I can identify with the scrawny hijacker in “UNITED 93”: A hostile crowd, ten-thousand-feet in the air, no backup, and a fake bomb… I am a substitute teacher.
Following is a dual submission for NPR’s “Sound Clips” and “This I Believe”.
The clicks you hear are from a Geiger counter, sold from the back page of Science News magazine back before 9/11. Because the Mueller tube is small it takes two sources to achieve this background noise. The first source is a piece of uranium ore picked up on family vacation out west. Back around 1960 when such mine tours could be had. Each click or disintegration is a once in 4.5 billion years event. A culmination of the eternity since its nucleus formed in the heart of the supernovae which begat us. And/Or not. Quantum uncertainty states that it has and has not disintegrated at each instant between then and now, and between now and anytime in the future. It is only in our observing it that a unique time line or multiple universe branches off. The second source is a particularly active piece of Trinitite collected at the site of the first atom-bomb test, I am told, by a late Professor Virgil Yeates PhD from Lubbock’s Texas Tech University back when that was allowed. Perhaps even un’burned’ plutonium; each click culminates some 60 years.
For a fun Gedunken or thought-experiment I remove the Trinitite and place the ore a finger length away to where 100 clicks take around 60 to 100 seconds. Once timed I think back to a corresponding year from1960 to recent; aglow in the thought that in other time lines I am thinking about other years and my life is on multiple tracks. When unimportant group decisions are being made I can pull out my watch suggesting we can do both in alternate universes. The current number is 92.46; think: May 1992.
I believe that the universe is a quantum computer and that I am one result. Each person is a Schrodinger’s Cat. Each can only know a universe in which he/she exists. This is eminently testable (like the existence of an afterlife) by Quantum Roulette. Don’t go there, don’t try this at home; just let that mystery be. That anything exists at all is truly fantastic. I have faith that God is also a result; a God that can sort out whatever needs to be sorted out from an existence without a reset button; that backs up our hard drive; the information that is us whatever platform that may take after death. A God who creates us in the same sense that it takes an Ann Sullivan for there to be a sound should Helen Keller fall, otherwise alone, in the forest. Like in observing each click I ‘create’ a universe.
I do not believe in a supernatural; defined that an all-knowing God, doesn’t know how it works. Though very close is the irreductable logical endpoint of explanation. How do all those electrical impulses and neurochemical triggers become the experience of thought, love, longing, eureka: being? Those impulses and firings are the experience of being!!! How does the reciprocal 0 = +1 –1 become reality? 0 = +1 -1 is the vacuum energy fluctuation. Source of the Big Bang, observed in the Casimir effect, observed in the Lamb shift, posited as Hawking’s radiation; the half of nothing by which black holes from which nothing can escape evaporate.
This mechanistic hold on the universe is rooted in survival. Gauntlets of crock auto mechanics selling headlight fluid are a luxury I could never afford. Understanding that what goes on under the hood, can be understood, is power. That stuff under the hood; brain wiring congealed 6 months after conception is not a Rube Goldberg device superfluous to function. My God is not in the empty black box!
I believe in serendipity; that is going with the object that is created by its’ observation. John Prine narrates a fan’s misunderstanding. “It’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re going to drown” was misheard as “it’s a happy enchilada and you think your going to drown”. Both work; in the end he sings of life as the happy enchilada (and you think you’re going to drown). My best friend and soul mate-in-John Prine, Karen had a couple of cogent weeks dying of unprovoked lung cancer and said she’d be interested in hearing what I believed. We were besieged with answers. Sacraments by the caring, gentle, shepherd of a Family Priest: silver chalice, portable surgical biscuit kit and all, most for John’s benefit. To marry Catholic she had to promise to raise their children as Catholic. Their bodies would be Catholic, but their minds would be Methodist she had vowed. That pretty well describes our beliefs. Either “I’ll be hiking the farm with Dad”, or the truly horrifying: “I won’t know anything” were futures she saw. I vouch for the former. Mercifully Karen arrived at “all questions answered, all mysteries solved” before I could pitch my two cents worth. What I believed that mattered, was the same thing that anyone else we would allow in believed. My sister died saying she had never felt so loved in her life.
A little cerebral palsy: being half strangled at birth, is how I came to apply my belief. Another couple of minutes and I could’ve been a poster child. As it is I am still a contender; all-be-it my entry into the single’s arena is likely to be greeted with “Zee Plane Zee Plane” and exit by someone making duck noises. Somewhere around fourth grade they figured out I needed glasses. Short of being blind-side punched to the asphalt, friend or foe, I couldn’t tell. Faces like souls, and the stars and dinosaurs in Life Magazine’s Coffee Table: LIFE ON EARTH were and were not. Admonitions “Larry people have names!” were useless as prayer, useless as curses.
Survival meant a tentative approach to the mystery of another’s approach; act fearless and be funny. Act fearless and have a sense of humor and rarely role with the punch has served me well as a substitute teacher in some tough Dallas assignments; playing Russian Roulette with the teenaged mind. Faith that when the duality of my own human nature: crock auto mechanic and/or gentle shepherd meets other: each student’s duality, it is observation which creates the reality that awaits. And the kids do the same variously observing/creating me as Mr. Miagi, Minime, Mr. Shindel, shitdell, Einstein, meistro, Mario, Mr. Larry, Laaareeee!, Homey and ‘dog’. Names are power and names are precious. With a short-hand notation of seating row and column, a widow’s peak here, low cut blouse there, letter jacket or jersey, cornrows or blond or jarhead, stripes or plaid or patterned, goth or preppy; observation creates a garden of real names. Like Woody Guthrie’s: Plane Wreck at Los Gatos: “Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita, Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria; You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane, And all they will call you will be “deportees””. AN END
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