Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.

9Sep/160

Two Quick Links

Words, Words, Words: Science Fiction

Before I write anything else, I want to thank everyone who came out to hear me read from Mr. Klein's Wild Ride this week in Lacey, Olympia and Tacoma. If you bought a book, double thanks. Let me know what you think of it. In fact, please let everyone know, especially if you enjoyed it. Go to my Amazon page via the links in the post below and leave a critique. Authors say this all the time, but we say it because it's true: reviews from readers like you matter. If someone looks for my book and finds few or zero reader responses, it de-legitimizes both me and the book. So even if you don't like it--and I'm pretty sure you will--post a review. It shows the book is getting some action. And it may just talk someone else into buying it!

Now, then. In addition to writing novels and being the managing editor of Oly Arts, I also still write for the Weekly Volcano. This week's cover article is a preview of 10 shows planned for this theatre season that I think you're most likely to enjoy:

"Top 10 Shows Not to Miss"

And here's an essay about why you should attend a show I curated, called Words, Words, Words: Science Fiction. It's a benefit for Theater Artists Olympia that collects beloved tales of the fantastic from 1897 to the present. I chose half; our stellar cast chose the rest. You're gonna love it. And if you buy one of my books while you're there, I'll donate two bucks to the Midnight Sun Performance Space. Everybody wins!

"Futures Past and Present"

I hope to see you out there in the stars!

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10Dec/150

Science Mike

Star Wars, Episode VII (or, as Saturday Night Live called it, Star Wars and the Four Jamaicans) opens one week from tonight! If you haven't taken the time to swing by a Verizon store and grab their free Google Cardboard "hardware," and downloaded the Jakku Spy feature from the Star Wars app, you should. It's incredibly cool, and all free! That saves you hundreds of dollars on the cost of an Oculus Rift, while allowing you to experience one of the burgeoning technologies featured in Mr. Klein's Wild Ride. As for me, I'll be parked in front of Regal Cinemas in Lacey next Thursday, then at the Seattle Science Center IMAX on Friday. I've also been scarce on social media to avoid spoilers, so wish me luck! Er...the Force. Whatever.

If it seems I've been scarce around my own website as well, you're not wrong. I've been overwhelmed with work and kinda-work these last few months. I'm not complaining; every assignment helps. I was hired by an educational game company to work through Halloween, but that job was extended three times and will continue through at least January 18th. I've also done paid acting work for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, two radio interviews, the Creative Colloquy Volume Two release party, and further prep for Credeaux Canvas. Consequently, writing for fun--or even to promote my published writing--has largely fallen by the wayside. That won't last forever, but it also won't change much over the next week. With what little free time I had remaining last week, I followed friends' suggestions and played through Valve's Portal. Yep, that's me, a cutting-edge gamer from eight years ago.

Mostly I want to recommend the work of a guy named Mike McHargue, aka "Science Mike." I looked him up on the advice of my brother- and sister-in-law, and boy, did they fit the speaker to his audience and vice versa. If you've enjoyed my lines of questioning on this site in the past, particularly my nonfiction efforts on Rereading the Bible, then prepare to meet your new obsession. Like me, Science Mike was raised in a fundamentalist Christian religion but struggled to reconcile his growing understanding of scientific naturalism. Like me, he discovered moral conflicts between himself and his sexist, homophobic denomination. Like me, he made the change to atheism in early adulthood. Unlike me, however, he changed back--not to fundamentalism, but to a humanistic Christianity that reveres the Bible without believing every word of it. We differ in only one respect: he think it's somewhat more likely that God exists than that he does not, while I think it's slightly less likely (while still acknowledging the strong possibility of a deist or otherwise hands-off definition of a Creator). He knows more about science than I do, especially computer science. He claims a subjective experience of God I do not, yet admits anecdotal evidence shouldn't convince any other rational person to believe. I find him fascinating. I love what he does, and it offers a safe path for Christians who can no longer accept the fundamentalist notions of their parents or peer group but still wish to seek Jesus's nature in their lives.

Give him a shot, won't you? He's at MikeMcHargue.com. I've been devouring his podcast over the last twelve hours as I worked and worked out. From where I sit, the world could use a whole lot more Christians (and other religious truth-seekers) just like him.

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29Apr/143

I Contain Multitudes

Within my body are over seven octillion atoms, each a cloud of gnats flitting around an infinitesimal nucleus and a relative ocean of empty space. They drift past each other, at times forming molecular bonds by sharing or trading electrons. Of the octillion-plus molecules in my body, seven out of ten are triatomic water. The hydrogen atoms in those molecules attract each other, so water molecules are likely to socialize. But for the most part, the molecules in my left hand will never have any interaction with the molecules in my right hand. They have no interest in clapping. They are strangers, similar yet isolated systems on either side of the complex galaxy that is me.

Within my body are some seventy-five trillion cells, separated by moats of watery soup. They are islands, organized into archipelagos yet unaware of each other's presence. Particles drift from cell to cell like canoes. We imagine our impulses zapping from neuron to neuron, leaping narrow synaptic gaps like impalas, but they actually change form on their way in and out of each cell. They're short-range Pony Express carriers, not lightning bolts.

My organs are the meat bags that keep me alive, slopped together in a wet sack of skin like sausage in a casing. My liver has no other name. It has no identity. It has no intellect or intent. It's just three pounds of offal put together in such a way that if oxygen and sugar water happen to find their way in, bile comes out. I need it to live, but I'd recoil in horror if ever I could look through my abdomen and see it. (The hole in my abdomen would also be a matter of some concern.) My organs don't know of each other. When food passes through my stomach, that organ has no idea what lies down the digestive road--and perhaps that's for the best.

As I look out my office window, the millions of cone-shaped photoreceptors in my eyes take in individual photons, encoding them as pixels of color. One sees red, another blue, another green. They don't share information with each other. They're how I take in the world, yet they're blind to each other. Like a fly, I see the world through compound vision.

We imagine we store memories the way an iPhone records video, but we're wrong. Is it any wonder I recall events differently from you or anyone else? We actually "remember" events as a series of addresses, each calling up a different sensory building block. Thus, if I try to remember, say, a childhood vacation, my memory actually goes something like "orca face/chlorine smell/popcorn smell/laughter." And that's Sea World. I don't remember what people said. I don't remember what I said. I just remember four or five bits of information. Then, if I try to remember what the hotel pool was like later that vacation weekend, my brain will access the very same "chlorine smell" bit as before, plugging it into the easy-bake memory recipe for "hotel pool." There's no real history in my brain or yours, no shared vision between all our cerebral cells. My autobiography has been written in fridge magnet poetry, not clear syntax or incontestable video. You and I remember shared events through altogether different sets of words. It doesn't matter. The past is mostly gone anyway. Of all those thousands of bits we took in on that long-ago day, a mere handful remain to make us smile.

My brain is not a single organ. It's more like nine member states in an awkward coalition, each part "single-mindedly" pursuing a different role. Even my cerebral cortex, the capital of my consciousness, is split down the middle, with surprisingly limited interaction between its two hemispheres. Sever the corpus callosum between them, and bizarreness ensues. Place an apple in such a person's left hand and tell him to name it; he'll nod politely but find it impossible till you or he transfers the apple to his right hand. However different I may feel about this, I am not a conscious unit. My brain is many, as is yours.

Yet I do have a mind. I perceive the world as if I had a single I to speak of. At every level, my body is a collection of disparate items. My mind is a cloud of mixed agendas. My physical structure is plural beyond imagining. My memories are choppy, my vision pixelated, my sensory intake discontinuous. Descartes was wrong: we are, yet I think.

In decades and centuries past, we humans imagined ourselves as bloody corpses with loftier, invisible ghosts residing inside to keep us moving, thinking, and feeling. We called those animating wisps our souls. We tried to find them by praying, then by weighing. Dr. Duncan MacDougall claimed a human soul weighed three-quarters of an ounce. He was wrong. Our souls are nothing. They are nothing at all. And yet...

We often speak of the "god of the gaps," then lose faith as the gaps in our understanding of the universe diminish. Yet here remains one gap that has never closed. In fact, it has widened. We have no idea why we see ourselves as selves, single selves gliding through the world as single points behind our eyes. I feel like an I in here, not a they, yet on every level I am vast and disunited. I am a hive mind.

Perhaps the word soul should be redefined as whatever it is that brings unity and focus to all those trillions of disparate voices, intentions, and activities within our bodies, all those organs coming together into one recognizable personality. No anatomist, physiologist, psychologist, or theologist can explain it, yet here I am. Is that a miracle? Am I a miracle? I say yes, for after all my selves' cacophonous chatter...here I am to say it.

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