Quantum physics and the divine plan

Post on one of my CRPS groups: “Everything that happens to me is part of the plan for my good.”

The responses to this seemed to come through a blissed-out narcotic haze. I’m afraid I administered the verbal Narcan. Surprised? ūüôā

I’ve counseled too many rape victims and abuse survivors, and treated far too many accident victims, to hold the belief that bad things happen to us as part of a greater plan — let alone that it’s for our own good.

Bad things happen, full stop. As living humans, we take our chances in the world; sometimes it works out for us, sometimes it doesn’t.

If we grow and learn and become stronger, then it’s because of how we chose to deal with it and what we could bring to bear — not because some faceless force thought it would be interesting and valuable to cause us so much agony, because — of all counter-logical reasons — it loves us.

I aim to find a way to become free of CRPS. Nevertheless, I perceive that the skills, the inward peace, the strength, the poise I’ve developed in coping with these unimaginable challenges over so many years, have certainly made me something I never would’ve reached without it.

I thoroughly honor the brilliance, creativity and strength that my comrades with CRPS bring to their lives. It’s breathtaking to belong to such a select group — although the cost of membership is a little high.

It’s a special disease: agonizing, rare, destructive, poorly researched, underfunded, extremely long-lasting, and — most special of all — widely believed to be hysterical in nature. The challenges it poses are distinctive and seemingly endless.

After eight years with it, I’m proud of myself and I even care about myself, even though I can accomplish so much less than before. 8 1/2 years ago, I felt that I had to earn my right to even breathe.

The credit for all that growth goes to innate qualities, my excellent friends (some of whom I’m related to), and a handful of gifted clinicians.

The causal lines are very clear: hard work, relentless study, determination, safe places to stay, loving words, wise ideas, needed gifts, perfect loans, valid diagnoses, key treatments — these are what gave me strength and let me grow and learn.

It’s been painstakingly pointed out to me that I have the friends I’ve earned. I’m not sure any mortal deserves such friends as mine, but I’m glad of them all the same.

Cold chronic CRPS and all that goes with it… Part of a plan? What plan? Whose bloody plan?¬†I want the bastard’s address! And so does my army.

Plan is a four letter word.

I will never forget the days and nights and years of desperate prayer, with nothing but silence coming back. The goodness, the help, the peace, these all came from other people and my own work. The natural results of many extraordinary efforts.

Inflicting this kind of agony and loss “for your own good” would be absolutely unthinkable for a conscious, caring being of any kind. Moreover, to have the power of withholding destruction and pain, and to fail to do so, is quintessentially evil.

I’m a theist, but I don’t see deity as a psychopathic abuser — as something that would clobber me for the fun of it, or be persuaded to stop the beating if I figured out the right things to say.

Moreover, I can really see why people would be atheists. Without quantum physics to make sense of things, deity is an indefensible concept. With quantum physics, I’m certain of three things:

We ARE a permanent part of something greater. It IS aware, omniscient, and ubiquitous.

Its job is not to screw things up, but to notice, communicate, and keep flowing. That’s it.

Nothing else agrees with the evidence.

It’s not intrusive, manipulative or evil. It can’t be, because it doesn’t possess the mechanisms.

Not to kill the buzz or anything ūüôā

Whatever belief system works for you, use it! ¬†Just remember,¬†there’s more than one path to personal salvation — or whatever your metaphor is — but very few of them get discussed, because of the ancient hegemony that a few groups have held over religious and spiritual expression. Let’s open the world up a bit.

All too often, the power of human connection is mentioned only as an afterthought. In practice, I’ve found nothing more important when the chips are down.

I no longer pray for help. I ask.

Because beliefs vary, it’s important to give a voice to those who find the traditional idea of our helpless subjection to a greater will to be the opposite of comforting. We don’t get much airtime, but we still find peace, strength and grace.

Just not in that particular idea. Thank God.

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Questing for a strange beast — a laptop I can use

I’m shopping for a laptop. This is not a trivial task. Here’s why:

– It has to be light enough for me to handle easily. ¬†That right there is a huge barrier. I’m looking at 3 pounds or less — preferrably less.

– It has to be fast enough and strong enough to handle my dictation software, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, while running Windows Office plus whatever provides access to what I’m writing about — the internet, media programs, etc.

You can see the Dragon hardware requirements here:
http://shop.nuance.com/store/nuanceus/en_US/pd/productID.202412500
(click the Requirements tab to see the hardware specs)

I find that, in practice, it’s best to exceed their recommendations by 50-100%, in order to be able to run Dragon alongside the other stuff. ¬†Windows writes crap code, meaning it’s cumbersome, demanding, redundant and sluggish; the same features, if written on a well-designed and well-described codebase, should take up about 1/80th the size of Windows’ codebase. ¬†The damn thing is a monster.

But it’s the only OS that Dragon Professional handles well. Dragon was written to run specifically on Windows, so if I’m doing my budget I have to use Excel, and if I’m writing I’d better be using Word, or all sorts of wretched things happen.

I dream of the day when everyone takes 501 (adaptive-software) compliance really seriously. I dream of the day when they’ll hold off on production until they fix a bug that interferes with Dragon compatibility. ¬†Mind you, I dream of a day when Dragon has real competition at the Professional SKU level. ¬†I’ve tried the lower levels and, yup, all sorts of wretched things happen. (I had no idea my voice was so odd.)

Moreover, I’ve gotten my heart set on solid-state drives, after trashing my much-loved Acer Travelmate (2.8#!) by dropping it from a height of 3 feet. ¬†$1,200 later, I had my data, but no hard drive. ¬†Solid state drives are not bullet proof by any means, but their physical mechanism is totally different and it takes a lot more effort to trash them. As I am getting clumsier, this is getting more and more important. ¬†I’ve filled up a 150 MB drive (despite considerable pruning, keeping music and books on thumb drives) and have nowhere to go, so it will have to be a rather large hard drive.

Fewmets: How I Know when I’m Getting Close

Between my lifting and handling limitations, and the hardware required of a system that could serve my purposes, we’re talking about a fairly exotic beast:

– 3# or less in total weight
– Multi-core CPU with a top speed of 3.5 GHz
– Cache size of 3 MB or better
– RAM of 6-8 MB (8 is better)
– 256 SSD hard drive
– A fast connector, like USB 3.0, to make external drives reasonable to use.
– Windows 7 Professional OS (Vista is against my religion)
– Insurance or warranty covering accidental damage, because it will get accidentally damaged and this is cheaper than a new laptop.

The hunt for such a strange creature is one heck of a challenge. ¬†I feel like Sir Pellinore, King Arthur’s great-uncle, charging after the terrible Beast Glatisant, wearing shiny but battered armor and trailing a puppy on a string.

Of course, I feel the same way when looking for a cure, only more so.

I run into a similar problem with the cure as with the computer: affordability. You’ll see why.

The Long List

I’ve looked at Asus, Acer, Lenovo/IBM, Samsung’s 9 series, Sony, Toshiba, and even Mac, despite the obvious software issues. I have objections to how Dell and HP handle their chipsets and the Windows registry, in that order, so I don’t use them. Fujitsu makes nothing this light.

Neither the delicious ZenBook and MacAir, nor the workmanlike Thinkpads and Ideapads have the chip speed or RAM, more’s the pity.

Besides, though I like Mac, I can’t run my programs on it, and years of experience have taught me that a virtual Windows machine is just not the same as an actual Windows machine.

The Short List

I’ve found exactly two machines that come close to meeting my criteria:

Sony Vaio Z:
$3,100 as spec’d.

Benefits: 2.6#!
Drawbacks: DVD drive and USB 3 in port replicator.

Toshiba Portege R830:
$2,700 as spec’d.

Benefits: Has a built-in DVD drive!
Drawbacks: 3#.  (Due, no doubt, to the drive.)

Conclusions (so far)

The .4# difference is huge to me. It may well be worth the extra $400 (wherever they come from) because of the huge difference in grab-ability. Also, the extra ports on the Vaio’s port replicator are worth a lot.

So I’m leaning towards the Vaio on its features, but if I have to make the choice solely on price, I’ll go for the Toshiba.

In either case, the only thing to do with a really expensive laptop is to make it look like a total POS. So I’m thinking of a skin that will not only cover the brand name but look like a tire tread or barbed wire or something that growls through the hole in its lip, “Don’t touch me.”

Psychological tactics work, because crooks — especially amateurs — are ever so human. …And that’s another random life-lesson I learned from working in the ER.

Donations would be lovely, of course, but I hardly expect them. For those saintly people who want to contribute to this quest (and of course the quest for a cure), there’s now a button in the blue panel on the lower right for the purpose. May all good things come to you.

LINKS
Both of the lovely monster images were snagged from this blog:
http://archideaconalwhitterings.blogspot.com/2010/03/whitterings-april-2010.html

I got the tire tread image from this blog offering free designs:
http://creatingthehive.com/blog-post/143186/tires-amp-treads-free-mds-punches

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The arts are not trivial — why mythopoiesis matters

Almost 7 years ago, I was walking with a fellow writer, sharing our souls as good friends do. I was recently disabled with CRPS and, needing activity as I do, I was trying to think what to do with my life beyond struggling to stay alive and in manageable pain.  I complained about my internal blocks to any sort of publicity for my work.  (I had no blogs.  Nobody outside the Java software industry had ever heard of me.  Nearly all my output had been printed anonymously by the company I worked for.)  
She asked what I thought that was about.  I said I had been brought up with the very clear message that arts are fine for a hobby, but that making a living as a writer or actor was absolutely unthinkable.  It was irrational to take the arts seriously.
Her soft voice changed to ringing iron in the shape of a bell: “The arts are not trivial.” ¬†
I stopped, right there on the sidewalk, shocked out of my self-pity. She turned and egged me on; we continued walking. ¬†“What did you do after surgery?” she asked.
I mumbled, “Watched movies.”
“You watched movies. When you were a little better but couldn’t go back to work yet, what else did you do?”
“Read.”
“You read. ¬†Writers and actors and producers and other artists got you through that time. ¬†They got you through the last year, with the awful work and the layoff. ¬†Survival is not trivial. ¬†It’s significant. ¬†The arts matter.”
Hard to argue with that. ¬†I’d be dead, miserably dead, without the work of visionaries — especially the really ¬†funny ones.
This came up again in the context of my own more recent absorption in the value of mythology as a ticket to survival in the face of horrible odds — a pressingly modern issue in these impossible times. ¬†Then today, I learned that¬†it was Professor Tolkien who created the word “Mythopoeia” — wrote a poem on it, in fact, to his increasingly rigid friend Reverend Lewis.¬†
While both men were theists, C. S. Lewis was much more interested in the structure and received wisdom of religion; J. R. R. Tolkien was a spiritual seeker more in the experiential, visionary, nature-loving, nearly shamanic mode of poets like Coleridge and Keats.  
 Here it is, with my annotations [in square brackets and italicized.]  Take your time and enjoy:

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

Philomythus to Misomythus

[“Loves Myths” to “Opposes Myths”]

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);

[I love this comment on the dry limits of literalism!]

you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star’s a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;

[he’s making the point that there’s more to all this than we can comprehend in our poorly-constructed, limited and ignorant theories of time, space, matter, and life.
He goes on to describe fiction, which at least doesn’t pretend to hold all facts:]

and as on page o’er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,

[he used “queer” in the sense of “odd”, but as far as I’m concerned it’s all good]

each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.

[by pairing these luscious words with the plain ones, he just destroyed the dry concept that “trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow'” — making the point that there’s more to language and life than the rules we know.]

The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain’s contortions with a separate dint.

[he’s pointing out (with beautiful imagery) that our brains are so rich and complex, and that life and experience are so rich and complex, that each rich experience makes unique patterns in a complex brain…]

Yet trees are not ‘trees’, until so named and seen
and never were so named, till those had been
who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,

[…and that even to come up with dry little words to describe them, is a feat of imagination in the first place]

faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.

[remove the line-breaks and read that again: “but neither record nor a photograph,¬†being divination, judgement, and a laugh¬†response of those that felt astir within¬†by deep monition movements that were kin¬†to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:¬†free captives undermining shadowy bars,¬†digging the foreknown from experience¬†and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.”¬†
In short, taking pictures and otherwise recording things is often a nervous tick, used by those who aren’t enough in touch with their feelings and experiences to find some richer way to convey them meaningfully — but convey them we do, however we can, in an effort to rescue our deeper selves…]

Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.

[…and from that effort we grow, and brilliant works come in time.]

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-pattemed; and no earth,
unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

[in short, to see something, we must first be able to imagine it.  This idea of his has since been borne out by modern science: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080703145849.htm]

The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him.

[Tolkien’s religious background was Roman Catholic, which believes in God as the ultimate source of wisdom …]

               Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.

[…and teaches the story of the Garden of Eden as the fall of man and expulsion from paradise.]

Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

[Our minds may be separated from God’s (his belief, not mine) but they are still derived from it, and all our rich variety of unique perceptions create endless possibilities.]

Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.

[A triumphant assertion of the right to exercise creative will.  Go Tolkien!]

Yes! ‘wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?

[yeah, so we make stuff up — and it makes us stronger. It’s holy.]

All wishes are not idle, nor in vain
fulfilment we devise — for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

[now that’s pretty clear!]

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

[you don’t have to be a soldier to strive against evil. To make stories, or art of any kind, as a refuge and defense against evil, is to make room for a better future…]

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

[… and the future itself starts out as something imaginary, a “rumor.. guessed by faith.”]

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organized delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).

[it’s been said that this sounds a bit like our own times]

Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have tuned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

[artists and writers and musicians keep us going, reminding us of brighter times and a future worth having, even in the face of defeat]

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.

[“I would” means “I wish” — it’s an older form, so an antiquarian like the Prof can use it with a straight face]

I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

[he doesn’t care how silly or crazy or poor he seems, he will keep his courage and share his vision whatever anyone says. ¬†Man after my own heart]

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient.

[in his day, “progressive” meant “making more machines, funding more science without conscience,” “making bad things happen faster”; what was called “progress” in his day, we would call “unsustainable development,” “pollution,” “health crises,” “rising poverty,” “environmental destruction,” and all those associated events. This word’s meaning has swivelled about 180 degrees]

                Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not tread your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker’s art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

[another line that makes me rise and wave my fist in triumph.¬†He will keep his little sovereignty over his own poor life and trivial work, rather than give himself up to the unfeeling machine of so-called “success” that’s based on anaesthetic values like logic without art, money without value, creation without creativity.]

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.

[when we are true to our best selves, we are heavenly and whole.  Simple as that]

Evil it will not see, for evil lies not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.

[evil is due to distorted perspective, vile actions and unfeeling motives — it’s not available to those who are sincere]

In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.

[creativity is not a lie]

Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.

[when we’re dead, those of us with the nerve and integrity to create will be valued, have endless possibilities to choose from — and work directly with God!]

Sources:

It occurs to me I should check the copyright status of this poem. Obviously, I think of Professor Tolkien’s work as being for all people and for all time, but his executors’ views may differ from my implementation. ¬†

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