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Just the Facts, Please

The below is my monthly contribution the the NWTC Newsletter.

We live in a universe defined by mathematical law of such symmetry that to suppose it is merely accidental defies logic. For example, Kepler’s 3rd law of planetary motion tells us that the square of the time it takes for a planet to orbit its sun is directly proportional to the cube of the longest radius of its elliptical orbit. The value of pi is an infinite number that starts with 3.14… Planck’s constant is an infinitesimally small number commonly applied in quantum mechanics. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, and energy is equivalent to mass multiplied by the speed of light, squared. One pound of fat contains 3500 calories. The three macronutrients; carbohydrate, protein, and fat contain four, four, and nine calories per gram respectively.

Our corporeal existence is dependent on a tight range of values: a core temperature of 98.6 +/-5, a serum sodium concentration of 135+/-10, a blood pH of 7.4+/-0.3, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. There are so many physiological “requirements” that I consider everyday begun with opened eyes a wonder. All of these numbers have a meaning, a reason for being what they are that rarely penetrate ones veil of consciousness, remaining forever just a number, a target, a value to be attained. Take, for instance, your blood pressure of around 128/76. Perhaps it’s higher. Perhaps it’s lower. Perhaps you take a medication, or two, or three, to bring it down to a certain number. But, what does that mean? All most people know is that the top number is supposed to be higher than the bottom; and the higher it is, the worse it is; and the lower it is, the better; unless, of course, it’s too low, then that would be bad.

The top number of your blood pressure is the systolic pressure, which is the maximal aortic pressure that results from the contraction of the left lower heart chamber (ventricle) as it sends oxygen-laden blood throughout the body.  Simultaneously with the contraction of the left ventricle is the contraction of the right ventricle, which sends oxygen-deprived blood, returned from the bodily tissues, into the lungs to allow the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen across the cellular membranes of the 300 million or so alveoli of each lung.

The bottom number of your blood pressure is the diastolic pressure, which is the lowest pressure in the aorta that occurs just before the ventricle contracts again a second or so later. The difference between the upper and lower number, in our example 52 (128-76), is called the pulse pressure, and the time that the pressure takes to fall from 128 to 76 comprises the time that the heart has to re-fill with blood to eject with the next heartbeat, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on, and so on, for a lifetime…lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub.

A heart contracts, blood is ejected into the aorta at 128mm Hg, the arteries elastic walls expand, decreasing the resistance to flow, and the blood courses throughout the body as the pressure rapidly decreases to 76 mm Hg in the aorta. Out in the venous system, the pressure approaches zero as it is ultimately returned to the right side of the heart. Knowing this, it is easy to understand the significance of plaque build-up in the arteries, which results in constriction of flow, loss of elasticity, and increased resistance, which makes the heart work harder and decreases the flow of oxygen to the tissues that need it. And knowing this, it is easy to understand the significance of obesity, which predisposes one to the development of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and the associated cardiovascular disease, leading of course to high numbers.

And that’s just your blood pressure!

So, I can tell you that this number means that; that number means this; and that all life came from the ancient seas, from a slimy green unicellular organism washed one day upon an ancient shore; but I can only tell you so much before I would be forced to say something along the lines of…”and then He said, ‘Let there be light’.”

Opera

I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble, even though the local store didn’t want to put my book on the shelf, but, I’m a reasonable person, and I still like the wireless access. I’m waiting for the “Opera” browser to download because someone told me my blog header looked a bit “wonky” in the browser, and I’m not quite sure what he met. I think he’s from Australia because he called me “mate.” 

I have a trashy novel from the bargain pile in a bag; when I say “trashy” I mean to say not quite mind-expanding. In fact, I brought a mind-expanding book with that I actually purchased on Amazon–aaahh, revenge is a dish best served cold–oh, yeah, that’s right, I’m reasonable. Actually, I’ve spent so much money over the years at B&N that it doesn’t really matter. Actually, it really doesn’t matter at all in the noumenal sense, as does nothing else, since who really knows what reality is anyway, filtered as it is through a meagre, faulty five senses.

I must sound confused. Too much mind-expansion with Dinesh D’Souza, interspersed with de Chardin–I’d better dive into that Brad Thor novel about some Navy seal who I think is going to kill some religious fundamentalist nuts, or at least I hope so. I think it will serve as a nice spacer between What’s So Great about Christianity and The Phenomenon of Man; and my next shipment from amazon. That will keep me very busy, but will be so incredibly mind-expanding that I’m sure I’ll go completely bonkers. I remember the last time I entered a reading phase, I didn’t exit it for four years and had a book by the end of it. I wish I didn’t have to work so much, I’d rather just read.

Wisdom

 During the course of my research I often found myself in awe of the intellect of the great minds of history: in awe of the capacity to make magnificent leaps, connecting dots that to regular folk like me might as well as be in different galaxies. That capacity, to do such things, is something special, which goes far beyond mere knowledge. That capacity is of course Wisdom, and I write it with a capital “W” as I think it sacred, in the sense that it transcends biology–it represents more than the sum of its parts, and as such, is not of the natural, material world; rather, it is of the supranatural world.

Wisdom is specific to humankind whereas knowledge is not. B.F. Skinner documented that rats could learn to pull a lever in order to receive a reward–the rat knew that if it pulled the tiny lever, there would potentially be a reward. The ruby-throated hummingbird knows to fly south for the winter, and back north for the summer. My dear deceased black lab knew to ring a bell on the doorknob when she wanted to go out. Dolphins in captivity know to respond to positive reinforcement by jumping through hoops, bouncing balls off their noses and tail-walking across the water’s surface. But; if asked to list examples of Wisdom in the animal kindom, other than humankind–that, I cannot do.

Wisdom is Archimedes in the bathtub when he has his “eureka” moment and realizes the principle of displacement. Wisdom is Einstein sitting at his desk in the patent office, looking out the window at the train station, when he has his “happiest thought” and realizes relativity. Wisdom is Newton, outside, under a blue sky, when an apple falls from a tree, and the world changes, at that precise moment, never to be the same, because of the Wisdom of that one beautiful mind.

Wisdom is special. Wisdom is unique to man. Wisdom is holy. In fact, as a good Catholic, or at least as a good student of the parochial school system, or at least as a good memorizing member of the parochial school religion class; I know that Wisdom is the first of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and that it holds a position of reverence not only in the Christian faith, but also across all faiths.

Wisdom is not of the material world. It cannot be accounted for, or explained away as a byproduct of electrical neuro-chemical activity of the human brain. Wherefore, then, does it come from?

From Him. Our corporeal body is of the dust, the same dust of all the other animals. It is Wisdom that is in His image, and of the eternal world that exists outside of space-time, as defined by St. Augustine.

“On Call” with Wendy Weise

I’d like to thank Relevant Radio, Dave Zelzer, and Wendy Weise for allowing me to discuss the aspects of weight-loss and emotional health as presented in The Relativity Diet. I hope that what I shared was meaningful and of use to the listening audience. As is usually the case with me, there are things I’d wished I’d said that I didn’t; but’s that life as they say; or, that’s the way the pickle squirts, as my Grandma Melarvie used to say.

Also, I am thankful for the fact that Julianne Donlon-Stanz managed to “speed read” my book in less than a day, and thought it significant enough to introduce me to Relevant Radio. And I am thankful that our son, Eric, came back home to us after being gone seventeen years (in the desert so to speak), went back to school, met Wayne in class, and invited him over to look at some trees, which is where his wife, Julianne, happened upon my book. Strange how life works. I wonder what Grandma would think about that?

I’ve posted the link to the interview on the “Listen to Radio Interviews” page, which is on the navigation bar at the top of this page.

Daily thought, from G.K. Chesterton

In his book The Everlasting Man, GK Chesterton wrote; fortunately for me, on page 34, because I’ve yet to push past page 100:

“Art is the signature of man.”

He makes the point that man stands alone, above all else; as special, supernatural, the very image of God:

“Man is the microcosm; man is the measure of all things; man is the image of God.” (pg. 35, thank goodness)

He uses art as his argument for that. From the beginning of time, man has had the awareness, the desire, and the need to express himself if for no other reason than to externalize his within on the without. Evidence of this is the art of the caveman (or cave-lady): do you think he or she painted with colored clays and water on the wall of a musty cave in 10,000 BC so that a young boy in France could discover it, and GK Chesterton expound upon it, in 2000 AD; and I could blog about it in 2100 AD? Of course not; it was done because of the human essence–that what religion calls soul; what de Chardin refers to as the within, meaning consciousness.It is from de Chardin that I also borrowed the without, which is a term he coined to refer to the material, physical world.

I’ve spent hours watching apes and monkeys at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE with my granddaughters. Never once did I see a pattern scratched into the dirt with a stick. I did see some excrement smeared on a stone, but failed to discern a particularly pretty pattern or design.

I’ve spent hours SCUBA diving under the sea. As intelligent as the Cetacean are reputed to be, never once did I see an exhibit of dolphin-art, whatever that might be—nay, not even a dolphin-collection of pretty shells.

I live in the country, kind of, at least enough so that I often see animals, large and small. Never once have I observed a deer gazing west towards the sun’s settling rays, spell-bound by the beauty of the colors thrust heavenward.

The agnostic and the atheist would say that man is an animal, only special in the sense of having evolved to a higher level of function, but an animal nonetheless–we’re born, we thrash around a bit, we die, end of story says they. On the contrary, both Chesterton and de Chardin make eloquent cases for the exceptionalism of man in The Everlasting Man and The Phenomenon of Man, respectively. We are special. You are special. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.