25 Apr The daily dose of genius
THE DAILY DOSE OF GENIUS
"The pleasure of finding things out."
"The pleasure of finding things out."
Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel Laureate, 1965
If you visit me on a regular weekday morning, I’ll probably be sitting in my usual spot in my bed, looking across to the other corner of the room. I am going through my semi-mandatory morning routine reading of the medium.com blog, but given the tech holidays about to crash our lives, it’s all about 2023, of course:
And then – move over tech and sociopolitical tabs – here comes the real thing:
And to top it all off:
Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash
Do you have a road you take frequently, but hate deeply? I do. La Cienega Blvd. It’s all gray, ugly-looking, and predictably choked every single time! I am on my way to get yet another scan at the hospital – this one needed for this new experimental treatment for my unyielding stage 4 cancer. I badly need to distract myself. I call my nurse.
Here’s the news: As of this morning, this treatment has failed to work in 2 out of the 3 people in the world that have tried it so far. I will be number 4.
I have to sit with that for a moment.
You know how they talk about how great it is to be on “the leading edge of science”? In my case, it feels a lot more like the bleeding edge. I am now living my life on the bleeding edge of science.
Photo by Jill Sauve on Unsplash
Why are we spinning our wheels in the abortion debate? Why can’t we decide what’s right or wrong?
Everyone espouses single-point arguments – I must have control of my own body; or abortion is murder; or it is a right based on the constitution, etc.
All these are too simple and incomplete, and don’t do justice to a complex and nuanced issue – the kind we are not equipped to deal with. But without nuanced arguments and complex solutions, no argument is ever convincing enough to enough of us, and end up spinning our wheels.
Let me explain.
There are three main types of arguments for the issue of abortion: Legal, moral, and political.
Photo by Hans Moerman on Unsplash
Her name was Maron. I met her in the Frankfurt airport while in transit from LA to Athens.
There was something about her that was inviting and open. So, as she was going to be my companion for a couple of hours pushing my wheelchair through the airport maze, I asked her. Maron, I learned, was from Senegal. She was living in Frankfurt for 20 years, married to a German. Her house was very close to the airport, so she could easily commute to work. But now, her kids all grown, they bought a house further away, and she was going to have a 40-minute train ride to get to work, a prospect that troubled her somewhat.
Photo by Alex Alvarez on Unsplash
You start somewhere, pretty much like everyone else, sometime in your budding adulthood.
You may set out with a bang, thinking you’ll conquer this thing called life, or opt for a stroll. It may feel like you’re standing in a field of possibilities, filled with thrill; or it may be tinged with a dose of fear and anxiety – will you make it? Will you be safe? Will you reach the promised peak?
It doesn’t really matter. You must get on the path. This is the rule of life.
You may wind your way up a gentle hill, or yours may be a steep mountain. You may run along lush riverbanks, or rugged coast, through a thick forest, or along the sandy beach. You may run into thunderstorms, or gentle rain, smell the musty air, the breezy sea.
You keep going. That is the rule of life.
Others may join you, some lock hands and walk with you. Some carry you a part of the way, some drop you to the ground like a bulky log and run. You keep going.
Your heart swells with love, shrinks in pain. Your legs get weary, your hair turns grey. You may speed up, or slow down.
It doesn’t really matter. You keep going.
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
It was a spectacular few minutes. There is magic in watching a rocket lift off the desert floor shooting up with that thunderous power. Like it’s mocking the very concept of puny, earthy gravity, as it submits to the roar of the thrust. It’s adrenaline-pumping material.
And so it was that Jeff Bezos escaped earth for all of 10 min, and the human race got its 3 space musketeers. Bezos, Branson, Musk. BBM. And their muskets are these rockets. They twirl them around like their boyhood light-sabers.
Their space plans vary: Branson launches a pure space tourism business; Elon Musk fantasizes about making humans a multiplanetary species. And Bezos’ illusions of grandeur are still unknown and mysterious. The amazonification of space has begun.
But I am very confused and very, very conflicted.
What are we doing in space exactly? What is the problem we are trying to solve?
It’s not that I don’t get space excitement. I do! I remember July 20, 1969. Watching the moon landing as a little girl in my town on a Greek island. We had no home TV then, but we gathered outside the one luxury hotel along the waterfront, and I still remember craning my neck up to the screen to catch the moment. What a glorious, mind-bending feat that was!! I’ll never forget the feeling, I was hooked. Twelve years later, April ‘81, a group of us, young grad school engineering students – still without TVs – get up at 2am and trek to someone’s house to watch space shuttle Columbia take off. We cheer, fret, and, eventually, explode in thrill. Oh, the innocent days when space was about discovery! (more…)
Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash
As Klara tells the story, this is how it begun:
[Fourteen-year old Josie and Mother walk into the store. They look around for a while. Mother strikes up a conversation with someone, but Josie is clearly unhappy]
“But Mom, what’s the point?”, she asks. “She is great , I know. But she is not who I want!”
“We can’t keep searching forever, Josie”.
I hear the Manager’s voice coming again, and there is something new in it.
“Excuse me, miss. Do I understand that you are looking for someone in particular? One that you’ve seen before?”
“Yes, ma’am. You had her in your window a while back. She was really cute, and really smart. Looked almost French? Short hair, quite dark, and all her clothes were a little dark too and she had the kindest eyes, and she was so smart”.
“I think I know who you mean”. Manager said. “If you’d follow me, we’ll find out”.
I stepped into the Sun. When Josie saw me, her face filled with joy, and she quickened her stride.
“You’re still here! Mom, this is her! The one I’ve been looking for!”
I am sitting in my living room chair, my laptop wide open in front of me and anxious to swallow my words. But none are coming. I can’t focus. My mind is scattered like mist over my head, and none of it wants to flow onto the page. I recognize this madness; I’ve been here before. It’s just another week-in-hell, of waiting for test results that will decide my life. I have zero ways of knowing which direction it will go – life or death.
There is no relief from this pile of uncertainty. I constantly scan my body for signs of disease, aches and pains. Suddenly, I get this feeling in my legs – like there are steel rods running inside each of them, so they feel simultaneously completely stiff and completely paralyzed. Bitter fear fills my mouth. It grows until I am gagging.
I can’t do this. I can’t live with my fearful heart in my mouth all the time. I can’t. No. The answer is no. There must be another way. My way.
Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash
I am lying flat in the passenger seat of my car, being driven down La Cienega Blvd right after my latest radiation treatment. I am letting out primal screams as I am reliving the earlier moments in the machine. High-energy particle beams spinning around my body and shooting at me, while I am immobilized in a position that causes me excruciating pain. I cannot move. I am in agony but trapped in this contraption. My heart rate goes up. I break out in cold sweat. It is terrifying. And the terror repeats, day after day, same time, in a relentless pattern of planned prison torture, like having your nails pulled out, or your tongue snipped daily.
In a rare moment out of the mental fog, it occurs to me to question: What is happening to me? Why am I having this reaction? After all, it is not my first time in pain! But this is different. I feel like my entire body is in violent shock, is revolting against it. Why?
If you are a bit odd (like me), where do you find role models that are a good fit for your oddness? I never did. Until now.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice. I suddenly grasped the immensity of her existence. Not just her impact, but her entire reality. Unique. Focused. Intense. Aware that she saw the world differently from most and convinced she had it right. With striking clarity of mind. (What’s not to like?)
She is honored for many things. For winning cases. For arguing cases. For dissenting her losing cases.
Oh, the dissents! The legacy of RBG. She made dissent hip and famous. To me, that is a life-affirming boost. Because I dissent a lot: Traditions are beautiful and wonderful? I dissent. Mindfulness will save your life? I dissent. The ‘new normal’? I dissent. (more…)