Saturday, September 27, 2014

Elephants on the prairie

A lonely proboscis leading the search
Supported by flat footed pillars
Across dust bowls of an alien land
Longing for a blade of grass

A stream of tears feed the crust
Around its eyes
As the blazing sun
Bakes it in

Its tusks now shaped
Into lifeless figurines on a dusty shelf
Leaving white stumps
Appearing like bleached fingernails

It is a long way from
A prior life
As a ceremonial elephant
Parading the streets of a temple town

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Training the mind - 8

Sweet or sour, the choices
When five fingers unite
Time resets these flavors
Unfettered by the mind’s instant recoil

Only a few people have succeeded in climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen. The first to do it solo and without oxygen was Reinhold Messner in 1980. On reaching the summit without oxygen, his thoughts were: "In my state of spiritual abstraction, I no longer belong to myself and to my eyesight. I am nothing more than a single narrow gasping lung, floating over the mists and summits." It is remarkable he was able to think, let alone express such profound thoughts at that oxygen depleted altitude. At heights above 25,000 ft., called the “death zone”, experienced climbers, even with supplemental oxygen expend great effort over 10-12 hours to traverse a single mile. Our physiology is most suited for terrestrial life close to sea level. From this perspective, humanity is an extremely reclusive member of the cosmos. Sheltered by the sky and dependent on air, we can only go where the lungs are fed oxygen.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Training the mind - 7

Scattered by the Sun at its zenith
Lengthening at night
Shadows of doubt, a paper tiger
Fighting its creator, light

Celestial events like the solar eclipse have captured human imagination since ancient times. Rise and fall of kingdoms, victory or defeat in battle and many other significant events of the time were thought to be influenced by the shadow cast by the moon as it passed between the sun and the earth. Highly imaginative folklore since ancient times have invoked various reasons for the predictable natural phenomena of solar and lunar eclipses. Greeks considered eclipses as a sign of anger amongst the Gods. The Mayans thought that a Jaguar ate the sun. The Chinese and East Indians invoked a mythical dragon that periodically devoured the sun. Scientific advances in the last century have obtained very useful information from eclipses. One such advance was confirming Einstein’s general theory of relativity by Eddington’s observations. The eclipse of May 29, 1919 provided the opportunity to measure the bending of light from stars by the strong gravitational field of the sun, as predicted by Einstein’s equations. His predictions were confirmed, and the Newtonian theory of the universe faded. This finding has had immense practical and scientific applications. For example, every day use of the GPS would not be possible affecting everything from satellites to cars on the street.