Friday, January 14, 2005

Morality of Connection

So I haven't worked this out all the way yet, but I've been looking around lately and noticing that I need a way to see the world that reminds me of what to strive for and not just a way to hate and fear the injustice and selfishness I see.

I keep coming back to my own sense that connection is the foundation of all ethics. As you know, I've been reading about the latest discoveries in quantum physics. I won't bore you with the details, but at the most basic, physicists think they've discovered the connective piece that ties all theories together, a piece that explains how our universe went from big bang to the floating particles that make up our daily experience. They're calling this superstring theory (which is fascinating and everyone should know more about it), but what's important is that it seems to prove that we are all connected. The universe may be expanding, but at a fundamental level, gravity and all other forces actually strive for connection. You've heard that all things are relative, right? Some detractors say that the theory of relativity spelled the end of enforceable morality because how can anyone be held accountable for actions when all things are relative?

What scientists have discovered is that all things are relative because all things are connected. This makes sense. Things are relative because they are in relationship. What this means in terms of morality is that you and I can have different ideas of what is moral, but our actions in relation to one another must always honor that on all levels, we are connected. I may hate what you think or do, but if I act to isolate or expell you, I am acting in violation of the laws of the universe. If, on the other hand, I act to understand why you believe what you believe or work to find a way for both of us to agree about a common response to whatever it is, then I am acting morally. The things that bring us together are what is real and moral because they reflect the truth of our universe.

Just think about all the ways this plays out in different situations. Compromise is moral; violence is immoral. Reform is moral (because you work to give someone the skills they need to live in communion with others and thereby bring someone back into community); capital punishment is immoral. Polluting is immoral; deep ecology is moral. Love and family are moral; denouncing one segment of society for the way in which they express love is immoral.

In reality, this sense of connection is at the heart of almost all world religions. Those religions that I find repugnant are those that put one set of beliefs against all others or one people against all others. The religions that embrace, the religions that acknowledge our deep connection with the world around us, the religions that praise compassion and understanding -- these are the moral religions founded in life and reality. These are religions about union, communion, community, connection.

Even pyschology works in this way. The healthiest individuals are those who can love and support, and accept love and support in return. The sickest among us are those who are unsocial. Psychopaths are those who feel no connection to anyone. They can feel no respect for life. Doesn't it hold, then, that the opposite -- those with a fundamental respect for life (which at its base is about connection) -- are those with the strongest moral base?

The other critical element in all of this is the idea of individuality. All particles in the universe are simultaneously discrete and connected. We are simultaneously matter and energy, just as we are simultaneously individuals and community. This means we must honor individuality as much as we honor connection. Those things that seek to gloss over our rights as individuals are as much in violation of universal laws as those that seek to profit just one elite group.

What an elegant universe, with so much to teach us about ourselves and our lives and our actions! It is so easy to fall into the trap of disregarding those who hold opinions we don't share. It is hard to remember that by doing so we violate the connections between us.

So here's to communion and to the peacemakers, the physicists, the poets, and all others who conceive of the metaphors that bring us together.

May we feel the connections more strongly than those forces that seek to pull us apart -- the forces of fear and anger and righteousness.

May all of us find peace.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Guess who got a digital camera for Christmas?

I'll give you a hint: we did.

The whole digital world is great for sharing via blog, but I have to admit, I'll probably never print them. I'm not on-board with the whole print revolution. I'm a technocrat, but I'm also a cheapskate.

I thought there would be something lacking with digital insta-gratification that takes away from the surprise of opening your developed pictures and rifling through to see what came out, but I'm finding the opposite to be true. Now I know that when I download the pictures to the computer, each one is great (or at least great enough not to have been deleted on the spot). I'm going through them much more than I do my prints. I'm manipulating them with Photoshop and cropping and playing and resizing. It's all quite wonderful.

A girl in her new pad Posted by Hello

A Girl and Her Dog Posted by Hello

Jeff & Cleo & Motorhead

Evidence that peace is possible (if tenuous) Posted by Hello

Mikaela & Cleo: Girl Bonding Posted by Hello

Aaron & the Girls Posted by Hello

Poem for urban renewal

I've shuttled diplomacy so far
it's come back to bite me
left and right on the spectrum
of distaste and bad taste

(and Edison with is ear
to the wrong side of the telegraph).

Where's the inclusion
they promised when things got bad?
Whose plan did they follow
that made things worse?

Their unitary plans were one
with disaster,
the rest of us out here listening
to our futures drive by doing 60.

My advocate tells me to vacate
I tell him to plan this --
shake my despair in his face
til his teeth crumble

(and his ediface
falls away).

The tell us pluralism is the answer
as they speak in one voice --
money shaking the tree,
monkeys falling.

And I say,
who's planning now?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Request for Quantum Physics Titles

Did anyone else happen to catch this morning's quantum physics interview with University of New Mexico physics professor on KUNM?

It was FASCINATING. I have to admit I've always been a sucker for quantum physics, but I've missed some exciting discoveries in the past five years that seem to have changed EVERYTHING.

I was particularly interested as they were talking about the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen argument (which has to do with quantum entanglement -- whatever that is!). Einstein's challenge to the completeness of quantum physics was that because quantum reality cannot be proven, it cannot really reflect reality (tautologies aside, I think that was the gist of it).

In my limited understanding, it all boils down to the fact that quantum physics seems to give us some glimpse into a reality that may reflect a different user-interface than the one we can see, touch, and feel that makes up our every day reality. Think of quantum physics as the code that creates the Matrix. Studying the physical reality of the code (it's black and white shapes) does not give you a glimpse of what the Matrix looks like. But looking at how it works CAN give you some insight into how the Matrix will probably work. Schrodinger put it this way: "Another way of expressing the peculiar situation is: the best possible knowledge of a whole does not necessarily include the best possible knowledge of all its parts."

To me, this gives some glimmerings of an answer to the mind-body duality that has plagued philosophy since the early Greeks. We assume that to understand the whole, you have to understand the parts, so scientists went to work taking reality apart piece by piece. The farther down they got, the weirder things got, until literally at the level of sub-atomic particles, they discovered that quantum reality will NEVER yield an explanation for the reality of everyday bodily experience. It can't. It's not just a factor of instrumentation (what we use to measure quantum reality) but one of a whole different set of operating instructions.

And if you think I'm exaggerating, check this out. Quantum entanglement (whatever it is) has been used to perform teleportation. Not kidding!

Teleportation is deconstructing an object or person in one place and generating a perfect replica somewhere else. The idea of teleportation was originally thought of in the 1930's when Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen wrote a famous paper concerning the scanning process that would be involved during teleportation, this was later known as the EPR effect. Today this effect has actually been accomplished by a group of scientists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. They have actually teleported photons to a distance of three feet. The distance itself is irrelevant, what is remarkable is the fact that the process was actually completed. (In 1997, although the report came out in scientific journals in 2003.)

It's also being used in quantum encryption and quantum computation. Seriously, the physicists working on this stuff today are the Neo's of our generation. They see the building blocks of our reality that have no physical relation to our physical reality, and what they study is called -- physics. This has to be the height of postmodern absurdity. It's sooooooo 21st century.

Can anyone recommend a good recent book?

(For anyone interested, the beginners books I've read so far and recommend are the Cosmic Code by Heinz Pagels and The Strange Story of the Quantum (1959) by Banesh Hoffman. But they're both relatively old (pardon the pun).)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Poem for faith & fear

Silent Belief

We cannot believe their lies
so our defenses hypertrophy
while our muscles of faith collide.

What can be believed
when even the stars we see
may already be gone?

The night sky is masked by sunlight –
ozone holes shielded with clouds, gas,
and policy
(⅔ of the votes of ⅔ of the countries
except ours).

Our mountains of disbelief
hollow out at the core
precious metals ored
over centuries
by churches of faith
who told us to believe
on our own time
but work to mine the earth
on theirs.

They stole from us
more than our personal belief
in God: our access to faith,
our desire for it –
changing a journey
into a destination –
alchemy paving
all roads to gold –
all of them leading to Rome.

The rigid rationalizations of religion
coagulate into doctrinal creeds
uttered in unison
and paid for in blood
or in silver –
genocide or bankruptcy –
the spiritual, chemical,
economic emptiness of silence
that is all that remains
when one refuses to hear lies.

That void-like space
creates the vacuum
nature abhors enough
to populate planets,
solar systems.

And we revolve in silence,
witnessing with gratitude and wonder,
flashing like stars
in the last days
of enlightened decay.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Here's hoping life elsewhere in the galaxy is more intelligent

This just in from the New York Times. Today's scientists were asked what they continue to believe in despite being able to prove it.

"God (or Not), Physics and, of Course, Love: Scientists Take a Leap"

The New York Times > Science > God (or Not), Physics and, of Course, Love: Scientists Take a Leap: "Kenneth Ford
Physicist; retired director, American Institute of Physics; author, 'The Quantum World'

I believe that microbial life exists elsewhere in our galaxy.

I am not even saying 'elsewhere in the universe.' If the proposition I believe to be true is to be proved true within a generation or two, I had better limit it to our own galaxy. I will bet on its truth there.

I believe in the existence of life elsewhere because chemistry seems to be so life-striving and because life, once created, propagates itself in every possible direction. Earth's history suggests that chemicals get busy and create life given any old mix of substances that includes a bit of water, and given practically any old source of energy; further, that life, once created, spreads into every nook and cranny over a wide range of temperature, acidity, pressure, light level and so on.

Believing in the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy is another matter."

Monday, January 03, 2005

Even mjae skis. Posted by Hello

Keegan gets ready to snowboard. Posted by Hello

Aaron gets ready to snowboard. Posted by Hello

Burke shows us all how it's done. Posted by Hello

Debbie & the Guerney Girls

Debbie & the Girls get ready to ski. Posted by Hello

My love takes me to beautiful places... Posted by Hello

Jeff & Keegan

Jeff & Keegan Cross-country Posted by Hello

Jeff & Aaron

Jeff&Aaron Cross-Country Posted by Hello

Aaron ends the trip by picking just the right spot for relief... Posted by Hello