Consideration of a Fourth Dimension

30 03 2010

Sometimes the most mind-busting line of thought yields the most obvious answer.  It is healthy for us to question our assumptions, and we might enjoy a rather fantasy-driven mental experiment in speculative thought, but sometimes, much to our chagrin, we must consider the likelihood that whatever conclusion we come to will be no different than the one described by a simpleton, only in a far more complicated fashion.  This, I think, is the stumbling block of modern String Theory.  People stretched and wrestled with their minds to arrive at an astounding mathematical explanation of the universe and everything, assuming the universe had a couple dozen dimensions not previously known.  The objective conclusion would have been that String Theory is therefore likely incorrect, but one hates to go to all of that trouble to prove that the formulas on the document for the theory are worth less than the coffee stain caused by the cup that was accidentally placed atop it.  In the end, the spectator claps his hands and leaves the theater feeling entertained.  The performer continues to act his part, hours and days after the curtain falls, in some vain hope that he can convince himself that the whole thing was real.

But it is entertaining to play the game, and so we shall.

The intersection of two line segments is a point.  Each line is a one-dimensional object, and the point is a zero-dimensional object.  The essence is that the intersection resulted in an object with one less dimension than the objects that intersected.

The intersection of two plane segments is a line.  The plane segments are two-dimensional, and the line is one dimensional.  Therefore, the intersection has one less dimension than the objects that intersected.

What, then, would we expect from two intersecting three-dimensional objects, like cubes?

Oh, well, the intersection of cubes forms another cube, if they are arranged just right.  At the very least, they form another three-dimensional object of some sort.  Therefore we conclude that the intersection of two three-dimensional objects is another three-dimensional object.  This breaks with the previous pattern.  If the analogy had held true, then we would have expected a plane segment to be formed by the intersection of two three-dimensional objects.

This might seem strange, at first, until we consider this analogy in reverse.

In this example, the intersection of two plane segments (rectangles) results in another two-dimensional object, just as the intersection of cubes was a cube.  Likewise, we can repeat this scenario with the one-dimensional line segments.

Two line segments, when intersecting end on end, form another one-dimensional line segment between them.  So, in these three examples, the intersection had the same number of dimensions as the objects that intersected.

What is the difference?  The difference is in the dimension of the space around the objects. Two dimensional objects intersect two-dimensionally in a two-dimensional environment.  If that environment has one more dimension than the objects involved, then they intersect with one less dimension than the objects.  Two plane segments yield another plane segment if their universe is two-dimensional, but if the space around them is three-dimensional, then they intersect to form a line, most often.  Two line segments form a line segment between them if their universe is also one-dimensional.  If their universe is at least two-dimensional, then they usually intersect to form a zero-dimensional object.  Add a dimension to the space and you lose a dimension from the intersection.  What we conclude, then, is that we can imagine three-dimensional volumes intersecting to form other three-dimensional volumes only.  This would suggest three-dimensional space.  If space were four-dimensional, then two solid volumes would intersect most often to form a plane.  We cannot even conceive of it.

Space is always the first thing that we take for granted.  We see the objects and miss the space.  We measure the space with objects.  We assume, naturally, that the space around us is three-dimensional because the objects within it are three-dimensional.  We measure an object’s height, depth and width, and we perceive three dimensions.  We do the same for empty space, but we measure that space with a three-dimensional object.  We imagine that empty volume as an invisible cube, but in so doing, we equate filled space with the attributes of empty space.  As in the examples above, a plane can conceivably exist within a three-dimensional volume or a two-dimensional area.

Could empty space be four-dimensional?  In attempting to discover this, we might be tempted to arrange the two blocks side-by-side.

By pressing their flat surfaces together, we have formed a two-dimensional intersection.  Have we thus demonstrated a four-dimensional space?  Well…no.

As it turns out, we can easily form a one-dimensional intersection between two-dimensional objects in two-dimensional space, so long as they both have a flat side and we press them together.  A similar situation exists for the line segment.

If the two segments are pressed end-to-end, they can form a zero-dimensional intersection in one-dimensional space.  Therefore, abutment is the exception that proves the rule.  Simply putting two cubes together side-to-side does not demonstrate four-dimensional space.  It’s a lot like two bubbles stuck together.  Between them is formed a flat circle.  This is a two-dimensional product of three-dimensional intersection, in a way, but it is only abutment, and it does not demonstrate four-dimensional space.

In reality, there is no practical example of 3-D intersection.  Matter is 3-D, but it cannot really intersect.  It occupies space, and no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.  Their molecules can move about and intermingle, but they cannot really intersect.  Otherwise, we would have nuclear fusion.  Hence, we might be tempted to wonder if our model for the intersection of 3-D objects is limited only by our imagination.

The stinging rebuke that reality sends us in reply is that if empty space really contained a fourth dimension, then all we would have to do is rotate our 3-D object to see the glaring absence of the unused dimension.  This is an inescapable fact.  String Theorists, desperately needing far more than four dimensions, use the argument of scale.  For example, a string is functionally a one-dimensional object, even though it does have all three dimensions.  Paper is functionally a two-dimensional object, even though it, too, has all three dimensions.  Some would have us believe that our whole universe is functionally a 3-D object though it has, say, twenty-four dimensions, give or take a few.  They would have us believe that we are all flat as a pancake in more ways than we might suspect.  But, while this may be a convenient view, it is not a very objective one.  Disproving it would be easy if the claim were made only of occupied space, which we call objects.  But, they make the claim of the empty space also, so that we do not have room to rotate our object and observe it edge-on.  This is not unlike a magician strategically arranging his audience to one side of him so that they cannot see beyond the smoke and mirrors.

Yet, there still remains the fact that we cannot even imagine what 3-D intersection in 4-D space would look like.  We can imagine 3-D intersection in 3-D space, even though it does not really exist in nature, but we cannot fathom the other.  The implication is obvious.

One last thing worth considering is the effect of compression.  Push the ends of a functionally one-dimensional string together and it releases the pressure by increasing along an extra dimension ( it bends).  The same could be said of a functionally two-dimensional piece of paper.  So what happens when you compress a 3-D object from all sides?  It might compress like a gas, or stay rigid, but either way, the matter doesn’t lap over into an extra dimension, substantially.  It is not just functionally three-dimensional.  The Theorists would say that there is no such room for that, anyway.  We cannot very well compress empty space in this way, so we cannot cause this effect upon the whole universe.  With devices such as the hadron collider, people still haven’t managed to invoke this effect.

Three dimensions extend unimaginably far into the depths of space.  Some would have us believe that there are others, which hardly extend beyond the width of an atom.  The length of the available space may be too small for a rotation, that we might see it, and it might be too small to bend matter into it.  However, it cannot be completely filled by matter, or it would be, for all practical purposes nonexistent, having no freedom of movement.  Therefore, at the very least, we should be entitled to insist on some kind of potential for overlap.  That being the case, we should expect to see two tennis balls effortlessly pushed into each other, overlapping on one of the extra dimensions which some people are so fond of.

In the meantime, I choose to invoke Ockham’s razor.

The ability to harness a fourth dimension would yield some pretty incredible power, not the least of which is teleportation, walking through walls and invisibility.  If it could be found, then I would rather a corrupt human race did not find it.  Even so, I suggest that these are attributes of spirits, not physical forms.  That being the case, I do not expect to find more than the standard three dimensions in this world.  This is the most uninteresting conclusion, but it is possibly the most rational.

The Virtue of Boredom

27 03 2010

Sometimes I wonder if I’m alone on this, but I have on occasion encountered circumstances in which I was greatly enthusiastic about something, only to get shot down by criticism from friends and others.  I think something is great and exciting, and they think me a fool for it.  Times like that make the safest possible reaction to all things to be boredom and disinterest.  If I’m the unamused one, then I’m the only one in any position to mock or ridicule.  Coolness has the false appearance of strength.  Negativity is the safest position.  A critical person is often the hardest person to criticize.

This is most unfortunate, but therein lies a very real principle that boredom is, in fact, used as a defense mechanism.  The more critical the environment, the more it seems to call for an indifferent response.

Where else can we find a hostile environment than within the four walls of a church?  It is a place of stark criticism.  In one sense, we do need to evaluate our faith and reasoning, but the harsh reality of it is that an unintended side effect can be an unforgiving environment in which a person is not free to worship at will, nor free to be excited about anything.  The trend in many churches, today, is to reject anything extraordinary, even despite the fact that the faith is founded inherently upon the miraculous.  The church is quickly losing its childlike wonder.  They have managed to confine the Holy Spirit to a box.  Prophecy has been reduced to good preaching.  Miraculous healing has been reduced to comforting people and helping them to accept their sickness.  Inspiration means a cut-and-paste of scripture, with no room for real life application.  We don’t have wisdom.  We parrot.  This is surely the safest habit.  Or, it seems so because it is the least extraordinary.

In worship, one would think that the most solemn (boring) means are the holiest.  Hence, we can rest assured that the hymn and the organ are the tools of choice for sending God our… enthusiastic praise.  Is that worship?  Or, is worship a matter of being willing to make a fool of one’s self from an abundance of joy in God?  Ancient Israel and the early church used to dance and sing before Yahweh.  I challenge anyone to dance to a hymn.  Perhaps solemnity has its place, but perhaps we are being too easy on ourselves.

There is no end to this trend.  The Amish have mastered it.  God tells us not to conform to the image of this world, so they have rejected everything about the world.   Whatever the world does, they spurn.  Whatever the world enjoys, they condemn.  The Amish have mastered it, but fundamentalist Christians, of which I am one, are also party to it.  Scripture tells us to be in the world but not of it.  Whatever trends the world embraces, we reject.

Yet, there are two ways to conform to this world.  The first is obvious: we assimilate into it and become part of it.  The second is subtle: we become whatever the world is not.  Never mind what the Bible says, if the world likes rap, then we hate it.  If the world likes rock, then we hate it.  If the world hates strophic chorus, then we love it.  If they speak casually, then we speak like a living concordance.  If they’re accepting, then we sternly reject.  If they wear denim, then we wear polyester.  Whatever they disregard, we hold to steadfastly.

But, not conforming to this world doesn’t mean being anti-world.  Most of the time, this may seem to be true.  The nature of the world is against God to its very core.  But we do not define ourselves by our relation to the world, whether for or against.  We do not follow them, but we do not simply live to antagonize them, either.  We are not here to spite the world, but we are to be godly in spite of it.

The problem with reactionism is that the reactionist is defined by the thing that he opposes.  If we simply live to oppose the world, then our identity is defined by the world.  We must not simply reject a thing because it is worldly.  We must reject it because it is ungodly.  God has nowhere in scripture defined what style of music we shouldn’t sing, nor what materials we shouldn’t wear, nor a variety of other things that Christians so quickly condemn.

Entertainment has a high place in the world around us.  People think that they read the news to be informed, but this is not really true.  They read it to be entertained.  The vast majority of what they read has no practical value and not much accuracy.  Entertainment is what caused you to visit this blog.  Entertainment is what will decide what you do next.  People even eat to be entertained.  They tend to vote for the most entertaining politicians.  To some extent, they even seek entertaining employment.  The church’s response, naturally, is to seek boredom and solemnity.  Not all of us do.  It’s just enough to become a problem.  The idea of Christian entertainment seems somehow blasphemous to some people.  I say that they follow the route of least resistance.  They defend themselves through the virtue/vice of boredom.  They find it safer.  A Christian is not called to be entertained, they say.  Never mind that this is nowhere to be found in the Bible.  In truth, their efforts to become less worldly have actually made them more worldly, even if in a negative sense.

A truly God-centered Christian does not concern himself with what the world does.  If I and my unbelieving friend can find common ground in entertainment, then so much the better!  I am free in Christ.  I am not called to be bored out of my mind.

Boredom is not a virtue.

Jesus with a Cardboard Sign

22 03 2010

Yesterday, after leaving church I came upon a homeless man with a cardboard sign.  I’ve known several homeless people, but I’ve never known one that held a cardboard sign.  I’ve never known a homeless person who knew one who held a cardboard sign.  I had developed a theory that the sign-holders are a mysterious class of individuals claiming to be among the homeless without actually being one.  Generally, they seem to have the manner of one who has become accustomed to living upon the generosity of others.

Yesterday was different.  He seemed ashamed of himself.  He was a younger man, which is unusual.  His face was downcast and he kept running his fingers through his hair.  Something about him haunted me.  I felt certain that I might have known him from somewhere.  He seemed familiar, but I didn’t know why.  I pulled into the shopping mall, turned around and worked my way back to the same left-turn lane that I had been in, so that I could get close enough to speak to him.  I felt that I was on the verge of sobbing, and I wasn’t sure why.  This is highly unusual for me.  At the intersection, I managed to be the first car in line, right next to the man.  I rolled down my window and spoke to him.  I tried to help him in some fleeting way.  He spoke clearly, like an educated man.

I saw myself standing on that center median, in my mind.  Inside the mall, people were buying and wearing clothes priced at a day’s wages per piece.  Some stores sold watches and jewelry at two year’s wages.  Most stores were so elegant that I was afraid to enter them, lest I accidentally snag a sweater and be guilty of felony vandalism.  Everyone was strutting around with their mental eyes watching themselves.  They all paid way too much for what they did not need, much of which was torn and patched like the clothes of a homeless man.  I have never understood that style.  Clearly, they had an abundance of wealth.  They were throwing it away on worthless junk.

Just outside, there was someone that society would treat as less than worthless.  I have never been so nauseated by materialism in all my life.  If another man’s needs are regarded as less than the trash that I hardly have any use for; nay, if his life is worth less than a tenth of a percent of any of that crap, then I must be a most evil man.

This, That and the Other Thing

20 03 2010

This is This.

This is a location.

This is a position.

This is the period at the end of the sentence that keeps a statement from running on and on.

Sometimes a sentence just begs to continue, and more than one This is needed, otherwise….

This is stasis, a strength through stability, a security that tomorrow will be the same as today.

This is traditionalist.

That is That.

That is not a place, but a direction.

That is somewhere else.

No matter how far That travels, That will never be This.

That knows no destination, but if it did, then That would not stay there.

That cannot stop, is not satisfied, is always changing.

That is visionary.

This has a problem.

A large ambiguous uncertainty hangs overhead.

So long as This remains thus, this will always be so.

That seeks to fix This.

That would change This to a New This.

This does not want to be changed, resists change.

Sometimes This wins and is not moved.

Sometimes That wins, and moves.

But time is on the side of That.

No matter how many times This wins, only the victories of That add up.

That always wins in the long run.

This is approaching a new problem.

This is no longer a fearsome uncertainty.

This now becomes a horrible certainty.

That is Not That.

Not That is not That.

Not That is also not a location, but a direction.

Not That doesn’t know a destination, either, but if it did, then it would not stay there.

Not That seeks to stop the destructive influence of That, the horrible certainty.

Whatever That is, Not That is not.

Not That is defined by That.

Not That is reactionary.

That and Not That battle for direction.

Sometimes That wins.

Sometimes Not That Wins.

If either side won, then it would continue unabated.

But Not That is not This.

Not That is just another kind of That.

Only This is This.

But in the battle between That and Not That, This is lost.

How do we ever find This again?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

(James 1:17 NIV)


Déjà Vu, Idle Chatter and Barking Dogs

16 03 2010

No one gets déjà vu worse than I do.  Well, no one I know does, at least.  The phenomenon is considered to be the feeling that one is experiencing something that has already happened.  What it really amounts to is a vague sense of repetition.  Well, for most it is just a vague sense of repetition, but oftentimes I find that the situation goes well beyond that.  I used to think it a silly social custom for people to have repeat conversations.  When you run out of things to talk about, then you go back over the old subjects and discuss them again as though they had not been discussed before.  A few years ago, though, I noticed some coworkers having a repeat conversation for at least the third time, and they were repeating themselves almost verbatim.  They could have been reading from a script, they were following their previous conversation so closely.  What was more amazing to me was that one conversationalist was reacting to the other’s words with astonishment, the same as before.  Now, generally, when someone tells me something that I find intriguing, I think I’m pretty likely to remember it.  At the very least, it shouldn’t surprise me when I hear it again…I think.

But that’s the real problem.  If other people were repeating their own conversation exactly, then how many times did I hear it before I first recognized that they were repeating themselves?  I might experience this redundancy unawares.  I only know that others experience it one or two more times than I do before coming to the sense that they’ve had this or that conversation before.  They could have repeated it twenty times, with me being aware only of the nineteenth and twentieth times, where they only remember the twentieth.

The next time they had that conversation, and they did, in fact, have that exact same conversation later, I stopped them and finished the conversation for them.  I begged them to please remember doing this before.  They said that they may have sort of remembered it.  At least they didn’t do it again.

That was not an isolated incident, though it may have been the worst.  I told my wife about it, and she thought it was funny.  A few weeks later, I told her about it again, and she reacted exactly the same way.  So long as I followed my part of the script, she followed hers.  I asked her if she realized we were repeating ourselves, and she got mad at me.  She doesn’t like to be tricked.

No need to take it personally, though.  Almost everyone I know seems able to have the same discussion multiple times without being remotely aware of it.  Particularly observant people can discuss a thing twice, where others can have the same chat four or more times.  I prefer to stop counting after four.  Again, though, that is four times more than I repeat myself unawares.  If I do it twice, then the one who seems to repeat himself four times actually does it six times.

The deciding factor seems to lie in the loquaciousness of the individual.  The more chatty a person is, the more prone they are to having the same discussion with the same people over and over again and react exactly the same way each time, as though never having heard it before.  Socially, I am possibly the least chatty person I know.  Hence, each discussion means more to me, and I am more likely to remember it.

I am under the impression that talk is cheap for most people, that the act of having a chat has nothing to do with the exchange of information and ideas.  That is to say that people talk to each other for the purpose of talking.  Previously, I had assumed that people talked for the sake of entertainment, which still may be true, but the act of talking, itself, is both the means and the end in most exchanges.  It’s the reason we say “hello” to people when we see them, even if we had just seen them the previous day.  What does that word even mean?  Most of the way people relate to each other conveys no great meaning, other than to emote.  “Hey, man, how’s it going?” is not a question, when it really comes down to it.  The statement, itself, is just a gesture.

Idle chatter, in many cases, is on par with the barking of dogs.  The point is in the vocalization, not the true meaning of words.  If people don’t take their conversations seriously, then they are not apt to remember them.  All they take away from the event is a sense of their relationship with the other person.

However, the lowest form of conversation, the one that really resembles the barking of dogs in terms of its intelligence, is the use of obscenities.  I don’t mean the use of crass words where more delicate words would suffice.  I mean the use of obscenities in sentences where the literal meaning of the word has no relevance to the subject at hand.  It’s an alternate to the word “duh.”  More often as of late, I find that people are throwing in obscenities in random places in their speech, out of pure habit.  If we replaced those words with the word, “duh,” not a single ounce of meaning would be lost from what they say.  For example, “Hey, duh, where did you get that duh awesome shirt?” to which the other person replies, “I got it from that duh store down on duh D Street…you know…the one with the duh picture of a duh gorgeous babe in the window.”  Generally speaking, in terms of vocalized speech, obscenities tend to be used most by people who have the hardest time thinking of the right words to say.  The bad words have actually come to substitute the nonsense word, duh, in every sense of the way.  But replacing poor language skills with foul language has not only ceased to be counter-culture, but it has actually become fashionable.

The summary meaning of this trend is that communication in our society is becoming dull.  We don’t really mean what we say, and we don’t care enough about what others say to remember it.

The brain acts as an excellent filter of information.  In truth, we would drive ourselves insane if we remembered everything.  Therefore, we have a knack for forgetting trivial stuff, which, in this case, is anything that a friend tells us.  If an event happens once, then the brain determines that it must not be important.  Useful information is always encountered over and over again, like the skill of driving a car, forming words or tying a shoe.  Hence, a conversation might be forgotten until it’s been had a few times.  The catch in all of this is that the brain cannot determine to start remembering these things on the third round if it does not remember that there was a first and second round.  What this means, then, is that people really do remember their conversations, even if they repeat themselves.  What they cannot do is recall those conversations.  It’s in the head, but it’s not coming out.

Two ways exist to promote memory, cognitively.  The first is to think about a thing repeatedly.  The second is to think about it deeply.  In reality, though, because the brain runs in cycles, a deep thought is really just a prolonged one, which is really just a thought that repeats itself over and over for a longer period of time.  Repetition is the primary determinant of whether we will recall the thing later on.  People forget their conversations, because they spend no time pondering them, because they really do not value what was said.

Churches are notorious for having people walk out of the doors and be hopelessly unable to remember anything that was said during the sermon.  Frankly, this is pathetic.  What it means is that they may listen, but they do not ponder.  They hear, but they do not consider.  They believe that they value the theology, but their memories betray them.  We remember the information that we cherish.  Fortunately for the pastor, though, even when the laity cannot recall what was said, the brain does still remember.  With enough sermons and enough reinforcement, a sound theology can be built with time.

Perhaps, if we pay attention, we can remember our lives and relationships, instead of living in a fog and doing everything twice.  Though, I have a feeling that “twice,” is an understatement.


13 03 2010

That night a rumor was born out of a back bedroom of my home in San Diego County, which traveled the full length of the Pacific coast of the continental United States, all the way to Washington, where it turned around and met me again halfway up California in a town called Sonora.  I was sitting in the fellowship hall of a local church, playing Mancala with a fellow student from Washington.  We had been canvassing the Sierra Nevadas for a field trip in search of flowers to classify.  I was just telling her of a certain troublesome individual who had caused our home much grief, when my classmate jumped up and announced excitedly that she had heard of this crazy woman.  We traced the rumor back to her home state, and, from there, back to San Diego.  Surprisingly, the story had not lost an ounce of truth in the telling.

 Lori is one of those people I can name by her first name, and if you know her, then you will likely know about exactly whom I’m talking.  She’s a former witch, who claims to have special knowledge of the spiritual world through her past dealings with the devil.  At the time that I knew her, she waved the banner of Christianity, and she proclaimed herself to be one of God’s own prophets.  She was a bane of families and churches.  Every thought she conceived, every dream, was a gift of the divine, straight to her.  She had plans for a mountain in southern California to become the hiding place for the elect in the final days.  Initially, that land was in drought, but she predicted rain.  She told that a dry lake would one day be filled, and she was right.  Later that year it did rain, the lake did fill, and the mountaintop turned from brown to a luxurious green.  She had actually predicted climate change, and the climate obeyed.

 The next summer, the lake dried, the grass turned brown, and everything returned to the way it had been at first.

 Lori was one of those people who are never wrong.  Anything she wanted, she got.  Many women strive for beauty and high esteem.  She strove for power over angels and men.  Every little thing she did, she praised.  Every decent thing that anyone else did, she disregarded.  If given the chance, she would have started her own little cult community.  I can only thank God that she did not muster that kind of influence.  In retrospect, I can see why she was involved in the female part of the Masons.  She craved the perceived power in that secret pagan ritualism.  Through her, I was able to glimpse some of the lesser rites.  Nothing Biblical comes out of that organization.  The Masons are a collection of would-be sorcerers in a quest for spiritual power, not a club of good fellows.

 As an adolescent, I was stuck in the unfortunate position of being old enough to realize that my parents were being taken for fools, yet I was too young to have any say in my own fate.  Lori convinced them to sell our home and buy a place out in the great tinderbox of rural San Diego County.  Together, her family and ours lived in the same home, mostly at my parents’ expense.  They had visions of a blossoming ministry, which, although it was not on the aforementioned mountain, was destined to move there one day.  That day never came.  I cannot say that no good came of that move.  In fact, my parents were able to make a positive impact on some less fortunate individuals.

 The really irksome problems began when a rumor started in the church.  People were beginning to tell my mother and Lori that they seemed to have an unnaturally close relationship.  The most brazen of them hinted at lesbianism.  Oh, yeah, that feels like a punch in the gut to have people call my mom a dyke.  Lori called it a nasty rumor, and she found someone to blame as the originator of that rumor.  Looking at the situation honestly, I realized that this was not a rumor at all.  People were merely making conclusions based on what they saw.  One person had the guts to say it like it was, but she was not the cause of my mother’s ill repute.  The fact was that Lori looked very much like a lesbian in pursuit of my mom.  So I had this woman getting a little too friendly with my mom, and our families moved in together.  The kids on both sides were starting to confer with each other and wonder what the heck was going on.

 I didn’t think I was affected too much by it, until one day at school while waiting in line for class.  A friend and I were having a little fun inventing funny insults.  Then he landed the line, “your mother is a lesbian.”  The next thing I knew, I turned around and he was rubbing his jaw, eyes wet, saying, “You hit me.  I can’t believe you just hit me!”  I couldn’t believe it, either.  I wasn’t even conscious of it.  I was amazed and horrified that I had just hit a friend.  I still don’t really remember doing it.  I must have turned around, slugged him, and then returned to standing in line as though nothing had happened.  What a way to lose a friend!

 Lori brought some interesting times to my life, most of which I could have done quite well without.  Fortunately, these things could not last.  Due to the “rumors,” the church stripped both of the ladies, my dad and Lori’s husband of their involvement in youth functions.  From there, they retreated to a poor little country church.  During this time, Lori found a new best friend, named Laura, which caused a great deal of chaos in our home, especially since Laura was living on the property by my parents’ benevolence. 

 Then events really got crazy.  My dad and Lori got into a fight, in which they both went for their guns.  He was tired of letting her push everyone around, and she was tired of having him stand in the way of her dreams.  I don’t know how we ever survived.  I cannot fathom how my parents’ marriage lasted. 

 Lori’s marriage did not last.  Her son became enamored with the preacher’s daughter, and Lori saw it as an opportunity to exact revenge not only on her estranged husband, but also strike a blow to the preacher.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.  The church was splitting, and the board was trying to oust the preacher.  His daughter was eighteen and entitled to make her own marital choices, which she did against her father’s will.  Lori’s son was just sixteen, which meant that she could emancipate him against his father’s will.  Add to that the fact that her friend, Laura, had received a mail-order minister’s license, and what we got was two kids getting married in a back bedroom against the will of three parents, thanks to one clever and especially vindictive mother.  My parents and I huddled in the common area of the house, grumbling helplessly against it.  It was entirely legal, and it was all incredibly stupid.

 News of the odd marriage traveled from there to Washington through an unlikely channel of people who did not know us.  From there, it found its way back to Sonora, to a surprised and energetic classmate.

 Lori, Laura and the newlyweds moved to Arizona shortly after that.  The kids had a couple of their own kids immediately, and then the preacher’s daughter took those kids and went to live with her parents again.

 At least that disaster was out of my life.  My parents’ stormy marriage healed to near perfection within a year.  I married my own bride in that very church, just after the pastor lost his own daughter to a back room wedding.  We’re still happily married after all of these years.  I put Lori out of my mind.  She continued to make her way east.  She left her friend, Laura, and, as far as I know, made her way to the other side of the continent.

 I don’t know why I was surprised, recently, when yet another Lori rumor found its way all the way from the other coast to here.  I was sitting outside of church, when my dad leaned over and said, “Lori got married…to another woman.  Don’t tell your mom.”

 Apparently the “gossips” at church had been right all those years ago.  They were following their God-given mandate to warn people of their sin.  Things may not have been what they appeared to be, but they were certainly close enough to merit mention.  While Lori was claiming divine revelation, her opponents were the ones getting the message from above.  She may go to Hell, but it won’t be for her ignorance.

Life in a Bottle

9 03 2010

We live our lives from within a bottle.  That bottle is the human body, which contains us.  We look out through the windows of our eyes.  The world looks back at us and sees only the eyes.  We look through them, and the world looks at them.

 Modern thought is highly analytical.  The scientist observes human behavior and explains it entirely on physical terms.  The testosterone and androgen levels cause a chain of chemical events that turn a boy into a man.  The chemical messengers cause a change in the firing pattern of neurons in the brain, which causes the man to think affectionately toward members of the opposite sex.  The purpose is unmistakable.  It exists to promote human reproduction.  The strong desire produces a feeling of intensity, triggering the fight-flight mechanism.  This causes an adrenaline response, which, in turn, limits most of the non-essential body functions.  One resultant effect is clammy hands.  He takes her hand, as a gesture that communicates his intentions.  She then evaluates his proposal and assesses his merit based on what she deems to be her range of options.  Her cerebellum works actively to determine whether he can provide an adequate genetic contribution to their progeny, as well as his ability to provide financially for their collective well-being, thus ensuring the successful rearing of young.  If she deems him to be a suitable mate, then a similar adrenergic response might be invoked in her own body as a result of the importance of the situation.  Next, they might engage upon a contractual agreement, ensuring that the male will fulfill his duties to help in the maintenance of their household, rather than depart abruptly and prematurely.  We call this contract “marriage.”  It also arranges for exclusivity, so that the male might not accidentally waste his time rearing another male’s offspring, and in so doing jeopardize his own reproductive success.  All of this is necessary for the continuation of the species.

 But this is the description of an organic robot and has nothing whatsoever to do with falling in love.  From the outside, we see mechanisms of a purely practical purpose.  They in no way resemble the experience that lies beneath those functions.  When I fell in love with my wife, I never once considered, nor cared, what physiological processes were involved in this state of existence.  At the time, I was even a biology student in college.  At the time, I was even studying physiology.  One notable effect to having my nose in biology texts for hours on end was that I began to see people as walking, breathing sacks of guts.  Every person was an assembly of their various parts.  I didn’t look into people’s eyes, so much as I looked at their eyes.  This person might have a lovely iris.  That person might have more or less adipose under the basilar membrane of the skin.  When a person is considered in terms of her physiology, she ceases to be regarded for her humanity.  We stare at the surface of the glass, observing its reflectivity, its color or its label, not seeing the person on the inside, looking out.  Within that physical bottle is a spiritual being, looking out.

 In this sense, then, pornography and modern analytical thought have much in common.  Both take into great account the physical shell and disparage the spiritual human.  They look at the outside only.  The abortionist doesn’t claim to murder a person, but, instead, is merely removing a lump of “tissue.”  The most sacred things in life can be desecrated through cold objectivity.  Over-analysis reduces humanity to a sack of guts, or a bag of chemicals.

 But I am here.  I am in this body, looking out.  As I gaze into my wife’s eyes, I dive into her soul.  I connect with that person, whom I love.  I don’t see a couple of well-shaped corneas covering two hazel irises.  I see a person.  I don’t respond to a natural chain of physiological events.  I love.  I adore.  Whatever the mechanism, I am consumed with the experience.  Somehow, I think that this is what our Creator intended. 

 When we watch television, we get into the show.  We don’t sit there and marvel at the complex array of photons being emitted through a cathode ray tube or a liquid crystal display.

 When we drive a car, we need not consider the timing of the firing within each cylinder, or the chemical processes of combustion.  All of the complex functions of the engine, the transmission, the steering and the brakes have been simplified and condensed to a few simple controls.  The entire machine has been made intuitive for us.  If we want to turn left, then we turn the steering wheel left.  If we want to speed up, then we step on the gas.  We don’t need to adjust for air intake.  We need not direct the oil to be pumped to the top of the engine block, so that it can run down over the camshaft.  The gas pedal has been brought to us; we don’t have to climb over the engine to control one of its components. 

 Such is the human body.  Most of what happens to keep us working is, thankfully, beyond our conscious perception.  We don’t have to manually digest our food.  We don’t need to think about our heartbeat in order to make it happen.  We don’t have to consciously assemble enzymes within our cells.  This machine, which is far more complex than an automobile, has been simplified and brought to a focal point of control, so that we might be able to operate it as intuitively as though we were not driving a machine at all.  We hardly even notice that we are operating a machine, but we are.

 Modern thought has struggled to take this away from us.  It has focused so intently on the machine, that it denies the very existence of the driver.  It reduces the experience to an illusion created by a mechanism.  Unfortunately for the modernist, he cannot observe this mechanism without living through such a mechanism, himself.  In order to stare at a bottle and see no further than the glass, he must first look out through the glass of his own bottle.  This is a double standard, an unequal treatment of others and himself.  The mechanism of a human body cannot be studied without living through one.

 The spiritual side of humanity is what’s being ignored.  If the man looks at a woman and connects with her humanity, then he will not be addicted to pornography.  If the abortionist considers the humanity of the fetus, then she might reconsider this murder.  If the priest connects with his God, then he might not obsess with the legalism and rituals of a dead religion. 

 When we love our neighbors as ourselves, when husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church, we see the humanity within the corporeal bottle, like we see ourselves.  We all love ourselves.  We all nurture our own humanity, yet we often objectify each other.  We do not do this because we have been deceived by appearances.  We do this because it is convenient to sin.  It is the vice known as selfishness.  We ignore the humanity of others in order to use them for our own gain.

 To see the life inside that bottle, to look beyond its glass, we only need to change our focus.