A Dialectic on the Great Pumpkin and the Quantum State*

GreatPumpkinDo you believe in the Great Pumpkin, I was asked the other day.

I do, scraggly buck-toothed grin and all, I replied. I even visit the pumpkin patch periodically. Do you?

Yes, I believe in the promises of the Great Pumpkin.

From which side of the patch are you? The one that uses traditional farming techniques, or the more radical side, whose seeds were bioengineered in Germany?

I thought that Martin Luther, that great pumpkinizer, was on to something that was agriculturally important.

I like picking pumpkins, and turning them into pies. Luther brought to light a very important issue in the patch, and helped to modernize that part of the patch that had become rather barren. Are you a German or British varietal?

I am of the proper English persuasion, and still lead a life of quiet desperation.

Pray tell.

All Englishmen lead lives of quiet desperation. Although technically I am more Scottish.

Then you are a Calvinist, and are going to the dung heap regardless. Do you visit the pumpkin patch periodically?

Yes, I do.

Do you buy into the Great Pumpkin consciousness as having created the pumpkin patch? And was the patch then left to evolve on its own or do you think that the Great Pumpkin had a direct hand in tilling the soil (and still does…)?

In the beginning there was the concept of the pumpkin patch, and the Great Pumpkin said, “Let there be laws of agriculture,” and pumpkin patches through all the words arose.

And how did those pumpkin patches come about? Are there fossilized pumpkins, proto-pumpkins, if you will?

Of course. The concept of pumpkins made in the image of the Great Pumpkin is an exceedingly complicated, yet profoundly beautiful idea. Neither time more space have any constraints on how long it will take for those pumpkins to understand the patch in which they live.

I see. I believe that voyage of patch-discovery is something that is relatively new to the patch, and that prior to that sense of Great Pumpkin-realization, it took many a geologic era for the patch to get to a point for that understanding to even remotely occur. Just for the record, I do not like canned pumpkin.

Nor I; I prefer fresh pumpkin myself.

But I still am not sure where you stand on the creation of the patch, though. Do you believe that acorn squash are related to pumpkins by common ancestry?

Yes. Don’t confuse the grand concept of the pumpkin patch and the fact that DNA is part of the plan.

There is a modicum of planning involved in the patch? I suppose that playing with an ant farm in order to see what happens to the colony is a plan of sorts.

But of course, the almanac referenced the plan of the Great Pumpkin.

I am glad to learn that you believe in the evolution of the patch. I was beginning to worry that you thought the patch was only four thousand years old or so.

By the Great Pumpkin’s stalk, who said four thousand? Our patch is at least four billion years old. The problem is that we the idea of the Great Pumpkin through a dark looking glass, and there is no way that we can see all the facts or the design, let alone know the facts or the design. It is important to believe that, somehow, although we do not know the full mechanics, we too will have the image of the Great Pumpkin.

One might argue that the ‘image’ of the Great Pumpkin is embedded within every atom. Can one even think of that consciousness in terms of physical sense though? But I suppose that is what faith is. Perhaps the better way to conceive of the Great Pumpkin is to perceive that consciousness as being a part of every energy.

Energy is the fundamental requisite of every aspect of life.

Ergo would it not be more accurate to believe that the Great Pumpkin is intrinsic to that energy more so that the likelihood that we are  created in the Great Pumpkin’s image?

But what is left when one takes away all the energy in the universe?

If all the energy in the universe were taken away, all would cease to exist.

Would it? Does consciousness require energy to exist?

Every atom vibrates with energy: that is the nature of matter. Energy is as part of matter as Laurel is to Hardy. I would argue that consciousness still needs energy. Do you not think that energy is requisite of the Great Pumpkin?

No. The Great Pumpkin exists independently of everything. Energy is merely the by-product of the Great Pumpkin think in a quantum state. As is written in the almanac: In the beginning there was the word, and the word was with the Great Pumpkin, and the word was the Great Pumpkin. Thought precedes energy; an idea precedes action. The quantum state occurred after the Great Pumpkin, and was the newly turned ground upon which the Great Pumpkin created the patch. The Great Pumpkin is the prime tiller; all else is derived from that Consciousness.

It is true that the terrain cannot be tilled until the tiller has had the impetus to till. The energy comes after the thought, and so although energy may precede matter, Consciousness precedes energy. I conceive of the pie, and then I make it.

I like pumpkin pie.*

 

 *This text is derived from an actual conversation with a friend, with minor embellishment to keep to the theme of the Great Pumpkin.

The Willful Disregard for the Dismemberment of Ukraine

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Mariupol. Photo from The Independent.

I’m not sure what worries me more, today’s headline about the rebel push into Mariupol, which has already killed twenty civilians going about their daily business in a marketplace (which belies the question, how does one go about one’s daily business in a war-torn country), or the apathetic interest that people seem to have towards the civil war in Ukraine.

Recently, some friends visiting from Poland shared their fear that Putin may try to cut out a larger swathe of Easter Europe for himself, and slowly start to encroach (attack) on other former Eastern Bloc countries. They confessed a very real concern that Putin might invade Poland. I don’t know about that. I can’t see NATO permitting an action like that, and I don’t think Putin has historical grounds for invading Poland.

If you look at the region historically and, with the caveat that this is my amateur knowledge of the area, you can make an argument that Ukraine never really existed as its own country until after the Second World War, under Soviet rule. Come to think of it, Ukraine is not unlike so many of the haphazard, arbitrarily-drawn, Middle Eastern states created post WWII, by European leaders with a penchant for drawing fuzzy lines. Ukraine, for all intents and purposes, has historically always been the very bountiful province of some kingdom or another, but never its own autonomous country. It used to be a province, at one time or another of: Russia, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.

As such, you could argue that Russia is claiming its own region back, which in and of itself Russia ‘wisely’ colonized under Soviet rule with Russians: a modern version of the British colonizing Hong Kong. I do not endorse Russia clawing back Crimea, or any part of Ukraine for that matter, but that may be the ‘rationale’ (if one can call it that) for Russia’s attempt to bring Ukraine back into its fold. This move is not unlike China’s clawing back of Tibet, or its threat to do the same to Taiwan, although I do not think that China is obtuse enough to go for Taiwan at this point; China can’t risk the economic sanctions that Russia is currently experiencing, as China’s economy is so heavily reliant on international trade.

Either way, what’s interesting to me is the lack of interest in Ukraine. It almost feels as though Ukraine is somehow a lesser country, the equivalent of the poor country mouse (or on a crasser level, like Surrey….and no, I don’t mean Surrey, England, I mean Surrey, Vancouver, which has a terrible reputation in my province for being a white trash, classless, high crime rate, dilapidated trucks resting on bricks in the front yard, gang central, butt of Lower Mainland jokes kind of place…for example, what is the first thing a Surrey girl does when she wakes up? She goes home). No one is actually interested in what happens in a pseudo-European country that can’t seem to get its proverbial together. There is too much corruption on a good day, and civil war on a bad.

To be honest, the lack of interest in what is happening on Europe’s back step is almost an endorsement of Putin’s action. We were rather quick to support the anti-Gaddafi and the anti-Assad rebels in Libya and Syria, respectively. Throwing out a dictator is much easier to swallow in the public eye, than to support an ally (mullet-sporting, jumpsuit-wearing, used car salesman of a cousin from the wrong side of the family?) trying to push a bear off their front porch.

NATO is sitting and watching, but not taking any action whatsoever. Curious that. What would it take to goad NATO into action, I wonder?

I am glad that BBC keeps posting articles on what is occurring in Ukraine, because lord knows there isn’t much coverage of the issue in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. We should be concerned for what is happening there, at the very least because of the displacement of citizens trying to live their lives, and because every civilian death in a civil war should count. And who knows what repercussions may come of our complacency in the region.

One Year On: The Passing of an Era

My grandmother died this time last year, and I was asked by my father to write the eulogy for her funeral. The result was the following, which I’ve already shared with friends, but on this one year anniversary, I think some of you may also enjoy reading about her life.

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My earliest memory of Babcia Hala was her rose garden in her home in Los Angeles. I remember the fragrant greenery, smelling slightly of dust and heat, and the brightly coloured roses surrounding the periphery. They were probably pink and yellow roses, as those were her favourite colours. Even here in Vancouver, she had filled these wooden half barrels, which mum and dad had bought some time ago from a defunct distillery, with rose bushes that she tended to with a fervour bordering on the religious in its precision and regularity. They were beautiful, those roses.

We’d go to her little café, which was attached to a gym, and enjoy the sweet tang of purple or pink frozen yogurt.

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She had, for lack of a better word, an adventurous life. Born in Lodz in 1922, I saw a sepia toned photo of her when she was but a baby, with her mother and biological father, and her sister, Wanda. Everyone looks very serious, as you had to be in photos from the roaring twenties.

She’d married young, in her early twenties, to Dad’s father, code-named ‘Krystyn’, real name Stefan Jan. He smuggled arms into Warsaw during the war. I’m not sure exactly how they met, but seeing as Marek is so much like his grandfather, I’d like to think that they met in a store: she didn’t think much of Stefan Jan at first but he persisted and took her out and they bonded over dinner, with the waiter hovering in the background in silent encouragement.

They were married in May of 1943, likely with the best that wartime Warsaw had to offer. I am sure that vodka and herring were on the menu, her favourite foods. Maybe also rouladen, one of the few dishes that she liked to make. Perhaps she learned how to make that from her mother when back in Lodz. Perhaps that was Stefan Jan’s favourite dish and she learned to make it for him.

She became pregnant in the summer, in July of 1943. They must have celebrated life that July, knowing that there was the possibility of death in the near future. The Warsaw Uprising was to start, on August 1, the following year. For those of you who are not too familiar with the specifics of the Second World War, The Warsaw Uprising (Polish: powstanie warszawskie) was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union’s Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city while defeating the Polish resistance, which fought for 63 days with little outside support. The Uprising was the largest single military effort taken by any European resistance movement of World War II.

It was Halina’s birthday on September 21. She was pregnant, likely terrified of the street skirmishes that likely preceded the Warsaw Uprising the following year, the rattle of machine gun fire, some of which Stefan Jan had smuggled into Warsaw with his unit of the Armia Krajowa. I lived three blocks away from the Church of St. Alexander’s at the Three Crosses, where Stefan Jan and his unit hid the guns smuggled into Warsaw.

September 21. Stefan Jan took Halina out for her birthday, he wanted to honour his new bride’s special day. In something akin to a Hollywood movie, the following transpired:

Stefan Jan’s sister’s husband was jealous of Stefan Jan, who was set to inherit the family mill as the eldest son. He knew that Stefan Jan was part of the partisan army fighting the Nazi invasion of Poland, and knew that Stefan Jan was going to be taking Halina out for her birthday. So this nameless dog of an informer told the Nazi’s of Stefan Jan’s identity, what he did, and where he was going to be on that particular day. This puts me to mind that Stefan Jan must of have been in hiding and must have been known to the Nazi’s, and was taking a great risk in taking Halina out.

The Nazi’s ambushed the couple. Friends were able to buy Babcia’s freedom, but not Stefan Jan’s. He was probably tortured, likely by the SS, and was executed and thrown into a mass grave at the Fox’s Den, Lisie Jamy, a forested area about an hour outside of Warsaw. A family member and a friend snuck into the area in the middle of the night to dig out his body and give it a proper burial. Once Stefan Jan’s best friend and unit leader found out whom the informer was, he had the informer executed. Stefan Jan’s best friend became Dad’s godfather. Stefan Jan was only 25 years old.

So poor Halina was left pregnant and widowed at the age of 22. Her family was back in Lodz. Halina remained in Warsaw and lived through the Warsaw Uprising. Although the exact number of casualties of the Uprising remains unknown, it is estimated that about 16,000 members of the Polish resistance were killed. In addition, between 150,000 and 200,000 Polish civilians died, mostly from mass executions. Jews being harboured by Poles were exposed by German house-to-house clearances and mass evictions of entire neighbourhoods. During the urban combat approximately 25% of Warsaw’s buildings were destroyed. Following the surrender of Polish forces, German troops systematically levelled another 35% of the city block by block.

Halina lived through the horrors of listening to the city be levelled around her. She likely had Nazi soldiers invade her home on Mokotowska. I can’t imagine what must have been going through her head. Guilt at going out for her birthday, rage at Stefan Jan’s sister and that side of the family, profound sadness at losing her love, and elation that she was pregnant with his child.

She gave birth to my dad, Stefan, in her apartment on Mokotowska. I’m not sure how long she stayed there but it can’t have been too long as she returned to Lodz and stayed with her parents. They helped raise Stefan. As I understand it, she kept trying to make a living for her and her son. She worked for the Red Cross after the war ended; she tried to set up a hat shop, but the Communists discouraged enterprise and entrepreneurship so she had to close shop. She obviously had cared about fashion from an early age given the penchant for haberdashery.

Eventually, she escaped from Poland in 1959, to Vienna. Dad eventually escaped from Poland and joined her there in 1966. With blood money from a payout from the Polish government for his father’s death, Stefan bought Babcia a sapphire and diamond ring in Vienna, something Stefan Jan had not been able to do. It looks like an ocean wave, and I now wear it and think of Babcia, and of my oh so very young grandfather. I firmly believe they are together again.

She moved to Barcelona in 1962, for a year, then to Geneva from 1963 to 1964, before returning back to Vienna. She moved to the United States late in 1969, to Los Angeles. She married an American, Obermeier, moved to Grand Rapids, Wisconsin, and promptly divorced him in year because she didn’t want to be his house maid. She never stood crap from people.

She moved back to Los Angeles in 1971. She met Herman Langinger, a record studio executive, and they became good friends for many years, until his death in the early 80’s. She accompanied Herman on some of his travels, including to Japan and South Korea. In an era when people really didn’t travel all that much because travel was a luxury, by the age of 60, Babcia had already lived in or visited over 8 countries.

Los Angeles was her joy, a highlight in her life. Being a glamorous creature, she was attracted to the glamour and glitz of Hollywood. She loved watching movies, reading the gossip columns about the escapades of the rich and famous, dressing like a movie star, and partying like one too. In writing this, I somehow think that perhaps she was attracted to the happy endings that one finds in so many Hollywood movies, because her own life had not been so easy, but she always persisted, survived, and made damn well sure she had a good time of it.

I really did not know this Halina. My Babcia was a post-stroke Babcia, a bit more tame, a bit more conservative, and bit more reserved. She still loved her vodka and herring, and dressing nicely, but no longer glamorously. One thing that she always did was take care of her appearance. I saw her last on Boxing Day, just some weeks ago. She still did not have a wrinkle on her face; I have some wrinkles sneaking up around my eyes already but am doing my damnedest to take a page out of her book and slather on eye creams, moisturizers, and sunscreen.

The past few years have not been easy for her or for us. She was diagnosed with dementia around 2005. I won’t talk too much about what that did to her as the Babcia of the past few years was not the Halina of Europe and America, nor the Babcia of my formative years in Vancouver.

The only blessing in her long illness was that when I did have a chance to speak with her on her good days, she often was back in the Poland of her youth, enjoying herself thoroughly. I hope her dreams were of these good times. I made sure to tell her that I loved at every chance I could, and to always make sure I kissed her or patted her hand, so that she could at least feel the warmth of a human touch, even if she could not express herself.

I was just in Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. Mum phoned me on Tuesday morning to tell me that Babcia had died. I was so glad for Babcia, that she was no longer suffering and living a shell of an existence at the brink of life and death. I am so sorry and sad for Dad, who has lost a pillar in his life with the passing of Babcia. But as I was lying on the beach, looking at the golden sand, and azure warm water, graceful palms swaying gently in the Pacific breeze, and the murmur of a thousand people laughing, conversing, and living, I realized that this was exactly what Babcia was about and had loved: laughter, friendship, family, the warmth of the sun, and the soothing sound of the ocean, a drink in one hand, good food ready for the next.

I saw shooting star drop out of the sky and dive into the horizon on Monday night, and I would like to think that was her way of telling me, all is well, enjoy life, love, and live.2011-08-14 13.26.02

R.I.P. Halina Obermeier 1922 – 2014

Stick to Chocolate and Beer

I’m not sure what’s worse about this BBC excerpt, that Belgium is joining the military-on-our-streets bandwagon,  or that their army is “only” 300 strong:

“Troops have been deployed across Belgium to guard potential targets of terrorist attacks, following a series of anti-terror raids and arrests.

Up to 300 soldiers will be mobilised in Brussels, Antwerp and elsewhere.

Belgium’s interior minister told the BBC that his country had to make use of all the forces at its disposal.”

This is a classic case of what I would call ‘inadvertent parallelism’ as the quantifiable fact (300 soldiers) is followed by an qualifying statement that, although entirely accurate, inadvertently suggests a link to the number in the previous statement. Thus this scenario suggests that Belgium’s armed forces consists of 300 soldiers. I always thought Belgium was a small country, but really….they should perhaps stick to their proverbial.

 

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Grey Vs. Ghomeshi

I went to the theatre this past Saturday to watch ‘Unbroken,’ a great movie about the trials and tribulations of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who fought in the Second World War as a bombardier, whose plane crashed into the Pacific where he and two others survived (one dying at sea though) adrift for 45 days before being picked up by the Japanese and sent to an internment camp, where he saw out the reminder of the war. This blog isn’t about this excellent movie, and I do recommend you see this if you have any interest in the subject and/or if you need a reality check about First World Problems.

fiftyshadesofgreyHowever, this blog is about the trailer I watched for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Firstly, I will caveat that I refuse to read the book on the principle that if I am to buy toilet paper, I’d rather buy three ply than the bond paper used as pages in the book. Also, just about all of my girlfriends have read the novel and have shared some of their perspectives on some of the scenes. My favourite review was from my friend, S-, who said she fixed on the fact that the romantic interest (can one even call it that?), Christian Grey, pulled out the protagonist’s tampon out of her nethers with his teeth. S- kept wondering for the next couple of chapters: “What on earth did he do with the tampon? Did he throw it out, did he flush it, did he just put it in the toilet and not flush? Did the maid have to deal with it after? What an ass if he left that for the maid to find.” All these and more being very valid plot points.

In case you have lived as a troglodyte for the past couple of years, the gist of the novel is that a young woman embarks on an BDSM (that’s ‘Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism’ for those of you not savvy in fetish acronyms) relationship with her boss. The novel is erotica through and through, and thoroughly successful at having over 100 million (that’s a one followed by eight zeros) copies sold, and has been translated into over 30 languages (ever the measure of success when a novel is translated into Mongolian). S- said the actually prose is horrendous, an opinion echoed by many of my girlfriends that furthered my resolve to not waste a couple of hours of my life on such drivel.

What the movie trailer reminded me of, however, was the negative reception to the allegations of sexual assault against Jian Ghomeshi, one of CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – Canada’s national public radio and television broadcaster) more successful and popular radio hosts. The minute the allegations against Ghomeshi were brought to light, in the form of Ghomeshi being fired from CBC at the end of October, 2014. The immediate outcry against Ghomeshi was very vocal and very harsh. As is the wont of the modern viewer/listener, Ghomeshi was promptly hung, draw, and quartered by public opinion, without the benefit of a proper judicial process.

At this point in time, I have little doubt that the allegations are true. but even so, all criminal charges must go through a judicial process, and innocence or guilt be proven in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion.

Upon seeing the trailer for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ I was reminded of the descriptions of the allegations against Ghomeshi: that he degraded women, that he liked to choke his dates, that he slapped his dates in the face, etc. You get the gist. One might argue that Ghomeshi and Grey aren’t comparable at all, because Grey obtained consent, and Ghomeshi typically did not. I would argue that the issue of consent is moot, in some respect, as I see the issue being a man humiliating and degrading a woman through eroticized, and therefore somewhat socially permissible, violence.

The book is such a success because there are so many women (and perhaps men too) who relish the thought, whether consciously or not, of a woman being so thoroughly dominated and controlled by a man. Perhaps that giving up of control to another is something that some modern women crave deep down inside, because Lord knows why they’d read such a book in such vast numbers. And yet, when something similar occurs in real life, everyone is appalled. I find it interesting, and rather disturbing, that potentially so many women want to be dominated by a man.

My point is not that I think we should be okay with what Ghomeshi did, because engaging in fetishism must involve consent from all parties, there are no two ways about it.

My point is that the dominance of a man over a woman, through eroticized violence, seems to be permissible in certain contexts, when it really shouldn’t be at all.

Je Suis Charlie

I woke up in the middle of the night, the other night, as I am wont to do, and I inevitably check my phone to read headlines, to see if any email has come in, or to scroll through my Facebook feed (the obvious cons of sleeping with your phone next to you is a discussion for another time). I was appalled to read the headline about the shooting in the head office of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The editor, three main cartoonists, and six other journalists were shot and killed, as were two police officers.

The brazen midday attack was particularly unnerving in its flawless execution; as one witness described it, “I saw them leaving and shooting. They were wearing masks. These guys were serious…. At first I thought it was special forces chasing drug traffickers or something.” (AFP, quoted on BBC).

Sadly, untrue, as the better part of France’s police forces attempt to track down the killers.

charliehedbocartoonWhy the bloodshed? For cartoons such as this, where an ISIS fighter beheads the Prophet Muhammad (click the image for more cartoons). This cartoon is a bit out there, but the point made, I think, obvious, particularly in light of the recent spate of beheadings in the territory held by ISIS (I refuse to call it the Islamic State, as these hooligans have overrun parts of two countries, Syria and Iraq, each embroiled in essentially their own civil wars, and have let a viper into their homes as such. It is not unlike a domestic dispute going on in the front of the house, while a squatter quietly steals into the basement and sets up shop while the couple are distracted).

The cartoon is funny, in my opinion. You might not think so. That’s the beauty of our democratic rights to freedom of expression and speech…I choose to snort out loud, you might turn off the page. If I don’t like something, or don’t agree with a sentiment, I’ll either turn it off, turn the page, or vent out to someone who I think might care one way or the other.

The cartoon also put me to mind about a cartoon my brother and I concocted back in university when we both took an introductory course to the three main western religions: Moohammed and his Mooselems. Naturally, Moohammed was drawn as a bovine figure, and the Mooselems, as, well, moose (as tempted as I am to write the plural of ‘moose’ as ‘meese’…). In retrospect, a terribly ignorant thing to come up with when learning about Islam, but not much different from one of my favourite cartoons that I came across when I went to Queen’s University, captioned, “The Second Coming of Christ.” The cartoon depicted a stoned-looking Jesus lying in bed with a woman, who says to him, “Wow, twice in one night…” As a Catholic, I should find that cartoon incredibly offensive but, damn skippy, I think it’s hilarious. You might hate it, and that sentiment is okay too; it’s your right to like or dislike a topic.

But you don’t kill over something that you think is crass and terrible, and that’s just the crux of the issue. A satirical magazine purposely tries to make its readership, politicians, society, and culture feel uncomfortable, to question the status quo and cultural and social norms. Is such a bastion of free speech always right? No, it is not, but it is the point of satire to make us think.

I just hope the Onion isn’t next in line and, in the meantime, we need more cartoons.

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