Sunday, February 10, 2013

Western Australian Plants

I find the plants in Australia very interesting.  I'm not a botanist but I do pay attention to the natural world and it's easy to see that plants down under are much different than the plants I'm used to seeing.  

I am a bit disappointed in these photos.  Most were taken in the harsh light of mid day so I knew the photo's weren't going to be great but I also used new lens with a focal length and f-stop that gave a much shallower depth of field than expected.  No excuses, just lessons learned.  


Monday, February 4, 2013

Indifference and the meaning of life

“The finest quality of this stone, these plants and animals, this desert landscape is the indifference manifest to our presence, our absence, our coming, our staying or our going.  Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert.”  

Edward Abby - Desert Solitaire

Driving through the deserts of Western Australia I was listening to Desert Solitaire when I heard the passage above.  I thought of course the desert is indifferent to us.  The oceans, mountains, forests, winter, summer, rivers, tropics, weather, earth, sun, physics, chemistry are all indifferent to us.  The universe is indifferent to us.  

Then I thought “I feel like I matter.  I feel important.  Don’t we all feel like we are important?  Maybe this feeling that we matter is just an illusion.”  

I began to think about why I feel like I matter.  Look, there are road signs that help direct me to where I want to go.  Someone put them there for me.  Someone had a car waiting for me halfway around the world just so I could drive myself around in Australia.  Someone made all these cool gadgets for me.  Someone cooked me dinner last night and someone wished me “G’day” this morning.  All that makes me feel important.  But it was easy to see through all that.  It wasn’t that I really meant anything to these people.  It was money that really mattered to them.  I was just a means to get money.  It’s just an illusion.  Don’t get me wrong.  Most the people I meet are nice and genuinely friendly and certainly want me to have a good day and many help me without getting anything in return but a smile and a thank you.  But none of them are going to loose any sleep if I don’t have a good day unless I inconvenience them in someway while I’m having a bad day.  I move on, I’m forgotten, they’re indifferent.  

"Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which many feel in the presence of primeval desert, the unconscious fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the ante-human, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse - it's implacable indifference."  Edward Abby - Desert Solitaire
I feel like I’m important at work.  I get paid and benefits for starters.  Most of my coworkers are friendly and they help me get my projects done but that’s their job and they will need my help to get their stuff done too.  If I announced I got another job and was leaving they wouldn’t try to get me to stay.  I would not hear from very many after I left, mainly a few who would just contact me to see if I could help them get a job at my new company.  I’d move on, I’d be forgotten, my acquaintances are indifferent.  It’s an illusion. 

I thought about so many things that make me feel important and that I matter but in reality I don’t, not as an individual.  Maybe as a statistic or a dollar but not for who I am.  I won’t go into them all here, the list is too long.  

In among these thoughts I started thinking about how I care about the desert.  The deserts are important to me.  The mountains, oceans, animals, forests, earth are all important to me.  There are so many things I am not indifferent too.  I couldn’t even begin to list all of the things that matter to me, that make a difference to me.  Most of these things don’t care about me.  Most can’t care about anything at all, for example breakfast, my car, my camera, science, clean air, etc.  Some don’t really care about me as an individual, for example the Dallas Cowboys, Neil Young, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ami Vitale and even those I have helped through the charities I support.  None of them are going to call me to see how I am doing or send me a Christmas card (well, I have gotten Christmas cards from the Dallas Cowboys).  I know these are caring people and they are not indifferent to their fans and supporters.  But they care about their fans collectively not individually.  So even most people that I care about are indifferent to me.  
I saw this blue-tongue lizard in the road and stopped to move it away from traffic.  I do that for all reptiles I see on the road.  I care about them.  
I'm not indifferent to the desert.  

What about all the beings and things that matter to me but are indifferent to me?  They’re still matter to me.  They add enjoyment, adventure, knowledge, thrills, challenges and excitement to my life.  They’re part of me, maybe that’s why they’re important to me even though they don’t care about me. 

That brought me around to those that do care about me, that I do matter to, who are not indifferent to me.  My kids, my parents and the rest of my close family care about me and that’s not an illusion.  I love them and care about them too.  They matter to me.  My close friends care about me.  My cats and the dogs I’ve had aren’t indifferent to me and they treat me special.  

So in all the universe there are only a few beings that aren’t indifferent to me, everything else is.  Same is true for them, only a few beings in all the world aren’t indifferent to them.  Our solar system and the rest of the universe are indifferent to our small insignificant planet.  Things that are not indifferent to me are quite unique and rare in the universe.   

I don’t believe the universe has a meaning of life and it’s our job to find it.  Life just is, it’s part of the possibilities of this universe given the physics that operate here.  When conditions are right, life happens and evolves.  If we want a meaning to our lives each of us will have to figure it out for ourselves.  

Seeing through the illusion of being important humbled me a bit.  I’m not as important as I feel.  It also helped clarify the meaning of my life.  There are very few beings that I matter to and they are what matter most to me.  I better keep them close, take care of them, make sure they know I love them and make sure they know I’m not indifferent to them.  The desert and the universe are indifferent to them, they need to know they matter to me.  

In an indifferent universe maybe the greatest gift I can give anything is to show that I am not indifferent.  

There is much more I wanted to say in this post but truncated many of my thoughts to keep from wandering off on too many tangents.  So some of the ideas seem incomplete and a little cold to me.  I would liked to have gone on in more depth and to explore more thoughts but it would probably be of little interest to anyone but me.  For example, my mother used to tell me "Don't cry over things that can't cry over you." Another way to say don't care too much about things that can't care about you?  Maybe a good rule of thumb but are there exceptions?