the universe


Random quote of the day:

“The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, “But how can it be like that?” which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. . . .Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” because you will get “down the drain,” into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped.”

—Richard Feynman, “Quantum Mechanics,” The Messenger Lectures, MIT, 1964

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“I find it truly stunning how many people can shrug off stuff like this, preferring instead a tiny, cramped cosmos just 6,000 years old, scheduled to end any-time-now in a scripted stage show of unfathomable violence and cruelty. An ancient and immense and ongoing cosmos is so vastly more dramatic and worthy of a majestic Creator. Our brains, capable of exploring His universe, picking up His tools and doing His work, seem destined for much greater tasks than cowering in small groups of the elect, praying that some of our neighbors will go to perdition…

—David Brin, commenting on the discovery of Homo floresiensis at McMedia.com, 27 October 2004

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Random quote of the day:

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

—Muriel Rukeyser, “The Speed of Darkness”

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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There’s a fascinating book that I would half-recommend: Running With the Fairies: Towards a Transpersonal Anthropology of Religion by Dennis Gaffin. The first half of the book worked quite well for me, but I didn’t think the latter half of personal testimonies from people who believe they are reincarnated fairies or actual fairies in human bodies quite jelled. I support people believing whatever they like—and it harm none—but I had a problem with their adamant insistence that there is no such thing as a dark side to the fairies. All is sweetness and light in their Universe. Which flies in the face of millennia of human folklore and experience which sees the fairies as a tricksy lot, often inimical to humanity. The believers in this book put that down to superstition and ignorance, but I’m not so certain. People in past centuries may have been superstitious and ignorant, but in general were no more clever or no more stupid then we are. And they had a much vaster experience of the dark side of nature than most of us do these days. It’s easier to discount that chthonic world when you have electric lights and indoor plumbing. If there are such things as fairies, there may indeed be good ones, but I suspect most are at best ambivalent towards humans, and some may actually be malevolent.

But anyway, Dennis Gaffin. He’s an academic (a Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Buffalo) who has done something quite rare: a serious study of contemporary Irish fairy belief. Academics are big on doing serious studies of the folk traditions of Buddhists or South Seas Islanders or Native Americans, et al., but there’s a prejudice against turning that same eye towards Western folk beliefs. It’s an inherently racist stand, I think, that Those People and their Quaint Beliefs are okay to study, but somehow Western belief structures must be dismissed as silly trash. It’s as if the people who are doing the studies have decided that First Worlders are “too good” to have such ideas, that they must be ruthlessly derided and suppressed by Western academia so we can preserve our collective First World reputation.

So Professor Gaffin runs an academic risk here. True, he’s an anthropologist who’s gone native, so to speak, and now perceives fairies his own self. Which further risks his academic reputation, I suppose, but his point of view straddling both worlds is fascinating to me. I feel a kinship to him.
Have I ever seen a fairy? No. Nor heard none, neither. Do I believe in fairies? That’s a thorny question. I believe in another world that cozies up to this one and sometimes leaks through. I suspect that Whatever takes many forms and some people—otherwise rational and solid citizens—see It as fairies. Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, devas, dakinis, djinn, angels, name your poison. It’s all part of the same bag: That Which Leaks Through.

It’s okay. I know you think I’m crazy. When I say I don’t care, I don’t mean it in a snotty or rebellious way. I mean that I made a conscious decision some time ago to share the things of the spirit as they come to me, in case someone else is having similar experiences and wondering if they’re nuts. I can’t answer the question of sanity, but I do know that I am a rational person who occasionally has trans-rational experiences.

When it comes to belief, experience is the core of it, an emotional heart-to-heart with something beyond the narrow confines of personal ego. It’s not a received wisdom, which is why religion often fails to convince. “Belief cannot be transferred,” says Professor Gaffin, “for it is a function of experience.” These things often seem to go hand-in-hand with a closeness to nature. As we move more and more away from the natural world and more into a mechanized, urbanized environment those experiences become more rare.

Scientific education is a great thing and a fundamentally good way of looking at the world. I highly recommend it. But even scientists (well, the rational ones) will admit they don’t have all the answers. There was a time when I was about ninety percent of the way towards atheist. I called myself agnostic, but I’d come to view the Universe as fairly mechanistic. At one point, I finally said, “Okay, I don’t believe there’s anything else.” The Universe decided to call my bet. Almost as soon as I’d uttered that sentence It sent me an extraordinary experience. Followed by another and another until I capitulated, swept up in what to me was irrefutable evidence of there being something else. Generally, I’ve been a great deal happier in my “defeat” than I was in my “victorious” skepticism.

Why me? Why was I sent experiential data? I haven’t a clue. That’s the thing about the Universe. It’s a big freaking mystery with big freaking mysterious ways. We wander down half-formed pathways with thick fog on either side and every once in a while the mists lift to reveal a dazzling view of sheer cliffs and the dramatic crashing of waves far below. Then the clouds return and we proceed on the path—but once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see that amazing sight. You’ve glimpsed the beauty and the peril lying just beyond the verge. You step carefully from that point on.

IF

In the evenings, I pause in my chores to take the cat on a supervised trip into the back yard. She’s proven time and again she can’t be trusted not to jump over the wall and go walkabout—which, I suspect, is how she got lost from her previous owners. She does so love the back yard. She’s quite insistent on going out, fussing and whining until I relent.

I always relent, because my dirty little secret is that I go out there as much for myself as her. Min makes a great excuse. I love to feel the wind in my face, listen to the birds, watch the gloaming slowly overtake the leaves of trees and plants, golden and syrup-rich. I love the sense of presence out there. It’s serene, one of the few things in my life right now that fills me up rather than takes away.

So as I sat in my serene place last night, I thought—mostly in a peaceful way—about letting go of so many layers of things. Letting go of fears, letting go of needless guilt and worry, of giving it up to the inexorable ebb and flow of the universe. Not give up on life, you understand. Still in there, still fighting the good fight, just reconciling myself to the fact that the universe will always have its way in the end, no matter what I or anyone else does. What I needed, what I need, is to give up the illusion of control, to make peace with that.

We’re none of us helpless flotsam in the grand old river of the universe. I truly believe things travel along with us, keeping us in the free-flowing stream as long as possible, as much as possible. Little markers of hope and fellow-feeling, sometimes larger things that buffer and stand guard. At times, the smallest things can bring the largest upwelling of hope, allowing us to float free. I don’t know what these things are, where they come from, wouldn’t care to define them in narrow human terms, but they are there as long as we allow them to be. We can’t be protected forever. Nothing can be. Sometimes we’re going to smash into rocks, sometimes we’re going to dip below the surface. Sometimes, when the time has come, we’re going to drown. It’s the nature of the journey. It’s easy to be philosophical about all this when I’m in my serene place. Difficult when I’m having trouble treading water.

From the perspective of my usual chair last night I tried to think of some better way of treading water. I wondered if, along with the illusion of control, I also had an illusion of receiving help along the way. I looked at a patch of ground near the bird bath where a few days ago I’d moved a brick that had been overgrown with moss. I saw a little face, tilted to the side, peering back at me from the fringe of the moss, just before the precipice where the brick had nestled. One little arm was raised as if she swam hard against the pushing tide of moss. I was far enough away to wonder if she might be an optical illusion, a trompe l’oeil composed of bits of leaf matter, blossoms, and hope.

I got up and drew close. There was a face, and a tiny arm, a small ceramic figurine lodged into the ground. When I pulled her out I saw she was a little fairy maiden, sitting on a leaf, resting one hand on a thimble while the other, the one she’d been swimming with, rested under her chin. I could see from her back that she’d broken off some larger piece. She had quite an Alice in Wonderland quality to her face, but I don’t recall ever owning a piece of garden ceramic with such a whimsical girl. I’d swear she hadn’t been there when I moved the brick. My hand was right there two days ago, but I didn’t remember seeing her. Clearly, she’d nestled amongst the moss a while because she was partly embedded in the soil, leaving a hollow when I pulled her free. The moss had surrounded her as it had the brick. Perhaps I’d been too distracted at the time and hadn’t noticed her, or…

I looked up at the faces hanging on the garden wall. Flora and Ivy smiled serenely back at me. Green Man looked grumpy, as always, but I wouldn’t absolutely swear there wasn’t a twinkle in his eyes. Probably the gloaming. Magic always happen in the heavy, rich light of twilight.

This post was originally written in July of 2011 when I was struggling with being the sole caregiver for my 90-something mother. I am no longer a caregiver, but the idea that something will be there for us when we need it most remains a great comfort to me.

Random quote of the day:

“The highest object at which the natural sciences are constrained to aim, but which they will never reach, is the determination of the forces which are present in nature, and of the state of matter at any given moment—in one word, the reduction of all phenomena of nature to mechanics.”

—Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, Über das Ziel der Naturwissenschaften

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.”

—Heraclitus, Fragment 20

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Whatever meaning we find in the world comes from us, not the world itself. We read meaning into the world, not from it. This sword cuts two ways; if meaning should not be imputed to the universe, neither should meaninglessness. It is a plain fact that scientists in general, peering into the same universe and aware of the same set of facts, see meaning in different ways, ways that are not part of science itself. No scientist has ever possessed a meaning meter. Therefore the proper approach, it would seem, would be to declare questions of meaning beyond the purview of science, and to cease imposing one’s personal view as the official way the universe should be interpreted.”

—Dr. Larry Dossey, “Is the Universe Merely a Statistical Accident?” The Huffington Post, June 23, 2010

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Mar 12
I love this man: http://ontd-political.livejournal.com/10981269.html 

Mar 13
Some days I miss hanging out with my characters so much it hurts. Some of them were running though my mind a lot today. Maybe I’ll be able to use all this to write a really profound book one day. Either that, or croak early.

Mar 16
Always glad to see Jenny McCarthy slammed for her unscientific and harmful beliefs on vaccines. Can we start on Gwyneth Paltrow now? Oh wait, she’s just criminally elitist and stupid, not a murderer.

Mar 23
I feel bad that you feel badly. Perhaps your doctor should examine your hands.

Mar 24
The dream factory isn’t dead: it keeps supplying me with good ideas I haven’t got time to write.

Mar 25
I like the idea (from The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah) that the Jinns decide whether or not we’re going to believe in them.

Mar 28
A working mom’s open letter to Gwyneth http://nyp.st/1eVO22J 

Could this woman be any more blinkered and entitled? Yeah. I don’t think she’s bottomed out yet.

Mar 28
My cat is sad because she wanted to seek enlightenment but all the other cats cared for was tuna.

pic.twitter.com/fQMG2efc5w

Mar 29
Louis CK: “I got a white noise machine. You know what that is? It’s a machine that allows white people to sleep.”

Apr 3
Pro-tip: Don’t ask an animal activist the old joke question, “Do you know how to get down off a duck?” You’ll never get to the punchline.

Pro-tip2: Use a ladder.

Apr 3
Duty vs. personal aspirations, that’s my conflict. Most days sublimated, some days excruciating.

ETA: Love is also in the mix, making things more confused.

Apr 4
Walmart’s false argument: RT If Walmart Paid Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up? http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2014/04/walmart_living_wage_if_the_company_paid_its_employees_more_how_much_would.html …

Apr 4
I believe in science and I believe in spirit. This doesn’t have to be a dichotomy or a contradiction. It just is.

Apr 4
While eating chips I read, “Every bite of food you eat alters your daily metabolism, electrolyte balance, and proportion of fat to muscle.”

Apr 7
And my mother turned 93 today. Happy birthday, Mam!

Apr 8
Dear Nekkid Girl Posing In An Abandoned Warehouse: it isn’t arty. You’re still just a nekkid girl.

Apr 10
Penn & Teller decimating the anti-vaccination brigade in under two minutes. http://youtu.be/lhk7-5eBCrs 

Apr 10
When did “alone” become synonymous with “lonely”? The two are quite distinct.

Apr 11
The transport company that takes Mom to dialysis two days a week just called to say that in May they’ll charge $70 a ride not $30. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We can’t afford that, and the alternative is me missing a lot more work.

Apr 13
Potentially hopeful news from the social worker yesterday about transportation for Mom to dialysis. Don’t want to say much for fear of jinxing.

No, I never engage in magical thinking, why do you ask?

Apr 14
Let go and let the Universe. I now have three possible solutions to my mother’s dialysis transportation problems.

Apr 15
I’m so old I remember having to get up and walk over to the TV to change channels.

Apr 18
Me at the cafeteria: This morning I need a whisky muffin. Hold the muffin.

Apr 23
A hornet’s nest found in an abandoned shed. The head is a part of a wooden statue it fused with.

pic.twitter.com/rL1xLzXLLB [Warning: may cause the wiggins.]

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Apr 24
3 judges sided with Verizon and decided to let ISPs censor the internet. Tell the FCC to restore net neutrality! http://cms.fightforthefuture.org/tellfcc/ 

Apr 24
Maybe I should do as my spam suggests and get myself a Russian Bride. Of course, I might not be able to fulfill all her expectations. Too bad they don’t have a green card program for “domestic assistants.”

Apr 25
What Hitchens got wrong: Abolishing religion won’t fix anything http://www.salon.com/2013/12/07/what_hitchens_got_wrong_abolishing_religion_wont_fix_anything/ …

Apr 29
Avoidance seems to be the chief management style of many organizations.

Apr 30
I’m thinking of starting a company called Clusterf*cks R Us. Probably wouldn’t get much business, though.

Apr 30
Okay, maybe I’m a little panicky over how much I have to do before my surgery in two weeks. And maybe the surgery, too. And the recovery.

A little.

Verging on a lot.

May 1
My spam keeps sending me a “Notice to Appear.” I think I’ll send my Russian Bride instead.

May 1
The night air is full of jasmine crushed into luscious fragrance by the first heatwave of the year.

May 2
Even the most shining hero is a human being with feet of clay. If we’d just remember this, there would be less anger in this society.

May 3
The same government agency which made us prove my mom was married to my dad and that he had died needs us to prove it all over again 20 years later. Different department, you see. Apparently they’re unable to communicate with one another. Dealing with government agencies is a big component of caregiver fatigue. It wouldn’t be so bad except my dad’s death certificate has gone missing and L.A. County takes 4 weeks to get a new one.

May 3
Or maybe I won’t have surgery in 2 weeks. If I put it off this time, it will be 2 times.

May 4
Mom is home from the hospital. She’s doing okay.

May 6
I wonder if the superbuff guy on the cover of so many romance novels who’s face disappears past the top of the cover has a really ugly mug?

Or if, yanno, it’s supposed to be some artistic sh*t.

Or if, yanno, it’s so women can fantasize any man they want?

May 6
Abandoned mill from 1866 in Sorrento, Italy: Oh, the stories this conjures up!

pic.twitter.com/kHgXAnyRVV

May 6
I think “narcissistic loony toon” sums M. Lewinsky up quite nicely. She has wedged her way back into the public eye just like that string was wedged between her cheeks.

[Fortunately, it was a brief appearance and quickly faded from the public’s notice.

May 7
The Red Queen still rages. “The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.” —Harlan Ellison

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May 9
My surgery has been officially postponed. Mom had some minor setbacks that were major enough to warrant postponement.

I’m deeply ambivalent. I don’t fancy being a cripple for the rest of my life, however.

I think I’ll change my middle name to Ambivala.

May 11
THIS. Roz Chast on people wanting to live to be 120: “I feel like these are people who don’t really know anybody over 95.” http://n.pr/1nCUcrx 

“The reality of old age,” she says, is that “people are not in good shape, and everything is falling apart.”

Everyone says, “It’ll be different for me. I’ve taken good care of myself.” But you NEVER know what life will throw at you.

That’s life’s sweet and cursed mystery.

“When you’re young you look at old people & just think they’re old people. It’s only later that you properly realise they’re ex-young people.” —Tom Cox, Twitterfeed 5/10/14

Everyone thinks they will be 30 until they’re 75. Until they hit 40, I guess.

May 15
RIP Lady Mary Stewart. You filled my Young Adulthood with many happy hours.

May 15
Ironic Twitter Juxtaposition: http://twitpic.com/e3vvhy 

May 17
Ironic or psychosomatic? I wrenched my knee on the very day my surgery would have taken place. Not the one that would have been operated on, either. My other knee which has as many problems and will need its own surgery someday.

May 21
Ironic Twitter Juxtaposition: http://twitpic.com/e4drq1 

May 21
I’m at the bargaining with the Universe stage. That can’t be good.

May 22
My friend and I were just saying that the next Survivor should feature an all-geriatric group of contestants.

“If your team all successfully completes your challenge, you will be given your meds as usual. If not…”

And complaint marathons to see who lasts the longest. That competition is expected to go on for days.

May 22
I can hear a train whistle every once in awhile late at night. It’s always wonderful. I don’t know where it comes from. There are no trains closer than five miles, but I guess that sound carries. Either that, or it’s the ghost of a train which once ran just down the hill from where I live.

When I was a kid I used to follow those tracks from Venice, once all the way into Culver City. The trains only ran once a month late at night to keep the access rights. Eventually, they gave those up but the rails remained for years afterwards, partially covered in blacktop in some places. They’re all gone now, alas.

There is so much that is gone. Venice is a highly urban place now but once was full of open fields, trains, horse stables. I’ve seen them all go in such a short span of time. A lifetime. Palimpsests. They’re everywhere I look, all over Venice.

Here’s one of my palimpsests: http://tinyurl.com/oa4z3mh 

May 28
“It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.”

Maya Angelou seemed immortal, but it was her glowing humanity that made her seem that way. Alas, if only. RIP.

May 30
pic.twitter.com/OX9CqMctxV This picture reminded me to send a b-day card to a friend. I may inhabit this skull but I don’t always understand it.

Jun 3
Sexism kills (maybe): http://tinyurl.com/p5rkuta 

Jun 3
It’s such a pain reading academic books on the Kindle that I’m going to order a paper copy and be done with it.

Random quote of the day:

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.’ So I really don’t think in the long sense.”

—Marlon Brando, New York Times, July 2, 2004

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Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

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