Music Monday | Friends – Michael W. Smith

Suitcase wheels whir and grate as I haul the rollaboard along behind me, running for the train. Two minutes to departure. And I still have to make it up a level, over the bridge and down an escalator to platform 15A. A lyric pops into my head as my feet beat against the white polished concrete floor of the bus terminal.

And friends are friends forever.

Conversations play out in my head, both real, and imaginary. Constantly. Mostly, I let them create scenes of their own accord and don’t pay much attention. But as I run, I replay the discussions I had over the weekend. I’ve been in Newcastle and Sydney for four and a half days, and due to my recent engagement, most of my talks with friends have centred around relationships, dating and marriage.

A question I used to ask prospective dates, I said to the friend I grew up across the street from in high school, was “How many close friends do you have, and how long have you known them?”

The answer was often indicative of how well a person could create and maintain relational bonds and boundaries. How well they could manage a relationship over time and all the challenges that came with it. How good a friend they could be. No close friends was always a worry. Short-lived friendships were a worry. But not making new friends was a worry, too.

Of the people I connected with this weekend, the range of time for which I’ve known them is between eight and twenty-eight years (or my entire life, if you count my parents). Long-term friendships require work from both parties; they need trust, respect, vulnerability, kindness and love to flourish. And I’ve always found that if you can be a good friend, you can be a good partner. But most of us don’t consider what makes us a good friend, nor what makes a good friend to us in return.

Although I don’t resonate with all of this song anymore in the same way I used to, it’s the one that popped into my head as I ran and the message is still meaningful.

A lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

And I’m exceedingly grateful for mine.

Quantum Mechanics

1.

The First Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another.

The light filters through the window earlier each day. Mornings are cold but spring is here and it hasn’t been a bad winter. Not like last year when we lit a fire every evening and the cat melted in front of it, becoming liquid. There has been little rain and very few frosts. The ground is hard. Dry. Bushfire season will be dangerous, according to the news.

I stand at the kitchen counter and pop a coffee pod into the Nespresso, slide my Tinker Bell mug under the spout and wait for the thick, black liquid to pour from the nozzle. Outside, the daffodils stand tall declaring winter is at its end. Buds are sprouting on the bare trees and some of the magnolias have dared to bloom. A kookaburra laughs in the gum tree at the front of the house. The whir of the machine stops and the pod clunk-clunks down into the receptacle, breaking my reverie on the garden. I grab my coffee and sit down at the table with my computer. It’s been months since I’ve written, months since I’ve thought about writing.

Years ago I blogged regularly, an almost daily habit of recording my life, of making meaning out of madness. But my storyline changed and I didn’t know how to segue into the next scene. I was leading a new life so divergent from the previous incarnation you’d suspect I wasn’t the same person. And I wasn’t. Which had kind of been the plan all along. ‘If I’m not different at the end of this,’ I wrote early on, ‘I won’t be better.’

We all have two lives, a dubiously attributed quote begins (really? Confucius? I think not), the second starts when we realise we only have one. (Tom Hiddleston? Perhaps.)

I’ve already lived more than twice in this current span of time. And yet, my handwritten journals would suggest that little has changed. Things look different now, sure; daily tasks and duties, responsibilities reshuffled and realigned. So much chaos from the past has settled out but my desires have not changed. My humanness – my energy, although transformed – is the same.

2.

Heat is a form of energy. It always flows from the hotter body to the colder body. Heat can be transferred via conduction, convection or radiation.

In bed, my partner snuggles behind me. Dialogue from my old Bikram hot yoga class pops into my head. ‘From the side you should look like a Japanese ham sandwich,’ the instructor shouts during Pada-Hasthasana, the forward fold, ‘no gap anywhere’.

‘I’m very tactile,’ I tell him when we first meet, ‘you’ll probably get sick of it after a while.’ He laughs, eyes sparkling. Every night, going on four years, our bodies touch from head to toe. His chest against my back, breath on my neck, legs pressed against mine, feet tangled. No gap anywhere. The heat radiates between us and eventually drives us to roll over and reverse the position. We dance like this for most of the night.

3.

Pauli’s Exclusion Principle says that every electron must be in its own unique state. In other words, no electrons in an atom are permitted to have an identical set of quantum numbers.

You might be reading this on your phone, holding it in your hand. Or on your computer. You pressed some keys to access it. You touched them.

Didn’t you?

Atoms are made up of three particles. A nucleus that contains most of the mass, protons, and electrons. Electrons are negatively charged and can exhibit characteristics of both particles and waves. Particles are attracted to particles with the opposite charge and repel similarly charged particles. So electrostatic repulsion prevents electrons coming into direct contact with each other in both an atomic and literal sense.

This, and Pauli’s Exclusion Principle, also prevents you, me, us…from touching anything. Instead, we hover above things at a microscopically small distance. Gaps everywhere. The sensation of touch is simply our brain’s interpretation of our electrons’ interaction with other electrons in the electromagnetic field, the medium through which electron waves propagate.

4.

Electromagnetic fields are physical fields produced by electrically charged objects. They affect the behaviour of charged objects within the vicinity of the field. Electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field which radiate through space-time, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy.

The human heart is the first organ to function during fetal development at approximately 20 days. The brain doesn’t begin to function until about 90 days. First the heart, then the head.

The heart generates an electrical field of up to 60 times greater in amplitude than that created by the brain and the electromagnetic field of the heart can be measured up to several feet away from the body. When individuals are in close proximity, their electromagnetic fields interact.

5.

Perhaps, in the end, all we can touch is hearts.

The End: What To Do When You Finish Writing A Book

Today I wrote two little words I wasn’t expecting to write until tomorrow. And yet, here we are. At this point.

My feet are tingling like they do when you have pins and needles, numb, as if you’ve been sitting awkwardly cutting off your circulation, but in that sweet spot, before the blood rushes back into the capillaries and it starts to sting.

The cells, the atoms in my cells, are vibrating with energy. The energy of having finished. It is a gentle excitement. Soft. Like the way you realise you are recovered. After the fact. You do not notice it at first because recovery, like writing, feels like a slog. Every step is an effort. You wade through concrete. You make progress. And you don’t. There is resistance. The task seems overwhelming and you pause at various points to take a breath. To rest. There is no ticker-tape parade upon success. No party. There might have been, if you’d noticed it at the time. But even as you were thinking your last disordered thought, even as you were writing your final sentence, you didn’t know. And then you did.

So what do you do when you finish writing a book?

  1. You write the end
  2. You drink cider in the sunshine with a friend
  3. You buy yourself some flowers
  4. You go for a run
  5. You make dinner for the family
  6. You water your plants
  7. You hug your partner
  8. You feed the cat
  9. You write a blog post
  10. You begin again, a new story

I have been finished with the story I’ve written for longer than I’ve been writing it. Soon, lovely readers, I will hand it over to you.

Science Sunday | Chemistry 101

Chemists joke about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. Depending on its form – solid, liquid, or gas – direct contact with it can burn you, or freeze the tissues and fluids in your skin. If you ingest significant quantities it can kill you. Of course, not ingesting enough will kill you too. According to these consequences, dihydrogen monoxide sounds like a nasty chemical. But it is just the humble water molecule. (I never said chemists make good jokes.) All of the dangers are true, though. Dihydrogen monoxide – H2O – water – is a chemical which can burn you, cause frostbite, or dilute the salts in your blood so much that you die from water intoxication (hyponatremia). And just like water, chemicals are everywhere. Everything that you can see, smell, touch, and taste is made of chemicals. And everything you can’t.

It is impossible to see a single atom, even with the most powerful microscope. Although, scientists have managed to photograph an atom’s shadow. How few atoms does it take to cast a shadow? Just one. But while one atom alone cannot be seen, when many are joined together we see them everywhere. Or, we see the things they make up. Water. Trees. Cars. Houses. Hearts.

The Periodic Table of the Elements lists the species of atoms that have been discovered. There are one hundred and eighteen in total but only ninety-four occur naturally. The rest are synthetic and must be made in laboratories. Everything around us is a combination of these ninety-four elements.

At room temperature, some elements exist as liquids, some as solids and some as gases. They can be volatile like the metal sodium: soft, silvery white, and highly reactive. If you’ve ever seen a tiny piece of sodium dropped into water, you would remember it. The violent reaction breaks the bonds between the hydrogen atoms and the oxygen atom in the water molecule. Enough heat will be given off that the newly formed hydrogen gas explodes.

Some elements may be toxic like the gas chlorine. Like sodium, it’s too reactive to occur on its own in nature. When it is isolated, it is a yellow-greenish gas that is heavier than air. It smells a lot like bleach because it is just one of the elements that creates bleach. If you breathe in chlorine gas, you will feel like you’re choking and it can cause damage to your respiratory tract and lungs which is why it has been used as a chemical weapon.

But when sodium and chlorine join together into one substance, they become something necessary for life. Something we need every day to keep our hearts beating. They become sodium chloride – or salt.

Chemistry happens around us all the time. It is the change from rubbery dough to fluffy bread when heat is applied. It is how shampoo gets sudsy when you scrub it into your hair. It is why metals rust, or they don’t. Chemistry isn’t a secret or some sort of dark magic. It’s the explanation for everything that occurs around you and inside you – your heart pumping, or hurting.

Chemists study the composition, structure, properties, and relationships formed between substances, and how these substances can change. Reactions that are measurable. Changes that can be quantified. Attraction or the way elements and atoms bond. Why some bonds are hard to break apart and why others disintegrate, dissolve or separate easily. Chemistry is the understanding of matter.

Or maybe, it’s the understanding of things that matter. Relationships. Emotions. Attraction. Hearts racing. Body temperature rising. Stomach churning. It’s the properties of love and how it can change.

But love can’t be measured with a litmus test.

The Beginning…or, Somewhere

The screen is blank. The cursor blinking, ready and waiting to be pushed forward by keystrokes that form words, sentences, coherent thoughts.

Writing a blog post was supposed be easier than editing my book. But it’s not.

Sometimes, when there is too much to say, it’s easier to say nothing. I don’t know where to start. But maybe that’s the point. Do we ever? Is there even a beginning?

Time is a human construct based primarily on natural occurrences. The spin of the earth on its axis, offering us both darkness and light. The orbit around the sun providing us with seasons. We break these units into ever smaller increments. Hours. Minutes. Seconds. We quantify these periods into days, weeks, months, and we count their passing.

But what do we do with all this time? How often do we pay attention? Because life is both long, and short. It can change slowly over many years. Or irrevocably, in fragments of seconds. At times, it seems not to change at all.

Endings feel easier to identify than beginnings. But the truth we often hide from ourselves is that the edges are blurry. Endings and beginnings overlap and blend into each other. Most of life can’t be sectioned neatly into containers and labelled, even though I often wish it could. And once, believed I was an expert at it.

That too, was an untruth, like many things we often believe. If you undertake the process of self-examination and pick away at the surface of your thoughts to reveal the underpinning beliefs, the reality can often be ugly. Or at the very least, uncomfortable. I began that process in earnest when I started this blog in 2010. While my focus has shifted at various points, I will never be finished.

And life goes on.

Music Monday | The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows – Gang of Youths

Discussing the track, Gang of Youths frontman Dave Le’aupepe says:

“This song came about after I struggled with writer’s block for a year, barely managing to etch out more than a single verse of something awful the whole time. I was walking home across the Brooklyn Bridge one night, questioning my place in the world, contemplating giving up music and doing something more substantial. I sort of felt that I wasn’t doing anything that actually mattered. But I looked out at the skyline, all silvery and strange and in typical self-indulged frontman fashion, I began to revel in this moment of abandon, of self-hate. As a result, I think I stumbled across a kind life-affirming axiom; that in a cosmos potentially absent of meaning, and an existence devoid of objective value, I have an opportunity to invent my own meaning. We all do. We can ascribe meaning and value to our own lives and in a way, attribute great esteem and value to each other as a result.

All of us as adults, from youth to old age are drunk, stumbling around in the dark looking for a kebab. I’m scared and unsure, and I want to acknowledge this rather than repress it, or allow cynics to denigrate me because of it. So the song is about becoming more human, more aware and I guess in a way, more alive.”

It’s been just over twelve months since I posted last.

I haven’t been struggling with writer’s block but a change of jobs and new work commitments have eclipsed the time freed up by not travelling for two weeks out of every month. Those spare hours have been filled with study for my new role. As of the end of this week, however, my training period is complete. I’ve passed all the exams and start on shift next Monday. This will give me ample time to ponder over the meaning — or lack thereof — of life.

“Cause not everything means something, honey
So say the unsayable, say the most human of things
And if everything is temporary
I will bear the unbearable, terrible triteness of being.”

 

 

Bonus: the video has power lines 🙂