Category Archives: Newton

Here We Go Through the Newtonian Time Telescope™!

I know–many of you will now be angry with me because my title sucked you in and subsequently failed to deliver the goods (or will fail to deliver, as we shall see). My brain is in a dither. If I could possibly explain my failure at actually producing my Time Telescope technology as I outlined in an earlier proposal, would you forgive me? Would you buy my excuses? I have one after another: illness, children, Christmas, Christmas trees, driving in the mountains where there’s snow, too many hot drinks with brandy or rum, and too much generalized merry-making to want to bend time through the spherical mirror inside my scope.

That leaves me with more confessions to make. Although I envisioned the brand name Newtonian Time Telescope™ and even found the name to ring poetically in my ears, while the ampersand and semicolon necessary for cute html insignia sent pleasure signals to the dopamine-producing regions of my brain, the truth is I can’t imagine how one could time-travel through a telescope. Presumably, one would have to move faster than the speed of light in order to travel through time. Yet, a telescope simply collects light and, in the case of the Newtonian telescope, reflects this light to the eyepiece using its secondary mirror. This leaves me with a bewildering sense of 17 C steam-punk, in which impossible technology is rendered possible using steam power to produce some kind of Galilean kinematic system. But wouldn’t the steam fog up the mirrors?

So, although I would like to pretend I’ve been hiding away in my basement hammering out this time telescope, my final confession is this: I have no basement, not even a crawl space. I have no place to hide away from the world. I’ve long considered moving to a cave I know of, but the musky smell of wild animals inside it puts me off a little. When Virginia Woolf wrote in her ridiculously long sentences about a woman needing a room of her own in order to accomplish awesome feats of intellectual stupendousness, she failed to mention the part about houses with missing basements or the fact that caves often come furnished with wild animals. Where did she think a woman was to obtain this “Room of One’s Own”? And, then after finding such a place, did Ms. Woolf perceive that a woman might do nothing more intellectually stimulating than stare at the wall in the silent room reserved for her little lone self?

Back to the Newtonian Time Telescope™ and my proposal to the Royal Society of None, I have to admit that my excitement over the idea was perhaps slightly premature. I thought that earlier today, anyway. I thought, what have you gotten yourself into now, Jill? Why did you want to force Newtonian physics into encompassing this sort of nonsense? I don’t know. I can’t make sense of the world; that’s why. And when I write about it, I realize the words are just phonemes that represent stuff like time machines. They’re not real. They’re not really real.


On Faith, God, and the New Year Abyss

Have you ever heard of Brother Lawrence of the barefooted Carmelites? At the sight of a wintry tree, he began to contemplate the presence of God, whose hand he could see in the tree’s spring transformation. He believed in God at that moment, in that winter, early in the 17th C. Later, in the year 1666, he joined the Carmelite order and, in the same year, carried on a series of conversations with M. Beaufort about the practice of the presence of God.* By the way, 1666 was also an important year for scientific thought and discoveries; Newton was supposedly beamed by the apple that year and, in his own words, was at his prime for mathematical and philosophical thinking (see this link). I have no beef with Newton, but I am concerned sometimes that we have sold our souls to science and substituted a love of God for what we perceive as knowledge (does that sound familiar? Eve may have been tempted to eat its fruit, while Newton was merely knocked on the head by it). Fortunately, no amount of science education has altered my belief in God. Like Brother Lawrence, I see God’s hand in the processes of nature.

However, sometimes I wake up in the morning, and it’s as if I’ve fallen into an abyss. This happens to me throughout the winter holiday season often, although I can’t actually blame the abyss on outward events or occasions. Certainly, the New Year celebrations drive me to despair when I feel that I’ve accomplished nothing in the past year, that nothing has materialized for all of my hard work–and I’m not simply talking about the writing life, but of many of my endeavors. My life, sometimes, feels like the apple tree outside my kitchen window. It flowers in spring, just as I would expect–just as Brother Lawrence expected over 300 years ago; it brings on new leaves and a few very small apples. Then, the little fruit the tree’s produced is cast off by the wind or eaten by birds before it’s fully ripened.

Does anybody else suffer this kind of despair? I had wanted to ask my readers about their faith–how they believe in God in the midst of a world that looks to science for answers. Instead, I’m going to ask you how you keep welcoming in new years with happy expectations when life has been so difficult. Has this past year been difficult for you? It has for me. But it hasn’t been void. I’ve finally written a book that I feel is publishable. I continue to pray and place my faith in God, and, today, I talked out my frustrations with my husband. Also, as a purely outward diversion, I must soothe my soul with good music. ¡La música mexicana es mi droga, por cierto!

*See The Practice of the Presence of God, and The Spiritual Maxims by Brother Lawrence (Cosimo Classics, 2006)