As Above, So Below (aka Art & Science & The Stars Like Dust…)

music-of-the-spheres

                                                                                                  Image by Kim D. French

I’ve always liked Jackson Pollock’s work, but it wasn’t until I saw one of his pieces in person at MOMA a few years ago that I realized how electrically alive his paintings really are. It was, I thought, like looking into a human brain and seeing the crazy branched lightning of synapses firing.

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The image below, created by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), is a flattened representation of a 3D map showing 650 cubic billion light years, just a quarter of the known universe. Each speck isn’t a single star but an entire galaxy. Peering into it, I now realize that Pollock was painting more than just the mind. He was painting reality itself, the myriad blaze of infinite suns, as well as the swirling quantum dance deep within.

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The Crown of Creation in Action: Humanity’s Hilarious Persecution of the World

Art By Boris

This video, called “Insanlığın Dünyaya Zulmü” (“Humanity’s Persecution of the World”), amusingly and tragically sums up the history of mankind on Earth. I think it would have been slightly better if it ended without the aliens, but it’s pretty freaking great anyway.

Ermahgerd! Electricity! (ABC Wednesday, 2/12/14)

Thor's Wrath

Recently, Jesus gave Zeus the finger. Or, rather, Zeus took it.

There was a huge lightning storm over Rio de Janeiro and a bolt blasted the statue of Christ which looks over the city, knocking off one of His fingers. While you’d think that Jesus could protect Himself from such an attack, it’s probably not our place as mere mortals to adjudicate the MMA matches of the gods.

Lightning is a scary thing, electricity in its most feral state. Crackling death from above. Surprisingly, though, only about 10% of people who have intimate encounters with it don’t survive. Some that do are scarred with fractal maps in their skin, branching networks of sizzling branchwork like tattoos of evergreen fronds or ivy.

               

I’ve had a special relationship with lightning for years, starting, I guess, when I was struck by lightning when I was a teenager. I survived. I had no visible scars. I wasn’t even hurt, as far as anyone could tell.

It happened one stormy day. A friend and I were cavorting in the rain, chasing each other, jumping at the crashes of thunder, laughing our asses off. Ultimately, soaked and getting cold, we headed for his house. We splashed in, drenched, and his mother informed us that there was a tornado warning. Later, we found out one had touched down less than a mile away. She insisted we dry off, so we headed to the bathroom, and as we entered, a bolt of lightning crashed through the window (open, as his mother had forgotten to close it for the rain, so I think the lightning was riding the breeze as lightning can do). It went through my friend and me, knocking us off our feet, and scorched the floor under our feet.

We were incredibly lucky. Neither of us was hurt, though we were scared shitless and our ears were ringing. This amount of luck in a lightning strike is rare but not unheard of; most burn damage resulting from a strike is from superheated objects (like change in someone’s pocket, for example), and most deaths result from cardiac arrest. We were both young and fit, so if our hearts were spooked by the blast, we didn’t know it. We didn’t even go to the ER.

Of course, not all damage is visible. Brain damage is a common effect of lightning strikes and can lead to memory impairment, irritability, terrible headaches, even personality change. And, unsurprisingly, depression. And, as regular readers of this blog know, I have depression big time.

Through therapy, I’ve learned that much of my struggle is attributable to loss of my mother as a baby and familial abuse throughout my formative years. But it’s possible the strike contributed.

But electricity in the brain has also proven helpful in my fight. I’ve had two rounds of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, aka shock treatment) in the past few years, the second as recently as last November and December. My depression is a stubborn, mean mother fucker and was highly resistant to everything we were throwing at it until we decided to sing the brain electric. Afterward, my short term memory is sort of crap (though it already was, as depression itself is hell on the memory), but my focus and motivation are remarkably improved. This strategic use of electricity blasted straight into my brain has been literally life-changing. The fact that you’re reading this now, and that I’m blogging again in general, is directly attributable to it.

So, thank you, Zeus, thank you Thor, thank you spirits of thunder and lightning. Thank you for not killing me years ago, and thank you for saving my life now.

E

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter F. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is currently on sale to celebrate Valentine’s Day

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

The Creature from the Blog Lagoon (ABC Wednesday, 1/29/14)

C is for Creature

We all know the creature.

The monster. The dangerous thing, stalking, creeping, hunting in the silence of the night. Hairy, clawed, savage. Less than human…or is it?

For me, and many others who grew up with Universal monster movies, the word creature evokes the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Who, when you get down to it, is clawed and savage, but not so hairy. The Creature stalks and kidnaps the gorgeous Julie Adams, mesmerized by her preternatural beauty, no doubt with thoughts of ichthyological rape and scaly little spawn cavorting in the lagoon’s dark waters. The movie he’s in is undeniably a “monster movie,” but is he a monster? No. But he is, obviously, a beast, an animal, an inhuman thing. A creature. He operates on instinct more than thought, and in his case, because he comes into conflict with anti-instinctual man, it proves his undoing. Had he stayed hidden, not tried to woo, in his way, the beauty (a common failing among beasts), he would never have been harpooned, brought to man’s world, had his gills sliced off (a clumsy attempt to make a man of him), and ultimately killed.

Stories often warn us that this is what will happen if we let our creature side out. Our instinct. Our wild. Our Id. We aren’t animals, right? Never mind the blood and bile, our often maddening emotional lives, our wonderfully messy means of procreation. The fangs in our mouths, the hair on our pelts.

I’ve always been fascinated with werewolves, and themes of transformation often manifest in my writing. Often the transfiguration is into a wilder state, like the werewolf, rather than an “ascended” state. But is it therefore a devolution? Or is it an imperfect call toward wholeness? I believe we are at our best when we are comfortable with both sides of our nature, the primal and the thoughtful, the rational and the passionate. Be a creature and be a man. Be a creature and be a woman. Be complete.

Evolution isn’t a paved road away from the creature, it’s a forest path toward a better creature.

C

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter D. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

The Secret To Desire

By the light...

Interested in long term romantic relationships? Marriage? Sexual satisfaction? Sexual adventure?

Give a listen to this TED Talk by Psychotherapist Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. I think she’s on the right track.

Falling Stars: Not Always So Whimsical… (with The Song of the Week, 2/16/2013)

Falling Star

Everyone is all abuzz about the asteroid flyby and the meteorite strike in Russia this week, and it was quite spectacular, and scary. Some of the video footage from Russia is amazing; watching the fireball appear in the sky through someone’s windshield, burning closer and closer, I couldn’t help but think what a pants-shitting moment that had to be.

It also made me remember my own close encounter with a meteor, many years ago. I survived, just as I survived the time I was struck by lightning, though the meteor was both a lot less dramatic and a lot cooler.

I was a teenager, visiting my maternal grandparents in a backward crack in the world called Valle Mines, Missouri. They lived in a farmhouse off a rural highway with a fair chunk of land, much of it thickly forested. The forest, of course, was the good part, especially to a kid who’d retreated to the woods most of his life as an escape from a horrible life at home. The bad part was the isolation from culture, and the lack of things to do. Nowadays, they probably have a big Teabagger dance or something to pass the time.

Anyway, late one dark country night, I was out back, and for some reason I was standing on my grandparents’ picnic table. The only light was from the windows of the house, and the sky was clear. Suddenly, I saw a thin streak of fire lancing toward me. It passed about ten feet over my head, sputtering into sparks as it fully disintegrated about twenty feet away, just short of the woods. A shard of space rock crumbling to fairy dust before my eyes.

Another cosmic encounter also comes to mind. Back in 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp streaked slowly cross earth’s skies, incredibly bright and visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months. Living in town, it was tough to see because of the light pollution, but I had a wonderful visit with it one cold spring night.

We took my son, Nathaniel, who was just under a year old, on his first camping trip, to Lake Conasauga, the highest lake in Georgia, on Grassy Mountain in the Chattahoochee Forest. It was chilly, but he enjoyed the woods and the lakeshore. Our late great akita, Travis, played with us, and charged through the woods like a white rocket. Towards dusk, we retreated to our tent and snuggled in, and Nathaniel was happy. Happy until night fell, that is, and with it, the temperature.

It was like a switch was thrown. The sun disappeared and suddenly it was below freezing. And Nathaniel started crying. We bundled him in several layers of clothing, including a pair of my thick wool socks and my Polartec jacket, and nestled together deep into the sleeping bags. The crying stopped, and he was content.

He fell asleep, as did his mom. I lay there, listening to the night sounds. We had planned to hike to the top of the mountain at night to see the comet, but it was so comfortable in the sleeping bags, and so damned cold outside them. But, knowing this was my best chance, I mustered the strength. I woke my son’s mom to give her the chance to do likewise, but that wasn’t happening. She, and Nathaniel, were too content where they were.

So I pulled on my cold boots and crawled out of the tent. I let Travis off his leash and the two of us headed up the trail.

When we reached the summit, the world was spectacular. Dark ridges of forest stretched away in every direction, and the sky above was utterly cloudless and perfectly black but for its trillions of bright stars, so many stars, up high, without city lights, without smog. Just that sky, alone, would have been reason enough to clamber up that trail that night.

Hale-Bopp burned out there, a streak of star fire, huge and otherworldly, stark against that dark sky, a titan among the glittering pinpricks that were the stars. I stood there staring at it, the cold forgotten, my dog pacing and hunting night critters, for a long cosmic moment.