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Food: It’s More Than What We Eat.

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My good buddy Christopher “El Chris” Ferguson asked some friends to contribute to his blog. So… I whipped this little baby up right quick. you can find his blog at www.theironbuzz.com. I hope you enjoy.

When we think about food, we immediately put our minds to a canon of experiences with edibles that we have regularly experienced in our lives. When thinking a bit longer, our minds move to more obscure moments we have encountered those foods that are “strange” or “weird.”

When I do my deepest thinking about food, however, I see so much more.

As a young boy growing up in Saint Louis, Missouri, grandson to immigrant families, I learned about my past over the dinner table. Some of my earliest memories have food in them; tastes, smells, time spent cooking. I remember the aroma that grabbed my soul when we would walk into Viviano’s Italian Market in The Hill neighborhood. Garlic. Olives. Fresh breads. I remember the loud belly laughs that filled the little shop. The candies the checker would send me away with and the frozen raviolis in our bags that were better than any others in the city.

Ravioli: A filled pasta, made with two small sheets of pasta with a clump of meat, veg, and/or cheese, in some mysterious combination, sealed around the edges, cut in a square, and boiled, later to be sauced.

Well…

Not in Saint Louis.

The old story goes that a restaurateur was opening his new space. A food writer came at the end of the night and ordered the last of the ravioli pasta. As the chef was reaching for the boiling pot of water, ravioli in hand, he slipped, and down went the pasta into the fryer. Desperate for a fix, and to not shame himself, instead of disappointing the writer the chef got creative. He continued to fry the pasta until it was fully cooked, the tossed it in seasoned bread crumbs, covered it in parmesan cheese, put a bowl of marinara on the side, and served what would be my birthday dinner until I left the house: “Toasted Ravioli.” These pillowy mouthfuls of Italian inspired yum are now served in almost every restaurant in Saint Louis.

What goes into a dish like this?

Meat.

An animal is a hard character to follow in our look at food. We are, in fact, animals. In our fight for survival we have successfully distanced ourselves from them, and assumed our “superior” place on the food chain. We are without emotion when we bite into a burger, but flooded with it at the sight of a kitten. We strike a troublesome dichotomy with our pet habits and dinner habits. Children are a great barometer of this as they navigate the social dos and don’ts of dinner conversation. We shield them from the reality of what Old McDonald’s cow eventually ends up saying, just prior to the happy meal.

The brutality of animal usage in our food systems is real, wretched, and yet, I would argue (although not in this blog,) vital. Our recognition of this should flow from our societies in the form of deep gratitude, as it did from the societies that precede us. Ancient cultures hunted and gathered. Their time was spent questing for dinner. The chase, the capture and the meal were part of a larger meaning. We lose this meaning in the slick packages we easily grab from the market.

What I do want to focus on here is heritage and sacrifice.

When we partake in the eating of meat, we are reaching into our bloodline to its earliest years. We are using our canines, our serotonin, our instincts. The savory character in meat hits our stomachs where we have found receptors for those flavors only savory foods provide. That soulful, rich, nourishing feeling hits our brains due to these receptors, and we are satisfied. Our quest is over.

The animal once lived. It spent its days hunting food, processing nature’s harder to digest substances, storing it away, building stored energy into itself, and saving it just for us to eat. I mean, that was not the animal’s plan, but that was the end result. It spent its life and gave its life for that meal. That is deserving of pause.

Many people see this as such a cause to pause, that they stop eating meat all together. The sacrifice of an animal’s life, to them, is not worth the sustenance, flavor, etc. In other places, were it not for the intermediary of an animal in the food chain, the humans living there would not have enough sustenance to survive, and thus meat is incredibly necessary. Typically, as I look into food cultures around the world and through history I find that the cultures that depend on meat the most have the deepest amount of respect for the animals they consume. I guess this should really come as no surprise.

 

Grain:

Our ancestors harnessed nature, over centuries, over millennia. They toiled and sweated, carved the earth, chose the best seeds to save for future plantings, and shaped nature into what we now have. They used something we now call… science. They tested, tried, shared information, discovered, rediscovered, failed, tried a new way, failed again, and continued until things were slowly moving in the direction they could plan and control. Thus was born what we now call “culture.”

This diligent, thoughtful work in the field did not stay there. Indeed it was brought into the kitchen, and new ways of dealing with these season products was born. Drying grain has been essential to human’s ability to keep food across barren seasons. Grinding grain allows it to be stored in less space. Adding water and yeast allows new vitamins to be made, new textures, new tastes, new products, like bread!  Other substances were combined with the ground grains. Combining egg and flour allowed it to be more nourishing, take new shapes, and dry with even more viable food compounds in it for later. Enter: PASTA! The toil and creative of a long line of humans, thousands of years old leads to this food product that we find so ubiquitous today. This too should lead us to pause before we crush that lasagna, or smash that burger.

Flavor enhancers:

Our look into this little dish does not stop here, however. Meat and pasta, although solid, is nothing without all of the other surrounding flavors that can be added. Just yesterday evening I opened my spice cabinet to a world of aroma possibilities. Think about it for a minute!!

Every seed has the story of wheat… cultivated, cared for, selected for certain enhanced characteristics and shaped by human choices meeting with genetics meeting with terroir for every single spice used. Every onion. Every clove of garlic. Every herb is manipulated through time and taste. It is a worm hole of thought for me.

Then, after each individual component is honed in and of itself, we humans combine these ingredients into millions of possibility. Does garlic go well with black pepper? How much black pepper to how much garlic? Now, add ground beef… do the ratios need to change?

The storm of possibilities is cascading with ideas, triumphs and failures, and so very many happy accidents.

Now pull back further. This is the story of our food. This is the story of all of our foods. Every dies has meaning. Every plate is a story of triumph, full of batons that have been passed to us, full of sacrifice and work, play and life, possibilities.

This is where we come in.

I look around today and I see the malaise of our culture toward food. It is, in many ways, beginning to shake away, which is super encouraging. At the same time, it still exists. It exists in the calls to not talk about a cow when we are eating steak. “I just don’t want to think about it.” It creeps in when we say, “Ew! That’s weird!” or, “gross…. How can those people eat that?!?”

We lose sight of the struggle it took to make that dish. We lose the dignity that the human eating it has. We lose our place in the story.

When we package food in sanitary cans, and know nothing of its origins and story, we force the story to end. We put the baton down. We stop creativity. We destroy the process that brought that miracle to this moment. We have a responsibility to keep the baton moving forward! We must create our own new recipes, combinations, and choices. The story should grow, not die.

Right now we have more access to more ingredients, tools, and information than all of history combined. Let’s leverage that to spring board into a sustainable, delicious, gracious, grateful, nourishing future. Let’s pass to our kids the stories of why food matters, and what food matters. Let’s remember that the foods our families eat are the literal materials we are using to build their brains, hearts, bones and futures. This is not meant to “food shame” anyone, but to encourage us all to be a part of the system in a new and vital way.

How?

Go visit a farm

Go gather eggs

Go pick some apples

Try that new recipe

Invite friends for dinner

When someone asks you what you like, instead of answering with your preferences, tell them you want to try what they like.

TRAVEL! Explore food and ask for the stories.

Connecting to people through food is far more powerful than any other way. Yes, even more powerful than that. A smell can send you back in time to being with a certain person more viscerally than just about anything. Those connections to our past as individuals and as humanity are so vital to moving forward. When I smell garlic cooking I am in my paternal grandmother’s kitchen. Omelets: my great aunt Helen. Canned tuna: my maternal grandmother (who forever ruined it for me, but whom I love deeply.) Tea: mom. Coffee, maple syrup: dad. Corn tortillas: in Mexico in a kitchen with about 10 older ladies laughing that the gringo can make a decent tortilla. Fish: the creek I grew up near. Roast beef: Sundays. Chicken: lazy late afternoons. Tomatoes: our huge garden and my itchy arms freshly assaulted from picking. I could go on and on.       –What memories are you implanting on those around you?

Food makes peace.

When people come together over food we are able to see each other. Cooking for another human, preparing food, serving, these things put us on level playing fields. These things bring us together.

Food is more than a drive-through convenience. The more consumeristic we are with food, the more disconnected from our heritage and each other we become. When we disconnect from others, we disconnect from and lose ourselves. I know this post is a bit all over the place, and hastily written. What I am really inviting you to do is pause. Pause to be grateful, thoughtful, creative, educated, precise, connected, and to simply taste with our whole present mind engaged. I believe this has the potential to change our lives.

So does toasted ravioli.

Coffee Roasting: Measuring What Matters

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“Post hoc ergo propter hoc”

This is an opinion post on my thoughts on density and roasting.

Currently, there is a trend in which roasters are measuring the water content (moisture) of their coffee. This is fine. This is good. It is certainly never a bad thing to know more about the coffee we are roasting. It provides some insight into how that green coffee will keep; how shelf stable it is. Although, I feel that this correlation is still in need of a lot of testing.

What measuring moisture in coffee does not give a roaster, in my opinion, (and I would wager… my controversial opinion) is how to better roast coffee. Really, it tells us nothing concerning how a coffee will roast… at all.

Now, I know that at first this sounds CRAZY. Bear with me.

The moisture that is in the coffee when it is green is free moisture, meaning it is not a molecule of potential H2O that is currently part of a larger complex molecule. It is only water in the seed. H2O that we see during first crack is created during reactions (Maillard Reactions, Caramelization.)

Moisture is a GREAT conductor, and while present in the coffee, can work to wick heat into the core of the seed. Thus, its existence in the coffee is meaningful to how we heat the seed. But, the information a moisture meter gives us is being misused as a directive to how we should approach roasting a coffee.

The density of an object is simply Mass over Volume: D=M/V. We can measure this very easily for coffee by using a graduated cylinder. I recommend at least 250ml, but the bigger it is the more the more precise it will be. Fill it, and set it on a scale. There will be data noise with displacement (space between seeds) when measuring different screen sizes. The larger the tools, the less variable displacement exists, giving a more accurate reading. Some moisture meters come with a density tool, which is just awesome. Use it! That would be my preference, as it is much more accurate and easy.

Density is usually defined by: Grams/Milliliters, Grams/Cubic Centimeters, Pounds/Bushels, etc… This is important to know, because there is no standard within our coffee industry currently as to what definition we assess coffee to. Maybe we should have that. I would love to see a standardization in our language here.

OK! Back to moisture.

Let’s do a hypothetical exercise: pretend with me for a moment.

  • There are two 100ml cylinders.
  • Each cylinder is filled to the 100ml line.
  • There are two different coffees.
  • Each coffee measures 10% moisture.

(So far everything looks identical… right? The inference many people would make right now would be to roast these two coffees similarly. BUT WAIT!! THERE IS MORE!!)

Let’s, for the sake of this hypothetical, say that each cylinder is filled with exactly 100 coffee seeds. (I know… nonsense, but we are pretending.)

  • When weighing the cylinders:
    • #1 weighs 100g
    • #2 weighs 90g

Now, we can see through this hypothetical, that even though our moisture meter is showing we have 10% moisture for the coffee that we are checking, the moisture meter is not telling us what that is 10% of. By measuring for density, we now see that in coffee #1, 10% shows that in 100ml of coffee there are 10g of water. We can see that in 100ml of coffee #2 there is only 9g of water. So, even though they have the same percentage of water, one coffee has more water than the other.

Furthermore, I would argue that this difference in moisture does not matter to how heat is transferred to the coffee. The density of the coffee DOES matter to how heat is transferred to the coffee.

The physics of heat exchange are such that: heat transfers more quickly (conducts) through more dense objects, and more slowly, (is insulated against) through less dense objects.*

Therefore, density is key.

Having water present adds to the density and conductivity of a seed (ability to absorb heat.) This is, of course, very important. However, if a roaster looks at the moisture percentage only, they are being led to believe something about the coffee that is incomplete. In order to qualify and quantify the percentage of moisture in coffee, a roaster must know what that percentage correlates to. In other words, a low density coffee may have the same percentage of moisture as a high density coffee.

Think about two water balloons. Balloon #1 is 5 inches in diameter and balloon #2 is 10 inches in diameter. If each is filled with 10% moisture, the 10 inch balloon has about 8 times more volume of water. (V=4/3πr3)

Another hypothetical:

Imagine weighing out batches of coffee.

  • Batch #1 stats: 100g, 10% moisture
  • Batch #2 weighs 100g, 12% moisture

How should a roaster approach roasting these? Well, according to the current philosophies, they would treat them differently based on that moisture reading. The school of thought is that for Batch #1 the roaster should start with a lower heat level, as the coffee seed will take on heat more quickly because it has less water.

Why is this wrong?

Let’s hypothetically say that batch #1 is 100 seeds and batch #2 is 120 seeds.

Batch #2 is a lot more coffee that is a lot less dense, but will be roasted as if the inverse is true, based on how we currently look at moisture for roast preparation.

When thinking in terms of differences in our moisture levels for specialty coffee, there is very little difference from one coffee to another. However, in terms of density, that difference is much more varied. A low grown robusta from India could potentially have the same moisture level as a very high grown coffee from Colombia. Yet, would we suggest that we roast these in the same way? No! Yet, that is what we as an industry are currently teaching.

While it is true that there are many other factors beyond density that determine how a coffee seed should be roasted, measuring density can lay the best groundwork for how to initially approach a coffee before that coffee has been fully profiled. It will give you a head start that is meaningful and helpful, far more important that measuring for moisture can.

This will also lead to thinking about batches not only in terms of weight, but also volume. Volume is very important to how air will flow through the drum, and how much time each seed will be spending conductive time, bean to drum and bean to bean.  

In my opinion, measuring moisture and using that measurement has created a correlation of information to results that is not truly a causation. I look forward to spelling out some of these correlations that are actually kind of true, but not fully true, so that we can be ready for the outliers, and basically be better at our jobs.

I am working on some research that (so far) supports what I am saying (or may completely trash it.) Stay tuned! I want a very large data set, so it may take some time. Discussion can start now, however-let me know you think! If you want to join me in the research, and you have have good tools for measuring and collecting data, I would be happy to assign tasks and crowd source. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

*This is being wrongly taught in many places within our industry. Many roasting courses teach that heat travels more SLOWLY through more dense substances, and more QUICKLY through less dense substances. This is not only wrong according to physics, but is a misunderstanding of how coffee seeds heat. I hope to address this more in depth in coming blogs. 

Magnetism

“Sympathy wanting, all is wanting; its personal magnetism is the conductor of the sacred spark that lights our atoms, puts us in human communion, and gives us to company, conversation and ourselves.”Amos Bronson Alcott

I remember as a kid being astonished when my father, with his hand-held high above a table, was able to project its shadow upon a nail that lied upon it, and then, with a wiggle of his fingers and no touch needed, he was able to make the nail move. The nail followed what seemed to me to be his will. My little brain churned with wonderful new ideas of what could be done if my dad would both harness and teach this power!

I was soon let in on the gag. my father’s other hand had been below the table guiding the nail with a magnet the entire time.

Magnets are weird, right? Is it just me? They have always captivated me. I could still waste away hours playing with them. They have an anti-gravity effect that is other-worldly, mysterious, and even magical. I am convinced that when we all get our flaying saucers some day to buzz around in, magnets will serve as the power source that allows us to hover in one place above the earth/s.

Another interesting fact about magnets is that they not only attract, but also repel. They repel so voraciously, in fact, that the entire earth’s gravity can be defeated by a tiny magnet. That tiny magnet can send a chunk of metal flying up, away from itself, and away from the earth’s steady pull.

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mag·net·ism
ˈmaɡnəˌtizəm/
noun
  1. 1.
    A physical phenomenon produced by the motion of electric charge, resulting in attractive and repulsive forces between objects.

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What is the parallel?

Instead of waxing long to build up to my points, I am just going to dive straight for them.

If love is gravity, all of the other emotional desires that we have, or those moments that throw us in a direction that our love would normally hold us strongly too.

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  1. 2.
    The ability to attract and charm people.

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Anger is a great example of this. How many times do we parents break the bonds of love by rashly yelling at our children. The polarization of that moment over-powers the deep gravity of our love and controls our emotions, spinning us catastrophically off course.

The most powerful magnets we humans have been able to make are those that use electricity. my parallel to electromagnetism is simply advertising, media, social media, gaming, on and on. These are all things in our lives that pull at us, and many times pull at us more powerfully than the gravity that we feel toward each other.

If we are to draw these parallels, I do think that it is important to understand how a magnet works. Every atom is composed of different parts; protons, neutrons and electrons. It is the electrons that play the biggest role in magnetism. They are spinning around  a nucleus. This spinning creates what is called polarity, or a positive vs. a negative charge.

Think about the poles of the earth. If you look at the earth from space, there is no such thing as top and bottom. But, pretend that you are looking down on the north pole as the earth spins. You will notice that the earth is spinning counter-clockwise. (This is why water spins that way, as well as tornadoes, on the northern hemisphere.) Inversely, the south pole spins the opposite direction. All things that are associated with the poles (held by their gravity) must spin in the same direction. Were they to not, they would be thrown from the pole.

The same is true for magnets. The directional spin of the electrons within a material will create a pole. heavy metals that are charged will have a stronger polarization. More atoms have been gathered together building a larger force of polarity. Each side of the magnet will have an opposing polarity. When another similar particle, whether charged or uncharged, meets with the magnet, it will then become charged by that magnet’s polarity.

So what…

Well, what this says to me is that I can easily check where my polarization lies by seeing what things I am attracted to. Do the things that catch my attention and hold me fixated matter? Are they of value? If not, my internal workings are maybe spinning in the wrong way.

The beautiful thing about this, I believe, is that by being cognitive of this, thinking this through, making choices, and putting in the work, we can DECIDE to change our own polarity. We can make the difficult choice to align ourselves with those things that are good, honorable, strong, etc… We can continue to re-adjust our polarity toward those things that we love, and become magnets ourselves! Who knows, maybe we will begin to attract others to the good as well.

magnetism can grow, or it can weaken, depending on the charge of the new particle or materials added. by building a caucus other people who are aligned with those parts of life that build the future for the good, I believe that we can become more and more powerful.

Magnetism is not bad. It is a reality and a feature of nature that we have to deal with and understand. It is a feature within our own nature, that when harnessed and used for good can be a powerful tool. However, when we are not focused on it, and we lose sight of the more important things in our lives, the polarization of things that we are near to will suck us in or throw us far from what we originally loved. Keep in mind what it is you are pulled to spend your time doing. This will show the truth behind where you are aligned in your inner self.

Now go read that first quote by Alcott again. I hope it makes more sense. (It is kind of nonsensical at first sight, I will admit.)

Gravity


IMG_1852Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation:
Any two bodies in the universe attract each other with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

(Disclaimer: We are going to some strange head-spaces in this one. Don’t give up on me, please. Stick with it and we will get through it together.)

I am writing this from 30,000+ feet in the air, watching the earth roll away beneath me. The subtle bend of the horizon reminds me of how tiny this place truly is, and how short my time on it will be. For all of history, humans have been locked upon its soil, stuck to work it, bend it and even break it. Nonetheless, from my vantage point it seems those days are beginning to be over.

Even though my earthly brothers and sisters have beat her, carved her, stabbed her toward her death, she still clings to me and pulls me toward her heart. We have dug deep into her skin, peeled back the clothes she has worn for so long, pillaged her body for our desires and needs. From these wings, I can see her scars. Still, deep in my belly, even here, I feel her tug. The earth below me is still clinging to my core as if it can’t bear to see me go.

It has been “discovered” that all bodies pull each other. This truth has always been there. Right there holding our feet to the ground, holding our planet in the cradled embrace of our sun, our source of energy from which all life as we know it springs.

And that Sun is held in a cradled embrace by forces beyond its own, and so the story goes. Spiraling orbits, corkscrewing their way through what used to be thought of as a simple punctured backdrop showing tiny points of light, with us in the middle of it all, are now known to comprise a fathomless expanse of space on which we reside simply and impotently upon the fringe.

Oh, the self-aggrandizing ideals our ancestors held concerning our place in all of this. To think that they knew, just KNEW we were the core, the reason, the end.

Just as I am pulling away from the earth, so too am I pulling away from my initial thoughts and reasons in writing this blog. Let’s chalk it up to foreshadowing and continue.

Back to gravity:

Here are some other mystical properties of this incredibly beautiful force:

Without gravity we would have no heat (thermal) energy. The source of energy is the tug and spin, collision and fusion of particles, planets, — bodies.

Without it we would have no time. Time is that measure of movement of objects through space. Were all objects to cease movement, time would stand still. No breath, no heart beats, no tides, no spin, no combustion, — bodies would no longer roll on in their relational path ways.

Without gravity we do not have life. The ability for one body to stay connected to another would be gone.

Gravity is the weakest of the major forces we have discovered. Although, this is the force through which bodies relate. It is delicate, nuanced, steady, unchanged. You cannot see gravity, but know it exists through witnessing how it affects the reality we can observe. Nothing is outside of its reach. Nothing can stand in its way. Everything within our understanding is affected by it, from the smallest particle of light, to the largest red giant star. All things are graced by this force. Even its most subtle kiss evokes change.

There are mysteries and physical realities here that I am not smart enough or educated enough to delve into. It is not my intent to fully illuminate anyone on the physics of these forces, although I am going to share some internal parallels to this external world.

Here are some more background axioms about how I view the universe.

  1. There was a force that kicked this whole thing off (so far we are not discussing this force as being physical, spiritual, close, far, intimate, indifferent, altruistic, hedonistic, good, nor evil at this point. Although, those discussions will be fun and intense, I am certain.)
  2. This force seems to have started in motion a universe that abides by measurable, repeatable laws.
  3. We are a part of this universe, possibly even a product of it (the science divides with some religions here.)
  4. We are subject to these laws.
  5. We are self-aware, curious, and thoughtful.
  6. We possess an incredible capacity for logical understanding; even discovery through this tool (a priori)
  7. Gravity is the logical explanation that we have come up with that describes this set of rules in which we have found our universe and selves.
  8. The physical world we live in is paralleled by the emotional/mental world we live out of.

Let’s get religious for just a bit. Much of my early world view was constructed within a religious system. I can’t fully get you immersed in where my head is now unless I can help you see where my head was then. This system is still held by many of the people I deeply care about, and possibly even you. This is not an attempt at deconstructing any of your world views, by any means. Know that if you care to go on this journey with me, and you do not wish to have your worldview compromised, this is more of an attempt to explain to you my personal world view, why I have it, and how I came from where I was to where I am today. I wish to create, not destroy; bridge, not break.

In a moment, if you don’t mind, and it is at all possible for you, I am going to ask you to step into the world view that I used to have. Some of you will have great challenge with this. Others of you live here. I ask that you try your best.

Before we into that, even MORE background. You see, a system is a system because within itself it actually works. The religions and anti-religions that exist are not followed by mindless idiots, like we sometimes think from the vantage point of our own world view. We need to understand that we are ALL thinking humans who are searching for truth. We are all capable of understanding and accepting truth. But, when something clicks for us in a certain way, although it may not be fully true, it could possibly seem to make enough sense to convince us of a truth. In order for us to fully function as a group of neighbors, we need to understand this. We need to find why something would make sense to a person, instead of pointing out where we see the glaring error.

You see, something that we can ALL agree on is that: None of us are perfect, none of us have the mental abilities to have everything completely figured out; this is another axiom. I like to think that our flaw is a gift. It allows us to be different, and it forces our learning and growing to be collaborative and collective. If we count one group or another group off of our list as worthy of us learning from, we have just thrown away a large source of knowledge and enlightenment that would certainly have lead to a new layer of self-discovery.

As you settle into to my old mindset and the system it was locked within, please keep in mind that there are some truths that could be lurking there.

FINALLY… (I seem to beat around the bush a lot, eh?)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form, and was void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. When God spoke, out of the darkness, the void, the emptiness there sprang into existence: LIGHT.

God continued to speak. His very words begat the sun, moon and stars. He willed, through his whispers, the spawn of life, and all of the creatures unfolded and swarmed from his creative glory.

Up till now, in my world view, these moments of creation were individual points on a timeline. That timeline was eternal. There was a moment of decision within this timeline when God conjured this plan. There were individual moments from which sprang each individual round of creation. In my mind, the stars sprang out at once. A mouse. A beam of light. No, ALL beams of light. An apple. A protozoan. On the reptile day, all reptiles were made, individually, and have not changed in their expression of variation since. So too was my world view for all other items cast in this theatre of creation.

There is no law here. There is no natural order, other than the imagination of a being that is in a six day creative frenzy. I chalked that up to God being able to exempt himself from the natural order of things. He created this Universe, and he exists both within it and outside of it. To me, the scope of God was greater than the scope of all existence. So, if he wanted to cut in for a dance, it was His prerogative. All nature must bend to His will and authority, since he truly is the author Himself.

Skip forward to my thinking today.

Why then, if this were true, would a system of such pristine clockwork exist? How could this feat of utter and majestic logically relational systems roll the way they do if they sprang from a place of such binary decision making?  One day logic, the next day the platypus. One day Gravity, the next day a planet with no universe to hang within. One day light, the next day sun, moon and stars.

This began to crumble for me. It did not crumble into oblivion, on the other hand. It was rather distilled down to that more perfect remaining force that I now see as being behind that first push toward our reality.

If it is true that all things have a synchronicity to them, and that we have access to understanding these systems, so it must be that we have the logical ability to figure out more than we may be giving ourselves credit for. And now, let’s begin to work backward.

In the New Testament there is a verse that has always captured my heart, and caught me off guard. It seems to conflict with much of the rest of the scriptures, especially much of the Old Testament. If I were to have a religious residue left from my youth, this would certainly be the core truth of my belief system.

GOD IS LOVE

It is a small moment in the Bible. I do, however, fully acknowledge and believe that this one scripture was personified in the philosopher (yes… I will get some major flack for this adjective, I know… Hang in there with me) Jesus of Nazareth.

Dig deep in yourself. Look at a moment in which you know for a fact that you felt love.

The moments I conjure are the first time I looked at my new born children. When my mom held me after I was hurt, or taught me how to cook. That extremely cold night camping in a cave with my dad when he did not sleep all night, but held me and kept me warm, and safe from hypothermia. When I taught my brother how to walk. When I learned my wife was pregnant. When my sister stuck up for me and got punished along side of me for something neither of us had done. When a job was offered that I was not qualified for.

When I stare at the stars on a clear night.

When I see a Hydra through a microscope.

When I step into the ocean.

When I hear music.

When I hear my wife whisper.

There is an element to these moments that is mysterious. We do not see love, but we feel its tug deep in our bellies. The faster we try to pull ourselves from it, the more fire we have to expel. As I fly further from my earth, my home, this very moment, the deep pull toward home with my wife and children is far stronger and far more real than the gravity that I feel now loosening its grip.

WHAT IF LOVE IS SOME TYPE OF GRAVITY

It is a crazy thought. I am aware of this, but think about the laws it abides by. No, I am not stating that we can boil love down to a formula.

What if though…. Just… What if all that exists is held in motion by the intentional force and mystery of love? What if God really is Love, and Love really is Gravity. What if love is just as natural and real and dirt and stars and air and light?

Do you see the parallels?

Love within us brings forth these images of light, connection, creation, joining, this emotional gravity.

I remember the first time I saw my wife. Yes, it was love at first sight. It was not an infatuation. It was truly an acknowledgement of change deep within me, and the draw to her I had as if a natural force had been there before laying the groundwork and we simply planets following a pathway toward each other.

Anecdotal?

Perhaps.

But you have been there too. I can name a select group of people with whom I have something we typically call a “connection.” There is this stuff that exists between us drives away the need for a prior knowledge of each other. There is a synergy between us that is simply stated, spontaneous love. We just love each other, and for no describable reason. There is gravity to our relationship.

THE PROBLEMS

The first question that combats this idea that God is Love and Love is Gravity (beyond the reality that love as we know it is an emotional construct within our brain, measurable by the neurological and chemically charged impulses within our brain) is of course, “Why then is there suffering?”

This has always been the downfall of God. It has also always been the downfall of love. Within all of these relationships I have had you harken back to, there have been moments and periods of deep suffering. The deepest love comes with the deepest suffering. The most innocent are usually the ones struck by the most intense suffering.

Another point of contention for me has been: if God is this intimately involved being who knows my every thought and motive, and cares to feed the individual sparrows, but yet he also exists on the outside of this creation, how is it that these forces can truly be universal? There is then not just a God who exists outside of this reality, but a parallel universe. This is where it is taught heaven and hell exists, along with the angels and demons, and everything else. However, all of these beings are also held by similar forces and explained in the Scripture as bodies with emotions, making decisions, subject to God’s will, and in places that exist in some kind of a space and time. The rules within this system are far too fuzzy and nonsensical to fully follow. I was told here that I just needed to believe it at face value, and that this is called “faith.”

Queue the next blog please!!!!

                                                                                                                                            

I am still in the air. A few hours have passed. The sun is down and I am sailing through inky black night. As I look out my window toward the western horizon two pin point lights shine clearly, Mars the smaller and Jupiter then larger. Although Mars is much closer, Jupiter outshines him without question. Although I clearly see them, my skewed perception of them is clouding my judgment of their truth. Yet, to know them at all I have to be in almost complete darkness.

More to come…

Inertia

Newton’s first law of motion: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

We are here. We find ourselves here on this rock in space, spinning, whirring, gazing outward into the distance with minds full of questions, hearts full of hope and fear, and this plaguing curiosity. What is it all about? What is it for? We look more closely into the eternity of ever smaller particle of matter for answers, and all that is found is more space.

I am not going to be able to satiate this kind of curiosity in my lifetime. Many have tried. Many claim they know the answers to these questions. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

For now, let’s revel in that curiosity. I mean, what if you and I, together, combine that curiosity into a focused beam or thought and active seeking. What if we gather others with us and bear down together into a blazing beam of curiosity, focused on poking through the opaque mysteries and darkness that we are surrounded by?

One of my favorite Philosophers is Baruch de Spinoza. He was a curious fellow who also gazed with intensity into the ether. He ground lenses for both microscopes and telescopes. In his day, he was the best. Tragically, his lens grinding led to his death. He breathed in too much glass dust.

I pose the question: instead of asking, “What does it all mean?” we should be asking the question, “What does it all mean, to ME?” In other words, how does my understanding of all of this affect my life and the way I conduct myself through it. Spinoza thought this way. His brain was a beautiful lens through which to see existence. Luckily for us, he wrote many of his thoughts down in his most masterful work called, “Ethics.” Ha! Can you believe that?!? A physicist philosopher who focuses his attention on the minute details of the microscopic world and the grandiose magnitude of our universe wrote a book on how you and I should conduct ourselves through life.

What if our emotional world, our mental world, even our spiritual world were run on the same kind of rules and laws as the physical world? Spinoza believed this was this case. He believed that our mental world and our physical world were connected and sprung from the same source. He believed that similar invisible forces were at play in our daily interactions with one another as were at play when physical bodies of matter interact.

We call this interaction of bodies of mass inertia. Without inertia all things would cease movement. Without movement we have no time. Time is the interaction of matter through space. It is by this interaction that time not only exists but is also measured.

Ok…. I’m kind of traveling out there a bit. Apologies…

What am I getting at?

What I do affects you. There is no mystery here. Of all of the curiosities in nature, none are more naturally known than our relational pains and joys. The pain of loss, rejection, when someone you care for acts out angrily… these are real. They are more real to us than the stars. The joy of birth, love, acceptance. Nothing puts fire in our bellies like these.

Spinoza believed in a kind of first mover God. This God did not participate in the day-to-day inter-workings of what happened within its universe. This God just caused it to start. Once started, the clockwork of creation began to unfold. Some things were chaotic, others were in sync. Eventually, we humans popped up. In this framework, we are just effects of that initial cause. What happens in our lives is just a domino effect of that initial starting point. This is called “determinism.”

This is where I begin to deviate. I don’t want to waste a bunch of your time with a build up and a punch line. So, here early in this blog I am going to kind of let you into my personal thoughts on this.

I do think that Spinoza is onto something. Our inner workings and our relational existences are certainly parallels to the physical world. If my actions are negative toward a person, their response is negative. If my action is positive, same.

Here is the meat of this, friends. How you act impacts the world around you, which impacts you back. There are naturals laws to how this thing clicks along. In religion we find good vs. evil. In ethical philosophy we state right vs. wrong. In aesthetics we discover harmony vs. dissonance. In physics we encounter chaos vs. order.

I believe that this is the core of what makes us human. I DO believe that we have a Choice in how things play out, at least to a small extent, and at least in our own lives. That Choice is determined by all of the little choices we make. Those are of course influenced by the inertia received by others.

Newton’s Second Law of Motion: “The force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration.”

This simply means that there is a relationship between the body impacting and the body being impacted upon. For me, the parallel this draws to the way we go about living our lives is, if we allow the bad things that happen to impact us be bigger than us, they will push us to moving in alignment with them. If good, the same, I believe that choice plays a role here. It is IMPOSSIBLE to not be impacted by what comes at us. It is impossible to control the mass and velocity of the things heading our way. We cannot dodge them, but we can prepare for them. We must be followers of the good. We must be instruments of order, and working toward harmony. This has to be a thoughtful goal and one that we are entrenched in for life. When we get knocked around and out of sync from that we have to create good and build our own inertia. I think we have that power, because I have seen this power at work.

Small people can gather large amounts of inertia behind them and move incredibly large masses toward order from chaos. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and the list goes on. These were people who were hit hard by massive social inertia that was big and traveling at them fast! But, they took the blow and they moved contrary to what physics would deem they should have. They gathered that momentum and converted the negative energy into a positive movement. How is that possible?

This is where we begin to tap into what it all means “to me.” How things interact affect our understanding an thus our knowledge of how we should act.

I do believe in a spiritual force. We will get into more of this later.

I hope this was clear and not too drawn out. I hope it satisfied some curiosity, replacing it with more, and more aligned and focused curiosity to my own. I hope the direction this is going in is intriguing to you and that you stick around. I think you will be glad you did later on. My next blog will be titled, “Gravity” I believe. I can’t wait to start on it!

I am writing this free-form. I started this blog about an hour ago, did not edit much, and had no one else read it. I hope it was coherent enough to follow, If not: COMMENT SECTION FTW!

Introductions: What You Can Expect

No, I will not be blogging every night. Likely, not even close. Preview, just in case you want to skip this one: no meat here, saving that for next blog, this is another intro, but more in depth.

I feel it is necessary to bring you all a bit deeper into my plans for this blog; where I am coming from and where I am hoping to go.

I also want to lay down some ground works for comments and interactions around these words and thoughts I am sharing. Basically, this is my world, so I get to make the rules. (Wow, saying that felt way too good.)

Let’s start with some rules.

1) I will not tolerate hate speech of any kind.

2) I encourage debate, but may not always engage. This is a source for catharsis for me, not stress. If I get stressed on something, I ain’t got time fuh that.

3) Language. I really don’t care if you curse, as long as it is thoughtfully done and important to your point. I do want to have a blog that I can feel proud of and comfortable having my kids read. Please note: I have no desire to shelter my kids from language, or censor too much (although they are still very young) especially to the point that they are judgmental of a person’s character upon hearing a colorful word. They are not living in a cave.

4) This is a safe place to post. I will do everything within my power to allow you to post your true thoughts and feelings, even if they are completely opposite of my own. This give and take is what will refine our individual world view, which in my opinion, will refine how we all live our lives and treat each other. Let’s engage around these thoughts and topics. I crave the mental stimulus.

5) I can add more rules at any time.

Back ground!

I think too much. No,… I don’t mean that I am a super deep thinker. I mean that it usually takes me a lot of thought to dig deeply into something. Sometimes I get buried in my thoughts. A method that I have used since I was a kid to work through stuff is to just write it all down. Much of what I ponder are things that I am pretty self-conscious about, or heavy, or moral dilemmas; just lots of stuff that usually is not very good for casual conversation.

I am a family man. I have an amazingly lovely, smart and witty wife. She is far more well-read and smart than me. She is part of this. She will be reading and helping me sound smart, as she is able. I have two kids who are each smarter than either my wife or me. Together, they are a force of nature. You will hear plenty about them too, I am sure.

I have a very VERY religious background. I will tell you straight from the beginning, I have shed most of those religiosities.However, I do still maintain my own version of a spirituality. Many think that this is dangerous and prideful. I appreciate that they care about me enough to share that. Here is where many of you will learn about my spirituality. Some of you will think I am CrAzY. Some of you will agree. Most of you will be left with a new idea or thought to bounce off of your own spirituality, which is one of my main goals in sharing.

I feel really weird about this whole thing. I wonder whether this is an adventure traveling deep into my own pride, or whether this is altruistically sacrificing my own pride in order to start some conversations. I am torn, my friends. It is that feeling of being torn that I am relying on to cue my confidence in this having at least some merit. I have also resolved to just move toward things that bring me joy, comfort, openness, lead me toward good people, and follow in the advice of people for whom I care.

I am not an English major. Grammar issues, spelling issues, typos, confusing speech patterns, they are all gonna happen. Bare with me.

I told you I think too much about things.

More about me:

These are things most of you know, but I’m going to throw them in for good measure.

I love food and flavor. We will dig into these things here. We will get into some of my spiritual, philosophical, and sociological views on these kinds of things. I am not just into coffee. Coffee is my profession, and coffee is my window into the world. Other windows exits in my life, however. I cannot wait to dig into these topics more!!

I love philosophy, but have a short attention span and don’t read enough to have made it a career. Coffee was much more viable. It feeds my hyper-active tendencies. Age has begun to mellow these a bit, so, I hope we can bring some of the philosophical conversation into this blog. Don’t freak on me. Philosophy is more than just the words written by old rich white dudes who had the financial wherewithal to sit and think/write all day. Ok… That is a lot of it. BUT!! You and I can practice philosophical discourse. I have no interest in mental gymnastics and/or prideful false philosophical musings. This is NOT a pride-fest (no offense to the “Pride Fest”) but is only a blog. I have no delusions of grandeur. I am not smarter than you. But, together, with tempered, thoughtful, respectful discourse, we are both smarter. Right?

This is not all going to be heavy, deep, spiritual stuff. I will likely post random stuff here, like recipes, anecdotes from my kids, fishing tips, cooking techniques, cocktail adventures, stories, random thoughts, etc…

I want you to be a part of this thing.

LASTLY!!!

THANK YOU!!!!!

Thank you so much for being with me. Thank you for sharing life with me and my family. I am pumped about what this means for us as a family, and us: you and me.

Is this thing on?

After a lot of thought, a lot of prodding, and some positive reinforcement, thus kicks off my blog, Not much to say tonight beyond, thank you for reading, please subscribe, don’t expect posts too often, and please engage me with your thoughts.

I look forward to getting to know many of you, myself, and for you to get to know me in a deeper way through this medium.

I will post something more worthwhile soon!

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