Sunday, August 10, 2008

You Are Not Judged


I may be coming to some sort of a preliminary understanding about one way of looking at the nature of reality. When I studied geological processes and tried to become comfortable with geologic time, I had to radically realign my understanding of the physical rocks and dirt I was standing on, as well as my sense of what permanent might mean. It sort of started for me with the realization that a glacier was just a very, very, very slow river. It flows with the same basic process as a river of water, its just that we are so short lived and sort-sighted that it seems to most of us, most of the time, as a giant, immovable, frozen wall, frozen lake, frozen mountain, field, valley, world, of ice. But if you study closely, you see without too much effort that it is constantly moving, seeking low ground, seeking the sea. You could set a sofa down at the top of the glacier and in a few thousands of years it would flow all the way to the sea and drop into it.
Maybe float off on an iceberg. 

So, that was one light bulb going off.

Then you start to understand that mountains are the same. Continents. Rocks, boulders, pebbles, grains of sand, grains of dust. They are what we call them only for a short slice of time, the time that we are present to observe and name them. The vast majority of their existence, they are something else entirely. 

You can go see the other end of the spectrum, too. Put an ice cube on a hot stove. Solid, liquid, gas. Watch a flower bud, bloom, fade, shatter, and die. Drosophila Melanogaster has a what, twenty-four hour life cycle? Forty eight? 


So, things are maybe not what they seem.


Then there is the matter of my own self. You. Your family, my family. Are you the same person you were when you were a baby? Or is that baby gone? Can you talk to that baby? Is that baby having any feelings or thoughts right now? 


Are you still a fifth grader? In high school? On your first marriage? 

Or are those folks dead and gone? 


It's not that simple, though, is it? There are maybe fragments, memories, shards, little cloud like pieces of them still floating in the biochemical soup that is your brain. And those Proustian moments when you catch a whiff of new-mown grass and you really are, for a second or a nano-second, but some bit of time, that kid again. 



We are as the glacier. As the rock. We are subsumed under the tectonic plate of death and obliterated.

Something comes out the other side, though. 

Not recognizably us. 


You would not say hello if you passed us on the street.


Circles. Wheels within wheels. Cycles. Rings. Interconnected. Twinned together. Ephemeral. Shifting. Non-quantifiable. Just like our coffee tables and our meal of grilled salmon and baby arugula. 


Ah, but the miracle is how real it all feels. 

And, of course, it is real. As real as it gets.

And let us not forget that on a quantum level, its all blinking in and out of existence a billion billion times a second. All these patterns of probability winking into some recognizable state just by virtue of our own attention. Without an observer, the potentialities don't really manifest. They remain potential. 


Maybe the large hadron collider will sort it all out.


It is all a great mystery to me, and it slips out of the grasp of my understanding like a dream upon waking.





Blogger Radish King said...

The baby, the fifth grader, the girl living on the street, the married woman, they all live inside me all the time and they're noisy, they all want my attention unless I'm playing my violin which is when I get out and it's only music. The others, the other versions of me, gah. This is why I write, to sort them out, to shut them up or give them what they need.


10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i really love the kind of learning i feel like i'm doing when i read blogs like yours and rebecca's.

i am grateful for the opportunity.

also, i'm feeling very unsure about the use of the apostrophe today.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Simply profound

12:40 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Maybe we could have a play date sometime with all the kids?


I learn more from you than the other way round, I'm sure.

Dr. Cacciatore-

Thanks for stopping by. Always happy to have an expert on death and grieving drop in. I hope you'll come back for seconds.

Thank you, all. I'm grateful to have you as my pals.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Christine Carlton said...

I may have said this before... if so, forgive my repetition. But this post reminds me of the first day of Neuro, the second week of med school... sitting in the lab, holding a human brain in my gloved hands.

And I turned it around and around, and ran my fingers over it, and then I just HELD it and felt its' weight and thought about it. I thought of the person who had used it and lived with it... all the sights and sounds and good and bad experiences they had stored away in this weird mass I held.

Experiences that they thought they'd never live through and did, things they knew they would never forget and didn't. And that all of those things were still in the brain that I held before me. I didn't even know what to DO with that thought, I still don't.

I have a feeling that this is heaven now, or hell... depending on how you treat it. But it's just our experience, our one slide in the powerpoint show of the world. Blink and it's gone.

Touching on the reality of our reality, or your impression of it anyway, always impresses the heck out of me. Thank you.

12:37 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts. You impress the heck out of me, girl. I've rarely met anyone with the drive and toughness and intelligence that you possess.

I like to see you live your life. You wring out every drop of what's there.



1:12 PM  

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