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Life of Awe

From the Archives: The Pleasure of “Finding Things Out”

July 28, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“It is imperative,” wrote Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman“to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature.”

Richard Feynman recognized early in life the special, distinctive feeling of being close to the edge of knowledge, where people do not know the answers. He held curiosity and uncertainty at the center of his intellectual and creative life.

Curiosity Can Lead to Odd Behavior

To say that Feynman (1919-1988) was a bit of an oddball is most certainly an understatement. Along with his brilliant achievements as a physicist (including the integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, as well as assisting in the development of the atomic bomb) he dabbled in dozens of creative and entertaining endeavors—a truly admirable hero to those of us driven by curiosity.

Feynman consistently tested the frontiers of his own competence by teaching himself a wide and wild array of skills, always romancing the intoxicating uncertainty of not-quite knowing. Knowing nothing about drawing, he taught himself to make perfect freehand circles on the blackboard; He taught himself how to write Chinese. He taught himself how to force everything from his field of vision except for his research problem of the moment. Lastly he taught himself how to live with cancer, and then how to surrender to it.

There is also the story that has become part of physics lore. A young Feynman grew bored in the remote New Mexico desert while working on the atomic bomb during World War II. He amused himself by learning to pick the combination locks in the supposedly secure filing cabinets containing America’s nuclear secrets. Frustrated administrators of the project changed to more secure locks and, as you might guess, Feynman picked those locks as well—all for the fun of it.

No One Really Knows–That What makes it Fun

Feynman is the poster child for the delight of toying with curiosity and uncertainty. In my research of Feynman on curiosity and uncertainty I came upon this statement by Carl Sagan. For me, his comments are essential for the truly curious person to remain open-minded, resting on the value of uncertainty and the humility to admit no one human has a lock on truth.

“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from,” Carl Sagan wrote, “we will have failed.” Perhaps because, as Krista Tippett has observed, science and religion “ask different kinds of questions altogether, probing and illuminating in ways neither could alone.”

Sagan’s and Tippett’s comments are appropriate not only for religion and science, but also for all human knowledge as we know it. For me, except for the inexplicable power of Love, everything we know is subject to review, reconsideration, and quite possibly change.

Scary? What’s there to lose in the art of learning?

Radical Open-Mindedness

A Most Lonely Option

Photo courtesy of ClaudioVentrella at istockphoto

IMPORTANT NOTE: Parts of this post have been directly lifted from Maria Popova of Brainpickings.

Wonder: A Most Primitive Need

July 21, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” Neil Armstrong

We enter the world hungry. Not just for sustenance, but also for a host of primitive needs like love, knowledge, and wisdom. Included in this list of basic needs is the need for awe and Wonder.
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Leisurely Fruitful

July 7, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are. George Eastman

Today I slept until 10:00 AM.

Well… actually I did the same thing yesterday and mostly likely the day before that. And you know what? There is this guilty little voice that tries to remind me of how lazy I must be to wake up so late in the morning. Although, that voice doesn’t belong to me anymore. I think it is most likely remnants of that old voice that comes from our highly productive, goal-oriented culture.
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The Fall of Your Life

April 29, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Fall. B. C. Forbes

Although it may seem counterintuitive but you need a Fall in your life. Although I do believe times of despair and falling are indeed essential, that is not the topic today. Today I am arguing for the reintroduction of the season of Fall in your life.
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Archetypes: 4 Options for Survival

April 7, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 3 Comments

“Four Survival Archetypes are the only archetypes that every single person encompasses in themselves. We at some point in our lives open ourselves to the negative and positive sides of these archetypes – Child, Victim, Saboteur, & Prostitute.” Louisa Mitchell

When Your Back is in a Corner
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The Human Soul is Hungry for Beauty

February 3, 2018 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves… When we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming.” John O’Donohue 

He was around four years old when I introduced my son, Austin, to sunsets. We were driving up Laguna Canyon Road when I looked in the side view mirror only to be stunned by one of “those” sunsets. You know the kind I mean—the ones that are quite literally breathtaking.
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The Magic of Mindful Walking

October 21, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

“Mindful walking is a dreamlike experience.” Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

While in Buenos Aires Pam and I took two days from our holiday to fly to a tiny city called Igauzu to see the famous water falls which more than rival Niagara. In fact on some lists the Igauzu Water Falls are considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
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Some Truths are Beyond Mathematics

September 23, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

…there are limits to how much of reality mathematical logic can grasp — some truths many have intuited but none have substantiated.” Janna Levin, Tow Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University

It seems that in the 20th and 21st centuries a new god has arisen in the minds of many very intelligent people. This new god even has a name: Mathematics. In the minds of many, if a concept cannot be proven mathematically is cannot be true but only conceived of as true. Personally I find this troubling.

The Wonder of Science

Now please understand, I love science and the “truths” that have been proven by math. Most of our physical wonders are the result of great science and great math: astrophysics, knowledge of the universe and maybe even creation can be proven by mathematics. Bridges and buildings and transportation and currency and a plethora of others would not even exist without mathematical truths. Yes, I love science.

But science and math are useless when it comes to love and kindness and charity. There is no formula for jealousy; cause and effect, yes, but not math.

UnProvable Truths

Apart from love the most wondrous truth in the world cannot be proven but the truth of its existence is undeniable. That truth is Beauty. Few things move me more truthfully than Beauty and Wonder and Awe. I am bowled over by the awe I feel underneath a sky full of stars and planets and comets. Yes, their existence can be proven by math, but not the truthful feeling I get when I see them.

Of the stars Janna Levin, writes…

There are faint stars in the night sky that you can see, but only if you look to the side of where they shine. They burn too weakly or are too far away to be seen directly, even if you stare. But you can see them out of the corner of your eye because the cells on the periphery of your retina are more sensitive to light. Maybe truth is just like that. You can see it, but only out of the corner of your eye.

I like that thought: truth is often something you can only see “out of the corner of your eye.” I think an appropriate word for “the corner of your eye” is your “gut.” There are many things you know to be truthful, but you cannot “prove” them, yet they exist strongly in your gut.

I Dare You to Prove Love

Love is a universal truth that cannot be proven mathematically. Yet no one will deny its reality. For me, God exists. I cannot prove God’s existence mathematically, yet it is a truth I cannot dismiss. I have tried and failed to dismiss this most important of all truths. But I have concluded that God is Creator, Intervener and the Source of all that is good.

God remains a most important truth in my life. The notion of God explains the truths of life, the universe and everything.

Such is the truth of many Truths. Although their existence cannot be proven mathematically, they nevertheless exist.

And You?

What are your unprovable truths?

As you ponder this question I wonder if you don’t find many (or most even) of the critically important truths in your life cannot be proven by science and math. Yet these truths exist and are probably the strongest beliefs that drive you to be the person you desire to be.

Long live that which cannot be proven!

When Asked to “Prove it!”

Just Say, “I Can’t and I Don’t Need To!”

Photo courtesy of benjaminjk at istockphoto

Worry: Imagination or Reality

September 9, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

We suffer more often in imagination than in reality. Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Here’s a test. One year ago today you were worried greatly over something very troubling. It may have even kept you up at night. It made you nervous and grouchy, afraid and angry. What was that thing that worried you so?
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Just Be Nice

August 19, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things…  Naomi Shihab Nye

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye and her husband were on honeymoon in rural Peru when their bus broke down and all of their belongings were stolen. They lost everything except the clothes they were wearing and a few bucks, certainly not enough to last long in a foreign country.
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