06 August 2011

The Color of the Door

I've just been reading an issue of Scientific American, paying closest attention to those things I find most interesting: an article about how 10,000 years ago humans began to domesticate plants - and thus it became possible to live longer. The down-range consequence? GRANDPARENTS, with all the cultural survival memories - and increased survival for the grandchildren - that this entails.

Families again.

Another article discusses the Multiverse concept: that we live in just one of an infinite number of universes, and this one just happens to have the physical constants all perfectly aligned to support life. Given enough time - and enough food - mankind can come up with a lot of great ideas. Art. Science. Ways to waste time playing games or blogging. In another earlier blog, I pointed out that concepts like a Multiverse - or for that matter String Theory - are absolutely unprovable. This particular cosmology article (August 2011 issue of Scientific American) took the time to actually point out why they are unprovable: they are concepts, ideas - not theories. They start and end with circular logic. A scientific theory is a fully-developed and self-consistent concept that is also consistent with observed physical facts. It already works. It goes beyond a theory when, like evolution, it can be shown to predict into the future, or explain things that someone hasn't yet reported. The Theory of Evolution isn't really a theory anymore - it's just Evolution. It has been repeatedly tested at widely different scales of size and time, and found to be consistent with observed facts. I've actually personally watched evolution in Venezuelan rats, and in mice left by a Spanish ship anchored in southeast Alaska over 400 years ago. Interestingly, in Wikipedia you can find just Evolution, not the "theory of Evolution."

Evolution doesn't threaten my faith, it augments it. Like Harry Reid said, "I'm a Democrat because I'm a Mormon."

So why worry about these sorts of things? Our ancestors millennia ago didn't have the luxury to do so - they were too busy farming or hunting down the next meal. WE have the luxury of thinking about these things (and getting some minor, temporary fame by writing articles in Scientific American) because we have plenty of food and comfortable housing. Unfortunately, a majority of our brothers and sisters in the United States (and a supermajority beyond its frontiers) don't have that luxury. They struggle to pay their mortgages and put food on the table for their children.

And to what end do they struggle so?

Well, perhaps they love their children and don't want to feed them stones.

And for the thinkers out here who have the luxury of eating toast and a Klondike as they read SciAm and type out the words of their blog? To what end do they do this?

Well, perhaps they want to think that they are more important than a temporary blip on a cosmic wave-function. They don't want to admit their mortality: to admit that they will die and be slowly forgotten with time.

That they aren't important. Not even a little bit.

You're probably wondering: the color of what door? That's a metaphor that I started using in my own mind years ago. A dear friend died when I was 26 and he was 30. Another friend I met and grew to know at the Cascades Volcano Observatory was a photographer on the side, and his life work had quite a number of doors from all over the world. Each door seemed to be a different color, have its own unique character.

Like each of us.

Buck Birdeau died of raging diabetes that first blinded him and then destroyed his kidneys. Dave Wieprecht survived a horrific experience in Vietnam - but not the exposure to Agent Orange - and died of the most virulent of the four known versions of thyroid cancer out there. Both ended their lives as what I would call great people - they had reconciled themselves with who they were in this great universe. They had gotten to the point in life when the most important thing they did was what they did for other people.

THAT's What is important.  NOT the brand of my dress or the existence of a Multiverse.

So. What will be the color of MY door? Lung cancer? It took my Dad and his Mom, but I've avoided tobacco like the plague since I was 20. Stroke? It took my Mom and apparently her Dad, but I've exercised and eaten carefully since I was in my 30's.

One thing for sure: my door will have a color. As Jim Morrison (the wasted minstrel of my generation) once said, "No One gets out of here alive."

He also said "People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend."

I'm just interested in what the color of MY door will be, and will I have time to leave messages of love - and admonition - for the kids and grandkids I love so much... and who must follow? 

I look forward to stepping through that door and going home finally.


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