When was the last time you looked up at the night sky? The beauty of the natural world seems well hidden from us. This weekend I had the opportunity to send my auntie off to the land of painless rest. The sadness and joy of the occasion was not lost on us. Her relief had come. I love my extended family for how we show up for each other in times of difficulties. We came from near and far. I am proud to be a member of the extended James family. I continue to be amazed by the strength of the children of Wilhel and Clarence James. They are my heroes. What does the traditions of a funeral have to do with the night sky? It is about the beauty of the universe and the short time we have to enjoy it.
The night before the funeral is ‘set up’. It is a festive party send off before the day of mourning. As we drove to the setup at the home of my deceased auntie I noticed how dark the roads were. The darkness was intensive and reassuring. No light pollution to distract. It was a wonderful contrast to the intense sunshine of the daytime. Once we arrived at the destination we parked about a third of a mile from the home and walked. As my practice I looked up at the sky and noticed the depth of the darkness. as far as I could see there were stars and the their brightness seemed many fold brighter than the night sky I had grown used to in Florida. I looked up at the Pleiades and counted 8 sisters as opposed to the 6 I usually see in the Florida night sky. I felt an excitement to be under a truly dark sky. As I arrived at her home I hugged many family members and got introduced to some new arrivals. I love my family, because at times like these we are pillars of strength for each other.
The band arrived after 10 PM and the party went into full effect. The street was blocked off and the music rang loudly through the valley. All joined in the dancing, old and young danced. The elders seemed most enthusiastic and I noticed many in their 70’s who danced all night while the youngster exchanged social media details. This was a time of cheer and remembrance. It was a celebration of life. It was the celebration of a wonderful mother, auntie, cousin, grandmother, wife and child of God. The melodic voices of the male and female lead of the band kept us all engaged. The key board player and drummer were excellent compliments. The band played until well after 1 am and we all danced and enjoy the company of family and friends.
A wonderful night and festive remembrance came to a close and we all need some rest before the continuation of auntie’s send off. As I walked back to the car I looked up and again and there it was, an awe-inspiring star filled sky. It reminded me of how often we take life and the people who share it with us for granted. The older I get the more I understand my mortality. The older I get the more I appreciate the wisdom of my elders. The older I get the more I love my family. The older I get the more I realize that my family is not perfect, but that we make up for that with commitment to each other. The older I get the closer I get to the end of my time and the more time I want with my family.
Another one gone but never to be forgotten. I love you auntie Peggy.
The cycle of war and peace continues like the flow of water. Unlike the processes of nature, it is not inevitable. The process of life is about choice. We have the ability to choose the path we take. The decisions we make are not preordained, we are our life’s directors. As we direct our life we must take care of the vulnerable among us. War is a selfish act, resulting from the disregard for the many. It is the result of disordered thinking, that justifies killing as a means of protection. The incongruity of that argument is evident if we would reflect on it. Our reflection must consider the social nature of our species where we will follow those among us that profess caring and loyalty to the group. Unfortunately, the malicious and selfish among us have and will continue to exploit the majority, until the majority decides to be as concerned about the stranger as we are about the ones closes to us.
The more important question that needs examining concerns what will our future be if we do not break the cycle. War may bring a temporary peace, but the underlying discord will resurface. The cycle must be broken, if humanity expects to survive. The cycle can be broken when we address the root causes. Where the root of war is usually the exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few. We must reconsider our use of the planet’s resources. It will be painfully to many, but will be beneficial to the most. We may not think that we are exploiting anyone, but if we examine our life it will become clearer that many of us are consuming excessive quantifies of the available resources.
If we all consider and re-order our life’s the great masses of the deprived on our planet could have the possibility to improve their lives. The cycle of war with interludes of peace could be broken by each of us say no to exploitation. We all have a responsibility to our species. Our care needs to extend further than down the street. We need to extend our care and concern to the father thousands of miles away that cannot feed his family, while we dump more food that we eat.
War is and always will be about resources. Let us all take a stand and share.
The epidemic of morbid obesity engulfing the world is a testament to mankind’s greed and lack of insight. We continue to devour the planets resources without any close examination of the consequences. Some are so greedy that we think we should have a right to plunder without regard for the other creatures that share the planet with us. This gross lack of understanding of the ecosystem that we are apart is expressed as our expanding waist lines.
As we continue to grow later in number and individual size we complain about over crowding and stress. We complain about obesity associated diseases but still have giant food parties at work and home. We want what we want and will not change. This lack of insight to connect our greed with our continuing illness is continuing to kill us. We continue to teach our kids to eat empty calories and expect that they will grow into healthy adults. This gross lack of insight is a reflection of a society devoid of competent leaders.
The good news is that the upcoming generation will in fact have better insight because of the wasteland of a planet that our generation will leave them. I see the seeds already. They will not be burdened with the excess earns that leads to purchasing for purchasing sake. They will make better use of their resources and in doing so will rescue our sick planet from the brink of our self-imposed destruction.
I hope to live long enough to see concrete evidence, but I have seem enough to be hopeful.
One day the greedy self-centered industries that feed the obesity beast will be found out and regulated into oblivion. That day cannot come soon enough, but I will be patient because the patient shall inherit the earth.
As the sun rises above the gray misty sky I remember. I sit facing the sun with the warmth slowly climbing up my arm and bathing my face. There is a cool breeze that ruffles my shirt and the stars and stripes above me. There is peace in silence. The chirp of a distance bird can be heard and there is peace in her melody. I put my feet up and accept the gift that nature is giving. I accept because I have no control. I accept and love it because love is my only outlet.
I love because I need love. I am a lover because she requires it. Mother nature gives as she gets so I give love. Mother loves because she knows no other. I accept because I am her son.
There is loss but we have her gifts. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit. We are more resourceful than others credit us. We are more resilient than we can imagine. We are powerful, but only if we believe. We are greater and stronger than our loses. Our tears express our strengths. In our tears is expressed our resilience. In times of great loss we may crack, but we will not break. The cracks only serve to expose the depths of our strength. We hold ourselves together in spite of the tears. We hold ourselves together because of our tears.
We are sad and we are happy. We are complex and simple. We are strong because it is required. Our strength is required and is ever-present because we know no other way.
Mother nature gives and she takes, but we are strong because she has strengthen us.
Happy are our days, because we have the strength of our tears.
Often life gets in the way of living and we get carried away with the emotional. The beauty is in the living not in the life. Our experiences are the sum total and the after life is irrelevant. That view of life is much disputed, but it is my view. The constant attempt of the religious to guilt us into prescribed behaviors is admirable only in that it has so thoroughly succeeded.
The complaints that will spring from my expression of this opinion is so perfectly conjured, by the religious, as to make even the most noncommittal give credit to those views. The oddity is that the same people who believe in the absolute power of scientific evidence in the care of patients ignore the validity of those rules to justify their beliefs.
As I tell the story I lost my religion in the sixth grade when a teacher seeing I was bored gave me a book about the solar system. Not far into reading about our tiny part of the universe the story of creation as proclaimed by Genesis lost all meaning. As a 9-year-old I was not sure about what I was reading, but the seeds were planted.
Those seeds grew into my love of science and evidence. I will allow you your belief structure as long as you do not attempt to guilt me into compliance with your view of the universe. I will acknowledge the evidence and your freedom to do otherwise. I am comfortable with the knowledge that I am not in control of the universe. I am comfortable that your religious convictions do not give you any more understanding of the universe.
Religion is about ignoring the uncertainty and providing platitudes to explain the unexplained. I will stand with the evidence and follow it where it leads. I can live with the uncertainty and strive to find the evidence to answer the important questions. Because I am looking for evidence does not make me any less of a person than you are. It makes me less ideological.
Enjoy your Easter, while I continue to look for the evidence.
Our children are our most important investment and their well-being is our primary responsibility. How we get them from helpless to confident and self-sufficient is our primary task. I am currently on that journey with my two beautiful daughters and hope I am doing the correct things to create wonderful members of society. These are my guide posts:
1. Create confidence
Give them confidence by allowing them to succeed and fail early. There is nothing like accomplishing physical tasks to give confidence. My girls have never been restricted by age guides. We have allowed them to challenge and master anything they would like to attempt. Many times they fail but it is only in failure that we learn how to succeed.
2. Make learning fun
We strive to make every experience a learning opportunity. I hate structured learning, that is not where most of our learning occurs. Most importantly, answer all their questions (much easier said then done).
3. No baby talk please
When my girls speak others are often amazed at the depth of their vocabulary and general language skills. Those skills are not coincidental. We talk to them in adult language and provide definitions as needed so that they have early exposure and reinforcement of appropriate language.
4. Early introduction to technology and science
My girls are 3 and 4 and both know their way around a computer. They both have been introduced to programming. The 4-year-old gets it and is an intuitive problem solver. The 3-year-old is not there yet but she is learning about computers and always want to program. They love seeing the effects of their work. They remind me daily that they need to program. We are on code.org most days and I am the one limiting their time.
5. Respect others and the planet
Letting them see us showing respect to others and nature gives them a sense of their place in the universe. We are here to take care of the planet which is not limited to our fellow primates.
Our child are willing and able to learn and accomplish so much more that we give them credit for. We need to unleash them. In the rapidly changing world we live in, the only skill that will guarantee success is adaptability. Exposing our children to as many learning opportunities as we can will prepare them well for the challenges ahead.
The march forward of human knowledge continues at an alarming pace. This in spite of the efforts of many in the political class. Science is continuing to shed sunshine into the dark places of myth and superstition. Although there is still much work yet to be done to cleanse humanity of petty and dangerous myths, we can have hope. We can have hope because the decreasing size of the global community affords even those in distance places the ability to enlighten themselves. Most strikingly, the young unencumbered by their parents constraints continue to push the boundaries.
The arrival of the computer age provides an avenue for the young and curious to explore without the rails of superstition.
We are living through a golden age of innovation, but most done realize it. Science is continuing to push the frontiers of knowledge and many believe that we know a lot about the world. Unfortunately, the truth is not as straightforward as we may think. For those on the front lines the void between what we think we know and what we would like to know grows with the more data points we attain. I would propose that as we push the boundaries we are awakening to how little we actually know. I would call our current position a kind of informed ignorance. I mean by that, that as science advances the natural world opens allowing us to realize its depth and breathe. As we advance we are confronted by the unmistakable conclusion that we truly are in the dark. This darkness prompts the curious to explore. The more we think we know, the more we realize we do not know. Knowing that, is more than half the battle.
As humans we have a false sense of ourselves. We believe that we as individuals are important. We no longer believe that our planet is the center of the universe, but that science has not informed our view of the individual. Our religious belief that we are the central character in our destiny is elegant, yet simple and without merit. This view has carried over into our view that individual pursuits are important to the state of the world. More importantly, many believe that the individual is more important than the group.
The communists took the view that the individual was not as significant as the group, while the capitalists considered the person to be the center of the universe. Both ideas have some truth, but neither is complete. The truth is somewhere in the middle. An elegant and informative way to see our place in the biosphere is to look at natural occurrences like the current cicada invasion.
The current brood of cicada will descend on the east coast any moment. The sound will be loud and unmistakable. Most of us will hear a loud uncoordinated noise. The truth is that what we hear is generated by 3 different species singing their individual song. The chorus will appear to be homogeneous, but on close inspection it is not. When an individual from each specie is recorded the sound is nothing like that heard from the group. The elegance of the orchestra is lost on us because we see the world not as a group organism but as individuals trying to survive. Each individual sings a precise song that is essential to the mating process. The regeneration of the genome is each individuals only job. If each individual gets it correct the group will survive. If a specific individual does not perform the group will still survive. The individuals will die, but the group survives.
Without the group the individual remains insignificant and without hope. The me card is not just selfish, it is problematic for the survival of the human specie.
What will you do for us today?
As a city dweller you do not realize that the most beautiful art work is above your head. You do not realize because it is obscured by city lights. Then you visit the countryside and you do not realize that you can look up. Once the night sky has been introduced you wonder why you had not looked up before. Most startling is that so few people look up. There is nothing like the joy of the night sky. The beauty and majesty of the creation cannot be denied. The glorious depth and breathe of our galaxy is beyond our imagination. It is beyond our ability to contemplate. All we can do is dream inadequate dreams.
I fell in love with the solar system in the sixth grade, but it took losing our roof on September 12 1988 for me to appreciate the joy of looking into the depth of the star filled night sky. Being able to live under a sky unobstructed by light pollution makes my heart sing. I feel pride when my princesses ask to go out and see the moon and stars on a dark night. Too few of us take the time to look up.
On most nights when I look up I wonder if we are alone. Most nights I know we are not alone. The universe is too vast for humans to be alone. Nature certainly must have played the life card more than once. Is there a single all-knowing creator or is life a result of chance? On most nights I am not sure, but on most nights I know we are here and must enjoy the beauty of our brief existence.
The lifespan of any human individual is not comparable to the age of the universe. The lifespan of the human species will be just as insignificant. Too few appreciate that scale and on most nights it gives me pause. On most nights I want to spread the joy I receive from being able to look up and see the past.
The scale of time we can measure and appreciate is so narrow as to be truly insignificant. But on most nights I still love thinking about our place in this great machine called the universe. On most nights I get excited by the fact that there are more questions unanswered than answered. On most nights I am excited that my princesses are starting to ask the questions that need to be answered. On most nights I am happy to have my princesses. On most nights I am excited that they are excited about learning. On most nights I see the joy in their eyes and I am happy. On most nights I am certain we are not alone.
On most nights, do you look up?