Posts Tagged ‘Covid’

2020 & The Tyranny of “Time”

December 31, 2020

It is December 31, 2020. The end of a horrible year.

Covid is raging.

My Father can’t remember anything past 15 minutes — he has multi-infarct dementia.

My little brother — my Best Man — is about to die — he is in the final stages of brain cancer.

I am crying.

Almost uncontrollably.

Yet, simultaneously, I am listening to my brother play. A captured moment in time off of his solo album, Heavy Breathing.

It reminds me of an exchange that I had with my other Father who now lives in the Clearwater area. One is my biological father, the other my step-father. I will not tell you which-is-which, as when it comes to my heart, that is an irrelevancy. He has had some battles of his own with his health, but is sound of mind. Here’s our recent exchange as his adopted hometown Rays made their run to the World Series:

I call it “Ratatouille” moments. There are times when we simply remember things, but there are other times when those memories become present, like when a bite of an elevated peasant’s dish took Anton Ego directly to the moment when his mother cured a little boy’s boo-boo with the flavors his favorite meal. Past and present intertwine. The two Doctors meet as their Tardises (Tardi?) overlap at the same moment, even though those moments are at two different places in linear time.

To nerd this up just a bit more, let’s talk science & philosophy. A recent article I read suggested that physicists have new evidence that the future is not the open question that we living in linear time intuit to be. Indeed, it seems that the counter-intuitive notion that the future is as fixed as the past seems more-and-more what the science is suggestion is the truth.

Of course, to a Star Trek nerd raised on Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, this rubs against the grain. But, as Professior Alison Fernandes of Trinity College Dublin sagely notes:

“Human minds aren’t geared to intuit what fundamental reality is like. Typically, it takes a lot of empirical work to figure out the way things are. It was very natural at one time to think of air as weightless, and of solid objects as filled with matter. But we’ve learnt that air is weighty, and that solid things are mostly empty space – even if we can also make good sense of why these things seemed otherwise. Given these lessons, it would be very surprising if we had direct insight into the fundamental nature of time.”

That lack of fundamental understanding shaped by what we feel is a major reason I am almost militantly agnostic. Much to I’m sure the aggravation of devout Atheists like Richard Dawkins (one of my 10 different Covid-reading books I’m in the middle of is his, The God Delusion), I do not think that we are even close to enough of an understanding of our universe to simply dismiss faith. That level of certainty seems to be on par with those on the opposite side who demand that their belief is somehow proveable.

On that side of the coin, I recently got into an exchange with my devoutly Jewish mother as we cried together over the impending end of my brother’s life. She finds comfort that which is Dan, “Everything that is not of the body,” as Sarek says of Spock after his demise at the hands of Khan, will go on; his soul traveling to heaven.

She chafed at the fact that I could not share that belief with her, as I have no idea if there is something beyond our bodies, or whether we have a definitive beginning, middle, and end. The Taoist philosophy that we are all part of one larger way, and simply shift in our form in that flow, certainly always held appeal to me. But air is not weightless, and solids are mostly empty space…

To my surprise, my mother decided to continue this conversation via email. Below is the exchange, including the link to the video my mother asked me to watch:

https://youtu.be/Oc3YpDG9hMg

Love to know what you think of this. Mom

******

Okay, so I watched this. Not sure you’ll like my reaction to it, though. I found the logic here to be so tortured as to be almost comical. Essentially, the notion is, “These events have historical proof, and the Bible says that G-d played a hand in it. Therefore if you believe the Bible, it’s incontrovertible proof s/he exists.” So essentially the only actual “proof” of G-d is in the Bible.

The argument that because the Jews have survived so much it’s obviously proof of the Hebrew G-d is similarly silly and ethnocentric. There are MANY ethnic minorities and cultures around the world who have faced similar threats and survived. Large empires attempting to stamp out ethnic differences or assimilate them is a historical standard. Armenians, B‘’hai, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and countless others could tell similar stories. I’m not saying the Jewish story isn’t impressive—it absolutely is—it’s just not unique.

What this means to me personally is the very same that it did before I watched it. There is a real power to a “leap of faith” but it is just that. You are leaping beyond logic and proof and trusting in something that really cannot be proven. I understand the attraction and power of making that leap and will never bash anyone for having that (provided they do not attempt to foist their belief on anyone else—that’s where I draw a line). But, if anything, watching this made me even more agnostic because I feel it’s almost dishonest in twisting history and archeology to try and make a factual case for what is clearly a leap beyond logic (which is fine, but that’s what it is so I say just own up to it, IMHO).

So, there you go — your agnostic son’s view. Hope you don’t find this insulting but you asked my opinion, so there you go.

The fact that I love you and you love me is definitely something I have faith in!

Shmoolik

******

Thank you for taking the time to listen to Solovechick and to respond. Noone claims that we are the only people chosen to have a path that can help perfect this world. But you ignore or explain away all the “coincidences”. How amazingly the prophets have predicted what would happen, the Assyrians simply fading away with a plague just as they were about to sack Jerusalem. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree, I guess we will find out when these bodies give out. Yes I do love you very much, but not your choice in liquors. Mom

*****

I’m not ignoring prophecies. Frankly, given how many prophecies were wrong or so vague or metaphorical as to mean about anything, I find the fact that some of them happened to hit home doesn’t do much for me, personally. Here’s a good article that encapsulates how I feel about biblical prophecies:

https://whistlinginthewind.org/2014/01/15/were-the-biblical-prophecies-fulfilled/

You are correct, we’re going to agree to disagree for now. I’m happy to keep listening and reading the stuff you send — I often do. Maybe my opinion will grow and change. Being agnostic rather than atheist is that I don’t know or believe I’m right — I just don’t think you are, either and so far I just don’t see anything except leaping beyond logic into faith, which nothing in my experience has made me do.

Hope you’ll be able to join the Zoom in a bit,

The Shmoo

Indeed, as this tortured year—and my Best Man’s life — comes to an end, I am finding a strange and unexpected comfort in my uncertainty. If time is not really as we experience it, and things to come are just as fixed as a memory of things past, then past and present are just as eternal and real as the undiscovered country.

Perhaps the illusion is the very notion of beginning and end. Those Ratatouille moments are indeed two fixed and forever points in time intersecting. This would mean that if we have a beginning, we never actually have an end. That the love I feel now for my brother is indeed forever; as is he. His impending release from his tortured present body in no way erases his existence. He existed, and therefore, perhaps, he always exists.

With so many having lost so much this year, perhaps there is some comfort in that for others. After all, before his resurrection, Spock told his brother from another mother, James Tiberius Kirk that, “There always are…possibilities.” (Make sure you read that line with Bill Shatner voice in your head for maximum dramatic effect)

I will have far more to say about my brother in time, but, at this time, that is about as much as I can type between tears. May your New Year’s 2020 be a safe and peaceful one, and thank you for joining me in this moment in time.

Strength vs. Bluster

September 1, 2020
Vice President Biden with wife Jill and Tara Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, in India, July 2013. Credit mkgandhi.org

So about 100 years ago (or 2011 to be more precise, given everything pre-COVID seems ancient now) I wrote a piece called, “The strength in sorry” with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Typos and all (trying to forgive myself for those…), that piece was about the strength in asking for forgiveness and how that can open the door to more dialogue than the traditional, defensive, “Let me explain” mode we often get into. The other side of that particular coin, of course, is the actual act of forgiving itself.

In many ways, Joe Biden’s address at the DNC was the epitome of displaying that kind of strength. “I am the Democratic candidate, but I will be an American President.” Well before anyone casts their first vote, Biden is already forgiving anyone who did not agree with him. Indeed Biden has often throughout his career been attacked (inclusive of his Vice Presidential choice, showing another act of powerful forgiveness) for being too willing to reach out and try to understand the other side in an effort to make progress on a particular issue.

Another attack on Biden’s sense of forgiveness is that it will turn him into a punching bag against the bullying rhetoric that Donald Trump and his acolytes have, are, and will be hurling against him. That Biden’s reluctance to demonize his opponents opens him up to exactly the kind of smear campaign that Trump unleashed on Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday, I believe he showed exactly how wrong that was. If you haven’t watched it in its entirety, it’s worth your 20 minutes:

Much like Gandhi’s campaign against the racist, colonial presence in his native land, Biden cannot abide a bully. In India, the ultimate success in removing the British came from forgiveness—the ability for Hindus and Muslims to look past their differences and unite behind a common good. While history showed that sustaining forgiveness in that region has been a difficult proposition, there is no doubt that Gandhi’s ability to bring disparate interests together changed the course of history.

Biden’s blistering attack on Trump yesterday was not, “going low.” Instead it was straight out of the playbook of Gandhi, King, and Lewis. In calling out Trumps myriad lies about his own record and his refusal to call out all sides who have used violence as a tool, the Vice President literally brought truth-to-power. And he put his money where his mouth was; himself condemning any rioting done under the false flag of legitimate protest by using the words of forgiveness and peace from Jacob Blake’s own parents to reinforce both the admonition of violence and the need for reform.

Of course, there will be some who will go straight to the, “Sleepy Joe” rubbish, focusing on a few circular sentences or misspoken words. The recent spread of an obviously falsified video by White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino shows they will go to any length to demean and degrade. Lawyer and SuitUPNews host Exavier Pope took Trump apologists to task trying to simply dismiss this fabrication as parody:

Such an obviously disprovable fake of that Harry Belafonte sleeping video swap of Joe Biden, but by the time it spreads to Facebook and other social media many people have ingrained what the images convey and don’t care about a “fact check.” That’s why propaganda is so dangerous

As the father of an Dean’s List college student with a stutter, one who braved his condition to win a middle school public speaking competition, and trips over the “B” in “Biden” each of the thousands of times he’s been making calls as a volunteer for the Biden/Harris campaign, I can hear it every single time Joe circles his sentences to keep from tripping on a word, or misspeaks because he doesn’t have the luxury that most of us do of not having to think about how he is saying things.

And every time I hear it, I hear strength, not weakness. True, humble, and genuine strength; not the bluster of narcissistic hubris.

As my son continues to brave his stutter for BidenHarris, now while in an isolation dorm awaiting the results of a COVID test (he developed a fever a few days ago though it’s gone now and we’re keeping fingers-and-toes crossed that it was just a quick, not-so-novel coronavirus), he continues his mantra that, “This is personal for me.”

I hope it is for you as well, and that you choose true strength over arrogant bluster.