Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘middle age’

Gravity Probe B, the wisdom of dogs, and other notions.

In Dogs, Life, Nature, Philosophy, The Examined Life, The infinity of ideas, Thinkers on January 5, 2013 at 6:00 am
imgres-1

Gravity Probe B

Einstein (1879-1955) was vindicated about seven years ago. That was when Gravity Probe B, one of Nasa’s satellites, confirmed “to a precision of better than 1 per cent the assertion Einstein made 90 years ago – that an object such as the Earth does indeed distort the fabric of space and time.” (NASA) Imagine a tarp stretched tight, suspended with bungee cords; then imagine dropping a basketball on the tarp. The tarp will sag under the ball and eventually it will come to rest in the middle of the tarp. Drop a marble on the tarp and it will speed to the basketball. This is called the Geodetic Effect and is what Einstein predicted happens with space and time. The basketball represents gravity, as a planet might manifest; the sagging tarp the fabric of space-time. Indeed, time and space bend.

___________________________

Despite the assertion fronted by certain family members (you know who you are), I do not believe (entirely) that the gravity of my existence bends my environmental reality. But…

As my parents warned, life (read: time) appears to be accelerating. Years come and go–flash, bang, and suddenly another day has passed, a year escaped, a decade expired before I can blink my eyes. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (535 – c. 475 BCE) famously said, “No man [or woman, presumably] ever steps in the same river twice.” His work, On Nature, does not survive, and everything we know about him we glean from fragments mentioned by other philosophers, principally Diogenes and Plato (who gives us the “river” metaphor). We must be thankful for that, at least.

The flow of existence feels (to me) to be bending time. The older I get the more the bend. The basketball seems to rest deeper into the tarp. Have you ever stood in a river when upstream water is released from a dam? I have. You don’t realize the water flow is increasing until the rush of it is hard upon you. That is aging–we are clueless until it’s mid-thigh and rising, our feet searching for traction. (I realize I’m mixing metaphors here, but hang with me a moment more.)

How does one broach this rushing tide? I turn to the lessons of my dogs. The best of them, those most seemingly, most excitedly alive, existed nose to the ground, curiosity aroused, a trot along the line, working the margins of the harvest. A dog lives a life without shadow; it is a being fully aware, running in the brilliant high-noon sun. Humans cast a shadow and we call it consciousness. Like biography it cannot be escaped. It is the ransom that cannot be paid.

The gist: It seems that the less I am aware of things, the faster the flow. Contrariwise, my dogs appear aware of most everything and completely and totally ignorant of  the bending basketball-gravity of existence.

Here are the things I’m not talking about: transcendence, enlightenment, spiritualism, mysticism, metaphysics, immortality, and all the other limp and ill-fitting clothes we’ve donned over the ages. And what I am talking about? I’ll let you know as soon as Lucy wakes from her nap. We’ll discuss it on our walk.

An attempt to strangle-hold summer.

In Dogs, Nature, The Examined Life on July 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Boats come and go under my balcony all day long. Sometimes, late at night, after I’ve gone to bed I, hear them plying the calm night water, slowly going up and down the slip out to the Fore River and the bay. It is a pleasant sound and one that comforts me, as the sound of the fog horn in the winter comforts me.

It is summer in Maine and the water-ways are full of traffic. I sometimes envy the boaters, power or sail there is no discrimination to my envy. I don’t have a boat, nor will I get one, but I envy the ready access to the water a boat affords. The best I can do, is get in the water directly. I tried to swim off the East End yesterday. Usually I can get in a mile or even two mile swim and be better for it. But yesterday it was choppy and windy and the bay was teaming with white caps and I turned back after only a half mile. As I walked out of the water a boater launching his craft from a trailer said he was going to get wet in the chop, that I had chosen to get wet but he wanted to avoid it. I’m sure he got soaked.

A boat is a thing and I’m trying to avoid the accumulation of things now. I’ve had my run at “things” and now am attempting to shed them. Eventually you come to understand that the things you own end up owning you. “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” repeated Thoreau. I grew up with that phrase but forgot to practice it somewhere along the way. Now I attempt to make amends. I have a tattoo on my left arm, Om mani padme hum–the Tibetian mantra. Perhaps I should consider Thoreau’s admonition on the other arm, as I tend to forget it.

Regardless of all that, summer is the time to be out of doors. And even more so here, where summer has a short–but intense–life span. Last week I was in the Moose River region, near Jackman, a dozen miles or so from the Canadian boarder. It is a remote area. And the weather can be challenging, even this time of year. I had to put on a heavy fleece when I got out of my tent in the morning. And in a cold downpour poor Lucy, soaked and obviously not happy, looked at me as if to question this strangle-hold I seem to exercise on the summer experience. Like youth, summer is gone before you know it.  I recognize this. It is a singular wisdom that I now grasp. Soon enough you realize that sleeping on the ground and scrounging for firewood was easier before hip replacement. This truism I realized a couple of years ago, but am too stubborn to accept. It is my nature to nurture this stubbornness as long as I can.