The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Time Travel Is Real

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Sure, we can travel space…from continent to continent, into the depths of the oceans, and to the far reaches of outer space.


But can we also travel time?


Yes, and we regularly do!


Whether individually, in our minds eye, we go back and forth in time–remembering poignantly the memories of the past with regret or with joy and thinking forward in time whether worrying what could happen or eagerly look forward and hope for a brighter future. 


Similarly, as a human collective, we can travel back and forth in time well past our individual recollections and remember, celebrate, memorialize, or eulogize what came before us through generations and millennia and even plan great innovations, feats, and civilizations well into the future. 


Time is but a shadow that is cast off us from the our great Heavenly Father who shines his grace upon us by his creation and is himself timeless. 


In the shadow of time, we can glimpse the externalism of what supersedes our mortality and the significance of us as a speck in time amidst the greatness that lies across the reaches of space and time–that is the soul of the matter. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

There’s No Shield Against Loneliness

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Loneliness is empty, hollow, a panicky void, and depression. 


It’s like being in the ocean and feeling so small in its massive depths…almost like drowning. 


In the end, you are alone in the universe. 


No one can truly feel your pain or joy or experience all of you.


You’re a world unto yourself. 


You connect and form relationships with others–there is learning and growth and love and caring in that. 


Talking and reaching out and being part of someone and something washes away parts of those scary feelings and creates a greater purpose of being and meaning. 


But there is also silence and solitude and the darkness of the night. 


And in that there is just the faith in G-d Almighty. 


He alone is what comforts us as we stare into the vastness out there as well as the evil and loss that we come face-to-face with and combat in life. 


The soldier girds his sword for battle and carries a shield to protect himself.


But there is no shield for the loneliness we experience in life and ultimately in death itself. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Breaking The Bounds Of This World Thinking

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Coming from the Metro, someone stopped me and gave me this card for meditation, and I thought it was really insightful. 

“Changing the human mind to infinite universe mind”

Our minds are constrained by our mortality, materialism, and physical limitations of space and time. 

But if we free ourselves even momentarily from these, we can enter into a sort of limitless universal mindset.


“Human is incomplete because human are living inside human mind world which is one’s lived life and thoughts.”

We are beset by a near endless barrage of life’s fears and worries–like that we can’t fully perceive the metaphysical and spiritual world that is the real and meaningful one for us. 

“One can live forever and [when] he has escaped pain, burden, stress, and the countless kinds of agonies; his old self has disappeared and so it is great freedom.”

Through mindfulness, centered and balanced thinking, we can go above the “false world” and enter the “true world.”


Doesn’t this ring fundamental and true?


What an amazing approach to thinking that we can use elevate ourselves above what we live and see every day. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via Rockville Meditation)

Looking For Astronauts – Apply Here

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So cool!!!


OPM Job announcement today for Astronauts.


Work for NASA at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.


Train for missions to the International Space Station, on two new commercial spacecraft, and for the Orion  deep-space exploration vehicle.


To go where no man or woman has gone before…


Dreams do come true!;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Paul Hudson)

How Good Is Our DNA

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Where do we store the vast and expanding information in our universe?

These days it’s typically in 0 and 1s–binary code–on computer chips.

But according to the Wall Street Journal(18 August 2012), in the future, it could be encoded in the genetic molecules of DNA.

DNA has “vastly more capacity for their size then today’s computer chips and drives”–where a thumb size amount could store the entire Internet–or “1.5 milligrams, about half the weight of a house ant could hold 1 petabyte of data, which equals to 1,000 1-terabyte hard drives.”

As opposed to binary code, DNA will store information as strands made up of four base chemicals: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T).

Just like letters in the alphabet make up words, sequencing of these 4 base chemicals can store biological instructions (e.g. 3 billion for a person) or any other information.

Using DNA for storage involves 4 key steps:

1) Encoding information into binary code

2) Synthesizing the chemical molecules

3) Sequencing them in a string to hold the information

4) Decoding the molecules back into information

Overall, DNA is seen as a “stable, long-term archive for ordinary information”–such as books, files, records, photos, and more.

Researchers have actually been able to store an entire book of genetic engineering–with 53,426 words–into actual DNA, and “if you wanted to have your library encoded in DNA, you could probably do that now.”

With the cost declining for synthesizing and sequencing DNA, this type of data storage may become commercially practical in the future.

And with the amount of information roughly doubling every 2 years, large amounts of reliable and cost-effective memory remains an important foundation for the future of computing.

Frankly, when we talk about storing so much information in these minute areas, it is completely mind-boggling–really no different than the corollary of imaging all the stars in vastness of sky.

It is almost incredible to me that we have people that can not only understand these things, but make them work for us.

With NASA’s Curiosity Rover exploring Mars over 34 million miles away, and geneticists storing libraries of information in test tubes of DNA coding, we are truly expanding our knowledge at the edges of the great and small in our Universe.

How far can we continue to go before we discover the limitations to our quest or the underlying mysteries of life itself?

What is also curious to me is how on one hand, we are advancing our scientific and technological knowledge as a society, yet on the other, as individuals, we seem to be losing our knowledge for even basic human survival.

How many people these days, are proficient on the computer in an office setting, but couldn’t survive in the wilderness for even a few days.

Our skills sets are changing drastically–this is the age of the microwave, but knowing how to cook is a lost art to many.

So are we really getting smarter or just engaging our minds in a new direction–I hope we have the DNA to do more than just one! 😉

(Source Photo: adapted from here with attribution to Allen Gathmen)