Ouroboros

Wandering through neural mazes,
I am always lost when I find you,
Your pose is casual, blocking the path,
Like you were waiting for me,
Knowing I’d be there even when I didn’t,
Reminding me of memories I never made.

In the waning days of summer,
There is a scar that I am thankful for,
And yet find it so hard to forgive,
It pulses along with my pulse, counting time,
I ache as the trees do, as the leaves fall,
Still I smile at the splendor of colors.

The things that you are so frightened of,
Are the things I love the most,
I held my face to you like a mirror,
A mere, still in a deep forest,
And you ran like a hunted hart,
Avoiding refreshing pools as your thirst swelled.

I am now bound to chase with no quarry,
As I watch you run with no pursuer,
Participants in a game that must be played,
Do I choose to play, or is fate unescapable,
I’ve clawed and surrendered, and of the two,
One felt right, while the other felt… good.

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Flash Fiction Again

I tried posting this morning, but a number of people reported the link being broken, so I am reposting.

I was able to get another flash fiction story published on 101 Words.  After the previous one I was encouraged to go again and am quite enjoying the challenge.  Instead of a punchline though I wanted to go for something a little more dramatic.  I hope you enjoy it.  Please follow this link.

Also if you are interested in having a little fun and challenging yourself to see what you can put in 101 words, follow this link.  You can even ask for feedback.

It’s the Thought That Counts

It has been discussed by many that our brains are wired on an evolutionary scale, and that the rapid change of society through technological advances has outpaced us, leaving us with many disconnects between what we see every day and what we can actually handle.  In many ways, we might be happier if we lived in small tribes and were closely surrounded by wilderness, instead of surrounded by brick and cement, drive vehicles and get visual stimuli from computer or television screens.   One aspect of this disconnect, that I find quite intriguing, and I think is central to our ability to understand the world we find ourselves in, is what I call and order of magnitude problem.

Think about early man in those hunter gatherer days.  Counting is a base cognitive skill, important for our survival.  But what is that we might count?  You might count the amount of fruit gathered on any particular day, the number of children, or people.  Such numbers might get you into the 100s.  You might count seasonal cycles.  If you were lucky maybe you had 80 of those to count.  You might count lunar cycles.  Getting you to about 1040.  Even this would require some note making, because this is counting over time, and surely you would not sit there and count something that high.  Such cycles of time were the only things worth keeping track of.  We had no need to measure time beyond that.  No need for small units of time such as a second.  It might make sense to come up with some unit of measurement for distance. Something comparable to arm lengths or hand widths…something we might use to size an animal, measure height of people or spears.  When it came to traveling, you might then simply use something like phases of the moon, or number of diurnal cycles.  Once again such counting would leave numbers small.  Occasionally you might find yourself thinking about numbers in terms of fractions.  Maybe something like half a day, or a quarter of an armlength.  For things very small, you probably would no longer use armlength as your standard, but perhaps finger width.  Such techniques are ones that we still use today.

The reality is that if you think about numbers, you probably won’t get very far.  Now do a little exercise for me.  If you think of the number 1000.  How do you think about it, to picture a 1000 of something?  You might think what a $1000 can buy, but money is a fiction that represents a quantity of stuff you can buy which varies depending on what stuff your buying.  If you wanted to actually count, what would you think about.  Maybe 1000 people in a room.  You might have a sense for how big a group that is.  Chances are you won’t get it exactly.  Go down to a 100 and your chances of picturing 100 things gets better.  Now do 10 of something.  Pretty easy.  Now do 1.  Even easier.  Let’s go down another order of magnitude.  Try to think of something that is 0.1.  Here as we move down an order of magnitude we can no longer count whole things.  So think of 1/10th of a person probably gets a bit graphic, so what are you thinking of to imagine 0.1?  For that you now have to think of some standard.  Maybe a mile, an inch, a meter?  Depending on what you choose, you can do okay.  Now try 1/100th.  Again with the right starting point you might do okay, but even dividing by 100 can be hard for someone without a formal education and once we get to 1/1000th our ability to guess at the meaning of that fraction is severely reduced regardless of our starting point.  So if you are keeping track this puts the human mind, on a good day our brains are capable of somewhat accurately sorting out 5 orders of magnitude (10-2 – 103).  However, if we look at the scale of the universe in size we span 52 orders of magnitude from the plank length to the size of the observable universe (please see this very cool interactive graphic that allows you to explore the different spatial scales of the universe).  In terms of time, our quantum clocks can measure up to 1  ten billionth of a second (10-10) .  Meanwhile we know the universe has been around for about 14 billion years (1015 seconds).  If you don’t have trouble digesting such numbers you are a super genius, because everybody should.  Those are just the extremes, but unless you are within that 5 orders of magnitude range I discussed earlier, it makes little difference.  And this is also important because it means that a million miles, might as well be a billion miles in our head.  However, the difference between those two numbers is meaningful.  In science, to consider two numbers like that the same would be to make a grievous error on the order of 100,000%.

Scientists, through years of working with the numbers that shape our world are often better at dealing with these things, but even scientists tend to use conventions to make numbers easier to manage.  There is a reason why you don’t measure the distance from New York City to Boston in inches.  We have developed different units of measurement for distance.  In the old English system we have inches, feet, yards and miles.  In metric, we have prefixes that span numerous orders of magnitude so that we don’t have to always report distance in meters.  For objects in space in our solar system we might use astronomical units to keep those distances in more manageable numbers.  For things outside our solar system, light years.

                  Image of radar reflectivity.

Whatever we measure in science can change over large ranges and change at massively different rates.  Change is rarely linear, but very often exponential.  As a result, we might find ourselves dealing with quantities which very over several orders of magnitude.  In my field a good example for this is radar reflectivity.  You may not be familiar with it, but you’ve certainly seen radar images if you’ve paid attention to the weather.  Higher reflectivities indicate bigger drops and faster rain rates.  Lower reflectivities represent light rain or drizzle.  The difference in size between a drizzle drop and a basic rain drops is no more than a factor of 10, but the reflectivities span over 10- 1,000,000.  Thus, meteorologists convert those reflectivity values using decibels.  The decibel system was initially used for sound given the large range of frequency for sound waves, but now is a common tool for expressing values that vary over several orders of magnitude by taking the logarithm (base 10) of the value. This reduces the number to its order of magnitude.  For example, instead of 106 if I take the logarithm with base 10 of that number I get 6.  And 6 is much easier to wrap our heads around than 1,000,000.  I know I’ve gotten kind of technical here with this example, but the point is that nature, as we’re discovering, does not conform to the numbers our brains had to deal with when we evolved.  And most scientists, while they might have some understanding of the microscopic or macroscopic numbers and the wide ranges of values science employs, to objectively analyze and come to some meaningful conclusions we very often have to be able to visually see those numbers between about 0.01 and 1000.

You might say that such numbers make little difference to most of us unless we are in science, but let’s talk about where our everyday lives might be impacted.  First let’s start with the population of the world.  There are 7 billion people.  Try to wrap your head around that number.   Is your soul mate really just one in a billion?  Could such a large group of people create an environmental disaster? How many bodies could certain countries throw at you in a war? About 700 million, globally, live in abject poverty.  Do the numbers seem so voluminous that it’s easier to ignore human suffering, or make you feel defeated before you try?

What about some of the more important educational and scientific controversies that still exist today? Evolution has been happening for several billion years, but many would like to believe that we’ve been around for only 6000 years.  Religious dogma aside, isn’t it possible that part of the reason that some people resist what science clearly demonstrates is because we are talking about a length of time that few can relate to?  The vastness of time threatens to humble us all as blips in a universe far older than we can fathom. And its size and origin similarly attacks our human conceit at being the grandest and cleverest design in a creator’s eye.

                                         The Geologic Time Scale

Vast amounts of people also create vast sums of money.  Billionaires have almost unimaginable wealth that people still commonly believe that can obtain too.  Politicians and media constantly throw large dollar values in our faces to intimidate us.  When one wants to high light wasteful spending we can put point to something costing 100’s of millions of dollars and we shudder at such an amount being wasted.  Forgetting that with 100 million taxpayers, something in the 100’s of millions is costing us a handful of dollars a year.  I have seen the tactic used frequently.  Once again we might on some level realizes that a 100 million, 10 billion, and a trillion dollars are different, but they are all unimaginably large sums of money that in the battle for what’s important and what’s not, they can all be seen as being on equal footing. The idea that public television and radio need to be cut for austerity is quite simply a joke when compared to a 10% increase in defense spending if anybody thinks that’s going to balance the budget.

One might argue that the microscopic matters very little (no pun intended), but I do think an appreciation for that scale is valuable, if for no other reason helping us appreciation the vast variation of scales that make up our known universe.  Scientists often take very small numbers that might exist for pollutants or toxicity in foods or water, and change the unites of those numbers so that they are bigger.  I understand why, because of course we don’t want to underwhelm in those situations, but maybe it’s also a problem that we continue to cater to this limited range of numbers that our minds most easily manage.   It’s probably best to start incrementally, and perhaps a good example of how we can begin is with time.  John Zande over at his blog, The Superstitious Naked Ape, offers up a good first step towards our lack of comfortability with numbers outside of our “sweet spot”.  The start of our counting of years begins with the birth of Christ, but this is a religious and faith based reason to start the counting of the years.  Why not use Thai’s bone which is our earliest evidence of careful astronomical observations of the sun and moon over a 3 ½ year period.   Instead of the year 2017, it would instead be 15,017.

                                                                          Thai’s bone

It might seem like an arbitrary difference, but I think it would give us a better feel for the vastness of time, and a better appreciation for the numbers that shape the universe we’ve come to know.  Since there seems to be little stopping the advance of science in technology, perhaps we better find more ways to help these brains, made for a different time, catch up.

Two Lines

Two lines at a time,
That’s all I want to write.

The brilliance fades quickly,
Because I’ll be on to something else,
And those two lines,
They won’t make any sense.
But maybe they will again tomorrow,
I’ll remember what I wanted say,
And by the end of the week,
The month,
The year,
I’ll have written some poetry,
Something that will blow a soul away,
And you’d never tell,
That I didn’t just sit down and write it,
All in one gasping breath of inspiration,
The exaltation that moves me so much,
That I can only write two lines,
Without getting lost in the music,
Without getting thirsty,
Without needing sleep.

When Atlas has to set the world down,
There shall be a revelation in two lines.

Eternity

Our story today is set in heaven.  It is a glorious place.  The light of God shines everywhere and God is at the center of it all, and sort of everywhere just soaking it all in as countless souls experiences the joy and happiness of being in His presence.  And as it says in Revelation “There is a constant chanting of angels that are heralding Holy, Holy, Holy over the throne of God.  The Mercy Seat in heaven where God sits is surrounded by angels full of glory and power that profess and bless the holy name of God continuously.

Bill sits among the multitude of souls reveling in God’s glory.  It’s unclear how much time has actually passed but things have started to feel a little bit different for Bill.  He hears a voice.

“Psst…hey!”

Bill breaks out his reverie and looks over to the source of the voice and sees a vague form there. “Are you talking to me?”

“Yeah…well you’re the only one that can seem to hear me, but then again with all the singing maybe it’s just heard to hear. Ha!”

Bill watches as the strange figure starts to look more and more human shaped.

“Yeah we’re just souls, but since you seem to look the way I feel, I sense we are both transforming it something more resembling our old selves.  I’m Hank.  It’s nice to meet you.  I’d shake your hand, but…uh…well we’re not of the body and all that.”

Bill nods dumbfounded.  Nobody had ever talked to him since he walked through the gates and from that point on it’s just been constant singing.

“Listen,” says Hank, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can take this anymore.”

“What do you mean?” Bill responded, still slightly shocked that the conversation is happening.

“Do you have any idea how long we’ve been up here?”

“No”

“Well I do. 14, 325 years!”

“Really?  I thought there was no time in heaven.  How do you even know that?”

“First of all,” said Hank “There’s definitely time passing here, you just can’t measure it by watching the Earth go around the Sun once a year.  And the reason I know how long we’ve been here, is that I happened to ask a passing angel last week.  Difficult buggers to get a hold of really.  It’s like trying to find an employee in a Wal-Mart to find out where they keep the slivered almonds.  It’s a big place Heaven, with not a lot of those angels about.  I mean the ones that are singing are obvious, but you know I figured its best not to interrupt.  Anyway the angel tells me what year it is on Earth.  I’m impressed we even made it as a species for that long.”

“Hmmm…well that’s interesting, but what do you want with me?” Bill asked, wondering if he shouldn’t be getting back to his bathing in the joy of God’s light.

“Well mainly you were the first person that seemed to hear me.  And quite frankly, I was bored!”

“Bored?  This is heaven!”

Are you trying to tell me all this joy and happiness hasn’t lost its edge a bit?  I mean this feeling of joy and happiness in the glory of God and all that has been going on for a pretty long time…I mean I don’t even remember why I’m happy anymore.  I mean don’t get me wrong, God’s great and all, but to feel really good, you need to remember what it was like to feel bad.  It’s been a long time, I was lucky to remember my own name.”

“I’m…Bill but the way…I think, and yes you may be on to something.  I have noticed lately that there isn’t quite as much bliss as there was before.  Although I can’t say exactly when it all changed.  I just assumed this was how I always felt and that I hadn’t remembered properly how happy I’d been feeling.”

“Bill, that is exactly what went though my mind.  But you know what knocked me out of my reverie?”

“No. What?”

“As I’m just enjoying the scene of Jesus sitting next to his Father on the throne, I notice Jesus take a sip of something from a golden chalice, and it hits me like a tsunami.  I had completely forgot the sensation of just how refreshing a drink can be when you’re thirsty.”

“So?”

“So?!  Listen I am not saying God isn’t amazing, but so are a lot of other things.  I mean when was the last time you saw field full of flowers, a waterfall, or just a great movie?  Or that great feeling you get after a good cry.  I would kill to see Forrest Gump, or Beaches right now.”

“But you get to feel great all the time here.  You don’t need to cry.” Bill looked at Hank with a matter of fact expression on his face.

“I mean sure you can say that about anything, but where’s the flavor?  Joy and happiness is not built on one thing alone, they are built on a myriad of experience of the course of time.  I mean when was the last time you woke up from a kick ass great night of sleep?”

Bill’s expression now changed to one of incredulity “God’s light is everywhere.  You don’t need to sleep?”

“Exactly, it’s always light.  Do you think that’s normal?”

“Isn’t it?”

“Think about it Bill.  It took me a long time to remember too.  Don’t you remember something called night?  You know stars?  The moon?  Sleep?”

“It rings a bell.  But sleeping is for when you’re tired.  I’m not tired and haven’t been since I got here.”

“And you think that’s normal?  What about that good kind of tired you got from a good workout or jog?  What about that good kind of tired you got from a satisfying day of work?”

Bill, looked down for a moment, a look of deep concentration on his face. “No I don’t.  I think I sold office supplies.”

“That’s not the point!”  Hank became more animate and grabbed Bill by the shoulders only to find nothing to grab on to and then backed away with a look of disappointment.  “Listen, the point is I am sure there was something that brought you joy.  Look I love God, you love God, that’s how we got here, and I think that’s fabulous.  But there’s got to be more to it than this.”

Bill still looked apprehensive, “I don’t know.  God’s light is pretty great.”

“Of course it is.  If you had asked me 5,000 years ago if I would get tired of this, I would have said you were crazy.  No one is more surprised than I am to find myself in this position of being a bit dissatisfied.  Now if you ask me could I take all of this for another 1,000 or 2,000 years, I would say sure, but eternity?  Really?  That same angel that I asked about the year to, you know what I asked him next?  How much longer do we have?  You know how he responded?  He just laughed.  That’s messed up.  I mean don’t you remember getting up here and all the excitement of it?  I was thinking, I can’t wait to see my family.  And you know I realized, I haven’t missed them once. And I don’t know how long you’ve been here, but I also started to remember how excited I would be to get here to meet Him and all the question I was going to ask him.  I mean think about it Bill, weren’t you all excited to meet God, and ask Him a bunch of questions?”

Bill nodded.

“Yeah, me too.  But have you got to ask Him one question?”

Bill shook his head.

“Me neither, and I love asking questions.  But I got here and it was just like praise, singing, glorious light, and I forgot everything!”

“So, what, do you want to ask Him a question?”

“Yeah I want to ask him a question.  Like, ‘Can I go back and do some more good works on Earth?’, because I’m sure there are still problems.”

“Yeah…come to think of it, I feel a bit idle.”  Bill started to feel like maybe he was coming out of a dream. “So do you think we should go up and talk to Him?”

Jesus-at-the-right-hand-of-the-fatherBoth Bill and Hank looked towards the throne.  A throng of angels and beasts singing praise.  God and Jesus were just smiling magnanimously at everybody. Hank turns to Bill, “I don’t man, it doesn’t look like a scene to have a conversation in.”

“Yeah.  So what do you want to do?”

“Let’s just get out of here Bill.  We’ll talk to somebody at the front gate and see what our options are.

“Sounds good Hank.  But where is the front gate?”

“Hmmm….I don’t know.  It’s been like 14,000 years I don’t remember which direction we came from?  Do you?”

“No.  So what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know…let’s just start walking and try to find it.  I mean the one thing we do have, is time.”

————————————————————————————————-

Thank you for reading.  Thought I’d try my hand at a little satire.  Whatever your thought are about heaven, eternity is still a really, really, really, long time. 🙂

What Makes A Good Human?: Vigilance

I start out my journey with something I have specifically blogged about: Vigilance. I sort of attempted this project about a year and half ago, but at that time I hadn’t really formed a list clearly in my mind.  So if some of this looks familiar you may have read some of it before, but I wanted to arrange my argument a little differently and have also added some other things here that I think are relevant.  I also want to note here that I have decided to highlight text where qualities are mentioned that I also think are important but fall under the umbrella of vigilance

One of my favorite quotes from a person of history is this quote by Gandhi, “Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.”  At first such a quote might seem kind of depressing, but I do not think Gandhi intended it that way.  Instead I think the quote refers to the importance of vigilance.  For most of us life is full of mundane tasks that must be done, not all of them are joyful, nor are they painful, they are just chores that need to be done, often daily; things like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, taking out the garbage, etc.  And it’s not to say that these things might not be joyful for some people too.  There is something nice about the feeling of clean teeth, or a clean kitchen, but even if there isn’t, it is important that these things be done.  Stop doing them for a length of time and you will see how difficult and/or unhealthy.  So I think Gandhi recognized this aspect of our lives and that by practicing vigilance we are learning that not everything we do has an immediate impact and that we are learning that life takes perseverance. Gandhi himself spent most of his adult life trying to free Britain from independent rule and uniting his people.  Affecting change, even small change, is usually a slow process that takes a lot of work.  The importance of perseverance also turns out to be a central tenet of many religions although it is often ignored for the more magical aspects of the religion that concern the divine and the supernatural.  But you can find passages in most religious texts that speak to the importance of doing good deeds over the entire course of one’s lifetime as the best way to get closer to God and ensure yourself the best possible future after you die.  Whether that be in some heavenly plane or through a positive reincarnation.  And while I don’t subscribe to these ideas of divine rewards, the fact remains that no religion claims that it easy to get to paradise.  It’s hard work and it takes time.

Vigilance also speaks to consistency.  Children for instance need consistency in behavior from their parents.  Relationships require trust and that demands a certain constancy of character so that you feel you can trust and rely on each other.  Good health and long life requires a lifetime of good choices about hygiene, nutrition, and exercise.  I have often told people that getting a Ph.D. is not as much about how smart you are, but your ability to persevere through a lot of work, hoops, and bureaucracy (I don’t necessarily mean this disparagingly, because for me it was worth it, for others I know it was not).  I think it is true that sometimes we even seek this constancy in things that we don’t like.  The saying “Sometimes the enemy you know, is better than the enemy you don’t”, speaks to situations where people are willing to put up with something or somebody that is unpleasant simply because they have become used to it and at least know how to deal with it.

I think it is easy for vigilance to get caught up in the idea of routine, and maybe it sometimes is, but even that is not necessarily a bad thing.  Those with autism depend on routine as a way of making sense of their world, and I don’t think we are all that different.  Most of us need some sense of routine, because our lives are always in conflict between change which brings uncertainty and those things that we can count on which makes us feel safe.  Routine can sometimes be very helpful when facing adverse moments in life.  Having something to focus on, something that you feel you need to do, however mundane the task, can help us from falling into depression and give us purpose.   I can’t speak for all people, but I have observed this being helpful for others and certainly for me when I was facing adversity.

Western Rim of the Grand Canyon

Recently I was in New Orleans for a conference and the keynote speaker for the conference was talking about how her spirituality has helped her and that she feels like God works through her because when she looks at the things she has done, she doesn’t know how she has been able to do it.  She feels like she herself is not capable.  I think it is easy to understand why many people feel that way.  For most things we do, we are used to seeing the immediate result of a particular action, but the quality of being vigilant is one that accumulates those experiences and over time builds wisdom.  In science, the field of geology teaches us excellent lessons about vigilance.  I liken the speaker’s revelation about what she accomplished to a river that erodes to make a canyon.  If you could talk to the river at any one moment in its life, if it was aware at all of the difference it was making each day, it would tell you only that it was eroding  miniscule fragments of mud and rock.  However, if we could then ask this river a couple hundred thousand years later to look around and see what it has made, I think the river would be surprised at the deep canyon it was in, since each day it had perceived little to no change.  The speaker dedicated her life to social change.  Should she really be surprised at all she has accomplished?  And this is an important point about life is that we often focus on the end result instead of paying attention to the journey.  We might idolize celebrities for their achievements and want to be like them, but few of us ever think about the enormous amount of work that goes into those accomplishments.  We see a star sports player but do not see all the training, practice and exercise they do.  We revere an excellent actor but do not see all the rehearsing and studying that goes into what they do.  No matter how naturally talented that person may be their achievements are the result of vigilance.  Thus vigilance also helps remind us about the process by which something happens and not just the end result.  There is no Grand Canyon without the daily process of erosion.

I think it’s important to remember that cause and effect occur over various timescales.  Rewards of our labors and actions may often take years to come to fruition.  The most important lesson from vigilance is that it gives us a better sense of time.  Thus vigilance also teaches us about patience.  Even waiting is a form of vigilance. Keeping this in mind helps me find more value in the mundane, and gives me the courage to push through when life seems difficult.

If there is a dark side to vigilance it is the quality of stubbornness.  Our energy in this life is finite and we have to also recognize those moments that what we are doing isn’t working at all and make adjustments.  Sometimes to achieve a certain goal we have to rethink the process.  How to avoid the pitfalls of stubbornness and refusing to change will hopefully become clearer as move down my list of important qualities.  Those qualities also require vigilance which is why I felt that vigilance was the best place to start.

How Our Will Is Not So Free – Part I

For any of you who are foolish enough to read my blog you are used to a lot of rambling.  I can’t promise this will be too different, but I would like to be a little formal and have an actual thesis for this post.  I have posted my thoughts about free will in respect to religion, but even if one is not religious the idea

From http://www.brandonragle.com

that we have free will is extremely pervasive and I think it is ultimately a not necessarily helpful concept to believe in.  The choices that we think people have are an illusion and we tend to instead judge others because people do not make choices that we would make.  It prevents us from really helping those who are violent, disturbed, hurting, depressed, etc.  It has us believe that there are people who are inherently evil allowing us to dehumanize them and cast them aside, when instead they might simply have brain abnormalities, be traumatized, influenced by people as messed up as they are, or simply lost and confused in a world that is beyond them and behave desperately.  I think it also acts to separate us from nature and is a great source of human conceit.  Free will is not something we ascribe to plants or animals and thus also gives us the illusion that we lie in a place above all else.  Whether you believe that the supernatural has imparted us this blessing of greatness or you think that evolution is a pyramid in which humans rest on top, both these notions are ultimately dangerous because they allow us to justify great atrocities against nature as we continue to satisfy our own self-importance.

In the first 8 months of watching my son grow it is clear that free will is not something he was born with.  He started out simply crying when he was hurting, uncomfortable or hungry, and sleeping when he was sleepy.  Not a lot of free will going on there.  As I watch him change, I see him simply become aware of more things.  When he first could see our cats, not surprisingly he was curious and wanted to touch them.  Now that he’s been outside he asks to go outside (well not in words).  Now that he realizes the comfort of being held he asks to be held.  He also mimics.  He sees us eating something and he wants to eat it.  He sees us using a remote, our phones, computers, and he desperately wants to use those too (or rather put them in his mouth).

Before I formally begin my argument for the absence of free will I want to put an excellent quote from an article I read some time ago from the New Yorker which has had a large influence on my thoughts in trying to understand why we are the way we are and where this sense of self comes from that I blogged about some time ago.

I believe we inherit a great river of knowledge, a flow of patterns coming from many sources. The information that comes from deep in the evolutionary past we call genetics. The information passed along from hundreds of years ago we call culture. The information passed along from decades ago we call family, and the information offered months ago we call education. But it is all information that flows through us. The brain is adapted to the river of knowledge and exists only as a creature in that river. Our thoughts are profoundly molded by this long historic flow, and none of us exists, self-made, in isolation from it.”

From http://www.eugenecascadescoast.org

The reason I want you to keep this in mind, because not only does it support the argument I am going to make (doesn’t of course make the statement true), but most importantly I want to reveal to you that just because I don’t think we have free will, doesn’t mean that I don’t find life absolutely amazing.  The idea expressed in this passage speaks to me in a way I cannot fully express, but I find this idea beautiful.  It tells me that we are product of processes that function over many different scales of time.  From what we learn each day, to what nature has molded us into over millions of years.  We can extend even further and look at the billions of years of evolution which has produced us , and we can go back further to old stars dying and being the seeds for our own sun and solar system which allowed one fortunate planet to even allow life to evolve.  So the fact I may not be quite as in control of the process is hardly depressing.  In fact it removes a lot of the pressure if anything.  I can simply marvel at all that has taken place for me to sit here and write these thoughts out today back to the beginning of time.  It is humbling, inspiring, and magnificent.

I shall now let you pause a bit before going on to the next blog post, because going back to the beginning of time is something that requires some deep reflection. 🙂