Observed

I stumble around Youtube from time to time, and occasionally something really captures my attention.  I was wandering about Youtube yesterday in fact, and found a compilation video of a theoretical physicist named Michio Kaku.  To summarize and simplify the first few minutes of the video, Michio shares that everything in the universe is like Schrodinger’s famous cat problem.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Schrodinger posits that if a cat is placed in a box and unobservable, it must be both dead and alive simultaneously.  It is only when the box is opened and the cat is observed that it becomes either dead or alive.

Schrodinger’s cat is known for seeming to be illogical but theoretical physics has found that it is a viable interpretation of how our world is working at the atomic level.  MIchio takes this concept a step further and talks about how nothing in the universe can even exist if it hasn’t been observed.  He states that the observation of something is essential to it’s creation.

Creation.  Perhaps the biggest argument of science and faith.  How were we created?

Genesis 1:4  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 

God saw the light that he created.  God observed the difference between light and darkness and then continued creating, seeing that each new thing was good.  God “sees” 7 different times in the first chapter of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created, God saw.  He observed that which he had made, and called it good.

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

God saw me when I was unformed, when he brought me forth into this world.  He saw me then, and he sees me now.  I am seen, and I am known.

Perhaps one day we will see that science itself points to our creator, and perhaps in that day we will no longer only know in part, but instead see the entirety of the truth that God has created for us.

Watch 33 (Trail and Wild)

Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run

I’ve been hiking more this year than I have in previous years, partially due to my new wife and I exploring places we have both loved seperately for the first time together, and partially due to being out of town for work so much.  When I have a few hours before or after work with nowhere else to go, I have been seeking the woods and the trail.  Together and apart, Sam and I have wandered through canyons, strode through valleys, scrambled up ridges, and splashed through creek beds while we traveled along the path set out for us.  We have explored together those wild places that human hands have left to their own devices, places where nature is the lead designer.

When I think about the wild places I have been through this year, I think of the time that has passed.  Every year on my birthday, I replace my suddenly worn and weary watch with one that is fresh and new.  I have been doing this for a while now, and this will be the 8th watch I have worn in as many years.  It is a reset of sorts, a tool for self evaluation.  As I carry this tradition forward, my time will eventually run out, and I hope to have a fine collection of watches to display at my funeral.  Each watch will have it’s own story, and in that story pieced together from year sized slices, I hope that a remnant of the person I was while I walked the earth remains behind, eager to walk beside anyone willing to travel the road I traveled in life.  Today, it strikes me that one year sized slice will be unwritten, but I guess there isn’t much to be done about that.

A path we walked in Brazil this year.

The wild places around us do not grow up overnight.  Time passes to fully form them.  Glaciers carve out paths through rock and soil, while streams continue the work when the glaciers have melted.  A tree creates year sized slices of it’s own, each ring representing a year of growth.  The carpet of fallen leaves melts into the forest floor, only to be covered by a freshly fallen carpet of color the next year.   A tree outlives the squirrel that scampers over it’s branches, whilst the doe and fawn feed at it’s feet for a time.  The wild places around us do not grow up overnight.

My life has been full of wild places, and full of places that have been tamed.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that I despise a place that has been tamed.  I enjoy the comforts of home, I enjoy the structures we live and work in.  The rain knocking on the window beside me is better kept out than allowed to enter, in this moment.  Structure and tameness are important parts of our lives, and this past year has found me developing these structures in my life to new levels.   In the same way that wildness does not finish its work overnight, neither have these structures sprung up fully formed in the darkness of one moment.

Photo by Mackenzie Bates of Waverly Lane Photography

This past year has brought a lot of new construction into my life.  I am now a married man, a man who has so happily consented to building together a life with this one woman my heart has chosen.  This structure will define the rest of my life forever.  I finished a year of living in my car at the end of December.  (An experiment of sorts that one day I may write more about.)  I entered my third year of freedom from the bite of the snake.  I have stepped into new roles at work, expanding my responsibilities into new places.  I have made a serious commitment to eliminating the debt of consumerism and one-upmanship from my finances.  These structures, these tame places, have not sprung up in one night, they have been the work of years, and some of these structures will take the work of a lifetime to complete.  I will seek to continue the taming of my heart in the year that follows, each tick of this new watch a milestone on the path I walk.  I will pursue the completion of structures placed not on sand, but on the solid rock of Christ who ultimately leads me from point to point.  I will blaze a new trail in the year that comes, creating a tame place in the wildness on both sides that I may travel upon.

My favorite panorama of the year. Taken near Lake Lemon in Monroe County Indiana

I will not always build these trails correctly the first time.  Each trail will endure constant renovation and rebirth.  It will be a struggle to complete the vision set in front of me.  The struggle will require the clearing of thorns from the path in front of me.  The leveling of ground that lies unevenly at my feet will break my back as I move shovel after shovel of dirt to a new and different place.  Taming certain areas will be hard work in this new year of life, as it was hard work in the year that has just past.  The trail I build will be the legacy of my life.

My wife playing in the clear water of a creek.

The wild places in us do not grow up over night.  They must be protected and given a chance to grow.  As much as I speak of creating a trail in my life, I want even more to cultivate certain areas of wildness in me.  I must set borders on those areas, but if allowed to grow in the proper place and time, the wild in me will birth a beauty that no human mind can plan.  The wild and the trail live together in harmony.  They form each other.  Without the trail, the beauty of the wild would not be seen, would not be experienced.  Without the wild, the trail has no where to explore, no new thing to see.

As I step into this new year, I look forward to developing the trail in front of me.  As I build, I will seek out the beauty in the wild that grows within me.

A waterfall in Salmonie State Park near Wabash Indiana.


 

Hermit

(#25 of 25 – 2017)

A hermit is a person who withdraws from the world, often for religious reasons.  I’ve considered the life of a hermit as something that I would perhaps be suited for.  Frankly, TV and books that romanticized hermitage were primarily to blame, but something about the simplicity of it all spoke to me.  No messy interactions with people who are predictable only in their unpredictability, no unexpected phone calls with bad news.  No reason to depend on anyone but yourself.

I’ve dabbled with hermitage.  Most of the 18 months I spent in my first apartment were spent alone.  From the moment I left work until the moment I returned the next day, the majority of my days were spent by myself, interacting with only me and the world I could touch through the internet.  At first I enjoyed the solitude, but as the months wore on, I found that there was certainly something missing in my life.  Obviously this was not a full hermitage, as I worked regularly during that time, often times spending the day interacting specifically with other people as part of my employment.  At the end of the day, I found that I did not have the peace I thought I would find in being alone.

Things have changed quite a lot since I first moved out in mid 2015.  It is now the beginning of 2018, and I have proposed to my fiancé, and we have begun to plan a life together.  At a certain level, I will never be alone again for very long.  My future wife is depending on me to be present in our marriage, just as I am depending on her being present.  We are making a commitment to each other to stay together and never seek to be apart emotionally (even if work or other realities take us apart physically for a time).  I am forsaking the call of the hermit.

Or am I?

Unfortunately, for me it is easy to seek to withdraw from chaos around me.  I hear news about world leaders calling countries I know and love ‘shitholes’, and sending back 200,000 people who have made their home here in the United States and I just want to run away from it.  I fear the harsh words that could be said to me if I stand up against those actions, if I put my foot down to say “This is wrong.”  I have found that conflict is more easily avoided than resolved, so when the conflict doesn’t directly involve me, it is easy to exempt myself from confronting it.  I seek the seeming solitude of distraction.  I peruse websites and read comic strips by the hour.  I find myself seeking escape from the harsh realities around me.

I’ve found that my life is more full, now.  My relationship with Samantha has broadened it and deepened it significantly.  I still have rough days where I want to just hide in bed and never come out, but now I know that Sam is depending on me (at least in some sense, she is capable of being a very independent young lady) to wake up and engage with her.  Yes, there is sometimes a cost to these interactions.  Sometimes I have to delay something I was focused on doing, so that we can be more together when she has time available, but the rewards found in the relationship have been more than worth the costs.

Sometimes I have to give up just a bit of my personal peace, in order to find relational peace.

When I began dating my future wife, I forsook the call of the hermit in my personal life.  It is tremendously important that I don’t withdraw into myself, that I don’t shut her out.
For a long time, my attention has been drawn to the lack of peace in the world, and sometimes it is so easy to close my eyes and pretend that everything is okay.  I don’t want to give up my personal peace to make a difference in the world around me.  I am too often unwillingly to sacrifice the peace I have to pursue peace for the world at large.  I’ve become a hermit, withdrawing from the world because it is easier to keep my personal slice of peace than to share it with those in need around me. I’ve been following the way of the hermit, and I’m afraid that one day I will regret it tremendously.  One day the consequences for the world we be so high that I am directly affected, regardless of my desire to remain aloof.

I must confront this desire towards hermitage in my life, and do the work that the world needs me to do.

I must choose Peace instead of peace.

Prince of Peace

(#24 of 25-2017)
Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

So what did he do to bring peace into various situations?  What can we learn from his actions?

Jesus very first miracle was turning water into wine.  He was at a wedding with his mother, where they ran out of wine, and Mary asked Jesus to do something about it.  A wine shortage certainly wasn’t the biggest issue in the world at the time, but Jesus, in obedience to his mother chose to act.  He turned the water brought to him into the finest wine of the wedding.    I have never really spent much time studying this story before, because it seems so cut and dry.  I approached it as if Jesus took care of a minor problem, and moved on with his life, and so should we.

Now that I am helping plan a wedding of my own, I realize just how much this moment must have meant to the happy couple.  As we work on planning a special day for us, for our family, and for our friends, we are constantly focused on money and costs and amounts and wanting to be sure we have enough of everything for everyone.  This couple had likely done the same thing, but somehow came up short.  If I was the groom in that situation, I would have been pretty upset and I would be trying to scrounge up enough cash to buy another cask so my very thirsty friends could drink their fill.  It would have been a huge distraction, and it might have even ruined my memories of the special day.

Jesus stepped into this lack, and supplied.  He brought peace through provision.

We see another moment when Jesus is confronted by the religious rulers of his day, they have brought with them a woman caught in adultery, and they are demanding that he pass judgement on her.  The Mosaic law requires that this woman be stoned to death.  They have done everything they can to trap Jesus between a rock and a hard place, and it does seem to be an impossible situation.  Jesus can deny the law of Moses (which come from God his Father) and let the woman live, or he can allow the woman to be killed for her sin.

Jesus seems speechless in this moment.  He writes on the ground with his finger, but the scriptures do not tell us what he wrote.  The religious sect around him continues to press him for an answer, feeling that their trap is working.  Jesus finally responds to their questions.  He tells them that the man with no sin can throw the first stone.  In one masterful stroke, Jesus judges not only the woman, but each man who has brought her to him.  The religious men are forced to accept that they too have sinned, and they leave the woman alone with Jesus.   Jesus has saved this woman from this life threatening situation.

Jesus delayed judgement to give the woman (and each of the men as well) a chance to repent of their sin.  Jesus brought peace through delay.  We never meet that woman in the scriptures again, but my hope is that she found herself changed through her encounter with Jesus.

I have one more story for today.

Peter denied Jesus three times, even after swearing that he would never forsake Christ.  After the crucifixion, we find Peter to be a broken man, ashamed of his failure, ashamed of his denials.  Peter returns to his life as a fisherman, leaving behind everything his Rabbi taught him, certain that he had no place in the work Jesus wanted to do in the world.  During a breakfast by the fire, Jesus restores Peter to himself, healing their relationship.  He sets in front of Peter a tremendous task, one that will eventually take Peter’s life.  He welcomes Peter back into the family as if no wrong had been done.  Jesus brings peace through forgiveness.

Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace.

Drone

(#23 of 25 days of Peace-2017)
As a race humanity has some unique characteristics.  While we aren’t the only species to use tools, we are certainly a species that has truly mastered tool use.   While otters have their favorite rock, and scientists have declared that chimps and monkeys are living in the stone age, the genus Homo has most fully learned to use tools.

When we use tools, we open up new worlds of possibility.  A hammer brought forth the possibility of the home you may live in today.  A knife allows a human to pre-digest their food, cutting it into smaller sections to aid in digestion.  When we began to tame fire, we again made our own process of digestion easier.  The invention of gunpowder, led to the rifle, which made harvesting game to eat even easier.  Each tool has opened up new possibilities for the human race to survive.

This knowledge comes at a price, however.  Or perhaps I should say this knowledge comes with a choice.  The tools we use in our daily lives, can so often be used to destroy possibility as they can be used to create it.  In fact, each tool I named above can be easily used to kill another human, to snuff out the possibilities that exist in that person.  We live in a world where our power grows daily, as new tools are developed that allow us to bring forth new life, or new death.  These tools can bring peace, or they can take it away.

So do we bring the ban hammer down on, well, hammers?  Or do we accept the inherent risk of the hammer, to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity presented to us by it?  That decision has already been made in history.  We know that the good of the hammer will outweigh the bad if we as a society teach young children that it is wrong to use the hammer for evil.  The decision has already been made for the hammer, but there are new tools being invented every day, for which this type of decision will need to be made by society.

I have recently begun using a new tool that has opened up an entire new set of possibilities for me, but that also has a terrible destructive potential.  This tool can help find a lost hiker in the woods, or it can be used to spy on your sunbathing neighbor.  This tool can be used to deliver medicines to remote villages, or it can be used to deliver guided munitions in a precision strike.  This tool can be used to study fragile habitats, or used to destroy them.

I’m speaking about my sUAV, more commonly known as a drone.

I’ve never used a more polarizing camera tool in my life.  I’ve upset people by even bringing it in to a shoot, I’ve had it taken away in an airport, and I’ve had to take the most difficult test I’ve taken since high school in order to use one commercially.  I had to spend more time learning how to use one in a lawful and safe way than I had to spend to acquire my concealed carry permit for a handgun.  (That should probably be telling us something, by the way.)

Drones are an incredible tool, and they have been used in disaster response to deliver medicines, save lives, find sinking refugee ships at sea.  They open up new perspectives on our planet, and even beyond, as the Cassini mission shows us.  We have drones on the surface of Mars, places where humanity is unwilling or unable to go.  Through the use of this powerful tool, humanity has extended it’s reach beyond itself, to entirely new places.  One drone has even become the first man made object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. (Here’s looking at you V’ger!)

Drones have brought tremendous potential to humanity, but there are those who have taken this tool and perverted it.

Most people first heard the term drone in reference to ‘drone strikes’ being carried out by the United States government.  Large drones (the size of a small plane, not the little quadcopters you most often see in the U.S.) carry ordinance to a target, and attack it from above.  Currently these actions are controlled by a human, sitting in a control room some distance away, but there are those that seek to make this targeting and attacking process autonomous.  I’ve written on this subject previously here.  Other drones have been used by perverted individuals to spy on others, and I’ve seen videos of women being directly harassed by a perverted individual bent on using this tool to destroy instead of create.

I hesitated for a long time over the word pervert.  It is an ugly word, describing an ugly situation.  I choose to use it, because I want society to recognize these uses of drone technology as a perversion of it’s potential.  I want society to see that brave new technology should not come with a loss of personal freedoms, or a loss of life.   A person who uses technology to harm others is a pervert.  They have taken the glorious potential of a technology and twisted it for their own purposes.

The only way to ensure that new technology is used in a positive way is to put societal pressure on those who would do otherwise.  We, as a society, have a choice about how new technology is used, and those of us who are seeking peace can not be silent as the world around us attempts to pervert and exploit those who have no voice.  So stand up for those killed by the military’s use of drones, stand up for those whose privacy has been invaded, for those who have been sexually assaulted by a pervert with a remote control.  Encourage strong punishments for those who use technology improperly, including our own government.

End drone warfare.  Stop the perversion of technology.

Peace demands it.