The Dream

O God, in the dream the terrible horse began
To paw at the air, and make for me with his blows,
Fear kept for thirty-five years poured through his mane,
And retribution equally old, or nearly, breathed through his nose.

Coward complete, I lay and wept on the ground
When some strong creature appeared, and leapt for the rein.
Another woman, as I lay half in a swound
Leapt in the air, and clutched at the leather and chain.

Give him, she said, something of yours as a charm.
Throw him, she said, some poor thing you alone claim.
No, no, I cried, he hates me; he is out for harm,
And whether I yield or not, it is all the same.

But, like a lion in a legend, when I flung the glove
Pulled from my sweating, my cold right hand;
The terrible beast, that no one may understand,
Came to my side, and put down his head in love.

— Louise Bogan, born this day in 1897

Health is a communist

We live in the most pathologically individualistic culture in human history, and of course it has health consequences. People are looking for a pill that will make them feel better and live longer when the answer could be as close as knocking on a neighbor’s door…

But of course it’s not so simple. To dance, to integrate meaningful ritual in our daily lives, to feel part of a tightly interdependent community that gives our lives meaning and that won’t let us down when we’re down…these are wonderful boons, but there are deep taboos standing in the way of anyone who pursues them. We are going to have to take risks, come together, turn our culture around.

Science Blog article

Inner life

…people live in anxiety or even fear about whether their outer lives are enough. It’s easy to believe that if we look good enough, perhaps it might be true that our lives are meaningful or even blessed.

The inner life is the child who flourishes in a quiet and non-judgmental space. The inner life has very little currency in a social setting but it is precious. It can’t be found in anyone else, and no one else can see it. It’s a secret. To quote Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: “But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.”

Read more from Lan Samantha Chang

Science explains everything except what science can’t explain

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible”    — Einstein

A frequent refrain among scientists is how marvelous it is that the Universe obeys mathematical laws.  No exceptions.  Isn’t it a remarkable property of nature that she is so consistent and perfectly predictable?

Science always works!

Could it be that this is an illusion?

The rules of scientific reporting specify that we publish what is reproducible.  If it happens in your laboratory once, and you try again and again, and it doesn’t happen, then you conclude that the first time must have been a mistake, and you don’t tell anyone about it.

If you publish a result from your lab and I do the same experiment in my lab but get a different result, I’ll publish an article that suggests you must have been mistaken.

scientismSo maybe it’s not that anomalies don’t exist.  Maybe we discredit them as part of our standard scientific methodology.  Yes, it’s remarkable how much of the world can be explained by rules that (statistically) seem to hold everywhere and always.  But to say that every natural phenomenon is governed by the same laws is to go too far.  This is a dogma.  It is scientism, the elevation of scientific principles to an object of faith.  It is the suspension of skepticism.

If science aspires to be a full account of the world, then the rules of science must be expanded to allow for anomalies.  Science would do well to admit the possibility that some of the irreproducible occurrences in science are not mistakes.  There may be unique observations that are accurately reported and yet are not reproducible—one-off events that are in a class by themselves.

What is your experience?  Have you ever experienced something odd and unexplainable and written it off as a coincidence or a hallucination?  Was it a turning point in your life or an isolated incident?  Did you tell everyone you know, or did you quietly bury the experience in your memory?

Call them miracles if you must.  I call them events that science has yet to explain because science has yet to acknowledge them.  

Dolphins outsmarting their human trainers

One day, a gull flew into Kelly’s pool, and she grabbed it and waited for the trainers. The humans seemed to really like birds; they traded her several fish for it. This gave Kelly a new insight, and a plan. During her next meal, she took the last fish and hid it. When the humans left, she brought the fish up and baited more gulls, to get even more fish. After all, why wait to scrounge an occasional piece of accidental paper when you could become a wealthy commercial bird-fishing dolphin? She taught this to her youngster, who taught other youngsters, and so the dolphins there became professional gull baiters.

Carl Safina

To a Skylark

In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun. –

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of Heaven,
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight, –

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere,
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see- we feel that it is there. –

Like a Poet hidden
In the light of thought
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not: –

— Percy Bysshe Shelley was born this day in 1792