Sunday, February 21, 2016

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

"Blessed are the meek. Oh that's nice, I'm glad they're getting something, they have a helluva time."-The Life of Brian

I keep trying to wrap my brain around gravitational waves. Take a minute and watch this video: (which I like to call) a brief history of physics for idiots like me.
The only thing I must disagree with in the video is the assertion that Earth, Wind and Fire (and Air) are "hooey".

There is a weird thing that happens with age, or at least it is this way for me. I am both less able to believe in anything and more open to the fact that anything could happen at any time. I can give concrete examples:
When I was 14 I believed the only thing I needed to beat Suzy Favor in a cross country race was guts. Turns out this was false. I mean, she could outrun a guy with a chain saw. I do not know what I was thinking.

Today, some number of years later, I woke up not believing I could run even a step, and that the only reasonable thing to do on my last day of vacation was to stay in bed. Yet, I ran. 12 miles, which is something like 14000 steps. Anything can happen, at any time.

Back to gravitational waves. One interesting thing to me is how they were heard as a sort of rising chirp. This could've rose to any one single tone. But it did not land on a sexy note, nor a particularly unusual note. It landed on middle C.

For those that escaped piano lessons (it is never too late, by the way!), this is the note your piano teacher will have likely introduced first, and one that you will always come back to like a well-worn teddy bear or a favorite novel.

I am not saying middle C is any better or any worse than any other note. But what does it mean to be the theme song for a ripple in the space-time continuum? I just don't know.

In the meantime, there was another shooting spree today, this time in Kalamazoo, MI, where I spent many a summer holiday visiting cousins, aunts, uncles, and the matriarchal Oma of our clan. Kalamazoo for me is the ice cream truck (creepy, but delicious), Aunt Teddy's cooking, and sleeping in my sleeping bag next to the grandfather clock which comfortingly chimed the hours. How can the very same species that allows scientists to study something as outrageous as the theory of relativity with laser interferometers (which, let's face it, not too many of us, even those of us that believe education is important, have a clue what that means) also believe that freely carrying guns meant to kill other human beings is acceptable?

Maybe it gets to that thing about youth versus experience with life: you can believe many things despite the evidence as a youth, and yet doubt the subtle brilliance of scientific breakthroughs or that finding love again is even possible. With a tad of experience/age, you actually start to disbelieve that which has been proven wrong again and again and again (guns make us safer). But you can hope for a better world, as you suspect there are some smart cookies out there with compassion and, in the case of this whole gravitational wave thing, pretty decent grades in physics class.

Statistically speaking, the use of statistics never convinced anyone of anything, unless they had an open mind in the first place and also had a healthy dose of nerd in the fabric of their being.

I used to believe people were born to be good. Be a peacemaker, and your children will figure that is a good idea too. Have a sense of care for your community and it will care for you right on back, and you won't have to go to church or the grocery store or elementary school or restaurant or ride Uber with fear in your heart. I have been accused of naiveté more than once and I suppose I will be again. And therein lies the subtlety, the openness to the potential of compassion and forgiveness. Go ahead and laugh, I am used to this, being a bald, eyelash-less mother of 3 teenagers who has an autoimmune skin disorder and a very goofy sense of humor and an olympic-level standard poodle (in the burping competition) and the audacity to suppose I actually belonged in Osler's days of medicine rather than the present, with its "meaningful use" and dysfunctional EMRs and complete denial of death as a part of life. Also, I once ran neck in neck for almost a mile with Suzy Favor. You shoulda seen the look on her face!

The think about gravitational waves, automatic weapons, long distance running, education, Dr Osler and the vocal range of Philip Bailey (see above, Earth Wind and Fire video, yeah let's hear you try that), is none of it matters unless we show compassion to each other. I don't mean to get preachy here, but I am, after all, a Pastor's Kid. Also the niece of 6 pastors, and the granddaughter of yet another one. Plus some cousins. My father made Bernie Sanders look slightly conservative. He preached compassion and peace and was willing to keep his head held high, even when people threatened him for his views. Once I received a phone call from a man threatening to come and shoot my Daddy dead, in regards to something to do with homosexuals (though I am sure he did not use that nice of a term). I was maybe 8. I was already unimpressed by the grammar, but also remember this moment as the first time it dawned on me that there were some real whack jobs out there, and they had guns.

So how does one move forward? One step at a time. And make sure you are wearing your fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch or have one of those apps on your phone recording it so you get credit for every single step.

Also, laugh. And don't pick your nose.

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