An uplifting news item, poem, thought or quotation each day.
Archive of past entries

16 October 2005


Ø So long as we are continually working to secure a future in which we can be happy, we never enter the moment in which to reap the fruits of our efforts.

Ø We are happiest when we feel fulfilled, as when engaged in a project that we know (or imagine) to be worthwhile – for example, securing a future for ourselves and those we love.

~ Josh Mitteldorf

15 October 2005

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche, born this day in 1844

14 October 2005

The inflationary theory for the Big Bang has taken hold in recent years, and is now well-enshrined as mainstream cosmology. This theory explains both the uniformity of the universe (on the largest scale) and also the reason why there are galaxies and stars on a smaller scale.

The theory goes like this: In the first microsecond, the universe was an enormously hot gas of particles (plasma). Then a strange thing happened (to say the least). The kind of physics that governed the universe was changing as the temperature rapidly cooled, and we got to a temperature where gravity became briefly repulsive, and blew the universe up so that the entire visible universe (billions of light years) grew almost instantaneously from a region the size of a (present day) atom!

This is not a fairy tale – or at least, there are a lot of very smart people in the world who are taking it seriously.

That plasma before the BB may have been quite lumpy, but the lumps were bigger than a present-day atom. That’s why, so the story goes, we see the same kinds of galaxies and quasars when we look out as far as we can see (billions of light years) to the East, or billions of light years to the West.  They all grew from the same "atom".

But why are there galaxies and stars at all? The theory is that this atom-sized lump that became the universe wasn’t completely uniform because of quantum mechanics. QM makes everything lumpy, but only a tiny bit. Inflation made these smallest of all lumps into hotter and cooler spots in the universe, and the cooler regions didn’t expand so fast, so they ultimately settled out into galaxies and stars. The rest is history.

The bottom line is that physicists today are hoping to learn something about the quantum structure of space and time on the tiniest scale (10-33 cm, or a millionth of a billionth of a billionth the size of a present-day atom) by studying (statistically) the biggest structures in the sky - which are the hot and cold spots in the Cosmic Microwave Background.

   Article this week in the American Scientist

13 October 2005

I am a person who pursues virtue by means of discipline, constantly making schedules for myself, inventing rules and limits to bind myself. Some involve diet and exercise for physical fitness and mental health. Others are for things I wish to accomplish. I make commitments to myself to work on a project that I have been avoiding, and so I have reason to avoid it all the more.

And so I find particularly liberating the Jewish ritual of Kol Nidrei which begins Yom Kippur:

Release me from all vows made during the past year. Let all my promises and commitments be dissolved, may they be void and meaningless and have no further power over me from this moment forward.

What could the prophets of old have been thinking when they came up with this idea? Judaism seems to be all about The Law, and binding oneself to an intricate set of practices and disciplines. But then, on the holiest day of the year, we’re supposed to throw them all away?

I can only think of Kol Nidrei as a kind of Zen koan: Not by rules and disciplines do we arrive at enlightenment. Perhaps self discipline is a way to cultivate the soil, to cleanse ourselves so that we are open to joy and inspiration. But joy is a gift, and inspiration is a magic seed.

I am elevated and enobled by all that I hold sacred.  I am bound and enslaved by all that I hold sacred.

Rules are essential to life because it is the essence of life to break rules.

12 October 2005

"There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success."

- George Matthew Adams

11 October 2005

"Our goal is simple: we want our country to flourish. Our dilemma is simple: ...our people...cannot act.  Our response to tyranny of every sort... must be this: dismantle it.  Take it apart...

Our strategy is this: we believe if we can say what many already know in such a way as to incite courage, if the image or the word or the act breaches the indifference by which people survive, day to day, enough will protest that by their physical voices alone they will stir the hurricane."

"We reject the assertion, promoted today by success-mongering bull terriers in business, in government, in religion, that humans are goal-seeking animals.  We believe they are creatures in search of proportion in life, a pattern of grace.  It is balance and beauty we believe people want, not triumph."

from Resistance by Barry Lopez

10 October 2005

"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite."

~ Paul Dirac