ivors20 on ✿ over there Barbara Buckmaster on Excerpt from Making Belie… Excerpt from Making… on “Making Belief” no… nosuchthingasastraig… on one time Sudden Denouement on one time
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every act calculated
towards an end is an act
every act offered for the joy
of acting, or failing
that, for at least
the chance to burn,
to move, to feel
something and not
of a goat, the pulse
of muscle, the way
your dog’s eyebrows
dance as they try
to make out
what you mean—
every such sputter
is the song
If we decide that reality is out there in the “objective” world, then everything we know about reality comes to us through our senses. Can we trust them to tell us about the ultimate nature of that reality? What’s happening at that interchange, where something “out there” in the world registers “in here” in our experience of it?
Take the smell of coffee. What does that subjective experience—that delicious, indescribable aroma—correspond to in the objective world? Scientists inform us it corresponds to molecules of a particular shape. That’s it: molecules. It is we humans who transform those boring molecules into the incredible fragrance of coffee. The molecules land on receptors in our nose which causes a nerve signal to be sent to our brain, where somehow that electrical signal is experienced as something wondrous.
Similarly, scientists tell us that what we experience as different colors is, out there in the objective world, just different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy. What we see as blue is really light with a wavelength near 470 nanometers. What we experience as red is light with a wavelength of about 700 nanometers. Somehow that quantitative difference in the wavelengths is transformed into a qualitative difference between the experience of blue and red. The difference between the two wavelengths out there in the objective world is boring—they’re just two different lengths. But the difference between blue and red is exciting, graphic, indescribable, subjective.
Molecules transmuted into smells; wavelengths transubstantiated into colors. What performs these miraculous acts?
Our subjective experience is of a profoundly different nature than the objective input that triggered it. There’s no rational connection between the two. “Interpreting” a molecule into the delicious smell of coffee is like “interpreting” a word into a burrito. We don’t interpret objective stimuli. We create something entirely new from them. This “something new” exists in a completely different dimension. It’s as if the objective stimuli just served as a tiny prick of inspiration for our subjective experience of it. We are inherently, effortlessly, biologically creative. There’s no escaping your status as a master artist in every moment of your experience.
Last night as I walked through the gate after work and then my walk,
I saw the goats lying on the mini-trampoline, as is their new habit at night.
This time, as I neared them, neither got up. I approached quietly and crouched down.
I watched them, the peace they lived in.
Slowly I reached out and petted Pepper more gently than usual—soft strokes
down the length of her side, feeling
the bulge of her warm belly through her dusty fur.
Before this, they have always arisen and milled around me when I come home at night,
but now Pepper remained lying, forefeet tucked, head up, eyes gazing at something
only goats can see. I could hear her breathing,
as though she were inhaling and exhaling extra-long,
as one does sometimes in meditation.
Then she turned to me, with that breath of fermenting grass, and chewed her cud,
her jaw moving languidly side to side, as though this were another
part of her meditation. I leaned in and she offered
the flat bone of her forehead for my kiss.
Cookie lay in the opposite direction, along Pepper’s other side,
as though the ripples of communion reached her through her sister’s body,
as though my petting were being multiplied like loaves and fishes.
I thought, This is what I like—tendering the tenderest affection
and feeling it being received.
The world standing still around us.
“At first, there were no writings, no rules, and no churches. Just stories about Jesus of Nazareth.
Try to picture that for a moment. Nothing but wide-eyed people whispering to one another about an amazing man.
Gradually people wrote down these stories, whether first or second hand. As they were passed around, there blossomed myriad interpretations of this astonishing person’s life and the things he was said to have said. Different communities with different ideas and emphases sprang up in different places—wildflowers in a field—the revelation of Christ interpreted differently in the hearts of humans.
If by “traditional” we mean the oldest version of something, then this ragtag riffing, these quirky campfires, are the most traditional form of Christianity we know of.”
—from “Making Belief,” now available on Amazon
“Physicists tell us reality is a lot less Puritan than we imagine. Time doesn’t march to a steady beat. It gyrates to different rhythms, dilated by gravity and speed. Matter and energy pretend to sleep in separate rooms, but Einstein stayed up late one night and watched them slipping back and forth. (He even took a picture: E = mc2.) Solid objects are putting on a show—flickering playfully between existing and the likelihood of existing.”
I’ve made part of the book I’ve been writing available as a smaller book. You can have a look here:
Here is my introduction to the book on Amazon:
When I was a boy, I wanted my stuffed animals to come alive. I wanted my life to be magical. I wanted my desires to mean something. Death didn’t exist.
Around age 12, I remember thinking I had learned a lot about life in the previous couple of years. The gist of it was: you can’t always get what you want, particularly what you really want. Magic happens in books and movies. Or to someone else, far away. Maturity is bucking up, doing what you’re told, and realizing you’re not the center of the universe.
Then you die.
In the background of my forty years since then—of graduating from Harvard at the top of my class, teaching high school science, writing comedy screenplays, learning guitar, forming a band, writing songs and poetry, falling in and out of love—I’ve been aware of something hard to define. It’s been labeled many things—God, a still small voice, intuition, a calling. It dwells in my heart and my gut but feels connected to the great universe that swirls around me.
Call it a river of wanting.
Wanting there to be more than what a certain kind of intelligence told me there was. A yearning for my life to have meaning beyond Darwinism, materialism, and cynicism. An insistence that death is not the end.
Atheism’s spokesperson, biologist Richard Dawkins, said that we should “be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” For Dawkins, you can’t be smart and also believe. But the scientist generally considered the greatest who ever lived had a different take on the relationship between intelligence and belief. He wrote, “He who thinks half-heartedly will not believe in God; but he who really thinks has to believe in God.” His name was Isaac Newton.
When I started writing this book, I had come to agree with Newton, and so I set out to convince my readers. But as I wrote, I realized that my belief in that indefinable something was not entire. It came and went, was sometimes intellectual and sometimes really lived. Writing the book was helping me live it.
Until my college graduation—when I began sailing into uncharted waters—I would have told you I didn’t believe in anything. The truth is I believed in plenty of things, including atheism. My point is something I’ve come to see since then. To be human is to believe. Whether we call it religious, scientific, or philosophical, belief is the way we make our way through life. Kids make believe. Adults make belief.
And belief makes reality.
Before college graduation, I did have a faith—a group of beliefs that I used to frame existence. These beliefs—about who I was, what I could do, what I should do, who I should talk to, what books I should read, and so on—created a bubble. But I didn’t see it as a bubble. Its edges were smooth. The bubble seemed to be scientifically, cosmically, absolutely “the way it is.”
The process of discovering I could step through the bubble was gradual. A walking pace suits me. (When people ask me my religion, I sometimes say I’m a Pedestrian.) It’s also been magical. As I make my way on foot, dropping one tired idea after another, walls crumble before me, new worlds open. This book is about that journey.
It’s been an eclectic one. I don’t like leaving things out—my parents, Jesus, quantum physics, the church, politics, Picasso, Plato, Keith Richards, bad breath, history, jokes, orgasms, Jung, UFOs, William Blake, the nightly news, how I write poems and why I get pissed off at the pygmy goats I keep in my yard. I tried to cook everything into these pages.
I don’t know what to call the resulting dish. Not exactly biography; not exactly philosophy, science, spirituality, or psychology either. I could call it, “Me Making Sense Out of Life—or at Least My Own Life.” But that’s not very catchy. And anyway, it doesn’t matter. I just hope you find it tasty enough to keep eating.
the cattails dance
in the wind
no mistakes just endless
together and separate, a thousand
best show anywhere
want to embrace them all
only leave when i have