I’m working on sorting, organizing and uploading all the Christmas pictures, honestly, I am! There’s just so much other stuff to do!

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A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

Mary Doria Russell wrote in the introduction,

“I am sufficiently fed up with my species to share Walter Miller’s resigned amusement at this bleeding world, which would surely convince sentient vultures that God created it for them.”

The priest kept wondering how it was possible for such a youth (not particularly intelligent insofar as he could determine) to manage to find occasions or near-occasions of sin while completely isolated on barren desert, far from any distraction or apparent source of temptation. There should be very little trouble a boy could get into out here, armed as he was with only a rosary, a flint, a penknife, and a prayerbook.

IT WAS said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age, among them the Blessed Leibowitz, to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince: “Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it m’Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought.”

But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy those others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; earth shall be mine.

Historians list nothing but trivia.

When you tire of living, change itself seems evil, does it not? For then any change at all disturbs the deathlike peace of the life-weary.

“Ignorance has been our king. Since the death of empire, he sits unchallenged on the throne of Man. His dynasty is age-old. His right to rule is now considered legitimate. Past sages have affirmed it. They did not unseat him.

“Tomorrow a new prince shall rule. Men of understanding, men of science shall stand behind his throne, and the universe will come to know his might. His name is Truth. His empire shall encompass the Earth. And the mastery of Man over the Earth shall be renewed. A century from now, men will fly through the air in mechanical birds. Metal carriages will race along roads of man-made stone. There will be buildings of thirty stories, ships that go under the sea, machines to perform all works.”

“And how will this come to pass?” He paused and lowered his voice. “In the same way all change comes to pass, I fear.” And I am sorry it is so. It will come to pass by violence and upheaval, by flame and by fury, for no change comes calmly over the world.”

Men must fumble awhile with error to separate it from truth, I think – as long as they don’t seize the error hungrily because it has a pleasanter taste.

They belonged to a race quite capable of admiring its own image in a mirror, and equally capable of cutting its own throat before the altar of some tribal god, such as the deity of Daily Shaving. It was a species which often considered itself to be, basically, a race of divinely inspired toolmakers; …

In was inevitable, it was manifest destiny, they felt (and not for the first time) that such a race go forth to conquer stars. To conquer them several times, if need be, and certainly to make speeches about the conquest. But too, it was inevitable that the race succumb again to the old maladies on new worlds,

The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.

Speak up destiny, speak up! Destiny always seems decades away, but suddenly it’s not decades away; it’s right now. But maybe destiny is always right now, right here, right this very instant, maybe.

From a distance, one’s adversaries seemed fiends, but with closer view, one saw the sincerity and it was as great as one’s own.

The trouble with being a priest was that you eventually had to take the advice you gave to others. Nature imposes nothing that Nature hasn’t prepared you to bear.

Ashamed of his fright, he tried to pray, but the prayers seemed somehow unprayerful—like apologies, but not petitions—as if the last prayer had already been said, the last canticle already been sung. The fear persisted. Why? He tried to reason with it. You’ve seen people die, Jeth. Seen many people die. It looks easy. They taper off, and then there’s a little spasm, and it’s over. That inky Dark—gulf between aham—and Asti—blackest Styx, abyss between Lord and Man. Listen, Jeth, you really believe there’s Something on the other side of it, don’t you? Then why are you shaking so?

Holidays 2007

We took 600+ snapshots over the holidays. This is one of my favorites;

Al took this right before sunrise at Big Powderhorn Mountains in the Michigan U.P.

Endymion – Dan Simmons

The past few years have been one improbability after another, each more marvelous and seemingly inevitable than the last.

How could anyone stay sane with entire lifetimes stored in one human mind?

“Meaning no disrespect, sir,” says the other man, “but there’s no way in the Good Lord’s ******* universe that anyone can bar accidents or the unexpected.”

Why am I seeking logic or sanity here? I’d asked myself at the moment. There hasn’t been any so far.


Sounds like and IPhone to me;

All were capable of being used as communicators, of storing massive amounts of data, of tapping into the local datasphere, and – especially with the older ones – of actually hooking into planetary fatline relays via remote so that the megasphere could be accessed.

“..What he wanted — what he wanted his shepherd to learn — was how exalted these things could be — poetry, nature, wisdom, the voices of friends, brave deeds, the glory of strange places, the charm of the opposite sex. But he stopped before he got to the real essence.”

“What real essence?” I asked. Our raft rose and fell on the sea’s breathing.

The meanings of all motions, shapes and sounds,” whispered the girl. “…all forms and substances/ Straight homeward to their symbol-essences…

The universe is indifferent to our fates. This was the crushing burden that the character took with him as he struggles through the surf toward survival or extinction. The universe just doesn’t give a sh*t.

On the debate on whether Artificial Intelligence has a soul;

“And what was our DNA designed to do for the first few hundred million years, my son?” Eat? Kill? Procreate? Were we any less ignoble in our beginnings that the pre-Hegira silicon and DNA-based AI? As Teilhard would have it, it is consciousness which God has created to accelerate the universe’s self-awareness as a means to understanding his will.”

How Artificial Intelligence fits into evolution;

Father Glaucus turned his blind eyes in her direction. “Precisely, my dear. But we are not the only avatars of humanity. Once our computing machines achieved self-consciousness, they became part of this design. They may resist it. They may try to undo it for their own complex purposes. But the universe continues to weave it’s own design.”

“I attribute no definitive and absolute value to the various constructs of man. I believe that they will disappear, recast in a new whole that we cannot yet conceive. At the same time I admit that they have an essential provisional role – that they are necessary, inevitable phases which we (we or the race) must pass through in the course of our metamorphosis. What I love in them is not their particular form, but their function, which is to build up, in some mysterious way, first something divinizable – and then through the grace of Christ alighting on our effort, something divine.”

Connectedness;

“In the Cantos,” I said, “the scholar character seems to discover that the thing the AI Core had called the Void Which Binds is love. That love is a basic force of the universe, like gravity and electromagnetism, like strong and weak nuclear force. In the poem Sol sees that the Core Ultimate Intelligence will never be capable of understanding that empathy is inseparable from the source…from love. The old poet described love as ‘the subquantum impossibility that carried information from photon to photon…’”

“So you’re saying that there needs to be another Isaac Newton to explain the physics of love?” I said. “To give us its laws of thermodynamics, its rules of entropy? To show us the calculus of love?”

I was really disappointed when I finished this book. It was just like a chapter in a saga. I wanted to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! But when I reread the passages where I had turned down the page corners. I could see that it was a whole book on it’s own. And a good one at that. Writing like this makes me think that Dan Simmons is really cool.

The Mountain Meadows Massacre

For Brigham Young and his religion, the haunting consequences of mass murder at Mountain Meadows was undeniable. Like many great crimes of power, the criminals expected to get away with it. Young’s confidence was justified, for he was never indicted for any act connected to Mountain Meadows–and the only legal charge ever brought against him for these murders was drawn at his own request. But he could never escape the conviction of most of his contemporaries that he had masterminded an atrocity. Even if he burned every incriminating piece of evidence and persuaded every believing resident in the Utah Territory to swear that he had nothing to do with the horror at Mountain Meadows, Brigham Young could not change the past. He knew the full truth of his complicity in the crime. The Mormon prophet acted with the certainty that he was the instrument of God’s will, but he initiated the sequence of events that led to the betrayal and murder of one hundred twenty men, women and children.

-Blood of the Prophets – Will Bagley

Which reminded me of this encounter with the Church of the Latter day Saints by Martha Beck in her book “The Joy Diet”;

One day a local religious leader came to my house and told me outright that I had to stop making “inappropriate” statement.

“Here’s my position,” I told him carefully (I spoke more slowly than usual that year, trying to make sure before it came out of my mouth that everything I said was really true). “I respect the people who run the church. So far as I know, they’re very good men. But if one of them told me to do something that I believed in my heart to be wrong, I wouldn’t do it.”

He sighed uncomfortably. “Well, I understand,” he said. “But if you ever say that publicly, we’ll have to take action against you. And by the way,terrible things happen to children in this town whose parents aren’t in good standing with The Church. We can’t control what happens to you.”

In retrospect, this seems bizarre and creepy, like being targeted for assassination by the Brady Bunch (actually, come to think of it, that’s exactly how it felt at the time).

,The Joy Diet by Martha Beck