Monday, 29 March 2010
Sunday, 28 March 2010
You march with many sisters, Amazon.
Across your desert mount you track your twin
In rushed obedience to now begin
The second hill to bring adherents on
This upper plain, for war against your foes.
Of your six limbs you give but empty care;
For queen and colony alone you bear
The unexamined burdens, senseless blows.
If thinking were your province, then would you
Forsake your bloody kind? Does thought condone
That social animals desire to be alone?
Would reason force the end of selfless crews?
What fate's the maid's who lacks a queen to give
Her harvest to, and guards her chance to live?
Friday, 26 March 2010
On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man's hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, "Come and stand in front of everyone." So the man came forward. Then Jesus said to his critics, "I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?"
He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, "Hold out your hand." So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him (Luke 6:6-11, bold formatting mine).
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Maybe it's because I'm ill, but I'm feeling distressed and melancholy.
I finished reading The Wayfinders today and then picked up Carrie, which I had somehow never read before. I have also finished this. And then I saw this video posted on someone's blog. I spoke with my mother this morning about people protesting and get emotional over such idiotic things as inadvertant ethnic slights at a university, spending their energy protesting a minor social injustice when they could instead be spending that energy aiding the very major social injustice of poverty rampant in the very city they live in. Just now I connected that with this entry in "Stuff White People Like." As a result, I am seeing a decided lack of hope in the world right now.
The Wayfinders tries to end optimistically; even while discussing the horrific and irrevocable environmental destruction that we have loosed upon the world, Davis points to extra-modern cultures as exemplars of living with the environment (as opposed to "off" it, vampirically). His book explores the worldviews of vanishing and marginalized peoples, showing the incredible feats of imagination and technique that exist in these cultures. For instance, for as long as there have been Polynesian people, they have been honing the arts of nautical navigation. When Rome was at its height, the Polynesian culture was already old. While we have been spending the centuries since the Enlightenment developing our technological and scientific prowess, they have been learning to navigate the waves. The techniques they have developed are mind-boggling. Davis reminds us that these people are no less intelligent than we are, so just try to imagine what we could have accomplished if we had focused all of the creative intellect that we have on space travel, architecture, theoretical physics, and nanotechnical instead on other things, like, in the case of the Polynesians, traveling the open seas in a canoe. Of course the results would be stunning. Davis asks us to look at these cultures as alternatives to our own domineering and progress-crazy ethic. Perhaps, he says, these peoples can tell us something about living in the world in such a way that we won't strip it entirely of resources in the next century.
But as I read his book, I am overwhelmed by the damage already done. Can we turn it around in time? I don't know. I'm afraid we can't. I'm afraid our culture is already too strong. Maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully I'm wrong. Because I don't want to think of the consequences of being right.
And I'm as bad as anyone. What am I doing? Will turning off the lights when I leave a room count for anything in the grand scheme of things? Will bringing cloth bags to the grocery store and carpooling and buying used really make a difference? And will writing songs about social justice make a difference? I seriously doubt that writing a Letter to the Editor will. I seriously doubt that the sort of ivory-tower activism we see in university, which is little more than shouting from a soapbox, will make any difference at all. Perhaps, though, I am just being negative today.
I mentioned reading Carrie. King often includes "religious crazies" in his books, such that one would get a very skewed idea of religion if you got it soley from his novels. But I cannot deny that these people exist. Just the other day I was reading a blog about "TrueManhood" (if you Google that, I'm sure you'll find the blog) which has some pretty scary posts. One commenter, in particular, was talking about keeping his guns close at hand, because the time for revolution might not be far. This is in response to Obama's health care plan. In general I am loathe to agree with anything Dawkins says, but in one case I think he's right: religion, at least in some forms, can lead to a permanent shut-down in thinking. When you deal with these "religious crazies," whether violent or otherwise, it's impossible to reason with them or reach some sort of compromise. Most people of any faith are willing to put aside differences so we can live together in peace, but there are some who won't. What do we do with them? How can we deal with the members of our own community who actively prevent peace, either by espousing violence or by treating other people in ways that provokes violence? How do we deal even with the common ignorances of our communities? (I once had a fellow Christian explain to me that Zoroastrians worship fire and believe that God is both good and evil. I tried to explain that the Zoroastrian priest I spoke to neither worshipped fire nor believed that God was evil--these were two misconceptions that he was very quick to dispell--but she was unconvince; she'd read this from a Missionary's Guide to Other Religions that her folks had given her, and that was good enough for her. The scary thing is, she's a sweet girl and has the best intentions.)
I know that I need to have faith; I know I need to believe that in the end, all will be righted. But right now, I do not see this hope anywhere. Even those "inspirational" songs, movies, and books just seem like a waste of resources better spent on directly helping the poor or the endangered or the repressed; that, or a piece of bubblegum stopping a bursting dam. Nowhere near enough.
I suppose that the soapbox-shouting, the inspirational songs, and the activism then do have some sort of function: if anything is going to change, we need pretty much everyone on board, which requires education and persuasion. So in the end I guess I need to write books that will make a difference, just as much as others need to make those movies or write those songs. We can't all write books and make movies, but we do not need to get more people on board.
As the Israelites stood at the edge of the Promised Land, inhabited by giants, they were overcome with hopelessness. So, too, I imagine, did the hearts of the Polish Jews sink when they were hiding in forest huts, surrounded by the Nazis; so, too, did Sheppard likely feel overwhelmed by the task of freeing the people of the Congo from Leopold's rubber machine, and the Athenians against the Persian assault. I pray that, even in my discouragement, I do not despair, that I do not lose the urge to strive nonetheless.
I pray that I even figure out how I can help, what I'm supposed to do.
EDIT: I've supposedly set this blog up so it will direct you to posts which have linked to mine, but it doesn't actually do that. So here I'm doing it manually. Take it away for Karen! (Her name is the link.)
Friday, 19 March 2010
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Also, I got into another grad program, this time on the west coast (of Canada). I am seriously thinking of taking this one. (Looks like we won't be phantom peers after all, Em, or at least not next year.)
Saturday, 6 March 2010
Friday, 5 March 2010
Your body lithe, you swim in dying leaves,
A hunter seeking moribund remains,
In reeking flowers, dumps, and swollen eaves,
Devouring pests and, lacking them, our grains.
Translucent legs and vested wings your weeds,
Which nightly you parade as ghoulish gown,
Not down those tunnels that your naming reads,
Though still provoking fear with pinching crown.
But 'neath the wintry earth you lay your clutch
In chambers underground, and tending turn
Your eggs to forestall mould, and mother much
Those white nymphs who in spring your ways will learn.
From humankind you've found but constant strife;
Yet buried under death, you raise up life.
4 March 2010, Fort McMurray
For some reason earwigs have always fascinated me; their bodies seem so graceful, their browns so glowing and clear. I used to be afraid of them, but I'm not any more. If they pinch me, it's my own fault for handling them. However, I recognize how other people are afraid of them. I've wanted to write a sonnet on them for some time and, after researching them on Wikipedia and letting the ideas percolate for a few days, something finally came to me. I was meditating on the form of the sonnet, and the above structure resulted.
Lines broken to reflect pauses in reading:
Your body lithe,
you swim in dying leaves,
a hunter seeking moribund remains in reeking flowers
and swollen eaves,
and, lacking them,
Translucent legs and vested wings your weeds
which nightly you parade as ghoulish gown,
not down those tunnels that your naming reads,
though still provoking fear with pinching crown.
But 'neath the wintery earth
you lay your clutch in chambers underground
and tending turn your eggs to forestall mould
and mother much those white nymphs
who in spring your ways will learn.
From human kind you've found but constant strife;
Yet buried under death
you raise up life.
But when and if the issue of finiteness is settled, we will have to ask how it happened that so many members of a research program were unaware of the status of one of the key results in their field. Should it not be of concern that between 1984 and 2001 many string theorists talked and wrote as if it were a fact that the theory was finite? Why did many string theorists feel comfortable talking to outsiders and insiders alike, using language that implied the theory was fully finite and consistent?
Finiteness is not the only example in string theory of a conjecture that is widely believed but so far unproven. What is sure is that the strongest of these conjectures is far from proved, although some weak version is certainly well supported. But this is not how some string theorists see it...