Friday, January 30, 2009

Evolution of a Marriage

I stumbled on this article in the op-ed section of yesterday's paper and I thought it was really interesting. Just thought I'd pass it along.

The Darwins' marriage of science and religion
In their 43-year marriage, Charles and Emma Darwin used respect, understanding and acceptance to bridge the gulf between his reason and her steadfast faith.

By Deborah Heiligman January 29, 2009

On Jan. 29, 1839, in the little chapel in the English village of Maer, a religious, 30-year-old woman named Emma Wedgwood put on a green silk dress and got married. She believed firmly in a heaven and a hell. And she believed you had to accept God to go to heaven. She married Charles Darwin.

As we head into a new era for a country that has struggled for too long with the marriage of science and religion, we should take a look at the marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin.

When Charles came home in 1836 from his five-year voyage around the world, which included the visit to the Galapagos Islands, he was already seeing life and creation in a new way. And as he courted Emma, he also was secretly scribbling notes about a new idea, his theory of evolution, in leather-bound notebooks marked "private."

He knew that his view of creation would rock the faith of Emma and almost everyone in England, and as he prepared to propose to her, he agonized. Charles' father advised him to keep his mouth shut. "Conceal your doubts," he warned.

But Charles couldn't do that. He was too honest. He told Emma of his doubts about the veracity of the Bible and of his growing skepticism about religion.

Emma said she would marry him anyway. She prized his candor, and she knew he was a good and moral man. But in a letter she sent him soon after their engagement, she told him that she was sad that "our opinions on the most important subject should differ widely."

This was the first of several letters about religion that Emma wrote to Charles during their lives. She urged him not to close the door on faith. And she shared her fears that they would be separated for eternity. Charles always listened to what she had to say, and they talked about the problem. He kept each letter close. He wrote on one of them, "When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed and cryed over this. C.D." On another he wrote, simply, "God bless you."

Charles and Emma had 10 children together. Three of the children died; the death of their beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie, broke their hearts. That loss could have driven them apart forever. It strengthened Emma's faith and all but closed the door on God for Charles. But they fought for their marriage. The day after Annie died, Emma wrote to Charles, "You must remember that you are my prime treasure (and always have been)."

Darwin worked for decades on his theory. He tried to make his argument as strong and solid as possible, and he also aimed not to offend. He showed Emma drafts, and he worked harder on a passage when she wrote in the margin, "a great assumption." In 1859, as he finally readied "The Origin of Species" for publication, he gave the manuscript to Emma. She was always his best and most trusted editor. As she read the argument that essentially took God out of creation, she did not ask Charles to soften it at all. In fact, she helped him strengthen his book by making the language clearer. (She also cleaned up his spelling and punctuation.)

Through the years, the two continued to talk and listen to each other about this "most important subject," as Emma called it. She encouraged him not to approach religion in the same way he approached science. What leads to faith, she said, is "feeling, not reasoning."

After he became famous, people often wrote to the sage of Down House and asked him what he believed about God. Usually Darwin demurred. And he echoed Emma. He said his views were of "no consequence to anyone except myself" and that the question of religion was for theologians, not for scientists. Still, he often pointed to his friend, the American botanist Asa Gray, who was both an evolutionist and a theist.

Charles and Emma were married for 43 years. In his last years, Charles renewed a fascination with worms and wrote "The Formation of Vegetable Mold through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits," a bestseller in its day. Emma, never much interested in science, found herself joining him in his obsession. They spent hours together watching the worms in the garden of Down House, side by side.

Although they never were able to see eye-to-eye on the question of religion and God, they were able to reach their hands across the gulf. In the end, each of them accepted and, it seems, truly understood what the other believed.

If it is a sign of intelligence to be able to hold two opposite thoughts or opinions in your head, then it is a mark of a successful marriage to be able to truly see the other person's point of view. This is also the mark of a successful society.

There is an apocryphal story that Darwin accepted God on his deathbed. The true story is this: When he suffered his last and fatal heart attack, Charles told Emma that he was "not the least afraid of death." And as he slipped away, he told her, "Remember what a good wife you have been to me." Emma held Charles in her arms as he died.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If I were still a kid...

I would fake an illness so I could spend the day at my grandparents today. I smelled toast when I walked in to work a few minutes ago and I imagined my grandma had made it for me or my grandpa. The two of them would still be in their robes when I got there and the whole house would smell like breakfast and encourage a few more hours sleep. Later, I might go to Sam's Club with my grandma where we would have hot dogs and orange sodas for lunch.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sign of the Apocalypse

My mother just asked me to please join Facebook.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sappy Inaugural Love-In Post!

For relaxing times, make it Santori time.

1.8 million people crammed into 146 acres (3.53 sq ft./person if you divide evenly) of the National Mall. Number of arrests: 0.00. That is one civil herd.

My dad asked me Wednesday night what my impressions and feelings were about being at the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. He asked, "If you were going to write about it, how would you put it?" To answer his question...For me, being in D.C. in the days leading up to the inauguration was to catch a glimpse of our great potential as Americans and as human beings. I can hear some of you grumbling already, and, yes, it is going to be that kind of a post. If you're not up for it, navigate elsewhere. J. is having a helluva sale.

The sense I got walking the streets was one of solidarity if not unity. Maybe it was that we were all from out of town and, thus, in a vacation mindset. Even if you're freezing your ass off, taking a trip anywhere, especially to city like our nation's capital, is energizing and tends to put people in a good mood. I'd like to think it was more than that though. It felt like more than that to me. It wasn't just that we were all there from out of town, it was that we had all come from such various places for one common purpose. It felt like it was a purpose more meaningful than just to get away for a few days or to do some sightseeing. The point is that people of all races, faiths, and even nationalities were standing shoulder to shoulder because they shared a common belief in the change represented by this historic election. And nobody was pushing. Literally speaking, it was amazing to me as I am as big of a crowd-phobe as anyone. Five hundred thousand people were crammed onto one short stretch of The National Mall that Sunday for the "We Are One" concert.. We were somewhere near the middle, but if someone wanted to squeeze closer to the front, the crowd let them through. No one complained or griped. A girl no taller than 5' 3" came through carrying six hot chocolates without lids and didn't spill a drop, a testament to her balance as much as the crowd's benevolence, I admit. It was difficult to decipher at times which people had come there together and which were complete strangers who for this moment at least, were not afraid of each other. Looking up at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it was easy to think that at the same location where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his dream, that dream had finally been realized more than forty years later. Either that or I have grossly underestimated the trans formative power of a Bruce Springsteen concert. When it was over, the crowd dispersed slowly and safely without surging or bumping. Even after presumably getting what they came for, there was no urgent return to self-centric rushing and survival of the fittest.

The camaraderie could be seen everywhere. Sitting among several narrowly aligned restaurant tables, strangers seated next to each other didn't hesitate to strike up conversation. People smashed together in Metro cars joked and laughed and sincerely apologized to those on the station platforms who simply had no space to get on board. People walking down the middle of closed capital streets dropped gloves and hats, perhaps visitors from warmer climates not accustomed to juggling the many layers of warmth, and those behind them picked them up and chased them down. Vendors stood on seemingly every corner selling all things Obama. Exploitative? Sure, but there was also something to be said for people recognizing this moment in our history and feeling that they wanted to take a piece of it with them to wherever they may return. People looked each other in the eye and didn't turn away.

Of course, this was not a phenomenon entirely new to Americans. Throughout our history, we've been able to look past our petty differences and unite behind a common goal for the betterment of all. December 7th, 1941. September 11th, 2001. This time, however, at least in my lifetime, was unique in that the unity was not an answer to attack, but a homily of hope.

On Inauguration Day, we stood in the WWII Memorial, just on the far side of the Washington Monument. People smiled, cheered, and sang. Most powerful, however, was the absolute silence that seized the crowd when now-President Obama took the oath of office and addressed the nation and the world. One-point-eight million people silenced to listen to the words of one. I think one particular passage of President Obama's address aptly represents my experience in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration.

"...we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself..."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Aaaaaaand we're back.....big, proud, patriotic post with photos coming soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Humor Me...

So we fly tomorrow which, of course, means I am getting nervous and paranoid today. As per usual, I am viewing everything I am doing over the last couple days through the filter of the poetic irony the actions would take on should I die on the trip.

For example...The fact that after months of many false starts and failed attempts to get our Save-the-Dates out, tonight we will seal and stamp the last one. We'll drop them in the mail on our way to the airport. Once again, I know I have seen too many movies, but the image of ~150 friends and family members opening a save-the-date after something horrible has made it a moot point is so poignant to me that it makes me fear for that possibility.

Apply this ridiculous anti-reasoning to everything you do in a day and you get a sense of what I am talking about.

The good news is that by saying all this on the world wide web, I feel like I am somewhat relieving the sense of morbid forboding. It can't happen now because I just jinxed it, right? Or can it because I just said that I had jinxed it? AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

I just want to get there. Apparently, a stiff Screwdriver might be required to keep my sanity until we arrive.

UPDATE: And now I just saw this....greeeeeeeeat....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First firsthand indication that there are going to be a shitload of people at the Inauguration...

When I go to the REI in Manhattan Beach, CA and they are sold out of hand warmers due to a sales spike from Washington, DC-bound customers.

Bring it on!

Monday, January 12, 2009

For the Love of Pete

Has anyone seen my damn flip flops? I can't find them anywhere and you can understand what that does to a man.

Friday, January 09, 2009

It's 4 a.m. and I'm wide awake

It could be a Jerry Maguire, mission statement kind of night if I had any burning issue inside of me, keeping me up. But no, I'm here to talk to you about pillows.

It occurs to me that a blog provides a great service to the blogger in that it listens to the things you want to say, but stop yourself from actually speaking to even a friend when you realize they are utterly uninteresting and insignificant if not pointless. For instance, on these pillows...

I have been unfairly persecuting my pillows. And I don't mean my buttocks although they have seen their share of unfounded flak too(I will now accept my bonus points for finding use of that great word). For days now, I have been blaming our pillows for the 11 times a night I wake up because my upper extremities have gone numb. They're too heavy, I've been saying, too dense. If I want to face your way, I have to put my arm under your pillow and it cuts off my blood flow. Newer, lighter pillows, I demand! I need what the astronauts use (whatever that means)! Pillows of the future, now!

Now through a stop-and-go series of uneven sleep tonight, I have had the opportunity to try several varying methods for arm placement. Each one has been found to be a comfortable, workable alternative to the sub-pillow system or so I thought each time before waking again with a sledgehammer for an arm. The good news is, I think my research has finally led me to a conclusion in keeping with the scientific method. The bad news is that I've realized I can't sleep with my arms above my head in any formation (all on the flat plane of the bed, mind you) and that just can't be healthy.

This has been a problem only recently so it's got to be something I'm doing differently. If I haven't crashed by then, I think I shall go running before work this morning to promote better circulation. If that doesn't do the trick, I may never sleep straight through the night again! Bring on the babies, 'cause apparently I'm ready!

I did see a great movie tonight in my sleep. I don't mean that as a throw-away metaphor. Sometimes I do have these dreams that are honest-to-goodness movies complete with cinematic narrative, visual techniques, inter-cutting, and soundtrack. Call it the rem show. Usually, two minutes after awakening, these movies have already become one of those you where you vaguely remember the players, but have to check imdb to fill in the major blanks. Tonight's show, I can still recall pretty clearly though. I won't describe it here since the power tale of The Pillow Chronicles is still undoubtedly resonating. I took some notes so maybe I will try to write it someday, see if I can make sense of it or if the movie dream becomes like most others in that you can describe them to the smallest detail, but it means cohesively zilch to anyone but you. At 4 a.m., anything seems possible.

Man, what a weird week. I had a period of four days or so where I just was not myself. I felt extraordinarily tired, detached, mentally foggy and humorless. My stomach was not right either. My theories ranged from the early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning (detector purchased!) to mononucleosis. And then, suddenly, I was fine. I woke up Wednesday morning and, while still tired (see persecuted pillows), I could tell that I had snapped out of whatever it was.

I think it had a lot to do with post-holiday depression. I get so high on the holidays for so long and then on January 2nd, it all comes crashing down. All the good cheer is gone and there are no more big parties or visits to look forward to, not immediately anyway. Suddenly, all the nagging issues of daily life or the bigger picture that are driven into the background by gift shopping, decorating, music, drinking, and all other things distinctly Holiday, come rushing back into full view like a flash flood. It was a day or so after I started questioning my purpose on this earth again that the physical fatigue and mental fog set in so maybe my body and brain's reaction to that was to shut down. That's the theory I'm going with anyway.

Sidebar: I think I've said it before but an Itunes shuffle has a hilarious way of bringing levity. Just when a person might start to take themselves too seriously and ponder their grand purpose (not necessarily a bad thing), Itunes jumps in and hits you with Notorius B.I.G. and R.Kelly's "F*ck You Tonight," a love song for the ages. Hahahahahahahahahahaha.....Thank you, Itunes!

Alright, it's no longer 4, it's now 5:30. Time to feed the cats and try to sneak in a few winks before this rumored running thing goes down. Wish me luck and I'll do the same for you.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

File under: No Shit, Sherlock

Lord knows I've spent enough breath defending my city of Los Angeles, but I will concede that there are certainly aspects of the city worth hating. However, one quality I think even the biggest of the LA-haters would have to appreciate (or should) is the city's proximity to such a wide variety of escapes. Which is why I think most anti-LA arguments are inherently flawed in that they consider LA as a metropolitan area and not Southern California as a whole. Every locale pictured above can be reached from LA proper within 3 hours by car (if you know when to leave and how to go). That being said, the image I have chosen to be my desktop all week, that which I imagine as my escape, the place I gaze at longingly between tasks.....New York City. A conflicted soul, I shall remain.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Quick funny

You know my friend Joe who skipped out on my 30th birthday party to go see John Mayer and didn't so much as write, text, or call on or around my birthday? You got him? Good.

You know what Joe DID do on my birthday? He cashed a check I had written him seven months prior--in May.

It's nice to know I was in his thoughts after all.