Monday, July 25, 2005

Creativity, marriage, and children


My lovely and informed bride recently came across a study showing that creative genius expresses itself early in men but is turned off--like a switch--when a man gets married and has children. As Albert Einstein observed, "A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so." So there you have it. By these accounts, my creative endeavors have taken a severe nosedive. I suppose it's all busywork now. Or maybe by Einstein's reasoning, I still have a few more months to make my big breakthrough. Wonder what that'll look like.

Here's what it won't look like: the poor man's air conditioner. You see, I filled the bathtub with cold water this afternoon and then blew over the water with a fan, hoping to cool off the house. Something in the physics just wasn't right though; it didn't seem to work as planned. Only Chispita seemed happy about the set-up, but she was probably just relieved that I wasn't going to throw her in the bath as part of her "swimming lessons". She didn't exactly appreciate her previous lessons.

In any case, my wife has left me here for a week as part of her job. She and her staff and students will be staying in the dorms at Occidental College, so the kids'll get a taste for college life. Meanwhile, it's just Chispita and I on the homefront. Today I called my dad and we chatted for a while. At some point, I started hearing gunshots. One of his neighbors was either firing a 22 or playing a tape of firing a 22 to scare pests or something. He just said, "That's Texas for you." Indeed it is. I encouraged him to hunt down the source of it and give it a piece of his mind.

Then I went over to John Skidmore's. It was nice to see him. It had been about a year since I saw him. I also saw Jay and Mary Parker and their new baby - number five. Meanwhile kid number one is going away to college. That's five kids spread over eighteen years! The baby kept wanting to play with me; well if grabbing my hand, flailing your arms, and making bizarre noises is your idea of "play". The Baby also did crazy yoga moves like touching her face with her feet. It was a brilliant and creative move! Those youngins' better enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

J and Silent S


So in the past month, I took trips to MIT and U Mich. At Univ of Michigan, I met with a colleague and also visited with John from Ann Arbor, my former roommate of five years. That's him on the right, #47 for the Michigan Wolverines. He's a line - backer. Or maybe not. The trip was very cool, especially with John showing me everything there is to see in Ann Arbor. We saw a flamenco dancing troupe, considered nearly all things, ate iced custard, visited places like Ypsilanti, went to not one, but two Christian gatherings, ate super deep dish gut-busting pizza, drove by the only Trader Joe's in town, and canoed down a mist filled river surrounded by eight story tall rainforest canopy on either side. For reals, man!

So the other day, my darling and adventurous wife and I were walking along the San Gabriel River, performing treacherous river crossings (right) across a vast and barren wilderness when we came across one of Jessica's workers with PCC Math/Science Upward Bound. I dare say Irene had clear jumped off a bridge, quite in the middle of nowhere, and we came along as a huge rescue operation was in effect to rescue her from the raging rapids below (left). It was insane! And then we saw several others do the same. Under what compulsion, I do not know. Whether it be an attraction to the earth, or a loathing of the bridge, I cannot say. But every time, the bridge, in its magnanimity, always brought the people back safely, a fine example of Depression era morality... and construction.

In other news, I washed Chispita today and she's got all these nasty knots in her hair. It's unseemly. Unseemly, I say! I've also noticed that iPhoto, the Mac's digital photo library tool, has turned out to be an enemy. It takes FOR-EV-ER to do simple tasks, like "go back" or even "letting me use the mouse". When I want to look at a photo, sometimes it is quick, and sometimes it takes the aforementioned eons. I try to remind it, "C'mon, this isn't that complex" but to no avail. The spinning color wheel (Mac's version of the endlessly rotating hourglass) retorts, "You don't understand. This is, for some entirely unknowable reason, extremely complex".

In conclusion, Jessica and I recently got the games Scrabble and Rummikub, both of which Adam Yates seems to be the master of. In reward, we gave him a day's meat. But we're a-Scrabblin' and a-Rummikubin' to catch up. And if anyone else wants to play, let us know. Or I'll sick iPhoto on you!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005



Last week, my mom and I were talking on the phone and the subject of miracles came up. My mom was talking about how God is "in the miracle business" and I was talking about how he's the "author of the laws of nature", with all their regularity. It recalled to mind some things I read in a C.S. Lewis essay, about how laws of nature, far from precluding miracles, are necessary conditions for their possibility.

If there were no regular laws of nature, miracles could not be recognized as exceptions and would lose their function as divine signs. Miracles are possible provided that such laws exist and provided that God is not bound by those laws he has established. It wouldn't be reasonable for God to suspend the laws of nature in an arbitrary way (they would cease to be laws!). But it would make sense for him to suspend them sometimes for reasons such as getting people's attention regarding a new order of salvation!

If miracles were random and haphazard, I would have a hard time finding them credible. But if they seem to fit into a pattern and point in a certain direction, that is another thing. It would suggest purposeful activity on God's part. And the miracles described in the Bible, I think more or less fall into a meaningful pattern. In Lewis' words, they all point to the Incarnation, "the great miracle," Jesus' mastery over death and decay, laws with which we are all too familiar, and from which we all want deliverance (think of all the resources being poured into the bio-medical fields!).

Now God could of course, all things being possible to him, prevent any mishap from happening by performing constant miracles, a steady stream of violations of his own laws of nature. But I believe they must, as a rule, be relatively rare, or they lose their meaning (how rare? I don't know). Frequent interventions from on high would destroy the order of nature and make it impossible for us to act meaningfully, since the consequences of our actions would be unforeseeable. We could not cook food for our neighbor or give shelter to friends and relatives if the nature of chemistry or of structural mechanics were totally shifting and changing. As a more modern example, we could not build cars or airplanes unless we could predict how they would function.

God has built regularity into his world for his own purposes, which I do not claim to know fully. I am a natural philosopher, one who studies nature and her patterns, her regularity, her rules. But I do not go as far as my colleagues in claiming that the rules we discern are never violated. I think my colleagues are afraid of the scenario of haphazard miracles, but I don't believe those are the kinds of miracles that happen. There is a pattern, a pattern beyond nature, a way-out forever pattern, to the miracles. God's current emphasis seems to be salvation and it is entirely fine by me. He desires us to be healed and whole. The rule of captivity, death, and decay is one against which I wholeheartedly welcome his intervention. But miracles in themselves are not the point. They are the signs which point to the Great Miracle, the God who came and died and rose to life everlasting, a life he invites us to join, and purposes beyond this universe he invites us to be a part of.