in evolution
writings about the process…

archive for November, 2009

pale blue dot

Seen from 4 billion miles away; this tiny speck of light, this pale blue dot, is our planet Earth

Seen from 4 billion miles away; this tiny speck of light seen in the middle of the right band, this pale blue dot, is our planet Earth

in case you haven’t ever read this, or seen it. From Carl Sagan:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

We miss you Carl.

a lighter bulb


About five years ago, I made a sculture called ‘light bulb’ – a wirelessly powered, levitating lightbulb. Check the video for details.

When Gill Pratt came onto Time Warp for us to study electromagnetic induction, an assistant friend of his came by, Adam who works at DEKA. He told me in an offhand comment, ‘you made the lightbulb, right? Oh cool, we made one of those at DEKA for Dean Kamen as a birthday gift.’ Whaa?

So, after communicating back and forth for quite some time about being able to see it, I was able to visit DEKA and check it out; what I saw blew my mind. About 12 of these extremely talented designers and engineers had spent several months building one of these things. The scale is pretty magnificent, as shown below. It’s basically the same concept as mine, but with the added resources they built a custom [no straight edges!] wood frame, better wireless power transmission efficiency [a brighter bulb], and even a cleaner and more stable levitating bulb. Some pictures linked – ridiculous right?

Ridiculous, right?

Ridiculous, right?

I am currently in talks with them about continuing development on this project – the goal is still [as it has been for quite some time] to release an open-source kit-able version of this project. People will be able to buy a built version, or an unbuilt version, to learn more about how it works – there are some real engineering challenges however [many parts, high complexity, some high voltages that you need to know what you’re doing with, etc] – so it’s slow going. So for now, here’s this!

I want to thank all the folks at DEKA for the honor of having a piece made like this [not that it’s for me!] – and here’s to hoping that in the spirit of learning and giving to others we can figure out a way to get these things into the public.

The amazing engineers and designers at DEKA who worked on this.

The amazing engineers and designers at DEKA who worked on this.

alan wallace’s pledge of allegiance


From one of his talks, found on this video:

“I pledge allegiance to the general well being of all sentient beings

beyond all national boundaries, ethnic groups and ideologies;

may we all flourish and live together in harmony

and support each other in our mutual pursuit of genuine happiness.”

spiritual diary 2oo9.11.17


various, using awareness watch

Been trying a variety of technologies, and for a while stepping back to really work on concentration – back to counting breaths. Sometimes a lot of meditation time is lost in thoughts that seem to go on for minutes – so in order to try to curb that I’ve been doing two things – first, using the awareness watch that I made with Jay, which gives a gentle buzz every 2-3 minutes, to bring you back if your focus has been lost. Secondly, more locally, counting all breaths, in sequences of 10, as laid out in ‘Mindfulness in Plain English,’ still one of the best guides to meditation that I know. I figure once I can do a couple sessions without ever losing count, my attention will be sufficient to take off the training wheels. It’s funny how often in different contexts our desire to move forward, our lack of patience, becomes the biggest impediment to our moving forward in the first place.

Have also been getting into some new reading. Two authors specifically – first, Alan Wallace, who wrote ‘The Attention Revolution’ – a guide to the different stages of conscious attention, and secondly, a 700-page tome that I have just begun, called ‘Zen and the Brain’ by James Austin. Both of these guys are neuroscientist Buddhists of one sort or another, really beginning to solidify that previously existing gap between mysticism and scientific theory. I am really appreciating the depth with which James Austin is explaining how  meditative practices can enable functional changes in the human brain, and where we have evolved our sense of self. If anyone else is up for reading 700 pages about this stuff, I’d love some book partners!

spiritual diary 2oo9.11.o3


35 minutes with interval clock

Thinking “Look how clear I am!” is not being clear.

Rereading a great book, ‘Untethered Soul’ by Michael Singer. He takes the ancient teachings of Jnana Yoga, the ‘impossible’ “path of knowledge” to the self, and modernizes them in a way very easy to digest for the 21st century reader. I’m finding wisdom on most every page I read.

I am realizing more on a daily basis that everything about us is a pattern. Sure, we are no blank slate, and we have our species’ predispositions. But every habit you have is formed from previous experience; and as we look deeper into levels of the Self, we can see how deeply arbitrary many of these patterns are. Meditating on these thoughts, as they arise, allows us a level of distance from them. Awareness -is- distance, which enables control and change.

Meditating more, I slowly see how our ability to truly let go of everything that comes into our mind, as difficult as it may be to rid ourselves of those deeply ingrained patterns, allows us to gain full control of the previously unleashed elephant. What would happen if we had total control of our thoughts at all times?