Creative Arts with Patrick Moore


The Importance of Poor Performance and Bad Luck
October 25, 2014, 12:41 pm
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the Importance of Poor Performance

I am reading Herbie Hancock’s new biography, Possibilities. On the first page I read:

 “… this show is really heating up. The band is tight— we’re all in sync, all on the same wavelength. The music is flowing, we’re connecting with the audience, and everything feels magical, like we’re weaving a spell. … The five of us have become one entity, shifting and flowing with the music. … it’s the peak of the evening; the whole audience is on the edge of their seats. Miles starts playing, building up to his solo, and just as he’s about to really let loose, he takes a breath. And right then I play a chord that is just so wrong. I don’t even know where it came from—it’s the wrong chord, in the wrong place, and now it’s hanging out there like a piece of rotten fruit. I think, Oh, shit. It’s as if we’ve all been building this gorgeous house of sound, and I just accidentally put a match to it. Miles pauses for a fraction of a second, and then he plays some notes that somehow, miraculously, make my chord sound right. In that moment I believe my mouth actually fell open. What kind of alchemy was this? And then Miles just took off from there , unleashing a solo that took the song in a new direction. The crowd went absolutely crazy.”

Herbie made a mistake, and Miles made it better for having happened that way.

Having taught hundreds of one-day workshops, I often feel performance anxiety. I worry that I may not perform well as a teacher.

After the workshop is over, I ask the students to fill out my feedback form, and then I file the forms away. I used to be afraid to read them but had to keep them for three years as part of my certification as an instructor.

feedback form

In recent years I force myself to glance at the feedback forms. I can see immediately if there are “10”s on the form or other numbers.

A year passes. I prepare to teach that same workshop. I re-read the student feedback forms and past handouts. I can’t believe how horrible last year’s handout was. I spend hours removing assumptions and judgments and replacing these with different perspectives. I think what a horrible teacher I must have been a year ago. And then again I feel performance anxiety about the upcoming workshop. 

This process is not comfortable, but it does improve my teaching over time. Which is more important—my comfort, or the improvement of my teaching?

For one’s teaching to improve, there must be worse performances for it to improve from. This is the importance of poor performance.

If I could pray to God, or purchase a statue of a patron saint for teachers, or get a blessing from a shaman or purchase a talisman, that guaranteed my next performance would be perfect, would my perfect performances help, or hinder the quality of teaching over time?

Perfect performances make us feel self-satisfied, a quality in teachers that does not benefit students’ learning. Perfect performances require no improvement, only repetition of what was done perfectly last time. Perfect teachers demonstrate to students, once you have “it,” like I do, you don’t need to learn any more. This is a lesson that I hope students do not learn from me.

On the other hand, poor performances, that students see are better than before, and better again next time, teach students that they don’t have to be perfect, that a more important lesson is willingness to experiment, even if mistakes are made, willingness to look at ways to improve and commitment to improving each time. That is a lesson I hope they learn from me.

Poor performance can be a good thing, but it is not always a good thing. In my 13 years of presenting small workshops, poor performance was often a source of my feeling shame and thinking of my guilt. These feelings and thoughts only reduced my performance next time. Without the willingness to examine oneself and commit to improve, poor performance is not a benefit to anyone.

Herbie Hancock learned to not judge his performances, to not linger too long on what was done wrong, but to adapt and grow and make it better for having happened:

“…that night, when he somehow turned my chord from a wrong to a right, he definitely did. In the dressing room after the show I asked Miles about it. I felt a little sheepish, but Miles just winked at me, a hint of a smile on his chiseled face. He didn’t say anything . He didn’t have to. Miles wasn’t one to talk a whole lot about things when he could show us something instead.

 It took me years to fully understand what happened in that moment onstage . As soon as I played that chord I judged it. In my mind it was the “wrong” chord. But Miles never judged it— he just heard it as a sound that had happened, and he instantly took it on as a challenge, a question of How can I integrate that chord into everything else we’re doing? And because he didn’t judge it, he was able to run with it, to turn it into something amazing. Miles trusted the band, and he trusted himself, and he always encouraged us to do the same. This was just one of many lessons I learned from Miles.

We all have a natural human tendency to take the safe route—to do the thing we know will work— rather than taking a chance . But that’s the antithesis of jazz, which is all about being in the present. Jazz is about being in the moment, at every moment. It’s about trusting yourself to respond on the fly. If you can allow yourself to do that, you never stop exploring, you never stop learning, in music or in life. I was lucky enough to learn this not only from playing with Miles but over the decades of playing that have followed. And I’m still learning it, every single day. It’s a gift that I never could have imagined back when I first started…”

When I am feeling performance anxiety, what should I pray for? What should I hope for? What intentions should I send energy to?

I ask to perform well, when this is the best service for others, and to perform poorly, when my improvement is the best service for others. If some of my performance will be poor, I ask that I find the courage and commitment to make the poor performance better for having happened that way.

In another post I will describe the importance of occasional bad luck.



The Myth of Mental and Physical Illness
October 14, 2014, 1:16 pm
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Are people responsible for their troubles and behaviors if they are mentally ill? Are they excused if they are physically ill? For fifty years, Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz answered, no, and yes. What could a massage therapist add to this discussion?

 “There is no such thing as mental illness” said psychiatrist Thomas Szasz (1920-2012). He maintained this claim through 35 books and renewed it in a new preface, “The Myth of Mental Illness Fifty Years Later” :

What was Dr. Szasz really trying to say, when he said there is no such thing as “mental illness”? As the preface above shows, most of his readers misunderstood what he meant, and had reactions to things he never even meant. To him, what he means was always clear. Though Dr. Szasz was very intelligent and logical, I too found it difficult to come to the core of his meaning, even after reading him multiple times over three years. I believe I have found the essence of his point and hope to share it with you, more simply than he shared it. I believe what he discovered has dramatic implications for all healthcare.

One thing Dr. Szasz did not mean is that there is no such thing as mental disturbance, or mental troubles. In fact, he maintained a private practice in which he offered psychotherapy and talk-support to those with mental disturbances.

If “Illness” means “Not Responsible,” then “Mental Disturbance” is not “illness”.

I’d like to take you on a logical journey. Dr. Szasz’ thinking follows a syllogism. Only he doesn’t tell you one of his assumptions. One of his assumptions is the definition of illness. He adopts a cultural view of “illness,” or “disease,” to mean the victim of illness is not responsible for it, and assumes everyone already knows this, so he doesn’t have to say these assumptions aloud:

  • Illness is something that happens to a person through random chance, damage or infection. The person is not responsible for having caused it.
  • The person is not capable of curing illness himself. Since he is not capable, he is not responsible for curing himself. A Physician must do it. Patients play a passive role in the curative process. The Doctor is like an artist, the Patient is his canvas.
  • If the person did bad deeds or crimes during the time he was a victim of illness, he is not morally or legally responsible for those. He should not be blamed or punished.
  • Since the person is not capable of curing himself, he should not be held financially responsible for treatment–this should be provided for him by insurance or the government.

Dr. Szasz’ big discovery, after having provided talk sessions for many people with mental disturbances, was that what they had, did not fit the above definition of illness. In fact, he believed the opposite. He said about people with mental disturbances:

  • The person is responsible for having caused his own mental disturbances.
  • The person is capable of curing his own mental disturbances, so he is responsible to cure himself.
  • A doctor or therapist cannot fix mental disturbance for the person, so the doctor is not responsible.
  • Since the person was capable of doing better, he is morally and legally responsible for all bad deeds he has done. If he has done crimes, his punishment should not be reduced based on finding he had mental disturbances.
  • The person is financially responsible. He needs help, and he should be the one to pay out of pocket for talk therapy, psychotherapy and counseling assistance. If he cannot pay, his family should pay.

A syllogism is when you tell two premises and draw a conclusion. Here is Dr. Szasz’ logic:

A: “Illness” is defined as something a person is not responsible for.

B: “Mental disturbance” is something a person is responsible for.

Therefore,

C: “Mental disturbances” are not “illnesses”.

To make his point more clearly, Dr. Szasz quoted from, and commented on Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth.

Dr. Szasz: Overcome by guilt for her murderous deeds, Lady Macbeth “goes mad”: She feels agitated, is anxious, unable to eat, rest, or sleep. Her behavior disturbs Macbeth, who sends for a doctor to cure his wife. The doctor arrives and quickly recognizes the source of Lady Macbeth’s problem:

Doctor: This disease is beyond my practice. … Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets. More needs she the divine than the physician.”

Dr. Szasz: Macbeth rejects this “diagnosis” and demands that the doctor cure his wife. Shakespeare then has the doctor say these immortal words, exactly the opposite of what psychiatrists and the public are now taught to say and think:

Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?

Doctor: Not so sick, my lord, as she is troubled with thick-coming fancies that keep her from her rest.

Macbeth: Cure her of that! Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain, and with some sweet oblivious antidote cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff which weighs upon her heart?

Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself.

Dr. Szasz uses logic correctly. The conclusion is valid but we don’t know if it is true yet. The way logic works, his conclusion is true only when both his premises are true. Are they? Let’s review them.

Is “mental disturbance” something a person is 100% responsible for causing, and for curing?

First, who is responsible for curing mental disturbances? I have had my own mental disturbances, and my disturbances have significantly lightened over two decades receiving help. Did they lighten because of me, or because of the helper? I believe, both. I believe my helper was at least 50% responsible for the progress I have made, and he continues to remind me how influential I have been in my progress. I see the responsibility for cure as shared, an equal partnership. Already I am doubting the truth of Dr. Szasz’ assumptions.

How responsible was I for causing, and for worsening the disturbances I developed? My helper helped me take responsibility for the things I was truly responsible for causing. I also learned to not take responsibility for things that I was coerced, manipulated or conditioned into, before I was old enough to discern the difference. Could the Catholic church share responsibility for my though, I am not deserving? Could my family history share responsibility for my reckless crashes, fistfights, thrill seeking, drugs and alcohol, manipulation, sarcasm, competition and advantage-taking?

What is Responsibility? Is it different from Accountability?

Before answering who is responsible, we should probably ask what responsibility is. There is a difference between accountability and responsibility. Accountability is, did you do it? Responsibility is, did you know better? Included in responsibility is, were you operating freely or to what degree were you conditioned? And, did you see you had options but chose this path anyway?

Using this improved definition of responsibility, I would say I was accountable for causing my mental disturbances, and so were others. Which of us knew better? Which of us were operating free from conditioning, coercion and manipulation? Which of us clearly recognized all our options and foresaw their consequences, and chose from among these? I am not trying to escape my responsibility. I was the one who put the bottle to my lips. I was the one who turned the key.

The reason I am bringing up my responsibility is to question Dr. Szasz’ premise, that people with mental disturbances are responsible. If there is reasonable doubt that any person with mental disturbance was 100% responsible as the cause, or as the cure of his disturbance, then Dr. Szasz’ premises are not true, at least not always true. If one of his premises is not 100% true or not always true, then logic no longer proves his conclusion true.

Can People be 100% Responsible for their Mental Disturbances?

Yes. You occasionally read about people like Viktor Frankl , author of Man’s Search for Meaning, who cured themselves against great odds (in his case by serving others). Would I have done this for myself? Very unlikely. Could I have? Yes, we are capable. Does capability prove responsibility? Apparently Dr. Szasz thought so. But what if you don’t know, or don’t believe you are capable? What if you don’t know you have options, or don’t see them? What if you’ve never seen examples of people being different?

Is Responsibility for Physical Illness, That Different from Mental?

Our culture wants to believe that people are not at all responsible for illness. Not responsible for the causes. Not responsible for the cures. But how often is this really true?

How often are physical illnesses completely random? How often is it that a person with a “real” disease, had zero influence in its occurring?

Antonio Damasio, in his book Descartes’ Error, uses the example of Phinneas Gage, the railway worker who had an on-job accident with explosives and metal pieces that sent a rod through his head. Gage lived through the accident, but part of his brain was torn out. After this, his behavior changed for the worse. Dr. Damasio uses this as an example of Gage having no responsibility for what happened to his behavior. Gage was, in Damasio’s opinion, 100% not-responsible. I think this is the kind of example Dr. Szasz had in mind when he differentiated physical, or “real” illness from the mental kind.

Gage’s thoughts and behavior changed for the worse. He did not choose to begin swearing, insulting and lying. He had brain damage, so he was not responsible. What I want to know is, is it fair to ask if he played a part in the steps that led to his brain damage?

Gage was accountable for choosing to work in a situation where he was using explosives and metal pieces. It was he who placed the explosives where he did, and placed the metal piece where he did, and it was his actions that set off the explosive. but accountability does not prove responsibility. What was he thinking in the weeks, days, hours and minutes before the explosion? Can we really say he had zero responsibility in his “accident?”  Is this truly an example of a person having zero responsibility for the disease that happened to him?

My brain sustained injuries in my late teens. If you had asked me after any one of the injuries, I would have said absolutely no, I was not responsible. These were just things that happened to me. They were 100% random accidents, I believed at the time. But looking back thirty years, it puzzles me how I just happened to have twenty accidental head injuries in a six-year span. What are the chances of this happening randomly? There must have been some agency that placed me in all these dangerous situations with motorcycles, football players, water and snow rushing at me at high speed, and other people’s fists. Who could that agent have been, but me? I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking. I remember being depressed and angry in those years. I didn’t think, If only I had twenty brain injuries, I could lower my test scores by fifty percentiles and flunk out of grad school, which would excuse me from becoming a math teacher, and would justify my being sarcastic and pessimistic and drinking too much for a decade. Or did I? Did Phinneas Gage?

People who have physical illness (sometimes) were (at least partially) responsible for causing these illnesses.

How Responsible can people be for their Cures?

Our culture wants to believe that it is doctors, or Healthcare that is responsible for curing illness. Our culture wants to believ that individuals play no part in making progress, for if we did play a part, then we would be responsible. We are not responsible, our culture cries.

How often are physical diseases cured by the doctor’s efforts alone, with zero participation from the patient? Are patients simply canvas, that the doctor, like an artist, works upon?

What happens when a person with a disease decides to begin:

  • Eating healthier,
  • Reducing toxins,
  • Exercising more, spending more time outdoors,
  • Working with professionals who help the body move toward better physical health,
  • Mending relationships, with the help of a counselor, social worker or therapist,
  • Finding love and support,
  • Volunteering and doing compassionate service for others,
  • Finishing that novel, or other life purpose,
  • Resting, playing and spending time in creative activities weekly, or
  • Shifting to more cooperative attitudes, and de-escalating quickly whenever “Fight Flight” occurs?

Would you think a sick person who begins doing some of these things consistently, would boost his immune system? Would you expect his disease might begin to reverse? Have there been examples of people healing, when doctors said there was no hope? May we (sometimes) divert (some of the) credit from his doctors, and give (some) credit to the person for having participated in his own healing?

What was Dr. Szasz Right About?

Please forgive that I took so much of your reading time in picking apart Dr. Szasz’ logic. The reason for this blog post is not to discredit what Dr. Szasz has done, but to show he has actually done something much better and bigger than even he realized.

I think Dr. Szasz made a very good point about mental disturbance, not really being an illness, when illness is defined as something that happens to you, something you do not participate in the cure of. Where I doubt him is when he says physical illness is different. He wasn’t an expert on physical illness, he was an expert on mental illness. I trust his feeling about mental illness. But he may have had a diminished view of physical illness. But his misunderstanding of physical illness, actually makes his discovery much more important.

He said there is no such thing as mental illness. What he really discovered is that there is no such thing as physical illness. There is no such thing as illness. Here is what he really proved, starting from truer premises:

A: “Illness” is that which people have no responsibility for causing or for curing.

B: People did have influence in the onset of their disturbances, and they continue to have influence in resolving their disturbances.

C: Therefore there is no such thing as illness.

Thank you, Dr. Szasz, for bringing up the idea there is no such thing as mental illness, fifty four years ago.

The Benefit of Claiming Some Responsibility

I believe Dr. Szasz intention all along was to empower people. While mental illness was thought of as something that happened to them, they were helpless. He worked with people to help them see they had power.

His books harped on responsibility. People participated in the onset of their mental problems. This is a tough pill to swallow, and maybe this is why people resisted his writing for fifty years. But once his message is digested, it turns out to be a wonderful blessing.

  • If I had influence back then, then I have influence now.
  • If I could cause this to appear, I can cause it to disappear.
  • If I made it worse, then I can make it better.

This gives people hope they can change. Once they do change, it shows them a second time, how powerful they are.

Empowering the Person through Melting their Muscles

My experience as a provider of muscle massage has proven to me that people have some responsibility in the causes and cures of their tensions. People come to see me to get rid of some long-standing tension. They arrive with certain concepts and expectations:

  • Muscle tension happened to them.
    • Sometimes they can trace it back to a car “accident” or other trauma, that happened to them.
    • Other times they appear puzzled–they have no idea how this happened to them. “Are you curious,” I ask. Sometimes they are not.
  • They expect that I will fix it. They expect to be passive while I work.

On arrival, they take zero responsibility for the onset cause of the tension, for the worsening of the tension over time, and for the things that must occur for it to be resolved.

I tell them (gently, and maybe not in the first session):

  • Muscle tension is something your brain is doing, right now. Your brain is sending voltage to that muscle.
  • There was a certain day in the past when your brain felt it could not handle what was occurring, so it began sending more voltage to your muscles, hoping this would protect you. Since that time your brain has not yet come to a different conclusion.
  • Ah, your muscle is melting. I feel it sinking. Do you feel my fingers sinking in? This is proof that your brain is now changing its mind. You are doing that, not me. You are letting go of your tension right now. Good job!In essence I am telling them, you had a part in the origin of your trouble. You were influential then. Over time you continued to have influence, perhaps making it worse. Now you are making it better, which proves again how influential you are now, and always were.

There is No Such Thing as Therapy

If “Therapy” is defined as one person curing another person’s illness, there is no such thing as therapy. There are no such things as therapists.

What we do, who are considered therapists, is to assist the person to heal herself. We guide, clarify, support, challenge and inspire the person, and then she does the actual healing.



Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka Vindicated by BICEP2 Telescope Findings Last Week
October 11, 2014, 6:30 pm
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A new kind of telescope in Antarctica proved the universe did not “inflate” in the first second after the big bang. Without Inflation, the next-best hypothesis of how our universe works is “the bouncing universe:” a big bang is followed by a big crunch, followed by big bang, ongoing.

[See the article in New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26272-cosmic-inflation-is-dead-long-live-cosmic-inflation.html ]

Edgar Allan Poe predicted this 166 years ago, during his 6-hour poem, Eureka.

[Read Eureka By Edgar Allan Poe at the Baltimore Poe Society: http://www.eapoe.org/works/editions/eurekac.htm
Or download the free kindle version at: http://amzn.com/B004UJLX1W
Or listen to a narrator read the poem: http://amzn.com/0976143593 ]

When I opened the latest issue of Science News this week, and saw the article, my heart beat faster. Poe is vindicated! I emailed my friend Stephen who is also a Poe fan, to ask if he had read the news, and he had the same thought I did.

This blog post gives a brief overview of Cosmic Expansion mixed with Poe’s contribution. How did Poe predict, 166 years before the sensors could detect, that ours is not a universe with one big bang, but one that expands and contracts? Since he was right about the details, should we at least consider his deeper point, that universe expands and contracts like the heartbeat of a huge, living being? Should we listen when he explains the meaning and purpose of life, the universe, and everything?

What is Inflation?

The universe began with an event of tremendous expansion. It is still expanding today, perhaps the momentum from that initial event.

Inflation is the idea, that during the first second after the big bang, the universe was given a boost of super-expanding power, that lasted less than a second. This pushed all the matter outward much faster than the big bang alone had been pushing it.

Why do we need this idea? In the 1980s telescopes became good enough to notice a cosmic radiation, behind all the stars. This radiation has a pattern. This pattern is so old that it shows us what the universe was like before there were stars, before there was matter, before space was transparent. When they looked at the radiation pattern, is is smooth. The distribution of waves is very nice:

There was no simple way to explain this nice smoothness, until Alan Guth suggested Inflation. If there were just a second of super-expansion, that would have smoothed everything out. As an explanation it seemed the simplest explanation. The idea was accepted and trusted until a couple weeks ago.

Scientists today want to see this background radiation better. So they designed, funded and built a cool machine called BICEP2, and set it up near the south pole, to measure gravitational waves that are still there behind all the stars. The radiation is in any direction you point a detector. The south pole points perpendicular to the sun so it provides the darkest view available from earth, which gives the best readings of this radiation. They built a dish the right size to see the actual wavelengths of the background radiation.

BICEP2 at South Pole from Wikimedia Commons

BICEP2 at South Pole

BICEP2 is the dish on the Right. The photo is given freely from Wikipedia.org at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:South_pole_spt_dsl.jpg , though I tampered with the color of the sky and cropped the image.

A few theorists from Australia–Marina Cortês, Andrew R. Liddle and David Parkinson–began analyzing the observations from the BICEP2 dish from earlier this year. They noticed that, if Inflation had really occurred, BICEP2 would be seeing big waves in the background radiation. But BICEP2 was seeing small waves. They concluded that Inflation could not have occurred in the first second, at least not in the way the model of Inflation has been presented so far. Their paper is here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1409.6530

Alan Guth was asked to comment for the New Scientist article. He admitted the data rule out some versions of Inflation, but not all versions, he said.

Now that BICEP2 has measured the waves, to keep believing in the one-second burst of Inflation you would have to do “really tricky” things to the mathematics, said Katherine Mack, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. These tricky things would make the theory much more complicated. They would break the relation between amplitude of the primordial gravitational waves and the distribution of matter in the universe.

With Guth, Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University also developed the model of Inflation. But he later changed his mind. Inflation has a consequence: if you accept inflation, then you must accept we live in the Multiverse. The multiverse is an infinite number of universes, all existing simultaneously. Some scientists love this idea because it explains everything. But not Steinhardt. If we live in one of infinite multiverses, then everything that could happen, does happen, he said. This makes it pointless to ask How? and Why? questions about the universe. If we live in one of the infinite multiverses, the answer to all questions about our universe, is always the same answer: “it was possible, so it had to happen in one universe, and this is the one it happened to happen in.” Yes, this answer “explains” everything, but the explanation has no meaning. This answer seems like cheating to some (like me).

Steinhardt said the point of suggesting the model of inflation back in the 80s, was to explain how our universe happened to be so remarkably simple. “So the last thing in the world you should be doing is introducing a multiverse of possibilities to explain such a simple thing,” he said. The multiverse could be considered a last resort theory, if there were no better explanations. Are there better, simpler explanations? Steinhardt and Poe think so.

Until now Steinhardt opposed Inflation because of his distaste for the consequences of the multiverse model. But now the BICEP2 findings offer evidence for doubting Inflation ever happened. “I think it’s telling us in the clearest possible terms that we should be able to understand this and when we understand it it’s going to come in a model that is extremely simple and compelling. And we thought inflation was it – but it isn’t.”

What would be an extremely simple and compelling model?

Poe’s Simple Explanation of Our Universe Expanding

Performed in 1848, Poe’s 6-hour poem, Eureka, begins with the idea that:

“… what God originally created—that that Matter which, by dint of his Volition, he first made from his Spirit, or from Nihility, could have been nothing but Matter in its utmost conceivable state of——what?—of Simplicity? This will be found the sole absolute assumption of my Discourse.”

The universe makes most sense when it is viewed with the utmost simplicity, Poe is saying. In his day telescopes were seeing galaxies outside the Milky Way. Astronomers, Philosophers and Theologians were drawing conclusions about these findings. Poe’s simple, compelling model was, that the big bang is God’s wish to separate matter into its utmost division.

” …the expulsion of the separative ether, whose province and whose capacity are limited to keeping the atoms apart until that great day … “

The big bang is God’s big push. This “separative” force, matches what scientists call “cosmic expansion” or “dark energy”. I just get tingles thinking that Poe predicted dark energy, more than a hundred years before science came up with the idea. Still, they have no idea what dark energy is, they have not measured it, nor do they have a clue as to its meaning or purpose. the idea of dark energy is really like saying, “it’s magic.” Now I ask, is Poe’s suggestion that God had a good reason for causing this “separative force,” more farfetched than the idea, “dark energy”?

Poe’s explanation is very simple. You might even say, it is simplistic or child-like. Poe sees this simplicity and child-like quality as support for its truth. That is why he asked for Eureka to be viewed not as an essay in science, but as a poem.

Poe tells the Meaning and Purpose of Life, the Universe and Everything

If all Eureka did was suggest the big bang was God’s will, it wouldn’t be very compelling for me. What I find compelling is that Poe tells us God’s reason for separating all the matter in a big push. What was God’s reason and was it really such a good reason?

Poe tells us. God pushed the matter apart and separated it in order to maximize its opportunity to recombine as new interesting things and beings. And it has! Stars and planets are very interesting. The living beings that have occurred, against all odds, are very interesting. By having the maximum variety in things and diversity in beings that exist, this maximizes differences of perspective.

Thank you, Mr. Poe. And why is this a good thing? Why would God be pleased by maximizing diversity of beings and differences of perspective? (And does this please us, or only God?)

God knew that after separating matter to extremes, a natural force (gravity) will naturally pull it all back to Unity. During the phase of coming back to Unity, the diverse beings and differing perspectives will naturally unify. Each separate perspective will gain from embracing all the other different perspectives. Relations that were separated will embrace. The house divided will be reunited. This pleases God far more than simply sitting in peaceful contemplation where nothing ever happens.

Think about it from God’s perspective. He’s seen a lot of things. He needs for the universe to expand a little more, a little more, for the more unique molecules to have time to form, for the complex forms of life to form, so there will be unique challenges he has not embraced before. He created and supports a universe where challenge occurs, where perspectives clash, where traumas occur and where disappointed expectations are the norm. And then he supports the resolution of these traumas, the solution of challenges and the integration of divergent perspectives. These goods, are worth all the struggle, to God. (How about to us?)

Change is good, literally. Clashing is good, challenge is good, debate is good and different perspectives are good. Because in the end, all these differences come together again, making them better for having happened. The purpose of the universe is the meaning that is gained when the new challenges are transcended.

Steinhardt’s Bouncing Universe

Back here in 2014, Steinhardt seeks the simplest theories to explain smooth distribution of our universe. Instead of relying on Inflation, now Steinhardt suggests the universe might have existed before the big bang, and slowly collapsed in a big crunch, before bouncing back and expanding anew. He thinks that could explain the smoothness of the universe, without invoking multiverses. If we do not find any gravitational waves in the years to come, this will support this theory, he says.

Poe’s Heartbeat of the Universe

If you make it through the 6-hour CD audio, or read the hundred pages of Poe’s Eureka, you will be rewarded with his conclusions:

“…where there is absolute Unity—where the tendency to oneness is satisfied—there can be no Attraction…”

Poe says that gravity disappears as soon as the matter has come back to its original unity.

“When, on fulfilment of its purposes, then, Matter shall have returned into its original condition of One– … Unity,—it will then (to speak paradoxically for the moment) be Matter without Attraction and without Repulsion—in other words, Matter without Matter—in other words, again, Matter no more. In sinking into Unity, it will sink at once into that Nothingness … the final globe of globes will instantaneously disappear, and that God will remain all in all.”

In the beginning, God separated all the matter in a Big Push. His purpose, according to Poe, is for the resulting natural response: the Big Reunion that will inevitably come. But is that the end? One Big Push, followed by One Big Crunch? No…

“But are we here to pause? Not so. On the Universal agglomeration and dissolution, we can readily conceive that a new and perhaps totally different series of conditions may ensue—another creation and irradiation, returning into itself—another action and rëaction of the Divine Will. … are we not, indeed, more than justified in entertaining a belief—let us say, rather, in indulging a hope—that the processes we have here ventured to contemplate will be renewed forever, and forever, and forever; a novel Universe swelling into existence, and then subsiding into nothingness, at every throb of the Heart Divine? “

Poe outlined, in 1848, the same model that Steinhardt said in his 2014 quote above. (One wonders if physicists are aware that Poe predicted all this 166 years ago? I read Michio Kaku give credit to H. G. Wells for being the first to publish the idea that Time is the fourth dimension. I read Stephen Hawking give credit to Giordano Bruno for his view of multiple worlds. But I have not yet read any scientist giving Poe credit for the Big Bang, the Big Crunch, Dark Energy or for the Bouncing Universe.)

Is It Alive?

Near his conclusion Poe says that every thing in the universe is alive, has capacity for pleasure and pain and has consciousness.

In describing the Universe, he says it beats like a heart. Poe’s universe is a living being, whose pulse rate is about one beat every 30 billion years. Perhaps he was being poetic.

“And now—this Heart Divine—what is it?”

I won’t give away the climax of Eureka in case you wish to read or listen to it yourself.

What I Learned

Humans are tricky. We use advantage on everything. Rather than say humans are the most evolved, I will say of all the terra-firmians, humans take advantage far more than any other earthlings. We will take advantage of our own loved ones, just to see if we can get away with it. We will take advantage of any kind of animal or plant we can get our tools around. We will take advantage of any kind of molecules, atoms, bonds, forces, genes, or germs, to see what we can gain.

Until today, I would simply shake my head and shrug my shoulders. What could humans be thinking? Ever since Nagasaki and Hiroshima, people have been wondering at the “evils” of tampering with the atom. More recently I have shaken my head about designing killer viruses to put into mosquitoes so the males would be sterile and not pass on malaria. What could scientists be thinking? Won’t that lead to weird mutant animals and humans, when they get bit by these monster mosquitoes? Genes travel! What about the antibiotics they use in hospitals, that are now found in wild birds and fish? What will happen to bacteria in the wild that is already pre-resistant to antibiotics? Where will bacteria go next, as a result of our tampering that has made the species far stronger? What about the radium being brought up with fracking gas, that is giving people new diseases? What odd mutations, situations and beings will evolve from all these strange unnatural combinations? Why do people who claim to be religious, kill each other? Why do Americans fight to raise minimum wages for Americans, while fighting for lower prices, that make wages lower in other countries? We are a house divided, and we continue to divide ourselves more and more. Until today I would have said, “certainly no good can come of all this tampering and dividing.”

But ours is a universe designed for the utmost difference. Perhaps tampering is something that was foreseen. Could tampering actually create new beings, the universe has never seen before? With new relationships between us and them, them and them, or us and us as we become them? This furthers the universe’s purpose to have more new perspectives and relationships.

At least, all this tampering furthers the universe’s purpose, when these things come to be reunited. When will that be? Can we continue to tamper without responsibility, leaving it for future generations or more evolved beings to embrace the tampering we have done? No. I see this is the spiritual purpose of humanity:–to embrace, resolve, and make-better-for-having-happened, the tampering we humans have done and continue to do.. to continue tampering and to learn how to tamper more responsibly… to continue exploring and also to begin to reunify, embrace and integrate.

It is the right time for this. This week’s news about Cosmic Expansion marks a shift in history. The universe has expanded, and now is returning toward Unity. This is our alert that it is time to begin integrating that which we have divided.



Soccer in Socks – to prevent Brain and other Injuries
October 5, 2014, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I read this week in “The Week”, and LAST WEEK IN NEW SCIENTIST, that people are worried about how soccer can give you head injuries. They already knew and admitted that American football gives you head injuries, and nobody thought that soccer would also harm the brain. But it turns out that heads do bash each other in soccer, which can harm the brain. Also, even heading the ball, over time, can give you traumatic brain injuries.

I was jogging at my local track one Sunday morning when I noticed some guys my age playing soccer. I asked them if they had some kind of club and turned out it was an over 45 club. I bought some cleats and began practicing with them. When I turned 50 they needed some guys to fill out their roster for their over 50 club so I officially joined and played in two games before I quit because of injuries.

I was aware that I had previous head injuries, which took me 20-30 years to heal from. So I was careful not to do any heading of the ball. At least, at first. But something about competitive sports gets us pushing a little harder. I found myself heading the ball and almost scored once, even though I promised myself I wasn’t going to do any heading.

I am a pretty calm guy, but I found that on the soccer field I became more aggressive. Some of the guys had sons who were playing in high school and they would sometimes practice with us. I did not have their skills or speed, but I had tenacity and some endurance to make up the difference. As a defender, I would often rush up to the striker and try to “stand him up.” Occasionally this would lead to the opportunity for a turnover, and if I could get a foot on the ball and move it away from him, I didn’t mind being a bit aggressive. I remember once or twice getting the ball away from a teenage boy with both of us landing on the ground, then jumping up with fists in the air as if I had been victorious. 49 year old massage therapist wins over 17 year old varsity athlete! They didn’t seem to mind, and most of the guys praised me for improving. I did leave a few bruises but when I apologized they said no problem, I hadn’t caused any fouls.

I also went home with a few bruises, and a jammed finger. At 50, these take more time to heal. In fact, it took months. My knee, which had reconstructive surgery, popped painfully twice while playing, but felt okay after I walked and jogged a few laps.

I found that the days I would scrimmage with the guys, I had difficulty getting to sleep that night. Especially when practice was in the evening, but even when it had been in the morning, I found that as soon as I laid down, I would begin replaying the most intense competitions in my head again. Over and over my mind repeated these scenes. My heart rate and breathing increased, and it would be two hours before I could fall asleep.

The last game I played in, I was playing defense but now against another over 50 team where most of the players did not speak English as their first language. The guy dribbling down the field toward my goal were now much more certain of scoring against our slow, oldie team. I wasn’t going to let him! I did get in his way a bit and without fouling, I prevented him from scoring. When it was done, I felt the inside of my leg had been scraped. The shin guard does not protect the inside of the lower leg, and the other fellow’s cleats had scraped the inside of my leg and ankle. I played the rest of the game without first aid. But by the time the next game came up the following week, I decided enough was enough. My leg was not healing. In fact it took about six months to fully heal. I told the guys I couldn’t play any more. Aren’t you having fun? Yes! Too much fun! They didn’t understand. It was just a scrape, everyone gets them, and you’re improving, they said. (Yes, but my body is too important to me to risk in this way, I didn’t say aloud.) I just said I needed to heal and wouldn’t be back this season. I was invited to come back a couple of times but I put it as gently as I could, that I wasn’t cut out for this.

I thought it was me. Because of those twenty head injuries I had received in the late 70’s and early 80’s, now I was prone to switch into fight/flight during a game, which made me more aggressive and also more prone to injure others and myself. It was as if I had PTSD and the game would trigger me to survival mode. The other guys said they didn’t mind, that I hadn’t hurt anyone, but I noticed it was messing with my sleep and I kept getting a little more and more injured. I realized I was heading the ball when I had promised myself I wouldn’t. I recognized I was headed for a worse injury. My decision to stop playing was about me. Because of my particular history, I couldn’t play gently. Once someone was moving my way with the ball, I would go after him all out.

I was sad to leave the team because it was really fun.

That was more than a year ago. Since then, the news has been reporting more and more about head injuries and now is even talking about changes that need to be implemented in pro soccer.

With all this in mind, I have an idea I would like to share with the world. Noncompetitive soccer.

  1. No cleats. You play in socks. This alone will prevent many injuries. Yes, the game will be slower, but everyone has the same setback so it will be even.
  1. No touch. Not even a little nudging.
  1. No teams. Players rotate. If you were on the green team for ten minutes, at a certain time you switch over to a red jersey and one of the reds switches to green. The guys who were your enemy are now on your side.
  1. No score is kept.
  1. The ball never rises above shoulder height (prevents heading). This provides incentive for more short passes and more teamwork.

I imagine this “sport” would still provide two hours of hard exercise that is good for your heart, but with far less adrenaline and other detriments of the fight/flight system that gets turned on during competition.

A few things I remember fondly from my year practicing with the team:

A couple fellows who were clearly far better than me, approaching me as a defender, realized they could easily get past me using fancy footwork, but didn’t. I noticed this and said something after the game, hey thanks for going easy on me. They said they hadn’t, but I didn’t believe it. I appreciate that those fellows restrained themselves from embarrassing me. They wanted our interaction to be more equal and so they withheld their best moves.

DSC_8710

A couple times it was my turn to show restraint: One fellow from Sweden (?) brought his daughter to play with us. She was about ten. Obviously when she was dribbling toward me, I could have easily stolen the ball from her, but I didn’t. I restrained myself and attempted to play at her level. Sometimes she beat me and sometimes she didn’t, depending on how well she handled that particular interaction. I noticed all the other guys were also able to restrain themselves to play at her level–not to let her have every interaction, but to play fairly given her capability:

DSC_1126 DSC_1138 DSC_1155 DSC_1157 DSC_1177 DSC_1181 This shows the home made goals–shoot between the two bags. Think she’ll score?

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I believe we are all capable of playing fair. We have all played with children and know what it is like to play at their level. I believe we can match others where they are at, and play at their average, so that about half the time they would beat us and half the time they would not.

Benjamin Franklin wrote, in THE MORALS OF CHESS, that he often found himself more capable than his chess opponents, and then he would play down so that they could feel better about themselves. This benefitted both people as the relationship was improved. He felt this was a better outcome for himself than had he earned the spotlight by winning.

“Lastly, if the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules above mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself. Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskilfulness or inattention; but point out to him kindly, that by such a move he places or leaves a piece in danger and unsupported; that by another he will put his king in a perilous situation, etc. By this generous civility (so opposite to the unfairness above forbidden) you may, indeed, happen to lose the game to your opponent; but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection, together with the silent approbation and goodwill of impartial spectators.”

Benjamin Franklin

I believe competitive sports are not helping us to be better people. Yes, the exercise is good, but you don’t need to beat others to get good exercise. Yes, sports provide a sense of teamwork but you don’t need to beat others to feel this. Yes, it is fun to win, but there are things in life that are even better than winning.

If you live in Tucson and would be interested in getting together to play rotating, noncompetitive soccer in socks, please contact me!