mistakes and flaws or completely correct and accurate.  But all of these words have some subjectivity to them.  Few people agree on what a mistake or flaw is.  And is anything completely correct and accurate?  If something can be, we often find that there is disagreement here also.

It seems to me that perfection is ultimately an ideal that everybody holds, but that nobody really agrees on.  In this way I find it very similar to the concept of God.  And many people say God is perfect and so the analogy is even stronger in that respect.  Nobody can really agree on the nature of God and everybody holds a slightly different view of what God wants and how He/She behaves.    In addition to the fact that I believe it is not up to the atheist to disprove the existence of God (but up to the theist to prove the existence of God), it seems also a fruitless task to disprove something which is not clearly defined.  Perfection seems to me exactly like this.  If perfection is an ideal and what is ideal is subjective to the person holding the ideal then perfection as a concept maybe limited in value to all but the individual.  Which means just like you shouldn’t be trying to enforce your vision of God on anybody else, perhaps we should also not be so adamant that others share our view of perfection.

Can we truly experience a shared value of perfection?  Many have tried to define a perfect system of government, a perfect society or

From http://dancearchives.net

civilization, a perfect self, but it is unclear that everybody agrees with those ideals, and many times they seem so implausible to reach that it seems that they will simply be rejected because some feel they are not rooted in reality.  But I think those that try to come up with these “universal” ideas of perfection do believe they are obtainable, at least in some distant future.  I hold similar ideals as I am sure all you do as well.  It seems to me though that we define this conceptual perfection beyond the present, but feel that the goal of perfection is not so far away that we can eventually reach it.  Science might give us some better clues as to what some perfect state might be, but to do so we would have to be sure we knew absolutely all the variables.  And we are far, far away from that and it seems likely we will never be at a state in which we know everything about the universe.

The next question then is, well what if we really do reach some state of perfection?  I wonder if we can simply be content and happy in the long term, before we are really start thinking about how things could be even better.  This seems true at an individual level or even if we do have some shared value of what perfection is.  Unless we knew everything (highly unlikely) it seems like we would always be searching for more and that perfection is not possible.

Finally I think then it is worth asking the question, are such ideals like perfection a good thing?  If it is a goal we can never reach does it prevent us from being content and happy in life?  The answer is maybe.  I think if you accept that perfection is some point on the horizon that you can move towards but never reach (or at least not reach easily or quickly) then you might instead to learn to appreciate the journey you take to get there.  If on the other hand you believe the perfect state is actually reachable in a tangible way and you don’t get there, then this can leave one frustrated, disappointed and unhappy.

While I ponder about perfection frequently, the most recent inspiration was looking at my son.  He seems perfect.  He has no mistakes or IMG_7532flaws.  He will make mistakes and he will have flaws however.  Thus I began to wonder if maybe, even as a concept, perfection doesn’t exist.  It’s just something we believe in but have no evidence of.  Because he is who he is, and while we will try to nurture him positively into the world, everything about his life will be different than mine and who he ends up as will be who he is supposed to be.  He is supposed to make mistakes and have flaws.  Thus he is in accordance with his nature.  As we all are.  Our nature is to change, to grow, and be imperfect.  In the end perhaps we are all according to our nature, and maybe that is what perfection really is.  The good news is, nobody is saying you have to like it.

I think it is very important, however, that we have these lofty concepts, and that we continue to dream of better ways to live life, because it could be that in our imaginings we do end up moving towards some better future.  I think as long as we remain humble about our dreams of perfection and be willing to modify and change our ideals when life presents us with new information then the concept of perfection can have meaningful purpose.

 

 

 

 

Wonderful thoughts

I consider my first love, a girl who did not even love my back and who didn’t know how I felt.  It’s not the same, and I’m not going to even claim that it was as intense as the first time I fell in love with someone who was in love with me, but this girl changed my life.  Before I met her, I never even dreamed someone so beautiful would talk to me, and more importantly that I would have the confidence to talk to her.  I had a lot of self-esteem issues growing up and that may surprise some who have only known me in my 30’s and it took me a long time to even have the nerve to even ask a girl out.  I didn’t do that until I was 18.  She was very kind, said she felt flattered but that she had a boyfriend.  Of course I was disappointed, but it gave me some confidence. I then went on my first date at the age of 19.  I was a mess on that date, and she didn’t want to date again, but it was another confidence builder.  Yes it took me until the age of 20 to even have the nerve to really talk to a girl I found that beautiful like a normal human being.  We became friends though, and she had a boyfriend at the time and so it was really inappropriate for me to really express my feelings anyway.  And she was extremely beautiful and I don’t regret at all that I didn’t express myself because if you can’t also be friends with someone you find attractive than you have no business getting into relationships anyway.  Because of her I gained so much belief in myself it’s hard to describe.  And she is out there with absolutely no idea what she did for me, and I will forever feel grateful to her.

Stories of my boring early love life is not the point of this post, but what is the point is that we all have these kinds of memories.

From http://the07.deviantart.net

Incidents and people that touched our lives and trajectories have moved us apart without them ever knowing how they changed us.  It doesn’t always have to be a positive experience.  It could be negative at the time, but upon reflection we learned the right lesson from it.  It could be an acquaintance sharing a tale of woe and from that we have an extra piece of knowledge that may help us avoid that situation in the future, hurling us on a different trajectory than we otherwise would have taken.  These moments can happen so briefly and the other person has no idea the changes they’ve caused in you. And who knows, some of these small moments may even plant the seeds of greater change.

As I reflect on these people and these moments it makes life feel absolutely amazing because if I’m feeling a bit down on myself, feeling a bit invisible, or feeling smaller than I like in the vast universe, I remember that I also do not know what impact I might have had on others.  Whether I have been at my best or at worst I still may have helped someone grow, change, lead a better life.  Sometimes I think it would be nice to know, but given how people have changed me without them knowing, I don’t know need to know exactly, I can simply be confident that at least some people out there have benefitted by my existence.  I think that as long as I keep trying each day to be more than I am, then good things will always happen.  And it’s good to know that at 40, I’m still an optimist at heart. 🙂

What is not life?

A charming blogger I follow who is full of sharp wit, emotional depth, and genuine kindness recently posted a poem called What is Life?  Her answers to that question follow and are an enjoyable read.  Someone in the comments of that post asked the question, “What then is NOT life?” and that question had me thinking.  So I thought in response to her poem, I would write a quick one of my own, which is not nearly as clever or humorous, but hopefully at least makes you ponder the question that I did. 🙂

What is not life?

It is not straight lines,

From http://www.smscs.com

It is not absolute,

It is not nothing,

It is not one truth.

It is not an ideal gas,

It is not constant,

It is not always visible, heard or felt,

It is not just about you

It is not probable,

It is not in equilibrium,

It is not predictable,

It is not perfect.

It is not disconnected,

It is not small,

It is not for the faint of heart,

(And…in the vast depths of time of this universe),

It is not long.