Runcible Blog

searching, searching

It looks like it's going to be a pleasant day today. I'll be heading off to Boston for that super-keen class which starts at 5. I don't know what I'll do before then; perhaps I'll sit outside marsh chapel and make some noise. If only I can find my drum sticks before I leave....

More of the same

Another conversation about my stagnation here at home, my potential, my mistake, my value to society, etc. Yes, I do wonder about my future. It's not all fun and games for me. I'm cursed (and blessed) with severe introspection -- of course I've thought about these things. But I've yet to reach any conclusion. I wonder how many of us do reach a conclusion. I look forward to tomorrow, but after that, everything is hazy.
The haze burns off only moments before I'm forced to confront whatever monster or angel leaps into focus. I can cross my fingers and hope for an angel, or I can wipe my eyes, removing the nebulous barrier to clear understanding. Does any of this make sense?

someday I'll get the shot

On my way to Ritz Camera today, I noticed farmers tending a field right off of Route 28(it's a really unusual location for a farm). Well, I first saw these farmers on my ride to work one morning, and if I had my camera at the time, I definitely would've stopped to take such an interesting picture even if it meant being late for work. But of course, I don't bring my camera everywhere I go. Today I had my camera and 2 exposures left, but I didn't get the shot I wanted (I was too far away). Someday, I'll be prepared. Incidentally, I used slide film, so even if I did get the perfect shot, I wouldn't be able to scan it easily. People shots interest me so much, and more and more of my photographs are candid street shots. I still have a ton to learn about street photography, but already I know that I'm getting more comfortable approaching strangers or just taking a picture without asking. People have said that taking someone's photograph is like capturing their soul. The tough part is finding a subject who has a soul to begin with. What I mean is that I'm really trying to steal someone's soul by taking their photograph, and that's hard. This portrait isn't that bad (the print is bad though, and the negative was stolen...):
But I'd love to be able to make photographs like this one:
By Steve McCurry

full of hot air?

full of hot air? From: Dave St.Germain
Date: Wed Sep 18, 2002 15:13:22 US/Eastern
To: csteininger
Subject: I wish my class had all these fun electives
I see your course description on the "faith and reason" class. It looks like an interesting class.
"Some people think our lives must be one or the other, all faith, or all reason. We often associate faith with religion and reason with science. This course will explore some of the consequences of this "either, or" attitude, and how faith and reason can and must go hand in hand in our lives. Living on "blind faith" is dangerous, but a life without faith is equally as dangerous."
That reminded me of something that my astronomy professor at BU said in one of his first lectures. He asked the class about the difference between one of his astronomy lectures and a sermon at a church (I think that's what he said, anyway). Of course, lots of people chimed in about how his lecture was based on fact, was scientific, etc. But his final response was that an astronomy lecture and a sermon are very much alike. Either way, the listeners (whether students or parishioners) would believe what they're told. In other words, whether scientists want to admit it or not, there is a large amount of faith involved in astronomy and physics, and really any science. And especially as we become closer and closer to understanding the origins of the universe, a lot of the "facts" are so speculative that we have to take a "leap of faith" to understand them. I spent an inordinate amount of time reading scientific books and focusing on science, and I learned about the "fuzzy" nature of understanding the most fundamental concepts of the universe. One book that I read, "The Elegant Universe", stands out in my mind. Some of the most advanced physics these days focuses on String Theory: the idea that everything in the universe is made of extremely tiny loops of "string" that vibrate in different ways. These mathematical concepts are so hard to prove (because the sizes involved are either infinitesimally small or astronomically huge) that one really has to have faith that this explanation is the only "true" one. As I read it, I definitely had the feeling that I WANT to believe that the universe is so fundamentally simple, even if it turns out that it is not simple at all. And that faith, I think, is what drives many scientists who are searching for the "theory of everything" or attempting to explain what may be impossible to understand. If you know physics, you know that there are lots of examples of incredibly elegant equations and explanations for everything. As a result, we tirelessly search for the most beautiful, elegant, simple explanation. I guess it's like a search for God, in a way.
Well, I didn't want to get carried away.
Anyway, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the other topic I learned about, Zen, proposes a simple reasoning to these complex problems. Basically, we don't know if there is a god (or life after death, etc.), and we probably will never know the real origins of the universe and other fundamental questions, so why not just live here and now and try to do the best we can to help each other?
I don't want you to think that I have the "stink of Zen" (though I'm wearing some stinky pants right now). Actually, I haven't meditated in ages and wouldn't claim to be trying my best to save the world at this time. But I believe it is true that whenever someone "steps on the bodhisattva path", he never really leaves it. It always stays with the person. I think there is something very fundamental about that observation. Good luck with the class, and I'll catch you later.


Lately I've been thinking about the past year and the things that have changed or remain the same. I was trying to remember the feelings I had attending BU versus the isolation I feel today. I don't want to believe that I'm more cynical or jaded today than I was last year, but I certainly do have a different perspective now. Whenever I see or hear high school students, especially seniors, I always notice their confidence and idealism. And lately I've been wondering if most of that blind confidence washes away as we grow older. The other day, I read a newsletter about CCHS's class of 2002 graduation. One of the students who spoke at the graduation said something to the effect, "I came to Central as a boy; now I leave as a man." I think I laughed out loud. There were also some profiles of the star students of the class of 2002, and I wondered (rather cynically) just how many of those students who wanted to be lawyers or astronauts would end up as blue collar workers.
Now, I'm not going to exaggerate and say that I'm struggling to make ends meet, but I remember that "carefree" attitude that I had at BU -- where all I had to do was go to class and do the homework (which proved to be a big obstacle). And maybe I'd go even further and say that BU probably has a higher percentage of carefree students than many other schools since most of the folks who attend are generally pretty wealthy. I noticed that many of my fellow classmates there never really thought about why they were going to school -- they just did it because it was something to do or because their parents said so. Perhaps my big problem was that I asked those questions and was frightened when I could find no answers.