Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason and this reason is usually physics

graffiti on tile

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How many people do you know who – even though they don’t profess any sort of religious affiliation – are convinced that “everything happens for a reason”? Or else they say particular things are “meant to be” … or “not meant to be”.

An example: A customer comes into the store you work in and looks at a set of dinner bowls, or a beautiful French knife, a hand-crafted scarf, or a pair of gold earrings. You come out from behind the counter and spend time with the customer, attentive without being pushy. You know she really wants that lovely thing, and you intuit that she’s trying to convince herself it’s okay to make the purchase.

“If it’s here when I come in on pay-day,” she tells you, “I’ll know it was meant to be.” And you realise there’s a ‘back-story’ underlying her behaviour – one about which we know virtually nothing – like the string of silk handkerchiefs a magician might pull from his sleeve at a children’s birthday party. (Yes, it’s a trick, a deception, but very effective when expertly handled.)

“Everything happens for a reason and this reason is usually physics.” I’m on Facebook, and this meme has been posted by a page calling itself Empty and Meaningless. One pedantic person has commented: “Except that it’s called a ’cause’ instead of a ‘reason’.” Yeah, yeah. Yadda yadda yadda.

The point is that the machinery of “life, the universe, and everything” operates on the basis of cause and effect. Chaos theory and quantum physics have tried to explain it, of course, with talk of things like the butterfly effect – but it’s still mindbogglingly complicated.

And what about when things go wrong? Do they really happen in threes? “The perceived perversity of the universe has long been a subject of comment, and precursors to the modern version of Murphy’s law are not hard to find” (Wikipedia: Murphy’s Law). But there’s nothing perverse about it. Everything that could possibly happen is waiting in the wings, eager for its opportunity, its big moment. And as soon as it gets a chance, it’ll happen. Don’t take it personally.

But of course we do tend to take everything personally. And rightly so, because each of us lives in a unique – and uniquely personalised – world that exists only in our mind. “Reality is not what it seems to be, nor is it otherwise” (Tibetan Buddhist teaching). Furthermore, “We don’t know what matter is any more than we know what mind is” (Christian de Quincy, in The Paradox of Consciousness).

So if most of what is happening within us and around us can be explained by (or at least attributed to) physics, what else is there which – albeit less frequently and/or less likely – might have something to do with driving what’s happening?

There’s a Talmudic tradition that “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow’.” Alan Lurie explains that “everything yearns to grow; it is an inherent drive embedded in all creation”(Listening To The Call Of Growth). “According the Talmudic writer, one of the forces that angels carry is the urge to grow – to develop, improve, and evolve. By noting that even every blade of grass is imbued with this urge, the Talmudic saying teaches that, like light, gravity, and electromagnetism, growth is a ubiquitous force of nature.”

Life is opportunistic. Everything yearns to grow.

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NOTES:

1/ The origins of Yadda yadda yadda can be traced back with certainty to the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce in the early 1960s (see The Straight Dope for further information).

2/ Recommended reading: Consciousness and Reality (Peter Russell).

3/ “Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” (René Magritte)

 

 

Dian Fossey and the Google doodle

Google doodle celebrates Dian Fossey's 82nd birthday

Google doodle celebrates Dian Fossey’s 82nd birthday

Google has celebrated the 82nd birthday of late American zoologist Dian Fossey with a Doodle on its search page, The Independent reported today. The Guardian carried a similar story. Dian Fossey was born on 16 January 1932, in San Francisco, California.

Considered the world’s leading authority on the physiology and behavior of mountain gorillas, Dian Fossey fought hard to protect these “gentle giants” from environmental and human hazards. She saw these animals as dignified, highly social creatures with individual personalities and strong family relationships. Her active conservationist stand to save these animals from game wardens, zoo poachers, and government officials who wanted to convert gorilla habitats to farmland caused her to fight for the gorillas not only via the media, but also by destroying poachers’ dogs and traps.

Tragically, on December 26, 1985, Fossey was found hacked to death, presumably by poachers, at her Rwandan forest camp. No assailant has ever been found or prosecuted in her murder. (Biography.com)

The capacity of human beings to embrace, support, and protect life stands in stark contrast to our willingness to plunder, exploit, and murder.

The Dian Fossey doodle is the latest in the more than 1,000 doodles created for Google’s homepages around the world. Answering the question, “How did the idea for doodles originate?”, an About page explains that “In 1998, before the company was even incorporated, the concept of the doodle was born when Google founders Larry and Sergey played with the corporate logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. They placed a stick figure drawing behind the 2nd “o” in the word, Google, … intended as a comical message to Google users that the founders were ‘out of office.'” (About Google Doodles)

Plink! Planck! Plunk!

plank (27 February 2012)

plank (27 February 2012)

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve. (Max Planck)

Nobody intended me to see this – let alone photograph and exhibit it. It was just there, being itself. Some carpenter nailed it up as part of a fence, but I have deliberately dismantled that particular functionality and reconstituted it as a work of art.

Frankly, the original photograph (now more than a year old) was marred by fish-eye distortion, and I had filed it away, doubting it was worth spending Photoshop time on. But what I had seen didn’t go away; the idea of it persisted.

So here it is. Make of it what you will.

There is no matter as such – mind is the matrix of all matter. (Max Planck

Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality. (Shunryu Suzuki)

Could it be? Yes, it could

West Side Story: The New Broadway Cast Recording (2009) – record cover

West Side Story: The New Broadway Cast Recording (2009) – cd cover

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Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)

Something fabulous is out there taking shape, emerging, peeking, and calling your name. (quoted in Seed of Fabulosity on Soulseeds)

My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method. (Carl Sagan, quoted in Carl Sagan: A Biography, by Ray Spangenburg and Diane Moser) .

Could be! Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye, Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

(Lyrics: Something’s Coming from West Side Story, Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)

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Spangenburg, Ray; Moser, Diane. 2004. Carl Sagan: A Biography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. 

Happy birthday, Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace (ex Facebook)

Ada Lovelace (ex Facebook)

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In 1844, while Morse was demonstrating his telegraph in America, British scientists were discussing a paper recently published by a certain A.A.L. It dealt with the Analytical Engine, a mythical machine being developed by Englsih mathematician Charles Babbage. (Click on the image to read more).

See also the Wikipedia article on Ada Lovelace.

Something is really flying around

Image posted on Facebook by Empty and Meaningless (28 Oct 2012)

Image posted on Facebook by Empty and Meaningless (28 Oct 2012)

Unknown objects are operating under intelligent control … It is imperative that we learn where UFOs come from and what their purpose is … (Admiral Roscoe H Hillenkoetter, Director, Central Intelligence Agency 1947-1950, quoted on UFO Casebook)

This ‘flying saucer’ situation is not at all imaginary or seeing too much in some natural phenomena. Something is really flying around. The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious. (Gen Nathan Twining, Chief of Staff, US Air Force, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, quoted on UFO Casebook)

We have no proof, but if we extrapolate, based on the best information we have available to us, we have to come to the conclusion that … other life probably exists out there and perhaps in many places … (Neil Armstrong, 21 Oct 1999, quoted on UFO Casebook)

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The image seems to have come from a Russian website: http://pikabu.ru/

Words: they are ourselves, our world

Geoffrey Wagner (echoing Coleridge — who, according to Wagner, was probably echoing Swift), states that “The best words are self-reflexive, they are ourselves, our world, the medium through which we see everything.” 

In Language, Truth and Logic, A J Ayer stated that “the propositions in which we record the observations that verify these hypotheses are themselves sense-experience. Thus there are no final propositions” (Ayer, [1936]: p94). 

On such a basis, we might conclude that the objectives of both physics and philosophy are unattainable, and that all their writings are what Roland Barthes called “cultural products” — constituting (borrowing Barthes’s description of Gide’s novels) “a fine fiction … in which one agrees to believe because it explains life and at the same time is a little stronger, a little larger than life (it affords the image of an ideal; every mythology is a dream)” (Barthes, 1982: p13).

Of course, such statements are no more ‘the truth’ than the assertions they challenge and deny; accordingly, they might be read not as an attempt to express the inexpressible, but rather as an endeavour “to unexpress the expressible” (Barthes, 1972: p15). Their intention (their ‘revolutionary task’) is not to supplant physics and philosophy but to transgress, to recognize and to reverse, to challenge, to deny (Barthes, 1985: p47).

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Barthes, R. 1972. Critical Essays. Translated by Richard Howard; copyright © 1972 by Northwestern University Press. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Translated from the French Essais critiques, copyright © 1964 by Éditions du Seuil.

Barthes, R. 1982. A Barthes Reader : Edited and with an Introduction by Susan Sontag.London: Jonathan Cape Ltd. ‘On Gide and His Journal’ (1942). Translated by Richard Howard. Translation copyright © 1981 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc. ‘Notes sur André Gide et son Journal’ was published in July 1942 in Existences, the magazine of the Sanatorium des Etudiants de France at Saint-Hilaire-du-Touvet (Isére).

Barthes, R. 1985. The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962‑1980, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale. London: Jonathan Cape (1985). Translation copyright © 1985 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc; originally published in French as Le Grain de la voix, copyright © 1981 by Éditions du Seuil.

Wagner, Geoffrey. 1968. On the Wisdom of Words. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd. [p5]

Mysterium

“If he flees westward, he finds the fire. If he turns southward, he finds the fire. If he turns northward, the seething fire meets him again. Nor does he find a way to the east to be saved, for he did not find it in his days of incarnation, nor will he find it in the day of judgment.” The Book of Thomas the Contender — Thomas the Humorless, Fabrikant had thought when he was forced to memorize the verses in secondary school. Doom at every compass point. Fabrikant wondered if he had become the hands of Thomas, manufacturing the vehicle of that ultimate flame. (Robert Charles Wilson, in Mysterium)

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Wilson, Robert Charles. [Copyright 1994 by Robert Charles Wilson. Boston: Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.] 2010. Mysterium. New York: An Orb Book published by Tom Douherty Associates LLC [p125]

Review by James Schellenberg, on Challenging Destiny 

Review by Thomas M Wagner, on SF Reviews

See also The Book of Thomas the Contender, translated by John D Turner, in The Nag Hammadi Library

Far-fetched

The fact that something is far-fetched is no reason why it should not be true; it cannot be as far-fetched as the fact that something exists. (Celia Green)