Is this the moment?

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.  Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity, and love.

— Thomas Merton


Blaise Pascal

[Dieu a] tempéré sa connaissance en sorte qu’il a donné des marques de soi visibles à ceux qui le cherchent et non à ceux qui ne le cherchent pas.  Il y a assez de lumière pour ceux qui ne désirent que de voir et assez d’obscurité pour ceux qui ont une disposition contraire.  — Blaise Pascal, né cette journée en 1623

[God has] arranged his visibility for those who seek him, but not for those who don’t.  There is enough light for those who want to see, and enough shadow to deter those who have the opposite disposition.
— Blaise Pascal was born this day in 1623, and never lived to see his 40th birthday.

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
J’ai dit souvent que tout le malheur des hommes vient d’une seule chose,
qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre. (Pensées)


Spooky Action : A Quantum Fable

God was in a particularly generous mood the day She designed our world.  For the artists, She made it beautiful. For the romantics, She filled it with love.  And for the scientists, She made it rich with order and logic. Everything in the universe was made to follow fixed laws, some simple, some more complex, some laws connecting things that are close in space and time, other laws that connect things in ways that are unconnected to space and time.  She left some clues on the table, easy to discover, and some deep laws that would keep scientists busy for thousands of years. Science was to be a scavenger hunt that could last as long as civilization–maybe longer.

The First People guessed that things in the world worked the same way as they themselves.  The Sun was a Man and the Moon was his wife. Rivers had wanderlust, the Wind had trouble making up its mind, and Everything wanted to go Downward toward the Earth because the Earth was their home.  

After some millennia, the easiest quantitative clues were deciphered.  They were easiest because they coupled things that were near to each other in space, and because the immediate past gave rise to the immediate future.  After Sleuth Isaac discovered the Law of Large Things, in all its mathematical precision, People were able to design things that pushed and pulled, turned and rolled.  The Age of Machines was born.

The Law of Small things was a tougher nut to crack, because it involved both connections that were close in space, and also connections that were a million miles away.  Some causes worked conventionally, the past causing the future, and some paradoxically–causes in the future giving rise to effects the past.

Sleuth Erwin figured out the part that was close in space and conventional in time.  Sleuth Werner declared that The Rest Is Uncertainty. Ordinary, nearby, and forward in time, plus Pure Randomness.

Sleuth Albert said, But God Doesn’t Play Dice (and he should know because he is the One Rock, and father to the Sleuths of Small Things.  But a chorus of Quantum Mechanics put him in his place: Dice She pays, Oh yes! She does! Only after Albert was dead, did the Bell sound.  DONG! This isn’t randomness. It just looks random to us because it comes from all over space, from the past and the future and everywhere at once.  We call it random, because how can we trace all those pushes and pulls that haven’t even happened yet?

God smiled on The Bell.  The scientists had just picked up the First Hard Clue, and Humans had begun to understand the Law of Small Things.

But Mostpeople kept saying Random.  They couldn’t wrap their heads around an effect that comes after its cause.  They couldn’t grok the Spooky Action at a Distance. Sleuth Albert rolled in his grave, causing the scientists that went before him to Not Understand.

If a Bell rings in a room full of deaf scientists, has it made a sound?

…to be continued.


Street Art by Max Pexels

More Masefield

In the last week, I have become intimate with a slim, early volume of John Masefield’s poetry.  Some of them are directly related to the next poem in line, but mostly they just follow themes of death, beauty, and mystery, asking the largest questions about why we are here, what is our future after death, and what are the limits to what we can know.

I’ve recorded the entire volume of 47 poems here, about 40 minutes’ listening. Full text is here.

What is this atom that contains the whole,
This miracle that needs adjuncts so strange,
This, which imagined God and is the whole,
The steady star persisting amid change?
What waste that smallness of such power should need
Such clumsy tools so easy to destroy,
Such wasteful servants difficult to feed,
Such indirect dark avenues to joy.
Why, if its business is not mainly earth,
Should it demand such heavy chains to sense?
A heavenly thing demands a swifter birth,
A quicker hand to act intelligence;
An earthly thing were better like the rose,
At peace with clay from which its beauty grows.

Hydraulic engineering of the Ancients

1500 years before Mohamed, long before there was a Persian empire, Iran was home to an advanced civilization, both socially and technically.  With only about 2/3 as much annual precipitation as Los Angeles, they engineered and constructed a vast system of underground aqueducts, called Qanats.  They were underground in order to avoid evaporation losses, and they were networked from the mountains down to the cities with a constant, gentle downward slope because electric pumps were not an option, and camels had better things to do.


Multiple wells were linked by the network.  Without the qanats, agriculture would have been out of the question, and the region would have been home only to nomads.  There are 37,500 qanats remaining in present-day Iran, from a former peak of more than 100,000.

The ancients were also accomplished at storing ice from the winter to be used all summer.  This structure is called a Yakhchal.

3QuarksDaily article by Carl Pierer

Call to courage

“Our bravest agents of change put their bodies on the line in civil disobedience, and some are arrested, beaten or abused by the police.  When that happens to an older person (like me) with white hair, Americans care about that. Age can be a big advantage. It gives you a tool you can put into play.  They’re not going to kill you, mostly. They’re less likely to break your arm. So you have this advantage over young people — There’s a human instinct that says “Don’t beat up babies and don’t beat up old people.  So if someone needs to lie down in front of these bombers, if someone needs to bear witness at the meetings where obscene violence is rationalized, it’s us old people – we should do it!”

Ray McGovern is a veteran CIA officer who once gave Ronald Reagan his daily intelligence briefing, now turned whistleblower and political activist.

The Box

Once upon a time, in the land of Hush-A-Bye,
Around about the wondrous days of yore,
They came across a kind of box
Bound up with chains and locked with locks
And labeled “Kindly do not touch; it’s war.”
A decree was issued round about, and all with a flourish and a shout
And a gaily colored mascot tripping lightly on before.
Don’t fiddle with this deadly box, Or break the chains, or pick the locks.
And please don’t ever play about with war.

Addie Hirschten, Oil on Canvas, 2012

The children understood. Children happen to be good
And they were just as good around the time of yore.
They didn’t try to pick the locks Or break into that deadly box.
They never tried to play about with war.
Mommies didn’t either; sisters, aunts, grannies neither
’Cause they were quiet, and sweet, and pretty
In those wondrous days of yore.
Well, very much the same as now,
And not the ones to blame somehow
For opening up that deadly box of war.

But someone did. Someone battered in the lid
And spilled the insides out across the floor.
A kind of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags
And all the tears, and horror, and death that comes with war.
It bounced right out and went bashing all about,
Bumping into everything in store.  And what was sad and most unfair
Was that it didn’t really seem to care
Much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly. And I’ll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them every day and more, and more,
And leaves them dead, and burned, and dying
Thousands of them sick and crying.
’Cause when it bumps, it’s really very sore.

Now there’s a way to stop the ball. It isn’t difficult at all.
All it takes is wisdom, and I’m absolutely sure
That we can get it back into the box, And bind the chains, and lock the locks.
But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.
Well, that’s the way it all appears, ’cause it’s been bouncing round for years and years
In spite of all the wisdom wizzed since those wondrous days of yore
And the time they came across the box,
Bound up with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled “Kindly do not touch; it’s war.”

— Lascelles Abercrombie