Life.

It’s our destiny–and Earth’s, really–for us to fork, speciate, and become all kinds of new and interesting things in an extra-solar way.

Alright, let me back up. Sure, I’m being over-optimistic about this. Let me ask, though–is there a point not to? I certainly don’t want to be on the other team.

I’m sick of this idea that life–or that the idea of life–would be better off if humanity destroyed itself (or had never developed). I’ve little time to waste on those who despise their own human experience so very much that they should wish human experience silenced entirely.

Self-identifying as a virus or a pest as a means of subjugating your species’ environmental guilt is a cop out, and further–it’s an ironic slur on viruses, rodents, insects, and any other life you’ve identified with our own species’ perceived evils. Calling ourselves “pests” is the same, oddly enough, as declaring our behavior consistent–rather than deviant–with all other life whose ancestry has afforded them the opportunity.

We must become creatures that recognize our link in the chain. And while we’re another step, we’re not simply another step. We’re damn close to coming to a strange turning point–a step where we can, to a degree, pick our own next step.

But we have to remember: the link belongs to us only insomuch as we occupy it.

In that it will connect every link preceding us with every link following us–continuing the chain of life and building upon that which time, our ancestors, our parents and sheer opportunity have given us–the link does not belong to us alone.

It belongs to Earth–to our Solar System. To the bath of particles and showers of radiation that spawned the stage. We don’t owe it to our species to advance and learn and propagate; that’s too narrow. Until we know that there’s something out there–something else undergoing the same geologic trials of life that accelerate, over eons, to split-second motions and decisions–we owe it to…

…well, to the known universe–to keep the ball rolling to the best of our ability.

Yes, we are cruel. So are many of the beasts 130 million years our cousins. Yes, we’re hyper-reactive. Through fear we can be reduced to thoughtless reaction, and we contain the capacity for the same ruthless efficiency common to our even more ancient cousins.

We’re not perfect. Certainly far from it. There are a lot of bound up tendencies that aren’t worth what they once were to our struggle–but we must be patient with ourselves. It’s not easy to reprogram 600 million years of “fight, poison, run scared or die” in a couple hundred generations.

We are young. We will grow, but it will take time. We may suffer greater tragedies than we’ve known since the darkest days of our fire-keeping history, but we have lived through them before, going on to create art, music, language, and science–a means of understanding ourselves and how we fit in as a piece of this universe.

We’re still dumb. We’re still beasts. We’re still wired for growling and snarling and mercilessness–but that should not condemn us to self-destruction when it’s weighed against what we’ve come to understand.

We aren’t just serving ourselves. We’re serving life, and the universe’s understanding of itself. Yes, we’ve made many mistakes through ignorance of our relationship to our surroundings. But, again–patience and improvement. Disaster and recovery. We will learn. On the timescale of life, our sense of stewardship and our realization of our crucial link to our environment was no more than a thought that occurred a quantum moment ago.

These crazy, violent, horny, somewhat-to-mostly hairless mammals, these information-chaining primate freaks…they have a chance to become something else entirely–to leave the crawling, just-warm-and-cool-enough shifting surface of this simmering ball of liquid metal and rock and realize a level of understanding beyond that which we could ever afford in the safety of our planetary womb.

We beasts from some minor armpit-hair spire on a medium-sized spiral galaxy…some trans-supercluster pitstop far from the outskirts of Virgo proper: a few thousand years from now, we could be lighting the local cluster with an extra-stellar hue that would speak to ancient satellite photos of the tiny swirling marble we were born on.

We have to take care not to fuck it up now. The coming days will grow ever more important, and there are great dangers ahead as there were in the past, as there are even today.

Should we wish to destroy each other more than we should wish to inherit the stars, for instance–our accelerating technologies may yet grant that wish.

We must take care, we must press
on, and some of us–at the very least–must maintain optimism. It’s the fire-keepers and storytellers that keep us warm on the human tribe’s coldest and darkest nights.

But we cannot declare ourselves unworthy of life, unworthy of transcendence, or unworthy of the stars. In doing so, we declare over a billion years of Earth’s great unfolding biogenesis unworthy as well.

Take pride that you are alive. Take pride in your humanity. Live in mind of what you’ve inherited, and what you can leave behind for the next link in the chain.

The past and the future are depending on us.

“You have the life I wanted,” he says.

As a kid I had this idea of success in measurements of fame and wealth, which are understandable measurements–even for an adult. I had no shortage of plans for my adult-self, which included being an author, making movies, being a microbiologist, being an architect, playing music, and being a theoretical physicist.

There was also no shortage of faith that I would become whatever I had in mind. Though I was raised poor–though I spent a few formative years on welfare–there was no despair, no expectation that the success I was planning for myself would not come.

Then came the end of my Junior year in high school. After applying to about a dozen colleges, I was either rejected or wait-listed from each and every one. Continue reading ““You have the life I wanted,” he says.”

Who Speaks for This Man?

Every time I attempt to define myself, it’s a war of weird conflicting ideologies and expectations. Magic rituals share space with chemical systems. Literary creations speak in their own voices, chiding and praising the actions of their creator as he wanders through life. I bark like an old man about the glorious Halcyon days of which I was never a part, and in the same breath I cry injustice like a rabid youth demanding revolution.

These are soldiers of mental contradiction, my internal voices—balanced insomuch as our certainty is never guaranteed against our own numbers. I, the functional engineer, the singular entity defined however inaccurately by corpus as “Joe Callan�, represents my true self only as much as a nation’s president reflects his citizens.

Continue reading “Who Speaks for This Man?”

“This Horrid Moment”

The tongue is razor-sharp and acidic when discussing the present. Odd though it may seem, this same creature somehow simplifies the flaws of the past into pristine nostalgic dream scape while filling the future with endless sparkling wonder.

How is it, then, that we long for both the innocence of before and the progress of after–particularly when we have no means of critically assessing how our perfect past has become this horrid moment, or how this horrid moment will become our harmonic future?

The answer is hidden within “this horrid moment”, the point of temporal flux at which we stand throughout our lives. This horrid moment is ours to shape–to meet either the world of our dreams or the world of our nightmares. It is this horrid moment, and ONLY this horrid moment through which the spark of will can manifest its designs in the greater world.

No moment of time so dramatically departs from the materially static record of the past and the unknown and unknowable shape of the future as does this horrid moment. It is the *only* moment any human shall ever have, and our fatal flaw is in our monumental failure to realize that this horrid moment is recurring. It is infinitely renewing.

This horrid moment is both your home and your mind. It is your position and your role, as you perceive them, in the greater world.

This horrid moment is the sole moment in which happiness matters…it is indeed the ONLY moment in which true happiness can be directly experienced.

Oh, shit–sorry. I meant to say: “There’s no time like the present!”

America: teen angst or mid-life crisis?

The American people, as a whole, are less mature–financially and politically–with every coming generation. And like spoiled children, we ask for more and more. Additional troops in Afghanistan aren’t, in the endgame, solely Obama’s fault–nor solely his decision. Our short-sighted and impossible expectations, from the left and from the right, are what have made stewardship of this country impossible.

We won’t leave Afghanistan because it makes us appear weak–yet back home, we haven’t been weaker on the world forum nor deeper in debt than we are now. We want the government to pay for our healthcare and we want everything included, no matter how inefficient it makes the spending, and yet we don’t want increased public responsibility through taxes. We claim to want civil liberties and equal rights, yet on both sides of the polar political reaches, we BEG government to WRITE legislation and clear definitions regarding marriage.

I can’t figure it out.

Are we a temperamental teenager in the world of aging nations? Will our sovereign lenders take away the car keys and lock out the ATM card for our apparently infinite trust fund? Is there a chance that during one of our spastic tempers, our slightly older and hipper European Allies will unfriend us?

Or are we a nation in mid-life crisis, caught in a world where almost every major player has been reborn in the last century…except us? Are we digging into debt, buying and building to prove we’re still young and cool? Are we behaving erratically, throwing caution to the wind even under the pressure of our heavy investments?

Don’t either of these options seem rather likely?

Twitter 180

Twitter is significant because of its ability to measure its users’ impulses as individuals and groups. It’s a type of EEG for the evolving meta-mind comprised by the information with which we feed our technology.

We’re growing the meta-mind. We’re feeding it our thoughts, and it feeds us in return. Because of the internet, at no time in our species’ history have we had more choices to make in our diet of information than the ones we have right now.

Like physical nutrition, our mental nutrition serves us best when it is well-balanced. We need plenty of fibrous facts, soluble and insoluble. We need the bread and seeds of ideas. We need the fruit of the arts; we need the roots, tubers, and vines of communication. It’s even good for us to sensibly indulge in the rich fats and sweets of fantasy.

The internet offers an exponentially larger information buffet than 5,000 24-hour channels of television. As we feed ourselves on this information buffet, so too do we feed each other. You influence your friends as they influence you.

A statement made three connections away is now entering your senses. Now your mind reacts as you decide on a response to the statement. It’s a matter of seconds before your observation becomes the catalyst for another’s reaction.

But yeah, I’m just rambling. The point is that Twitter is like a brain pulse for the meta-mind. Everything you’re seeing now will be more common–more integrated, more interrelated. What will it mean for individuality once we all have direct access to the sum total of human knowledge? What will it mean when we get to the point at which our senses no longer need to physically experience information in order to perceive it?

But yeah, rambling again. I’m trying to say that the greatest processing engine we can create will consist of cooperative thought, and Twitter–at its best–is as close as we’ve gotten so far.

BTW, Google, if you’d like to prove me wrong, LET ME PLAY WITH WAVE AND I WILL DECIDE FOR MYSELF.

My Favorite Scientists (Physical Sciences, Part One: Contemporary)

There are so many amazing minds in our history that I absolutely love reading about. I find it really fun to start at their Wikipedia entries and go from there, finding primary source material from the people themselves. As the title relates, these people aren’t named for their exclusive importance, but because these minds and their labors are the reasons for my appreciation of and interaction with the sciences.

Contemporary:
These two are important to me in the manner of which they’ve brought the hard sciences and the scientific method to the minds of science-curious laymen (yours truly). I stopped math somewhere in the middle of Calculus II. I didn’t have any astounding patience for antiderivatives, and so ended my path to astro- or quantum physicist. Still, this halt to my formal education didn’t stop me from discovering the wonders of string theory, the search for our Universe’s GUT, or the new ground we break everyday at places like Fermilab and CERN. The next two men put those wonders in the reach of millions of armchair physicists, and even those of us that couldn’t even get to Diff. Eq. in college.

Carl Sagan

Watching Ted Turner’s interview with Doctor Sagan and Sagan’s series COSMOS accelerated my curiosity at a young age. One of mom’s friends had let us borrow the series, and I ate every VHS tape up. It was incredible. It set the stage for my reading of Sagan’s works a few short years later, but of every contribution that he made to the world of science, it’s my sincere hope that The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark will endure among his other works. (I’d add “become required reading for every science student in the country,” if I didn’t believe Sagan would think the sentiment too heavy-handed.) His principal discussions–the importance of science, the scientific method, and most of all, of marrying skepticism and wonder as we seek the mysteries of the universe–reflect the core of my scientific passions. His writing style brings an elegance and a softness to what many humans perceive as world of controlled experiments and hard data. Sagan passed in 1996, and though his insights are greatly missed, he has left us with an incredible knowledge of our solar system, the wonder of science, and an extensive collection of his thoughts and hopes for humanity.

Stephen Hawking

The stuff the world was made of was interesting to me. I was a sophomore in high school, looking behind me at a shelf of books about the laws of physics, and I picked up a book called Elementary Particles. Imagine my surprise upon finding a book (from thirty years ago) that explained the universe wasn’t as simple as the protons, neutrons, and electrons everyone had let on about. My science teacher for the 6th-8th grades, Mrs. Hezel, had hinted at quarks and recited their names (now that I look back, probably in 1995 upon CDF and D-Zero’s confirmation of the top quark), but until I found that book I had forgotten hearing about it. How quarks related to nuclei,  how they could be put together in different combinations to create exotic particles,  and how they couldn’t ever seem to stand alone were mysteries that I’d discover later thanks to Doctor Hawking. Most everyone has heard of A Brief History of Time, but Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays is just as relevant.

Next Segment – Physical Sciences, Part Two: 20th Century
Richard Feynman
Buckminster Fuller

What I Communicate

It was existential dread passing through me this morning. I looked at my twitter account, at the myriad posts on my blog, at my criticisms, my attempts at humor, my ignorant rants, my populist attitudes and libertarian platitudes, and I realize that most of these things are actually at odds with each other.

This wild combination actually makes sense because, as ever, I am at odds with myself.

When I was a teenager, it used to be a simplistic battle between what I percieved as logic v. emotion. This, of course, is a sophomoric way to look at the self–there is no such response that is purely logical any more than there is any action that is undertaken via the isolation of one motive or drive.

Maybe that’s wrong too. I need more coffee.

(a few moments later)

I think what scares me the most is the possibility that my attitude toward the world hasn’t changed much in ten years, only the language in which I describe it. Having a bigger vocabulary doesn’t change any of the infantile behaviors within–it just makes my descriptions of those behaviors more eloquent.

The woman I love often tells me that I’m too hard on myself, and I probably am. It’s just that fear…if I’m not changing, aren’t I doomed to become a middle-aged shadow of the same circling thought-vulture I percieve myself to be?

My negativity about the world has hints, however hidden, about the ultimate good of mankind. I can find humanity incredibly beautiful even through the lens of the tribal hatred that still consumes us. I can find another person’s religious faith enamoring despite my personal aversion to organized religion. I can find the entertainment value in a television program that showcases human stupidity even as I assail the cathode tube (yep, still no flatscreen) and the network that delivers it.

I’m either the epitome of the ignorant hypocrite I shout “foul” against, or I’m a brilliant satirist of my own personal flaws juxtaposed against the expectations I have of our human family.

And shit, maybe that’s it. Maybe my fluidity of opinion and direct contradiction in action and word of my claimed ideals is what I’m communicating. Maybe that’s my essence.

Maybe the unknown me is poking the known me, trying to get me to admit that I don’t know shit and that what I believe to be hard and fast truths flow and change shape like water rolling down a hill.

But if I agree with that, I come to another place in my head. “What am I doing?”

I don’t know. I don’t have any proper answers to that. Where I belong, what I’m doing, where I’m going…I don’t know. I’ve never known.

I would be a liar if I said my lack of a clear direction produced raw joy or raw despair. It produces both and neither. I’d also be a liar, however, if I said I never think about the decisions I’ve made in the past in terms of how they’ve delivered me to the present–whether skipping down the path, floating on the feeling that the universe is on my side, or slumped over and clawing at the ground, trying with all my might to freeze myself into place and stop the world from changing me. Neither of these perceptions lasts long enough to say that I live a majority of my life in either one.

So maybe I don’t communicate anything but that a joyful person can be angry, or that an enraged person can be tolerant. Maybe I’m the poster child for human fluidity, even though a simple glance at a comment or an essay can easily depict me as a fundamentalist or a radical.

I’m neither. I’m both. I’m playfully silly and dead serious. I’m pouring out everything here, and I’m really saying nothing at all. I’m saying that I’m nothing like you, but that we’re both more alike than either of us ever admit.

A pile of synapses. Stimulus-response. One of billions, no smarter, no more holy, aware, or important than any of my brothers and sisters.

A human, without a doubt.

A Decade of Slowly Opening Eyes

I smoke a clove cigarette I don’t need as I watch traffic pass by. My arm slinks gently outside the window to keep most of the trailing smoke from blowing in. The summer has broken. The air outside is moist and cool. I had been sitting on the back porch when I lit my clove–but it was too dark.

It reminded me too much of the quiet in the country where I grew up. Don’t take me wrong: there’s nothing bad about the quiet. There’s nothing unsettling about having the crickets and owls as your company. I’ve seen it from inside my cozy shelter many times before; it’s something I know so completely that I can stand to return to it once in a while in a fit of nostalgia…but it’s not my nature. Peace is my retreat. Joy is my core, and with joy comes passion and curiosity and noise and bright lights and energy.

So I prefer the traffic. The voices of strangers going by on the street. The shout of a kid out too late. Trucks speeding by in the night to make up for lost time while they break away from the dense urban thicket of the East Coast. Yes. But this is just an echo.

How long ago did I sit on the hot cement of Lankershim Boulevard, barely brave enough to pull my guitar from its case? How long ago did I stand on the shore of the Pacific for the first time, promising I would come back when the time was right?

How long ago was it that I threw open my 11th story windows at the Westin Copely Place Hotel in Boston? How long ago did I know I wanted to be submerged in civilization, that I loved being around so much life, so much vitality, a steady pulse running through avenues and alleys even in those last hours before dawn?

How long ago did I marvel at seeing Grand Central Terminal after arriving from a Tarrytown train that took me into the heart of modern western culture? How long ago was it that I walked out of that humbling nerve center-palace of transportation and felt FUCKING transformed?

I was 18 when I realized I would have to grow much stronger before Los Angeles would become my home. I was 14 when I breathed in Boston and said I’d live there sometime, if only for a short while. I was 12 when I knew that I’d end up in New York again and again.

New York is rooted in me already. It wasn’t until my move to Milford that I actually started to have faith in my path. It wasn’t until the summer of three years ago that I really began to understand that as the voids and unknowns got bigger and scarier, the rewards in experience and self-discovery become exponentially rewarding.

“Hang on, baby,” says Lady Fate. “You ain’t seen nothin.”

My more ludicrous decisions and frightening times have always favored me with extraordinary results:

  • I couldn’t hack LA at 18, but I drove 7000 miles and saw the country in two cross-sections running east to west and back again.
  • I ran to Missouri to get away from the town I grew up in, and at the end of those months in the Midwest I knew that the only way to escape Canandaigua was to outgrow it. I ended up returning and getting a job at the Canandaigua Wine Company.
  • In my off time I wrote until my firgertips perspired ink. By the blessing of Lady Fate, I was noticed and offered a job I wasn’t qualified for. In a matter of months I found myself at a desk, fixing typos and proofreading copy. In another few months, minus the editor-in-chief, I was the editorial department.
  • When my time at Milford Magazine drew to a close, Lady Fate extended her hand again when an old friend annouced he was looking for a roommate in Myrtle Beach. I took the offer impulsively, and it just so happened that the winter and spring that followed on that South Carolina coastline was an artist’s feast.

Let the lights blind you. Let the sound echo into you and vibrate through you. Flow with the waves of the ocean and dance with the fucking wind. Love, love, love as much as you possibly can. People, places, days, nights, memories, thoughts, experiences…love all of it.