Friday, March 31, 2017

My own Search for Spock


If you really want to know...

I'm a very flighty person, never satisfied with the view.  I like to explore, look beyond the next hill. That's why I became a geographer. This is particularly true of the mental realm, the landscape of ideas. It's gotten me in trouble.

The problem is, unlike the material world where the ground feels solid beneath me, it didn't take me long to realize the landscape of my mind is quite different. I can simultaneously be situated in completely contrary ideas and not even know it for years.  When I discovered this apparent flaw, I didn't take it well.
Most of my really important finds, have come in stages, like for example, the notion that belief itself has much to do with the physical.  My body, through feelings and emotions, shapes my thoughts in a way that counter what I was taught in school. The physical and mental, are not separate realms, rather they connect through my body. To live and be healthy one needs certain things from the physical world.  Science tells us the human mind developed as an evolutionary strategy to insure those needs are met. My feelings (pleasure, discomfort) and emotions (desire, fear) shape my beliefs far more powerfully than I ever imagined. Yikes!
My initial understanding of the biology of mind made me question many things. Our society, economics, politics, the law, science are based on the premise that we are fundamentally rational beings.  I asked myself, is a search for pleasure and comfort all there is? Is rational free will largely a cruel delusion?
There had to be more to life than a self-serving venture aimed at survival and comfort. I dove head first into religion and spirituality... a search for meaning.  Being quite the science geek, a problem arose right off the top.  I had no idea how to reconcile spirituality and science. My only option was to leave the latter behind and go off half-cocked into the realm of the metaphysical.  I can't tell you how much fun this was - ESP, ghosts, higher beings, and of course, God. I was raised Catholic but because of my flighty nature I had to seek out as many gods as possible. What a wild ride.
In the mental landscape of religion and spirituality there are many countries and many continents. My search began in the capital cities: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc... Not having much luck, I broke orbit and headed for the realm of the occult, spirit healing and ultimately mysticism. Somewhere along the way I rediscovered earth, that is, I began to embrace science again. This time, however, I felt more optimistic that it was possible to bridge the gap, to reconcile science and spirituality.
It has been my own personal search for Spock. Did I mention in all that time I never stopped being a geek? For those of you who don't share that predisposition, Spock's rebirth represents an integration of the logical and the mystical.
At their best, science and mysticism are both transcendent endeavors. Through exploration and the acquisition of knowledge, they take us beyond the self and help us embrace greater realities. They are both ultimately interested in fundamentals, in truths.  Their seeming incompatibilities mostly come from method and the way knowledge has been categorized historically.  Using slightly more erudite lingo, the reductionist/holism paradigm stems from a false dichotomy that established itself in Western thought as science challenged the hegemony of the Church. (please excuse the jargon).
If you want my advice, don't get hung up on the terms god, spirituality, logic, rationality or whatnot. These concepts are like imposed national borders on an integrated biosphere. Their only purpose is to divide for political and administrative reasons.  Like any boundaries, you can't simply ignore them, but I suggest paying at least as much attention to the view of the astronaut gazing at the earth from high above.
And in that spirit, I hope you enjoy this blog, the Wonders of Nature.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The politic of nature

   With Facebook memes, smartphone cameras, blogs and 24/7 instant news, we are now fully witness to the folly, the craziness and the cruelty that underlies our economics and our politics. We are all the more aware of the problems facing us. Our world seems to be at a critical stage, some of us are disillusioned and some feel an urgency to move in a new direction.  

   I have seen a lot of political posts regarding what’s best for society, be it capitalism, socialism, or some combination thereof.  For some, it is about salvation and God’s mercy, while others place their faith in new technologies.  

   All of these human models have been tried before, in multiple means and ways, and yet we are left wondering if we have reached a precipice, an ending. Many simply want change, to throw out the old and corrupt without much thought about what comes next.  Yet, there are some who believe we should shape our politics and economies in a way that syncronizes with the organizing principles found in the natural world. After all, over the long-haul, the really long-haul it is nature that has created and sustained us.

   Compare modern society with the workings of nature and you will find fundamental dissonance. Our human systems are linear, wasteful and disparate, while nature is cyclical, self-sustaining and interconnected. Nature self-regulates through chaos and harmony -- a marvel as orderly and nurturing as it is chaotic and destructive. Nature is holistic, interdependent, composed of timeless cycles. Whereas in human models decline and chaos are the enemy. The focus is on the components of society like security, economy, education, health care and so on. Management is forward-looking and teological, purposed to create order and engineer discrete solutions. 

   Thus to use nature as a model is a solution that requires a radical rethinking of our selves, our communities and our place in the cosmos. Natural systems appear balanced and harmonious, but cycles of creation and destruction underlie it all.  Nature works because of the chaos, not in spite of it. Decay, turmoil and death are fundamental to the creative impulse of life. On the bright side, ecosystems arise and thrive for thousands, even millions of years. Our civilization could do as well.

   I'm not sure if we can make this shift or how such a society would function.  It will take courage and imagination. In the end it may be our only choice. Our home is a finite sphere in a vast, cold universe. Humanity continues to grow, expand and consume the natural base that sustains us.  Once you truly ponder this predicament it becomes very clear that the only lasting solutions will arise through an alignment with natural systems. 

   Environmental stewardship, considered a side-issue by most, is really at the core, and where we must begin. Keep than in mind this election cycle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


        Thank you all for reading my posts these past few years. I hope I have conveyed my love of the natural world and the cosmos to you.  If you've enjoy my writing please see my latest novel on  I would appreciate it if you take a moment to look:  

                  Alone in the ashen plains, a girl searches for the enigmatic nomads of Od-Siing, but the atmosphere proves too harsh for the young seafarer. Krynna is unconscious and dying when found by the twins, Durai and Quan. Durai falls in love with the girl from a distant ocean world but believes she is a star spirit and shies away. While recovering, the young emissary is shown writings that could help free the nomads from a brutal occupation. A surprise raid separates Durai from Krynna and his sister who then flee to distant asteroid station, where a young prospector has seen the same ancient script. A holy man named Aicobo, a pilgrim from the ocean world, takes the heartbroken Durai to find his two loves. They join Krynna in her pursuit of a truth so powerful it could not only transform the struggle against the totalitarian League, but alter the very meaning of existence for the disparate people of the three suns.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dunes of Sand and Ice

I plan to take a Sunday morning stroll and found myself on Crane's Beach, on one of Massachusetts long, sandy beaches framed by dunes and estuaries. It turned into a four hour hike along the ocean shore and  miles of trails that wound through richly adorned bank of coastal dunes.

Not many visit the beach in winter. Drifts of hard, crusty snow from the last nor'easter adorned the beach along the tidemark, where one normally finds shells and seaweed. On this early March day, I only saw a handful of people jogging and walking their dogs along the wet and icy sand. I felt that sense of freedom as one can only experience listening to the rich sounds of the ocean. After a mile or two I began to jog for a while in order to warm up.

Piping Plover by Glenn Tepke

From time to time, I would stop and walk, particularly when I ran into small flocks of tiny seabirds called piping plovers. The beautiful creatures nearly became extinct in the 19th century, prized for their eggs and feathers across Europe. Today they remain endangered, and Crane's Beach is one of the world's most important protected nesting sites. Each time, I approached them softly, keenly aware of the need not to frighten them as they foraged for food.

After a few miles or so, I finally rounded the southern end of Castle Neck Peninsula and found myself alone in the tall, marsh grasses of the Essex River estuary. There was a well-marked trail that entered the landscape of tufted dunes I remembered as a child.  I rounded a hill and looked back at the ocean one last time.  Braced against the cold, northeast wind I could still hear the surf smashing against the sand. Somehow it seemed as loud as when I felt spray in the air, my feet inches from the water.

As I got deeper within the landscape of shrubby dunes, the ocean sounds faded away, and there was nothing left to hear.  Even the wind stopped speaking.  Sheltered behind a tall dune, I sat and closed my eyes, reveling in the silence. A sense of peace washed over me as if a wave, and I wondered if these dunes were any different than the lapping waves.  They come and go as well, I thought, only in a different scale of time.  

I felt myself as ephemeral, and I wondered what of nature isn't a wave that rises, crests and falls? In my travels along the dune trails I lost my way a time or two, once finding myself back on the shore on the estuary side. The tide had risen and the bank of ice that once rested by the water's edge had turned to tiny icebergs drifting to and fro. 

I sat, rested, and took out my phone to determine where I was; I had taken a picture of one of the posted trail maps. I walked back along the marsh, avoiding the high waters, traversed the top of a particularly tall dune, and headed up Wigwam Hill, where the vegetation began to thicken.

After a few hours of hiking along trails of crusted snow, ice and sand, the landscape held a final surprise; I found myself in the middle the largest pitch pine forest on the north shore of Boston. The texture and smells of the pine grove could not have provided a more pleasing way to end my small adventure.

I don't have to tell you, I plan to be back, and next time perhaps I'll bring some friends.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Wolves Change Rivers

Scientists unravel mystery why wolves cry

Each and every action has unknown consequences. Everything in nature is interconnected in ways that seem hard to imagine until seen and experienced.  The natural processes of Yellowstone National Park provide lessons for how we comport ourselves in this world. We must strive to be conscientious at every level of life, from the deeply personal to the global. Watch the wolves and understand the wonders of nature...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Living Color

Color will catch most everyone's eye from time to time.  It can't be helped as our eyes are designed to perceive the spectral wonders of the natural world.  It is one of those phenomenon that is so common most of us hardly give it any thought --

-- unless, of course, you are an artist, gardener or chromatographer.

The sun emits an amazing  range of energy in the form of particles or waves (wave/particle duality will have to wait for an upcoming blog).  The colors we see in nature are a tiny part of that energy called visible light; science refers to the whole affair as the em (electromagnetic) spectrum.

One em wave can span galaxies or be so short that a million times a million waves could fit in a spoon. To us humans, color is a ridiculously tiny part of that range with wavelengths from 390 (violet) to 700 millionth of a meter (red).   That range just so happens to be the frequencies of light most emitted from our sun.  (Can you guess what color shines most from the sun?  Hint, think of photosynthesis and the amazing adaptive powers of nature.)

What would the world look like if our eyes could see beyond that limited range?  To have an idea check out false color images from satellites or put on a pair of infrared goggles.

We see colors because it serves us to do so.  We are hunters and gatherers by trade, been doing it for millions of years. The retinas in our eyes are filled with cone cells sensors, and adaption that has allowed us to thrive as a species.   Our physiology only partially explains the way we perceive colors, however.  We find a sunrise beautiful and, from an evolutionary perspective, its hard to explain why that is so.

Aside from picking the right color berries to survive in the wild and the aesthetic considerations of our artistic selves, colors extend into our lives in so many other ways.  They are a part of our consciousness and our very nature as we ourselves are nothing more than living color.  The notion that we are beings of light may sound like a New Age mantra, but it is substantiated by science (for more on that look for an upcoming post on  It is simply a matter of perspective.

In the meanwhile take the time to enjoy the wonders of color. See more images on my pinterest or look out your window.