23 April 2006

We were born in a state of grace, and all the seeking, all the personal growth and spiritual work that we do is directed toward finding our way back to that naïve vantage from which we once viewed the world.

We needed to acquire competence, but in learning to control and manipulate, we lost the power to regard the world as a wondrous miracle, our every perception a thing of profound beauty and infinite interest.

~ Josh Mitteldorf

22 April 2006

All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong and varied as the land.

And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.

The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.

No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke 
(Love poems to God, tr Anita Barrows and Jonna Macy
) e

21 April 2006

Rollo May, born this day in 1909, was a central figure in the movement for humanistic psychology. Freud made psychology a science by regarding his patients with clinical detachment; but May’s stance toward fellow humans was ever one of support and respect. His writings are inspirational because he reaches for the individual voice, yearning for expression within each of us. He liked to interpret common psychological maladies as conflicts between the society’s demand for collective conformity (so it can run smoothly) and the individual’s need for personal expression, the highest fulfillment of our beings. Always placing the individual first, he merged a radical social critique with a profoundly empathic view of humanity. His was a voice of wisdom.

“The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day by day. These decisions require courage.” 

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

“It requires greater courage to preserve inner freedom, to move on in one's inward journey into new realms, than to stand defiantly for outer freedom. It is often easier to play the martyr, as it is to be rash in battle.”

(Quotations from The Courage to Create)

20 April 2006

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet can not all conceal.

from By the Deep Sea by George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

19 April 2006

Astronomers think that the greatest cataclysmic events in our galaxy produce gravity waves, but they're very hard to "see" because gravity is such a weak force.   Gravity waves shake things up, like seismic waves only much, much less so.  How do you look for a gravity wave?  With a gravity wave telescope, of course.  

Here's how to make a gravity wave telescope: 

  • Dig a tunnel 2½ miles long.
  • Use a vacuum pump to pump all the air out of it.
  • Suspend two mirrors from fine wires at opposite ends of the tunnel, and shine a laser beam so it bounces back and forth between them.
  • Adjust the distance accurately to be an even number of wavelengths of light (a few millionths of an inch).  That way, the laser light folds back on itself and exactly cancels at a particular place where you have put a light detector. 
  • If something jiggles the mirrors, then the light beams will not quite cancel, and you'll see a flash of light at your detector, where there was no light before.

Now you've got a "laser-interferometric gravity-wave observatory", or LIGO.  

"The changes in distance LIGO must detect are on the order of one one-hundred-millionth the diameter of a hydrogen atom, or 10 to the negative 21st power. That is the equivalent of the width of human hair in the distance between Earth and the closest star beyond our sun.  The mirrors it uses are so flat, were any one blown up to the size of the entire United States, its minute wave-like imperfections would be less than an inch (centimeter) high.  And the instrument is so sensitive, it can be thrown off by the motions in the ground and subsequent changes in its density and thus gravity caused by the tug of a wind-blown trees roots."  (SPACE.com article)

How do you solve the problem of false signals?  You build two such apparati, one in Louisiana and one 2,000 miles away in Washington State.  If it's really a gravity wave, then the two should give coincident signals 1/100th of a second apart because 1/100th of a second is just how long it takes for gravity waves (or light, for that matter) to travel from Louisiana to Washington.  

And what can you hope to see with your gravity telescope?  Only the most violent event in the galaxy: the collision and merger of two black holes.  Here's a computer-simulated movie of the event, just released to the public by the Goddard Space Flight center in MD.

18 April 2006

Look to this day! For it is the very life of life. 
In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence: 
The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty; 
Today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness 
And every tomorrow a vision of hope. 

~ Attributed to Kalidasa
  (Sanskrit dramatist, 4th Century AD)

17 April 2006

A Song of Peace
    hymn by Lloyd Stone (1912- ) 
    set to music from Finlandia of Sibelius (1865-1957)
    last verse by JJM

This is my song O God of all the nations
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight too and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine
This is my song O God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine. 

When nations rage, and fears erupt coercive
The drumbeats sound, invoking pious cause
My neighbors rise, their stalwart hearts they offer
The gavels drop, suspending rights and laws
While others wield their swords with blind devotion
For peace I'll stand, my true and steadfast cause.

Listen