Friday 27th August 2010

dad-voice practice

the timing of this entry is fitting, given the topic of my last.

anyway. you GUYS, have you heard the news? of course you have, because it was such a shock to everyone that they couldn't talk about anything else for weeks. remember?

so. i'm a little stressed about the whole thing. big surprise, i know, but listen. the more we do in preparation for the little guy, the more we get thinking about all that's required to keep him alive and functioning (not to mention, to keep us alive and functioning), and i have to say that a couple times i've had to consciously pull myself back from the verge of a panic attack. i've heard the transition from living baby-free to having a baby described as passing through the event horizon of a black hole. (you may understand why i like this analogy.) when you're on the outside, there's no way of knowing what's going on inside, because there is no way allowed by the laws of physics for the information to reach you. you can speculate and hypothesize and extrapolate, but you really just have no idea. and as your lifeless spaceship hurtles inexorably down the gravity well and space-time is torn apart around you, you only then begin to understand.

it disturbs me how something so physically small can have such a huge set of needs. i thought we were this advanced, capable species with large brains, or something? apparently no? elephants can hold their heads up immediately. horses can run the day they're born. baby cthulhu was inducing madness in entire civilizations in his first star-cycle. what's wrong with us?

i find i'm having to change my mind about a lot of stuff, in addition to changing habits. i've done a disservice over the last few years in my joyful mockery of my friends' tribulations with their own children. i'll tell you where i'm coming from. first of all, they'll repay in kind, because they're awesome. secondly, as a result of my actions they'll surely never give us a minute of free babysitting. but most importantly, and seriously, i've made light of what is basically the grandest struggle there is—turning babies into people—in a way that has probably trivialized it in my own mind, or at least my subconscious. i certainly don't mean i think it is trivial, which it certainly is not and i don't mean to say that at all. i'm saying that within my mind i've reduced it to just a source of humor without ever appreciating it or even really trying to appreciate what the experience meant to them. and i'm not sure how to feel about this, because they were living their lives just as i was, we were just at different stages in our respective lives. their lives involved the raising of a child. mine involved acting out my chosen social role, viz. making fun of that. but as i face the bizarre prospect of imminently having a son of my own, i'm seeing it a bit differently. as you might imagine.

you guys, my son is going to be a challenge. he's going to be a stubborn, slippery little trickster, and worst of all, he's going to be really damned intelligent. he will of course be quietly cerebral, and when for this reason he goes hours or days without willingly talking to us we will panic and feel like he's shutting us out of his life. beginning the day he's born i'm going to begin filling his head with nonsense but before long he will figure out my game and realize just how full of shit i am, and from that day forward my wife will love him more than she loves me. he's going to have a sense of humor unintelligible to everyone except himself; in fact he will have vast worlds in his head to which no outsider will have access, robbing us of the ability to understand the greater part of him. he's going to be a prodigy with the ladies, so all the parents at the pta meetings will always be bitter toward me. chelsey will try to turn him into the quarterback for the denver broncos and because she's his favorite (and also just to spite me; ref. comment about being full of shit) he'll actually do it, and because he's so intelligent he'll be really good at it and become a superstar and move to bermuda or wherever and we'll never see him again except in signed pictures his publicist will send us at christmas.

so of course i'm stressed. the hell of it is, though, it's not altogether justified. sure, it will be work, hard work, and plenty of minimal-sleep nights and full diapers and colic and fevers and spit-up on my new shirt, but taking care of all that is just mechanics and actually pretty straightforward. later comes the frustrating part: the inevitable teenage rebellion crap when he'll think no one understands him and blah blah. but even that is basically predictable, and even a little boring—even amusing?—from the perspective of having gone through it myself. ('oh, you've become a nonconformist, how original.') it will seem to him as though the world and everything in it is unfair, and to him it will be for a while, but he'll survive it just as we all do and he'll get to experience the absurdity of the next generation at that age, thinking they're the first ones ever to feel angst.

so where does this leave me? who knows. i often say to my co-conspirator in this matter that i'm afraid, and i suppose i am in a way, though it's not truly fear that i'm feeling, mostly just unease. at the idea that soon, this powerless monster is going to invade and turn my life on its head and demand that i keep it alive, and inexplicably i will appease it. a dear friend of mine once said, 'the secret to parenting is to remember that your goal is to raise capable adults.' i imagine i'll be repeating that to myself rather often over the next twenty years, especially when it's my turn for the nighttime diaper shift.


posted by mAtt @ 19.07 (gmt+0000)
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Thursday 11th June 2009

what i learned in that place where i went

we say things like it's a small world without feeling their full meaning.

the world is small only in comparison with such things as the rest of the galaxy, which is itself only small in comparison with such things as the local supercluster. we're to the point in our development as a thinking species where we can observe objects that emitted some bits of light near the beginning of the universe, and the light is only now reaching us. and light is fast, dig? if my calculations are correct it takes light approximately one year to go one light-year; do you know how long it would take you, even taking the entire journey at the fastest speed any human has ever gone? beyond the scope of supercluster one could take two, maybe three meaningful (however gargantuan) steps up, and half a dozen or more on the way down. we live near the bottom, and on the scale to which we are accustomed, the world is pointedly—almost arrogantly—large.

thank you for following so far; it's important you understand where i'm coming from if you're to understand where i'm going. it's a matter of using the appropriate scale. though it's not saying much, the difference between (1) the immensity and permanence of the rock we're all floating on and (2) my own unimportance and brevity is more than the meat between my ears can process. and yet it is precisely this difference that made each bite of greek food, each sight of stacked ancient marble, each step taken on age-worn stone, each smile on the face of the girl i love—all so small when taken individually—so large when viewed through the lens of what i'm used to.

this is what i learned: we're each so small, and each so temporary, but because of this each moment and every inch we have just becomes that much more meaningful. where we are, everything matters except you. you are exactly as self-important as you think you are; it is just your scale that is wrong.

i'm sorry, what was your question? … 'how was greece?'

pretty frakking swell.


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Thursday 13th October 2005

pompous pseudointellectual mindwanking (for my wife's benefit)

i perceive that a certain wife of mine has trouble understanding a certain dichotomy in my life.

today on the way to work i was plugging a podcast i subscribe to. here's the skinny. it's called skepticality. it reports under-reported news, debunks myths/mysticism/pseudoscience, disseminates critical thought, and (in my opinion) generally promotes quality and discourages crap. it fits me because i try to maintain a skeptical worldview.

i mentioned to her one early episode in which they had discussed the religious philosophies of the framers of the united states government. the thrust of that episode was: most of them were deists, and contrary to popular opinion, did not espouse or endorse any sort of religion or theology. they certainly didn't form religion, much less one specific religion, as the foundation of the state.

there was a certain amount of excitement in my voice i'm sure, because the above is a common misconception (if not blatant untruth) and it was being clarified via a pretty popular channel. though i didn't go into so much depth with her, i gave her the overview. her response, and the last thing she said to me before getting out of the car, was 'sometimes i swear you're an atheist,' not spoken in a flattering tone. [aside]


i'd like to try to set the record straight here, partially for mrs matt, partially for personal clarification of thought, and partially so you can figure out who i am (because i honestly have no idea). so at the risk of losing friends but with the hope of enlightening them, here's what i believe. now with extra candor.

i am a scientist—not only by education but also by philosophy: i try very hard to form conclusions from evidence; it's very hard for me to give credence to claims or arguments for which i can't see any support. i'm certainly not perfect in this respect, as i'm sure you have seen in the past, but i do the best i can.

because the universe appears in so many ways to be 15 billion years old, i believe the universe to be 15 billion years old. because of the cosmic background radiation and because the universe appears to be expanding, i believe the big bang theory is accurate.

because individuals (not just human individuals; i'm talking about everything living) who are poorly adapted to their environs are less likely to survive and subsequently less likely to pass their genes along, the good genes of a species get distilled into individuals of successive generations. since mutations from various sources are occurring continuously, existing genes are not static. the process is recursive with continuously new genetic material. i believe the theory of evolution is accurate, though i believe it fails to explain the absolute origins of Life As We Know It™.

because i believe in cause and effect, and because the universe is a very large effect that demands a very large cause (ex nihilo, nihilo fit), i believe in big-g God, who created the universe.

yes, that's right. i believe in God, and i believe that God created the universe, but i do not think the theory of intelligent design (id) should be taught as a scientific cosmology, alternative or not:

firstly: i.d. by its construction is not scientific, in that it defines itself to be irrefutable and claims everything as supporting evidence. the body of science is based on the idea of falsifiability.

secondly: science curriculum is not equipped to deal with God, just as religion is not equipped to deal with meson interactions or the properties of neurotransmitters.

thirdly: the discussion of religiously charged topics is well within the jurisdiction of concerned parents. proponents of id hold that alternative theories of origins be given equal time in science classes; if every alternative theory of origins were to be explained in school, students wouldn't have time to learn anything else. i wholeheartedly believe that varying viewpoints should be offered in every field of knowledge, and kids should make up their own minds, but not everything is solely the job of teachers.

furthermore, choosing which religions' cosmologies are taught in governmentally funded schools is precisely equal to respecting a religion. [aside]


i'm a fan of the split-brain theory. the left hemisphere is pointy: it is good at solving linear problems, for understanding details and deducing. it balances your checkbook. it's algorithmic. the right hemisphere is round: it sees wholes, it intuits, abstracts, inducts. it hopes. it is heuristic. and connecting the two is the corpus callosum, the largest nerve in the human body. it's about as wide as three or four fingers lined up, though it's usually thicker in women than in men.

the point is this: the only way i can make some sense of the universe is by thinking of it with both hemispheres. i parse science with the left side and religion with the right side. between the two is a tenuous connection too thin to allow much cross-communication (in small amounts and only when needed). it's kept me alive and sane so far.


so. what does this make me? rhetorically speaking, of course.


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