Time, time, time, is on my side, yes it is...

The other day I was sent this link summerizing the Gita, a biblicesque story of a man strugling between moral virtues and ethical obligations to family. Many of the later chapters deal with spirituality and one's relationship with god, something covered in an earlier post. The first several chapters however deal with how to be happy. I will not attempt to summerize a summery but I did take away the following message: live as though you will live forever.

Given an infinite existance suddenly the daily existance losses it's importance (Chapter 1, 2 , 5 & 6). Likewise, it becomes easier to live selflesslly for others when tomorrow means nothing (Chapters 3 & 4).

Compare that to the message in a song that I heard last night while driving back from the bowling ally:
"he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying"
And that famous line from Dead Poet's Society, carpe diem, "Sieze the Day". This message is blazed on every billboard, a theme in television shows, movies, and books. Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today!!!

The difference between the two messages is striking; one preaches self-lessness while the other worships the experiance of self. This is a topic of discussion that I would like to continue on at a later point. For now, the similarities are what interest me. Both cultures advocate a divorce from the constraints of time on the order of magnitude of human existance. I sense another reference to Ishmael, but I will resist.

This appears to be the case when I am happiest. Working on a project with no concept of time passing, being "in the zone" while playing a sport, hanging out with friends and being shocked that it is suddenly 3:00 am, and a miriad of other times when I can forget about my life and just be. What about when I am unhappy though?

I have found that the times in which I am depressed I do seem to percieve time differently. I become fixated on the past and future, essentially mistakes and future possible mistakes. I find it difficult to concentrate and get into my work. Everything, in fact, is difficult to get into.

It is interesting too to look at the number of societal ills that are associated with excapeing time. Drug and alcohol use comes to mind first. Alcohol impares the inhibiatory neurons in the brain freeing one to act without constraint in the present (funny comming from someone who has never gotten drunk...). Drugs too, I bet, alow one to enjoy the presant despite whatever may currently be happening. The remaining sins that I can think of regard the indulgance of primal urges. The seven sins are basically eatting, sleeping, making love with someone, making love with material objects (greed), making love with one's self (pride), and making love with the idea that you were making love with whatever someone else is making love with (envy). No, I wasn't channeling Freud there. I just think it is interesting that most of the sins are lusting over something. Indulging in lust is a very in the moment kind of thing... if you know what I mean ;-)

So I agree, in basics, with the Gita. Why write about it? Letting go of time is scary. Many people, myself included, are familiar with carpe diem and believe that they couldn't possibly actually live that philosophy. What suprised me though is how scared I was of the teachings of the Gita.

My aikido teacher once said that for her, martial arts were a way up the "mountain". The mountain being essentially self-enlightenment. She said that there are many paths up the mountain and your job is to find the one that works for you. The Gita is a path up that mountain and one which I can see finishing at the top. And yet, I can't seem to even consider actually taking that path.

So what am I afraid of? In living as though I will live forever I would be giving up many things. If I did live forever that wouldn't be a problem. There is always tomorrow. But I know my life is finite and despite this I want desperately to experiance all there is. I want my life to be worth while. To take my eyes off of tomorrow, whatever the reason, is to loose sight of whatever grand plan I have to accomplish before its too late.

I wonder if this feeling is fundemental to human nature or if it is something society has whispered in our ear since birth. Can it be true that something so built into our culture could cause unhappyness? Perhaps a better question is, "Can we have our cake and eat it too?"


The revolution

I am not all that satisfied with my last post... alittle too mystical at times :-)

In anycase, it has been some time since I have discussed the revolution and as far as I know, it is no where in print.

The premise is this: I dislike the way that american society and infrustructure has evolved. We are such a wastefull society and I really believe that our psuedo-capitalizm-at-all-cost mentality has cost us dearly in happyness and well being. I love this country and it's people more then anything but I just think that we have worked ourselves into an uncomfertable corner... More on this in a later post. The main point is that contrary to looking for ways to maintain our current way of life I am looking for ways to end it.

[Blessing in Disguize enters stage right] America has been fabulasly successfull for two reasons: Abundent natural resources per capita and the ingenuity to use them! One of our greatest succeses has been our transportation infrastructure. The interstate highway system combined with the most extensive local road network in the world has made the movement of people ridiculously easy. I drive further over one holliday weekend then nearly anyone traveled their whole lives 200 years ago.

This enhanced mobility of goods and people [read: talent and labor] has helped make us the dominant economic force on the planet. Goods and people are used far more efficiently here then any where else.

The unfortunate side effect of this is the disolution of the community. Untill fairly recently humans lived in relatively small but closely nit communities. The nuclear family didn't really exist, how could it? It litterally took a whole community to survive and independent living of the sort we are used to was unheard of. Children were likely raised as a group by the elders in the community and to use a stereotype, men hunted together and women did everything else necessary to keep the community alive together (bless their hearts).

How different this is from how we live today! I come home from school and it is just me, my brother, mom, and dad. We were amicable with the neighbors but I don't think I could call them friends. The friends that each of my family had were typically 15 minutes away by car at the minimum.

Which brings me to the prolog to my point. People say, all the time, that college was the best time of their lives. "You will never make friends like you have in college," is another oft heard comment. My response to this is why? Why can't it be like that? It sure seems like it used to be like that, people living with each other with no other obligations then to keep themselves alive and to hang out with each other.

It could be like that now. We work 8 hours, come home, and then decide that after cooking and cleaning up that it is too much effort to go hang out with other people. Or, the effort required to maintain an entire house is too much to warrent spending several nights a week with family friends. The fact that we live so far apart just makes it difficult to plan and coordinate things with anyone but your closest friends. Even then it usually ends up being traditions like going to the bowling ally every Wednesday night.

The crux of my arguement: the resources and infrastructure that allowed this culture to develop will no longer exist when the oil become scarce. Suberbia will atrophy and die like the inner cities of the past 30 years. World trade will decrease due to the increased cost of transport. There is still Mexico so I doubt that our manufacturing base will come back but at least we wont have to compete as hard core with china. As a consiquence though everything will be more expensive so we will have less of it. The materialism that has come to dominate american culture will at least diminish. The only thing that won't be affected by the increased cost of energy is the exchange of information. That is perhaps the one commodity that will only get more competitive.

The revolution.

The revolution wont happen over night, but it will happen within our life time. Already scientists are predicting that the oil supply will stop increasing within only a few years. What does this mean for us? A sharp increase in demand (China and India) coinciding with a slacking of supply will cause prices will skyrocket. We can't recast our cities and towns to cope with the increased cost of transportation so we will just have to pay out the nose for energy and cope with less goods and services. Less goods and services means less stuff being bought which means less jobs which means less stuff bought and so on... Pretty bleak except for the fact that it will happen over the span of probably 20 years. In a sense our time will come to be defined by both the excess of energy we enjoy now and the crash that follows.

It is interesting to think of how many times in history severe economic collapeses have led to a remaking of society. It required the widespread hardships of the Great Depression to give Franklen D. Rosevelt the support to pass the New Deal legislation. The idea of the government providing more then order and stability to the point of the people depending upon the government was a new one.

A similar transformation will occure during the revolution but what form it will take is hard to tell.


Night Walk

Tonight, while walking around aimlessly it occured to me that things seem differnt at night. Not just the physical world around me but the thoughts in my head.

Dr. D told us a story in Physiological Psychology about patients with brain damage who, when shown their own mother, would vehemenitly argue that she was a spy and not actually their mother. The problem was the connection between the region that recognizes faces and the emotional centers of the brain was broken. So, when the patient looked at their mother they saw someone who certainly looked like their mother but created none of the same feelings that their mother used to. To reconcile this situation, the brain created a reality that made sense: it wasn't their mother it was a look alike. Who would do such a thing?... a spy.

There are many more examples. A woman with her corpus colosum, the bridge that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, severed was subjected to several tests in which commands were selectively sent to either the right half or the left half of the brain. Since the language center lies in the left half of the brain, the woman we communicate with is basically now only the left half of her brain since we have no way of interacting with the right half. So, if an image or command is sent to the right half of the brain she will have no knowlege of it. In one such case the command to "laugh" was sent to the right half of the brain. The left half of her brain, in response to a confusing situation, created it's own reality.

Since learning of this I have been very weary of the devices my own brain employes to make the world around it "fit right". The only problem is, how do you recognize when it has happened? You have nothing to compare it to because it is your reality. Its like seeing the world through colored glasses. How do you know the world isn't red if that is all you have ever seen?

There is something about walking at night that makes everything seem a bit odd. Almost as if I were walking through the set of some grand play. This is expecually the case on still nights when the sky is clear. Then, the street lamps light the motionless trees in such a way as to make them look fake and yet all the more substantial and real for it. This psuedo world, I think, jars my brain out of it's comfert zone just enough to get a glimps of the world it has woven for me. It is as if I was walking, with my tinted glasses, and came across something I hadn't seen before. Everything else is, and always has been, red. This I can accept. But why must this new object also be red? a.k.a. A reason to suspect something is not right here.

I never come out of these walks knowing the color of my lenses. But I do come away with the precious feeling of doubt. Its as if I live in a house where people have put up painted screens in front of my windows. Every day, I look out and see the same scene but think nothing of it. One day I go up to the second floor and see the same scene! I don't know what is really beyond those painted pictures but I do know that there is something. That is the feeling I try to hold on to.

What can I do to see reality in the harsh cutting light of truth? Nothing, I suspect. I think the only battle we can hope to win is to know that we can't. We shoud realize that whatever truths we hold self evident are our own personal truths that are exist in a reality that is as unique as the mind that percieves it.

We are lucky that our realities overlap to the degree they do. To a large extent the world serves as a calibration point and the effort to keep ourselves alive drives us back towards that point when reality starts to drift. It isn't to hard to see then how the nation can be so easily and cleanly divided amongst the blue and red. Each has a collective reality that differes from the other and which can sustain different truths. The experiances of a college student living in Cleveland will differ greatly from a factory worker in rural Indiana.

This has great relevency when though of in conjunction with the group think discused in a previous post, Religion II: Posers.

I wonder then, is there a way to creat a common reality? How close is good enough? Do we want a common reality? Can we manipulate the reality of a group and hence the truths it accepts? If yes, how?...

That last one bears contemplation by the Demicratics. Perhaps hope is not lost...

Why I Blog: This post reminds me of why I chose Mirari for the title of my Weblog. When I started this I ment it as a way of seeing through the BS I have a way of feeding myself. In much the same way as looking in a mirror can surprise you with how different you look in your minds eye. Somehow, the process of both writting to someone and reading what I have written forces me to see my crazyness for what it is. These entries rarely if ever end up how I planned; I have yet to have a single entry for which I don't have to change the title because the point had completely changed by the time I finished. In a way I think this is why I enjoy it. What fun would it be if I knew what I was going to write and then just had to type it? It also serves as a way to have those conversations on deep topics that are so hard have and yet so satisfying. It takes a very special relationship to be able to talk about such things and I have been lucky to have several while I have been at case... although most are gone or no longer that accessable. And I am rambling so it is time to go.


Religion II: Posers

If you haven't read Mano Singham's Weblog yet, I suggest you do. In one entry he discussed the differences between his Methodist upbringing in Sri Lanka and his change in perspective once he came to the United States. I highly suggest reading this and many other entries.

That entry in particular seemed to sum up many of the concerns I have with Christianity in the US. Read his entry since he is much more eloquent then I am.

As I was running and contemplating Mano's entry a hypothetical situation popped into my head and I thought I would share it. What if you were a god (Einstein asked you to ride a freaking photon... bear with me!) and you had brought into existence a peoples. With no previous knowledge of current religious doctrine, an assumption closely approximated by me, how would you like them to act: A. according to your principles but with no knowledge of yourself, or B. not according to your principles but knowing and worshiping you. Yes, these are extremes, but if there is one thing I have learned from engineering is that the use of extremes can often make a problem blindingly obvious.

The situation as it stands is useless. What is needed is the nature of your principles [1] by which you wish your creation to live by. We will assume, with no elaboration, that you want your creation to be good. To be good to themselves and others. Let the philosophers tell us what good is!

I can't think of any reason, besides vanity and pride, to choose option B. Choice A seems to be the ideal, if unattainable, solution.

So, where does that leave us? I worry that as religion, specifically Christianity, becomes ever more popular with less religious individuals the term becomes a status symbol as opposed to a label indicating a doctrine of self improvement. The influence of these individuals can be great as who among us doesn't desire to be accepted by the group? Focus is gradually drawn from true self-improvement to the appearance of self-improvement. Meditation and soul searching are replaced with reading of books such as the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, listening to all Christian radio programs, watching all Christian television networks, and associating with all Christian friends. A defacto situation B.

A common method used to unite a large, varied, and relatively diverse group of people is fear. A common enemy can unite even the French and the Americans :-). Enter the Liberals: Liberal activist judges, Liberal college students and professors, Liberal hippies undermining our social fabric, and so on. Given something both groups, sinciere and poser Christians alike, can hate focus is drawn away from the differences within those groups. Fear of breaking up the alliance against the evil of Liberality prevents those who are aware from fighting the change.

This is more speculation then I am usually comfortable writting but ultimately how I feel about the situation. Why do I care so much? Many things I believe whole-heartedly in such as tolerance and compassion seem to be selectively applied by the republican party. Examples include: the fight against allowing gay couples equivalent legal privileges, the dismantling of social welfare programs, the war in Iraq, and the role back of environmental protection laws. These seem to be fundamentally Christian ideals and so I am often baffled as to why there would be such opposition to them. Well, baffled in the absence of the explanation I have given above.

So, the question become this: how does one convince a group, united against all opposition capable of being labeled "liberal", that they are being led astray? I am at a loss...

[1] A fascinating read. This compares several different perspectives on the Ten Commandments.


Purdue Visit

Thoughts on my visit to Purdue:

Night sky... so dark with so many stars... breathtaking.

The students... hm, not to sure. Most seem like high school students. Not all that intimidating once I got used to them.

Campus... Ginourmous. 80% chance my office will be in the nano building which is in the middle of the Ag. buildings and the Vet schools. Pets and Plants... two of my favorate things :-)

Research... fairly straight forward... we will see if I can work some magic.

Advisor... good stuff :-)

My new place... Also good stuff... Nice little three bedroom apartment for two people. 760 a month so somewhat expensive and far from nano building... Above the efficiency of a cute swimmer girl ;-) Good landlord but she gave me the hebbie-geebies. Nice quiet neighborhood.

Roommate... definately going to be a change of pace :-) Going to be good though :-) anticipating a very homie feel.

The town... West lafayette doesn't exist. Lafayette, very typical Midwestern town.

Indiana... god I hate it.

Future... weary... research is entierly experimental and I would like to get some theoretical work to help getting a professorship. Also, classes seem kind of eh. May be taking a math course, a fluid mechanics course, and a microfluidics course... We will see if I can convince him to let me take all of them at once :-D Looking forward to Qualifiers!!!



Teaching is a burden. I have to assume that at some level most teachers are aware of the impact they are capable of having on a students life. With awareness of this ability must come a sense of duty. Much more then the knowledge that is shared.

First, we learn from our parents. The foundation for vital things like language, customs, ethics, and social behavior are layed at this stage. Long ago this would have encompased the majority of an individuals education. In contrast to this children today are sent at a fairly young age to "professionals" to recieve their education. For the majority of their day they are sharing the attention of a single individual in lue of a more intimate family enviroment.

Two things of significance strike me about this situation. The first is that I somehow don't see how it is possible to learn societies custems, ethics, and and so on without constant exposure to those who have the most experiance with these maters, adults. Sure, they have the teacher but as I can attest, a teacher is acting the role of teacher every time they get up there. What you see and understand is not a full human being, just the part that is neccessary for the task. How can we act surprised that our children appear to be taking longer and longer to grow up when we spend less and less time with them? More often then not a parent might spend 2-3 hours with there children a night if they work. Compare that to the 7 hours of psuedo-society spent at school and 2-3 hours of television watched a night. Neither of those are sufficient substitutes for the real thing.

The second is that I feel that it is rare that a teacher formally recognizes this responsibility. I can't blame them. As a TA I could barely handle the knowledge that my grading could be responsible for failing/tanking someones grade point average. I wrote earlier on the frustration experianced by a student, another event that weighed heavily on my concience. I have no doubt that at some point most teachers must turn their back on this responsibility in order to survive.

Would a teacher then continue growing as an educator? Possibly but I doubt it. Likely they will continue with the motions and if they do grow, it will not through experiance but through theory read in a book or seen on TV. How much of this monotony before they become the burned out husks of teachers we all remember?

So many more places I could take this but I will end with a question to myself:

Can I notice the turning point? If I can what would I do?

Questions in general:

Would paying teachers more help? Does closely regulating what teachers teach help? Are there alternatives to the current system?

The last one is most interesting.