The Price of Holding Beauty

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a tree is a tree is a tree

even bound around with silver sheen

glassy crowns that pull them down

low bows an homage

an image to honor

a harsher master whose radiance stills

the hustling frenzy when life endures

idyllic hysteria with blindness to boot

set down to smooth sailing

we grab for the railing

and on we go wailing…

“Oh the rapturous glamour of nature encased

how it burns off our ears and the skin of our face.”

the crystal firs surrounding her

are whistling themes through colored rays

that croon like bells and bleed out knells

the gathering scatters

their flattery patents

along tabula rasa and a handful of flaws

like impotent seedlings with no protégé

nor future thereafter save swift dissolution

cathartic dispersal

this groaning rehearsal

of cold penitential

Ice Covered World by mamomof5.

The Second Circle

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With sequestered trends the highlit hollyply

cut our hours, leash our eyes

cap our ears with cheap, chalky sand

set us marching in a ring, and sing

a sleighing song, with cracking quips

and two-bit foremen

with a lark

will lead their escorts

to the ark

They’ll cull them out and comb their hair

to frame our faces, stain our skin

spin our heads ’round a plastic lens

kept for turning our yearn to learn

a burning dance, the twisting hips

to rugged beats

we’ll take our chance

with a bottle of shame

and cheap romance



Why Time Matters. Part 4

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So it is that regardless of whether we look to the past, present, or future, there is no absolute certainty regarding what is to come. All of it requires some leap of faith over gaps in the information. How then, do we plan for the future? Is it even realistically possible or are we simply deluding ourselves?

Giving up is a legitimate response. We can crawl into a survival mode, preparing at once for everything and nothing. There may be very real reason for the despair, depression, and anxiety that plague many people who cannot see hope in their future. I’ve heard it said before that pessimists are slightly more in touch with reality that optimists are, and if there is no real way of knowing what tomorrow may bring, there may be some truth to that. Even if that saying is wrong, it would be the pessimists in for a pleasant surprise rather than the optimists caught off-guard by a curveball. Some of us may laugh at the idea of those who make bomb shelters in their basements, preparing for the end of the world – but there may be a semblance of real preparation and security in that kind of attitude. If they are delusional, it is more likely along the lines of their belief that they can do anything to change the inevitable. The bomb shelter mockers might instead choose to live in carpe diem terms, not in that they are somehow optimistic about the future, but believing they lack the power or the motivation to change what might be considered an inevitable outcome.

These options come into play on a daily basis as people receive medical “death sentences”. You have six months to live. Some immediately change their diet and exercise, trying everything to tack on a few more weeks, months, even years – even though the outcome is indeed inescapable. Sometimes they put themselves through a great deal of suffering and indignation in exchange for the possibility of an extension. Others resign themselves to the inevitable and try to maximize the little time they have left, often shortening that time considerably because of the choices they make. Some, choosing to take control of the situation themselves, end their lives intentionally. The thing is though, no one, not even the best of the medical profession, can be entirely sure when death will come knocking and under which pretense. We’re still simply reacting to shots in the dark, not knowing from which way they are fired.

We are not in control of our lives, any more than we are in control of the world around us. That is a fact. So what hope do we have? Our only hope is that there is something in control and that it has vested interest in each of us. Religions that fail to juxtapose power and compassion, justice and mercy, will always ultimately fall short of the hope that they promise. Our reason and technology, devoid of the divine, can promise no more than the power of our own hands, the sharpness of our own minds, or the compassion of our own hearts – in a ironic way, the option of independence, should we choose to live life on our own. Unfortunately, those of us who choose to cast our own lots must bear our own burdens, and extensionally, the burdens of anything else we deem under our own control.

So it comes down to this: if there is any certainty in life, it must come from something outside of us. If there is any security in life, it has to come from some kind of benevolent caretaker overlooking the world. I’m not making a proof for the existence of any particular god(s) here, I’m just putting the cards on the table and letting you compare them to the hand you have been dealt.


 

Why Time Matters. Part 3

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Since the past and present (or study of them) both fall under subjectivist inquiry and may ultimately lead us to a self-serving relativism, we are really left with only one other source of knowledge: the future. I realize that by even mentioning this as a viable alternative, I have stepped outside the realm of modern science into something unprecedented at best, and more likely along the lines of unfounded superstitious beliefs.

Hard science simultaneously preaches the concept of the predictable behavior of matter and an unscripted nature of the future. How does this work? There is an assumption (based on their Positivist foundations) that objects exist only in the present. Just as the past becomes figments of our memory, so the future is only figments of our imagination. Reality exists only in the present. Time travel is a pipe dream. Now, a successful experiment in time travel might be able to change that, but to my knowledge, no such experiment has been received by the scientific community. For them, this option is largely excluded.

Other views exist, and have existed with more precedence than the perspective of hard science. Many spiritual beliefs advocate for the existence of reality set in the future and placed within the context of an overarching meta-narrative in which we play the part of participants and not chief observers or manipulators. Specifics of our participation may vary, but generally all end with the final say to the direction being given to a source outside of us – even if only given in a passive manner. For simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to two main categories of future-oriented focus: the Prophet and the Mystic.

The Prophet interacts with some form of divine intelligence beyond the normal rules and boundaries of life, gathering insight and wisdom and then becoming a catalyst for the will of the Outsider. The Prophet’s accuracy in prediction is linked to the Outsider’s power to bring about the events of proclamation, or in other words, the prophet is only as good as their god.

The Mystic, on the other hand, acts more as a free agent: interacting with divine others, but with an independent agenda of their own. Mystics are seekers of truth and power beyond the normal scope of natural human experience. The accuracy of their own predictions depends upon their own strength, one of the primary markers setting them apart from prophets.

Now, setting aside the discussion on whether or not divine beings exist and what or who they may be, we have come to a crossroads. We cannot seek enlightenment from the future if we set our epistemology, our way of knowing things, in exclusively objective terms (at least under the current scientific regime and repertoire). Whether we seek truth under the guidance of an outside source as Prophets, or on our own strength as Mystics, we have to transcend our present world if we hope to touch the future.

One more section to go.

 

Why Time Matters… Part 2

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Before I begin again, I want to note that I have nothing against historians and very little against statisticians. Indeed, I suspect that studying these fields will make you better at whatever field you work in. I simply doubt they hold the answers that some of their more zealous members claim to have. Although the general idea is that if you can plot the lines that came before, you may be able to guess the shape of things to come, hindsight is not, as the prophet says, 20/20. Our perspectives on history are not objective or exhaustive. It is a unique perspective with varying degrees of accuracy.

Another option, if the past fails us, is to attempt to expand our vision of the present. While we cannot really implant extra eyes on our body (even if that would do any good), with enough resources, we can potentially network a group of people or mechanical sensors (ex. cameras) in such a way to effectively broaden our perspective. This is no new phenomenon. Conglomerations of individuals have been sharing communal perspective since the advent of community and it has perhaps been perfected in the stereotypical “small town” atmosphere where information travels faster than the wind and community membership is often equated with accuracy. The internet itself provides a similar form of communal information-sharing on an exponentially broader level, making our sensory possibilities inexhaustible. Our ability to process such information however, is not.

The more pieces of information we receive at a time, the less we are able to actually process each individual item. The frames blur together and we lose our ability to see the distinctive aspects of each individual picture when the movie is playing. There is no way around the fact that the dissemination of information takes time, and there is more to see in every moment than we have time to see. So we filter our present perceptions by necessity through aim, looking in the direction we expect to see what we expect. We are surprised by new information coming at us from the place we were not looking – like a surprise birthday party thrown four months early, rather than on the proper day. It’s a simple fact of life that we cannot watch everything, all the time, and thus are destined to miss out on some of the opportunities that come our way – especially those which run counter to our experience and expectations.

 

 

 

Why Time Matters (or What is the Point of these Posts?) Part 1

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Midway through high school, quite disenchanted with life, I decided that success was not acquired through hard work, education, popularity, or even money. Success in life, no matter how you measured it, was based on the simple principle of being at the right place, at the right time, and doing whatever it was that needed to be done. It seems that while most people I have met will affirm this basic notion in one breath, they are quick to point out that this is some kind of intangible, unreachable, hopeless ideal. Yet, on the other hand, we all fill our lives with attempts to direct and redirect our futures. We call it a variety of names: luck, fate, chance, fortune, providence, God’s plan, coincidence… words that all try to mean different things, but which are really pointing in the same direction: toward an acknowledgement that we are trapped in a prison without bars, walls, doors, or floors, bouncing from one place to the next in the dark and never entirely sure what comes next.

That might explain some of our fascination with statistics. In a world that is still hesitating on how much authority we want to ascribe to an external source (because it is offensive to our individualistic sensitivities) we usually compromise for a concept that provides some general laws by which the world turns, but allows for some flexibility – hence the somewhat facetious nature of statistics. They subtly promise more than they can deliver, and the higher the rate, the greater the tease. Yet it works, because something in us really wants to know, wants to prepare, wants a little light on tomorrow. We shell out money to whoever can give us the best sounding answers, to whoever gives us hope that this Limbo-like existence is flying and not falling regardless of what we feel. We live on this hope. This counsel, whether it be on stock market investments, romantic relationships, career choices, or what kind of cereal to buy, is ultimately a gamble because one of those boxes in front of us may very likely have a very unfortunate surprise, and there is really no way of knowing until we buy it, take it home, and begin to sift through it… until it’s too late to change our minds.

Surely we have some grounding in the past – for it never changes, right? Would we even know if it did? I can’t say. What I do realize is that our history is made up of billions of seconds that fall through the air like raindrops, each containing tiny choices, and most passing by without our attention. So most of the choices we have available to us, we make out of ignorance of their existence, or simply out of a default strategy while aiming for a “higher” goal. Those who chase such goals have typically looked back and been amazed at how much passed by them while they were otherwise preoccupied. That is the story of most of our lives. Historians, like the Statisticians promise hope for the future if we learn our past, but it sounds like another tease to me. Not that it’s not worth learning history… but if you expect to be able to see what is coming up the path with your eyes staring behind you, don’t be surprised if you run into something.


 


 

Between the Beginning and the End

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We typically measure events in linear time as points along a continuum.

linear-time-1

We do not perceive “time” per se. Berkeley (along with much of cognitive psychology) describe our perception as a series of stimuli, (like photographs in the case of visual stimuli) which are then lined up, compared, and interpreted as a group along with previous stimuli which has the effect of motion. We don’t see motion, we see objects in progressively shifting locations and our minds interpret that as motion. Perceptually, the ‘flow’ of time is simply the way we order those pictures in our minds, or in other words, the measurement of movement. Or so the theory goes…

So in the case of the perception of individual events, perhaps it is a bit more accurate to measure individual events in times with two points.

linear-time-2 …with “time” falling in between.