My Belief OMatic scores
Something prompted me to visit rec.arts.poems circa 1993 via Google. My home Internet experience started there. I even posted a couple of weak poems. My favorite author was Renay. For some reason, her poems are hard to find via Google groups, so I'll start a page with links to them: Renays Poems
I participated in a race last weekend as a team member in a quadrathalon relay. The four events: 5mi run, 6mi canoe/kayak (I kayaked), 8mi bike up a steep hill, and 2.5mi XC ski. Being the least experienced as a competitor on our team, I trained as best as I could for the month preceding. Some obvious things make a race worthwhile: the challenge, the charged-up atmosphere beforehand, the comraderie afterwards, being around healthy people who like to be outdoors. But there was something unexpected that I observed over the weeks in preparation: it was a heightened sense of time, at least as a thread among all the other daily doings. As the day of the race grew closer there was a feeling of inevitability, in a strong participatory sense: just riding with the moments and days, no longer fearful of not holding up my end or of not having trained as intensely or regularly as I could. Sort of, "there will be the race, and it'll be excellent or not, but here I am. Hallelujah." As the hour approaches, there's a sort of venturi effect: the intensity of concentration grows; not a narrow focus, but a forgoing of nonessentials and stray thoughts. This gets squeezed down to an even purer form during the race, the unity of body and mind that's probably what attracts most of us to athletic competition whether we know it or not. And then afterward, once you've recovered a bit and the all-but-obliterated mind returns, the euphoric sense of being finished (if you're not busy puking). As the details of daily life swirl and eddy into place, there's the anticlimax. Mine was turbulent in the end, and nearly canceled all the goodness of the race. What a beginner I am.
These flow metaphors remind me of another glimpse that came from river kayaking. Kayaking on a lake, you move almost entirely on your own power: paddle harder to go faster, and that's it. But with river kayaking, the water obviously moves you along. What's not obvious is just how powerful it is. There's often a very narrow channel of water that's moving the fastest, with leadenly slow current on either side -- and eddies that move against the current. A few inches off with the bow of your boat can turn you around backwards, or at least make you exert a huge effort to get back into the fast-water groove. The river changes from day to day, so while some things stay the same, they're not constant. So in racing on a river, I gained a great respect for the power of the water vs. my own puny power, and saw how important it was to temper my coarse muscle effort with the effort to read and sense and balance with the river's massive power. And of course, life is like that.
The mystery of "die before death" is this,
that the prizes come after dying and not before.
Except for dying,
no other skills avail with God, O artful schemer.
One Divine favor is better than a hundred kinds of personal effort:
such exertion is in danger from a hundred kinds of mischief.
And the Divine favor depends on dying:
the trustworthy authorities have put this way to the test.
No, not even the mystic's death is possible without Divine favor:
listen, listen, don't linger anywhere without Divine grace!
That grace is like an emerald, and this bodily self is an old viper:
without the emerald how should the viper be made blind?
Mathnawi: VI:3885-3889 Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski "Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance" Threshold Books, 1996
I'm still interested in how wires seem to knot up spontaneously. What did it take to make the square knot in my headphone cable? It ties topology to information theory. How much information or entropy is in a specific knot? This must be a well-studied field. Of course a Google on "information theory topology" turns up something interesting: a discussion of quantum computation: "Quantum computation and information theory have drawn on a number of mathematical areas, including computational complexity theory, group representation theory, topology and information theory." But I'd better get back to my molecular biology.
In the Littleton Diner in New Hampshire, the waitresses' shirts have a memorable message on the back:
Recipe for an American Renaissance
Eat in diners Ride in trains Put a front porch on your house Shop on Main Street Live in a walkable town
This rings true for me (well, maybe the diners part is a little self-serving), and I like the fact that it translates well (except for the front porch part) from Littleton to NYC. Turns out the Littleton Diner isn't the only place that uses this. Who originated it? Was it Roadside Magazine?