Posted by: Baker | 1 May 2019

IONS Spotlight Poster Abstract Submittal

Unsurprisingly, my abstract for a Spotlight talk at the upcoming IONS conference (July 2019) was not accepted. However, as happened two years ago, I was offered the opportunity to share a poster. To qualify I was asked to submit a 150 word abstract outlining its purpose and contents by today, May 1st.

So here is what I submitted:

—–

2019 Poster will build on 2017’s.

Might I:

  1. Display 2017’s also?

  2. Use laptop for animations?

—–

Practicing Temporal Holism

  • Mindfulness and timespace ,

    • Viewing all processes, especially human interactions, as waveform systems

      • Vibrational relations as primordial language of consciousness

      • Listening, harmonizing, allowing

      • Fallback safety of longer waves

  • Temporal metrics, emotion, physiology

    • Musical archetype

      • Movies – tempo, form and mood

      • Power of Sync: harmony, rhythm, coherence, entrainment

      • Momentum, buoyancy felt by players, dancers

    • Effects of discordant sounds, actions

      • Screech, gunshot, explosion

      • Acceleration, jerk

  • Frequency domain viewport and nested waveforms (“harmonic container” theory)

    • Now: Center of observer timespace

      • Being centered: Feeling neither pushed nor pulled

      • Longwave processes carry/contain shorter ones

      • Finding peace, comfort, direction via holarchy & top-down navigation

    • Longwave intention space

      • Temporal co-location with destination image – standing longwave

      • Waveforms become surfable trajectories through timespace

      • Balance allows intuitive navigation – organic unfolding

    • Least action principles – longwave guidance?

      • Friston free energy theory

      • The “now” of Active inference

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Posted by: Baker | 1 April 2019

Back in Action – IONS 2019 Spotlight Application

Pasted below is the 300-word abstract I submitted earlier this evening as my application for the opportunity to become one of the Spotlight presenters at the 2019 IONS conference in Santa Clara this July. Presenters are conference attendees selected to present a 15 minute talk about a special interest (applicable to Noetic Sciences) during one of several breakfast sessions. This years question: “How Are You Bringing the Power of Consciousness to the World?”

I should be notified by April 15th if I’m selected to give a talk. If not, like last year, I may still be offered the opportunity to present a poster Hopefully I will make the latter cut, at the least. But it would be great to stand up in front of a couple hundred people, perhaps get them laughing at least a little, and present some stunning animated graphics. Stay tuned here for peeks at what I’m cooking up.

— Application Abstract:

Subjective Temporal Dynamics

My 2017 Spotlight contribution was a poster describing a vocabulary of “inner timespace”. In this year’s talk I’ll share a few basic metrics underlying the emotive power of musical experience and relate them to interpersonal dynamics. I’ll also relate subjective time’s holarchic, top-down nature to creating futures via intentionality and/or active inference [Friston].

Harmony, rhythm, and synchronization are all manifestations of coherence. Their power is easily demonstrated in music, dance, yogic breathing, and heart health. Changes in of any these attributes can yield profound results. Tempos alone can be manipulated to evoke an enormous range of moods and emotional excursions. Sudden accelerations in tempo can be downright scary. (In physics: the rate of change of acceleration is called jerk – seriously!)

These terms all refer to hierarchical temporal structure, totally immaterial, yet profound in what it can communicate. Participants in a symphony, or players in a simple musical groove may describe a sense of an expanded present, and being uplifted by the rhythmic flow. Dancers report sensations of buoyancy and momentum elicited purely by the music.

Moving up the hierarchy, a musical groove repeated over time may become imprinted in the culture, perhaps via [Sheldrake’s] morphic field. In two other popular theories we employ top-down causality to lay out our trajectories: visualization of futures via intentionality, and repeated looping through past experience and trial futures in active inference.

While not all of life’s processes are musical, the waveform metaphor retains huge value for evaluating processes presented to us. I use the term “longwave” to distinguish non-trivial processes in life from their shorter-lived counterparts. Wisdom and security come from learning the value of deferring to longer wave processes when confronted with uncertainty; we are rarely in situations where there is no longer wave process to fall back upon.

Posted by: Baker | 23 July 2017

Poster Session is now “In the Field”

It’s a done deal. The 2017 IONS Conference Spotlight Poster Session is history. Out of the 48 copies of the handout I printed 2 days ago at the local FedEx shop ten minutes before the session, 35 are missing and presumed taken, hopefully by folks who will pursue their ingestion of the material further in their own time and space – during or after the conference.

The session was held over dinnertime, so I knew to expect to see only truly committed souls eager to uncover new frontiers – likely to be in the very early stages of unfolding.

baker&poster20170721_184555

Despite my goofy pose for the photo op, my visitors and I pretty much all agreed that there’s a bit too much going on in my poster to try to absorb it in a ten minute visit.  A small but important few seemed to indicate they were already in tune with where I was pointed when creating the presentation.  Many more seemed serious in their desire to pursue it further when they had some quiet time to sit down with it (which, of course, I believe it deserves).  I dearly hope to get feedback from some of them.  Just one would make me feel my effort was more than worthwhile.

More than a day has passed since the comment above, and, while more will always be welcome, I already have all the feedback I need to keep me pursuing this vision.  When I realized that Rupert Sheldrake had not been able to attend the session as he told me he had hoped to do, I emailed him the link to the session materials, hoping – but certainly not expecting – that he might have time to look it over. Then yesterday morning, after discovering he had acknowledged my email and might be willing to meet to discuss the material, I accosted him during a break in the general session to ask about arranging a meeting. When I learned that he had actually read the whole thing, I momentarily dropped whatever guard I have left and gave him a look that reflected something between astonishment and disbelief.

If that smacks of hero worship, then so be it. This man has been on an intellectual journey of gigantic proportions – against the grain of orthodoxy – for a very long time. He’s still here, making us laugh at our own cultural denial of in-your-face data sets, many of them from his own relentless persistence, that tell us all sorts of things about ourselves and our scientific assumptions that we just aren’t quite ready to accept.

So when we actually met late yesterday afternoon for coffee and tea just before dinnertime, I was wonderfully relieved to learn that he agreed with, and supported further exploration of, one of my most fundamental theses: the flow of causality from “longwave” processes to the shorter wave processes contained within or carried by them.  His concurrence and support means a lot.  He offered ideas for further exploration and suggested I check out UCSC mathematician Ralph Abraham’s book, Dynamics – the Geometry of Behavior.  I’d heard him recommend it before, and am slightly amazed I had not followed through already.  Thanks, Rupert, for your time and interest.

The temporal hierarchy we discussed seems ridiculously intuitive if you are involved with the design of anything. Yet it is overlooked, time and again, in favor of the reductionist principle that big, long processes are simply a summation of smaller, shorter duration processes appended to each other, end to end, along the arrow of time. A causal process flowing from macro to micro, perpendicular to time’s arrow, could be acting as a virtual blueprint for guidance of unfolding processes.  We invoke the phenomenon whenever we use visualization in creating our own futures. Could it be how all of life, possibly all of creation, is formed?

Posted by: Baker | 20 July 2017

IONS 2017 Poster and notes

The deadline has all but arrived. The IONS Spotlight poster session is from 6-8 pm tomorrow (Friday) evening, July 21st. I’m currently in a big hurry to 1.) get us down the road the remaining 450 miles to the conference venue, and 2.) wrap up (and get printouts of) an early but shareable version of the background and reference document for sharing with folks interested in my project. I plan to offer it as a single sheet, double sided handout during tomorrow night’s poster session.

I need a simple way to ensure I’m able to share details of my thoughts with whomever might decide they are interested on the basis of my poster.  This opening step is crude but effective: I’m simply posting a link to a shareable folder containing the source files for the poster and the handout, specifically the files used to 1.) submit the abstract, 2.) print the poster pages, and 3.) print the handout:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BxCQoKy_VaRbVkhzNG92VHJKWWM?usp=sharing

I’ve included the poster abstract only because I’d already promised to share it in a previous post.  You can safely ignore it.  I like the original [yes, also unsuccessful] Spotlight Talk proposal abstract a lot better … and the new abstract that kicks off the poster even more.

Posted by: Baker | 23 June 2017

Akashic Surfing? In the Frequency Domain?

Despite the sparsity of my visits to Twitter until fairly recently, it was many years back that  I chose the Twitter name AkashicSurfer1.
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The “1” was simply to append a number as often encouraged for usernames. If I’m the first to share this particular visualization, I accept the distinction.  However, for anyone reading into it any claim of expertise as a surfer of anything -For openers, I’ve ridden exactly one wave on a surfboard, one time only. (Perhaps we can swap windsurfing and sailing stories another time.)
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I’ve rarely tried to defend or elaborate upon the always elusive images lurking behind that impulsive choice, partly because they lie squarely in that hazy transition zone between understanding and fantasy, if not outright nonsense.
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It was inspired by physicist David Bohm’s concept of implicate and explicate order, where the implicate, while occupying no space and time, nevertheless contains the unmanifest representation or aspect of the universe, somewhat like a template for the explicate order, the manifest universe of space and time. The most fascinating part of his theory is the concept of continual exchange between these two realms, which Bohm eventually broadened to be bidirectional. As Mariahn once suggested in a wonderful spontaneous visualization, could this be the ultimate vibration -the flow between the two?
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Systems theorist Ervin Laszlo made the connection between Bohm’s implicate order and the ancient spiritual concept of the Akashic Records that contain all of history.
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…  [end unfinished draft from April]
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Marching ahead almost 3 full months –
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I’m going to publish the unfinished draft above, essentially untouched since April 4th. I’m adding the following segue to redirect the conversation (apparently mine with only myself, according to my blog stats) to what’s urgent in my attempt to spark any form of “Aha” experience from another human being on the planet besides those really close to me, most of whom kindly acknowledge that they can see I’m “onto something” but they don’t really get it either!
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As noted in the previous blog entry, that attempt had a rare opening of opportunity in the form of an offer submit an abstract for a brief “Spotlight Presentation” at the IONS Conference in Oakland this July.  My proposal, shared in the previous blog, was not accepted.  I was, however offered the opportunity to submit a poster proposal for review. That proposal (next post) was accepted, and will be included in a separate poster session they will be holding on the Friday evening of the conference.  I’m guessing that my best chance for garnering interest in the ideas I hope to spark there is to be able to point readers of the poster to a website containing additional information.
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Well, here we are folks.  This is where I can elaborate on the ideas I know I’m enormously challenged to fit on a single poster.  So this is where the contents of my poster are going to unfold, along with the reasoning behind them.  I’m sharing the processes I’m going through in finding identifying not only the key elements, but the best hooks for catching and holding the attention of my prospective audience.  I have lots of notes but very little “camera ready copy”. It looks like I have a lot of work to do before that two hour poster session four weeks from tonight – an opportunity to explain and/or defend my vision in a few words as my potential audience wanders by.
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I once helped judge at school science fairs, always fascinated by what drew my attention … and what did not.  Now it’s my turn to face the music.
Posted by: Baker | 1 April 2017

Toward an Inner Timespace Vocabulary

Most of this post is extracted from an email I sent to interested parties, sharing my abstract submitted yesterday to IONS as a candidate for a ten minute “Spotlight Talk” at their international conference in Oakland this July (2017). This opportunity offered to the public is new this year.  I have no idea whether my proposal will be accepted, nor even any real sense of my chances.

The abstract has been written to lure the reader into topics where – if challenged – my explanations get vaguer the deeper I go. However, based on the progress I have made in the past 6 weeks in my own clarity, I expect to be ready to simplify and flesh out further, with examples and illustrations, what I believe to be significant and useful hypotheses. I just hope the words below will qualify me for an invitation to present my 10 minutes’ worth (and/or poster board) in late July:

Toward an Inner Timespace Vocabulary

Physicists claim everything is vibration. Fourier analysis decomposes complex vibration signals recorded in the time domain into their constituent sinusoidal frequencies. These we can display in spectral graphs, representing the frequency domain view. Applying these two time dimensions to subjective temporal experience, we discuss waveform relations in conscious activity.

Wordless musical experience models our relationship with time. Chords come alive in the frequency domain, while their rhythmic progression flows with time’s arrow. When we’re “in the zone” our variable temporal aperture (sizing our “now”) seems to expand, revealing meaningful, often emotionally deep content carried by nothing more than carefully assembled, interrelated temporal shapes weaving a landscape spanning multiple measures. We postulate that such timescapes operate as a buoyant, dynamic platform for conscious experience and its alternate trajectories.

This presentation emphasizes low frequencies and their waveforms. We work down from the audible spectrum, through rhythm and dance moves to much longer waveforms for which only a fraction of a single cycle fits within “the now”.  As waveforms lengthen, so increases their momentum. (Think tsunamis, memes, or revolutions.)

Using wavelength as a prime metric we contrast the effects of longwave vs. shortwave processes – encountered or created – in our interactions within ourselves or with others, using verbs like ‘receive’ or ‘support’ vs. ‘push’ or ‘cut’.  Similarly we note the benefits of rhythmicity, harmony and synchronization to achieve coherence between otherwise potentially discordant streams.

Visualize yourself surfing, skiing, or dancing across some undulating landscape. Skiers might contrast mogul experiences (good and bad) with long, smooth glides. We claim such metaphors describe our navigation through the continuous field of possibilities stretched out before us. How far can and do we expand our temporal aperture to optimize our course? Could such views help in understanding collective consciousness, synchronicity, even morphic fields?

I’ll end with this teaser: Not only do I finally accept what I’ve been trying to fight off for years (for fear of being foolish), that our experience of time lives, literally, in at least two orthogonal dimensions (although rarely treated that way outside of signal processing circles), but I’m also gathering courage to stand behind a much newer understanding for me: that there really is a legitimate third dimension in our experience of time (our “timespace”), to wit:

If the “fore and aft” axis (or depth, typically portrayed as the z axis) represents the arrow of time (our direction of travel), and up and down (height, typically the y axis) represents the frequency domain (in which simultaneity is routine, as in a single musical chord), then the classic width, or x, axis remains open for use as the “steering” dimension, tracking left-right  course changes made by selection from the potentially infinite number of possible pathways into the immediate future [timescape]. This axis allows for choice, perhaps free will, or whatever other process selects/intends/commits  (or “collapses the wave equation?”) from the ever present multiplicity of alternate possible pathways – ranging from God’s will to a summation of random (quantum?) events.

This idea of steering through a temporal landscape (“timescape”) – the field of possibilities that lie before us – is what I mean by “akashic surfing”.  At the deepest level it refers to navigation, however that term might be imagined, through the timeless and spaceless realm of physicist David Bohm’s proposed implicate order of the universe.  Systems theorist Ervin Laszlo compares Bohm’s idea to the ancient Hindu concept of the Akashic Record, suggesting the possibility of an akashic field as the ground of being of all that is – that is, consciousness itself.

 

Let’s explore these concepts further in the next post.

Peace, b

Posted by: Baker | 1 April 2017

April Fools! I’m back, & ready to commit

My last post was nearly five years ago – May 31, 2012. A lot of water has gone under the bridge and over the dam since then (so much, in fact, that only this year has the west coast turned back from a near devastating lack of water and snow pack).

In early June, 2012 – on D-Day to be precise, just a week after that last post – we learned Mariahn had a giant (that’s the technical adjective!) meningioma, a huge brain tumor, which, although benign, was severely squashing her brain stem. This explained the increasing problems she was having with balance, apnea, and facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia).

It wasn’t until the following March (2013) that she had surgery – removing most of the tumor and thus the immediate threat to her life, but leaving her at first borderline comatose, then almost totally disabled, but heading into a long and remarkable recovery to regain much, but not all, of her previous functionality.  We rode it out together, and feel happier and more bonded than ever with each passing year.

The remarkable story of her first several months after surgery was, I’m told, an interesting read for many of our friends and family as it unfolded.  We both grew a lot in those stressful months – of which Mariahn remembers very little. The account is saved online at the following link, courtesy of CaringBridge via their wonderful blogging service provided free:

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mariahnsmith

Unfortunately there was a major software update during that period which somehow duplicated many of the entries, some several times, making for a somewhat irritating but manageable reading experience.

Returning to the summer of 2012, after a concentrated 3+ months of training (perhaps the most intense of my life),*  I did, in fact, climb that well-known local mountain, cresting the summit in brilliant blue skies and warm, blissfully light breezes just after 8 am on August 4th. That was just a week after our “steep hike” training climb up 12,000 ft Mt Adams in equally splendid weather. It was also 3 days before what would have been my father’s 100th birthday, and just 11 days before my own 67th.

My dad, who passed abruptly of a heart attack at age 78, had mentioned not too many years before retiring, that climbing Rainier was something he might want to do before he got too old.  While it wasn’t a driving ambition for him, it eventually became one for me, but only around ’08 or ’09 when my youngest cousin Dan (a decade younger than me)  a former guide on Rainier, offered, after a casual conversation about climbing Rainier: “I’ll get you up there.”  It took several more years before we were able to connect, but in April of 2012  Dan called to say he was planning a trip in July, and “would [I]  like to go?”.  I jumped at the chance, and, soon found myself aiming for the FitClimb recommendation that, for a good experience climbing Rainier, “You should probably be in the best shape of your life.” I believe I may have been, and was overjoyed to make those beautiful climbs and feel good doing it.

Thanks, Dad, thanks Danny, and special remembrances for Dan’s sister, Jill, who joined us for the Adams climb but passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly that November after complications with treatment for a foot infection subsequent to her climb.

As might be imagined, the climbs (and spectacular solo training hikes in the Olympics) were the positive highlight of my summer, and unquestionably the outdoor highlight of my past 5 years.

In subsequent blog posts I don’t plan any serious attempt to fill in much of the gap between then and now, mostly because I’d rather stay current.  The fervor of the Occupy and 99% movements following Arab Spring faded somewhat, although my ongoing involvement in some local environmental causes has not.

I’m comfortable admitting that I lost interest in trying to maintain a community activism  website. It was supposed to attract participants in a community-building forum that did not catch on. I’ve already spent too much time focused on programming nuts and bolts, and have little interest in serious development of typical web programming skills, even as I readily acknowledge that someone’s got to do it (until the bots finish taking over).  It’s time to focus on content, and possibly on how my engineering-oriented programming skills might help me use graphic animation to illustrate concepts of particular importance to me.

I want to allow my increasing excitement over the past year and a half or so to continue build, bringing new momentum into threads in my life that were largely dormant for decades of my earlier life. 

First,  my enthusiasm for, and involvement with, live music groups as a percussionist has taken a significant upturn. So has my reading, particularly about physics and AI.  And, most recently, I find myself returning with a new level of commitment to writing about a nearly lifelong special interest of mine: the subjective experience of time. 

When I found out that the IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences) international conference this summer was offering to us, the general public, opportunities to deliver a ten minute presentation (think half-sized TED talk) on whatever pet projects we may deem worthy of exposure, I had to jump. After serious efforts over the past six weeks to cultivate, assemble and tune an abstract, I have no idea whether it will be accepted, but I had to give it a shot.

April 1st was the deadline and I managed to submit it early afternoon of the day before (yesterday). My next post will contain the contents of that abstract, with a brief intro and follow-up. 

As for the never manifested Portal to the Unmanifest with which I left us all hanging five years ago, I don’t even remember the specific tack I’d planned for the next installment. But I will almost guarantee it pointed along the same path I’m attempting to share this spring and summer in preparing for a possible IONS Spotlight session. I’ll share the abstract (next) and expand on the concepts in upcoming posts.

It feels good to be back.  I’ll use my favorite signoff these days –

Peace, Love and Harmony,

Baker

 

* courtesy of a 12 week prep program for that very climb, offered free online by FitClimb.com

Posted by: Baker | 31 May 2012

Portal to the Unmanifest

Even as I took on the job of the other website, more demanding, and almost infinitely more valuable to my community,  I thought at least I could manage a minimum of one post per month to my personal blog.  Well, “April Fools!” (as I love to say, but that’s another whole story).

After all, I’m still essentially the only reader of my blog (isn’t that what it’s for, most of all?), and unless I start posting a lot more often and try to engage with others in addressing hot topics of mutual concern, it’s likely to stay that way.

So, in the meanwhile, let’s continue a little farther on the introspective path to look at potential findings in my own search for peace and joy in my newly retired life with a lifestyle not at all yet worked out.

Except for watching for – and trying to help create – signs of major changes in social consciousness, the only commitment that feels urgent to me right now is a new one: training to climb Mt. Rainier in late July.  All else is much less important.  Perhaps next would come my commitment to quality musical experiences, of which I’ve had several just recently, and hope for more in the near future.

Perhaps I have only one important question for the universe these days as I try to set up a truly satisfying life in retirement when I hadn’t really planned for it because I didn’t think I could afford it (and wasn’t sure when I could).  That question is how to recognize the pathway[s] of maximum yield (joy?) in my commitment to do better in “following my bliss”. Yet because my goals are simpler these days, perhaps also more organic, and maybe even cosmic, the budget issue seems remarkably low priority as long as I don’t go suddenly hog wild spending my newly acquired nest egg.

… <in this case, the ellipsis represents a gap in time>

I had a whole mental outline all worked out – with links and all – when I began this draft several weeks ago.  Now I’m desperate … JUST to get back on that track I promised myself – the commitment to a minimum of one post a month.   With less than two hours left in the month of May 2012, and another commitment pulling on me and winning, I’m going to cheat a little and post this before the main theme has been properly introduced – let alone pitched, delivered and summarized.  I’m doing this in order to take advantage of the fact that a WordPress blog post keeps its original date-time stamp no matter how many times you come back and edit it.

That just means that now I have more work for June, starting with a proper wrap-up of this one.

Peace2all

 

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, one of the excuses I have for not posting much here recently is that I have become almost obsessed with setting up the framework and initial content for a new website I’m helping to create for a new local group calling ourselves the North Kitsap 99%, attempting to support and extend efforts of the worldwide Occupy Movement (“OM”) locally: www.kitsapcommunity.org  

Just today I have posted my first Forum entry – in fact, THE first Forum entry – in the brand new Forums segment of said website, hoping to prime / jump-start a lively interactive exchange.   The posting below is that contribution, with only the first few opening words removed.  At this moment I’m feeling like it is one of my better creations ever … and perhaps a personal blog is where we’re allowed to admit to such conceits!  It certainly strikes a deep chord with recent events in my neck of the woods. It is the initial post in a fresh forum topic I created for the Forum entitled  Core Elements of Community Building.   Feel free to comment, here or there.

Mutual Respect and Compassion

… introducing a topic that becomes increasingly important to me, the older (and hopefully wiser) I get. In many ways it’s really two topics, or at least two core elements, but it feels right for the moment to introduce them together.

I believe that we humans are fundamentally made out of the same stuff, the same inner core, no matter where – or by whom – we were born or raised. My life experiences have helped to strengthen that belief. Although I personally feel there is a spiritual aspect to that statement (which I simply call Consciousness … and note the big ‘C’), I don’t think we have to go there at all to be able to agree that we all deserve, at least initially, to give and to get basic mutual respect – to and from each other as fellow humans. You might see this as a form of ‘golden rule’, but it’s one that transcends all religions despite the fact that most of them teach some version of it.

We all have ups and downs. We all want to love and be loved. The willingness to “be there” for other people in times of need is one way I describe compassion. When we go there, we are likely to describe it as a drive, something we can’t help, or sometimes even a ‘calling’, something that makes us feel more whole and alive when acting upon it, enhancing a sense of well-being, and/or adding meaning to life.

Within all cultural groups, worldwide, some of us may get way off track at some point, perhaps even committing horrible crimes. Nearly all of us started out as cuddly, lovable, innocent beings worthy of protection. So at what point do we lose that, and by what mechanisms? At what point in some wayward individual’s downward slide is it time to simply slam the jail door shut and essentially throw away the key? In just about every case I can think of, I cannot help but feel that, if I were that person, there ought to be at least a glimmer of hope in my soul that, if I have a sincere and intense desire to transform my life into something better, I have a chance that someone out there will recognize that in me, and help me find at least a tiny opening where I can go to start making things better.

With that background, let’s look at the string of tragedies that happened in Kitsap County last month (February 2012) resulting in the deaths of seven people and a life-threatening injury of an 8 year old girl. My profound sympathies and compassion reach out to the families and friends of those who are now facing unimaginable loss because someone close to them is now gone or fighting for life. Let there be no misunderstanding: my compassion for those whose lives were lost or damaged due to the acts of another comes first. But I cannot hold back compassion for the additional suffering by those, and/or their families, who have caused such grief.

In four of those cases there is another life that is forever changed by what each is alleged to have done to harm or kill another person. One of those people is only 9 years old, and another is 82! How must they and their families be feeling since these tragedies? While I cannot help but want them all to know how wrong they were in whatever they did to allow harm to come to another, I can only imagine that at least these first two are going through more pain than I could ever inflict upon them by my accusations or ‘guilt tripping’. The third turned himself in. The fourth has touched me personally. While we haven’t yet heard from the accused, I want to believe (perhaps only hope?) that his remorse is extreme.

Two more of the losses last month involve apparent suicides. One was a family’s missing son whom they feared to be suicidal. Every story like this is a huge tragedy, worthy of our compassion. The other happened after what we must all feel was an unforgivable, cold-blooded murder of a dedicated Washington State Patrolman. While I must first honor the loss of the officer and the grieving of those close to him and of his fellow public servants, I cannot help but also lend some kind of compassion for the family and friends of the accused. If this enrages you, please stop here, hopefully moving on to the next paragraph – unless you are willing to imagine what it must be like to be his parents. His pain after the act was obviously acute, and he, too, is now gone. And his family’s pain lives on for both of the lives that were lost.

Finally, I cannot leave this session without remembering the lives of two different local men, each with what many could argue are non-threatening backgrounds. These lives were taken by law officers in performance of their difficult and admittedly life-threatening duty. One was in Poulsbo, the first of this year’s February losses. The other was last December in Suquamish. I have no inside knowledge of either situation. I was not there, and I certainly do not risk my life as these officers do in the service of their community. Nevertheless I cannot help but be disturbed by what appears to be the increasing (dare I say almost routine) use of a para-military mindset (e.g., lethal SWAT team gear and tactics) in police activity locally, around the country, and around the globe. Has our social fabric broken down so badly, has behavior in the tiny hamlets of Poulsbo and Suquamish become so sinister that we need to accept that our officers are repeatedly finding themselves in scenarios where their behavior, as seen from this distance, might be justified as driven by a mindset resembling the old slogan “Shoot first and ask questions later.”?

Actually living a life of mutual respect and compassion may not be an easy mission statement to swallow. But it’s the only goal for me these days (besides having fun in nature) that makes life seem truly worth living. I’m only beginning to notice how many people all around us are doing it all the time. Watch for them. Unlike me, the best examples are often the quiet ones, perhaps even those we had at one time written off as ‘having little or nothing to offer’!

Baker Stocking

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been feeling overdue for a post.  I’ve decided to share something I wrote several weeks ago to honor the passing of someone from my distant past, someone whose essence – whose light, as I’m now calling it – has stayed with me my entire adult life.  Not only will it continue to do so, but quite likely with added power and significance.  This also allows me to introduce, largely by example, the one part of my blog’s “tag line” (subtitle) not yet touched in my posts so far, the concept of being “game-free”.

Dr. George Ball was a very special professor at my small liberal arts alma mater, Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Washington.  He passed away on New Years Day at age 96, only months after still being seen riding his bicycle around campus with his famous smile and warm greetings for everyone.  While he was, indeed, an ordained minister and hired in the early 60’s to form a Department of Religion, and while some of his best work may have been his classes in Comparative Religion, all those who came to know him – and so many did – remember him for so much more, for an almost ineffable, deep personal connection and level of caring that continued for five decades of college life, long past his technical retirement in the 80’s.

For truly inspiring reading I would recommend this article about him published by the Seattle Times in 2001.

For additional personal testimonials, so inspiring as to make one wonder how one man could be and do so much for so many, I recommend browsing the many remembrances of this amazing man posted by students, faculty and friends from throughout his five decades at Whitman.  The section below entitled “The Light Continues” is my posting on that website.

For a brief introduction, let me just say that Dr. Ball spoke a lot about love.  In his classes he would lead us into lively discussions of the three types of love described by the Greek words  eros, philia, and agape.  Roughly, these represent romantic love, brotherly love, and a bigger, broader concept of love, a commitment to unconditional love – whether for one’s family or one’s entire universe – that, as he often reminded us, is the result of a decision.

Unfortunately, all occurrences of “Love” in my submission were edited to read “love”, and perhaps rightfully so.(1)  That does not detract from my belief that Love may be the single most important concept available for sharing in a troubled world.  I only wish more people could have witnessed Dr. George Ball in action.

The Light Continues

In my days at Whitman (1963-1967), our beloved Dr. Ball was often quoted – or misquoted – as saying “Always do what love requires.” 

I cannot remember for sure if he ever actually said that, but I know for certain that it was often repeated, and controversial for him whether or not that statement could be a fair conclusion to draw from his courses – or his commitments.  As I went back to visit a few more times over the subsequent 45 years, it was clear he felt that kind of thinking was – or at least could lead to – an oversimplification of his message. 

While I totally agree with that possibility, what is vastly more important to me here and now is to cultivate an understanding of just how enormous and all-encompassing his concept of love really was.  In three short words, he lived it – with everyone he touched.  He radiated it in his beaming smile, his sharp and inquisitive gaze, the depth of his intellect, the compassion of his causes, and his total, focused presence – an undivided attention to whomever he was with, an unwavering interest in their deepest concerns.

His love for you, or for me, or for a newcomer or a total stranger, for his planet, for the campus grounds, and for anything else showing signs of life, seemed to drive his very being.  He cared.  He really cared. For everyone. Equally. He was game-free. He seemed to have no allegiance short of the sanctity of all life. (Ghandi comes to mind, as does MLK.  But this was a man who seems to have made deliberate choices not to give even the slightest appearance of being larger than life.)

My favorite piece of practical advice from Dr. Ball came from his recommendations for success in his two-hour final exam essays: “Don’t write anything [except scratch notes] the first hour.”  It takes time, careful contemplation, and thoughtful planning to describe clearly the issues he always wanted us to see.

His legacy?  For starters we can always simply ask “What would George do?” It was never about him. It was always about us and/or others. He defined “selfless” by example. His glow, his radiance – that burning image in my soul – is just as strong, if not stronger, today than it was months ago when I was apparently correct in assuming he was still bicycling around town, being the light that he will always be.

Profound gratitude for your many blessings, Dr. Ball.

Baker Stocking ’67

_____

Notes:

1.) But I’ll die insisting that the final quoted word in my preceding sentence should not be corrected to read “love,”!  What are we quoting here, anyway?  This is a huge pet peeve of mine about American rules of punctuation, i.e., not allowing punctuation marks to follow ending quotes.  Apparently the English have recognized how ridiculous this rule is.  I’ve been a programmer half my life.  If I allowed such an absurd rule to govern my coding (e.g., for aligning opening and closing brackets), the results would never compile … not to mention how ridiculous quoted string literals might look!

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