A Sound of Thunder

This may sound really stupid, but here goes:

We use the words “lightning” and “thunder,” and those words so separate a single incredible act that I don’t know that I have really clear, visceral sense of what it is going on.

I just tend to think “oh, flash: lightning,” “oh, rumble: thunder.” And I appreciate them, but I’m not sure I’ve appreciated them enough.

Because what’s going on, each time, is a static electric discharge from the sky that is so large that the arc can light up the whole sky, and so loud that it can be heard (and rattle windows) from even miles away.

One after another after another of those. For up to an hour or more. As often as two or three times a week or more during the heaviest season around here. They’re really pretty commonplace events.

I realize that, my whole life, I have not been nearly so amazed by that phenomenon as it is actually amazing. It’s really amazing.

via Matt Willmott.


The Other High-Flying Flag

People have said this already, so I don’t know that it needs to be said again, but I still feel like saying it:

The swastika is one of humanity’s oldest symbols. Its use predates recorded history, and prior to the Nazis, for as long as it had a known, symbolic meaning, the swastika signaled auspiciousness, good fortune, well-being — in particular, the good fortune inherently delivered from of the ever-turning wheel of the universe itself. For the overwhelming majority of its history, the swastika was a dramatically, uncontroversially positive symbol — and it remains so in Asia today.

We’re not talking about the overwhelming majority like pennies compared to a dollar. We’re talking about an overwhelming majority like pennies compared to, perhaps, hundreds or perhaps even thousands of dollars.

However, nobody in the collected, well-meaning part of the West is trying to bring the swastika into popular use, and the reason is obvious. Because of the Nazis, the swastika has become too closely associated with dark acts and ideologies to ever be used in modern Western society. At least not yet, and not for the foreseeable future. It’s just impossible to completely scrub the associations from the symbol, and the associations are too repugnant.

It seems pretty clear to me, then, what one is saying if one defends the Confederate flag on the basis of its positive connotations. One is saying that the negative connotations of the symbol are NOT so repugnant that they cannot be separated from it.

It’s really not about the fact that the positive associations are a big deal, it has to be about the fact that the negative associations AREN’T a big deal. I just don’t see a way around that.

And I just don’t think that’s right.

It boggles my mind, because it suggests to me that the South has harbored a deep, tacit, and surprisingly mainstream racism for generations, and that it’s done so kind of unbeknownst to the North, which is even more surprising. It’s kind of like your spouse, whom you’ve known for decades, has always had a hard drug habit, and you never knew.

“Is The American Flag Next?”: Conservative Media Freak Out Over Confederate Flag Removal | Research | Media Matters for America.


When someone commits mass murder — as Dylann Roof just did in Charleston, or James Holmes in Aurora, or Adam Lanza in Newtown, etc., etc. — I don’t understand why there’s ever even a question about whether mental illness was involved. A man (usually), under no imminent threat, believes that the thing to do is to go to a place where people least expect violence, and to commit terrible acts of violence. Isn’t that inherently a sign of mental illness?

Maybe it would be better to ask what choices the person made before mental illness overcame them, and the extent to which they contributed to their own illness. But then the issue might get so complicated that it would be hard to parse verdicts cleanly in court, partly because then we’d have to admit a) how little we know about the causes of mental health and illness, b) how little we’ve learned since the advent of the medical model of treatment, which administers drugs we barely understand to people, not until health is restored, per se, but merely until their complaint improves, and c) how little we know about the influence of environmental factors, in a culture that is not always exemplary in sane values, wholesomeness or empathy.

Even so, I think that’s the better question to ask. And then all the consequent questions, too.


Ownership is a concept. It is not an observable phenomenon, existing apart from the minds that believe in it (and the objects which those minds might fashion to make the concept more solid). There is no ownership apart from minds.

As a concept, it is subjective, which means that when one is talking about ownership, one is talking about a particular view of ownership and not something observable, objective, or absolute.

This remains true no matter how much consensus amasses over what ownership is and is not.

Every once in awhile

Every once in awhile I think about the fact that the sun heats the earth in such a way that you can stand in a place pretty much naked and a few months later the same place is cold enough to kill you, and it makes me think that having a sun is no joke but actually really important.

And then I think about the fact that the Earth is a spinning sphere orbiting the Sun, and the Sun is a gargantuan furnace of thermonuclear explosion, which dwarfs the Earth at about the ratio that an orange dwarfs a poppy seed, and yet the Earth orbits the Sun at such a proximity and with such a spin that the furnace doesn’t bake all the water off or allow the Earth to freeze all the way through, and I think that, while there are orders of magnitude more to hot and cold in the Universe than one ever experiences here, we won’t experience those orders of magnitude more of heat and cold here. And then the situation on Earth starts to seem pretty precarious to me.

But it isn’t precarious. At all. Rather, it’s so incredibly stable that we’ve some reason to expect it to remain stable and predictable (barring an unforeseen collision) for billions of years.

Once I consider all of that, I almost invariably interpret that that whole situation seems a) really majestic and b) deliberate, and for a little while I feel uncannily cradled in an incredibly fierce place.