Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

Reflections ~ The Day the TV Died

For those of you who have read my book, Who I Am Yesterday, you may recall a brief chapter on TVs and movies and how life in the viewing world changes when you are a caregiver. I left off at a point where just about the only thing my husband could watch was romantic comedies or science shows. As with everything else, this too has its progression.

First the movies had to go. He could no longer sit for the 90 minutes or more that it takes to get through one. There was always work he had to do.

Then everyone suddenly became stupid, except for Morgan Freeman and his narration of “Through the Wormhole.” As much as I love science, seeing these cuts 30 times or so became a bit of a drag. I found other things to do while sitting on the couch. Logic problems, reading, sleeping. Then he decided he had seen it all or so and so didn’t know what he or she was talking about. For a brief window we watched a few other programs; again. Some I had to put away because, well, they were bad or terrible or out to do something or other.  No dead or agony allowed.

There was a brief spell where he thought it was interesting to watch some of the course material I have acquired in order to build my knowledge of philosophy and the art of writing. One morning he sat for a full 4 hours watching lecture after lecture. Within a few days I realized that he thought the instructor was speaking directly to him and he wasn’t sure what to think of it all. Back to Morgan.

One afternoon I heard him talking in the living room and, never sure of what to expect, I peeked. He was telling Moran (the image on the title frame of the series) that I was a nice lady and he hoped we might meet one day.

I think you see the progression here. The glass pane between our living room and the world in the box was fast melting away as my husband’s sense of where reality started or ended was devoured by the disease. Somewhere in here he decided to learn how to use the remotes.

Now, once he takes over something it is his. The remotes became his property, kept in “his” room. He actually managed fairly well. Press a button, things aren’t quite working, lady in computer room hops up and changes things. Then Morgan fell from his pedestal and morphed into a bad person. Someone that wanted me. Someone we mustn’t talk to. Morgan was taken out of the DVD deck.

Next he found the cable remote and we had a few lessons on that. Worked for, oh, maybe 5 days. Then the weather channel became the science channel and there was Morgan, again.

One morning this past week I was working away in my office and heard the programs reeling out. Lunch time approached and he wasn’t at my door. I finished some things and then went to the living room to see if he was hungry. He was huddled beside the refrigerator in the kitchen hiding from Mr. Freeman. Whispering to me, “He’s back.”

Well, there was no way I could get him to stop pushing buttons and it was obvious we were at a point where whatever was on that screen would be misinterpreted in some way so I promised to make Mr. Freeman go away and unplugged the TV. Forever.

Perhaps this is not as tragic as the inspiration for this song, but then again, maybe it is.

 

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Filed under Caregiving Backstage, Personal Journeys

I am the Captain of my fate…

I remember the days of Apartheid and all of the conflicting feelings I had at the time. Knowing something of the history of the continent I really did want to see those with roots in the deep past take more control without throwing out the generations of people who had lived, worked, bled and died for countries they thought of as their own. Being an American, I understand how deeply I feel for my home even though I know that my ancestors created heartache and pain, and sometimes utter destruction, for those who were here before.  It is my home, not Switzerland, England, Ireland, Germany or Croatia.  I truly know no other than this battered and often arrogant land.

Mandela, I believe,  seemed to understand something of the balance; something of the historical claim of both kinds of “natives.”  He also understood that your victory can be a very vacuous and self-destructive one if, once you’ve won, you do unto others as they have done to you.  He understood that breaking the cycle of hatred begins at home, with “me.”

There is a quote from his life and a powerful film about his early years as a leader. The movie starring Morgan Freemen, Invictus (Latin for unconquered), is an amazing snap shot of a life lived to free a country.   The poem by William Ernest Henley is here quoted in its entirety:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

We should all remember that – it is a choice, but an important one – to accept responsibility for the choices we make and not place the blame or praise entirely at another’s feet.   Choose to be a force in this world that heals, that supports, that cares. Whatever faith you practice, you choose what kind of impact you make on this world.  Choose well.

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf ~ Current times, Personal Journeys, Poetry

Hello? Is there anybody really there? ~ The Question of Consciousness

Admittedly for a person with only elemental understandings of the workings of physics, using science to peer into the realm of the mind can be a risky business.  But, it’s irresistible.  Some of the biggest names in physics have approached the question and they have come up with some truly interesting ideas.  A few of the resources I used to explore this subject include Through the Wormhole (narrated by Morgan Freeman), Dr. Michio Kaku, the “Global Consciousness Project,” and a little research on Dr. Erwin Schrodinger’s cat and Henri-Louis Bergson.  Yep, all of them.  And this probably won’t be my last bit of wandering into this field.  I also have to admit some research into the materialist’s point of view.  Most markedly I would refer the reader to I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter and The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer.  It’s always nice to have a bit of balance.

There was a time when I could sit with my husband and discuss the philosophical application of various developments in physics.  Sometimes things would get a bit wild and he would gently bring me back to some more conservative point of view.  Not because he didn’t think I was “on to something,” but because he felt that the research didn’t support the thought – yet.  Over the past several months we have spent time watching the series mentioned above and some of these old questions came to the fore.  The inspiration for this post was the segment on the sixth sense.  (No teeth grinding from my more materialist friends).

cat

photo by Dian Brandmeyer
Courtesy WANA Commons

In the cut that impressed me the most, Dr. Michio Kaku walks the viewer through Schrodinger’s thought experiment.  Starting with the understanding that in particle physics any particle can be anywhere or everywhere (based on probabilities) until someone looks at it (measures).  The thought experiment with the intrepid kitty in a box is an experiment that puts the cat in a situation where certain events may, or may not, kill the cat.  Until we open the box, we cannot know if the cat is dead or alive and, therefore, it is both.  This is the answer derived from the sum of the probabilities.

Kaku goes on to say that Henri-Louis Bergson took the experiment a bit further and decided that part of the act of measuring, of “looking” is an act of consciousness.  The cat lives (or dies) because a conscience individual looked in the box and made that measurement.  Then he goes to the next step.  The cat and the observer are in the same universe.  So, who is to say that the observer is dead or alive?  Another observer.  Layer upon layer of observers measuring the universe into reality results in a universal consciousness looking back down the chain of observers to the scientist who looks in the box and sees — that the cat is alive.  Confused yet?

NASA image

NASA image

Another part of the same program discussed the Global Conciseness Project.  This, too, fascinated me both because of the reach (global) and the length of time the scientists have collected information.  This project uses random number generators which are located in population centers around the globe.  What the scientists look for is anomalies in the stream of random numbers.  Understanding that no matter how hard we try, no generator is completely random, the system builds in tolerance levels to seek only a certain level of unusual behavior.  The most dramatic result in their records?  September 11, 2001.  Not only did the random generators deviate with the widest margins recorded to date, the change started before the actual event.  Their site is linked above.

There are, however, different points of view that look at the relationship between mind and brain as purely physical.  This would be a “materialist” interpretation.  I mentioned a few references in the opening that are written by men who are perfectly comfortable in a world where our “minds” are nothing more than a construct of the biology and neurology of  our brains.  That whatever it is that is “I” develops from birth by using a feedback loop between our brains and the outside world.  In this case materialism means that there is nothing beyond the physical.  I found much of interest in these books.  I learned a bit about how pattern recognition and symbol making can result in the higher cognitive functions we think of as particularly human.  But I couldn’t quite make that last leap and say “I Are Nothing but the Atoms of Which I Am Made.”

Personally, I find much wonder and awe in the universe in which we live.  I never cease to be amazed at the wonders discovered by science, mathematics, biology, medicine and philosophy.  And I know that there are people who will tell me that all that “wonder” is possible with nothing more than the firing neurons in my head.  However, I cannot look at the stars without yearning; I cannot let go of the feeling that there is “something more.”

What about you?  Without throwing darts from either side of the equation, what do you think about consciousness?  Is it possible that there is some part of our brains that does comprehend the world on levels we have yet to explore?

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job, Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck

Mysticism, Science ~ or Both?

Courtesy of ru.wikipedia.org

My husband and I have recently purchased the first two seasons of an intriguing series entitled, Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman.  This series is a wonderful and fascinating collection of some of the most enduring questions in a number of fields of study.  The focus of today’s blog was entitled, “Is There an Edge to the Universe?”

As is not uncommon, the segment really just got me interested and generated more questions than it answered.  In addition to this segment we had also watched the thirteen-episode classic, Cosmos, with Carl Sagan.  In one of his segments he talks about Pythagoras and the dodecahedron.  My sometimes strange mental chemistry began to put some interesting things together.  Keeping in mind I am not a mathematician or a physicist, I still thought two concepts developed some 2 ½ millennium apart somehow resonate.  I am not the only one.

We will start with a Greek fellow named Pythagoras.  He lived somewhere around 582-507 BCE in southern Italy in a town named Croton.  At some point he and his followers got into a lot of trouble with the locals and had to flee.  What we know of the man’s writings come to us almost exclusively through quotes and references  This makes it a tad difficult to be certain what he contributed and what his disciples contributed.  In general, he traveled a great deal when young and when he settled in Croton he formed a philosophical group that studied mathematics as a sacred and esoteric subject that should not be shared with the un-initiated.  In the Cosmos episode (Backbone of the Night), Sagan postulates that the Pythagoreans where a contributing factor to squelching the growing innovative and scientific explorations of the Ionians.  The whole affair appears to represent an ancient form of religious fanaticism suppressing scientific freedom (ala Sagan).

In any case, you may actually recognize the name of this ancient Greek.  He is considered, in many ways, the father of geometry.  Two things we can attribute to him and his followers: the five perfect solids and the golden ratio.  The golden ratio, as it happens, develops mathematically from the formulas used in the formation of the fifth solid: the dodecahedron.  The mathematics involved with the dodecahedron produce all sorts of interesting relationships and correlations.  It really is no wonder that those who came upon it considered it somehow sacred.  The crystal pyrite (fool’s gold) actually forms an imperfect dodecahedron.  The Pythagoreans, believing that mathematics formed the foundation of reality, saw something quite magical in the properties related to this particular shape.

We move forward to 1596 CE and we find the intrepid Kepler attempting to explain the paths of the planets by using Pythagoras’ five solids: tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, hexahedron (cube) and dodecahedron.  Sadly, this didn’t work out.  However, instead of giving up, Kepler used his failure to develop the actual math by which the planetary orbits can be predicted.

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Move forward a bit more to the work of Jules Henri Poincaré (1854 – 1912).  Poincaré was a mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer and a philosopher of science.  Among the many, many contributions he made to his fields of study was Poincaré’s homology 3-sphere, or dodecahedral space.  I do not have the math to explain what happens in the model; however the work that Poincaré did on the structure led scientists working on the microwave background of the “big bang” to postulate that the universe just might be in the shape of a Poincaré sphere.  This is not an interpretation with a general consensus.  Enter the fellow introduced to me in the “Edge of the Universe” episode, Jean-Pierre Luminet of the Observatoire de Paris.

This scientist set out to see if he could determine whether or not the universe had an edge and if so, what was its shape.  I need to insert something here.  Scientists working on the “edge of the universe” do not envision an “edge” that one might bounce up against or fall off.  What they see is something similar to the world of the old “Space Invaders” video game where if you exit one side of the screen, you would reappear on the opposite side of the screen going in the same direction. Using the model of the dodecahedron, you would exit one of the twelve pentagon-shaped sides and immediately reappear on the opposite side with a bit of a twist.  This reminds me a bit of Arthur C. Clarke’s Wall of Darkness about a three dimensional mobius strip.

Back to Luminet.  He could tell from the readings of the background microwave noise of the early universe (as we know it) that there were certain sound waves that were “missing.”  After much testing he discovered that one particular shape would produce the pattern that we find in those sounds: a common soccer ball, or our ancient friend the dodecahedron.  So, maybe Pythagoras was right: the dodecahedron may be the highest and most sacred solid form.

What is really interesting about all of this is that scientist are now looking for ways to reach past that microwave “background noise” and see just what it is that is out there, if anything.  Can we tell there is an edge?  Are there experiments or astronomical observations that would give us some clues?  Are we stuck on the side of a brane? Do we float in an endless series of bubble universes?  Will we collide with a neighbor and start the whole thing over again?  Is the whole universe composed of singing strings generating all the energy and matter in the universe?  Is there anyone else in the vast cosmos that is as excited about learning about the workings of our amazing home as we are?

If you would like to learn more about the history and application of the dodecahedron I have followed this article with a few links to get you started.  In the meantime, what are your favorite mysteries/fascinations with science and the world around us?  Are you drawn to the incredibly small or the incredibly large?  Do you prefer your science in the form of the visible, tangible world around us?  Or do you revel in the abstract philosophy, mathematics and physics of what makes it all tick?  Let me know what you are interested in.  You never know what lurks on the shelves of our library!  And remember — “Is it something that we’ve left behind….”

 http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/dodecahedron/

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2003/oct/08/is-the-universe-a-dodecahedron

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Filed under Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck