The Theology of Recursive Randomness


“All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”

I knew the line from Information Society’s Seek 200 long before I learned it was from the Disney movie version of Peter Pan. And then, of course, there was Battlestar Galactica, in which the line, and the concept of eternal return, were integral to the show.

And, really, for a while there, it had become my life. People had tried to warn me, but I was too proud to admit it.

When I finally did, I tried to Google the line exactly as it was delivered on BSG, which was very slightly different from the Peter Pan/InfoSoc version. But instead, I found this bit of dialogue from the final episode of the series:

Angel Six: “All of this has happened before.”
Angel Baltar: “But the question remains – does all of this have to happen again?”
Angel Six: “This time I bet no.”
Angel Baltar: “You know, I have never known you to play the optimist. Why the change of heart?”
Angel Six: “Mathematics. Law of averages. Let a complex system repeat itself long enough eventually something surprising might occur. That too is in God’s plan.”

And I liked it. A lot. I’d made the decision to break the cycle, but I like the idea of Him being on my side. As I told a friend, it became “time to let Him interject some chaos, and see what sort of new things can happen!” And, as I told my pastor the other day, God has this penchant for being far more creative than I could be. The cool part of being an author is it makes me more appreciative of the talent of the Divine Author.

But the former exchange reminded me of a book I just finished reading, Lucifer’s Flood. The book is the story of Genesis, from the beginning through right before Moses. (It’s the first of a series that will pick up from there.) The book is told from the perspective of a fallen angel who was cast out of heaven after Satan’s rebellion, and is monitoring events on Earth. The first part of the book is a Gap Theory narrative, the remainder is basically a retelling of Genesis with commentary.

Since it was a pretty quick read, it was worth the time for a few bits where the commentary actually brought in some cool takes on things. The bit about Jesus creating planets and fish was fun, for example.

Another interesting note came after the description of the Tower of Babel, when God confused the language of man. The demon narrator was shocked by this, noting that it was unprecedented for God to use chaos. We think of God as a God of Order, and purely in that context, Chaos seems almost contrary to His nature. And, from that perspective, yeah, Babel seems more than a little unlikely. But, clearly, being God, His toolbox has to be rather inclusive.

The juxtaposition made me look at my own life, though. Do I have the tendency to build my own Babels? Is that where the need for divine chaos comes in?

Regardless, I’m more than willing to let His wind blow through the situation, and see what He comes up with.

Wild At Heart — Gloriana


According to a Facebook quiz, I’m this country song. I’m a sucker for it, solely for the line “I just wanna free fall for a while.”

True Lies


Sometimes, it’s the unintentional complements that mean the most. You know kind words are genuine when someone doesn’t even realize they’re offering them.

We’ve been experimenting with a new format in the improv troupe I’m part of, Face2Face. If you’ve never seen us, our usual style is short, “game”-based comedy improv, like they did on the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Lately, though, we’ve been working on something new to add to our reportoire. We’ve been working towards doing “long-form” improv, basically entire plays that we make up as we perform them. We tried it at our show Friday, and did basically a 20-minute play. At rehearsal last week, we kind of stumbled into a series if scenes that turned into a story that lasted an hour or two, and was simply amazing.

We’re very much still developing this, and are constantly experimenting with new ideas and approaches. Each time we do it, it feels a little bit different. It’s fun experiencing the different possibilities, and also seeing the impact that different changes have.

Monday night, we tried another new-ish approach; having a member of the troupe perform a monologue that then inspired the scenes in the long-form exercise. We’ve used monolgue intros before, but for different purposes.

I volunteered to do a monologue, and was given the one-word suggestion “fire-fighting” to work from. I decided to draw a little bit from my newspaper days as inspiration for my story.

Basically, the story was this:

As a small-town newspaper reporter, you get to do some cool things. Since you cover a wide varieties of stories instead of being on just one beat, you work with a lot of different people, and get to develop relationships with them. As a result, they’ll sometimes invite you to join in unique experiences.

For example, there are some fascinating training exercises some agencies have. The police, for example, are quick to invite people to try one bit of training, in which new officers are sprayed with pepper spray, so they’ll know what it’s like.

Fire departments have another interesting bit of training, in which they conduct indoor controlled burns. They’ll outfit a concrete block room with furniture and fixtures, and then set a fire, so that firefighters have experience with what’s it’s like to be in a blaze before placing lives on the line in the real thing. And if you’ve got a good relationship with them, they might just invite you to join them.

So I donned a fire suit, which is much heavier than people realize, and joined two firefighters in the room, and the fire was set, using a great technique for committing arson. (I shared the technique at rehearsal, but shan’t here.)

After a while, I got a little nervous, surrounded by the flames, and, as I do when I get nervous, started fidgeting a little. When I did, I bumped into one of the other guys, Jeremy, who was a new volunteer firefighter from out in the county.

Because he was less experienced, Jeremy hadn’t paid attention to the fact that his pants leg was sticking out of his fire suit, and the flames caught the bottom of his pants. Because of the heat, he didn’t notice at first, and the pants started to burn up into his fire suit pants before he noticed.

Jeremy started to panic, and began trying to put out his pants, stumbling around as he did. He bumped into the other guy, Matt, who fell over backwards into the couch, which was completely on fire.

He got up, with his suit still … Well, if you’ve never seen something fireproof engulfed in flame, it’s hard to describe. The suit wouldn’t burn, but was surrounded by fire. If Moses had seen Matt, it would have seemed very familiar.

At this point, the chief saw what was going on, and realized he needed to do something. He grabbed the hose, and started working to extenguish the fire.

I had never put on a firesuit before, and apparently had done something wrong. I was wearing the airtight mask to protect me from smoke, but it wasn’t sealed off like it should have been, which I realized when water started getting caught in it. I was about to drown in a room that was on fire!

Thankfully, at that point, the ceiling collapsed. It put out most of the remaining flames as it did, and caught my mask and knocked it so that the water came out.

The problems were solved, and we were safe; everything was OK. Except for Jeremy, who had to have his foot amputated.

The story relied on a good bit of truth, but was completely made up. None of it happened, of course, and very little drew on personal experience. I did hear about firefighters (and police) inviting reporters to go through the training, but I never did. Firefighter turnout gear is very heavy, but I’ve never worn it.

But, apparently, those little details — and the arson secret, which got a reaction — combined with my credible delivery gave the story a fair amount of verisimilitude.

Enough so, in fact — and this was the unintentional compliment I mentioned –that one of my troupemates, who knows what we do, who has seen us do this monologue activity before, at the end of my story asked, “So did he really have to have his foot amputated?”

Coda


Feed My Fish


[clearspring_widget title=”Fish” wid=”48cfe5b37f644537″ pid=”4a68afdf8ff8df20″ width=”296″ height=”196″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]

Stolen from a friend, but with a personal touch, of course. Click on the image to feed the fish.

I Never MetaBlogged I Didn’t Like


OK, this post is going to border on what a friend of mine refers to as “oblivious” blogging.

But I’m not going to explain exactly what “oblivious” blogging means, in part because I don’t fully understand.

Nor am I going to name the friend, because that’s the whole point of this entry. Well, the main point of this entry is to explain why I’ve been quieter on here lately, without actually explaining why I’ve been quieter on here lately. Pretty oblivious, huh?

I have a Google reader news feed aggregator I check pretty regularly, and I’ve subscribed to most of my friends’ blogs. So when I check it today, there are two blog posts about events I was involved with. Neither of them mentions me.

Someone I know wrote a blog post a while back — which I won’t link to, since that would reveal who it was, and defeat the point of this post — about privacy, particularly online privacy, and the extent to which our privacy is at the mercy of other people. I may share with no one about what I did on the way to rehearsal Monday, but if someone else who was involved does, the story is public. A week and a half ago, I went to the Space Camp Hall of Fame induction. I did write about it, but took no pictures there. However, by the time I got to work on Monday, pictures of me had been posted to at least two Web sites. Since one of those was Facebook, the pictures showed up on my profile.

Why did neither of those two blog posts mention me? I don’t know. Maybe the writers wanted to protect my privacy, not talk about my life without my permission. Maybe they wanted to protect their own privacy, and not let people know that I was the person involved. (In one case, there wasn’t even mention that anyone else was there.)

I’ve done a good bit of the former. There have been blog posts that I’ve written that involved other characters that I don’t talk about, in deference to their privacy. Sometimes that means talking about something I did with “a friend” or “a coworker.” Sometimes it means writing about something I did with someone else, and leaving out the fact anyone else was there. But the former is predicated on the identity being irrelevant, and the latter is predicated on their participation being irrelevant.

And for a lot of stories, that’s just not the case. So those stories just don’t get told.

It’s an interesting issue, and one that I’m becoming increasingly aware of. Where’s the line? What’s the limit? Six years ago, I would have thought nothing of coming in to work and talking about my weekend; and part of me still sees my blog as an extension of that. On the other hand, it’s also a publication, in a way.

OK, enough rambling. Thoughts? How does anyone else with a blog handle this issue?

With This Wing…


Richard Garriott officiated Noah Fulmor and Erin Finnegans wedding on G-Force One.

Richard Garriott officiated Noah Fulmor and Erin Finnegans wedding on G-Force One.

Since seeing a picture and story in Space News, I’ve been been meaning to blog about the first zero-gravity wedding, held last month. It’s taken me a while partially because I don’t have a whole lot to say about it; in part, to be honest, because there’s a warped feeling that the only thing that kept it from being me was that the wedding was called of, and not the fact that I could never have afforded it in a million years. (Though here’s an amusing take on that.) (We did actually talk about getting married on that day, but that’s true of a lot of days.)

I am only one degree of separation from the zero-g wedding, which is cool — Richard Garriott performed the ceremony. (I totally could have had a Garriott at my wedding, too, fwiw. Maybe.)

Anyway, the couple has a blog about the experience at ZeroGravityWedding.com, and you have to admit that this is possibly the coolest wedding photo ever.

The Waters Above, The Waters Below


I got wet Sunday. Absolutely soaked.

Which sort of makes sense, since I spent hours in the Tennessee River, but I don’t know that anything above my calves actually got wet from the river.

I had the opportunity Sunday to go kayaking for just my second time, and had a great time. I had seen that there was a possibility it might rain, so I told the person that invited me that I would defer to him on weather we needed to cancel because of weather. Not a drop of rain fell until immediately after we got in the water, at which point the bottom fell out. Motor boats were coming back into dock as we were putting out, their occupants looking at us as if we were crazy. John had actually told me ahead of that he may be the wrong person to defer to, since he’s gone sailing in lightning before, which is arguably a bad idea. I replied that I was expendable, and he said that if it got too bad, it would make either a great story for us to tell, or a great story to be told at our funerals. And there are worse things in life, right?

As it turned out, we weren’t in any danger Sunday, though there was lightning in the distance for a while. But it was rather exhilerating while the rain lasted — it’s been quite a while since I’ve been outside that long in rain coming down that hard. Eventually, it cleared up, and we dried out slightly.

There were three in my group — myself; John, whom I go to church with, and who has participated in many kayak races; and Randy, who organizes multiple weekly kayak events, and who holds the speed record for the route we paddled Sunday. In other words, two serious kayakers, and a guy going out for his second time. My goal was just to not slow the others down too badly. That said, I was pleased with how much I remembered from the first time, over a year ago. I was pretty pathetic that time, but managed not to get grounded once this time. So, progress.

The advantage of John being a rather serious kayaker is that he had a rather serious arsenal of kayaks, each with different features. The one he picked for me was rather interesting — in addition to serving as a conventional kayak, it had a second mode in which it could be operated with pedals and a rudder, propelled by “flippers” underneath. (It actually could also serve as a sailboat, but that would require the addition of additional parts, which we didn’t bring with us.)

I pedaled for a while. Part of the reason that I stopped was that my legs got tired and I wanted to switch back to my arms, part of it was that I couldn’t get quite the same feel for moving through the water with the pedals, and part of it was that the kayak couldn’t be maneuvered as well or as easily. But possibly the biggest part was that I just felt downright silly pedalling was John and Randy were wielding their paddles like real kayakers.

And, apparently, I’m a bit competitive. Myself, I thought I was just trying to keep up, but John and Randy both agreed that they could see a competitive streak in the way I would paddle just a bit harder when someone would pull too far out. And maybe so. This time, I really do feel like I was just trying not to slow down the masters, but I’ll cop to the fact that I probably did the same thing last year.

Regardless, it was very encouraging when, at the end, John and Randy both said we’d made pretty good speed around the island, and that I did pretty well. I look forward to doing it again sometime.

Costume Party


jon_robert_davidJon Meek, 2009 Space Camp Hall of Fame inductee Robert Pearlman and I after the banquet.
schof_ceremony07Astronaut and Homesteading Space co-author Owen Garriott and I at the Space Camp Hall of Fame banquet.

For me, it’s like Halloween.

You put on a costume, you go to a party, and you get to be someone or something else for a few hours. People joke with you as if you really were whatever you’re dressed as, or treat you differently based on your costume. You do that for a while, and then go home and are you again.

Days like this past Saturday are like that for me. The only difference is, the person I’m dressing up as is, sort of, me.

Saturday evening, I went to the Space Camp Hall of Fame 2009 induction, at the invitation of my friend Robert Pearlman, founder of collectSPACE, who was one of three people being inducted this year.

And I was cool, in a very event-specific way. Basically, the person I was dressing up was space author David Hitt, who, I guess, I technically am, but, at the same time, is very much not me. People were wanting me to be in pictures, or to have their pictures made with me. (Of course, the argument that I am kind of cool is supported by the fact that some of the pictures were made in front of a display at the museum that includes a picture I signed.) I was listed as one of the special guests attending the event. Nobody wanted me autograph this time, but that has happened before.

It’s just bizarre, and it was actually kind of reassuring to go home afterwards, change into shorts and a t-shirt and go to a movie with a friend, back to just being me.

But I try to enjoy it. This is a phase of my life, and like any, this too shall pass. In the meantime, however, I am incredibly blessed.

And the greatest blessing is that I know some amazing people. While I feel like I’m playing dress-up at things like that, I was there with people who most definitely weren’t. At the banquet, I sat with Robert and his family and with my co-author astronaut Owen Garriott and his wife. Forget whether I deserved to be at the table, I was, and it was great sharing a meal with people I’m lucky and grateful to count as friends.

Driving the point even further home was the fact that this was the second time in less than a month that I got to sit at the table of a friend of mine while he was being inducted into a Hall of Fame; I blogged a while back about my former editor Jim Abbott being inducted into the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame.

If the measure of a man is the company he keeps, then maybe I’m not doing that badly after all.

She’s A Big Sky


“I want to hear what you hear / A harmony loud and clear / Custom made for your ear, / when you hear what you hear.”
–Garrison Starr, “Big Sky”

I don’t know what was in Garrison Starr’s mind when she was writing the lyrics to Big Sky.

But whatever her intent, the song speaks to my concept of the Tapestry; that God perceives the world in a way we can’t, seeing past all the overlapping threads to be able to observe a beautiful picture too large for us to comprehend. And that He can rearrange those threads in real time; as we make decisions that would seem to mess up the order, He makes a countermove that restores the beauty. I’ve used parts of the song as a prayer, to be able to look beyond my mundane view to better see the world the way He does and to be able to act accordingly: “I want to see what you see / A special kind of beauty.” And on.

I had a small picture of that Saturday night. I got together with some friends to watch fireworks, and we had to decide where to go. A few months ago, I had gone for a walk with my pastor near his house on the mountain, and he had commented that this one particular spot was a great place for watching fireworks. And so, that’s where we went.

The “downside” was that the big shows, most notably Bridge Street, were well in the distance, and lacked the magnitude that they probably would have had up close. But that completely missed the point. What you realize from that vantage point is that the real show has nothing to do with any of the official shows at all. From that vantage point, the entire valley is one big fireworks show — with rather impressive bursts at Bridge Street and Madison and elsewhere, to be sure, but those are just a fraction of what’s going on in neighborhoods and other locales all over, some of which were very impressive in their own right.

So it was neat getting a glimpse of the Tapestry, seeing a fireworks show that we normally miss because we’re too close to what we’re looking at, but that was even more amazing in its own right.