enlightenment, ethics, fiction, humor, photography

Satori from a Consulting Gig

The who and how of sudden enlightenment might transcend ordinary logic.  To illustrate my short story about a weird instance of satori, I edited a NASA image formed by combining data from five telescopes.  While the image is for real, the story is neither the literal truth nor a bogus claim to tell it.
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Management consultant Frank Dow showed no surprise at the new client’s evident desire for a genuine consultation rather than a canned endorsement of plans already made.  Though unusual, the client’s sincerity was still less surprising than the client’s identity.  The client was God.  Dow listened intently as God began to describe His problem:

“Forget any twaddle you may have heard about omnipotence and omniscience.  The universe is too immense and diverse to be micromanaged, even by Me.  Roughly speaking, I built a big machine and let it run.  But it’s not boringly deterministic.  The universe is all about probabilities.”

As God continued, the proud-parent joy in his voice was clear:

“The probability that a randomly chosen planet will be suitable for life to appear at all is tiny.  The probability that creatures with any ability to understand and appreciate the universe will evolve is tinier still, but not exactly zero.  On the other hand, there are a lot of planets in the universe.  There’s no need to crunch the numbers right now.  The bottom line is that a few planets luck out.  On your little blue planet, life thrived and your species evolved advanced abilities to observe and learn, to imagine and reason, to build bridges and write poems.”

With joy replaced by sadness and frustration now, God explained what He hoped Dow could provide:

“While I mostly let things run, I am not absolutely hands-off when a planet has intelligent life that blunders into being cruel or stupid.  I nudge them in good directions by inspiring a few of them.  In your planet’s case, I have had a little success and a lot of failure.  I keep it simple and age appropriate, but they oversimplify half of what I tell them and obfuscate the rest.  The Golden Rule gets through as something to proclaim but not as something to practice.  Absurdly, much of what they think has been revealed to them is just their own bigotry and bullshit.  The way they distort My message is so alien to the corporate culture here that nobody has a clue about how to handle it.  As someone who is closer to the problem without being part of it, you may be able to help us.”

Given a temporary office with read access to the case histories (and full access to a plentiful supply of coffee and nutritious snacks), Dow went to work.  A recurrent pattern emerged:

Inspirations that did not fizzle attracted disciples, often with authoritarian personalities.  Authoritarian disciples misinterpreted God’s nudges and stridently claimed they could speak for God on all kinds of topics, now and forever.  Many of those who were strident were also willing to coerce people they could not convince.  Many of those who were willing to coerce were also willing to kill people they could not coerce.

Poring over the case histories was depressing, but Dow kept at it (with the able assistance of good coffee and good snacks).  Eventually, he was ready to offer God a suggestion:

“I believe there is a personnel issue here.  You have been inspiring people who mean well but score high on credulity and low on humor.  Maybe it would help to go outside the box.  For example, You could inspire a nerdy atheist who digs sacred music and pushes the envelope of haiku poetry.”

God was skeptical: “Does anybody like that exist?”

Frank Dow smiled the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile that sometimes appeared when he was moonlighting as a Zen master.  He leaned forward and spoke softly: “Does anybody like You exist?”

At that moment, God attained enlightenment.

satori_840x782

Sources

How to illustrate the concept of satori?  For this post, I cropped a NASA image of the Crab Nebula and told the Retouching tab in my photo editor that each star was a blemish to be removed.  If there is intelligent life on any planets orbiting those stars, I hope that nobody will be mad at me for dissing their sun.  Oh well, it’s a big universe.  I will be long gone before they have a chance to find out.

In its present form, this post’s story first appeared in Volume 1 of The Rabbit Hole, an annual anthology of weird stories.  None of the stories there are illustrated, and I had no good ideas for an illustration anyway.  How I came to write a story about God hiring a consultant whose recommendations are outside the box is yet another story, somewhat weird but entirely true.

Buddhism, enlightenment, photography, tanka

Oneness Beyond Color

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Carpe Diem #1378 Finally … Enlightenment

The Silk Road was a hard slog, as is the path to enlightenment.  It might help a little to consider some of the unobvious ways the images in this post are alike.

pink-ball-sym_833x833

pink-blossom_833x751

Oneness Beyond Color
|Glass ball and blossom:
|so unlike yet so alike.
|Enlightenment glows
|beyond breakage or wilting;
|beyond illusions of death.

enlightenment, haiku, history, photography

Oh Come, All Fibo-ku

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My response to

Carpe Diem Weekend-Meditation #10
Fibo-ku winter time

could be called a “fibo-bun” because it is like a haibun but has syllable counts from the Fibonacci sequence in the haiku part.

Several cultures have responded to the long nights of winter with festivals or structures celebrating light at roughly the time of the solstice.  While not quite old enough to have personal memories of Stone Age passage tombs aligned with the sunrise (on a few of the several days that amounted to the solstice with Stone Age time-keeping), I do remember multicolored Hanukkah candles and the cheerful chiaroscuro of multicolored Xmas lights draped over trees and large shrubs.

multi-vert_800x1116
Nowadays I see mostly different kinds of Xmas lights.  Some people set out ugly jumbles of inflated Santas and other symbols of the gifting frenzy; others outline their houses with harshly uniform white lights.  But some still carry forward the old Xmas lighting tradition (with LED-s now).  And the glorious vocal music of Hanukkah and Xmas still transcends the literal meanings of the verses (2 of which inspired my titles here).

Darkness worse than long nights and garish decorations hangs heavy in today’s air.  Maybe this darkness will also recede.  My lights are up.

Yet in the Darkness Shineth
|Red,
|green,
|blue, and
|yellow lights:
|multicultural
|winter solstice celebration
|defies dark tribal hatred to sing of love and light.

multi-square_800x669

enlightenment, fiction, haiku, humor

Miracle: Satori from an MBA

A cascade of tongue-in-cheek posts and comments came to an abrupt end with a serious thought, but I recovered enough to continue semiseriously, with a short story about weirdness in the who and how of sudden enlightenment.
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It started so gaily.
A tongue-in-cheek haiku post about writer’s block led to
 a tongue-in-cheek comment that led to
 a tongue-in-cheek haiku post about Genesis that led to
 a tongue-in-cheek comment that seemed to
merit a tongue-in-cheek reply.

But the volleyball hit the floor before I could whack it upward.

That last comment in the cascade included a question about a haiku titled Thus Saith the Lord:

What made you the lucky poet whom God speaks through?

While the comment’s “you” is me and my claim to prophecy was indeed tongue-in-cheek (and perceived as such by the commenter), I could not get past the fact that many people do claim (seriously and stridently) to speak for God.  Many of those who are serious and strident are also willing to coerce people they cannot convince.  Many of those who are willing to coerce are also willing to kill people they cannot coerce.

lesson-learnedNON SEQUITUR © 2014 Wiley Ink, Inc.. Dist. By ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION.
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

While I could not just keep it tongue-in-cheek, I still saw the wisdom in Oscar Wilde’s remark that life is too important to be taken seriously.  So I continued semiseriously, with a draft for a weird story to end the original 2017 version of this post.  I have removed the draft here because the story has been thoroughly revised and now appears in an anthology of weird stories as Satori from a Consulting Gig.  The revised story was also posted to this blog, after I created an appropriate illustration.

I blanked out part of a comment from 2017 that appears below, so as to leave it for the story to reveal the who and how of a weird instance of satori.

enlightenment, haiku, humor

Genesis

There are many images for the Biblical six days of creation, and one exuberant stained glass window is particularly apt for illustrating this post’s pair of haiku.  When God finally rested, did He just chill out?
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The following photo of an exuberant stained glass window comes from the Witterings blog, which also has a fascinating discussion and beautiful closeup photos of the window’s details.

6-days

When God finally rested, did He just chill out?  In response to

(with some inspiration from The Write Idea | Six days), here are 2 haiku dealing with that question.

First Sabbath
 After 6 hectic days,
 writer’s block dissipated.
 God wrote a haiku.

Thus saith the Lord:
 The world I made
 is bigger and better than
 dogmas can describe.

enlightenment, grammar, history, humor, language, politics, science

Writing Well – Part 1

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Introduction

Here are links to all posts in this project of reviewing and supplementing the splendid book

The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.

  1. Introduction
    What does the rise of “proper” English have in common with a physics conundrum about gravity?
  2. Babies, Names, and Snobs
    We name words by wrapping them in square brackets to avoid overloading more common conventions.
  3. Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, and ????
    We add a new ISM to the familiar duo of attitudes toward English language usage: readabilism.
  4. Why is English Spelling Such a Mess?
    An insight into the difficulty of spelling reform has wide-ranging significance, far beyond spelling.
  5. Ambiguity Sucks!
    Ambiguity is almost always at least a little harmful to clear communication. It can be disastrous.
  6. What is the Point of Punctuation?
    Careful punctuation helps avoid unwanted ambiguity.
  7. Yogi Berra’s Paradox
    Sometimes bad English is good English that’s good because it’s bad.
  8. Blood & Gold End This Series
    Apart from a concern about the examples on 2 late pages in the book, I could applaud those pages until my hands bleed.

lex-dilem_jack-lynch
Writing well ain’t easy.  If the word “ain’t” in the previous sentence raised hackles, U really need to read The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.  If not?  Read it anyway.  This post starts a series of posts that includes a glowing review of the book, with my own additions and amplifications for some points (and a few mild disagreements).

One of the few complaints I have about the book is that the title is too narrow.  Yes, the book considers lexicography.  It also considers grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vulgarisms.  In just 276 well-written pages (not counting source notes and such), it considers all these things with serious historical scholarship and considerable humor (mostly dry; sometimes LOL).

Why a series of posts?  Doing justice to the scope of the book in a single post would be tough unless what I wrote was only a book review, and the single post might still be quite long.  Better to write a separate post of moderate length on each of several themes in the book, adding something worthwhile to each.  In between posts in this Writing Well series, I can post on other topics.  If I think of yet another way that the sane and decent people in the USA might resist the Age of Trumpery, I want to interrupt the series rather than interrupt work on a single humongous draft.

Can a noncontiguous series work?  Across the Room and Into the Fire is working quite well for Óglach, with Part 6 (out of a projected 7) posted as of this writing.

Example 1.1: Recency of “Proper” English


Example numbers in this series have the form (part number).(number within the part), just in case I want to refer to an example in one part when writing up another part.

The following quote from page 10 of the book poses a conundrum that cries out for the kind of historical investigation exemplified by the book.

For just one third of 1 percent of the history of language in general, and for just 20 percent of the history of our own language, have we had to go to school to study the language we already speak.

When something is that strange, asking how the Hell it happened is not just idle curiosity.  It might lead to major insights.  Here is something similarly strange in physics.

For every chunk of matter in the entire universe (no matter what it is made of), the gravitational mass is exactly the same as the inertial mass.

For everything we can get our hands on, the equality of the 2 kinds of mass has been verified to more decimal places than I can count on my fingers.  Why is gravity like this?  Isaac Newton had no idea at all.  His theory of gravity could use this fact but could not explain it.  Early in the previous century, many physicists were uneasy about this apparent cosmic coincidence.  They were also uneasy about a piddling tiny difference between how Mercury orbited the sun and how Newton’s theory predicted it would orbit the sun.

One of the uneasy physicists was Albert Einstein, whose more elaborate theory of gravity gave an elegant explanation of the equality of the 2 kinds of mass and yielded predictions that were slightly different from Newton’s.  When Einstein published his theory in 1916, the only known differences were just barely measurable by those who cared about nerdy stuff like the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit.  Today, we know of many other differences.  Thanks to our knowledge of some of them, your GPS is more than just an expensive paperweight.

Acknowledgements


Jack Lynch wrote the book that anchors this series.  The historical perspective helped me refine my own views.  Want to see many examples of clear writing that is balanced and nuanced w/o being wishy-washy?  Read the book.

Óglach is among the bloggers who demonstrate that good writing can thrive in the blogosphere.   Thanking all those I know would take up too much space and omit those I do not know, but I must thank him for the inspiration to try a noncontiguous series.

Miriam Sargon taught the AP English class that I took in my senior year of high school.  (My post on lexicography will say a little more about that class.)  Back in the 1962/1963 academic year, well-informed people could still believe that Enlightenment values were winning (albeit slowly and with many setbacks).  She did not preach those values; she exemplified them.

baseball, enlightenment, humor, philosophy, politics, quote, riff

Riff on a Yogi Berra Quote

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yogi-berra-1

Some of the many humorous quotes (mis)attributed to Yogi Berra are trenchant expressions of genuine wisdom, akin to Zen koans.  (In his Washington Post obituary, the subtitle “American philosopher” is well-chosen.)  One of his gems is so widely applicable and important that it deserves a special name.  It is also so widely quoted that 2 versions are common, as indicated by {|} below:

Yogi Berra’s Law
{The game|It} ain’t over til it’s over.

Yes, the original context was baseball.  With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning, the home team may be trailing.  Yogi rightly admonishes both the home team (to resist despair) and the visitors (to resist complacency).  A lot can still happen with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9-th inning.  I prefer the shorter version of the law because it is more explicit about the law’s generality.  “It” could be almost anyhthing.

My current context for heeding Yogi Berra’s Law is the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump as POTUS.  At best, this event marks the start of 4 long and nasty years in the US.  At worst, this event might combine with trends elsewhere (in China, Europe, and Russia) to start a new Dark Age.  Considering the worst case is prudent, not alarmist.

Mindless repetition of platitudes like

  • It can’t happen here.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
  • It is always darkest just before the dawn.

is no substitute for the eternal vigilance that Jefferson said is the price of liberty.  (There are other prices.)  I resist the complacency of those platitudes; I also resist despair and continue (in my own small way) to be a citizen rather than just a complainer.

In a late inning in the biggest game of my lifetime, the Enlightenment is trailing.  That sucks.  But 2+3 is still 5 and Yogi Berra’s Law is still true.