Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Impulses Love Coffee Shops

I’ve noticed something about impulses: they’re all about feeling. I was on the bus today, a few stops from work, when along comes this impulse. It says “Hey Eric! Why not get off early, grab a cup of coffee, and stroll the rest of the way in?” Then it winked. I knew this meant “Impulses love coffee shops. Maybe I’ll see you there and talk you into hanging out for a while.” So, this impulse makes no sense if you look at the ‘what’ of the matter: I’d just had coffee at lunch and I didn’t really feel like walking. But looking at the feelings involved, I see what I was after. I wanted to feel far from my destination. I wanted to feel the calmness of seeing space and time stretched out all around me. Thinking back, I’ve been chasing this feeling for as long as I can remember. To be honest, it’s a large part of what led me to grad school. Work makes me feel anxious and unsure of myself. It’s crippling. Learning feels safe. I do want to challenge myself but I don’t want to feel challenged. But maybe if I recognize that it’s not the space that I want, but the feeling of calm, I can cultivate this in other places?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Truth and Beauty

truth is beautiful
we have a hunger for this beauty
to see things as they are
without distortion

but one can't represent
with the atoms that are YOU
the infinity of what IS
to think is to summarize
to compress
to distort

but beauty isn’t honest
for any moment
there are bits of YOU
that can embellish what IS
for everyone involved

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fish are boring

On the bright side, I now have more faith in my instincts. When we met on Saturday, I got two vague impressions: awkward and cynical. But I couldn't remember anything in particular that made me feel that way. So I decided to give her a chance. Well. Three miserable hours later I've got to tip my hat to you, instincts. Usually, I find a touch of awkwardness endearing. But not with this one. There was nothing endearing about this one. What bothered me the most was her lack of empathy. Second most was her aggressive commitment to unfounded opinions. I've got this friend who's a grad student in the fisheries department and on Saturday her friend made out with his friend. So, naturally, our conversation migrated toward fish. We didn’t even get the chance to discuss what a person in the fisheries department might actually do before she let me know how boring she thinks "watching fish all day" would be. Clearly, the only thing she needed to form this opinion was the word “fish.” And -- as with everything else we talked about -- there would be no compromise. I felt that I should point out that it could be really interesting. I've always been amazed at how schools of fish move together. So fluidly. Almost like a single living, breathing, organism. But each fish is acting and reacting according to an isolated set of rules in its little fishy brain. No one orchestrates the behavior of the group. It just happens. Like magic. I think that imagining and testing simple rules that explain seemingly complex phenomena is probably the most creative, elegant, and fun part of science. “It’s fish. Who cares?” I felt that I should point out that a similar self-organizing system of things -- neurons -- makes us us. Maybe studying systems like fish can lead to insights about the very nature of thought! Wouldn’t that be interesting? Nope. Fish are boring.