This has been a difficult holiday season. Marlyn was in a real funk. She nagged about everything. “The world sucks.” “We’re all gonna die in 2017; idiot president elect thinks nukes are toys.” “My damn toilet won’t stop running, it’s a sign.” “Marvin do something productive for once, go jiggle the damn flush handle.” I said, Marlyn that’s it. I draw the line right here. I am a personal muse not a toilet jiggler.
Nothing I did or said was right. I’m usually a good listener but the whining exceeded my capacity. So, I did what every understanding friend should do, I hid. It wasn’t too difficult. Marlyn had this enormous pile of miscellaneous papers and letters on her desk. I figured in her present mood she wouldn’t likely touch the Pile. So, one evening I slipped down under the bottom layer and chilled. It was a bit disorienting listening to her ranting without seeing her.
Four glorious days I spent there. I practically memorized the entire mammogram refusal notification letter that had kicked off Marlyn’s foul mood. The last day she was totally freaked that she couldn’t find me. “Damn it, Marvin. Where the hell are you?” She apologized a grand total of 73 times. Yep… I did count them. I figured I could store them for future reference. She found me when the
insurance company finally returned her call requiring that she retrieve the notification letter from within the Pile. When she saw me, she threw down the phone and smothered me with kisses. Until that moment, I had never realized how much I meant to her. Gratifying.
I don’t believe in random. I think the word ‘random’ only exists as an antonym to ‘order.’ Tightly bound, limited by time and space, our interactions in this existence are completely causal, cause and effect. Thoughts or actions that appear random or that we label as random can actually be mapped definitively to specific causes. When I examine nature, I find only order and have yet to find a verifiable example of random. We label things as random when we don’t understand them or the motivations that led to them. When you step back and view all data, a clear, ordered relationship reveals itself. What you assumed was random, actually is explainable and the result of specific ordered, reasonable interactions.
All modern scientific endeavors, psychology, biology, earth sciences, or mathematical fields of study, depend upon and build from an irrefutable, lasting, prevailing order. Who made the physical laws? We have observed them, defined them, and used them; but who put the laws in place? Laws or rules imply order. Humans, animals, and plants obey specific stages of growth. In the womb or after birth, we have mapped and studied the development of each form of life. Based on these observed stages, we can project and predict.
Just reference the amazing order at the base of our human physiology, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Nearly everyone is aware of DNA. Thanks to modern TV crime shows and the news, we know it can make or break a case against a suspected murderer. We struggled to learn about DNA in high school Biology and if we went further in-depth into fields of medicine, we memorized the intricate chemical interactions of DNA in college Biology and Anatomy courses. I’m sure everyone has an inkling of what DNA actually is; this incredible strand of genetic code carries detailed instructions used to map out the development of our bodily systems and organs, our physical growth, and the functioning and reproduction of all known living organisms on the planet. DNA “contains the entire set of information essential for the survival of an organism.” (1)
The basic structure of DNA includes a phosphate group, a five-carbon sugar and one of four nucleobases. The sequence of these four nucleobases (A, T, G, C) follow complementary base pairing rules, A aligns with T and C aligns with G, always. And the order by which these bases occur within the DNA sequence, literally “writes the code” for who you are. (2) Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, contains the entire set of information essential for the survival of an organism. And there are more than 3 billion of these ordered bases in one strand of DNA. (2) Can you even fathom the order required? But, don’t stop at DNA, simply reflect over the multitude of systems that maintain life on this Earth. Beyond internal body systems, look at the water cycle, weather patterns, seasons and their impact on agriculture and food production. The order, the patterns are everywhere.
There are some scientists who insist that this incredible multiverse in which our tiny, inconsequential planet sits suspended, came to form ‘randomly.’ The arrogance of that supposition confounds me. The deeper I delve into science, the more convinced I am that order can never form ‘randomly.’
Try this simple activity that visually drives home the impossibility of a random formation of order.
Take ten pieces of paper and label them 1 through 10. Place them in a small bowl.
Without looking reach in and attempt to withdraw the number 1. After each attempt, replace the number you withdrew into the bowl.
You could try this a number of times but the chances of getting a 1 in your first attempt is 1 out of 10. So, suppose you are lucky and you withdraw a 1, now what are the chances that you will, directly after the 1, withdraw a 2? The chances are 1 out of 90 attempts. Carry that pattern forward, what are the chances that you will withdraw from the bowl all 10 number cards in order 1-10? The chances are 1 out of 3,628,800 attempts if I place each successively selected number outside the bowl. Now imagine pulling out 1-10 in order without a mistake. In reality, I could perform this activity to infinity and likely never be able to pull out the cards in perfect numerical order.
How is it possible that this amazing, specifically ordered multiverse occurred randomly? I dare you to use your intellect!
As I move through my life, I realize how very much my father meant to me. There was a long period, when he was still here on this Earth with us, that I ignored his value. I spoke few words, wrote few letters, and called few times. I wasted so many opportunities to be near him. I will regret that loss forever and the regret grows as I age. I moved off to college, life, bills, marriage, and, basically, disconnected from him and his world. And now that I am at an age to appreciate and honor him, he is gone. I never really told him how valuable he was to me. I hope he knew.
I suppose I resented him at first. I blamed him for our family falling apart. I don’t remember all the details of my childhood, but I remember the feelings, the crying, the frustration, the fear when voices were raised in the house, echoing from the living room. He had high expectations. He wanted us to succeed. He wanted results.
“I’ll give you $5 dollars for every ‘A’ on your report card.”
But hypocrisy was there. You know the typical, parental double standard, “Do as I say, but not as I do.” You see, my dad wasn’t perfect and for that he could not expect perfection of us. His weakness was alcohol. How could I respect what he said when he was drunk? How could I control myself, when he couldn’t control himself? I begged him to stop drinking. He did not heed my request. How could his words or his requests mean anything to me? He was an alcoholic. In my young world, I could only see that he chose alcohol over me.
Now I understand. Alcohol and drugs twist the spirit, dampen it, disconnect it from the conscious mind. That’s how users feel relief, they separate themselves from awareness of self. He didn’t love me any less, actually the problem was that he loved himself less. So, I didn’t really know my dad till he was sober and by then most of my siblings had moved on in their lives. I was the youngest. I was ten years old when my dad went through treatment. No, I don’t remember all the moments, they blur together. But I do remember, in spite of everything, his love.
Some of my best qualities actually lead back to him. I am hard working, an over achiever, always struggling to be my best or to better my best. I admire how he pulled himself up from those depths. I learned from his warm and open heart to be warm and open to all. I look at his photo and wish I could touch his hair or lay my head upon his shoulder. Actually, he was so tall that my head fit just beneath the hollow of his rib cage and he would press me there so tightly that I could not breath. But I didn’t want the hug to stop. I preferred to be momentarily breathless to still feel his strong arms around me. A father’s embrace whispers, “you are dear to me, you are so special, you are my heart…”
Now I see my own mistakes and pray that my children take the best of what I have offered and forgive me for my shortcomings. No one is perfect, but that shouldn’t stop us from striving to be. I wish I could have told my father that and thanked him for all the good of me that I see came from him.
Have you ever felt like there are so many things you need to do and they all pull on you in different directions? When I think about one task, another pops up in my mind. I feel like I can’t keep up. I’m on this obstacle course of decisions heading to a destination that I have not yet defined. So I just push the gas pedal and start. I have to do something, right?
I envy the people who have fixed goals. They know what they want and take specific steps to get there. Even if they are sidetracked, their goals are still there. They recalibrate and move forward again. My goals are malleable. They shift and readjust as I move along. Which is perhaps why I never seem to attain them. I’m moving, I’m developing, I’m making progress but the direction is not in my control.
Making lists helps. I list concrete tasks and mark them off as I complete them. Then, I have this false sense of accomplishment. And later when I lay on my bed waiting for sleep to envelop me, I ponder the day’s accomplishments and realize that I am really not any closer to achieving any major goals.
When I was young I used to love Lucky Charms. Do you remember that cereal? There were toasted oat pieces that were rather bland and tiny multicolored marshmallow bits. I would spend fifteen minutes pulling every marshmallow bit out of my bowl. I piled the bits on a napkin. Then, I would pour milk over the toasted oat pieces and eat them all. I rewarded myself for finishing the plain tasting oat pieces, by eating all the sweet bits at once; like having a delicious, well-deserved dessert after an ordinary meal.
It was a strange habit. It didn’t stop there. I also had a method for eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would first make myself eat all the crust around the edges and my reward was the soft, sweet middle portion. I did the same with my cinnamon toast. Now that I think about it, I was rather OCD. But that strategy, that habit of earning my reward has stayed with me in every aspect of my work. I can refrain from dessert for long periods of time on the premise that I don’t deserve it, yet. In this way, I can trick myself into accepting mediocrity under the rationale that I don’t deserve success.
In many ways this approach has served me well. It has motivated me to continue to function even without reward. One time my older sister noticed that I would separate out all the bits. In typical parasite fashion, she would eat her full bowl of Lucky Charms and enjoy sweet bits in every bite. Then, she would distract me and steal my napkin of bits. Before I could complain to my mother, she would eat them all. It so disappointed me that people like that could exist in the world, people ready to steal your hard earned labor and not blink an eye about it.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Melvin Marvin. I work as a personal muse and trustworthy companion for Marlyn Mohs. I take personal affront, I’ll have you know, that the word Muse is defined as ‘a woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.’ That’s bunk. Who determines that a source of inspiration must be a female? Marlyn is a writer, an aspiring author, to be exact and I am a perfectly adequate muse. I enjoy my work. The hours are long and irregular, but it’s a living. I get to travel, which is a definite plus. She brings me where ever she goes. I have some difficulty answering the phone. Consequently, I keep permanent residence in her purse.
I enjoy reading, when I’m not working. I also enjoy coffee, sunny skies, and bananas. Is that relevant? Marlyn depends on me. She says I’m a good listener. Not that I have much choice. It is disturbing that she asks a question and then answers the question. Oddly, her response is just what I was thinking. We are connected that way. Special.
It’s time for our morning coffee. Marlyn needs some help with Book Two of the Journeymen series. I don’t get it. Why can’t I have my own cup?
Children today are tech-savvy. At face value, this may be a good thing. “Oh, my Johnny plays the most sophisticated games on the computer. He has 1,000 Facebook friends.” However, Johnny, although adept at downloading games and navigating Vine or Instagram, is nothing more than a ‘user’. He can use programs that have been designed to be ‘easy to use’. Cushioned by his vast list of ‘friends’, confident in his prowess to rack up money in Grand Theft Auto or create Lego-style structures in the worlds of Minecraft; he has become an inactive observer, a follower.
The reality is that our children are sitting prone, exercising their thumbs. Modern technology is fun; it’s useful; it’s clever — there’s no doubt. I’m not dissing it. But, for children to step beyond ‘user’ and enter the realm of ‘creator,’ a vibrant and expansive imagination is required. They need to imagine the possibilities to make the reality. Build their imagination. Encourage them to read. Readers construct worlds in their minds based on words. Readers turn a good book into a movie in their brains. They are not fed entire images. Their minds learn to fill in the gaps; seamless worlds, seemingly formed from a thread of black ink on white.
Considering the present rate of consumption and the overall health of our planet, our children may very well need to build the world new. They need to be science wizards. We must give them the tools to succeed. If we expect them to be innovators of the future, we must cultivate their imagination today.
I felt like having a snack and something profound occurred. I took a handful of pretzels of uniform size and length and tossed them into a half-sheet of paper towel. At this point the pretzels pretty much fell where ever they fit, a few even threatened to escape. This wasn’t the profound thing I mentioned above. Actually, I am beginning to think that I should not have characterized this entire event as ‘profound.’ By so doing, I have lifted your expectation to a height that I may well fail to approach.
The profound thought struck me when I attempted to pick up my paper towel full of pretzels. I didn’t want to drop any. And so, to ensure that they all remained on my paper towel, I picked up the four edges and proceeded to my seat. When I set the pretzels down on the table, the paper towel folded back flat to reveal that all the pretzels had aligned themselves in an orderly fashion. What had been chaotic and disjointed previously, now lay uniform, facing a common direction. I stared at my pretzels for a long time. They had conformed. I couldn’t decide if they were more beautiful now in their unity or more beautiful before in their wild abandon. I pondered the affect of that sheet of paper towel. Once encased, previously unruly individuals had been pressured into complacency.
For a moment I glimpsed the paper towel as our environment and the hapless pretzels as human beings. What power our environment has over us. It nips at our heels, herding us into place. A steady, subtle, coercion infiltrating our minds and hearts, twisting us to fit in.
But then again, it’s only a handful of pretzels in a paper towel.
Today in my son’s science class the topic was weather. This sentence about the effect of an urban landscape on wind patterns struck me as quite beautiful. The sentence was, “The various broken streams (of wind interrupted by the tall buildings) can combine and reinforce each other to become faster than the original wind. The phenomenon is called Resonance.” Resonance suddenly felt powerful. The definition implied an unbroken stream of wind prior to impact. The notion that a unified force when broken by jutting structures, rather than faltering or dissipating, would gain momentum and strength, filled me with hope. A confrontation need not break me. Obstacles need not weaken me. Via Resonance, these obstructions can serve to strengthen my resolve and momentum.
It occurred to me that Resonance could apply to any force of change. If enough people work in a common direction, although occasionally interrupted by blocking structures, the streams of activity could combine and reinforce to become faster and more productive than they originally were. Could we make this the Era of Resonance? I feel Humanity struggling, gasping for air, begging for support. We sit on one side of a viewing screen interpreting life through multiple, biased lenses. We need to step out of our self-fabricated, comfort zones and recognize that beneath the layers of color, nationality, religion, and language, we are all human beings after all.
Today has been hard. I want to explain why I choose to label today as hard, but it is far more complicated than that. It hasn’t been hard for me, so much. But it has been hard for her. Some days she wakes with a semblance of energy and tends to her small chores. She feeds her dog. She puts birdseed on the porch for the pigeons and sparrows. She checks her sugar and writes the number on a calendar on the wall in the bathroom.
I have left chores for her, so she can feel her value. Although, I don’t measure her value by what she does, she does measure herself that way. She often frets that she is not helping me. Not putting the laundry in the machine or washing the dishes. Such menial tasks. What she does do for me she cannot even see. And I couldn’t explain it to her without drowning in guilt and shame.
I tell her, “You are my mom. I love you. You may not remember all that you have done for me, but I do.” I can never repay what she has given me. Yet, when I think of my own children, I also believe that they owe me nothing. Isn’t that odd? That I, too, feel unworthy. I don’t deserve for my children to put their lives on pause for me, to escort me out of this reality. So…I can understand.
I think the happiest moments of my life were when I held you in my womb. I felt magical and special. Things were tight. We didn’t even have our own space, our own home. Those external worries couldn’t touch me. I would lay with my hand caressing your temporary home and feel a deep peace. I was chosen. I felt insulated as though I were walking in a bubble looking out at everyone else. I carried a secret, a small life.
Inside me, you grew and I could feel its pull on me. My appetite changed. Fatigue tugged at me sooner and longer than expected. When I would sleep, I would place my hand gently on my forming mound and love you from a depth I didn’t know even existed within me. I read books. What to Expect When You Are Expecting was a favorite. I wanted to be informed. I wanted to be the best I could be for you. I didn’t want to make any mistakes. Already you were perfect and I didn’t want any of my actions to mar that.
Two minute cells joined, formed a blastocyst, then an embryo. How magical is that? The entire order of events have been detailed and confirmed scientifically. Each stage, each development in sequence. Intricate, detailed, and unfathomably precise. When I think about it…really think about it, I feel awe. There you were, transforming and developing in my womb. A little life that would one day grow perhaps taller than myself. I was once that little life for my mother, too. How did she feel? Did she have any idea how amazing this really is? In her lucid moments, when she smiles at me and hugs me warmly to her shriveled form, I know she does.