16 June 2011

Blue Ridge

As I write this I am looking westward towards Virginia's Blue Ridge.  I've been participating all day in meetings in the USGS National Center, to discuss with several corporations how we can use a technology I developed to map and identify rare earth elements hidden beneath the Atlantic Continental Shelf.  I've retreated to my hotel room to get some space to myself - something I have in common with a majority of the human population who are not hard extroverts.

It's called Blue Ridge because... it's blue.  It's edges and colors are lost in the permanent haze on this side of the country, caused by the prevailing winds blowing eastward all the pollutants of the continent.

This is a sort of metaphor for our memories.  I recall some things vividly (close calls with death tend to stand out), but most other things are lost in a blue haze like my westward vista.  This is not abnormal, it's not bad - it's part of the human experience.  The digerati among us know that to record the video and audio details of 16 waking hours of our life would require something larger than the hard disk on our desktop computer... and that's not even hi-res.  If we had perfect recall we wouldn't be able to hear ourselves think for the racket of all the details crowding into the forefront of our minds.  This is not a fault of the human mind, it's a defense.

Any good scientist will demonstrate certain habits.  They take careful notes of their experimental results. After a few cases of a lost sheet of crucial numbers here or there, scientists become compulsively well organized as well: they record things in a bound notebook, or if they are really OCD like me they keep detailed notes in a digital file... with backup copies all over the place in at least three different formats.

THIS way, we can always recover the crucial information - the memories that have gone hazy and blue - when necessary - when we want and need them.

I once put together a list of things that I labeled THOTL, which was short for The Hand of the Lord.  This list was the 13 different critical nodes on the Gantt Chart I used to plot our family's move to Venezuela for a three year assignment. Failure to pass through any single one of these nodes on a precise schedule - passing the State Department health screening, for instance - would have left us in the United States with mono-lingual children. I never would have had those hundreds of astounding jungle experiences, we would never have had all our life-long Venezuelan friends. There is a huge list of positives for all seven of us that came from this experience.

However, if I had not put together that list - kept detailed notes - all the critical step-by-step getting-there information would have been lost in the blue haze of time. I would have easily forgotten that 13 separate nodes were all passed successfully - a statistical improbability. Flip a coin 13 times and do you think they will all come up heads? If you're interested, there is just a 1 in 8,192 chance that this could have happened without outside intervention.  And that's not counting the precise timing aspect.

My life is full of these things: success after improbable success. A recently example: a huge survey off the coast of South Africa using my marine induced polarization patents. The survey defied the odds: not a single failure of any one of ~30 different components. We successfully mapped a 45 km x 15 km chunk of the sub-seafloor off the coast of South Africa, and laid out in three dimensions where the placer heavy minerals could be found.

You can invoke incredible luck - or accept outside intervention.

There is a crucial take-away here, too: if I had not recorded these events, the blue haze of human memory would have lost them - like tears in rain - and with time I would not have remembered or recognized the repeated Divine Intervention that defies all probability. Don't get me wrong: I am tested with difficult things like anyone else, maybe more so to keep me humble. If I dwelled on these - instead of the intervention miracles - I would be the Biggest Loser.


Don't throw away the incredible gift of recognizing Divine Intervention and the love that it implies so strongly.  If you record these, you WILL see that Finger through the veil.


No comments:

Post a Comment