The fundamental tendency of matter

Legion (cover)

Legion (cover)

The human brain, three pounds of tissue, held more than a hundred billion brain cells and five hundred trillion synaptic connections. It dreamed and wrote music and Einstein’s equations, it created the language and the geometry and engines that probed the stars, and it cradled a mother asleep through a storm while it woke her at the faintest cry from her child. A computer that could handle all of its functions would cover the surface of the earth.

The hundreds of millions of years of evolution from paramecium to man didn’t solve the mystery, thought Kinderman. The mystery was evolution itself. The fundamental tendency of matter was toward a total disorganization, toward a final state of utter randomness from which the universe would never recover. Each moment its connections were becoming unthreaded as it flung itself headlong into the void in a reckless scattering of itself, impatient for the death of its cooling suns. And yet here was evolution, Kinderman marvelled, a hurricane piling up straw into haystacks, bundles of ever-increasing complexity that denied the very nature of their stuff. Evolution was a theorem written on a leaf that was floating against the direction of the river. A Designer was at work. So what else? It’s as plain as can be. When a man hears hoofbeats in Central Park, he shouldn’t be looking around for zebras. (William Peter Blatty, in Legion [pp104-5]) 


Originally published by Simon & Schuster in 1983, and subsequently turned into what Rinker calls “a more than satisfactory sequel … Exorcist III (which, mercifully, has nothing to do with Exorcist II: The Heretic).” Legion appeared in a Tor paperback edition in 2011 (Tom Doherty Associates, New York).

The Hobbit: 3 days to go

“Hobbit stamps, Hobbit coins and Hobbit markets are all in the works as the city of Wellington, New Zealand, prepares for the world premiere of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ on Nov 28.” (Mark Johanson, writing in the International Business Times, 10 Oct 2012)

3 days to go #1 (25 Nov 2012)

3 days to go #1 (25 Nov 2012)

“The film is the first in a trilogy, with director Peter Jackson returning to JRR Tolkien’s novels after his hit adaptations of Lord Of The Rings.” Subtitled ‘An Unexpected Journey’, the film stars British actors Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen. (BBC News : Entertainment & Arts, 08 Oct 2012)

I snapped these shots this morning on my way to work. (The Embassy Cinema, on Wellington’s Cambridge Terrace, is just a few minutes’ walk from my apartment.)

3 days to go #2 (25 Nov 2012)

3 days to go #2 (25 Nov 2012)

Knot of pain

Two inches above my navel
lies a knot of pain,
identifying itself as
‘promise unfulfilled’.
Under pressure, it divides:
to the left lies ‘envy’,
to the right, ‘regret’.

Two inches above my navel
lies a mark, a target,
the measure of my inadequacy … 
which may be seen as
‘potential unexploited’.

Nothing new here; this is an undated poem I uncovered a few days ago whilst preparing to move to my new apartment. Although I recall writing it, I don’t remember anything about the circumstances.

On the other side of the paper, there’s something relating to a music project I was working on, which suggests that the poem was written in the late 1990s.

The knot is no longer there.

Free to choose

Not comfortable —
an incurable malaise.
It won’t get better.

Disillusionment —
anything but satisfied.
Find something to do.

Reality and
meaning … purpose, destiny …
it’s all invented.

None of it matters —
yes, we already knew that.
So we’re free to choose.

Be natural … be yourself

A great deal of effort seems to go into the quest for the self — or, at least, a great deal of talk centres around the topic.

When you get to thinking about it, though, that’s just us being ourselves!

As John Weeren wrote recently:

no practice is needed
to be yourself
you’re you no matter what

Another thing: life is empty and meaningless …

If you want your life to mean something, it’s entirely up to you.

The only unnatural act is the one that cannot be performed. (William S Burroughs, Alfred Kinsey, et al)

Certainly nothing is unnatural that is not physically impossible. (Richard Brinsley Sheridan)


The truth is beyond me

If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are. (Zen saying)

The truth — whatever it is — is not in any way dependent my knowing it, finding it, believing it, proclaiming it, explaining it, getting it right, getting it wrong …

The truth — whatever it is — takes no explaining, requires no proof; the truth is unequivocal and incontrovertible; the truth is the truth.

The truth — whatever it is — is beyond my ability to comprehend.

Nothing but lies come out of my mouth. There, I’ve done it again! (a Zen master)

What is actually true?

Friedrich Nietzsche asserted that “belief means not wanting to know what is true.” You might think that’s a bit harsh; but I’m inclined to think it doesn’t go far enough.  

The Gospel according to John, reporting a conversation Jesus had with his disciples, says: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. | You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). So there’s a matter of discipleship involved — which resonates with the text in John 14:6, in which Jesus refers to himself as “the way ands the truth and the life”.

Most of us are, I think it fair to say, more familiar with John 8:32 than we are with the verse that precedes it. (That’s another topic for another time, perhaps.)  

Gloria Steinem’s take on these well-known words is worth noting: “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” Which, when you think about it, is not far from what Nietzsche said.

But can anyone determine what is actually true? That’s probably what Andre Gide was thinking when he advised: “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

So what’s the problem, then? “Nothing in the entire universe is hidden” (Dogen Zenji, 1200-1253).

Albert Einstein was on point when he observed: “Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.” 

“Come on, now; be fair,” you say. “You’re mixing spiritual truth with scientific truth.”

Yes, I am. Quite deliberately. If there is such a thing as truth, it is certainly without divisions or distinctions.   

As the old Zen saying goes, “If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”

But, as you may already have noticed, Zen can be a bit tricky: “Things are not as they seem. Nor are they otherwise” (The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra). And how does this sit alongside a typical existentialist statement: “Things are entirely what they appear to be and behind them … there is nothing” (Jean Paul Sartre, in Nausea)?

I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying. (Charles C Finn)