Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Sonnet: "This is the time to ignore ancestral ghosts..."

This is the time to ignore ancestral ghosts;
The time alone one acts on 'I' alone;
The time to gather and garner my lights
Until, emboldened, 'I' confronts fear in its home.

A ghastly stench of thousands of past lives
Has lingered in the nostrils for too long -
The sacrifice and guilt for which none grieves
And with which everyone's glad to be done!

The blot of fourty thousand year, mankind
Is a bad dream seen in the light of courage.
Insane enough to love without a mind,
Mindful enough to hate without outrage,

'I' spills out suddenly into the world of bliss,
And born anew the Self shouts that it is.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Regarding exemplary science fiction

This is exemplary for a number of reasons.

Most importantly is the context of the piece. This is written in a context of wonder. Discovery, curiosity, committment, education - all these values are implicit in the piece.

It doesn't flinch away from detail explanation of the biochemisty of a Titanian raindrop because it IS fascinating. Mr Swanwick doesn't say: The raindrop fell and Lizzie caught it. No. He describes it for a reason.

The reason seems to be that the writer is saying something very significant to the reader. He is expressing a value, saying that you SHOULD be fascinated by the composition of a raindrop from Titan.

Why? Well the answer to that question is the essence of what makes good science fiction work - we are fascinated by that raindrop not because of what it is but because of who we are.

On an entirely different level, this is excellent because of the stateliness and pacing of the phrasing (the opening contrasts long slow sentences with short, action-based sentences; read it again!), the delicate admixture of scientific diction with everyday ("Dianocytelene condensed... until it was one shard in a cloud of millions"), and the understated tone of exaltation that subtly colors the words (" was only a breath away from hitting the surface.") and makes them rereadable . That's right, this is literature because you want to reread it.

Visually this can compete with the opening of an early Spielberg movie, building up from delightfully layered micro-details that pave the way for the story to unfold. But instead of simply quoting more lines from it, I encourage you to reread it now. It doesn't get much better than this.

A piece of exemplary science fiction, with permission:

Michael Swanwick, 'Slow Life', reprinted with permission:

The raindrop began forming ninety kilometers above the surface of Titan. It started with an infinitesimal speck of tholin, adrift in the cold nitrogen atmosphere. Dianoacetylene condensed on the seed nucleus, molecule by molecule, until it was one shard of ice in a cloud of billions.

Now the journey could begin.

It took almost a year for the shard of ice in question to precipitate downward twenty-five kilometers, where the temperature dropped low enough that ethane began to condense on it. But when it did, growth was rapid.

Down it drifted.

At fourty kilometers, it was for a time caught up in an ethane cloud. There it continued to grow. Occasionally it collided with another droplet and doubled in size. Finally it was too large to be held effortlessly aloft by the gentle stratospheric winds.

It fell.

Falling, it swept up methane and quickly grew large enough to achieve a terminal velocity of almost two meters per second.

At twenty-seven kilometers, it passed through a dense layer of methane clouds. It acquired more methane, and continued its downward flight.

As the air thickened, its velocity slowed and it began to lose some of its substance to evaporation. At two and a half kilometers, when it emerged from the last patchy clouds, it was losing mass so rapidly it could not normally be expected to reach the ground.

It was, however, falling towards the equatorial highlands, where mountains of ice rose a towering five hundred meters into the atmosphere. At two meters and a lazy new terminal velocity of one meter, per second, it was only a breath away from hitting the surface.

Two hands swooped an open plastic collecting bag upward, and snared the raindrop.

"Gotcha!" Lizzsie O'Brien cried gleefully.

She zip-locked the bag shut, held it up so her helmet cam could read the bar code in the corner, and said, "One raindrop." Then she popped it into her collecting box.

Sometimes it's the little things that make you happiest. Somebody would spend a year studying this one little raindrop when Lizzie got it home. And it was just Bag 64 in Collecting Case 5. She was going to be on the surface of Titan long enough to scoop up the raw material of a revolution in planetary science. The thought of it filled her with joy.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

chapter one FINALLY!

Chapter One is online. And I want to tell a tale of 'the story so far...' here.

Seven years ago I conceived of a lush fantasia in a weirdly altered modern world. I dreamt of a ship that flew on the electricity of a dreaming man's mind, of a Persian empire that fought a neverending war against a non-sentient fast-evolving plant life, the Green Goo. I dreamt of a man's quest of Eurasia to a mystery in the heart of a ruined Australia so astounding that it would test my and my reader's credulity to the utmost limits.

Then I forgot about it.

Four years later I conceived of a modern United States founded along tribal and nomadic lines, combining organised Christian views with American Indian realities in a seamless ritualistic unity.

Gradually I began to work backwards from the Vision to the necessary conditions.

Return To Gaia was conceived two years ago as a simple adventure novel. Unfortunately that did not explore to my satisfaction the characters and themes to the fullest. So I worked on it.

Now about a hundred thousand works exist on the subject already. I am quite familiar with my characters' lives and worlds. I am no longer a stranger to the science fiction and science behind the subjects, since my desire to understand how the novel works has drawn me to understand a number of difficult subjects.

So all this background I humbly give, more because I would like to release it and focus 101 percent on the present work and the work at hand, than because I am showing off about how lengthy the process of invention has been so far.

The recent process of writing has involved fixing the context correctly, about six months ago, and allowing the themes to gravitate into place around that context (in the last three months), and the characters and plot thereby (this month). My several dozen possible openings have been placed aside or deeper into the layers of the plot, and I have driven the opening of the action back until I have found an insertion point which satisfies the multiple demands of an exceptional opening to a excellent novel.

Writing these few words has been beset with the very best kind of difficulties. This first small section is nothing much; a few hundred words. But I am pleased with it so far, so I take this little option to do a bit of well earned gloating. Yay me! :-)0

Thoughts on mind, body, soul and spirit.

Ibascending@a... wrote: in 'What Is Mind?'
> Namaste everyone,
> I've read many posts and have responses in mind. But first I'd like to know
> how you guys define mind, soul, spirit, and what is the electromagnetic energy?
> Once I understand your definitions I can
> respond more clearly to the questions asked of me.
> Peace, Light, and Love,
> Dawn

Hi Dawn,

It is possible to contextualize spirituality into the paradigm of hormonal and neurological processes. But that is, as Milton Erikson said about NLP, getting the subject of study in a nutshell while missing the nut.

Perhaps this is why I immediately found Hawkin's work exciting: the nonlinear realm of soul, spirit, mind, etc are precisely beyond mental definition and cause-effect descriptions of processes.

Just knowing such a realm exists gives me a sense of peace which the reductionistic explanations of spirituality as hormonal and neurological processes could not. These processes are effects of the nonlinear realm.

In Power Versus Force Dr Hawkins talks about the nonlinear nature of hormones. He says the hormone and immune systems are concordant with overall health qaulity; thus small shifts in these systems accompany changes in health and Level of Consciousness. But in the end of that chapter he also mentions laughter and compassion, giving a spiritual context to mind and medicine.

The chakra system is explainable in terms of neurology and hormones; conversely, the neurological and hormonal are explicable in terms of energetic phenomenon. Both are attempts to model the effect of the nonlinear realm.

The computer modelling processes used here is quite interesting. Nonlinear models select information with a deliberately subjective bias of producing a specific effect; accuracy explanation of causation is less important than successfully modelling the interaction of effects. This is considerably more sophisticated than earlier attempts. Santa Fe Institute has been one of the leaders in this nonlinear modelling:

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