Category Archives: Personal Reflection

George MacDonald – On the Importance of the Imagination

I am re-reading George MacDonald’s Thomas Wingfold-Curate again, and in another sense, for the first time. I previously read and enjoyed Michael R. Phillip’s excellent edited version entitled The Curate’s Awakening (which I would recommend for first-time readers of this series) but now I’m reading the original version which is much longer.

Some spoilers to the story

Thomas Wingfold is a curate who has slid into his clerical profession without much thought. His uncle gave him a complete set of detailed sermons which enabled Wingfold to provide messages and sermons for all occasions in the church year. The sermons were so numerous that when they were recycled, so much time would have passed that the word-for-word repetition would have been unobtrusive to the congregation.

Wingfold’s complacency is shaken

Two things happened to begin a crisis in Wingfold’s life:

  1. He was accosted by a self-assured, masterful, self-confident atheist who challenged him with words to the effect: “Surely you can’t believe all that nonsense you are spouting?”
  2. A dwarf who occasionally attended Wingfold’s church gently informed him that his sermons were plagiarized from a well-known minister called Jeremy Taylor.

The metaphor of a carriage

Wingfold, seeking to be honest, at first considers resigning his appointment, but Polwarth, the dwarf, encourages him to remain in his post until he completes his quest for faith, but, while there, to be honest in his sermons.

In Chapter III, as Wingfold prepares his second genuine sermon, he sees the progression of his intellectual quest through the metaphor of a carriage. His will has the reins; the guard beside the driver is his conscience. The dog running beside him is Fancy, which I take to mean his desire and feelings for beauty, order, and completeness. Imagination is the outrider that explores paths in all directions but can be called back at any time.

The importance of imagination

As I thought about metaphor, I concur with MacDonald’s view that imagination is a necessary but not sufficient condition for progress in understanding our physical world (science) or understanding the spiritual world as in the case of Wingfold’s quest.

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of working very hard to disprove theories and hypotheses. in my own view (and I know many will disagree with me) I see defects with current explanations of our physical origins. Use of the imagination to come up with better explanations that describe all of the data are needed (again in my view).

Finally a caveat: imagination is useful only in generating possible explanations. After the work of imagination is done, one has to put on one’s skeptical hat and try to disprove the new hypothesis, just as one did with the old.

As Science Fiction author, I am able to let my imagination roam as I write my novels and don’t have the difficult obligation of disproving the backstory of my imaginary inventions.

Interacting with Bruxy Cavey’s ORIGINS Week 1: Love’s Great Choice

My Canadian public education, from elementary school, through high school and on through my university postgraduate studies, from the basis of inculcating a worldview, had a decidedly Materialistic bias. I was taught that all smart people were convinced by the overwhelming evidence of “science” that chance operating over billions of years produced “life, the universe, and everything.” They usually stopped short of explicitly stating that there was no room for God, but the extension of the teaching to this conclusion was easy and no barrier at all was set up to hinder this extension. 

It was only in high school and university that I began to realize that a great many dubious philosophical presuppositions had been smuggled in with the historical assertions I had been fed. The many remarkable successes of what I now call “Good Science” were used to justify (if I looked at the data) “Dubious Science.” However, in the minds of most students, who had been taught to regard all science to be of equal value and veracity, the word “science” or “scientists believe” was used as a certificate of reliability.

Into this difficult and heavily contested discussion arena, Bruxy Cavey has provided his own input. Having listened to the first message on the first two chapters of Genesis, I think his goal is modest: he does NOT want to specifically argue for one interpretation or another, but rather to explore the language and context of the Hebrew text to provide a boundary to the range of interpretations that are consistent with the text.

Given that objective, I learned a few things.

One had to do with the Hebrew word Yom (day). It was interesting how it was used differently in the accounts of the seven days:

  • Days 1-6 there was evening and morning cited after each creation event
  • Day 7 , the Sabbath Day when God is resting from creation seems to go on without end. In Hebrews 4:1-11 we are urged to enter that rest.
  • In Genesis 2, when the passage unpacks the creation of Man, the events such as naming the animals seem to require more than 24 hours.

Responding to Comments

I also wanted to interact with one of the interesting anonymous comments that appeared on Bruxy’s Blog. The comment is shown below in blue.

I was great at prayer and reading the bible when I was younger, but like so many, things changed when I went to university and studied science. Years later, I still love listening to science podcasts. I’m trying to reconcile what science says and what the bible says. I will never dismiss science because there is a lot to respect about the scientific method and the sweat, blood and tears that goes into understanding of the physical world around us, that is brought to us by relevant and worthy fellow human beings. While it can be said that science has just as much blood on its hands as religion, it has brought us the amazing technology I’m using to type this out, penicillin, the ability to “hear” remnants of the Big Bang and the understanding that a marble and a giant boulder will hit the ground at the same time when dropped from the same height (still blows my mind).

Sorry for belabouring the point on how much I enjoy science, but that’s not going away. And yet I want to make room for Jesus and his irreligious message. I love the focus on love and shifting my gaze from myself to others.

When I first heard that this series was coming, with special focus on Genesis, my initial reaction was “Uh-oh… this should be interesting.” While the stories seem to try and carry a message or lesson, I can’t take them literally…I just can’t. The only thing I can do to from dismissing them outright is telling myself that they’re essentially all symbolic, not to be taken literally; a way to try and explain something very complex in simple terms. Like trying to explain to a child why and how we do our taxes once a year…you can’t go into depth, so you sort of oversimplify and use symbols that they already understand; like, “we have to tell the mayor (to replace CRA or gov’t) how much money we made, this way they can decide if we give more or get some back,” etc. God is the alpha and omega: this, to me, means he’s like infinity, outside of the constraints of time and space. I can’t even understand what that would even mean, so how could I possibly understand how he actually started it all? Enter Genesis.

I guess I’m hoping for a Meeting House take on this and that I’m still allowed to show up

Anonymous stated:

I will never dismiss science because there is a lot to respect about the scientific method and the sweat, blood and tears that goes into understanding of the physical world around us, that is brought to us by relevant and worthy fellow human beings.

We should all be truth-seekers since truth is connected to reality. While I understand the sentiment expressed by anonymous, science is not a uniform endeavor. Indeed, I think we ought to respect science by putting its best practices into operation as we evaluate the merit of a particular theory or claim. It all comes down to the data and the integrity of the people who collect and discuss it. Scientists, like other people, are confronted with political pressure, political correctness imperatives, natural biases, and peer pressure.

Even if we haven’t measured a data point, it still behooves us to be skeptical and ask the hard questions and see if the data adds up. Especially we ought to see:

  1. If the scientific community has tried hard to disprove the theory or hypothesis (it is easy to fall into confirmation bias and collect more and more data points in support of our favorite theory).
  2. If sufficient attention has been paid to data points that don’t support the theory. Or have they conveniently shoved the data into the “to be explained” file, never published, and promptly forgotten.
  3. If scientists are being pressure to adopt a certain view or theory.  Look specifically for political pressure, political correctness imperatives, and peer pressure. Have scientists lost their jobs because of their hypotheses? Are there accusations of pseudo-science to keep you from looking carefully at the data and arguments? Have lectures been shut down? These considerations don’t over ride the power of the data but ought to cause us to dig deeper and find out what is being suppressed and pay particular attention to the voices that are being silenced.

Anonymous wrote:

it [science] has brought us the amazing technology I’m using to type this out, penicillin, the ability to “hear” remnants of the Big Bang and the understanding that a marble and a giant boulder will hit the ground at the same time when dropped from the same height (still blows my mind).

I generally agree. Notice, however, penicillin, and classical mechanics (i.e. gravitation and Newton’s Second Law) are qualitatively different from “the ability to ‘hear’ remnants of the Big Bang.”

The first category (isolating and characterizing penicillin or verifying classical mechanics) contain time-independent events and the critical experiments that can be reproduced in 2019, 2050, or 2200. The Big Bang is an historical event. A person with the proper resources can measure the background radiation, but they cannot perform the critical experiment (initiate a Big Bang and show it gives rise to the background radiation).

That doesn’t make the historical account incorrect, it just means the tools of scientific experimentation are not as well suited to these problems as they are to time-independent questions.

Anonymous wrote about reconciling what he has read in Genesis with the accounts that scientists propose:

When I first heard that this series was coming, with special focus on Genesis, my initial reaction was “Uh-oh… this should be interesting.” While the stories seem to try and carry a message or lesson, I can’t take them literally…I just can’t. The only thing I can do to from dismissing them outright is telling myself that they’re essentially all symbolic, not to be taken literally; a way to try and explain something very complex in simple terms.

That’s fair enough. My own reaction is somewhat different. I have significant personal experience that makes me trust what the Bible teaches. Still, as Bruxy stated, the Bible may be perfectly reliable, but that doesn’t guarantee my interpretation is correct. I line up all the historical theories of our origin side by side: evolution, intelligent design, and various creation theories and generate a plus/minus for each one. I think all theories have significant defects and so I am left with saying we don’t know the details.

Anonymous makes a very important point using his analogy of explaining the CRA to a child. Explanations are always constrained by the language and understanding of the audience. For me one of the great attributes of the God of the Bible: He reaches out to us. He uses the language and understanding of his audience to speak to us. I think we need to keep that in mind as we read Genesis.

I appreciate Anonymous’ comment and I appreciate my chance to interact with these ideas.

A useful link on bias

Avoiding a House-of-Cards Kind of Faith

A personal reflection on what it means to “have faith”

David Hershey writes a blog that I like to follow. Some time ago he posted a blog in which he talked about a house-of-cards kind of faith. [Link] Below is a picture that this metaphor brings to mind.

Attribution:
By Merzperson at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2570936

The concept is quite simple: pull any card out of the house-of-cards and the whole structure will collapse.

A house-of-cards faith then is a long list of assertions one has to affirm as a Christ-Follower. If one becomes convinced that even one assertion is wrong, then all of the items in the list are wrong and confidence collapses like the house of cards in the image.

So How Does that Apply to Me?

I think there are two extremes underlying this discussion, both of which must be avoided. On the one hand is the view that no truths are important, but rather it is the sentiment or intention of faith that matters. A version of this would assert that even if everything I believe as a Christ-Follower is utterly false, but if I believe it, it calms my anxiety and improves my quality of life, then everything is okay. I believe this view is utterly false and it is always better to be on the side of truth even if the truth is unpleasant or even abhorrent. Truth is connected to reality.

The other extreme is the view that Christian Faith means believing the many, many things about Jesus, the Bible, theology, one’s denomination, and perhaps, even christian history. If even one of these elements of this affirmation list is proven wrong in the believer’s eyes, then the whole faith-edifice collapses.

I believe the reality of genuine Christian Faith is intermediate between these two extremes. There are critical, foundational assertions about Jesus (such as the fact of His resurrection, His incarnate nature, and His redeeming work), that if false, undermine our whole faith. These are the things that C. S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity.”

 

On top of these foundational truths, there is a whole superstructure of theology, that although important, is passionately debated by theologians and lay members of various denominations. Many disagree on these details and they cannot all be right. It is important to think through these assertions, but they do not carry the same weight as the foundational truths.

Some Final thoughts

So what are my personal take-aways from this discussion?

  1. In 2 Timothy 2:15, the Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy to be “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV). The answer is not less study and discussion of the Bible but more. But I have to do the hard work to get it right.
  2. Ultimately I have to have the attitude of a Truth-Seeker.
  3. I need to be humble and understand that I can be wrong about things and change my mind.
  4. Finally, learn to distinguish foundational truths, from the theological superstructure.

The Saddest Thing I Ever Read …

I belong to an Indie Publishing Group on Goodreads. One topic of discussion focuses on writers that are ready to quit. Of course some comments on this thread are encouragements to go on. Others reinforce the idea of “hanging up your quill.” I like to interact with some of the comments. I’m going to respectfully disagree with some of the points made by the author of the quote below, but I want to disagree with the ideas and assertions but not in any way pillory the person, so I propose to call her Cacia. Here is the quote:

Unless you have an independent income and treat writing as an amusement (you can afford) the outlook is very grim. And generally without appeal.

The average earnings for ‘published’ writers with book deals, but no big publicity behind their print books is $12,000 pa

Want to feel really depressed? Go to ebook tracker on kindle nation daily and set up to track so-called all time ‘best sellers’. It will take you months to build up the stats but you will be sickened by how FEW sales are made on Amazon of print and/or ebooks

In the last 10 years the world is awash with so much ebook trash the authors can’t even give away.

As for freebies – people who buy free books ONLY buy free books. With the amount available on any given day you’d need ten lifetimes to read them all

Shysters will tell you building a following on social media will sell books. Total BS. All you do is cater to time wasters INSTEAD of writing

You need a reputable agent with years of industry contacts to get to publishers. With a ‘product’ those publishers will make the real money on – selling the ‘rights’ to Hollywood.

Your agent and publisher need to be convinced you have a few more books where the first came from. And you are ‘presentable’ to the media and public for publicity stunts and promotion.
And won’t become suicidal with ‘writer’s block’.

Stick with your day job.

The saddest thing I ever read was some hopeful saying she had 400 copies of her book sitting in her garage.

Don’t let that be you

Cacia begins with the statement:

Unless you have an independent income and treat writing as an amusement (you can afford) the outlook is very grim. And generally without appeal.

I don’t think the situation is nearly so binary. It’s true that starting out is difficult. Indeed, building any independent small business is tough and success is not guaranteed. Certainly making a fortune in writing is not guaranteed and not even probable, but that is not the point. As a writer one has to have a story or message to get out. Like all small businesses, one has to build the business, and for a time, one has to augment one’s income with other activities as one publishes books. Perhaps the books will never sell in sufficient quantities, but you are following a dream and, perhaps like me, you are writing books you had wished to read, but no one had bothered to write them yet.

To me the key question I ask is not “Am I making lots of money?” but rather: whatever method I am using to publish my books, I ask: “Is my publishing method scale-able?” In other words, if I wrote a book so exciting, so deeply moving, so beautiful that readers just had to share it with their friends (it hasn’t happened to me yet), could the publisher supply 100,000 books if the demand were there? If the answer is ‘no,’ and I only have the hard copy books that I have purchased and can sell personally, then I humbly suggest you, as a writer, have some work to do, since I think you can do better.

Cacia then goes on to say:

In the last 10 years the world is awash with so much ebook trash the authors can’t even give away.

This I think is true, since e-books are easy to publish. However, trash has always been out there going back to the “penny dreadfuls” (not the television series but the small, serialized books that sold for one penny in the 1800’s). Readers have always had to discern where to spend there money. It may be worse now, but one can scan the titles so much more quickly too. Just make sure what you’re writing is well-edited and is of high quality.

Another quote from Cacia:

As for freebies – people who buy free books ONLY buy free books. With the amount available on any given day you’d need ten lifetimes to read them all

This is not true of me. I have downloaded freebies to check out an author I’m not sure about, but I then go on to buy their books if I like them.

My final quote from Cacia:

The saddest thing I ever read was some hopeful saying she had 400 copies of her book sitting in her garage.

There are many, many sad things in life. As far as writing goes, the saddest thing that I have encountered is an aspiring writer who has spent ten years perfecting a manuscript, spent another two years writing to publisher after publisher to get the manuscript accepted, only to face rejection after rejection. The aspiring author then gives up without ever getting the manuscript into the hands of the people who matter most – the reader. He will never count as a failed author. In the publishing world, he will not count at all because his book has never been published and never read. This, to me, is the fate that one ought to avoid. The woman with four hundred books is a published author.

A Personal Note

I’m grateful to Cacia for sharing her own experience. We are both authors and her comment has made me rethink the question that frequently pops up: Why do I keep writing? Why not stop?

I have written four fictional works. Three of the novels, the books in The Halcyon Cycle, are Science Fiction that reads like Fantasy. Why do I write? I don’t write for amusement. Nor do I expect to become rich because of my writing. I believe I write for two main reasons:

  1. I have been so blessed by reading the fictional works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, and Lucy Maud Montgomery (among many, many others). In writing their stories, they not only enthralled me, strengthened my faith, and imbued me with hope and a sense of beauty and wonder, but they left a great deal of themselves in their books. So much so, that I think I know them as friends even though I never met them in person. I want to give a bit of that back. I don’t write as well as they did, but I want to give something back.
  2. The second reason is more personal. No one in my family tree has ever written a book before (as far as I can tell). If some Kazmaier had written a book in ages past, I would get to know them in a personal way that goes far beyond even letters and correspondence that might be extant. I want my grandchildren to have that kind of a chance to know me through my books.

Disclaimer

I do not offer publishing, small business, or other financial advice. I offer my own history, observations, and comments up in the hope they will stimulate thinking and discussion.

Link to the comment thread on Goodreads.

If you’re thinking of giving one of my novels a try … follow this link.

I’m often asked: “Can you make money as an indie author?”

When people ask me this question, they are usually asking because they or someone they know is active or will be active in writing a book, and they are wondering what to expect. Others ask it because they are skeptical that it is even possible to make money without going through a traditional publisher.

My answer is usually a qualified “yes” it is possible (but certainly not guaranteed) to make money through an indie or as I prefer to call it, a micro-publishing endeavor.

Why the qualification? There are three basic reasons.

Indie or Micro-Publishing is a Small Business Endeavor

The first thing that one has to remember: Micro-Publishing is a small business. Like other small businesses, this means you will likely not be making money out of the starting gate. Rather, like other small business start-ups, you will have to put in long hours with little remuneration, and finally there is significant risk that you will run out of money, patience, or interest before the business begins to pay off. This comes with the territory of starting something you own.

A case in point, many writers that try to find a traditional publisher also spend a great deal of time writing with no remuneration and then attempting to convince a publisher to take on their manuscript (also with no remuneration). This start-up time when taking the traditional route is often excluded from pay-back calculations. The writers who run out of money, patience, or interest choosing this route are ignored leading to a “survivor bias” when comparing traditionally published authors with indie authors.

Many writers augment their early cash flow with writing-related income, for example, editing, free-lance magazine submissions, contract writing for trade journal or instruction manuals. In my own case, since I write Science Fiction, I tutor in physics and chemistry, as well as provide chemistry consulting as a way of staying connected to science.

Indie or Micro-Publishing is an Annuity Business

Secondly, Micro-Publishing is an annuity-driven small business. When you publish your first book, there will be an initial flurry of interest and then slower sales over the long term. Long-term sales depend on how many people hear about your book and hear enough good things to take a chance to buy it. You may also get copyright remuneration or some remuneration for library usage. These long-term sales are your annuity.

The key point: as you write more books, this annuity stream will grow, but often in the initial stages, the up-front costs of writing and publishing more books will grow faster than the annuity stream.

Most Writers Care About the Art as Much or More than They Care About the Business

Finally, writers are artists as well as business-owners. They have a message or art they wish to develop which is often more important to them than the money. I’ve often been told, “If you wrote Science Fiction more like mainstream SF, you would sell more books.” I think that’s true, but I wanted to write Science Fiction that I would like to read but no one else has bothered to write. For me that means I explore worldview, spiritual, and philosophic questions as well as maintaining a strong science component in my novels. Not optimizing only for the money, probably puts one on a slower growth trajectory, but through it I hope to connect with kindred spirits who long for the same kind of story that I seek.

So What Should I Worry About as an Indie Writer?

1. Scalability

First, ask yourself what happens if my next book goes viral and hundreds, even thousands of readers want it at once? Can your distribution system handle it? If you only sell personal copies or mail them yourself, the answer is probably “no.” If some other organization handles the sales, then the answer is likely “yes.” In other words, make sure your distribution channel is scalable in case the breakthrough you hope for happens.

2. Marketing

Writers are often taught to market aggressively. I won’t do that for two reasons: (1) I don’t want to approach anyone in a way that I would not want to be approached. I don’t like aggressive tactics so I won’t use them. (2) I started to realize that when friends would see me, they would immediately think “I haven’t bought Peter’s book yet.” I don’t want that either. Their friendship is much more important to me than a sale. They need to know that they don’t have to like or buy my books to be my friend. That thought should not even come up.

As a consequence, most of my “advertising” or marketing is low-key on social media, by email signatures, or by magnetic signs on my vehicle. Word of mouth, without my intervention, is still the best form of advertising. Improving my writing craft so that readers will enjoy my books so much that they will give them as gifts or recommend them to friends and family is my long term objective.

3. Things Change Unexpectedly

When I published my first book, it was still possible to use Canada Post to mail books to customers at a reasonable shipping charge. Now so many surcharges, special charges have been added that even with a small-business discount, it can cost me $17.50 to ship one book to a nearby small town. Who can afford to pay that much on a book worth $20-30? the answer is “no one.”

This unexpected change has shut down one potential channel for reaching readers. These kinds of changes that are beyond a writer’s control have a major impact on the business. Like all small businesses, one has to adapt and make sure there are several ways to get your books to your readers.

Final Thoughts

Above all, keep writing, connect with like-minded readers, and connect with other writers who share your passion to communicate with others and bring a little beauty and inspiration into their lives.



Disclaimer

I do not offer publishing, small business, or other financial advice. I offer my own history, observations, and comments up in the hope they will stimulate thinking and discussion.



Inspirational Writing Locales – Go With The Flow- Maurelle Island

Maurelle_Cropped

Imagery Copyright 2018 DigitalGlobe, DigitalGlobe, Map Data Copyright 2018 Google

As a writer I’m always looking for inspiration. I want my readers to “see” the scenes they are reading about and so I want to experience and even do my writing in places that help me describe beautiful locales. Furthermore, beautiful natural settings seem to inspire my imagination.

One place that helps me in this way is our cottage on the Rideau Canal System in Eastern Ontario. I have found that my kayaking adventure off British Columbia’s Maurelle Island is another place that has inspired my imagination.

I had opportunity with family to spend five glorious days with Go With The Flow near the Surge Narrows islands.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle Heriot Bay

We were a family group of four and were joined by another couple who began as strangers but rapidly became good friends. We had an absolutely wonderful, breath-taking time! The temperature on the ocean was perfect for summer. The kayaking instruction was helpful. The scenery was spectacular. We were able to see abundant marine life and our guides were very knowledgeable and provided interesting details about the plants and animals we were observing.
Although I have kayaked on lakes a few times, the kayaking instruction I received significantly improved my stroke and my endurance and confidence improved markedly.

Read Island View

The food was superb. It was well-presented and delicious. I so appreciated the early morning coffee enjoyed on the Cabana overlooking our bay, the Surge Narrows islands and Quadra Island.

With respect to my writing, I now have pictures embedded in my memory of tidal flats, rain forests, fern-filled glades, and brooks bubbling over moss-covered rocks or meandering through flower-filled meadows.

What a contrast to the lake country I love—the tang of ocean spray, seals, sea urchins, crabs, and cool air even in the midst of summer. And almost no mosquitoes!

Kayaks

Base Camp at Low tide

If, as a writer, you’re thinking of checking this out, you need to be aware of two things:
1. The days focus on kayaking. Your writing time (if you choose) will be in the late afternoon and evening.
2. The base camp, on a picturesque, secluded bay, is off-grid. For my part, I took six chapters of my latest manuscript for reading out loud and editing. You can charge your laptop, but there is no internet.

For my part, I have pictures in my mind’s eye and photographs that I think will enhance my writing for years to come.

If you’re interested in what Peter is writing, 
follow this link for his author page.

 

Writing Science Fiction and the “What If” Question in THE HALCYON DISLOCATION

Science Fiction often begins with a “What If” question. What if humans developed telepathy? What if we were visited by an alien race?

The Halcyon Dislocation is no exception. One of the prominent “What If” questions I asked as an author: “What if time were quantized and parallel worlds could exist side by side in these overlapping time intervals?” Here is how it was described in the book when one of the physics graduate students tries to explain how the island university of Halcyon was moved to a new world.

Tired and hungry, Dave and Glenn returned to their room and turned on the TV to see if broadcasting had resumed. To their surprise Jennifer McCowan, the blonde talk show host of Halcyon Music, was on the air.

“Even without social media,” said McCowan in her gentle, lilting voice, “I know that everyone is asking ‘where are we?’ and ‘what’s happened to us?’ To answer those questions I’ve asked a friend of mine to the studio. Please welcome Vlad Sowetsky.”

Canned applause welcomed Vlad.

“So, Vlad,” said McCowan, “please tell our viewers what you do.”

Vlad, a tall, big boned youth in his mid-twenties, had a long, narrow face and close-set eyes, so that the overall impression vaguely reminded one of a horse. He had shoulder length hair and stubble on his face.

“To cut to the chase, I’m a graduate student with Professor Hoffstetter, and I was in the control room when the dislocation occurred.”

“So what actually happened during the accident yesterday?”

“Well,” said Vlad, “we were running the largest test on the force field to date. The plan was to—”

“Whoa,” said McCowan, “I think you are going much too fast. Tell the audience how the Hoffstetter force field works, but no jargon, please!”

Vlad screwed up his face as if he were being asked the impossible. “The force field appears as a bubble about the size of a soccer ball when we first generate it. The time inside the bubble is slightly behind our time. When we first make the bubble, the time delay—or offset—is very, very small so that the field is thin. That is to say, anything can cross it. We expand the bubble to the desired size and then thicken it. By ‘thicken’ I mean that we increase the time offset so the field begins to have an effect. First it stops large objects. If we increase the time offset even more, we could theoretically stop air molecules or light from crossing the force field boundary.”

“Field boundary,” said McCowan. “Now you’re lapsing into jargon again and losing me.”

“By field boundary I mean the edge of the force field bubble. Shooting a missile through this barrier is, as Hoffstetter would say, ‘like trying to shoot into last week.’” Vlad was beginning to get exasperated.

“Okay,” said McCowan, “please go on. Even if I don’t understand all of the physics, I’m sure there are many listeners who will.”

“Well, we had intended to expand the force field so that it enclosed the central building in the experimental area. However, while we were expanding the bubble, the first lightning strike overloaded the equipment and the expansion continued unabated.”

This was followed by a momentary pause and a baffled look on McCowan’s face. “How big did the bubble get?” she finally asked.

“I think it expanded to a sphere about four miles in diameter,” said Vlad.

“Then what?”

“Then a second series of lightning strikes overloaded the offset controls, and the time offset increased enormously,” said Vlad. Beads of perspiration had appeared on his forehead.

McCowan uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “Tell the audience what you think happened next,” she prompted.

Vlad took a deep breath. “I only have a half-baked theory. Do you know about quantization of energy?”

“Vaguely,” said McCowan, a blank look on her face.

“Let me see if I can make it as simple as possible. Macroscopically, that is, in the world of meter lengths and kilogram masses, energy seems to be continuous. It flows like a stream or a river. So if I ask how much energy it takes to lift this book,” he lifted a book from the table, “you can calculate the energy in joules to as many decimal places as you like. I can lift the book to any height and calculate the lift energy for each height. But when you go down in size, ten orders of magnitude to angstroms, the world changes. When lifting electrons away from the atomic nucleus, all the rules change, and one can only ‘lift’ the electron to discrete ‘heights,’ or energy levels. It’s like being able to lift this book in little jumps.” He demonstrated by rapidly lifting and stopping the book at various heights.

“Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. You’re bringing back unpleasant memories of first year chemistry. But what has that got to do with the Hoffstetter field generators and the accident?”

“Everything!” said Vlad. “I think time is also quantized.”

“You’ve lost me again. How can time be quantized?” asked McCowan. “And if it is, what difference does it make?”

“Well, think about it in relation to the quantization of energy that you learned about in first year chemistry. We think of time flowing past us like a stream moving at a constant rate. That may appear true in our macroscopic world, but what happens if, at very short time intervals, one reaches a minimum time (I call it a mintival for minimum time interval)? What if our existence at the time interval of a mintival consists of little jumps, like a jump second hand rather than a sweep second hand? Or putting it another way, what if instead of a flowing stream, time consisted of a series of pools,” and here he paused to let his words sink in, “and our existence is a discontinuous series of jumps from one pool to the next?”

“Your theory is fascinating, Vlad, but what has that got to do with the Hoffstetter field generators?”

“I just told you that the Hoffstetter field generators cause the matter inside the field to lag normal time by a very small amount, say ten to the minus thirty-second of a second—that’s a decimal point with thirty-one zeros after and then a one. Now let’s suppose…” Sowetsky turned and kneeled on the sofa and drew three contiguous rectangles on a white board behind his seat “…that these three rectangles represent three sequential mintivals in our world, or universe, if you like. Another world can coexist with ours, as long as the mintivals of that world are offset from those of our time.” He drew three more rectangles adjacent but offset to the first three, like bricks on the side of a building. “It would be like a single reel of film containing two movies, with the odd numbered frames representing our world and the even numbered frames representing another world. If two protectors played this interlaced film with one displaying the odd numbered frames and the other the even numbered frames, one film could give rise to two motion pictures. Similarly, although two solid objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, they can occupy that space at different times, so to speak.”

“Keep going,” ventured McCowan doubtfully. “I hope our viewers are following you through all this.”

“Well, normally, when the Hoffstetter field generators shut down, they collapse back to the nearest quantized mintival. When the field generators overloaded, I believe we kicked over into the trailing mintival—hence the new world!”

“Well, I’ll be!” said McCowan, genuinely shocked. “Can we get back?”

“I don’t know,” said Sowetsky, frowning. “We only know how to make the Hoffstetter field lag time, not precede time. If we tried it again, we might jump into yet another world that lags this one!”

“You can’t be serious!” said McCowan.

“I’m deadly serious,” said Sowetsky evenly.

“We’re never going to get back, are we?” asked McCowan, her voice fading to a whisper as tears began to fill her eyes. She turned away from the camera for a moment. “I have one final question, Vlad,” she said, regaining her composure with obvious effort. “Did you tell Professor Hoffstetter about this possibility?”

“Of course! I told him not once but several times!” said Sowetsky. “That’s what burns me up so much.”

“What did he say when you told him?”

“At first he told me ‘science requires us to take risks,’ and finally he told me to stop raising the matter.”

Back in the dorm room there was brooding silence as the interview on the television drew to a close. Glenn suddenly got up and threw a magazine as hard as he could against the wall, cursed, and stomped out of the room. Within minutes, Dave heard the sound of an ominous rumble, like the growl of a giant beast being roused from a troubled slumber. He went out into the hall to investigate. Students were everywhere. Approaching the common room, he felt the air electric with tension. The fear and anger that had been building over the last two days was growing, and students were gathered in groups. Most had seen the television show, and they were loudly blaming Hoffstetter for their predicament.

How feasible is the quantization of time? More thoughts on this later. If you’re interested in reading more look here or check your library.

Insights from Jordan Peterson on the Old and New Testament

My book club is reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life; An Antidote to Chaos. As part of this reading program I have been listening to various interviews of Peterson and a recent one, taken from a talk and interview at Lafayette College , caught my particular interest.

After a lengthy and colorful introduction by the moderator, Peterson posed a question to the audience. I am going to tell you what I heard in my own words, but I highly recommend you listen to his comments for yourself.

In my paraphrase and summary, his preamble and question went like this:

So called “right wing thinking” is concerned about establishing hierarchies (which are necessary for survival and for society to function), while “left wing thinking” focuses on equality and fights for the bottom tier of the hierarchies that have been established (which is also necessary).

He went on to say that we know where “right wing thinking” crosses the line into extremism: when they claim one group (usually their own) is intrinsically superior to other groups. Peterson then asked the question: Where is the line for extremism on the left?

He went on to answer his own question. The line is crossed on the left when their zeal for equality for the lowest tier in a hierarchy causes them:

  1. To focus on equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity
  2. To compel a certain kind of speech and thinking because it’s the only way to get people to comply with their demand for equality of outcome.

What Has This to Do With the Old and the New Testament?

Note: I’m not especially interested into entering into political discourse, important as that may be, but I am interested in how Peterson’s comments affect my thinking about the history of Judaism and Christianity described in the Old and New Testaments. I will confine my remarks to that subject.

I thought about the points Peterson made, and it struck me how this analysis parallels what I see in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, when primarily describing God’s dealing with His chosen people Israel, he clearly sets up hierarchies: indeed he set up a political one and a religious one each of which acted as a balances to the another. This structure enabled the Israelites to survive despite encountering many enemies and suffering under the afflictions they caused whether it be slavery in Egypt or captivity by Babylon. Even under the heel of the Roman Empire, their identity and cohesion as a people was preserved. When I look at it, the hierarchies in their culture and in their relationship to outsiders contributed positively to their survival and cultural cohesion. However, there was potentially the possibility of crossing the hierarchical line that Peterson articulated.

When Jesus came, he seemed to turn everything on its head. He came in at the lowest tier—as many thought—the illegitimate son of a Galilean carpenter. Yet Christ, while not destroying the Jewish hierarchy, taught that to be a leader in His Kingdom, the leader has to be servant of all. This seems very much like fighting for the lowest tier.

Given Peterson’s analysis, it’s striking to me how Christ came to restore a sense of balance to the hierarchies and keep the Jewish people (and hopefully Christians as well) from crossing the line into extremism where “chosen people” comes to mean “as a people we are superior.” This has been helpful to me because it shows a natural progression in the Old and New Testaments and shows how hierarchies and fighting for the lowest tier are both essential for balance.

Disclaimer: I know Professor Peterson has delivered some lectures on biblical topics. I have not listened to any of them.

©Peter Kazmaier 2018

My Review of D. S. Martin`s CONSPIRACY OF LIGHT

Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. LewisConspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis by D.S. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I share D. S. Martin`s love for the writings of C. S. Lewis. For that reason, reading Conspiracy of Light was for me a double pleasure.

On the one hand, I can enjoy D. S. Martin`s poems on their own merit. For example I can picture a lion standing between two mountain ashes in What Lucy Saw and be carried on to plumb the depths of what it means to follow Christ even when the path is unclear and uncertain.

On the other hand, when I re-read one of Lewis`s books, I can also read a poem associated with it from this collection. D. S. Martin has a helpful Notes & Acknowledgements section in the back which makes it easy to read the poems associated with a particular Lewis book or essay. Reading “Conspiracy of Light“ in conjunction with Lewis adds a dimension to my enjoyment. The beauty and logic of Lewis`s writings is amplified by the pictures and emotions that D. S. Martin`s poems evoke.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading Lewis.

View all my reviews

The Importance of Focusing on the Ideal. A Lesson Learned from G. K. Chesterton’s WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD

I recently had a conversation with a friend at my cottage about one of the injustices that occurred in our past in Canada and the inevitable question came up: “What do we do about it now?” As various potential answers to this question were proposed, they seemed unsatisfactory. IndeeIdealismd often they seem to propose a new injustice visited on people who were, of course, not alive one hundred or two hundred years ago to redress wrongs in which they had no direct part.

I was just reading G. K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World at the time, and it struck how illuminating and helpful his work was for enabling me personally sort through this puzzle of separating good solutions from bad ones.

Chesterton made the point that so often when we try to fix what is wrong with the world, we pay insufficient attention to defining what the ideal is or should be (the picture of flower reminds me of an ideal). He uses the metaphor of a medical doctor. If a doctor is to heal a patient, he has to have an accurate notion of what a healthy person looks like. If he just  focuses on defects or things that are wrong, then the remedial action may actually make things worse rather than better for the patient.

To use an extreme example to make a point, a doctor distressed by the lack symmetry in a one legged patient, may decide to restore the symmetry by removing the other leg, rather than enabling some walking capability by providing the patient with a prosthetic.

Similarly for the injustices in our past that face us now, I need to ask “What kind of society do I want to live in? What would make it fair and just? For me, asking this question, removes from consideration many options which simply implement new injustices to make up for old ones.

If you haven’t read Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World, I suggest you give it a try. I think it was first published in 1910 (some say 1900 but I think that’s too early since Chesterton first began writing books in 1900) yet it seems prophetic and anticipates so many questions facing us today.