Saturday, January 25, 2014

Centripetal Vs. Centrifugal Force

"I wonder how the world sees us --
Rich beyond compare, powerful without equal, a spoiled, drunk, 15-year-old waving a gun in their face." 
-- Guy Forsyth, "Long Long Time"

These words came to mind as I read a Los Angeles Times article about the alarming spread of whooping cough in the United States, caused by declining immunization rates driven by hysterical, anti-medicine folks. And, while I love beating up on such people, I want to focus on another problem the story identifies which also deserves attention. 
Researchers have pointed to the effect of "non-medical exemptions" from legally required whooping cough immunizations -- those premised on personal beliefs rather than medical reasons -- as a factor in a 2010 outbreak of whooping cough in California.
Non-medical exemptions are another manifestation of a disease that is multiplying across America and, to my view, poses a serious threat to our national health and security: rampant, unchecked individualism. I'm not talking about the American belief in self-reliance we rightly celebrate; I'm talking about a mutation that prizes individual needs and wants above any understanding or acceptance of a "common good."

To be sure, this is not a new problem; we've always struggled with the appropriate balance between the wants of the one and the good of the many. But the struggle seems more intense now, at least partially because technology empowers individuals in ways uncontemplated even a generation ago. And also, probably, because the stakes are higher. 

Many of the parents, as described in the article, who've refused to allow their children to be immunized are just ignorant. Some of them wear their ignorance as a badge of honor, dignifying their incuriosity and intellectual childishness as sacrosanct "personal belief." A smaller group, while better informed, choose to believe this prejudices and phobias are somehow "wiser" than that always-suspect "conventional wisdom." All with occasionally tragic consequences. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

I love the last two lines.

The Old Astronomer to His Pupil
Tycho Brahe

Reach me down my Tycho Brahe, I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,
And the obliquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

Sarah Williams

Monday, June 11, 2012

We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.

Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan....

--- Irving Townsend

"The Once Again Prince"

Farewell, Master, yet not farewell. 
Where I go, ye, too, shall dwell. 
I am gone before your face. 
A moment's time, a little space. 
When ye come where I have stepped, 
Ye will wonder why ye wept.

-- "After Death" 
by Edwin Arnold

Friday, June 8, 2012

The water bowl sits
untended;   unneeded in
the too-quiet house. 

A Dog on his Master

As young as I look,

I am growing older faster than he,

seven to one 
is the ratio
they tend to say.

Whatever the number,

I will pass him one day
and take the lead

the way I do on our walks in the woods.

And if this ever manages
to cross his mind,

it would be the sweetest 
I have ever cast on snow or grass. 

-- Billy Collins
Poet Laureate of the United States, 2001-2003

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I was reading through some poetry about dogs' passings tonight, and ran across this Rudyard Kipling poem. I am not always a fan of his militant Christianity, but the line "I smile through my tears on this first day alone" did me in (it's my first day).  Here is the poem: 

A Dog for Jesus
(Where dogs go when they die)

I wish someone had given Jesus a dog.

As loyal and loving as mine.

To sleep by His manger and gaze in His eyes

And adore Him for being divine.

As our Lord grew to manhood His faithful dog,

Would have followed Him all through the day.

While He preached to the crowds and made the sick well

And knelt in the garden to pray.

It is sad to remember that Christ went away.

To face death alone and apart.

With no tender dog following close behind,

To comfort its Master's Heart.

And when Jesus rose on that Easter morn,

How happy He would have been,

As His dog kissed His hand and barked it's delight,

For The One who died for all men.

Well, the Lord has a dog now, I just sent Him mine,

The old pal so dear to me.

And I smile through my tears on this first day alone,

Knowing they're in eternity.

Day after day, the whole day through,

Wherever my road inclined,

Four feet said, "Wait, I'm coming with you!"

And trotted along behind.

Rudyard Kipling