Rafting through life

Have you ever had one of those days, or weeks, or months, or years, where everything you do seems to not work out as you expected? You lay your plans and try to implement them, and for some reason, no matter where you turn, it all falls apart.

I’ve had a few months like that, where it seemed that all the things I was carefully putting together were unraveling. As annoying as it’s been, it’s reminded me that control is just an illusion and that regardless of the best-laid plans, life will do what it wants.

I like to think of life as similar to riding down a river in a raft without a paddle! When things are good my raft is in the middle of the river, floating quickly and smoothly towards my destination. However, for no apparent reason the river may suddenly push it towards the edge, where the trees overhang and the rocks are plentiful.

As my raft continues to move, the low-hanging branches knock me around, we bang into rocks, and all I can do is hang on and try to stay in the boat. At other times my raft and I may end up in an eddy, where we go around in circles and I feel quite stuck. Occasionally the raft and I may actually go over the falls and I might be thrown into the water. When this happens my job is to remember to breathe as I attempt to get to the surface and climb back into the raft.

Whether my raft is floating effortlessly down the middle of the river, or headed for the falls, is often out of my control. My job is to continue to hang on, make sure I’ve done all I can (like wear a life jacket and tie everything down), stay with the raft at all costs, and know that eventually the situation will change.

This is what I’ve been focusing on these past several days, and as I move into a new week I can already feel my raft coming out of the eddy and once again moving smoothly down the river.

As much as I’d like to think things happen in my time, I‘m reminded once again that everything has its own time. So I have faith that the eventual outcome will be what I need, and persistence and tenacity are what will get me there.



Not Seeing What’s Right in Front of Your Eyes

It all started this morning , when I started my search for my i-phone. I searched for almost 30 minutes and then I realised that it had camouflaged itself on the bed-sheet, the same bed where I was sitting , and I came to realise that we at time do not use our “real eyes” and are often blindfolded from the truth where what’s in front of us is not seen due to lack of perception.

Some things are too sensitive to be discussed. No wants to talk about the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room, as the saying goes. The ‘gorilla’ could be a problem that causes defensiveness or embarrassment or something so potent that to acknowledge its presence is dangerous to yourself or the group. So there is the looking away, the pretending that it isn’t there. No one talks about the real problem, the eight-hundred pound gorilla. It is the unspoken presence.

The phrase “eight hundred pound gorilla” (or the six hundred and nine hundred pound variations) refers to something that everyone knows about and refuses to comment upon. But what if it weren’t figurative but a real gorilla in the room? Is it possible that while in the room it won’t be seen?

For example, if you are the beach and someone is drowning nearby, if you have your earbuds in and are engrossed in your book so that you don’t either hear or see the person, you can’t be judged immoral for not responding to the cries for help.

There was an experiment done by a professor in a psychology class

“So let’s end the class with something fun,” He said. He then showed them the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo

What they watched was the Chabris and Simons demonstration in which two teams, one in white shirts and the other in black shirts, pass a basketball back and forth. Viewers are instructed to count the number of passes made by the white-shirt team. My students, mostly working adults taking the nighttime class, diligently counted the passes and reported the results. Nearly all were right.

“Did you notice anything else?” He asked.

About half said they saw a gorilla walk across the court. The other half was incredulous, including one who was a surgeon and chief of a volunteer fire department. He then showed them the rest of the video. And sure enough there was a woman dressed in a gorilla suit who walks amongst the teams, thumps her chest and walks off camera, in view for 10 seconds.

That’s right, a gorilla in front of their eyes and half the class didn’t see it! This was consistent with other findings. Thousands have watched this video and about half don’t notice the gorilla.

In summarising the Chambris and Simons findings, Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking, Fast and Slow, says that those who fail to see the gorilla are initially sure it wasn’t there—as were my students. “The gorilla study illustrates two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we also blind to our blindness.”

When we focus intently on one thing, we don’t see other things. This helps get the immediate task done but can also be a severe limitation. Real gorillas in real rooms are dangerous.




Dalai Lama Quote

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”


“Fate is how your life unfolds when you let fear determine your choices. A path of destiny reveals itself to you, however, when you confront your fear and make conscious choices.” 


“I am convinced that the deepest desire within each of us is to be liberated from the controlling influences of our own psychic madness or patterns of fear. All other things—the disdain of ordinary life, the need to control others rather than be controlled, the craving for material goods as a means of security and protection against the winds of chaos—are external props that serve as substitutes for the real battle, which is the one waged within the individual soul.” 


Dalai Lama

What happens to information in a black hole?

Inside a black hole, gravity is so intense that neither matter nor energy can escape. But in 1975, Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking said that something does escape: random particles now known as “Hawking radiation.” So if black holes eat organized matter – chock-full of information – and then spit out random noise, where does the information go?

Hawking said it gets locked up inside as the black hole eventually evaporates, destroying the information in the process. Which creates a paradox. Because the rules of physics say information, like matter and energy, can’t be destroyed.

Hawking was confident. He convinced his super-genius counterpart at Caltech, physicist Kip Thorne, that he was right – but Thorne’s colleague John Preskill remained skeptical. So they made a bet: Hawking and Thorne said the singularity at the heart of a black hole destroyed information; Preskill said “nuh-uh.” Then, in 2004, Hawking reversed his position and decided that things that fall into a singularity aren’t lost; their information does leak out, though no one, except maybe Hawking himself, can explain why or how.

He presented Preskill with a baseball encyclopedia from which, presumably, information can be retrieved at will. Preskill accepted only grudgingly. “Even if you’re Stephen Hawking, it’s possible to be wrong twice,” he says.


Is time an illusion?

Plato argued that time is constant – it’s life that’s the illusion. Galileo shrugged over the philos-ophy of time and figured out how to plot it on a graph so he could get on with the important physics. Albert Einstein said that time is just another dimension, a fourth one to go along with the up-down, side-side, forward-back we move through every day. Our understanding of time, Einstein said, is based on its relationship to our environment. Weirdly, the faster you travel, the slower time moves. The most radical interpretation of his theory: Past, present, and future are merely figments of our imagination, constructs built by our brains so that everything doesn’t seem to happen at once.

Einstein’s conception of unified spacetime works better on graph paper than in the real world. Time isn’t like those other dimensions – for one thing, we move only one way within it. “What’s needed is not to make the notion of time and general relativity work or to go back to the notion of absolute time, but to invent something radically new,” says Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. Somebody is going to get it right eventually. It’ll just take time.