Friday, November 13, 2009

Bird Flew Redux (all over again)

I know that you know that this H1N1 is the real deal. It's a highly contagious virus, which can so easily pass from one infected person to anyone he comes into contact with. Sure, maybe Don Rumsfeld and some others stand to profit by the scare, and by distributing ever more vaccine, but there have always been war profiteers, and we always seem to need them too.

And somewhere in the background, like me, you're wondering when the Big One is going to hit us, now that we're all so crowded on the planet, and now that viruses can jump from livestock to people, and we raise our livestock in very tightened little pens. So we have to dope them up with drugs, which creates a kind of breeding ground for the drug resistant sort of bugs. Too much anti-bacterial stuff, and you just destroy the competition for the viruses, pretty much like the Japanese do by sterilizing everything too darned much.

My own sister, who's medically trained, but still somehow thinks she's not as smart as me, has been trying to understand what I've been working on, and figured out that emotional reality also travels kind of virally, to where people who care about one another, especially if and when they care enough to keep each other honest, can spread around just like those cellular automata which model birds in flight so well.

They look as if they flow, or as if they were all of one mind, when really all they do is stay in touch with the one right next to them, and maybe someone new takes point when that poor bird poops out or loses his sense of direction.

It's not a bad way to understand how emotions can work among us. But I still seem to want more.

Just like right now, I'm waiting for some viral marketing to kick in to this cool new website we've created at We're hoping that some people will like it well enough to tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on down the line.

But there are so many such sites out there, and so many of them are so well funded, that it feels pretty unlikely that anyone will find ours any more interesting than the others.

Unless, of course, lots of people were to start using it, in which case it would get really interesting really fast.

But you do have to be careful what you wish for. I mean it's nice living alone out in the middle of the country where the only thing you have to worry about is a bear or a hunter every once in a while.

And you who have read me right along understand that I don't much appreciate the crazies who have to make of Jesus something any more real than that he's managed over these couple of millennia to stay in hearts and minds. Which ought to be enough by itself, without all the ridiculous claims of life everlasting or getting sucked up into heaven.

But it seems to me Gary Snyder once remarked that whatever it takes to engender faith is fair enough, so long as faith results. Like secret pores to make statues cry, is the one I think he used. Or makeup for a Saturday Night Date, if that's the one you really want to like you. Just so long as you don't confuse the props with the real deal, which all those impassioned words were trying to convince you of. No really, it's true, I was there. It happened.

We do that all the time with our stories, because without a little embellishment, how are we going to get people actually to believe us.

I do surely and sorely object to the proselytizers who pretend to speak for God, borrowing words of uncertain authorship purveyed by one of the biggest institutions around. And as you know, I think really big is a really big temptation to evil.

Emotions, anyhow, can ride the strangest vectors. They don't really need much more than pen and paper, although they do just fine over the wire, and through the ether. Sometimes all it takes is knowing that your sweetheart is at the other end of the earth looking at the very same moon, perhaps even at the very same time.

I'll bet at least one or two of you have known the magic of discovery that there really was or is or has been a connection which no amount of testing can or could or will ever tease out from the traceable connections. No wires, no line of sight, and still there is some connection.

Maybe you attribute that sort of thing to Jesus. Fair enough. But I think it's time to grow up now, and accept that we are co-creators. I think that gets attributed to Gary Snyder too, come to think of it.

The connections we make can be full of love or hate, spite or profiteering. We can be looking for love or we can be looking for sex, or we can be so jaded that we don't even believe in a difference. It's awfully hard to trust another human being. And even the best among us betray the ones we love the very most each and every day.

But what if, I mean really, what if there were some reason to believe that emotional connections across no measurable divide are actually as real as the clouds and rain (I love that, it's my secret little joke for sex, borrowed from the Chinese who use it as a euphemism).

I'm not talking about a mechanism, since physic's got that stuff all wrapped up. The kinds of connections I'm talking about break the physical laws of simultaneity, since for you and your sweetheart to be feeling something at the very same time, the connection would have to travel faster than the speed of light which is just plain physically impossible.

Oh sure, it would be hard to tell, since light can get from here to California lickety split. Quick enough so that even when your voice bounces off some satellite to get there you can't sense any delay.

But what about when you're nowhere near anything that can carry your private signal? Well maybe, and I'd say this is easily enough proven, the two of you have started to inhabit something of the same emotional space, and just like birds flying toward the same sun, if that sun were to move you'd all move at the very same time to stay with it.

Which is about, come to think of it, what they intend to do over at the CERN collider. Not moving the sun, there aren't levers long enough for that Archimedes, but come close enough to creating mass out of nothingness that it will be very much as if the sun had moved.

I know it's a really hard thing to buy, but lots of people buy miracles from baby Jesus which are a lot harder to buy, if you catch my drift. I'm not trying to be cute here, they really really do.

Miracles like that never happen to me, or maybe they do each and every day, and I'm just too obtuse to credit them. Yeah, I'll buy that. It sounds suspiciously what the very best of the Jesus people say, which I'll have to grant you (what's free, what costs? Sometimes it's hard to tell).

But I no longer believe in random. It's an old Taoist trick I learned long ago. That random's just another word for beyond the reach of mind. And to label it meaningless makes the very same mistake as labelling God, well, God.

The missing link in evolutionary theory, or so it seems to me, is the same one missing from the toolbox of the experimental physicist. If you call these random connections emotional connections instead of meaningless spins of some dice, a whole lot of stuff becomes rather instantly clear.

I'm not saying you can win the lottery by this kind of understanding. That would clearly be just plain nuts. But I am saying that the collective set of accidents which have brought us to this place across the eons of evolutionary time, can be labelled connections of love without losing one single solitary iota of physical or other meaning.

It's just a label. It doesn't change how far they are and will remain from our conscious understanding mind. These accidents of fate.

Just down the road from me, some poor and surely sweet kids were driving a little bit too fast without their seatbelts. A bear had spooked some horses penned around the corner. The horses ran up the road and right across the path of the speeding car, and three people were killed.

There's no meaning to that. It's just plain sad, tragic, and awful. And I have to say I'm glad I wasn't around when it happened, because I don't know what I would or could have done, except to call 911. I might have been too scared even to approach the scene. I hope not, but I am glad enough not to know. We do know there are quite a few heroes in our midst, though, from some other things that have gone wrong recently.

There's no meaning either to falling in love, especially if you keep doing it over and over and over.

But there is meaning to what we conspire to do together, and it's up to us now to turn all those random connections leading up to this very moment into connections of love or hate.

I have to say, at this particular moment, the way we've overpopulated our home sweet Earth by keeping back the creepy crawlies and the bears and the snakes, it's not looking too good for the love connection. And I also have to say that all the people waiting around for Jesus to arrive aren't making things any better. Especially when they watch too much Fox TV.

We've borrowed the extravagant gift of oil. We've managed to keep back the germs which would plague us if they could. Mostly, we've done that with sanitation and more robust diets, even though we're still awfully happy for the work of charitable scientists like Jonas Salk in years gone by.

Now we've made a business of getting people to believe there need be no more tragedy. That technology will save us from ourselves. And we lure away our brightest minds to the business of making money, as if that alone could cure the Earth of the illness of humankind.

Good living lowers birthrates. It cures disease. It allows the rich people to lower their walls, and cameras to come down from streetlamps. But we just can't seem to figure out how to get there from here.

Well, folks, it's not so hard as you might think. Just give a damn, and do it out loud. The mass of us are decent, have good consciences, and would never do anything horrible in the name of any god unless and until we were backed right up to some wall.

And oh yeah, another thing. Stop thinking science can tell you when and how life begins. You can't stop the twinkle in my eye. You can't murder twice what you've already killed by your neglect.

But I still can't put my finger on that final word which might convince you. I guess you'll just have to feel it for yourself. That when you occupy the same emotional space with someone else, it's just like winning the lottery only better. Because the more you give away the more you get.

OK, OK, I'm just one big fat cliche. I'm not sure if that's better than being a non-sequitur, which someone I love once meant as a compliment. I thinks it's some kind of literary in-joke. Whatever!

Connections emotionally felt are still real, and cross infinite distances in an instant. Trust me, it's been proven by physicists with quantum pairs. They just don't have the right vocabulary yet. They're still searching for some answer which is beyond the realm of objective truing. They still want to see what can only happen in some mind.

We've gotten as far as we're gonna get in that particular direction, and there's so much work we have to do right here at home, which would be trivial if we all were working in some approximation of the same direction.

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